Cheap Start: 1988 BMW M3 Project

This 1988 BMW M3 is in sorry shape, lacking its original S14 engine and listed as being “stripped” on the auction website. Although it is not a typical theft recovery given the completeness of the interior and body, there’s still enough signs of abuse that confirm the last few years have not been kind. For a car that has appreciated drastically in the last few years, it’s a shame to see one that hasn’t been loved. Find the M3 here on AutoBidMaster where bidding has risen to $10,600.

The interior isn’t terrible, with decent carpets and factory leather sport seats in need of minor reconditioning. The glovebox is missing, which may have been all it took for the M3 to be described as “stripped.” Insurance companies are funny that way in terms of what constitutes certain words that are more dramatic than necessary. The dash is uncracked, which is a surprise for a BMW from this era.

The real heartbreak for me is what looks like a very crude engine install. I can see a few scenarios here, such as the project being mid-way through completion before being stolen. I could even see an enterprising chop shop pilfering the valuable S14 and dropping a junkyard 3-Series engine in just to keep it mobile. Either way, the missing factory engine is a huge blow to the M3’s value among collectors.

To me, if it’s not rusty underneath, this is the kind of M3 you buy at a discount to then source an original S14 engine to drop back in. This will not only return the M3 to its original, high-strung form but should also push its value back up to where it belongs. All of the other M3 specific parts are still present, so find an engine and make this into a proper E30 M3 once again.


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  1. Don Settergren

    The car is physically at Copart in Denver. Autobidmaster is a broker site.

    What engine could you drop in to give similar or slightly improved performance? Or is finding one of the original 4 cylinders the best way forward?

    • Joey

      An S52 motor from an e36 M3 would work well. At first I thought that was an S54 motor crammed in there. Sourcing a proper S14 would likely cost about as much as the car. Slightly less

      Like 2
      • Leslie Martin Member

        I don’t think your going to find a properly rebuilt or good running low mileage S14 for under $20k these days. The market goes up and down, but it’s hot right now. Probably the reason it’s original motor was pilfered in the first place. It’s sad because that’s what this car needs to be right.

  2. Natec

    I’ll admit I don’t know anything about BMW’s but being an M series wouldn’t it have a much better suspension than a standard model? If so I think this would be a fun car to drive even with a stock motor…..that’s just my opinion though. Plus you get the cool wide body!

    Like 1
  3. davew833

    Here’s a direct link to the Copart auction. Since it’s a clean title car most interested buyers can bid on it directly on the Copart site. No need to go through Autobidmaster, which is a broker and would love to have some of your money. The Copart listing has better pictures, too.

    Like 2
  4. Vudutu

    If I had the bucks and a garage to work on it I would go for this and look for an engine or doner wreck.

    Want to drool over Mcars?

    Take a look at the listings below, this dealer is near me and if I ever won the lotto would be my first stop.

    That 2003 M5 would be my choice, I had an exact same six speed paint and wheels 2000 Msport
    Who’s I had never sold it, beast of a car, can’t imagine what a full M would be like.

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