• I was going to suggest the E36 M3, I think they are significantly less complex than the E46 generation so if we are talking about wrenching on your own vehicle that could be a serious advantage. I also think E36 M3 values are about to take off and convertible w/manual transmission is probably one of the more desirable configurations…

      Also: Jerry (OP), what part of Canada are you in?

    • If you're talking non-smg (aka real manuals, the way God intended), there isn't much difference aside from Vanos to contend with on the S54, but that's well, well documented and supported in the forums.

      Having owned both, I'd say the material and build quality in the e46 was quite a leap ahead of the e36, so probably a dead heat at worst on cost of ownership.

    • Still driving my bought when new '95 E36 convertible with 315,000 miles on it. Do most of my own work. That said being a 4 wheel independent suspension I would be darn sure that any E36 you look to buy has replaced almost all of the suspension parts including the struts ( which I have replaced twice in my garage with a jack). Of course that means yet ANOTHER 4 wheel alignment. That and the plastic bits inside as FTB alluded to, are way inferior to the E46. I'm looking for an E46 non sulev wagon with a 5 speed if anyone is in SoCal and has the perfectly priced and cared for wagon to sell.;) So I too vote for the E36 or E46 if you want to wear your big boy pants!

    • Do the E36 convertibles have the same rear subframe mount cracking issues as the coupes & sedans? If so, plan on welding in reinforcements. Not a hard job if you have access to a lift and MIG machine.

  • Never drove one and can't say if it would hold up to his needs, but mebbe a 645?
    [image src=" images.craigslist.org/00H0H_gxrn6Us5B7s_600x450.jpg" width="400px"/]

  • I had an E36 convertible. The power top was finicky and way too complicated; if you could find a 3 series with a manual top, that's likely to work out a bit better. Handling was pretty good, reliability aside from the power top was decent, and DIY maintenance was relatively easy as well.

    As for other options on the list, how about a Jaguar XK8?

    [image src=" images.craigslist.org/00000_7ZtlbPFzDzS_600x450.jpg" width="400px"/]

    • I wondered about that option as well, though I don't think you would be able to remove small humans from the back seat if you put them there – though I may be wrong.

  • I always start with old, lowest mileage, cheapest possible…found this at a dealer who advertises a lot of decent cars. Never traded with them, but frequently find myself looking at their ads on CL.. 88K Mile BMW Convertible

  • I was going to say a late-model Volvo C70, but it is challenged by your criteria on 1.5 parts –
    A. FWD and
    B. Better looking P2 generation not introduced until 2006.

    That said, a set of IPD bars and a quafie LSD with the T5 setup would likely be pretty fun…

    [image src=" media.caranddriver.com/images/06q2/8979/specs-photo-10363-s-429×262.jpg"]

  • If you can relax the RWD requirement: R53 generation MINI Cooper S Convertible. Unlike the new gen MINI's, the R53 is pretty reliable and not bad to work on. I ran a hardtop R53 for 11 years and 110K miles. Plus the R53 looks much better than the MINI's that came after it.

    [image src=" i.pinimg.com/originals/de/1d/89/de1d8940a328ef9f7dd970c60e311136.jpg"/]

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