Jeff’s Latest Find: 1999 BMW M3 Convertible

As it tends to happen, when one project slows down, I go looking for another one. In this instance, the car sort of found me as it was parked just about a mile away from my house, and represented one of my all-time favorite models. A 1999 BMW M3 convertible with the desirable 5-speed manual sat parked at a local body shop for more than a few weeks, and beckoned to me daily. After making a few inquiries, the sellers and I worked out a fair price for a tired but solid M3. This car will be refreshed to near OEM-spec and used primarily as a daily-friendly fun car, for summer use only.

Now, the convertible wouldn’t have been my first choice, but for the price paid, it didn’t really matter. And, just 2,252 E36 M3 convertibles with the S52 inline six were made with the manual transmission, so I’ll take fewer than 3,000 any day of the week.

The interior was pretty foul, with tons of coffee stain and dog hair, and the original seats were garbage. They got torn out pretty quickly and I did my best with steam cleaning the carpets. The armrest was also replaced and the sagging and non-locking glove box door fixed. At some point, the rear seat will need to be treated for sun damage.

The refreshed interior looks (and smells) much better, but the cosmetics are just one part of the battle. The shift linkage is pretty much blown apart, a common E36 fault. There’s also an oil leak when the car is running coming from the filter housing. The cooling system functions fine at the moment, but with no records, it’s a bit of a time bomb and should all be replaced preventatively. The body is thankfully straight with no rust, but the suspension is likely due for a refresh even with the low mileage. Evidence points to this car being used as a summer driver by a local furniture magnate.

The M3 looks worlds better with a hardtop that I sourced and had painted to match. Given the rear convertible window is cloudy and the soft top needs some attention, I am fine to roll around with the hardtop on for the next few months. The E36 M3 is one of my favorite cars, and it’s the only car I’ve now owned two of. It’s at my shop, German Motors in Providence, RI, as of this weekend, and I’ll be sure to update you of what they find. If you squint, you can see the junkyard find 190E 2.3-16 on the other side of the lot! Check out the video for more insights on my M3 project and be sure to Subscribe to the Barn Finds Channel.

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Comments

  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Man Jeff. You must be living right, finding that roof must have been a miracle! It does look great on there. Been looking for one for my 2000 Z3. There are a few around but for 2K and up I am going to hang loose. With 5 inches of snow last night I am not to concerned for now. Great find and like you say, keep an eye on that cooling system! You are one lucky dog. Enjoy, Mike.

    Like 3
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Thanks Mike. The roof is a good story…guy in CT was selling a clapped-out convertible, I asked if he’d part with the hard top. Mentioned to a co-worker who lived there that I had a deal for one and he offered to pick it up; second co-worker who lives near me in RI was visiting the CT office AND owns an F150 with the long-bed, so I got it to my house for what amounted to beer money!

      Like 2
  2. Danger Dan

    Great car!
    Future classic
    Both owners of fantasy junction drive these
    They know good stuff
    Congrats
    Miles on it please?

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      A tick over 92,000. Got word from my shop today that the oil leak is very minor and the cooling system holds perfect pressure. Still going to upgrade everything anyway, but a good sign that it’s been maintained.

      Like 3
      • Mountainwoodie

        Jeff, while not analogous to your in line 6 M3 (woohoo!) I’m still driving my bought new ’95 E36 convertible 318ic.

        As I think Ive stated before, when gas went to a dollar a gallon out here, I got po’d and bought the only new car I’ve ever bought. It now has 345,000 miles on it and thanks to the best BMW salvage yard magicians on the Left Coast, still driving.

        I think the E36 is the best looking of the post E30’s. I even traded in an ’87 E30 325IS (now THAT was stupid in retrospect) to buy this one.

        If you need anything you cant source try Autobahn in El Cajon Cali., John and Sean are the best.

        Love that hardtop……….looks so darn good

  3. Todd Zuercher

    Fantastic! I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a hardtop like that before. I’m curious what the headroom is like with it compared to a stock coupe. I owned a ’99 Estoril Blue M3 for awhile about 7 years ago but eventually sold it because of headroom issues (I’m 6’4′).

    I’ll be watching this one!

    Like 1
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Hey Todd. It’s pretty airy with the hardtop and there’s obviously less “stuff” in the way in terms of all the space the sunroof takes up in the coupes (while “slicktops” w/ sunroof delete do exist, they are hard to find). A convertible with the hardtop may be what you’re looking for. Obviously, this next statement is pure opinion, but the car felt noticeably more composed with the hardtop affixed.

      • Todd Zuercher

        Thanks for the feedback, Jeff! I imagine it is a lot more airy and I have no doubt the top adds some structural rigidity to the chassis. I have a co-worker actively looking for a nice E36 M3 so you gained another reader today!

  4. Mike

    I have been looking for a ’99 yellow M3 convertible with low miles for years! Have fun with this one when its done!!

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Love Dakar Yellow, Mike – I’d jump at one if I could find it.

  5. Skippy

    Very nice car! I had a black ’99 M3 convertible years ago (found a hardtop and drove to Rochester to get it) and would have kept it forever except….Pennsylvania and rust. That was back before I had cars for every season. Looking forward to seeing the finished product!

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Yup. Rear fenders love to rot out on the Northeast cars, for sure. Thanks for the kind words!

  6. Claudio

    I had a cosmo black m3 vert with black top, beige and black interior with auto , loved the car but hated the interior , i stripped it and dyed the seats red and 2 color door cards , loved the ride , the handling and the power but i had to choose and i kept the boxster but will always have a soft spot for an m3

  7. pat gill

    a common oil leak is from the pressure relief valve high up on the rear right side of the block just under the exhaust manifold, held in with a circlip from memory, new O ring only costs pennies,

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Bingo. Shop confirmed this today with photos of a broken O-ring! Love cheap fixes!

  8. Ron

    Bought my wife a silver ‘99 M3 convertible, used with about 30k miles on it, drove it a couple of years, sold it for about $10k less than I paid for it, worst depreciation I have ever dealt with for a car that was just ok, nothing special, my first and last BMW…

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      A few years ago, yes – it was just another used performance car. Time does a lot to help with the value proposition. The newest BMW I’ve ever owned was about two years old when I got it and I took a $10K haircut to sell it. Went back to old BMWs and haven’t lost a dime since.

      Like 1
  9. Tommy Kiefer

    I picked up a 98′ silver manual a few years ago for $4500 that ran great with new vanos, a cloudy rear window, and broken power seats. I found E46 non-power seats for it, installed a new dark gray top, OBX headers and custom straight pipes dual exhaust with an X pipe, newer door panels,
    and other odds and ends. It sounded and drove soooooo good! I ended up selling it for $8500 with 104k. Great job on yours!

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Tommy, nicely done. The E36 is a great platform for cleaning up and flipping, for sure. Lots of good spares still available, too.

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