Sometimes the pieces just don’t fit, even if they’re good pieces. We’ve explored this theme (or lack thereof) a few times, most notably the over-accessorized 740i and the “magnet” Yellow E30 M3 with a turbo S52. Today’s find is a combination of the two, with the confused style of the 740 and an S52 all imposed on an otherwise unsuspecting E30 M3.
It’s not all bad. Sacrilegious as it may be, an S52 and 6-speed in an E30 must be awesome. It’s backed up with other fun goodies like E36 brakes and steering, coilovers, etc. Really the biggest highlight about this car is simply the fact that it’s an E30 M3; again, it’s not all bad.
But it’s mostly bad. All of the swapping and “scrubbing” transmission strike fear in the heart of the maintenance-minded and livid ire from the E30 crew. Even if I liked Hartge wheels, 19s are much, much too large for an E30 and much too bright amidst the (also dubious) smoked theme. And I know nearly every one of these cars has a rough drivers seat, but this one is truly cringe-worthy. And $14,500 for this? We all know E30s are collectible pieces of automotive gold, but this seller has only decreased its value and collectibility.
The thing that really grinds my gears is that this E30 M3 went from a car that was magically and uniquely greater than the sum of its parts to one that is the exact opposite. I’m sure its parts could do well on another auto; they just don’t belong here, nor do they fit together. Make a reasonable eBay offer, sell the parts, and try again.
At first I was excited about this post, but quickly I felt a small pang in my heart. I love E30 M3s, as I know many of us do, and I’ve seen people do some amazing modifications to them. So I’m posting this turbo-S52’d example because it’s impressive and interesting, but something inside says it’s a little bit wrong. Removing the S14 is a contentious issue among E30-lovers, so that hobbles the car from the get-go. Turbocharging is awesome in nearly all applications; but isn’t the only homologated M3 all about directness and uninhibited, naturally-aspirated glory? Then I think the final unsettling lemon-on-top is the exterior, namely the color and wheels. Alas, it’s an impressive exercise in E30 tuning, so I think it’s worth sharing.
I don’t hate this car, and it’s still hovering around $10k, so it’s not like it’s horribly overpriced. It’s just built based on different values and assertions than I hold with regards to what makes the E30 M3 so special. To each their own, and someone will love this. It’s just not me.
The E36 M3 sedan is the first fast car I drove, and, like a first love, has stuck with me ever since. Unleashing a couple of 16-year-olds in a Dinan M3 was perhaps a foolhardy move by my best friend’s dad, but luckily we kept it in good shape other than a few check-engine lights due to impatience with the M warm-up sequence. It was a dream to drive; every pebble in the road gently communicated to the hands, every gearchange a satisfying snick, and every corner was our own railed rollercoaster. E36s in general are fine, but the 4-door M3 has always struck me as markedly sexier than any of its generational brethren. I tried to buy that Dinan a few years ago at $14k, but couldn’t make the finances work (luckily it’s being saved for my friend). These days its not difficult to find them for under $10k, and this nicely modified 1997 sedan demonstrates the accessibility of clean examples.
1997 M3 Sedan for sale on Craigslist SF
I could do without the Supersprint DTM exhaust (Dinan’s looks almost stock but sounds perfect) and I’d raise the adjustable rear suspension just a little, but this is a very clean example with some nice, simple modification choices (I don’t know of a car that looks bad with BBS CHs). 157k miles is on the higher end, but at $9k it’s still a great value, and if the engine goes bad, spend some money swapping in a Euro S52 or S54 and you’ll still have a performance bargain.
Final Note: Thank god it’s a manual. In my mind, automatic E36 M3s might as well be junked.