Abandoned BMW E30 M3 Revived!

1988 BMW E30 M3

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While doing my regular forum surfing, I came across a rather incredible find! And with our recent feature on an old BMW dealership, I decided I had to share this story. So this story starts where many great finds have started, a local car show! This show was the weekly BMW Meet in Fairfax, Virginia. Tippey was there in his E46 M3 SMG and was doing the usual tire kicking and chatting, when a group of young guys show up to have a look at all the cars. It was their first time to the meet and they were quite excited to have a look at Tippey’s E46. Since they showed so much interest, he offered to give them a quick ride in his car. While out for their drive around the block, one of the guys began to tell him about an old M3 a friend’s parents had told him about. He even had photos of it that he showed Tippey. Now if you know you M3 history, the E30 is the holy grail of old M cars. Seeing the photos and hearing about it got his mind turning, so he asked for the location. The young man told him where it was and soon the hunt to find this abandoned M3 began.

BMW M3 E30

The next day, he asked one of his buddies if he wanted to go hunt down an old M3 (who doesn’t want to go hunt for a rare classic?). Soon they were off on their journey to Manassas, Virginia. The property where the M3 had been parked is rather remote and deep in the woods, so it took them a while to find, but eventually they found the old abandoned house and the M3. While it doesn’t look to great, Tippey quickly noticed how straight the car’s body was and surprisingly, how solid it was! Sure, it needed paint, but how often do you come across a rare sports car just abandoned and left to the elements?

BMW M3 Interior

While we usually think of finding the car of our dreams as being the hard part of the process, in this case it was the relatively easy part. The property the car was parked on had clearly been abandoned a number of years earlier, so Tippey and his friend do a little snooping around in hopes of finding some kind of clue as to who owned the house and the car. They searched around and in the house (I would highly recommend you don’t do this yourself, most States call this trespassing!). In a drawer in the kitchen, they found an old tax document with a name on it. Once they found what info they could, they called it a day and headed home.

BMW M Parts

With the couple names they had found, Tippey began the fun task of trying to track down someone who might know the car’s owner. He ran a carfax, which gave him the name of one possible owner, but several searches online yielded little information, but it did give him a couple leads to look into. After 2 days of driving all over the state checking out his leads, he was about to give up. He even tried looking up the owner of the abandoned house, but that proved fruitless. That’s when he had a brilliant idea! Apparently in Maryland, you can run a check for any and all court cases online. After searching the names he had, he finally got a break! The owner of the property had received a speeding ticket just a few months earlier and the ticket had their address on it. So he decided to drive to their home in hopes of finding someone that knew who the car belonged to. The next day, he drove to Potomac, Maryland to visit with the property owner. When he got to the address, he was a bit intimidated to knock on the owner’s door, as they live in a massive mansion. He summoned up the courage though and went to their door. He was greeted by a rather confused and difficult to understand gentleman. Clearly, he didn’t speak much English, but he took Tippey’s information down and said he would call him later.

BMW M3 E30 trunk

After a week of waiting for a call, Tippey finally couldn’t take it and decided to go back to the house and see if he could get some kind of information that might lead him in the right direction. He found himself knocking on the door of the mansion once again, but this time he was greeted by a middle aged women who spoke perfect English. He learned that she had owned the property back in 2012 and while she didn’t have the owner of the M3’s information, she did have his sister’s phone number. He was finally getting closer to finding the car’s owner, so he took the sister’s number and headed home. The next week, he called the sister and finally got the owner’s phone number! It had been a massive process just getting to speak to the owner, but he still had a few hurtles to jump. For one, he was going to have to explain why he was calling and how he found the car. Second, he didn’t even know if the owner was interested in selling the car.

Towing BMW M3 Home

He decides to make the call with the hope the owner would be understanding and willing to sell. Once he got a hold of the owner he explained how he came across their old M3 and that he was interested in buying and restoring it. At first the owner was reluctant to sell, but after Tippey explained how much he wanted the car, the owner agreed to let him buy it. With those massive challenges out of the way, Tippey started to get more information about the car’s history from the owner. As it turned out, the owner had bought this car brand new when they were 25 and fresh out of college. It served him well for many years, but then tragedy struck!

BMW M3 Pistons

The engine self destructed one day and it had been taken to a shop to be rebuilt. Well, the shop pulled the engine out, but never got around to fixing it. So the owner had it towed to his garage with the hope of fixing it someday. Well life changed and he had to move, so he asked a friend (owner of the property) if he could park the car at their house until he could get to it. That day never came, so he decided it would be better to let someone buy it than to let it sit in that field forever. He had been offered $5,000 for it 5 years earlier, right after the engine blew up, but since it had been parked outside for a few years he told Tippey he would take $2,500! With all this information and a price like that, it was a done deal for Tippey.

Cleaning up BMW M3

A few days later he went and loaded the M3 up and towed it home. He stopped on the way to give it a quick bath and it actually cleaned up quite well. Once he got it home, he started tearing into it and let’s just say it needed a lot of work. It needed a new engine and transmission, but finding the correct S14 engine would be a nightmare, so Tippey decided to fit it with a later S52.

Finished BMW M3 E30

He also decided it needed fresh paint! Well, a little over a month ago Tippey’s M3 rolled out of his shop wearing all new paint, a redone interior and a new motor. It looks absolutely stunning and the transformation was fun to see. If you would like to see what all went into fixing this Bimmer up, you can find Tippey’s post and build thread here on r3vlimited’s forum. Have you ever tracked down an owner to buy a classic you’ve found in a field, shed or barn? If so, we would love to hear about your experience!

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  1. tom

    Too bad he couldn’t rebuild the engine. It was a blast to drive that high reeving 4 banger

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  2. DRV

    That number 3 cylinder was a little lean I’d say…

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  3. Danger Dan

    Give the kid $100 for the tip
    Please, Tippey did an amazing job finding the owner.

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  4. JeffStaff

    I’ve followed this story for a while. Still breaks my heart he sold off the original S14 bits and didn’t try to rebuild the engine. It’s only original once…leave the S52s and S54s in the later M-cars.

    Just one man’s opinion. Lots of people would go with the more affordable build like this.

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  5. DolphinMember

    At first this sounded too wierd to be true but I guess wierder things have happened. Since a good early M3 is now worth from $30-$60K, and rising, I can imagine that a real S14 engine would be hard to come by since some of them were run pretty hard to the bitter end like this car’s engine was, and there are few good ones available that aren’t already in cars.

    Agree with Jeff that it’s only right to use an S14 engine in the car, but…..

    In my experience those engines are a little hard to love because they are big 4-pot motors and they don’t have anything like a smooth power delivery. The solution this car got—a 3.2 liter 6 cylinder engine from a No American M3—is a terrific engine that’s very smooth and puts out 240 pound-ft or torque, which will drive the car better than the 4-pot engine ever did. Also probably 1/4 or less the cost of a good S14 engine.

    So, the car is on the road being driven and enjoyed, plus if the owner ever can lay hands on an S14 engine he can always swop it in because those E30 bodies have had dozens of E36 6-cylinder engines swopped in without needing to be cut, so I’m guessing this M3 has not been butchered to accept the 6-cylinder.

    A great story. I just wish I could run across a find like this.

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  6. Walter Joy

    All this just under 2 hours from my house. I’m not usually a European sports car person, but I would’ve jumped on it

    Like 0

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