The Canadian M3


BMW fanatics have long disdained the North American-spec E36 M3 as the red-headed stepchild of of the model’s lineage. While Europe got to savor the full BMW M experience, the E36 M3 shipped across the Atlantic was a shadow of itself—down on power, performance, and looks. Here’s the story of how BMW of Canada got a small taste of the real deal.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2017/10/17/canadian-m3


Fascinatingly, the conventional wisdom for the underpowered E36 in the U.S. is that it was about meeting emissions standards. This is a sharp turn from that thinking – it sounds a lot more like the BMW USA didn’t want an E36 that was so expensive, so we got a cheaped out version.


US lost out on a fantastic car but the E36 and all other M3’s after the original can not compare . The trap BMW has put itself into was to make money first this has diluted every M car after thier original versions yes they are all faster stop better cost much more but they all lack the driving purity
That said I’m still looking for an 95 E36M3 with euro engine today because I love the look


Things are always not what it seems…excuses are made up for just about everything. Then that excuse is truth. Case and point here. But once you actually talk to the people involved, the real truth comes out. The EPA/DOT have screwed the US for years. It will never get better. Painfully, the best cars the US market ever got stopped probably in the 90’s. And even then, it was 1 in a 100 models that was special. Now our best bet is to import something from Europe under the classic car rules. Its reasons like this that I was supposed to be born in Europe.


I don’t think there were body differences between the Euro and the US/NA version? Flared bodywork? No

As a US E36 M3 owner, I acknowledge my bias; this is the side of the coin I see. I do think the story could be told that the US car is a very capable performance car with a wildly fun and torquey inline 6, requiring little very little maintenance compared to any other M motor. More of a “good to great” comparison as opposed to a watered down, wanna-be that it’s often portrayed as. It’s the popular and easy narrative. The US car outperformed many sports cars of the era.

Whether it was US regulations that made the Euro motor a no-go here in the states, or the price point, (likely both) it was a great business decision on BMW’s part to do what they did. They sold the “M3” into the mainstream US market and exploded the BMW and M brands. The Canadian/Euro versions will be worth more for sure, and all things equal, yes of course I would rather have one because rarity, more power, and that motor is breathtaking to just look at, let alone feel and hear.


I found the article very interesting and the color of the cars shown in the pale Yellow also of interest.

I was in the market for a 3 series BMW just after the time that these cars were sold in Canada. The saleman in charge let my wife and I test drive another car, and when he realized that we were serious and knew how to drive, suggested test driving a “rare, special order” pale yellow car in the dealership. There were only some 45 of them imported to Canada.

The sales manager refused to let me test drive the car, as it was suddenly “sold” , even though no paperwork existed.

I followed up the next day and the car was in fact gone. My salesman was upset as he felt he missed the sale, and in fact wanted to test drive the car as it had special upgrades.

Guess I just missed out on that one.


As an owner of a 94 M3 in Canada i am cognizant of the differences between the Canadian cars, the 95 US car and the Japanese market model I have.
Besides the engine and headlights there are very few differences between the Rest of World(ROW) version and the US version. The 3.0 L cars share the same transmission, differential and brakes. The US version had a sightly different suspension tuning, whilst the US lightweight got the same suspension tuning as the ROW cars.

There is more substantial differences in the later 3.2 litre cars. Besides the engine, the transmission and differential are different on those cars, and the front brakes use compound rotors. Not sure re suspension tuning differences between US and ROW 3.2 cars. There is a change in front end geometry in all 3.2 cars vs 3.0 cars.

My Japanese spec car has differences compared to the Canadian 94s. It has no vin visible through the windshield, no VIN stickers on the body panels and no day time running lights. The glass head lights have a right hand drive cutoff although the car is left hand drive. interestingly there is no check engine light and it has a warning light for catalytic converter overheating and sensors are clearly visible in the exhaust for this feature. It does not have a North American Compliant VIN which resulted in my regular insurer refusing to insure the car! That is what lead me to Hagerty in the first place.


Just read this article and all the comments, really enjoyed it. The color earlier referred to was called Moroccan Yellow but I got one in Avus Blue (was told to do this so I don’t get tickets!). Got my X3 mirrors painted in this color (long story) Loved it at first site, purchased a US model in '95 and picked up in München with negative miles on it! Never forget it … kept it there for one year (BMW’s delivery program allowed it at the time) and drove everywhere around Europe. When it was time to head back home I took it with me. Lived in Germany at the time (8 years total had a 4 door 323i with an M package, which I wish I could have brought here! ) and was told that the US version had the different engine for a couple of reasons. The block was iron and not aluminum to keep costs down, our technicians here in the US were not qualified enough at the time to work on the euro spec powerplants. The last being that our emissions at the time where more stringent (which btw is opposite now). I still have it, drove cross country (back roads of course) and enjoy it from time to time now … I think what makes it all the more special at the time was the limited production run (2500 for the year), today the dealers all have them and you see them everywhere! Oh yeah the e30 version was a dream at the time but nobody mentioned anything about the EVO limited model with additional HP!


thanks for reading! 323i sounds like it was a great ride as well