Unlikely Donation: No Reserve 2002 BMW M3

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While this E46-chassis BMW M3 is a fair bit newer than most cars we feature, it’s a head-scratcher since it’s a donation car being sold at no reserve. The seller specializes in donation vehicles and most are total beaters that are only going to serve as decent parts cars or cheap basketcase projects. This M3 is neither, and although it comes with the less-desirable SMG gearbox, it’s still a potential bargain in the making. Find it here on eBay with bidding just over $7K.

Even the occasional decent car that this seller gets is usually dinged up and wearing a full assortment of cosmetic flaws. The M3 in question appears to have minimal ailments in that department, and even the OEM wheels look mostly unscathed. The stock exhaust is a good sign along with the factory suspension height, all of which seem to suggest this M3 was owned by an older individual.

Does this mean that person’s heirs didn’t know what they had? Or is it a matter of having so much cash that the tax write-off was more appealing than getting this nicely preserved M3 into the hands of an enthusiast? Tough questions to answer, but it’s clear that someone wasn’t concerned about getting a decent price for a car that still trades hands in the mid to upper teens in a condition like this, or even more if a full assortment of maintenance records are included with the sale.

The motors themselves are robust but still have some pressing maintenance requirements if you buy a car with no records. Connecting rod bearing failure was a problem with the 01-03 cars, and a recall fix was offered – checking with a dealer to see if the VIN registers as one of the cars with this potentially catastrophic issue fixed is a must-do. Valve adjustments should be done annually, and like so many other BMWs of this era, the rear subframe is vulnerable to cracking. Still, if you snag this for under $10K, you should feel good about performing those repairs before enjoying this bargain M3 too much.

Auctions Ending Soon

Comments

  1. SubGothius

    Perhaps it was donated from an estate executor in absentia who mistook this 2002 BMW for being a BMW 2002?

    Like 2
    • Scott C. Williams

      A 2002 in this condition would be worth quite a bit, too!

      Like 2
  2. mallthus

    Having been born and raised Orange County adjacent, my hunch is that this was an estate car and the heirs didn’t know/care what they had. To them, this was just an “old” BMW, only older than the ones their kids had.

    The sheer number of incredible cars in that area being driven by people who chose them because they liked the color (or some other nonsense) can be truly mystifying to people from other parts of the country.

    One of my wife’s friends has a 2018 M4 convertible she bought because “it was the only white convertible they had”. Some sunny Saturday a year from now or so, she’ll quietly trade it in, which will keep me from telling her it’s a regular 4 series and paying her far less than it’s worth.

    Like 8
  3. Will Fox

    “Assuming” this wasn’t a rebuilder, this is quite the find. VERY clean, and like it was mentioned, hopefully an adult owner/driver. Wish I had the cash; I need a set of wheels, just as a daily driver.

    Like 4
  4. flmikey

    Pulling a carfax on this beauty should ease a bidders mind…I love these E46’s…but a stick is a must in my book…

    Like 3
    • Jimbosidecar

      I wouldn’t trust a Carfax as far as I could throw it. I bought a 2001 M-B mainly based on the CarFax that it had been through a full service at an M-B dealer just prior to it being put up for auction. The engine, the transmission, the brakes (down to metal on metal) and the electrical systems all had major issues. When I called the M-B dealership that had supposedly performed the service, they had no records of it ever being serviced at their dealership. I called Carfax and they just blew it off as not their responsibility to insure their reports are accurate

      Like 2
    • Tom

      Not too difficult to convert, as the transmission itself is manual.

      Like 0
      • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

        The ad says SMG Paddle-shift 6-Speed Transmission.

        Like 1
      • Tom

        leiniedude, the SMG transmission on the E46 uses the same Getrag 6 speed used in the manual version, the difference is it’s shifted by an electrohydraulically actuated clutch. When the hydraulic pump fails, some will add the third pedal and convert it to full manual.

        Like 1
      • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

        Hey thanks Tom! I bought my first Bimmer last summer. A 2000 Z3. Fun car! Unreal on the tranny. Jeez, i would think it would be more fun with the third pedal. Tom, I am guessing it is a paddle type shifter? I am still trying to figure out the letter badging on the cars. I will say as much as I like my Z, I have started to look for an early 5 speed 5er. Thanks for the heads up! Take care, Mike.

        Like 1
      • Tom

        No problem Mike, and welcome to the BMW world! The Z3 is a great car and you’re gonna have lots of fun with it, do you have a 4 or 6 cyl? I’m currently restoring an E46 M3 cabrio which is related to the Z3, and looking forward to drop top weather. The 5 series is and excellent car across the board, and one of my favorites was my 1984 (2 year only model) 533i 5-spd. It was a delight, but I also loved a ’91 525i (smooth), and a ’97 540i (fast). You can’t go wrong. SMG is shifted by steering wheel (adjustable) paddles, gearshift, or can be left alone in Automatic mode. Cheers.

        Like 1
      • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

        LOL Tom! Thanks again for the advice. Growing up in rural Wisconsin these are pretty rare to see. I was born in Janesville, home of the Chevy plant, a ton of Vetts and Z28’s back in the day. I have the 2.3 or 2.5 motor. Wierd. A M52 Tu. That E46 M3 cabrio is sweet! At 63 it is about time I start looking at something other than a US based rig. I did have an MGB many years ago and that was fun. I still own a 1972 Stingray that I have had for 19 years. Best of luck on your resto! I will save this post for my attack on a 5er. Had the Z out today after a winter nap. Yes, I am smiling!Take care, Mike.

        Like 1
  5. ATL_jeff

    This one is really nice. I’ve looked at these E46’s a few times over the years but never pulled the trigger. I like just about everything about it — colors, condition, everything. Too bad it’s 3000 miles away from me. Personally I’d take the slushbox in an M3 like this. I love a stick like any other enthusiast but this is a car I would drive every day and Atlanta traffic makes my leg hurt. I don’t really notice the lack of control going 2 miles an hour on my way to work so i save the manual for my weekender.

    Like 3
  6. Coventrycat

    Come on, show me some rust. I see these things everyday.

    Like 0
  7. Superdessucke

    Back in 2002, this was the cream of the crop. One of the most desirable performance cars on the market. Now it’s being discarded like an old armoire.

    Like 2
  8. Vudutu

    Get the car fax, try to determine if the maintenance schedule is up to date, if everything looks good this is a good price on an M.

    Like 1
  9. A.J.

    Still under 7G’s. Pretty good deal even with the SMG trans. Pic’s look good, carfax has lot’s of basic maintainence but does not note the rod bearings or subframe recalls being done.

    Like 1
  10. Danh

    I saw this car while passing through the OC. Needs a bit of work. Not exactly the babied M that I would spend money on. Sometimes it’s better to spend a little extra for a better example. Cool find tho!

    Like 2
  11. Connecticut Mark

    I do clean out some of the home in Greenwich Connecticut when people die the kids want nothing they want the house sold they want the money I get their cars their boats or scooters furniture and everything they throw away their children’s pictures everything so it really means nothing to other people

    Like 0

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