Live Auctions

No Reserve 1988 BMW M3 Project

$40,000 for a car that needs an engine rebuild: if there’s any further proof needed that the E30 M3 market is still completely bananas, look no further. This example of BMW’s halo car of the 1980s is a dusty garage find, seemingly parked for good reason given the seller acknowledges cylinder number four has lost all compression. Rebuilding the S14 engine is a known risk of buying a project grade E30 M3, so at least there are no surprises lurking – you know what you’re getting. At least, I hope the bidders do, as the current bid seems way higher than reason would otherwise dictate. Find it here on eBay and located in North Richland Hills, Texas.

Now, I normally pride myself on knowing every last detail about BMWs of this vintage, but this one is throwing me a curveball. First, I don’t really understand the bidding. Take, for example, this one I wrote up in July that was a running car, with some rough edges, listed for $34,000. Here’s another runner that was trailing this car by about $10,000 at the same time in the auction, and while it had higher miles, it was also a running example. The fact that this car, which has over 160,000 miles and a fairly messy interior (not to mention the dead piston) has already eclipsed $40,000 makes me wonder what I’m missing. And don’t forget, most S14 rebuilds easily clear $10,000 when all is said and done.

The last picture may offer a clue, but certainly not an answer. This photo of the interior doesn’t reveal it to be a time-capsule example, with tired and cracking leather seats, aftermarket and rough-looking floormats, cheap white face gauges, a missing knee bolster under the steering column, and other flaws indicating it hasn’t been treated to a proper detailing in years. The seller doesn’t go into any great details about the car or its history, other than noting it was resprayed 15 years ago and has been parked in the garage for about the same length of time. If the seller bought the M3 as a used project around that time, they are likely going to make out like a bandit given what they used to sell for as second- and third-hand cars.

So here’s the wild card: this plaque in the door jamb. Is this some elusive Canadian market edition I don’t know about? What’s extra confusing is that this limited edition model did exist – except it was the next-generation M3, the E36, that was produced with the European-specification engine and sold in Canada. This plaque almost certainly came from one of these cars, as even the production number is correct – 45 European models went to Canada as part of a limited release. What’s stranger still is that’s definitely a “1988” on the plaque itself, but I don’t believe such a car ever existed. This is a mystery to me, but if you’re a better BMW detective than I am, please enlighten us.


  1. alphasud Member

    I think the E30 M3 is a cool car. I remember back in the 90’s when a was working at the dealership I worked on a 88 with transmission issues. I remember on the test drive after repairs how I wanted to be excited about this car but the high strung 4 cylinder didn’t do it for me. At the time I was driving my Alfa Milano Verde and was spoiled with that beautiful Busso V6.

    Like 1
    • SirRaoulDuke

      I passed on a chance to buy one in the mid 90s for what now seems like peanuts. The engine was actually what attracted me (besides the handling) to this model. But I have a thing for small go-cart type cars that need to be wound out. That’s probably because I lived in a region with narrow, super twisty roads…the kind where the E30 M3 shined. Your Busso definitely sounded better.

  2. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    One of the best cars ever to grace the planet.

  3. Connecticut Mark

    Dodge Dart in garage?

  4. JCA Member

    How could this plaque came from one of the 45 next gen cars when it has this cars VIN is stamped right on it? Seems like a fake plaque…

    Like 5
  5. local_sheriff

    What’s with the speedboat grill parts…? IMO not a very elegant version of an already clean and timeless face design…

  6. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    Anyone like me finding only 50% of my posts actually appear? There is something wrong with this forum recently.

    Like 1
  7. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    The plaque is strange as S50 engine is wrong also.
    Was fitted with an S14.
    First Canadian M3 E36 arrived in 1994?

  8. CJinSD

    Who is bidding on this car without even a photo to show that it has an S14 under the hood?

    Like 4
    • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

      The Ebay shill bidders…

      Like 4
    • Johnny

      The saler probably is. I have noticed alot of WAY OVER PRICED JUNK on E-BAY. It is why I don,t even go their any more. For the price they have it up to. You can find a running– alot nice car. Maybe they are on drugs,but they are not in their right mind.

      Like 1
  9. fjcappy Member

    I’m confused. How can this E30 have a limited Canadian Edition plaque from an E36. Is this a 1 of none car? I wish the seller would take a pic of the actual vin. If it matches the plaque this car is an anomaly as far as I can tell. BMW experts please weigh in.

    Like 1
  10. RK

    That price is bonkers

    Like 4
  11. Brian Hasty

    If you run the VIN it comes back as an 11/87 built USA spec M3

    Like 1
  12. David Yando

    Yes, VIN decodes as a regular E30M3, 11/27/87 build date, maybe assembled in Oxford according to the decoder I used. Lachsilber over schwarz, S14, sunroof, power windows, AC, OBC II, and cruise control – essentially US spec.
    That jamb plate looks suspicious – maybe someone turned the 9 into an 8, but that does not explain the VIN.

    Like 1
  13. JEFF S.

    Crazy price, why? I do not understand it. My son has a 2009 M3 with a V8 that he purchased 7 years ago for $28K. You can find 2009 M3s for less than half the price of this turd. No money has changed hands, and I do not think it ever will, at this price, knowing how many times I have seen, cars bid high, and then relisted on EBay.

    Like 2

      Well one big reason is that the 2009 M3 is a piece of crap, they have horrible reliability, the engines eat rod bearing and they are not fun to drive.
      The old E30 M3 on the other had was iconic and was built when ultimate driving machine meant something The engine was tough the chassis was well balanced and as importantly this was prime time for touring car racing and the M3 was very competitive.
      Touring car racing faded away in the 90’s, it still kind of exist but it does not attract the attention and fans that it did from the 60’s up to the 90’s and BMW’s began to get fat, ugly and unreliable in addition to being difficult to work on.

      Like 2
      • JCA Member

        I don’t think so…the ’09 M3 was an amazing car and could easily beat the pants off an ’88 any day of the week. And that high revving V8 sound…way better music than any 4 banger can ever make. If I had to recommend one I’d say take the ’09 and put the $40k in the bank to cover a rebuild down the road. Personally, i’m out on both. This ’88 is overpriced and the ’09 isn’t available in manual

        Like 2
      • JEFF S.

        To each his own, but to say the the 09 M3 is not fun to drive, tells me you have never driven one. The launch control is a blast. As for the rod bearings, BMW came out with better replacement rod bearings in 2011, cost about $2500, to have the repair done. I do believe BMW should of fixed this problem for free, but we all know that is not going to ever happen. The used car dealer came down $3,000, because of that issue and my son has yet to have to have the repair done. He changes his oil every 3,000 miles and has oil analyst done by Blackstone at each change, no issues yet at 85,000 miles. But he does not know if the work has ever been done, as he purchased the car with 63,000 miles on the odometer.


    someone is smoking something good. I sold those when they were new, they are NOT such great performers, they are expensive to keep running, and to be blunt, this car is a rat. it needs everything. this market is a bubble, ill wait till it bursts.

    Like 1
  15. David Yando

    To each their own. In context, they were outstanding performers, and even today, are quite capable on a track. Of course, most minivans can smoke it off the line – today – but that’s not what an E30M3 is about.
    And mine has been pretty reliable and easy enough to maintain as a DD for over 20 years, with nearing 300K miles on it. Horses for courses, as they say. This particular car, as you correctly point out, needs some attention, and is priced high for the current market.

    Like 1
  16. MOTRV8D

    I’ve always liked these. But not this one. That grille is horrible.

  17. Mike

    ‘Sold’ for 45k with 4 bidders over 40k. Hard to believe given the random/fake S50 sticker, bad motor, no engine bay photos, miles, etc

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