For $6,500, Is This The M3 For Thee?

Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

While venerated, BMW's E30 M3 did lack certain features possessed by its later, and better performing, brethren. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe E36 for example offers both a drop top and an. . . automatic transmission. Will that second item guarantee its price needs to down along with the top?

Unsurprisingly, yesterday's three-legged freak show toppled under the weight of a massive 96% Crack Pipe loss. There just was too much weird for a monday, and so after having offended that car's amour propre, we're going with something a little more mainstream today.


It's surprising that the more accomplished, better suspended, and more six cylinderlicious E36 remains in the boxy shadow of its apotheosized predecessor. That's especially true in M3 guise, where fat fendered E30s have seen their values creep up like cheap underwear while those of E36s have remained flatter than two-day old PBR. Of course, that means their bang for the buck ratio is comparable to a date with rosy palm and her five daughters.

This 1998 E36 M3 is a prime example of the advancements in specs and features this generation of M3 enjoyed over its progenitor. For the first time in the States the M3 could be had in topless form, and if immaturity has taught my anything, it's that topless trumps topped, nine boobs out of ten.


Of course in cars that may not hold sway and in fact most all high performance cars have performance that's higher in their closed iterations than their open. That's because of the added weight required to keep the car from folding faster than superman on laundry day upon the removal of a major structural element. In the case of the E36 M3 convertible that means that wind in the hair and bird crap on the seats cost 220-lbs over the coupe's 3,219-lb baseline.

Even with the added reinforcement the M3 soft top exhibits enough cowl shake to keep James Bond flush with martinis. There's only so much that can be done in that department. Not shaken, but stirring is the 240-bhp, 3.2-litre edition of the S52 underhood. This one is claimed to have a whole new top end with only 4,000 miles under its belt. The rest of the car rocks 145K and externally it doesn't seem to show those miles. The fern green body doesn't exhibit any major issues and the top seems serviceable if a little stretched in places. The 17" M double spoke II wheels show a little bit of curb rash on the lips, but are otherwise unmarked.


The good times however, don't seem to have extended to the interior which, while not in terrible shape does show more wear and tear than the outside. The driver and passenger seats especially look like hedgehogs have been using them for breakdance routines, and in fact all the Napa cabbage leather in the car is kind of beat up. Despite that the dash and door panels appear okay, and it looks like it contains the optional trip computer, but one of you more well versed in these cars will need to confirm that. I do know that the ancient stereo sports a cassette player which if the cable leading to it is any indication, has been appended to accept input from an MP3 player. That or it's on the rag.


Below the radio and the trip computer is the one aspect of this M3 that additionally differentiates it from its predecessor, and potentially is a total boner killer for many of you. That's the T-handle of this M3's ZF 5HP18 automatic transmission. Alright, put away the pitchforks and torches, un-bunch your panties, and get used to the idea of an automatic M3. After all, almost every high performance car on the plant these days comes fitted with some sort of I-can-do-it-better-than-you box and is all the faster for it. Consider this then to be those cars' prescient grandfather.


You'll also need to consider whether this car's present condition - along with that missing third pedal - is reflected in its $6,500 asking price. Even if you hold automatics in the same light as punching kittens you still have to admit that there's a heck of a lot of car here - BMW M3 legacy, comfortable convertible cruiser, and the like buttah S52 - newly topped off. Not only that but the seller handily includes the Edmunds pricing for this model because we all know how accurate THEY are.

Even if your name isn't Edmund, you'll now need to pass judgement on this M3's fate. Do you think that at $6,500 this M3 is a deal? Or, does that price make this a Bimmer a bomber?


You decide!


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