Caveat Emptor: “1988 BMW M3”

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck in today’s collector world, you might still be looking at a turkey. So valuable have some cars gotten that it’s worthwhile for enterprising individuals to undermine the market with a less-than-honest example. The problem is that it seems all too easy for those sellers to misrepresent the vehicle, so it then becomes incumbent upon the buyer to investigate the background. Beyond that, though, sometimes I think buyers are so eager to get a “deal” that they’re often willing to overlook what’s highbeaming them right in the eyes.

Case in point; today’s E30.

Obviously, the M3 is a hot and desirable car. That’s nothing new and we’ve talked about it plenty of times. But there are quite a few less-than-desirable examples out there. It’s also possible to create a replica of the M3, because of the relative plethora of replacement parts or wrecked examples. Granted, this comes up in the 911 and muscle car market a lot more, but it’s happening for BMWs, too.

So while the photographs of this “1988 M3” look great at first glance, what’s wrong with what you’re looking at?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: “1988 BMW M3” on eBay

Litmus Test: 1991 BMW M3

I’ll refrain from my typically verbose introductions, as even the few who only occasionally peruse our pages will need to hear about how, when, or why the E30 M3 came about. There’s not really much point in talking about the mechanicals, either – ‘S14’ has become nearly as recognizable as the chassis designation. Nor is this particular M3 a special edition, limited run, or race car. It’s not completely stock, it’s not perfect, it doesn’t have super low mileage, and it’s not the best color combination. No, there’s really only one reason to talk about this car. Price.

For a while it was only really outstanding M3s that were bringing big bucks. Pundits called it a bubble that was due to burst at any moment. I’m not here to say they’re wrong; it certainly does seem unsustainable. But, then, the U.S. economy also is pretty unsustainable if you boil it down to some basic facts, yet it seems to keep on rolling. And just two weeks ago another (albeit low mileage) example sold for $102,000. So today’s M3 is particularly interesting not because it’s the best or most rare example out there, but because it represents a much greater majority of the pool; cars that were driven and modified, even if only a bit, from their stock configuration. Yet unlike nearly all that are for sale today, the seller of this car has taken the brave step of testing what actual market value is:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M3 on eBay

Feature Listing: 1990 BMW M3 Sport Evolution

While the name “Evolution” become synonymous with Mitsubishi’s WRX-fighting Lancer for the X-Box generation, the term had much greater meaning for racing fans in the 1980s and 1990s. That was the period where homologation really took off; in order to be eligible to race, the FIA stipulated a certain amount of vehicles generally matching the race version of a car would have to be produced. This resulted in some great race-inspired production cars, and in order to best each other on the race track manufacturers would be forced to modify those cars. In order to have the modifications legal to race, the maker would have to introduce those significant changes to the road-going model, too. Those changed models would be termed “Evolution” to differentiate their model changes. As a result, enthusiasts ended up with ‘Evo’ versions of the Ford RS200, the V8 quattro, the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 and, of course, the M3.

The M3 Evolution I was first introduced in 1987 with only a slightly revised motor. The Evolution II followed in 1988, and signaled the first real changes in the lineup. Major alterations to the aerodynamics, bodywork, chassis, and engine netted more power, more downforce and less weight for the FIA-regulated 500 units sold to market. Iconic even within the impressive normal M3 production, these fan-favorites generate feverish bids when they come to market.

But there is an even more desirable variant: The Sport Evolution. BMW Motorsport GmbH maxed out its E30 development in an all-out attempt to dominate the world’s racetracks. A new 2.5 liter S14 cranked out nearly 240 horsepower, while the same ‘add lightness’ recipe was prescribed; lightweight glass and body panels were met with adjustable front and rear spoilers. Signature 7.5″ wide BBS wheels were now darker Nogaro Silver and 10mm closer to the body thanks to lower suspension, while special Recaro seats kept you firmly planted inside from the g-force they were capable of generating.…

1988 BMW M3

It’s only been a little over a week since I last looked at an E30 M3. A 297,000 mile example with extensive rebuild work, it brushed up against $40,000 in bidding in the no reserve auction.

Clearly, M3 mania hasn’t died down all that much.

Sellers have taken note; at any given time, there are a plethora of E30 M3s available on the market. Today’s search yielded no less than eight examples on eBay; average asking price? About $64,000. But that’s nothing compared to the nine that Enthusiast Auto Group have, including no less than five Sport Evolutions. If you have to ask….

But not many sellers are laying it out on the line. If the market really is plum crazy for these cars, why are more people not rolling the dice and taking market value? For example, if a nearly 300,000 mile example hits the best part of $40,000, what would a much lower mile example bring?

We’re about to find out.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M3 on eBay

1990 BMW M3 with 297,000 Miles

I believe this is the perfect counterpoint to yesterday’s 968 Coupe. The recipe is much the same, though the result is even more legendary. But what I find so interesting in considering these two cars is not how similar they are, but indeed their opposites. Unlike the 968, this M3 was driven with aplomb, eclipsing nearly 300,000 miles so far. It’s not a particularly special color combination; Diamantschwarz Metallic (181) over Black leather is pretty standard though admittedly it looks very nice. It wasn’t unusually specified, as it carries the normal assortment of M3 options; air conditioning, sunroof, cruise control and electric windows. While yesterday’s 968 was basically factory fresh, obviously with the amount of miles on this chassis, to look anything like the photos it’s had to go under the knife and from the inside out this M3 has been thoroughly rebuilt. But the real tell will be what the hammer falls for in two days. While the immediate reaction of many to yesterday’s 968 was that it was heavily overvalued in asking price, I’m curious to see what the reaction to the bidding on this M3 – already at $28,200 at time of writing – is:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW M3 on eBay

Double Dose of Insanity: 1988 BMW M3 v. 1994 BMW 325i

In my usual searches I had an interesting dichotomous reaction to one number: $16,500.

The first I came across was a 1988 BMW M3 with a no reserve auction bid up to $16,500. “Wow! That’s actually pretty reasonable! I thought. Next, I saw a 1994 BMW 325i with a ‘Buy It Now’ of the exact same $16,500. “What the hell is the seller thinking?!? How absolutely ridiculous!” I scoffed.

Yet, neither car was as it originally seemed once the descriptions were opened, and suddenly a comparison was in order…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M3 on eBay

Real or Replica: 1988 BMW 320is v. 1991 BMW 318is S14

We’ve been witness to an interesting trend over the past few years in the E30 lineup, as manic pricing increases have rivaled the Porsche 911’s market stardom in a smaller audience. For the most part, outrageous bids have been limited in the general enthusiast world to the M3; but within the E30 sphere of influence, outstanding examples of each particular model have reached astonishing levels of pricing. Just the other day, a Hodge-podge of parts assembled on a 325i hit $19,000 on a no reserve auction. Granted, it was a good-looking example, but it shows the massive swing in values of the highly desirable platform.

Today I have an interesting comparison to consider. Like the $19,000 example linked above, one of the models I have here is admittedly not original. However, it’s the swap that is very interesting, as the builder managed to source and stuff a M3’s S14 power plant into a 318i, bringing with it the brake and wheel upgrades. Of course, BMW also did this themselves in the Portugal and Italian-market 320is – coincidentally, one of which is also on eBay at the same time. What does the market look like on these two shining examples of 4-cylinder fun?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 320is on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1988 BMW M3 AC Schnitzer S3 Sport 2.5

Though ultimately not as well known as Alpina, AC Schnitzer replaced the more famous brand a the defacto factory race team in the late 1970s and 1980s. To capitalize on their success at the race track (including the successful campaigns in the DTM), in 1987 AC Schnitzer launched their first brand-specific model based upon the new E32. That was followed by a more sporty E30-based model, dubbed the ACS3 Sport in 1989. It was available based upon either a normal 3-series, or those with a bunch of dough could opt to allow Schnitzer to modify their prized M3. And modify it did; subtle changes outside included revised mirrors, a light change to the rear end and a single-wiper conversion to really channel the DTM spirit. Wheels were either 17″ multi-piece Schnitzer design, or the ever-popular BBS RS model in 16″x8 or 9. As Alpina did, Schnitzer included their own steering wheel (4 options available), a numbered plaque, bespoke suspension 20mm lower than the standard ride height, and a unique rectangular-tipped exhaust. However, the real treat was the full 2.5 conversion, which really packed some extra power in the S14. Schnitzer brought the total displacement to 2,431 cc – just shy of the 2,467 BMW themselves would produce in the 1990 Sport Evolution. Coupled with a revised DME, the S3 Sport 2.5 produced an impressive 245 horsepower. They are exceedingly rare to come across, but our reader Daniel spotted this fully converted 1988 example for sale:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M3 AC Schnitzer S3 2.5 at Garage Current

Land-locked Drop-top- 1988 BMW M3 Convertible

South America has been in the news quite a bit recently, if you haven’t been paying attention. But when you think about South America today, you’re probably thinking of the upcoming Olympics, perhaps the Zika virus, or if you’re well versed maybe the crumbling country of oil-rich Venezuela. Maybe you watched the Top Gear specials and you saw Argentina, Bolivia or Chile appear on your screen for the first time. One country you probably don’t consider is Paraguay. Paraguay sits alongside more famous Bolivia as one of the two land-locked countries in South America. It’s also one of the countries which attracts the least tourism in the West, a legacy of a government that adopted isolationist policies following its independence from Spain in 1811. It’s relatively tiny, too – with a large percentage of the 6 million inhabitants focused in a small area around the capital of Asunción. The top two exports Paraguay is known for are soybeans and frozen meat, and most of those go to neighboring giants Brazil and Chile, along with some to Europe. In short, it’s a religious, agrarian, isolationist country with no ports. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some with money. And those with money have bought cars in the style of the West. In fact, it might just be the best place to buy…an E30 M3 Convertible?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M3 Convertible on eBay

1988 BMW 320is

We try to stay far away from politics on these pages, but there’s a story I have to share with you that has hit the news here in Rhode Island over the past few weeks that in a round-about way is relevant to this car. Rhode Island, if you’re completely unaware of its reputation, isn’t known for having the most…shall we say morally upstanding lawmakers and leadership. A few years ago, twice-convicted felon Vincent “Buddy” Cianci was nearly elected for the third time to run the capital of Providence. So notorious is the corruption on Capital Hill that when RI recently announced its complete debacle of a revised state slogan in “Cooler and Warmer” (reportedly, it cost 5 million dollars for a firm to produce that), people on social media changed the catch phrase to “Lobsters and Mobsters”. That gives you just a hint of context to contemplate the next story with.…