BMW M Coupe: Spotted

The values of the road cars produced by BMW's Motorsport division play by an odd, and unpredictable, set of rules. Some languish in near-bangerdom for years, while others head straight for the sky. Small production is definitely the key here; the Z3-based M Coupe was, apparently, the smallest volume car BMW has ever made that wasn't officially a limited edition, so it's perhaps not surprising that values began to climb a while back.

No mistaking it!
No mistaking it!
We're now facing the reality where, to get a really good one, you're having to pay not far off what a new M4 would cost. Madness, surely?

Well, perhaps not; people have been predicting that E30 M3 values have peaked for several years, during which they've continued an impervious ascent. And the M Coupe is certainly unlike nearly anything else. It was spun from the Z3 roadster, a car that possessed the torsional rigidity of a damp sock. The strange 'breadvan' roof was designed to firm up the floppy chassis as much as keep out the sun, and the Coupe was claimed to be an astonishing 2.7 times stiffer than the ragtop. Like the roadster it was a strict two seater, but with the shooting brake bodywork giving it an impressive amount of luggage space behind the rear tailgate. The Coupe was sold with the 2.8-litre and 3.0-litre straight sixes and Z3 branding in some European markets, but in the UK we only ever got the full-fat version, known simply as the M Coupe.

Laguna Seca Blue rare and desirable
Laguna Seca Blue rare and desirable
Like the M Roadster power came from the VANOS-equipped 3.2-litre straight six; being a later car this one is using what is basically a slightly downtuned version of the 'S54' motor from the E46 M3, meaning 325hp, a 5.3-second 0-62mph time and a limited 155mph top speed. Yet like every version of the Z3 it uses semi-trailing arm rear suspension that was pretty much drawn straight from the E30; it's a bitsa that bridges three generations of 3 Series.

Don't come to the M Coupe expecting a driving experience to match that of its contemporary M cars, as it lacks their ability to deal with rougher surfaces. Ride quality is poor to harsh and it struggles when asked to deal with bumps at speed. That said, on smooth surfaces there's huge adhesion and an amusing level of throttle adjustability for those capable of exploiting it. (At this point I should confess the first press car I ever span was an M Coupe.)

Half-price alternative?
Half-price alternative?
So what to make of this one? Well it's certainly got both rarity and condition on its side, with Laguna Seca Blue paint and some matching interior trim (most M Coupe cabins were similarly OTT), plus only 33,000 miles showing and a recent main dealer service. Back in 2002 it cost £36,000 before options meaning the current asking price is beyond what it was new. We'll leave the thorny question of whether it represents good value up to you, with the proviso that it does seem to be a particularly nice one...

But if you're looking for a car to drive, rather than semi-speculative investment, then here's a strong alternative. Values for the later Z4M Coupe haven't begun to move upwards yet, and here's a 2006 example with a full BMW history that's currently in the classifieds for £16,450. It might have twice the mileage, but it is also less than half the price.

3,246cc, inline-six
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 325@7,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258@4,900rpm
MPG: 25
CO2: 268g/km
First registered: 2002
Recorded mileage: 33,646
Price new: £40,595 (1998)
Yours for: £44,995

M Coupe advert here.
Z4M advert here.


[Specs: Parkers]

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Comments (75) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Panthro 24 Sep 2015

    You forgot to mention that the S54 cars came equipped with DSC, whereas the S50 came with no traction control at all.

  • s m 24 Sep 2015

    Not a car to tackle the Edgebold roundabout on the A5 Shrewsbury bypass in......


  • vtecyo 24 Sep 2015

    My uncle has one of these in his garage he bought as an investment about 10 years ago. At least I think he still has it.

  • Fishy Dave 24 Sep 2015

    Lovely cars, quirky and different from most modern machinery. Prices had risen sufficiently in the time I was trying to sell the Elise that I went for the alternative the article suggests: a Z4M, but in roadster form, loving it so far.

  • Debaser 24 Sep 2015

    I used to have an M Coupe - loved it!

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