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E30 M3 Buying Guide Collection from Forums, Magazines & Specialists

We compiled a collection of E30 M3 Buying Guides from various sources


The E30 M3 has been judged by EVO Magazine in the UK to be the best M car in history.

Today we take BMW’s ‘M’ cars almost for granted, but back in the mid-’80s the company’s motorsport division had put its initial on just three road-going models: the M1 supercar, the similarly engined M635CSi and the mildly tweaked M535i. Yet while each of these cars intrigued and impressed, none of them would be talked about as much as the next road car to emerge from the M Division, the E30 M3.

A bit of background on the E30 M3 from Wikipedia

Based on the 1986 model year E30 3-Series, the first M3 was introduced with a 2.3 L I4 S14B23 engine (also known as S14). The engine design was based on various BMW parts: basic block layout from the M10 4-cylinder (found in the 2002 and 320 series) overbored and reinforced to similar specifications of the BMW M88 inline-6. The valve train and head architecture from BMW’s M1 and, later, M6 inline-6-cylinder was adopted for aggressive breathing.

In contrast to later M3 iterations, the E30 M3 was campaigned by BMW as well as other racing teams including Prodrive and AC Schnitzer competing in many forms of racing including rally as well as German, British, Italian, Belgian, French, and Australian touring. The production of the E30 road car was to homologate the M3 for Group A Touring Car racing. It was to compete with the “2.3-16V”-model of the Mercedes-Benz W201 190E that was introduced in 1983. In its final years of competition, the 2.5-litre S14 engine in full race trim was capable of over 250 hp (190 kW) naturally aspirated.

Chris Harris is writing for Piston Heads at the moment and his article spiked our interest in bringing together a collection of M3 buying guides just in case you were thinking about buying one.

Piston Heads

Minter or shed? 

This is the nucleus of the used car adventure. We trawl the classifieds for hours, but the one question that will never, ever be fully resolved is the eternal debate between greater expenditure on perceived perfection – and a corking deal on imperfection because your expert eye spots an easy fix.

This brings me to the E30 BMW M3.

E30 M3 Buying Guide/Advice – DTM Power

Here are somethings that you can visually inspect. If you’re going to buy one, then you will need it checked out by a S14 pro. 

•If 88-89 open rear pop-out windows and look for rust at the base.
•Remove trunk rug, spare, battery cover and jack cover and look for rust. 
•Look at the trunk pan (botom of trunk) and look for bends. 
•Look at the rear strut/shock towers to see if it’s bent up and needs new mounts.
•Look at the front wind screen, check for rust around the rubber strip and window. 
•Look for rust under the sunroof. 
•Look at the engine bay… Behind the front shock/strut towers (towards the window) check to see if the sheet metal is bent. It should be flat from the strut tower, all the way to the firewall. 

Good Luck

Whats going on I have a 98 M3, I used to have a 91 E30 M3 I bought as a daily driver. They have a ton of little mechanical problems. The 91 I bought had a small oil leak, check engine light, needed a new exhaust system. If you plan to buy a 88-91 with over 100,000 miles for around ten to twelve thousand plan on putting good two to three thousand dollars into it. A clean E30 M3 commands $15,000-20,000. Those cars are flawless. The ones for 10-12000 need work. They are fun cars, but they require a lot of work. A lot of little things need replacing. They are not worry free car. I paid $9,000 for my 91 M3 with 95k and it wa clean as a whistle, but I ended up selling it for $11,500 and made a nice profit. They are nice project cars but headaches for people who don’t know how to work on them. I recommend either buying a super clean enthusiast car for $17,000 or buying a semi-clean one for $10-12,000 and putting $3,000 off the bat into them. Make sure to have an inspection done on the car you plan on buying they tend to have a lot of little problem that add up. Good luck.

Cosmos, you don’t need to baby the E30 M3, you just need to take care of it. I regularly take my S14 up to 7800, and 140 MPH like clockwork. These are the toughest Bimmers ever built. You just need to be very aware of a few things. 
1. Don’t ever park it uphill.
2. Always be checking your oil level, and don’t let it get low.
3. Make sure you have a new timing chain and tensioner.
4. Don’t take it past 4000 rpm untill you reach at least 160 for your oil temp.
5. Drive it to warm it up, don’t let it sit.
6. Last but not least, drive it hard…it’s a homologation race car. 
Take care of her, she will more than gladly take care of you. And your right, no automatic for me. For the love of God, what the hell were you thinking man?

– if the car has more than 100k miles, the timing chain needs to be replaced. 

– a lot of e30 m3s have been tracked, make sure you get one that hasn’t been abused. 
make sure the frame is straight. 
look for dimples on the roof near the front windshield. 
look for cracked fusebox covers. 
check the subframes for cracks. 

– would stay away from the ones that were babied too much. 
ie. driven 1000 miles a year. 
seals can crack from lack of use. 

– check for cracks in the paint, this can tell you if the car’s been in an accident. 
look for “DOT R” stickers, and mis-matched VIN numbers on the doors, fenders, and hood. 
don’t worry if the wing has been repainted, these are prone to getting cracks from rocks (this also means the wing is functional ) 

– most importantly, get the car inspected by a mechanic that knows S14s. 
and make sure it isn’t the owner’s mechanic (if they missed something before they’re likely to miss it again). 
have them do a compression test, and if one of the cylinders is off, get a leak down. 

that’s all i can think of now… 


E30 M3 Buying Guide/Advice – Octane Magazine

Has any other of BMW’s M-cars captured the imagination quite as fully as the E30 M3? Even the M1 supercar doesn’t quite match up. There’s just something about the clean lines of this left-hand-drive only, wide-arched, bespoilered poster car of the 1980s that appeals to your typical petrolhead.
The M3’s purpose originally was to head off the challenge – from Mercedes in particular – in Group A touring car racing. The road cars were built for homologation purposes, but they were always intended as production line cars rather than hand-built specials.

The heart of the transformation from competent second-generation 3-series saloon to performance icon was the 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine – a development of the 2002’s and 320’s M10 engine, overbored and strengthened to the specification of the six-cylinder M88. The valvetrain and cylinder head design came from the M1’s straight six. 

E30 M3 Buying Guide/Advice – Classic Heroes – Amazing Video


And another excellent video, this time the E28 M5

E30 M3 Buying Guide/Advice – RS Auto

The following are all of the known technical weaknesses of the engine, drive train, steering and suspension on the BMW E30.
We will explain briefly what is known about this vulnerable area, and the cost and urgency of repair.
Rear shock mounts:

The rear shock mounts connects the shock absorber to the body. When driving over pavement edges if a noise is heard from the rear than that is probably the problem. Defects should be immediately corrected here, as in extreme cases; the shock separates from the body (I have seen it happen because of rust also). Cost is dependent on how extensive the problem is, but usually 20-50EUR.

Subframe bushings:

The rear sub frame bushings connects the subframe with the rear part of the body. Only visual inspection is needed. If the bushing is excessively worn it should be fixed as soon as possible because it has a negative effect on handling (I have also seen a case where it tore right off and the subframe fell of the body and started dragging. Some special tools are necessary. An experienced or willing Do it yourselfer can do this however special tools may need to be bought or rented. Both Bushings cost about 50EUR. Labor shouldn’t be more than that at a honest auto shop 150EUR.

Parking Brake:

The normal brake intervals shouldn’t create any problems with the regular brakes. However, more attention should be given to the parking brake (hand brake), at least for cars with rear disc brakes. In some cases the hand brake is loose or doesn’t engage fully. To determine the condition of the brake apply the emergency brake very slowly when driving. If you find its loose then a tightening should be able to fix the problem. If not the cost of new brake pads for the brakes are about 30 EUR.

Off Topic – GM Powered E30 M3

Is it a crime or just a really good idea? One thing is for sure, this SEMA Show car is an excellently executed project.

On display at the Heatshield Products booth and built by Kevin Byrd, this E30 BMW M3 has its hood off for a reason. Rather than the 2.3-liter 4-cylinder that it came with from the factory, filling up ever inch of the engine bay is a 6.2-liter LS3 V8 from General Motors. With custom headers and a Magnaflow exhaust it delivers a claimed dyno number of 480-hp.

If your looking for a reputable dealer – Munich Legends


Find performance parts on ebay

This page was last modified Jun 29, 2018 @ 12:07 pm

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