Picture the scene. You’re scrolling through cars for sale, and suddenly, you spot what appears to be a completely normal car, but it’s up for 50 per cent more than market value. Hmm, that’s weird, you might think. You click on it only to find out that the ‘I know what I have’ seller says that this one-off gem is sought after because it’s the only red right-hand drive manual coupe example that was built in May 1997 with the optional cup holder and original floor mats. What sort of idiot would think that sort of car is interesting because of a strenuous link to rarity?
Me. I’m that idiot. In fact, there’s a running joke in the office over the word ‘rare’. Without fail, I will stop and shout ‘WOW RARE’ anytime I spot a mildly sought after option/paint code or trim level. To me the rarer an option or model, the more I want it, even if that spec is uglier or not as good. Yes I know that’s stupid, I’ll fully admit that, but it’s just the way I am.
However, regardless of rarity, there is a spec of one certain car that I have been smitten by ever since I first laid eyes on a rogue forum image back in 2014. A manual coupe BMW E46 M3 painted in Oxford Green II (Known by E46 nerds as ‘OG’), preferably with Cinnamon interior, but I’d take black leather or M Texture too. I immediately took to the wider internet, searching, praying, that it was a commonly optioned colour, and that I’d be able to find another with ease.
To my dismay that wasn’t the case. Of the 85,766 E46 M3s built, just 429 of them were painted in Oxford green. I naturally wanted a coupe, bringing that total down to 259 cars. Well, that’s not many, but still doable, right? You’d hope, but for the UK market, just 42 OG coupes were delivered. A number that BMW Group UK kindly confirmed for us the other week.
Here’s the info we received on UK market E46 M3s delivered in Oxford Green II metallic:
Total registrations: 63
UK Market E46 M3 delivered with Leather M-texture/Alcantara/Anthracite
Total registrations: 71
With these odds stacked against me, I decided to do what I do best and car nerd the shit out of the situation. In late 2015 I started a spreadsheet tracking every RHD OG E46 M3 I could find in the UK. I collated 9 coupes and 7 convertible cars from various forums and advert trawling. Every example that came up for sale seemed to be a convertible, SMG, or just ridiculously expensive.
I had come to terms with the fact that I’d probably never own a factory painted Oxford green E46 M3. I would end up buying a cheap crash damaged black M3 and respraying it green. It would be an imposter in the ranks, but it would appease my infernal want to own an E46 in this colour code.
Flash forward to early May of this year. My spreadsheet had sat idle for months if not years at this point. The chase was, for the time being, on hold and my attention had drifted elsewhere. While doing my daily classified trawl, I stumbled across the car you see in the pictures. Listed just hours before I had seen it, on one of the smaller UK car selling pages. I looked at the plate, it didn’t ring any bells. I checked my spreadsheet. No matches. It was a UK RHD OG M3 (try explaining that to a non-car person) that I didn’t know about.
Scrolling through the photos my jaw dropped. Not only was it Oxford green, not only was it a manual, but it had the cloth M-texture seats. An option as equally rare and sought after as the exterior colour, that these days warrants a hunt of its own. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. At 1:37 am, I called the seller. No answer. Obviously. But you can’t blame me for trying right? I set an alarm for 6 am and lay in my bed tossing and turning over what I’d seen, and hopefully, what no one else had yet seen.
Bright and early I tried the number again. He picked up, we arranged a time for me to come see the car and by the end of the day, the car was back on my drive. I cashed out of every investment I had, sold everything that wasn’t bolted to the floor, and called in every favour I could to make it work. Financially smart? Absolutely not, but they say life starts on the verge of bankruptcy, right?
To some people, Oxford Green doesn’t work in the slightest on the E46 M3. It’s a bit of a Marmite colour, but to me, it’s every shade of perfect. It’s far from the most perfect E46 you’ll ever see too. It hasn’t had the boot floor reinforced yet, it’s a pre-facelift with 103k miles, it’s not a slick top (non-sunroof), and the colour isn’t even an ‘Individual’ option.
I couldn’t care less though. I spent half a decade chasing this colour. At first, I bought it with the idea that if I didn’t put too many miles on it and babied it a little, I could probably own it for free when I came to sell it. I’ve quickly shoved that idea in the bin, however. What’s the point in spending all these years searching for this car, if I’m not going to use it? As of today, I’ve put 1100 miles on the car through rain and shine (naturally with a couple of donuts in the middle there too), and soon I’ll be picking up some choice CSL pieces to make it look and sound like the E46 M3 I’ve always dreamed of owning. I can already hear the furious purists typing from here.
Am I a sad, obsessed, car bore who likely way overpaid for an option that most people didn’t tick for a very good reason? Probably. Definitely. But I couldn’t be happier to say that. Every time I look out the window and see it, it makes me happy enough to say that the chase was worth every single moment.