View Full Version : TR4/4A TR4/6 vs E36 M3

Webb Sledge
05-18-2004, 05:01 PM
I have been between decisions for quite some time on this issue, and as the time to get a car is nearing, I want to decide one way or the other for sure. For a car I want a TR4/6 or a 1997 BMW E36 M3 (the generation of M3 before the current one).

Both have their selling points. Both are fun to drive. An M3 wouldn't break or require maintanance as often as a TR4/6, but parts would most likely have to be installed by a shop, and they'd be expensive. Also an M3 is a car I can drive in the snow, rain, or shine, and count on to get me where I'm going, whether it be school or someone's house 200 miles away.

Please try to have an unbiased opinion. I know that's almost impossible on this forum, but imagine you're 16 with these 2 choices and the consequences of getting one car or the other. What makes the most practical car?

05-18-2004, 05:44 PM
Wow - where to start. Sounds like you're aware that these two choices exist on different planets. These are utterly different machines - about as different as two things can be!

No question the M3 would be the more 'practical' car, easier to live with every day and easier to live with in the winter. However, with the M3, everything is expensive (price out tires, for example), and everything is complex and difficult to diagnose.

What you need to think about is what you want to get out of the experience. The TR will be much easier to learn wrenching on. How important is the drop top to you. Personally, I admire the M3's enormously (as they blow by me on the track), but they just don't do anything for me. If it has a roof, it's just not as much fun for me. There's something too cool and efficient about the BMW's to make me grin. LBCs on the other hand are downright silly, but make me grin like a fool. To me, that's the whole point of owning a hobby car. Transportation is just a lucky fringe benefit.

Bottom line - do what makes you happy. And for most people, it isn't forever. You can change cars in a few years and try something else. Good luck wrestling with your dilemma. At your age I had a clapped out A40 Austin with a warped head and a busted half shaft!

05-18-2004, 06:31 PM
do you want a car or a hobby?

Joel Simmons
05-18-2004, 06:48 PM
Geez...wish I could have had the option of getting an M3 in high school. I suppose if you can afford one of those then the insurance variable is of no importance, unless you hadn't thought of it yet. Make sure you check the insurance rates on an M3 for a 16 year-old male.

Personally, I would probably get the TR4/6. Why? Just to be different. Not that there are a ton of M3's out there, but new cars in general look alike. LBC's on the other hand, are very individualistic and stand-out in a sea of sleepily designed modern cars.

You can probably drive an LBC in the rain and snow as well. Just make sure you have a healthy heater and a towel handy.


Dave Russell
05-18-2004, 06:54 PM
As has already been said, do you want to learn mechanics or just drive? You won't learn much first hand about mechanics with the M3.

05-18-2004, 09:39 PM
Hey Webb,
I would go with an old Triumph of any type since you will be working at a British car shop this summer and if that guy is nice he will help you work on your car and would not even think anything about it. Go ahead and get an old LBC because I see alot more bmw's on a daily bases then I see old lbcs.

05-19-2004, 12:01 AM
For a primary driving car, and cost no object...a M3 is a far superior vehicle in every aspect except two: you can't drop the top (unless it's a M3 convertible,) and you won't be able to take it to a classic car show.

Personal opinion: buy a reliable car first, buy a TR when you have a second garage space and extra money. When you absolutley need to get somewhere, the BMW will get you there -- not to mention more comfortably.

05-19-2004, 03:45 AM
You're 16 years old, I wouldn’t worry about reliability or practicality. Get a triumph. I got my first one at 16 and still own it today.

Rob DeScherer
05-19-2004, 10:51 AM
Webb --
I am in a good position to answer this question for you, as I am the owner of an E28 535IS BMW and a 74 TR6. I purchased my BMW 14 years ago, and have put 270,000 very hard miles on the car. It still drives great! The engine still compression tests like it was new, and it has been very dependable. I have only replaced the clutch once. I am planning on replacing it this summer only because I fell like having a newer car as my daily driver, and I am considering a newer 5 series.

My TR6 on the other hand has been an on-going project for 5 years, and always will be. If yo are looking for a hobby, rather than a dependable ride, than buy the TR.

If you want to have a good solid car with excellent performance, than go with the M3, especially if can get a convertible. Just be aware that the upkeep will be somewhat pricey.



05-19-2004, 06:46 PM

I can't say much for Bimmers but I do have another comparison. As you probably know I own a 79 spitfire, I also own a 79 450 SEL Mercedes. The Benz has 211,000 miles on it, the Spitty has 70,000. I drive the spitty mostly in town and the benz on the highway although I do change them up sometimes, and I do put quite a few miles on a car if I take a weekend trip usually around 600. I love both cars for different reasons, the spitty is reliable, though it does require much more maintence, the benz is a highway cruiser to end all highway cruisers, it has a ncie ride, a very quiet cabin, and a stereo to listen to as you cruise down roads well over the listed speed limit. I have never taken either car to a mechanic to do any work on them. They are both farily easy to work on although the electronic fuel injection on the Benz is scary. I say if you are going to be driving mostly in town and making the occasional trip go with the tr4 or 6 if you are going to be going for long cruises all the time get the bimmer.

Izual Angel
05-20-2004, 12:35 AM
Keep in mind, 97 is OBD II meaning a trip to the dealer, or AutoZone if a problem comes up. Not that it's all bad. With the right scan tool (and some good know-how) you can pinpoint most problems pretty easily. Another point to consider: How do you feel about airbags?

05-20-2004, 05:13 PM
I have another question: Where in Virginia are you?

Webb Sledge
05-20-2004, 07:45 PM
Izual: Airbags = very good thing. I've witnessed a wreck at 60 mph where airbags and 3 point seat belts saved both driver's lives.

Aerog: Near Charlottesville.

05-20-2004, 09:12 PM
Near Charlottesville.

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Ok - that influences my comments a great deal! If you were to say "Springfield" I'd say you'd be nuts to consider a TR4 as an every-day car (although it's not impossible, I think the other would make more sense). You're in a part of the state that absolutely requires that you have a convertible! You're not likely to be fighting the beltway traffic on the way to or from someplace menial (which was my concern).

Webb Sledge
05-22-2004, 06:08 PM
I'm still having trouble deciding, but to be honest right now I'm leaning toward an M3, just because it's more practical as an only car, especially when I have to be places on time, and this is a good example:

This morning I was riding with my 16 year old friend in his TR6 to work, and as soon as I got in the car he informed me that he was gonna have a lot of trouble keeping the engine running. As soon as he let it idle, it'd shut off, which happened several times in the ~20 mile drive. The road into Grottoes in a small 2 lane road, with frequent passing sections. As my friend went to pull around an Izuzu Trooper, the engine died, with another car coming at us. Fortunatly he had enough momentum to continue around the car and to pull of, but it was a bit scary. We only missed getting hit by the other car by about 20 feet. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens when a TR6 hits another car with a combined speed of almost 140mph.

We coasted off the road and pulled into a gravel lot on a side street, while he tried to get it started again. Nothing worked. Finally Joe Hash (the guy I work for) came to check it out and my friend's TR6 fired up right before Joe pulled in. We made it halfway (about 4 miles) to the shop before it started having troubles again. It started to shudder like it was gonna cut off again, and finally let out the loudest backfire and the biggest cloud of black smoke I've ever seen, and then continued running like it had been before. We made it to Joe's driveway before it died again. I push started the 6 and my friend made it halfway up Joe mile (literally) long driveway. Finally we had to get Joe's dad's truck and toe it back.

After a while of trying different things Steve Click (spelling?), who was Joe's mentor and friend diagnosed it as a bad alternator. It's an AC Delco unit. From what they said it would be better to have a Lucas core in it. So, now he's gonna send for a new alternator and core, which'll cost like $120.

I might add that my friend has 2 cars, which is the only way he's able to have the 6.

05-23-2004, 01:56 PM
The reality is that if you want the gain, you'll have to do the pain. You have to be able to accept that you may get stranded without a car from time to time if it's an old british car. That's the reason why most folks have them a second cars/ a hobby. Its the reason why the miata was created, so people could have the best of both worlds /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif
How about getting some plain jane honda product which are usually bullet proof for most of their lives(and cheaper than a bimmer) and a british car to have fun with? I think it would make the hobby much more enjoyable.

Webb Sledge
05-23-2004, 04:19 PM
Hmmmmmmmm... That's an interesting idea, and I'd probably do it to except that our house only has a 1 car garage, and we have 2 cars already, without me having one. Also there is no way my parents would pay insurance for 2 cars for me.

05-23-2004, 07:14 PM
Yup, the lack of garage space sure can be a factor, one of the reasons I've given the brit car thing a rest. Also, having two cars insured at the same time can be expensive. Is there anything like classic or collector plates out there? Usually cheaper, although it means probably for pleasure use only. I still think having the pressure taken off one's self on having to keep a british car running daily would make the hobby much more enjoyable. Yes, there are a few on this board that do use them as they're daily transportation, but most enthusiasts keep them as off time toys. I recommend getting a reliable/fun car to do both, or one work car, one fun car. Two should be able to be found for less than a '97 BMW I would think.
Good luck with the endeavour...

05-23-2004, 10:59 PM
Well there's another factor to think about too - look at insurance on the TR4. I won't enter the insurance debate again (do a search on here, it's been covered), but for older cars it's sometimes difficult to get the same types of insurance as you can on a newer car. Liability isn't usually a problem, but getting covered in case someone destroys your shiny newly restored TR4 in a parking lot is another thing. Just something to explore as another factor.

As for the reliability, hobby-car thing... I can't speak for the TR4 but I firmly believe my MGB could be a good reliable daily-driver for me. In fact, I pondered getting an MGB-GT or another roadster as a replacement for my Saturn - then decided on a new Miata. Aside from the fact that I like the Miata, I reasoned that another MGB was going to require extra maintenance to stay "reliable". The older cars require things like adjusting valves, maintaining the carbs, tuning every so often, adjusting/replacing the points, expecting a few things to fail here and there, etc. Of course there are more and more modern upgrades being added to the likes of the MGs like electronic ignition and fuel injection, but I'm generalizing.

05-24-2004, 02:29 PM
Hmmmmmmmm... That's an interesting idea, and I'd probably do it to except that our house only has a 1 car garage, and we have 2 cars already, without me having one. Also there is no way my parents would pay insurance for 2 cars for me.

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When I was twentysomething I had an officemate who drove a BMW 5 series. I had an old Jensen Healey, a new Mazda pickup truck and a Laverda 750. He paid more for insurance on his one vehicle than I paid for all my rides combined. He also paid more to buy his one vehicle than I paid for all my rides combined (a lot more).

Work all the numbers up front. It can be very interesting.

There's much to be said for having two cars since no single car can give you everything. In my case I wanted the fun and emotional involvement but I needed dependability and practicality. I got more of both for less money with the set.

Would your parents still be unwilling to pay for two cars' insurance if the total was less than the other option? What if there was something in it for them? I bought a small pickup because it was cheap, easy to live with and immensely useful. Would your family find such an option useful as well? Try these family conversations on for size: Son, can I borrow your truck to haul the grill for a tailgate party this weekend? Sure Dad, no problem. Mom, need me to stop by Home Depot and pick up more mulch for your flowerbeds? Yes Son, thank you. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grouphug.gif Can you feel the love?

One last thing; don't ask your parents to consider adding an Italian motorcycle to the mix. That's pushing it.


05-24-2004, 04:26 PM

When I was faced with a similar problem I decided to sell my 1957 MGA and buy a new Miata... 1993 LE, Black with Red leather trim. It was a tough decision, but once I got over missing the classic MG and started to enjoy a similar driving feeling from the new Mazda, I had no regrets. Might I suggest that you consider a Miata, which I believe to be as dependable as the BMW and maybe a little more fun to drive. For the price of an M3, you could get the optional hardtop and low mileage Miata with the leather package. Just something to check into before you jump into the BMW. Test drive a 1999 model, the latest generation, to see what you think. I drove my 1993 for over three years to 100,000 miles with absolutely no mechanical issues. The original clutch was still working fine. As for the LBC question, if it were me I would go with the classic TR or other marque, but then I have never been too concerned with practicality.... it just becomes a question of what governs your choices. Passion for the cars of the past or practical concerns regarding transportation. Tough call for me to make. Try the Miata.


Webb Sledge
05-25-2004, 10:03 PM
The Miata brings more interesting ideas to my mind. On of the reasons I thought of passing when someone said something about a Honda and a TR was that I wanted something with decent performance, and a Civic's just not where it's at. However, having a TR and a Miata would just about give me everything I wanted. And a Miata is easily upgradable to quench my need for speed... I'll have to think and research this one a little more.

05-25-2004, 10:08 PM
And a Miata is easily upgradable to quench my need for speed...

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Upgrades are needed. My Miata does 70 on the highway without any trouble at all, and zero-to-55 on the local 4-lane in under 8 seconds. Don't need any more than that https://rem2.vulturetec.com/screwy.gif

Incidentally, the Miata crowd is equally as enthusiastic about their cars as the Brit-car crowd is.

Webb Sledge
05-25-2004, 11:10 PM
I admit those are good figures. Much better than I was expecting. I'd still like to do a few things to it though.

05-26-2004, 09:44 AM
I absolutely love the performance of my stock '91 miata. To me it has the power and handling that a "classic" sportscar should have. And tires, wheel alignment, and suspension tweaks supposedly set this car on fire(I haven't experimented with any of these.... yet...). It will embarrass many a more expensive car through the twisties. That said, this engine was over built and will handle 8psi or more of boost on the stock internals, so SCing, or turboing is a popular mod. And ends up being cheaper than trying to build up a normally aspirated engine. Check out www.miata.net (https://www.miata.net) for everything you've ever wanted to know about miatas, and the community of enthusiasts on the forum. There will be 300 owners meeting in Kelowna BC, Canada for the annual "Topless Run". Gives you and idea of the car's fans and get togethers.
I love british cars, but if you can only have one (sports)car to depend on, my vote is on a miata...

05-26-2004, 01:25 PM
I was about to mention miata.net, but JM1NA beat me to it. Excellent site, with great forums - the only site on the web that rivals this one.

Huge tuneability in the Miatas, used ones aren't expensive and durability is excellent. A US$6000 Miata with $US6000 worth of mods will give you a reliable daily driver that will embarrass an E36 M3 on the track, for much less money. Ask me how I know! /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/devilgrin.gif

IMHO, Miatas have virtually all of the LBC virtues and none of the pain. I'll agree completely that they lack that "soul" or "indefinable something" of the LBCs, but if you can only have one car and don't want to schlep an irreplaceable TR through the snow, it's an extremely attractive compromise. Ultimately, you have to come up with a combination that fits your taste, your budget and your tolerance for tinkering.