No Reserve 1988 BMW M3 Project

This 1988 BMW M3 is a conundrum given its healthy drivetrain but not-insignificant rust issues in the body. In addition, it shows low mileage of just over 60,000 but has been in non-op status in the California DMV system for a number of years. The collectability of E30 M3s has only gone up over the last few years, and while the market has cooled slightly from a few years ago, the bidding on this car has already crested $30,000 with a few days left. As someone who was raised on cars like these, I now know how muscle car fans felt when they began seeing the cars from their youth going for $50K and higher at the big auction houses. Find the M3 here on eBay in a no reserve auction with a decent paper trail and driving videos provided by the seller.

The M3 looks much better from the driver side than on the passenger side. The passenger side shows most of the ugliness, with holes in the body underneath the taillights and the rear window. Other pictures document that the tray beneath the windshield wipers is also pretty much shot, and I’m not sure what causes rust like this – prolonged outdoor storage? Bad previous accident repair? I can’t say, but the passenger side door also exhibits a pretty sizable dent, so this M3 has clearly been unloved for a number of years, before you factor in the rust issues. This is where the low mileage is even more mind-blowing, because it essentially says a previous owner let this iconic performance car go to pot before it was significantly used up. The M3 rides on non-standard wheels, but these larger OEM alloys are a common upgrade for five-lug E30s.

Now, the sunroof panels on E30s is always a trouble spot. My 1987 325is has had a small dab of rust on it for years – not even dime sized – and it hasn’t gotten any worse. But this level of rot says to me this M3 sat outside getting blasted by Pacific Ocean spray for several years. To me, it’s the only logical explanation for the isolated areas of rust you see in the body and on this panel. Throw in the burnt-off paint and missing clearcoat and it seems even more likely the sun beat on this car for years. Either that, or it was extensively repaired and repainted to a very low standard, which can sometimes lead to paint failures like we’re seeing here. Do any of our bodywork experts reading want to weigh in on what caused this level of cosmetic anarchy?

Shockingly, the interior is still in good shape, just exhibiting the signs of wear and leather fade that’s pretty typical in unrestored E30s. Still, if you had a 60K mile M3 that had been loved from Day 1, the interior would look like new – and there are plenty of examples of this in cars that are selling for upwards of $50,000. The seller notes he has records showing ongoing maintenance up to a certain point in the early 2000s, which makes the mystery even deeper as to what happened between then and now – plus, a previous owner even installed a Dinan chip and cam sprocket, the mods a dyed-in-the-wool enthusiast would gravitate towards. For the current bid price, this is a massive project, but I suppose you can’t lose given the price it will command once the bodywork is sorted out and the paint is redone. Hopefully, for personal reasons, the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth market will trend in the same direction.


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  1. alphasud Member

    30K for a car like this with rust issues. I can think of so many other cars in that price range to own. Still amazing to see how strong a demand for a clapped out M3 is these days.

    Like 4
  2. JCA

    I’ll guess a victim of Blue Tarp Disease exacerbated by the salty air?

    This car was definitely rode hard and put away wet. And the current owner isn’t an improvement. Just watch the first driving video where he starts it up and is banging against the rev limiter 10 seconds into the drive. And that steering wheel shimmy…all for only $30k…or probably more

    Like 10
    • Bick Banter

      That’s what I was going to say. Tarp plus salt air. Metal probably thin underneath too. Someone’s about to get a boondoggle. Never understood the appeal of these. They’re overhyped. E36 M3 us a better and faster cat, and significantly cheaper.

      Like 4
  3. CCFisher

    The paint damage looks more like water damage than sun damage, so my guess it was poorly covered and sat outside for a loooong time in an area that gets a looooot of salty rain.

  4. CJinSD

    The history report shows that the car spent years in Michigan and Illinois. It also had 78,000 miles recorded by a state agency twenty years ago, and one other mileage irregularity since. Anybody spending thirty grand on a rust-bucket is probably leading a safe whiffle-life, so I caveat emptor.

    Like 6
    • Walter

      A lot of questions here. Rust seems more typical of a rust belt vehicle which belays the IL&MI previous history. Interior wear also lays question to the stated mileage. While a quarter, new sunroof and possible roof panel fixes are indicated visually. Would do and in-depth lower body/ underbody exam before bidding. IMHO whole lotta questions on this one….

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