2004 BMW M3 In The Barn

Modern-day barn finds don’t come up all that often, but when they do, it’s always interesting to see what caused a car that is otherwise still on the road turn up in a barn covered in dust. That’s exactly what has happened with this desirable 2004 BMW M3, currently one of the hotter generations of BMW’s classic M-car on the collector car marketplace. It’s equipped with the love-it-or-leave-it SMG transmission which has lost all forward gears. The seller intended to convert it to a manual transmission but is now realizing he’s not going to get this project done any time soon. Find the M3 here on eBay with 136,666 miles, a salvage title, no reserve, and bidding currently just over $5,000.

The E46 M3 has become a darling of the collector car world as of late. While it has always been a coveted specimen, the tide keeps rising for all of the classic M cars, but the E46 seems poised to overtake the E36 M3 from a value standpoint, likely owing to the superior driving dynamics and overall day-to-day livability. The E30, of course, has been overpriced for some time now, and while the E36 has had some high watermark sales, you can still find a decent driver for under $20,000. The E46 is reliably north of $25,000 for anything decent, and the best examples are trading hands for anywhere from $45,000 to $90,000 for low-mileage time capsules. Needless to say, most of those are equipped with the traditional manual gearbox instead of the fiddly SMG.

The seller purchased the M3 with a salvage title and the transmission still functioning enough to drive it as needed. However, the car went into the open shed you see it in currently and he never got back to it, noting that now it doesn’t select any forward gears and can only go in reverse. I have seen reports of the SMG cars seemingly being DOA and then a simple fix resolves the issue and it’s back in business. The seller notes it could be the gear position sensor as he can still hear the SMG pump priming, but he obviously hasn’t torn into it at any level to know for sure. The interior still presents well despite having almost 140,000 miles, and Mystic Blue Metallic over black leather is always a good combination.

The good news is this M3 apparently still has a healthy engine, which should make it more compelling to take the seller up on his offer to buy the spare six-speed manual he already purchased for the conversion. The manual swap of the E46 M3 is pretty well-documented at this point, as this generation of the M car wasn’t much different from the E36 in this regard: automatic examples are generally far cheaper to buy, so you can justify the labor and cost involved in swapping an SMG to a six-speed as it will likely be worth more on the other side. Still, it’s by no means a simple process, but it will be worth it if it gets this pretty E46 M3 back on the road. Would you convert it or repair the SMG?


  1. CCFisher

    I found a comparable, fully-functional example advertised at under $20K. Seems like it might be a better deal than paying $5K+ to roll the dice on this one.

    Like 5
  2. Mark

    Problem with a non-runner is not knowing what else is wrong with it. Saw one of these on Wheeler Dealers tv show brought back with a new box. Sweet car when going.

    Like 3
  3. Bick Banter

    A high mileage modern era BMW with a broken SMG and a salvage title that has been sitting in a barn for an unknown time? I honestly do not see what could go wrong with this. This will be an…interesting deal for somebody. If it wasn’t so far away and my IQ was 70 points lower I would definitely be all over this one.

    Like 22
    • markp

      Really the SMG is the only part to worry about the 3.0 straight 6 is reliable and not hard to work on.

      Like 1
      • Bick Banter

        That’s true. Well, and also the electronics…

        Like 1
      • Md

        Actually, the motor is a 3.2 (completely different than the 3.0) with well documented issues regarding rod bearings, vanos, etc.

        Like 11
      • Bick Banter

        By 2004, most of the S54’s bugs were worked out. It is a decently reliable motor. But still, the way this thing’s been treated, I wouldn’t bank on the engine being any good either.

        Like 1
  4. Steveo

    No risk no reward.

    Like 3
  5. Sam Shive

    Leave It In The Barn

    Like 2
  6. Rw

    BMW Big Money Wasted

    Like 5
    • Dave Peterson

      In the ’90’s it was Bring Mama’s Wallet…..

      Like 2
  7. Doug Hill

    Had the same issue with my 02 SMG with low mileage. Stealer said I needed a new SMG pump and other expensive bits. It sat for years in heated storage until i read the story of the 25.00 salmon solenoid.

    Sure enough 25.00 fixed the issue and has been running perfectly for another 25000km.

    Like 3
  8. Martin Horrocks

    Plenty were built so there are plenty to choose from, making this is a parts car for some years to come.

    Like 1
  9. Troy

    So $5,600 bucks for a BMW with a salvage title that is mechanically totaled ok got it

  10. douglas hunt

    i had a 01 330ci, at the time “M” insurance was more than i wanted to pay, had it till 2018 with just over 200k miles when it was knocked out from under me…..if i didn’t have too many projects already i would take this on, i miss my e46

    Like 1
  11. Brad460 Member

    Now here is one of the very few times where I would agree to an LS swap. LS has to be simpler to work on and way more cost effective to get running

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