Driver Quality Icon: 1989 BMW M3

Who doesn’t love a well-used collector/sports car? This 1989 BMW M3 has 233,000 miles on its high-strung S14 four-cylinder but does show the trademark signs of hard use. However, with so many of these classic E30 M3s ending up in literal bubbles in the garage with under 50,000 original miles, this one is full of charm and quite appealing. Find this project-grade M3 here on eBay with bidding up to $25K and a week left on the auction. 

As I’ve written about previously, the E30 M3 has enjoyed a surge in value over the past few years. Many owners struck the proverbial gold mine for simply maintaining a project car that you could pick up for peanuts 10 years ago. Engine rebuilds are costly and they were not worth enough to justify the significant maintenance investment; that, however, has all changed. The high-revving S14 motor alone can command five figures, and the seller says this one runs well.

The seller notes the M3 suffers from a low-quality repaint, which may be a reason why this rust has bubbled up beneath the tail light lens. Among other issues is hardened rubber seals, which likely includes the gaskets behind the tail lamps that help reduce the change for rot like this and water intrusion into the trunk. Of course, this area may have been poorly prepped for repaint, and the seller also notes damage to the rocker caused by improper jacking.

Ugh! The exhaust is also a total bodge, but what you see is how many of these now-classic M3s used to appear: tired, with corners cut but still running like a scalded cat. In a way, this is how M3s can be enjoyed the most with no concern to collector car insurance policies and being wrung out on the track. If I were on the hunt for an E30 M3 I could use, this car would warrant a closer look as its value will only increase without the penalty of having to store it in a museum.

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  1. Adam Clarke Adam T45 Staff

    As a sane(?), rational and mature individual, all I have to say is, “I want this and am willing to sell body parts or major organs to get it. Anyone out there wish to purchase a high-mileage kidney?”

    • Pa Tina

      Only used on weekends?

      • Adam Clarke Adam T45 Staff

        No Pa Tina, that’s my liver that you’re thinking of.

  2. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    The E30 M3 has become one of the most famous European small sedans ever, winning the World Touring Car Championship in 1987. The engine is basically 2/3rds of the big DOHC straight-6 that was used in the M1 and the larger BMW M-sedans.

    It looks a lot like a regular E30 2-door with bulging fenders, but it’s actually different underneath, in addition to those bulging fenders. In fact, I believe there’s no exterior body part of any size that interchanges with the regular E30 2-door.

    These have appreciated bigtime in the last few years. They used to be available in the $15K range years ago, but now the median selling price at auction is close to $60K for a good one.

    Unfortunately this isn’t a needs-nothing car, altho it has been bid up to about $26K in less than a day. It’s not “completely original” either, despite the seller’s claim. I would definitely want to examine and drive the car myself. The seller says it’s completely original and then lists a number of things about the car that aren’t original at all, like the poor repaint and the “complete hack job” exhaust system.

    Then there’s the fact that the car shows 233K miles. But that’s not unusual since the car is nearly 30 years old and is a ball to drive….so owners do drive them. It’s not unusual to see high miles on these M3s.

    Even needing a complete back-to-bare-metal paint job and some other things, it looks like it’s all there and would be worth paying up for. If the drivetrain and chassis checked out on a detailed on-site evaluation, it could easily be worth $30K or maybe more.

    If it goes too high I would hold off and save my money for a better car, since they made almost 18,000 of them from ’86 to ’91.

    • DavidLMM

      Yes, they made over 17K cars of all flavors, but only “about” 4996 came to the US. As far as sheetmetal, I think the hood and mirrors are the only exterior parts shared with the 325s. I picked mine up for $5500 17 years ago, neglected and with 133K miles on it. I swapped engines at 197K due to a very lightly spun #4 rod bearing to a freshened S14, taken out by a North Carolina Club racer that went with an S50 swap. The chassis now has about 267K miles on it. It’s not without faults, but I still get comments and looks everywhere I go – and it’s still my daily driver.

  3. UK Paul

    I kick myself weekly for not buying one long ago. Something always got in the way.
    I have a small stash of parts though .. one day maybe they will come in use.

  4. Will

    This thing literally just sold for 15k out of Virginia. Would’ve been a nice fixer upper at that price.

  5. MG-bakka

    Hi there,

    not even the roof is same to the standard body, as the c-pillars differ!

  6. Buick Fan

    Make my M3 a V8!

  7. David Miraglia

    Too much money for me. But great car..

  8. ArtSpeed

    Problem with these beasties is if neglected they tend to rust in some very expensive places…

    David LMM is right, the only sheet metal common with the standard E30 are the hoods. And I think the tail lights exchange, too — but that’s about it.

    Estimates of US imports vary, but the most popular number that I’ve seen bandied about is 5,280 of ’em officially making it to the States out of the total production of somewhere just under 15,000 units.

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