If you’re looking to buy an E36 M3, no doubt you’ve done your research and read about the common things you know to look out for. Has the cooling system been refreshed? Have the RTABs been taken care of? Etc, etc. These were all things I knew to look for before buying my cheap E36 M3, but the things I’m about to tell you are things I hadn’t read online and didn’t think to look for. Here are five uncommon things to look for before buying an E36 M3!
First, the 1995 E36 M3 has quite a few differences from its younger siblings, 1996-1999. One of the differences I wasn’t aware of was the fact that in 1995 there was a recall or a service bulletin to fix a warping in the dash. The dash will warp around the center air vent and driver side air vent. There was a fix that was issued for it but the “kits” don’t really exist any longer, so now the only fix (if you must fix it) is to buy a dash from a 1996-1999 to swap yours out with.
Second thing to look out for…and this really can’t be changed or fixed, but it’s age. Currently, my 1995 (production year 1994) is 25 years old. That equates to a lot of wear and tear on items that you don’t generally replace. For example, my sway bar end links had ripped boots. Basically all of the boots on my car were ripped or torn. Pretty much all of the bushings were worn out. These are typical items to replace due to mileage like an alternator, water pump, spark plugs, etc. These are all items that deteriorate over time and will need to be replaced if you’re looking to build an E36 M3 that will be used for any type of serious driving.
Thirdly, mileage. When I bought my E36 M3 project car, I wasn’t concerned with mileage because I thought, “I’m doing an S54 swap, why should I care about mileage?”. Well, you should care and I learned that the hard way. My project M3 had 235K on the clock when I bought it. Now, I bought E36 M3 for super cheap so in the end it was okay but if you can find a lower mileage E36 M3 for a little more money, buy that one. You’ll save money on random parts that are bound to be worn out on a high mileage car.
Fourth, and this one is a positive for the E36 M3. This is a super user friendly car to work on! I have personally done things like suspension, brakes, rear camber arms, power steering, alternator, interior work, exterior work with moldings, lighting and more. Not to say some of these things didn’t make me hate life for a few hours but at the end of the day, it’s a very user friendly car to work on. A win for the M3!
Last but not least, the S50 motor vs the S52. The S50 motor comes in a 1995 E36 M3, 1996-1999 E36 M3 has the S52 motor. The S52 is much more desirable, some people even say they like it as much as the S54. When S52’s get high mileage, many people simply rebuild them because they like them so much. If you’re looking at an E36 M3 and you have the option between one with a S50 or S52, I would go with the S52 unless you have plans to swap the car.
So, those are five things to look for when buying an E36 M3. There’s a ton of other information regarding vanos, cooling, RTABs and more but like I said, these are the five more uncommon things most people don’t talk about. Check out my Youtube video below where I go into a bit more detail about this topic!