.E30 M3 FAQ
Can you tell me about lightweight flywheels? NEW 28 Jan 03
Aluminum VS. Steel control arms NEW 28 Jan 03
Although sometimes difficult to find, E30 M3s are quite frequently advertised for sale; it’s just a matter of knowing where to search. Being in the right place at the right time (as I was) also helps!
Below are a few resources to consult in your quest. There are many tools and websites out there but I will concentrate on a few I have used in the past with good results.
Turner Motorsport Classifieds – Turner has a great reputation in the BMW community. Their classifieds section gets a lot of traffic and is worth a look. This is an automotive classifieds forum for individuals to buy and sell privately. TMS is not involved with any of these transactions; they only provide the forum to exchange information.
BMW Central Classifieds at Roadfly.org – Roadfly is one of the more popular BMW enthusiast sites. Personal accounts, message boards and other popular services are included in addition to classified ads. As with TMS, this is only information provided for private transactions. Roadfly is not directly involved with any of the transactions.
Autotrader.com. This is a decent general tool that allows you to declare a search radius based on zip code.
eBay. You may need a strong stomach or a big bottle of TUMS for this one. Good deals from honest sellers are certainly to be had, but unfortunately bad deals and scumbags seem to be fairly common. A reputable seller may offer to have you travel to see the car (if you aren’t local) and offer to reimburse your expenses if it isn’t exactly as advertised. This is becoming more common amongst online auto sellers who take customer satisfaction very seriously. Even so, if you come upon an offer like this always read the fine print and ask questions. Fortunately, people selling E30 M3s are more often individuals as opposed to mainstream resellers. They tend to be enthusiasts themselves and folks in an enthusiast community tend to treat one another well. Just trust your gut and make sure you are serious and very well informed before placing a bid. Always remember to ask lots of questions first!
Local newspaper. This is a low-tech solution but believe it or not, you may get lucky and find a nice example just a few blocks from you. Many newspapers also have online content that includes automotive classifieds with search functions that will e-mail you if a car meeting your criteria is listed.
One last bit of advice. Do not bother consulting Kelly Blue Book to determine the value of any E30 M3. KBB and other similar publications derive their rating system and value structure based on cars bought and sold at auto auctions (not referring to eBay or Yahoo! Auctions here). On the rare occasion that an E30 M3 makes it to auction (a common last resort point of sale for cars) it will no doubt be a complete and total rat that isn't worth your time and money. For example, KBB value for a *pristine* 1989 E30 M3 with 70,000 miles is a mere $11,850. In the real world, an example as described above could easily go for $17,000 - $22,000; more or less dependent on mileage and verifiable maintenance history. To determine fair value for a particular condition you only have to look at actual sale prices in such magazines as Roundel or get a consensus from the folks on one of the many E30 M3 message boards or mailing lists.
Upon initial inspection, here are a few specific things the average person can check and look out for. Of course, before committing to a purchase you will want to have a professional perform a pre-purchase inspection but I will go into more detail on that shortly.
First you will want to check for cracks near the subframe bolts. You can see the cracks from the underside of the subframe at the engine mount bolt locations in the subframe. Shake the engine forcefully and if you hear a squeaking sound or feel excessive movement, the front subframe is probably cracked.
Dimples in the roof between the windshield and the front edges of the sunroof are an indication of heavy track duty. Dimples are usually caused by repeated torsional stress on the body. A front strut brace may decrease this stress and prevent damage by increasing body stiffness.
Some folks claim that you will need to replace your water pump every few years because for some reason, the E30 M3 engine wears them out quickly. The M3 does not have the coolant leak problems of the other E30 models, but some of the M3s experience coolant loss from a worn coolant reservoir cap. Buy a new cap from the dealer. The new ones have been "updated." There was also a recall for a cooling system update which consists of a special valve that was installed in one the of the heater hoses that runs from the cylinder head into the firewall. You will want to call your local dealer with the VIN of your prospective purchase to ensure the warranty recall work has been done; else you risk your feet being bathed in boiling hot coolant.
The lower control arms can crack on heavily tracked cars. This means no steering! The aluminum alloy control arms can be purchased mail order from popular sources for around $189 each. This is also a good time to upgrade to the offset control arm bushings if your car wasn’t equipped with them from the factory.
The E30 BMW Bentley manual covers most of the same body and electrical as is on the E30 M3, but the engine and Motronics on the M3 are different. The factory service manual (microfiche or pirate electronic copy burned to CD ;^) is the only reference available on the engine.
The best advice here is to have a reputable BMW mechanic conduct a pre-purchase inspection. This is almost always at the purchaser’s expense and should cost no more than $100 or thereabouts. Believe me when I say that this is money well spent as it could literally save you thousands down the line. Pre-purchase inspection is generally a cursory examination with minimal actual wrenching on the vehicle. The trained eye can tell a great deal about how a car has been treated simply by looking at a few key items. If you want a more thorough inspection, I would recommend cylinder compression testing, emissions testing (some states require this for registration anyway) and if possible, an oil analysis. These three tests will tell you the true condition of the motor, even if the seller has tried to pull a fast one by loading up on the engine treatment to make everything sound great just long enough to sell the car. If a seller disagrees to any of these tests, walk away immediately and do not look back, even for a second.
It is generally a rule of thumb that your purchase price and immediate modifications/maintenance to bring the car up to “acceptable spec” will total in the neighborhood of $15,000.00. For example, if you purchase a mediocre example with somewhat neglected maintenance history for $9,000 you should budget $4,000 on parts and maintenance alone (engine, body, tires, etc) to get the car to a reasonable expectation of reliability and presentability (provided you are concerned with running AND looking great). Conversely, if you find a beautiful E30 M3 for $15,000, chances are that it is up to the minute on all maintenance issues, includes full documentation and is great physical condition and you won’t need to incur any additional expenses. There are always exceptions that come about based on many factors, which is why this is called a “rule of thumb”. Just keep your head about you and try not to become mesmerized into forgetting about the important things when looking to purchase one of these amazing cars.
Replacing the stock timing chain tensioner with one from the E36 M3 has been a popular "upgrade" for quite some time. While it doesn't necessarily improve performance per se, you do benefit from the updated design technology and easier installation than the stock unit. The BMW part numbers are 11 31 1 405 081 (tensioner), and 07 11 9 963 418 (metal seal ring). As for cost, you're looking at just over $80.00 from the popular mail-order outlets, or a little more from your local $tealer.
Replace your worn-out stock tensioner and be rid of that start up rattling for ever!
The S14 has proven to be a challenging (and EXPENSIVE) engine to turbo or supercharge. Two tuners who have managed to tackle the task properly are:
Dinan (turbo)..Data sheet www.dinanbmw.com 408.779.8584 ERT (supercharger) www.europeanracing.com 302.633.1157
Here are some hints and tips compiled from the E30 M3 SIG archives
Click here for details
Many have seen/heard this term thrown around, but few know what it actually means.
Click here for details
An E30 M3 is as reliable as a particular owner is willing to make it. Some cars have inherent problems. MG suspension components are known to spontaneously detach themselves. Just about every Italian-made car suffers from a terminal case of Magneti-Morelli. An E30 M3 does not suffer from any such chronic maladies and will take care of you so long as you take care of it. Follow the BMW recommended Inspection I&II schedule, give the car regular preventative maintenance and you are guaranteed a long and happy motoring experience. If you aren’t the wrenching type, ask around for references to good mechanics in your area – a competent and attentive technician is one of the best assets you can have.
The E30 M3 message board at Roadfly.org is a great place to start. http://bimmer.roadfly.org/bmw/forums/e30m3 Another popular resource is the E30 M3 Special Interest Group mailing list run by fellow enthusiast Filippo Morelli - http://www.bimmers.com/m3/index.html. The Roadfly forum is free, whereas SIG access will cost you $12 per year and you must hold a BMWCCA membership. The SIG is a valuable technical resource in my opinion and well worth the modest fee. The SIG membership fee easily pays for itself with the access to a wide array of information provided by the member network and in the message archives. The E30 M3 Owner’s Group mailing list is similar to the E30 M3 SIG (and includes many of the same members) and is free to join. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for subscription information. Other BMW message boards and mailing lists (not M3 specific) include:
http://www.baye30.net (E30 specific)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/E30 (E30 specific)
This is just a small sample of resources. There are more listings in the “Links” section of this website.
A few of my personal favorites are:
Maximillian Importing Co. www.bimmer.com 800.950.2002 Bimmerworld www.bimmerworld.com 540.639.9648 Taylor Autosport www.taylorautosport.com 423.886.1863 Turner Motorsport www.turnermotorsport.com 800.280.6966 Eurasian Auto Parts www.eap4parts.com 800.824.8814
Let me first say that before you blow your wad on fancy gadgets, you should ask yourself two questions:
1.) Is my M3 up to date on all periodic/preventative maintenance? Before considering any modifications, please make sure that your car is mechanically sound and properly maintained. You don't want to be that guy with the $3000 wheels on a $300 car.
2.) How are my driving skills? You may think that you're Steve McQueen or John Paul Montoya in your shiny new M3, but just cool your jets down there for a minute Turbo! The best and least expensive thing you can do for you and your car is DRIVER TRAINING. Check out your local BMWCCA chapter website for details on the next car control clinic. After a full day on the slalom, skidpad and braking course, you will realize just how little you knew about car control when you woke up that morning. It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on for around $40. :^) Autocross is the next step. Here you will get to apply everything you learned at the car control clinic on an actual timed circuit. These are also usually around $40 for an entire day. Once you have built your basic skills you're ready for the real fun - track school. These schools are more expensive - around $500-700, but are almost always a two day affair and you get lots of one-on-one track time with an instructor. BMWCCA stresses that their sponsored track schools are not racing schools and that timing or competition of any kind are off limits. You are there to learn high speed car control that is not only a hell of a lot of fun, but that could quite possibly save your life one day. Before you go spending $1800 on a set of shiny red Brembo calipers for your street car, consider that the money may be much better spent on 2-3 track schools where you will actually learn how to use your stock brakes. </soapbox mode>
OK, let's see here...the stock suspension is generally fine for both street and driver schools, but adding Bilstein or Koni struts can really improve your track/course performance. There are BMW factory camber correction upper strut bearings that will add .5 degree of negative camber to the front suspension. They make a tremendous improvement in the way the car corners. Some of the more popular suspension upgrade packages are Ground Control coilovers, Bilstein coilover kit and Eibach ProKit. An entire book could be written on the subject of suspension modification, so I won’t delve too much into that subject here. I will say that if you are considering an upgrade to this area of your car there are many factors to take into account to decide what will work best for you and that you should first consult a professional (i.e. the manufacturer or reseller) to answer all of your questions. It is also important to remember that as these cars age the suspension components wear and tend to get “sloppy”. Before going whole hog on an expensive setup. Make sure that your basic elements are in good order. Replacing worn items such as control arms, control arm bushings and subframe mounts can make a dramatic improvement alone!
For frequent track or driver school attendees, brake-cooling ducts should be installed to help minimize brake fade and rotor "warping". The E30 M3 has an uncanny appetite for rotors! There is an OEM BMW kit that was installed on the Sport Evo and Evo II M3. It is the more cosmetically appealing kit out there but rather than ducting cool air all the way to the rotors, the ducts just direct more air into the wheel wells behind the front tires. With a flange, some flexible hose and a backing plate this setup should work just as well as the other popular ducting kits. The most popular setup amongst track junkies is by Bimmerworld. This kit includes everything - ducts, hose, fittings and backing plates to force air into the center of the rotor and is basically bulletproof.
*A quick note on brake duct usage from James Clay of Bimmerworld. He recommends that you carefully consider ambient temperatures before deciding whether or not to use your ducts at a particular event. The general rule is that below 80 degrees F, you should block off your ducts completely to prevent rapid heating and cooling of your rotors. This constant and rapid temperature cycling can lead to rotor and pad damage and diminished braking ability. Between 80 and 90 degrees, you should block your ducts off half way. Above 90 degrees, open those suckers fully for maximum rotor cooling!
As far as brake pads are concerned, most people are quite happy with standard semi-metallic street pads. Fortunately, these regular duty pads don’t seem to very much from manufacturer to manufacturer. Popular brands include Pagid, PBR MetalMaster, and Hawk HPS. For more aggressive applications such as autocross, popular pads include Hawk HP Plus and Pagid Blue. Some people swear by a particular brand or compound and I say more power to them. The only way you will know for sure is to test a wide range of pads under a wide range of applications. Personally, I run Hawk HP Plus on the street and for autocross. They squeak and dust a little more than your basic street pad but boy do they grab – hot or cold.
If you are viewing this page I think you already know the answer to that question! ;^) Touring car Champion and former E30 M3 DTM racer Steve Soper shares his opinion on the matter in the following article: http://www.motoyen.com/articles/90/1994/autocar/
Bay Area ///Motorsport
Last updated on 29 January, 2003 12:36 PST