Rare in Hennarot: 27 Years Owned 1988 BMW M3

It’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of the E30-chassis BMW 3-Series; after all, a 1987 325is was my first real project car and one I still own today, approaching a decade in my care. While the M3 is the grandaddy for 3-Series collectors, the E30 generation has been on somewhat of an unhinged value escalation that has caused many long-time owners to attempt to cash in. That’s exactly what’s happening in the case of this 27-years-owned 1988 M3 here on eBay, wearing rare “Hennarot” red paint and listed with a $75K Buy-It-Now. 

Now, $75K will buy you a very low-mileage, well-preserved example that runs and drives like new but maintains original paint and has no alterations from stock. This example, while absolutely one of the rarer ones with the unique orange/red paint job, is far from that. It has over 200,000 miles (a testament to the rev-happy, overbuilt S14 motor) and hasn’t run in ten years. Rebuild costs for the high-strung four-cylinders easily clear $10K to do it right, and the seller’s admission that fouled plugs have sidelined the car convinces me there’s enough deferred maintenance needed that a rebuild is the way to go.

The admission that the interior needs to be redone – with no photos to support it – is another strike against this optimistic asking price. Mind you, the opening bid is $50K, which also is not likely to happen. I’ll admit: I’ve priced items I don’t really want to part with exceedingly high to see if someone would actually throw me a reasonable offer, so perhaps that’s the seller’s goal here. But despite his allusion to potential celebrity ownership by Hershel Walker and the rare paint code, this strikes me as a $30K-$40K car all day long. And believe me, it pains me to admit that considering these once traded hands for the mid-to-low teens and upper 20s for the best cars less than a decade ago.

Image courtesy of Pinterest

The seller mentions all of his children have learned to drive on the M3, and that they’re upset he’s selling it. The motivation is to buy a GTO, he notes, but I don’t think it’s going to happen at this asking price. Now, that said, I’m certain this is a worthwhile car for rebuilding: clean history, two owners, long-time ownership with the seller – all work in his favor. But for top dollar, you need to have a fresh engine or at least one that hasn’t been allowed to sit for a decade, along with an interior that isn’t in shambles. A great car, a worthwhile investment, and one he’ll likely own for a while longer if the price is firm.

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  1. RayT Member

    For me, the asking price is more than all the money for one of these, but I would think anyone who has ever driven an E30 M3 would have to want another. It’s been 30 years, but I can’t forget my time with one. The performance, handling and all-around precision of the M3 was a revelation back then, and I’d still prefer it to a computer-controlled all-singing, all-dancing 2018 performance car!

    Might just be a faulty memory, but my recollection is that almost every M3 I saw in Southern California at the time was this color. Except, that is, for the white one I drove….

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Ray, as per color: many were “Zinnoberrot Red” which looks similar to this in anything but an in-person environment. I didn’t believe it either but then I met a guy with an early E30 in Henna and was blown away by how orange it is in person. It’s a great color.

      The E30 in general is just a ridiculously good platform. The M3 takes it to another level. It’s a car that will deliver a visceral driving experience like few others and you can still get replacement parts for it – some of them even affordably. While there are many speculators hawking these now, there’s also a reason good ones reliably trade for $30-$40K, no speculators needed.

      • RayT Member

        Jeff, I’m not really up BMW lore, but it sure seemed a lot of the E30 M3s that went blasting past me were red. I didn’t think much about the shade of red!

        Yes, the E30 was wonderful, and the M3 was out-of-this-world wonderful, if you ask me. Couldn’t have been better. I made a late-night run up the Pasadena Freeway in one, during which the speed never dropped below three digits. Alcohol was NOT involved, BTW. It was just a car that begged to be hammered, and inspired its driver to insane confidence levels….

        You can bet if I owned one the mileage would be well past 200,000!

  2. Steve R

    I think his price is firm. If you check the other items he has listed for sale, there is a second, slightly different, ad for this car with a BIN of $67,000.

    Steve R

  3. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    The SCM Guide says these M3s have been selling at auction for a median price of $53K lately, so the B-I-N price is too high, especially with 209K miles and fouled plugs to the point that the car doesn’t start readily, which indicates much oil getting into the cylinders past the valve stems or rings or both.

    Good that it’s in CA, but you would have to go there and look at, in, and under it, especially if you are going to pay up for the car. Not enough pics to judge, and the ones that are there aren’t too hot.

    Looks to me like a seller who thinks he’s got a gold mine in his garage. As it sits with fouling plugs, it could make a nice car for someone who wants to sort its problems and put some money into it, since with almost 3 decades of service as a commuter and driving instruction car, then sitting for years, it likely has additional needs besides an engine rebuild and having the interior redone.

    These have pretty much gotten to cult status, which is richly deserved given the great success that BMW and various privateers had with them in racing decades ago, but as much as I admire that terrific racing record, they can and will get outrun all day long by a decent E36 M3, which will set you back a fraction of the cost of this or any other decent E30 M3.

    But for a vintage BMW that’s loved by just about everyone with hellrot in their veins, you probably can’t go wrong buying a good E30 M3. I would just pass on this particular one since the seller seems to overvalue it for sentimental reasons, and maybe just doesn’t really want to part with it.

  4. Lawyer George

    I am in to much of a stupor after reading today that this car that is obviously dated and has no particular eyeball could possibly bring in the $50K’s, to make a comment other than perhaps one from Shakespeare: “Zounds! I am slain!”

  5. Rustytech

    I always liked these, never owned one but while working for BMW dealer I had many opportunities to drive them. It was a memorable drive. But with a median auction value for a good one at $53k and this one possibly needing valvetrain work, I’d pass at this price.

  6. Rx7turboII

    75k for a 3 series BMW?? Lol.
    M3 or not, there’s alot of better cars out there for that kind of money!

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Low-mileage M3s in near-showroom condition are selling at $75K or higher; this is not one of those cars. So, it is possible to achieve that pricing level but only with the best of the best.

  7. Adam Clarke Adam T45 Staff

    Since the day that I first laid eyes on one of these I was hooked. It’s amazing how well BMW did making a small car appear tough. Anyone looking at one of these needs to remember that they were built by BMW for a single purpose: To homologate the model for International Group A racing, and in particular to contend for the ill-fated World Touring Car Championship in 1987. As a result they were built down to a specific weight with the knowledge that racing examples would be reinforced with a chromoly roll cage. The sad truth is that with the number of miles that this example has done, even if they were driven conservatively, the body-shell will almost certainly be exhibiting some rather unpleasant signs of stress. To restore it properly and ensure structural integrity, this car would really need to be stripped to a bare shell and soda blasted to verify the integrity of the shell.

    I really like this car, but I think that the seller is being more than a bit optimistic.

  8. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    Amazing cars, but way too much money. Interior cloth (original) was for sale on ebay last I checked if it helps anyone.

  9. leiniedude Member

    209K miles on the original brakes?

  10. Jack

    If I had the money, I would rather pay $85k for this well sorted White M3 with 59k miles

    • UK Paul 🇬🇧

      That is nice! Air bag looks odd on E30
      We didn’t have them as far as I recall.

      • DavidLMM

        UK Paul – no airbag on a US-spec ’88. We didn’t get them until 1990, when we lost pop-out rear side glass and a few other details to make up for it.

  11. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    The pop out glass was a nice feature .. had forgot about that after all these years.

    (Jacks post has the air bag, as you say though 1990)

  12. larry kaye

    Adam T45 is right on. Apparently all about the racing heritage on these E30’s which have jacked them up….although the stock car you buy today is not a race car so that’s sort of funny, but I get it. I saw a couple of these recently, one in much better condition selling in the 60’s. I’ll keep my really low mileage E36 M3 in Dakar Yellow, all stock save for the B&B cat-back exhaust even though someone offered me 10g’s more than I paid. To each his own.

  13. UK Paul

    The E30 was also groundbreaking in its day compared to its competition, and I don’t just mean the M3.
    As a 320 etc family car it was a much better car versus most other brands?
    Not many cars from that era still give me fond memories.

  14. Michael Wolfe

    Hi guys. I’m the dude with the 88 M3 . Yes it’s an unrealistic price because I wasn’t ready to let go of my long term red head girlfriend. A fine brunette has taken her place and I’ll accept an offer around $50k . It’s goung on EBay soon so here’s your opportunity to deal . I’d rather do a low key sale to someone who will appreciate this amazing car that I’ve held onto through two marriages!


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