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1988 BMW M6

Though they’re the juggernaut of BMW performance today, the reality is that there were quite a few stumbling blocks and it took many years for BMW Motorsport GmbH to establish themselves as the benchmark for German performance. Though many consider the M1 the genesis of BMW M, in fact the brand was born nearly a decade earlier with the introduction of the 3.0 CSL. The high performance E9 was built together with BMW’s competition department, a relationship which ultimately resulted in the birth of BMW’s Motorsport division. A few years later, the new entity would give birth to an equally legendary creation, the 2002 Turbo. But when it came to the first car to carry the “M” badge, it was of course the legendary M1 with its motorsport derived M88/1 double overhead cam inline six screaming in the middle of the car. You’d think this recipe carried over to the sedan range, but that was not immediately the case. First, BMW produced the M535i in the E12 chassis. Though the E28 model of the same designation was mostly an appearance package, the E12 model was turned up over the rest of the range – but not with the M88; BMW instead relied on the M30 to power the M535i. Then, there was a year where nothing happened; the M1 was out of production, the E12 was replaced by the E28, and ostensibly BMW had no real performance models.

That was remedied at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show, where a juiced up version of the 635CSi was offered. It was labeled the M635CSi; but unlike the M535i, under the hood wasn’t the venerable M30 that powered the normal 635CSi. In its place, the Motorsport division decided to slot the M88, now with /3 designation; the result was 286 horsepower – a staggering figure at the time, considering that the contemporary Porsche 930 was considered fairly bonkers with a little over 300 horsepower and though it looked much larger, the early E24s only weighed about 200 lbs. more than the Porsche. Coupled with some aerodynamic tweaks, heavier duty suspension, brakes and larger wheels and tires, the result was the menacing presence worthy of the nickname “Shark”. For all intents and purposes, this was really the first “M” car for the masses. BMW brought its M lineup to the United States for 1987 with the renamed M6, and that model was lightly revised for ’88. Power was down to 256 with the catalyst-equipped S38, but ’88s picked up some visual appeal with revised headlights and slimmed corners, as well as body-color painted bumpers that make the ’88s and ’89s look a lot more polished than the ’87s.


Year: 1988
Model: M6
VIN: WBAEE141XJ2561132
Engine: 3.5 liter inline-6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 46,800 mi
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Price: $55,000 Buy It Now

This 1988 BMW M6 is finished in Cinnabar Red over beige leather and was reportedly sold new through Field Imports in Winnetka, Illinois. Power comes from a 3.5-liter S38 inline-six paired with a Getrag five-speed manual gearbox. The second owner reportedly acquired the car in 1990 and retained it until the current owner’s purchase in 2018. Less than 2k miles have been added since 1992, and the car now shows 46,800 miles. Service in 2018 is said to have included a replacement radiator, new brakes, a valve adjustment, and more. This E24 M6 is offered on consignment at Collectors’ Car Garage Chicago with a clean Carfax report, service records back to new, factory books, and a clean Illinois title.

The Cinnabar Red paint is shown from multiple angles in the gallery below, and there is bubbling around the rear license plate lights and a scratch on the driver’s door below the molding. The included Carfax report is free of accidents and damage.

This M6 retains split-spoke alloy wheels mounted with 240/45 Michelin TRX tires. In 2018, the car reportedly received new front and rear brake rotors, replacement of the rear suspension pressure accumulators, and a new hose from the right-rear shock to the accumulator. The SLS system is functional and the left and right suspension pressure accumulators in the rear have been replaced.

The cabin is trimmed in beige leather and is equipped with a period radar detector mounted to the steering column. The driver’s power headrest adjustment motor can be heard engaging, but the headrest does not move. There is no CD changer in the trunk, however it does look like there was one installed at some point but it has since been removed by a previous owner. The radio is “CD ready”.

Equipment includes power front seats, air conditioning, an electric sunroof, an onboard computer, a leather-wrapped four-spoke steering wheel, and power windows, mirrors, and locks.

Instrumentation includes an M-branded 8k-rpm tachometer and a 170-mph speedometer. The six-digit odometer shows 46,800 miles, 2k of which were added by the current owner.

Under the front-hinged hood is a 3.5-liter S38B35 inline-six that sends power to the rear wheels through a Getrag five-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential. The North American-spec M6 produced 256 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque when new. Work in 2018 reportedly included a valve adjustment, a coolant flush, new hood struts, and replacement of the distributor cap, rotor, radiator, and coolant hoses. Included service records are said to date back to new.

The Carfax report is accident-free and lists two changes of ownership, along with events in Illinois dating back to 1990 at 14k miles.

Car is sold As-Is. Buyer responsible for shipping of car.

Looking at the ad copy, one thing really struck me; this sounds exactly like Bring a Trailer wording. No surprise, then, that this car indeed was listed there in September, coming up short of reserve with $37,500 bid. Comments there noted exactly the same thing I saw when I looked at the provided under carriage shots; this car looks clean outside, but much less so under the surface. I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker overall, but it’s also not the cleanest car out there. But there are positives; it’s one of less common ’88-up refresh models, it’s a nice color combination, it’s mostly original right down to the functioning self-leveling suspension and rear air conditioning, it’s lower miles, and it’s got factory mudflaps. How cool is that?

Is it a $55,000 car today? The market seems to have spoken. Granted, I don’t think you’re going to get a perfect example for any less. But nicer examples are out there, so it’s not that this car doesn’t have competition. A beautiful Royal Blue Metallic example just sold for $62,000, while a better presented, cleaner Cinnabar example failed to sell at $63,000. Could you improve this example to be the equal of those for $7,000- $8,000? I think you might be able to. A heavy clean and some undercarriage restoration would go a long way to making this car the equal of those. Fresh centercap stickers, and if the budget was there a fresh set of TRXs – as well as a lower reserve – would make this one a lot more appealing.


One Comment

  1. fstntq
    fstntq December 19, 2019

    Interesting car. While the paint says indoor storage, the underneath and sketchy paint om the trunk and under the hood say VERY MOIST storage or car cover storage outside in grass. I have an 85 635csi, northeast used example with twice the miles that looks much nicer underneath with no paint bubbling that I know of above the belt line.
    I’d think the BAT high bid was a commentary on the example, not the model.

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