In 1993, if you bought an M5 in the US, you got a free trip to Germany! Tourist delivery was an option that I took, saving about $8000 on this very limited production hand-built car. There were 4 trips total. Mine was the last one, in August of '93, and there were about 20 other owners on the trip, with one other also picking up his car. The trip included a tour of the M production plant, and then we piled into a fleet of identical yellow '93 M3's to drive to the Nurburgring for the remainder of the trip! Why M3s? They didn't have enough M5s for all of us, though two Euro '93s with the 3.8 motor and Nurburgring suspension package made the trip, just to make us jealous, I'm sure. I did get to drive one of those, and the extra power compared to mine was notable, leading me to modify mine, but that's another story. Why were they all yellow? They were all ordered as blue, but an error at the factory had them produced as yellow! Those were the days. There were 2 blue cars on the trip as well. It was quite a fleet! So here we were with this car that was unavailable in any form in North America. These did have the first generation of this engine, with variable timing on only one set of valves, not both, but it was a true M motor, built by hand at the same plant as the engine and the rest of the M5. So we drove from Munich to the Ring in this fleet of M3s! We stopped for lunch at some winery along the way, where we had a wonderful lunch with wine(!). We left the winery with our carton of M labeled wines(!) and went to a gas station, where the entire fleet of about 25 cars gassed up at 1 pump on 1 BMW corporate card. Took forever, and you can imagine what the place looked like swarming with this fleet of identical bright yellow M3s! We sort of created a small traffic jam! Then we proceeded the rest of the way on the Autobahn, going as fast as we could and then slamming on the brakes as the trucks would venture into the passing lane at a limited 90 km/hr (55 mph) as we were hitting 140 mph+! Great fun, The rest of the trip was track time in the M3s, doing basic driver training exercises, and also some hot laps on the F1 Grand Prix track. We also got rides in the Ring Taxi on the Nordshleife, an M5 with a full roll cage piloted by a giant German running at speed for the whole 14 mile course with 3 passengers, a very eye opening event! I'm sure there were some soiled shorts on that one! We were all very pleased with the performance of these M3s, and many would have traded the much heavier and slower M5s were they available in the US, after our 5 day trips. The '95 E36 M3 we finally got was a great car, especially for the money, but I think the real one would have sold nearly as well, and boy was that engine sweet. I've never seen a Canadian M3, but I bet they were truly special.
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I think people are remembering the Phaeton with a big dose of "rose colored glasses". If you look at comparison tests at the time, It was usually at the back of the pack, or rarely mid-pack. The car did absolutely nothing exceptionally well, and came off as pretty bland. Meanwhile, it was priced the same as the far more prestigious and better performing competition, and you had to go to the same dealership for sales and service as buyers of a base Jetta or Golf. Contrast this to the introduction of the Lexus LS 400. This car won most comparisons, was priced well below the German competition, and Toyota invented Lexus, with it's superior (and practically revolutionary) sales and service experience. That car was a hit, and changed the luxury industry in the process. The Phaeton may have been the basis for the Bentley Continental GT, but you couldn't tell that easily, and Bentley thoroughly re-engineered the thing into an excellent car with virtually no competition, and a low price for a Bentley. Success for the platform, finally.
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