Rough and Rare: 1988 BMW M3

This 1988 BMW M3 is a sad sight for any fans of this iconic 80s halo car, but a potential diamond in the rough for someone looking to get into one of these modern collector cars on the cheaper side of things. Still, you’re going to have to pony up a fair amount of capital, even for a basketcase like this. The M3 is in rough shape, and apparently wasn’t much better when the seller got his hands on it as a complete car with a running drivetrain. Not to worry – it wasn’t numbers matching, as it had an S52 from a later M3 swapped in. Still, a shame to see one so rough. Find it here on eBay where bidding is over $22,000 with no reserve.

The seller actually includes a link to a web forum post that documents when he bought the car for a little over $5,000 and laid out his big plans for reviving the then-tired M3. It was still pretty rough, but a previous owner paid a shop to do the engine swap, so it had to have been good enough to justify that labor charge. The S52 inline-six is your bread-and-butter E36 M3 engine, and a very common swap for when the high-strung S14 grenades itself or otherwise needs a costly rebuild. The shame of it is that even if the original engine was kaput, pairing it with a rough project like this would undoubtedly bring more money, but 2o years ago drivers weren’t worried about saving a rebuild-worthy S14.

What’s truly a shame here is that the seller spent a few years hemming and hawing about what he should do with the car, leaving it outside in the relentless Arizona sun for the last few years of his ownership of the car, The interior was partially disassembled and the dash is of course completely cracked due to prolonged sun exposure. E30 M3s typically have leather seating surfaces, and it looks like the back seat has been removed and the cloth bucket seat dropped in place as a hold-over. The carpet has also been stripped out, but it looks like the foam padding is visible in the picture here, so perhaps it wasn’t tossed. The paint, as you can see, was never all that good, but has suffered further from years outdoors.

The seller’s attitude in the listing seems to match what was displayed in the forum posts, which is a general lack of interest in seeing this car completed. The seller did apparently get the frame straightened, which should tell you a thing or two about how poorly this M3 was treated for the last decade or so. The car will come with boxes of parts that are shown in the listing, but it’s not all that impressive. Some original equipment pieces like the grills and headlights are also shown. Overall, given how hot the market remains for E30 M3s, there’s little doubt this one will find a new home that will rebuild it – but it’s a shame how long it’s been in a neglected state.

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  1. UK Paul

    I so want one of these but it gets less and less accessible with every day that passes. This would have been sub 10k only a few years ago.
    Wish I didn’t have an ongoing mountain of expensive things to pay for that are a higher profile.
    My dream car and I want one bad.

    Like 2

    Back in the 1990’s I bought a friends 325 and he took my money and added quite a bit of his own and ponied up for an M3. He paid $12,000 for it. Was a nice car. Then I hated the 325. I wanted an M3 from then on too. Building a 325ES now with a Euro spec Reiger kit.

    It goes on for anything with a desire. I can’t believe the prices on the Type R, S2K and now the EM1’s. I passed once on a Type R for $4500. Talk about an idiot! Evo’s have never depreciated but hard to find a clean unmodded car.

    Better start looking for an SRT4.

  3. dwcisme

    A member of the car club I belong to bought one of these new. By the end of the 1st year he’d modified it so much for autocross that his warranty was voided. By the end of the second year, he’d gutted the interior, installed a cage, full suspension, R compounds, done a bunch more engine mods. He probably had over $30k in it (1988). The car ran amazingly well. It was almost as fast as a stock LX 5.0. Nice car though.

    • UK Paul

      This will corner too though. It’s a motorsport legend.

  4. t-bone BOB

    Item location:
    Las Vegas, Nevada,

  5. Arthur

    This might make a good engine swap project, whether the engine is a Hemi, Coyote, or LS.

    • Steve R

      Why pay $23,000+ for this car when you can find a base model BMW 2dr from the same era for a fraction of the price?

      Steve R

      • AMCFAN

        Sorry Steve but not in the same league. We could compare a Chrysler corp vehicle from the 60’s to early 70’s with a 318 vs 426. A 302 Ford vs R code Cobra Jet. Like any of these cars the BMW is vin also specific. Despite the condition there is magic between those flared fenders.

        Like 1
      • Steve R

        My point was that if you want to build a “restomod”, with a late model V8 engine swap, why start with this car. Using this platform for that style of build makes no sense.

        Steve R

        Like 2

    Sorry but the guy who is going to pay 30 large hopefully isn’t going to be dumb enough to swap anything other than MPower under the hood.

    Like 2
    • UK Paul

      Absolutely. Anything else would be sacrilege.
      Hemis etc are wonderful too but not in this icon of motoring history.

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