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Tired But Worthy: 1988 BMW M3

The E30 BMW M3 needs no introduction: it has arrived as a collector car, and that isn’t going to change. It’s joined the ranks of the air-cooled 911, the Mustang Cobra, and other limited production performance models. Ironically, it slots between those two cars on the valuation scale, with the Cobra still reliably in the low $40s and the 911 obviously well into the six digit range depending on options and conditions. E30 M3s like this one – clearly suffering from years of just being a cheap weekend track toy – show us what the high-performance 3-Series often looked like before it became a collector’s item. Find this tired example here on Copart with bidding to $35,250 at the moment.

The pictures show a complete car, with plenty of road rash spread around the body and most of it concentrated on the nose. The front bumper has taken a hit and isn’t mounted flush with the body, and flashes of primer would indicate it’s been painted at least once before. The M3 has definitely been lowered, and the rear bumper / trunk panel suffers from the same tired paint as the front. A lone BMW Car Club of America sticker in the back window may point to enthusiast ownership at one time in the past, and while the cosmetics are let down, it’s always good to see one of these with a factory exhaust system still attached.

The engine bay looks stock as well, so perhaps the lower suspension and some tweaks in the cabin are the extent of the modifications. The Autocheck report doesn’t show anything too interesting, other than that the M3 was sold new in the New England area and then traveled to North Carolina, before moving out to the West Coast where it spent time in Oregon, before moving back east to Wisconsin. There are some encouraging signs, such as what looks like a fairly recent coolant overflow tank. The trouble with Copart listings is the lack of details around mechanical health or recent improvements, so you’ll just have to hope the Autocheck report is at least accurate.

The interior is in good shape, and you can see the aftermarket steering wheel and short shifter that have been swapped in. Those aren’t huge detriments, and are at least worthwhile upgrades. The factory leather sport seats are in good condition, especially for a car showing over 180,000 miles on the odometer. The M3 retains its original factory rear speakers, too, another sign that modifications were kept to performance enhancements and not the cheesy tweaks usually slapped on tired “hot” cars. The E30 M3 will always be worthy of rescue when found in condition like this, so I’d just attack the cosmetics and hope the maintenance-hungry S14 engine isn’t in need of a rebuild.


  1. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    Test- comments not posting.

    Like 1
  2. alphasud Member

    E30 M3’s have a strong demand even when at a Copart auction. Buyer beware with any Copart auction. After paying the ridiculous auction fees buyers are treated to poor handling of vehicles and no auction house assumes liability for damage done after the sale. Made the mistake once. Never again!

    Like 7
  3. djjerme

    This car was in my neck of the woods from 2011-2018. Checking with friends to see if any remember it. Not in the M registry..

    Looks usable.

    Don’t see anything structurally that would make it a parts car, but there is some damage that is hidden with the panels on. One could be a tweaked front subframe stub (the short section that the front bumper mounts to).

    It’s not hard for those to get knocked out of alignment and then the front bumper will never look straight. It can be straightened on a rack, or (as I did once for a car I flipped) cut the whole stub off and reweld on a replacement one. But you have to make sure everything is square and your re-enforce the joint. Not my proudest moment, but it was cheap driver for someone.

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