Craigslist Peril: BMW M3

May 10, 2016 update to the BMW M3 project car

It's important to know what you're looking at. We convinced BimmerWorld's James Clay to come with us. Apparently, James is a bit of a hero to the car's seller.
Also in attendance: Rennie Bryant, of Redline BMW Performance. He was similarly amused.
Sure, the paint isn't great, the interior is rough, the drivetrain is missing, and somebody swiped most of the M3 parts–but at least there isn't much rust.
We're pretty sure Chevy's LS1 will fit here.

Scouring Craigslist for cheap cars is a bad idea. It’s an even worse idea to do it late at night after a few drinks.

World, meet our latest bad decision: This 1997 BMW M3. We picked it up for a song.

What’s it missing? The drivetrain and most of the suspension bits that made the M3 special. We’ve got a plan, though: V8 power, courtesy of a Chevy LS1 that’s been sitting in the corner of the shop for a few years.

Things are about to get interesting.

Not a subscriber? Each magazine contains even more details on our project cars. Subscribe to Grassroots Motorsports now.

Join Free
Join our community to easily find more BMW project updates.

Reader comments:

NickD Dork
May 10, 2016 1:54 p.m.

What?! I can't believe you're going to ruin the perfect dynamics of the E36 with an American V8 swap, blah, blah, blah, complain, whine, etc. There got that out of the way.

Cool project. Any idea what the story was on how this car got in such rough shape?

Type Q
Type Q SuperDork
May 10, 2016 2:05 p.m.

Why do you hate Bavaria?

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
May 10, 2016 2:16 p.m.

NickD, we got bits and pieces of a few different stories (the seller really was speechless when we told him James Clay was the one asking questions), but as far as we can tell this car was just on the losing end of somebody with more projects than resources. Its parts were used for something better. And I totally understand–it happens to all of us.

Big thanks to James and Rennie for coming along, by the way. They instantly spotted what was and wasn't from a real M3, which made negotiations quite easy.

alfadriver MegaDork
May 10, 2016 2:22 p.m.

crud- with this recent talk, too bad you don't have an ecoboost 2.0l in the corner....

TRoglodyte UltraDork
May 10, 2016 2:37 p.m.

A few drinks? How smashed were you? . This is gonna be good.

May 10, 2016 2:40 p.m.

Bad idea nothing... V8 BMW sounds like a great decision to me!

Furious_E HalfDork
May 10, 2016 2:45 p.m.

Having owned both an E36 and an LS1 Camaro, I wholeheartedly condone this marriage

RossD UltimaDork
May 10, 2016 2:46 p.m.

I'm sorry, where was the bad idea?

Brett_Murphy PowerDork
May 10, 2016 3:03 p.m.

Will this sell magazines? Yes.

Will this generate a bunch of buzz on online forums? Yes.

I'm not seeing how this is a bad idea, either.

dyintorace PowerDork
May 10, 2016 3:09 p.m.

Genius! Can't wait!!

JBasham New Reader
May 10, 2016 3:41 p.m.

Nice choice of power plant. I don't have one lying around, and I couldn't afford what a decent one costs with a transmission around here. So the '94 E36 swap I'm in the middle of is a 302 Ford with T5. It's called the Fubari. Limits my horsepower ceiling (gasp, will a 400hp E36 be powerful enough?) but keeps the weight down 100 pounds or so. If I had the LS in the garage, I probably would've gone with that.

This is a great project. I'm sure you (and your readers) will enjoy. Good luck!

TRoglodyte UltraDork
May 10, 2016 6:12 p.m.

What is the endgame? Autocross, Rally cross ,Dorrrifto,V8 Supercar? Or just nerf bars and air horns for Bike week?

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
May 11, 2016 9:48 a.m.

At this point, the goal is Time Trails. Should be fun.

Tyler H
Tyler H SuperDork
May 11, 2016 9:53 a.m.

Looking forward to seeing how this turns out. June of 2020 issue?

dyintorace PowerDork
May 11, 2016 10:15 a.m.

The seller of this V8 M3 claims to have invested over $90k. Will be interesting to see if you can do it for less.

1997 M3 with LS2 stroker (FS in FL)

maj75 Reader
May 14, 2016 11:18 a.m.

Just need to do it for less than the $33K asking price

May 22, 2016 4:05 p.m.

So are you fabbing all your swap parts? Vorschlag here in DFW sells swap kits for putting LS engines in both the E30 and E36 chassis.

JBasham Reader
May 23, 2016 1:22 p.m.

Vorschlag's stuff looks really swag. But speaking of beating the $33k asking price . . . .

TimM New Reader
June 4, 2016 4:36 a.m.

Well, the 'inexpensive' M3's on the market just went up in value...thanks GRM!

Seriously, joyed you are taking this on. I've been tempted...

You'll need to log in to post.

The Latest

First Drive: 2017 Subaru BRZ Performance Package

3 hours ago in Articles

We’ve heard it before: The Subaru BRZ doesn’t make enough horsepower.

10 Cars to Buy Now

21 hours ago in News

Hagerty recently announced the top 10 classic cars to buy in 2017.

Reader's Ride of the Week: Cone-Killing Camaro

1 day ago in News

This one's a work in progress, but we can't wait to see the finished product.

Get Our Magazine in Print and Digital for just $17.99

1 day ago in News

Now is a great time to renew or start subscribing to our magazine.

Strap In

4 days ago in Articles

Is your racing harness installed correctly?

2017 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription

5 days ago in New Car Reviews

Volvo's XC90 is the manufacturer's luxury SUV and this—the T6 Inscription—represents the highest tier of that model. And to triple ...

Flyweight Flier

6 days ago in Articles

The masses may not view the Mazda2 as much of a sports car, but enthusiasts have learned otherwise.

Our Ramp Truck Gets a Vintage Tachometer

6 days ago in Project Cars

Towing with a manual transmission and no tach is a pain.

Treading on Thick Ice

1 week ago in News

How do you improve your car control in the racing off season?

Vintage Views: Volvo 740 and 760 Turbo

1 week ago in Articles

Boxy but good.

Project V8 M3: Tapping Our Block

1 week ago in Project Cars

We clean our low-buck LS1's threads.

Grassroots Motorsports Magazine

Subscribe Today

Also get your instant access to the digital edition of Grassroots Motorsports Magazine!

Learn More