Wrecked But Appreciating: 1988 BMW M3

As I’ve alluded to before, there’s a huge bubble developing around the classic E30-chassis M3 cars. Much like the 911 craze, many hobbyists are either cashing in and selling their M3s for huge money or wrecked examples like this one here on Copart are getting more attention than ever before. What was once disposable has become eminently repairable, and worth far more than they were a mere five years ago.

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This example has over 200,000 miles on the chassis and presumably its original 2.3L four-cylinder, which is impressive and could indicate there’s more rebuilding than just the crunched rear end that will need to happen. The interior is largely stock, including the OEM sport steering wheel and M3-specific sport seats. The custom door panels with huge speakers are tacky but also not uncommon for an expensive sports car from the 1980s. Fortunately, door panels are shared between all other 3-Series of this generation so swapping them out shouldn’t be too hard.


The red needles on the cluster are specific to the M3 and a common cosmetic upgrade among owners of lesser cars. In the case of this vehicle, the hit to the rear looks serious enough that a thorough inspection of the frame is necessary research for any potential owners. What I like about this example is it feels just like a used M3 – this to me is a good thing because it hasn’t been locked in a vault but also hasn’t been personalized to the point of no return (save for the audio equipment). Mechanically and body-wise, it just suffers from age and the obvious accident damage – not cheap speed parts and the half-assed modifications that often plague older performance vehicles.


The nose shows classic signs of use but again, nothing you wouldn’t count as normal for a daily-driver grade example. The front chin spoiler and projector headlights are OEM correct and the M3 badge is still in place. Overall, this feels like an honest M3 that could be worth repairing if the frame isn’t permanently tweaked. Copart estimates the damage at $11,000 but that feels optimistic to me. Plus, you’ll want to clean up other areas like the chin spoiler while you’re in there. Are these future classics worth repairing or should they stay off the roads and be parted to keep more deserving examples on the road?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Tmp

    This has the earmarks of a Hagerty auction as a process to determine the ‘buy back’ value of the vehicle if it meets the formula criteria to be deemed ‘totaled’.

    Went through the same process with them when my E21 was involved in accident. I told them right away no matter what I would still be keeping the car even if the repair estimate met the ‘totaled’ formula based off the declared value. They ended up putting the car on cop art in similar ‘sealed bid’ auction using the pictures taken by the isnurance adjuster, as appears to be the case in this listing. Wouldn’t be surprised if this car never sells and ends with the current owner.

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  2. DolphinMember

    In good condition these are now $60-80K cars. I think whatever reasonable winning bid this car brings on Copart will be a decent deal if it runs and drives OK and if the chassis isn’t twisted, because even with the high mileage it will be worth fixing. And then it will just keep on appreciating….if Wall St doesn’t bring another financial crisis down on our heads. I looked at the ODO again just to see if it’s a Euro or Canadian car, but it’s miles, not KMS.

    Still, I would be very careful where Copart is concerned, especially since they chose to include a photo of the battery but not the engine bay. How do those jokers stay in business? Must be bottom feeders buying from bottom feeders.

    And Jeff, unless I’m missing some small difference in those seats, they are common to the M3 and also the 325is, which I once owned and which had the same seats. They are just like they look: narrow, hard, and great at keeping you in place no matter what.

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    • James

      Im sure the 325is had the stitching in the base running vertical where as the M3 had it running horizontal
      the rear bench was M3 specific but sadly no picture to confirm that it has the proper M3 rear bench.

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      • JeffAuthor

        Correct, M3 and convertibles had horizontal stitching. E30s had vertical.

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  3. Slim Chance

    CA car that and ended up in OK in 2012.

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  4. Doyler

    Why is it sealed bidding?

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  5. James

    the value of these almost shot up over night they have went ludicrous.
    My mate Gordon had one of the Hartge right hand drive converted ones but sadly it meet an untimely end.

    the shell was twisted that bad that the right rear qtr was bent outwards

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  6. Slim Chance
    • James

      My mates one was not allowed to go back on the road. it had to be broken for spares.
      here in the UK we get category system.
      cat A is car has to be crushed and no parts to be removed,
      cat B car can be stripped for parts but no title ( V5 ) will be issued for the car as it is just a breaker,
      cat C is moderate damage but allowed to be put back on the road but will be tagged on the V5 as a cat C,
      cat D is light damage could be as much as a broken window or paint damage. car can be still used on the road and is notified on the insurance database that its a cat D but very rarely marked on the v5

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  7. Drew

    Has anyone ever bought on Copart? There is a truck I am eyeing on it but I am nervous to sign up!

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    • JeffAuthor

      I’ve wanted to for a while now but have always been deterred by the fees they charge. I’m sure some folks have figured out the system to their advantage but not me!

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      • Horse Radish

        There is nothing to figure to the buyer’s advantage.
        With co-part the buyer always looses.
        You get reamed with fees (minimum $300-350) and they don’t give sh*t about how they treat the cars.
        When you actually sign up, THEN you sign that you agree to ALL THEIR B.S.
        You actually have to hire a ‘broker’ so that they have a legal buffer zone.

        .As a classic car enthusiast that place(s) just makes me sick.

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      • Keith

        It’s so-so. Not really for classic cars, more for guys who are buying cars that are partially (sometimes totally wrecked) and rebuilding them. I used to buy government lease return cars thru Copart a few years ago (boring stuff like Dodge Intrepids and things of that sort). I would go to the yards and inspect the cars though. I would never ever buy something unseen from there. I DID occasionally see some pretty amazing old cars in some of the yards….a 56 Lincoln Mark II, a real deal Yenko Camaro, just a couple that I recall off the top of my head. I don’t know about currently, but to Horse Radish’s point I didn’t have to use a broker. Maybe they’ve since changed that, though.

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  8. Slim Chance

    VIX designation

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  9. Tony Koz

    All this talk makes me sad.
    I sold a red with tan interior 89 M3 about 4 years ago just as they started going up. Should say I gave it away, from what I see lately in today’s market would have been a 20-30k car….$7500
    It served me well and was bought right. I put 60,000 miles on it with very limited maintenance costs, and lots of good times on and off the track. 15 years and only lost $2500, not bad but I easily could have made money by keeping it a few more years.
    Sure hope my new fox mustang goes up in value.

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  10. JohnH

    In the late 90’s I was working in a BMW dealer here in NY. I was able to purchase a 1988 M3 from the original owner with 230,000 miles with a bad clutch for $1000.00 the drivers seat had some wear and the front bumper cover had some damage. I put a clutch in it and used it as a daily for about 2 years. Had some great road trips and enjoyed auto crossing it. At about 275,000 miles someone offered me $3800.00 for it. I let it go which was a decent amount for the car at the time. If I knew then what I know now.

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  11. John P

    I don’t trust the “brokers” buying the cars on their out-of-stare dealer licenses which from all I’ve read as it pertains to state specific dealer licenses-basically illegal..
    If you want to buy in Copart-get friendly with a used car dealer and pay him a fee towards his yearly dealer licenses and you’ll have to pay taxes on the purchase.. Or–get the dealer license yourself and sell a few cars a year–and it should easily cover your licensing fees..
    Too many good vehicles run through Copart, most if which aren’t available to the average hobbyist without a dealer or re-seller license..

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  12. taxijohn

    The ins & outs of buying thro’ Copart i do not know being in the UK, but that will repair easily, not serious.

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  13. Slim Chance

    I’ve witnessed a re-seller pick up “salvageable” cars with an industrial forklift not caring one iota about damage.

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  14. Dave W

    I buy all the time on Copart. I’m not a dealer or a salvage yard, but in my state, all you need is any valid business license to buy anything they’re selling. No business license restricts you to clean-title vehicles only. Yes, the buyer fees are fairly steep– that’s the only drawback I’ve found so far. I always figure to add 30% to the price of whatever I’m bidding on, but I buy primarily sub-$1000 cars (and there’s lots of those!) And yes, except for very rare exceptions (high-dollar supercars) they move everything around their yards with forklifts, but they operators at my local yard are skilled at doing so without causing damage. I’ve found their customer service to be excellent and their staff very helpful.

    That being said, the Copart system is set up to benefit the SELLER, not the buyer. Seller/consigners (whose identities remain anonymous) who list cars as “on approval” or “on minimum bid” seem to be able to change the terms of the sale any time during the process. Even after the buyer and seller have agreed to a counteroffer, the seller has the ability to cancel the sale and relist the car or withdraw it. All communication with the seller is through Copart, which can be frustrating. Still, I’ve gotten some very good deals there.

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  15. Katerina Kubec

    Watching the auction today, its going to MA! Sold for about $25,500 plus the fees… Pricey!

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