1988 BMW M3

When M3 prices first started to shoot up a few years ago, I thought maybe it could be another bubble. With values on the rise and other M cars basking in the glow of this, it seems the days of the affordable early M car may be over. They were never cheap cars to get into in terms of a maintenance scenario. Just ask E28 owner and GCFSB staffer, Nate. However, even initial purchase costs are putting them beyond the reach of some enthusiasts. Every time I turn around, it seems that prices continue to escalate and this 1988 M3 for sale in San Francisco is no exception. This car is nearing 100,000 miles and is priced well above $40,000. Is this the new norm, or are we seeing the market peak for now?



Year: 1988
Model: M3
Engine: 2.3 liter inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 96,758 mi
Price: $44,700 Buy It Now

This is an extremely nice example of an original, unmolested (with the exception of a Dinan chip and silicone hoses) E30 M3. It has been enthusiast owned and maintained since day one. Both owners kept nearly every receipt. All of the paint is original as well as all body panels. It has never been in an accident. All books are included as well as copies of all records and a Carfax. 4 new Dunlop Direzza DZ102’s in the OE size 205/55/15 were installed on 3/13/14

The E30 M3 produced for North America is very rare. Only 5,115 cars were sold in the US during the production run from 1988-91. The engine is a 2.3 liter 4-cylinder, also known as the S14. It produces 195hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. The gearbox is a Getrag 5-speed manual. The differential is equipped with a limited slip. The gear ratio is 4.10:1

The E30 M3’s chassis consists of the MacPherson strut/semi-trailing arm design used on all E30 3-Series model, but has been revised with the following changes:

-Three times more steering castor

-Front antiroll bar linked to the struts

-Stronger wheel bearings (from E28 5 Series)

-Thicker 19mm rear antiroll bar

-Shorter (by .6mm), stiffer springs

-Wider track

-Revalved shocks

The M3 also has a slightly faster steering rack than the regular 3 series; 19.6:1 vs 20.5:1

Because the E30 M3’s shape had to be homologated for racing, all body panels except the hood are unique to this model. The fenders and quarter panels are flared. The front and rear fascias contain unique 2.5-mph bumpers. The rear window is re-angled and the glass, both front and rear, is bonded. The trunk lid sits over 1.5-inches higher than the normal E30 3 Series, has a wing-type rear spoiler and is met by an extended cap over the C-pillar, all of which lower the Cd to 0.33 from 0.38. There is a roof-mounted radio antenna at the front. All trim is blacked-out “Shadowline” trim. M3 badging appears on the grille and decklid.


I’ve had some discussions with fellow petrolheads lately who have told me they’d rather have a 325is than the M3, simply because of the endearing qualities of the M20 inline-6. For some though, the idea of a homologation special is too special to ignore and I will admit that I’m one of those people. I owned a 325is and enjoyed every minute, but the idea of having a car closely aligned with one of my most favorite racing series of all time, Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM) is too great to ignore.


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  1. if they get ANYWHERE near this number I will sell my 89…I would be NUTS not too even though I love it

  2. Your argument for owning a piece of DTM history is a valid one, but $44,700 for a 100,000 mile example is laughable, especially when you can spend 1/10 that and get an Audi V8, which also competed in DTM. It may not be a homologation special, but for a tiny fraction of the price who cares?

  3. @markiteight, I agree with you on the price. For me, I wouldn’t be spending this much on an M3 with this kind of mileage. I tend to doubt values have shot up this much since the last E30 M3 we featured, but, as always, I could be proven wrong.

  4. After checking the VIN, this M3 turns out to be the exact one I owned from 1993 until 2003 in southeastern Washington state. If anyone happens to be interested in getting more information on the history of the car post a comment and I can contact you with details. I can verify that until 2003 it was in really beautiful original condition with just a very few minor blemishes at the time–e.g. a couple small door dings and the beginning of some wear on the driver’s seat boltser. As well as the Dinan chip, it also has a Dinan exhaust cam sprocket–I was the one who installed both of those. They were popular “upgrades” in the 1990s, though I wouldn’t repeat them today. I gave the original chip and exhaust cam sprocket to the buyer of mine in 2003–no idea if they are still with the car today as someone may have kept the sprocket as a nice paperweight. This is one of 4 E30s I’ve owned–the M3 being the first. Also had a 325iX as my winter driver for much of the time I had the M3. Post M3 I owned another 325iX and currently a ’91 318is “junior M3”. I loved the M3, but wouldn’t dream of paying that price today and much prefer the price point of the rest of the E30s and have moved on to Alfas for more vintage sporty cars including a 1973 Giulia Super currently. For a price reference, I bought this car from Park Place in Bellevue, WA for $19K in 1993 and sold it for $16.5K I believe in 2003. Not bad in terms of depreciation (cheaper than a mundane appliance car), but certainly nothing like the skyrocketing values for these over the past few years. Finally, I know of 2 owners of this car before me, then there had to be at least 2 after so that makes a total of 5 minimum. Unsurprising though a dealer would state something as fact they really don’t know. I bought the M3 with 23K miles and sold it with just under 79K miles, making me the “majority owner” in that sense.

  5. Thanks very much for the information, Gary!

  6. No problem Paul. I actually still have the write-up I did for selling the M3 in 2003 which has added details including the names of the previous owners. There were lots of service records from the previous owners and then myself that went with the car back then. The first 2 owners were in the Seattle area, then myself, and then it went back to the Seattle area. A few years after selling I contacted the buyer and he said he just wasn’t finding the time to drive it like he had hoped and was thinking of selling himself. Then within another year or so I heard from him again and he had actually sold it to someone down in California. So with no other owners after heading to CA that’s a total of 5, but I don’t see any signs it’s still not a really honest car just like when I sold it. If the market for these was still in the sub $30K range, I’d be tempted myself. Regardless of price, in my later forties now, I see myself as a more likely buyer of an E28 M5 than a boy-racer E30 M3 (yes, I know all those bits had a purpose for homologation).

  7. Woe is me… I bought a brand new e30 M3 in August of 1990. I live in the Philly area and only one dealer had one. White over black and a sticker of $36,600. The local dealer didnt want to discount it a single dime so I passed. A few weeks later I was down in West Palm Beach and took a ride over to Braman BMW. They had one in red over tan with 285 test drive miles but un titled so the full warranty was still in tact. Same sticker $36,600 ( i believe they all stickered for the same amount in 1990). I asked the salesman how much, he showed me $27,800 and I wrote him a check for $2k. Flew back in 2 weeks with the balance of the cost and drove it back to Philly. I kept that car for 4 years and 43k miles, which is eternity in car years for me, then sold it for $16,500. It warped front rotors like they were candy and those basket weave 15 inch rims were as tough as paper mache. I loved that car but I sold it to buy my first 911. Now 20 or so 911’s later I would love to own an e30 M3 again. Prices have moved to the point where I would not be a buyer. I guess that boat sailed. I thought 25k was strong money for one a couple of years ago but I guess that was cheap.

    Really fun car.

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