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Long-Term Owner: 1988 BMW M3

BMW enjoys a rich history of motorsport success, producing what is acknowledged as one of the most powerful engines in Formula 1 history. It also secured many titles in International Group A Touring Car racing, and it was for this category that it developed its iconic M3 version of its E30 Series. This 1988 model isn’t a pristine example but has been driven and enjoyed as its creators intended. The seller has been its custodian for twenty-two years, meticulously maintaining this classic. That will allow the new owner to slip behind the wheel for immediate motoring enjoyment. The M3 is listed here on eBay in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Spirited bidding has pushed the price past the reserve to $40,100, with time remaining for interested parties to stake their claim.

The 1980s saw most of Europe, Asia, and Australia embrace International Group A competition as one of its premier motorsport categories. It required manufacturers to produce vehicles in minimum numbers for homologation, with many manufacturers throwing their hats into the ring. BMW had successfully utilized its 635 CSi model during the early 1980s, but technological advances allowed vehicles like the Nissan Skyline DR30 and Volvo 240T to relegate the 635 to also-ran status. Plans were floated for a World Touring Car Championship to be conducted in 1987, and BMW immediately began developing the first of its iconic M3 range. Based on the E30, it was designed with long-distance races in mind. While it didn’t possess the outright performance of cars like the new Ford Sierra RS500, bulletproof reliability eventually allowed it to grind the opposition into the ground and walk away with the championship crown. This M3 rolled off the line in 1988, with its original owner ordering it in Black. This shade accentuates the distinctive bulging fender flares and spoilers that were part of the homologation package. Potential buyers should consider this a driver-grade classic because the close-up shots reveal a wide selection of chips and marks. The car would undoubtedly benefit from a repaint, but the respectable shine and lack of panel imperfection make preservation viable. There is no visible rust or signs of damage to the spoilers or other aerodynamic additions. The glass is excellent, and the spotless factory BBS wheels are wrapped in new Kumho Ecsta tires.

This BMW’s interior is serviceable, but the deterioration on the front seats is disappointing. It has passed the point where a leather specialist might perform a successful revival, meaning a retrim is required for improved presentation. However, the news isn’t all bad because a brief online search uncovered a company that supplies front seatcovers in the correct material and color for around $350. The back seat and remaining upholstered surfaces should look nice with a dose of conditioner, and the carpet is surprisingly good for a vehicle of this type and age. The seller has installed an aftermarket CD player, but I can’t spot any other additions.

Tilting forward the M3’s hood reveals one of the sweetest and toughest engines to emerge during the 1980s. The 2.3-liter DOHC four-cylinder S14 powerplant produces what seems to be a relatively modest 192hp and 170 ft/lbs of torque. This feeds to the independent rear end via a five-speed manual transmission, with impressive four-wheel disc brakes bringing proceedings to a safe halt. The M3 demonstrates how performance isn’t always about how much power is available but how it is utilized. This classic’s ability to cover the ¼-mile in 14.7 seconds on its way to 146mph proves it is more than a pretty face. The seller is candid about this BMW, admitting it has over 200,000 miles showing on its odometer. However, it has only clocked 50,000 miles since receiving a comprehensive engine rebuild. They recently replaced the plug harness, rear brakes, and other parts to ensure the vehicle is in excellent mechanical health. Potential buyers can consider the BMW a turnkey proposition that runs and drives exceptionally well.

The E30 BMW M3 raises a wonderful “what if” scenario. Produced for competition use, it was relegated from an outright contender to a class leader when Ford introduced the Sierra Cosworth RS500. The M3 secured the 1987 World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) crown but would inevitably struggle if the series continued in 1988. The company planned to introduce a homologation update for that year, utilizing a version of the turbocharged four that served so effectively in Formula 1. However, those plans were shelved when the WTCC imploded due to poor administration, growing protests, and disqualifications. The new engine would have delivered over 300hp in road car form, and more than 600hp in race trim. The M3 was one of the sweetest handling cars produced during that period, and the thought of a 50% engine power increase is tantalizing. That never happened, which is a shame in some respects. On the positive side, it allowed the E30 to remain pure to its original design intent, and recognition of the superb driving experience these cars provide has allowed values to climb consistently. This car proves that. With thirty-five bids submitted and the reserve met, a new home is only days away. Are you tempted to make it yours?


  1. Avatar photo JCA Member

    Wow. The perfect car. I wish i bought one 20 years ago too for $10k. At $50k, not as much.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo SirRaoulDuke

      I had a chance to buy one for $8k but turned it down; it had an aftermarket exhaust and was stupid loud, the kind of loud that the cops tend to notice, so I said no and figured another one would come my way one day…and of course, none ever did. Who knew these would become so valuable?

      Like 2
  2. Avatar photo Aussie Dave Member

    We purchased an E30 318i, to convert to the M3. Sadly it’s too original to do that, so we are looking for an Alpina now.
    But if the right M3 should cross our paths??????

    Like 1
  3. Avatar photo djjerme

    With how beat that drivers seat is, I would want to go over it with a good PPI. Even if it was “rebuilt” – 50K is a decent amount of miles. It says nothing about the dogleg or the rest of the suspension.

    Having driven many of these as well as a buddies 320is, several other e30’s in both street and full caged race car including my current touring and B6 2.8, these are still amazing cars to toss around on the track. While I am usually scared to drive any of them now with all the Bro Dozers and mindless Tesla drives circulating the public roadways – I do love a nice long weekend in the backroads.

    An E30 will always put a smile on the drivers face.

    Like 1
  4. Avatar photo Dan

    A turnkey car that can actually be enjoyed because it has over 200k miles…too bad the bidding is out of my reach. Even at $45k (including the reupholstering of the seats) this one will still appreciate, as long as the miles added are gentle ones during summer weekends.

    Like 0

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