Sleeper Swaps: 1986 BMW 325i 5.0 v. 2000 BMW 323i 5.7

Update 1/17/19: The E30 sold for $4,200.

Continuing on the custom theme, today’s post comes thanks to some unusual chassis combinations. Of course, BMWs – and particularly the 3-series – are no stranger to swapped motors. I’ve covered just about everything, from a M62’d E30 to the outrageous S85-powered Hartge H50 and, of course, the ubiquitous S50/2 swaps in E30s or E36s.

But today’s power overhauls come in the form of American V8s stuffed into the noses of Munich’s finest small sports sedans. While their personalities are quite different, both manage to pull off the swaps as relative sleepers despite the crazy changes underneath. So which is the winner?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 BMW 325i 5.0 V8 swap on eBay

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1987 BMW M6 with 36,800 Miles

While it’s easy to be a ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ and scoff at the prices for lightly used cars from the recent past, true time capsules like the Porsche Rob just wrote up are generally the domain of pure wonderment. How have owners been able to restrain themselves for decades without driving a car? This afternoon’s M6 is in a similar vein to the lineup we’ve been looking at; pristine, original condition, and low mileage. While the 36,800 accrued far outstrip those of the RS6, M3 and especially the 911 RSR, finding an all original M6 with below 40,000 miles in near perfect shape is certainly worth a look:


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1987 BMW 325iS

2The 325iS is one of the more desirable versions of the E30 3-series, perhaps the third most desirable model after the M3 and the Euro-market 320iS (the “Italian M3”). Showcasing precisely the sorts of features that make the E30 a contender for the “definitive German sport sedan” title, it’s a simple and fun little car with a five speed manual gearbox, a sweet six cylinder motor, a nicely balanced chassis and firm, sporty suspension. The ’87 models also featured a unique and aggressive front spoiler, nicknamed the “cowcatcher” by E30 aficionados. They don’t come much nicer than this one – a low mileage example that appears to be in mint condition. It’s not cheap, but it’s certainly a lot cheaper than an M3.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 325iS on eBay

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Double Take: Red E30 M3s

Ahh, red E30 M3s. Sure, these boxy bulldogs look good in just about any hue, but red as a symbol of lust and speed is not the exclusive property of the Italians. Red also plays an interesting part in the E30 M3’s history, as the striking, orange-tinted Hennarot was discontinued after one year in the US and supplanted by Zinnoberrot, a deeper and more classic hue. Both are beautiful in their own right, but Hennarot’s intensity and rarity has elicited more fandom and desire in an already-vociferous market.

Today we have two beautiful M3s from the same seller and in the same price range, each a shining example of its chosen red with a couple of unique touches.
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Click for details: 1989 BMW E30 M3 on eBay

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1985 BMW M635CSi

An odd reversal has occurred in the BMW world; go back even five years and the car from the 1980s – outside of the M1 – was the M6. Now, oddly, the M6 may be the best value going in Motorsport BMWs from the 1980s. What caused the turn around? Well, it certainly had little to do with the M6, and probably more to do with the inevitable acknowledgement that the more rare M5 was a great car too, and the E30 has equally gained status as – effectively – a 911 replacement. So the M6, the grandest of BMW’s grand touring lineup, has become relatively affordable for the performance level offered. The extra benefit of it’s high residual price has been that most have been kept in excellent condition overall; while it’s normal to see highly modified or ratty M3s and M5s, finding pristine M6s almost seems cliche; odd, considering the relatively low number produced. Even more affordable than the later M6s was the M6 prototype; the M635CSi. While never imported to the U.S., a fair amount made it here through the grey market long before the M products debuted in this market. With an even more potent version of the inline-6, the M1-detuned M88/3, coupled with lower weight, these early M6s were even more impressive performers than the later cars. However, unlike the later M6s, finding clean and unmolested M635CSis is more difficult as lower residual value on the grey market cars meant they were sometimes neglected or more heavily modified:


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1988 BMW M3

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This E30 M3 is an interesting proposition thanks to reversible decisions. The owner has taken some liberties, mainly surrounding his love for the color red and some minor modifications to the running gear, but with some diligence this car could easily be returned to a very stock exterior look (the red valve cover is probably here to stay for a while). One thing that is not reversible is the salvage title, which clearly contradicts his claim of a “clean MN title.” This confusion along with a lack of explanation as to why the engine was disassembled at 196k miles without doing a full rebuild raises question marks that E30 M3 buyers don’t like seeing these days. On the other hand, question marks can also keep it from smashing through the $30-$40k barriers we’ve seen many E30s surpass.

Click for details: 1988 BMW E30 M3 on eBay

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1988 BMW M3

The legendary E30 M3 is becoming one of the most collectable German cars of recent years and the market reflects that. With asking prices reaching up in to the mid $30K range for clean examples and upwards of $15K for total basket cases, finding a well priced, and clean car is no east feat.

As the car that made M a household name, the E30 M3 is really what put BMWs M division on the map. In just a few years, the E30 M3 scored thousands of motorsport victories making it one of the most successful touring cars ever. Powering the M3 is a twin-cam, 16v 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with Bosch fuel-injection making 192 bhp.  With a lightweight chassis (only 2850 lbs) and the 5-speed manual transmission, trhe M3 could do 0-60 in less than seven seconds, and a top speed was 140 miles-per-hour. Not bad for a little 4-banger.

This well kept 1988 M3 for sale in New York is a great piece of BMW M history.

1988 BMW M3 on

Previous owner replaced oil-pan gasket, water pump, hoses, radiator, belts, power-steering hoses + reservoir, transmission mounts, upgraded rear shock mounts, fuel pump, fuel injectors, cap, rotor, plugs, EVO III wires & R134A retrofit, professionally-refinished wheels with new Toyo T1R tires, professionally repainted, mechanically stock except for TMS chip & upgraded timing-chain tensioner, purchased 3/09 at 89,532 miles, garaged & covered, driven regularly, clean history, no accidents, snow, salt or rain.

This is a clean example of probably the most desirable BMW (for enthusiasts anyway) in arguably the most desirable color combination. I’m not a fan of red, I like my M3s in Alpine White, but as the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers. When the opportunity to own a clean low mileage example presents itself; you pounce. With a recent respray, and a ton of maintenance work done, this is a solid driver, not just a pretty face to be put on a shelf and looked at. 

Considering how these cars are appreciating in value and whet people are asking for them, the asking price of $25,500 is pretty reasonable. A little haggling would need to be done to get it where I’d want it, which is about $22-23K.