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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Just saw this completed auction on BaT. This is my unicorn car, a low-miles, pristine, Mystic Blue over Natural Brown ZHP sedan, 6-spd. In about every objective metric the Giulia eclipses it, but the E46 ZHP offers something the Giulia doesn't, a manual transmission (love the ZF auto but I love a good 6-speed more). And it's still an analog car. Also, like the Giulia, it has an intangible magic that comes from (I believe) the engineers being given the freedom to make a car for engineers. The ZHP is truly sublime. So many cars, so little time.

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/2003-bmw-330i-zhp-7/

Ah, I'm most likely kidding myself. After driving the Giulia for a few years, the 235HP of the ZHP would no longer feel special, as it once did. Maybe I might get another as a future weekend/collector car, replacing my old Afas, if keeping the Giulia as the DD, as becomes more likely the longer I live with it. Or maybe I should just stop checking BaT, getting all nostalgic, tempting myself to make a decision that doesn't really make sense. I even found myself tempted to find a low-miles old SHO after some discussion on this board, or maybe an SVT Contour, considering you can find them on Craigslist for a trade of a chicken sandwich. Seems like a good idea until I have to start fixing things and it costs me real time and money. Then I'd remember why I got away from "character cars" for daily drivers and jumped into warrantied new cars (started with the '15 Mustang GT; the Giulia is the continuation of that, and in the rational light of day it is the smart decision, but boy I miss the older, simpler cars).

Anyway, if you appreciate the E46 as I do, enjoy. This is a special one.
 

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Are these the cars that in "M" trim suffered from "Sub Frame Cracks" ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Yes indeed. Not normally an issue in the non-M trims though. An item to be inspected before buying for sure.

Sub frame cracks weren't the only thing to be concerned with, though potentially the most expensive of the typical concerns. VANOS issuess, radiator and expansion tank predictably needing replacement every so many miles (lot of plastic), interior bits that inexplicably and predictably fall apart; even in the E46, which I consider BMW's high point, along with its 5-series sibling the E39, there seems to be a lot of built-for-the-warranty-period engineering/parts/materials decisions. If buying a used BMW, definitely pay for a pre-inspection to know what you're getting into. My 330i had been very well-maintained and I still had to put another $5K in it it's first year, the bulk of that being a bite-the-bullet new cooling system. Again, over the years I've always been irritated (as you have been as well) that ignorant people harp on Alfa quality/reliability when the eleven older Alfas I've owned over the years proved themselves to not only be perfectly reliable, but very well-engineered. My only criticism of the older Alfas is that the power to the windows, wipers, etc. was routed in such a way that their performance was often weak. Fairly easily fixed with relays, but why didn't they just come that way from the factory? Anyway, in all the important stuff, Alfas are rock-solid, in stark contrast to the supposedly sterling Germans, whose litany of baked-in engineering issues is rather astounding, really. No wonder there have been so many class action lawsuits brought against them. It's not simply the volume of cars as they easily outstrip the Americans and Japanese in litigated consumer dissatisfaction. Regardless though, address the E46's weak points, and there are several, and you have a really wonderful car. Especially with the ZHP package, the chassis, steering and suspension are perfect, much like the Giulia found that engineering sweet spot. I've said before that I consider the Giulia the real successor to the E46; like the E46, it is a disruptor that will have everyone else playing catch up for a while.

Re the E46 issues, this is an enlightening video. Though I bought a very clean, very well-maintained 330i, I had to eventually deal with most of these issues as well. Worth it if you love the car, but arguably shouldn't be there in such an otherwise wonderful car.


p.s. I just re-watched this video. In addition to making me laugh at points, I realize that my very nice 330i had every single issue he identifies, except for the wood trim (mine didn't have wood trim) and the side mirror discoloration. Every other issue... check. That app. $5K didn't include the bulk of the labor done by myself, like all the interior fixes (3M foaming spray glue is your friend), the window regulators, headlight lenses, grill and front window cowl replacements, etc. Oh and he doesn't include one big hit that was particular to my ZHP: the ZHP-specific 18" wheels will develop hairline cracks starting from the inboard lips, no matter how they are treated. I spent some good money getting those repaired. Again, never had to deal with these kind of issues with my Alfas, no matter their age. Granted, the interior bits can be cheap, and the A/C wasn't the best, but that was true of almost all '70s/'80s cars. In my experience, you have to buy a neglected Alfa to get into a mess. The only older Alfa I found expensive to run was my 24-valve 164Q; all the others I only had to deal with mechanical wear items, and only after about 90k miles or so. There's an easily-explained reason I developed a love for Alfas over the years, starting with my first, just over thirty years ago. That said, there's no way I think I'd replace the Giulia with an E46 at this point, but I would be tempted to get an E46 for a weekend run about/errand car. There's an outfit in FL that converts 325 wagons to ZHP wagons (never offered in the U.S.). If I come to the point where I can let me older Alfas go, that would probably be the replacement. Then again, do I really want to be back (again) on a first-name basis with my local indie BMW mechanic, just for a weekend toy?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yes indeed. Not normally an issue in the non-M trims though. An item to be inspected before buying for sure.

Sub frame cracks weren't the only thing to be concerned with, though potentially the most expensive one of the typical concerns. VANOS issuess, radiator and expansion tank predictably needing replacement every so many miles (lot of plastic), interior bits that inexplicably and predictably fall apart; even in the E46, which I consider BMW's high point, along with its 5-series sibling the E39, there seems to be a lot of built-for-the-warranty-period engineering/parts/materials decisions. If buying a used BMW, definitely pay for a pre-inspection to know what you're getting into. My 330i had been very well-maintained and I still had to put another $5K in it it's first year, the bulk of that being a bite-the-bullet new cooling system. Again, over the years I've always been irritated (as you have been as well) that ignorant people harp of Alfa quality/reliability when the eleven Alfas I've owned over the years proved themselves to not only be perfectly reliable, but very well-engineered. My only criticism of the older Alfas is that the power to the windows, wipers, etc. was routed in such a way that their performance was often weak. Fairly easily fixed with relays, but why didn't they just come that way from the factory? Anyway, in all the important stuff, Alfas are rock-solid, in stark contrast to the supposedly sterling Germans, whose litany of baked-in engineering issues is rather astounding, really. No wonder there have been so many class action lawsuits brought against them. It's not simply the volume of cars as the easily outstrip the Americans and Japanese. Regardless though, address the E46's weak points, and there are several, and you have a really wonderful car. Especially with the ZHP package, the chassis, steering and suspension are perfect, much like the Giulia found that engineering sweet spot. I've said before that I consider the Giulia the real successor to the E46; like the E46, it is a disruptor that will have everyone else playing catch up for a while.

Re the E46 issues, this is an enlightening video. Though I bought a very clean, very well-maintained 330i, I had to eventually deal with most of these issues as well. Worth it if you love the car, but arguably shouldn't be there in such an otherwise wonderful car.

 

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Are these the cars that in "M" trim suffered from "Sub Frame Cracks" ?
Yes they are that lesson cost me $6,000 and that seemed like a bargan after the dealer wanted $12,000 for the repair. It seemed like a particularly harsh lesson because I had just bought mine 2nd hand. After I got over the sub frame repair I ended up loving the E46 ZHP. Mine was 1 of 2 with a dark green exterior and tan interior.

They are a great drivers car and the engine is an excellent match for the 6 speed manual. I think it’s a shame that BMW has decided they don’t want to make something comparable today. After owning a Giulia for a bit more than a year which replaced one of these BMWs as my daily driver, the Giulia is a little better is almost all respects. I have also come to feel that the 8 speed zf in the Giulia is a great match for the 2.0 multi air and I’m not sure a 6 speed manual would be as good with this engine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
"...the Giulia is a little better is almost all respects. I have also come to feel that the 8 speed zf in the Giulia is a great match for the 2.0 multi air and I’m not sure a 6 speed manual would be as good with this engine."

I agree completely on each point. I don't think a manual would match well to the 2.0 Multi Air's torque/power characteristics and so don't regret not having a manual with the Giulia, but I do miss getting to exercise an NA engine with a nice manual. Giulia's way to good to pass on because of that so I've relegated that experience to the weekend hobby cars. Question I'll face eventually is whether to replace my older Alfas with another E46; the Giulia's safe enough as it's way too special. I'm also somewhat attracted to the 500 Abarth for a weekend fun car. Hard to give up a Busso V6 though.
 
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I've been driving my e46 M3 for the last 4 days..... gawd I love that car. Yes, it's SMG, but I still enjoy it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I've been driving my e46 M3 for the last 4 days..... gawd I love that car. Yes, it's SMG, but I still enjoy it.
An E46 M3 is a good candidate for a second car, weekend backup to the DD Giulia. I'd have to drive an S550 Mustang GT and E46 M3 back to back to decide which one I like more (I like them both a lot).
 

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That's a really nice zhp! That video reminded me why we sold our e 46 , waaay too many issues and we bought it barely used! Those **** window regulators...grrr. I replaced a few of them, what a PITA. they're great cars if you can do the work yourself, otherwise they are big money pits.
 

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fact is the sub-frame issue was a warranty item for many E46 cars, though some people did get caught holding the bag..
overall as @Rutlefan pointed out the E46 & E39 are considered to be the high water mark for the last great BMWs and the "consumable" maintenance items were just that, maintenance items...if any BMW guy/gal follows the Mike Miller school of maintenance these cars will go for 200k easy...our 04 325xi has 150k on the odo, and while the body looks rough, the mechanical bits are great...auto boxes tend to start to get funny about now....thats why we are looking to retire her.
the ZHP cars were special...and people who owned them generally knew that and took good care of them...
 

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former 2000 328CI owner. Permanent Airbag problem (Never wrecked), Vanos hunt, and just not cool after awhile. Traded it in for an E39 530I that was actually a decent car.

A few years later I got into an 03 540I MSport that I managed to detach the stub axle from the center section during a particularly hard driving session. I also found out that's very common.

The problem I see with BMW these days it's next to impossible to get quality parts anymore, I swear they water down the parts after production ends. Found that out the hard way with my 540. Why it's gone.

However I have a soft spot for E28, E30 and E24 (used to own an E30 and an E24 many, many moons ago). those were quality cars. Well, at least the E30 was ;)
 

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Speaking of BMWs, I’m not a huge fan but I do like some of the older ones, and I’ve always loved the Z3 MCoupe bmws, pretty rare car and most people don’t know about them but I’m sure lots of Alfa guys do, lol. I’ve loved them since I first saw one...and really just the styling, not so much the inline 6 since I’m a bit of a power junky, but I could live with it just to be able to stare at the car.
 

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I traded in a BMW for a Lexus and another for my Quad. Lexus has never been in for repair (18 months) and the Quad had a wiring problem and a brake problem when new but has been stellar since then.

I had my BMW experience and have now moved on. :)
 
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Lexus needs to get rid of the typical Japanese overboosted steering and a restyle wouldn't hurt either.
Agreed. They suffer on the "sporty" side but kick buttox on the reliability scale.
 

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Agreed. They suffer on the "sporty" side but kick buttox on the reliability scale.
1000% Agreed. Toyotas in general are in a whole nother galaxy for long term reliability and general quality.

If I ever need to replace my Chevy PU, it will be with a Tundra. Search google for the 'million mile tundra'- insane. According to Toyota everything was still within spec- even the seats.

Who does that these days?
 

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Speaking of BMWs, I’m not a huge fan but I do like some of the older ones, and I’ve always loved the Z3 MCoupe bmws, pretty rare car and most people don’t know about them but I’m sure lots of Alfa guys do, lol. I’ve loved them since I first saw one...and really just the styling, not so much the inline 6 since I’m a bit of a power junky, but I could live with it just to be able to stare at the car.
Love the clown shoe! Can't recall the last time I saw one on the road.

Lexus needs to get rid of the typical Japanese overboosted steering and a restyle wouldn't hurt either.
agreed. Briefly looked at Lexus..meh. Nothing that excited me and that face. ugh. The recent Toyota restyling looks better though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Speaking of BMWs, I’m not a huge fan but I do like some of the older ones, and I’ve always loved the Z3 MCoupe bmws, pretty rare car and most people don’t know about them but I’m sure lots of Alfa guys do, lol. I’ve loved them since I first saw one...and really just the styling, not so much the inline 6 since I’m a bit of a power junky, but I could live with it just to be able to stare at the car.
I saw my first Z3 coupe at the auto show where I saw my first 996 911. Fell in love with both at first sight (I didn't realize then that I wasn't supposed to like the 996 :wink2:). Eventually owned a 996, a gorgeous '04 40th Ann, but never the Z3 coupe. Big regret. Think about getting one despite rising prices but like He's Deaf, I kind of feel I've done the BMW thing, at least as much as I feel I need to. Not that I wouldn't enjoy the Z3 coupe, or an E46 M3, but the love isn't so strong that I wouldn't really be annoyed by the first big repair bill. Unless bought for pure utility, cars -- especially older ones -- have to be a labor of love. The love is maybe no longer strong enough for BMW to put up gladly with the predictable inconveniences and expenses.
 
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