How I learned to stop worrying and love my BMW M3

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Jun 30, 2024 | BMW, BMW M3, M3, E46 M3, E46, BMW E46 M3 | Posted in Columns | From the Oct. 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Chris Tropea

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Ever not fallen in love with a car you should have fallen in love with?

Yup, happened to me. 

After a seven-year courtship, however, I think I have a romance brewing with my M3. I know, I can move slowly. 

This one, like so many other partnerships, wasn’t planned. Way before the pandemic, I merely mentioned to my friend Steve that I was looking for a new daily–maybe a BRZ or something similar. He countered that a mutual friend was looking to sell his E46-chassis M3.

That night, I had an email waiting: Heard you’re interested in my M3, so here are all the details, records and photos. 

This was the one. The legend. We first drove it upon its release 20-plus years ago. It needed no introduction: those flares, that hood blister, individual throttle bodies and an inline-six that could spin to 8000 rpm. Plus, it was comfortable, composed and just cool. It was the total package. 

All the service was by the book. Kevin, our friend looking to rehome the car, had tracked oil changes on a spreadsheet. When he replaced the Roundels, the steering wheel and even the cooling system components, he went with OE pieces. Couldn’t find any corners cut anywhere. 

The price was low, but mileage wasn’t–a little north of 135,000. But the car didn’t show any of the usual trappings found out there: no torn upholstery, no paint issues, no mysterious thunks. 

No major mods, either, just some Konis and wheels from Tire Rack. Stock stereo, too. The bushings hadn’t been done–a common question on these cars–but a fresh set came in the trunk. 

I had seen the car in the flesh before. It presented very well. Mystic Blue over black. 

I forwarded all info to BimmerWorld’s James Clay, a trusted companion regarding all sorts of things BMW or not. 

His reply: If you don’t buy this car, I will. 

So I flew up to Tennessee and fetched the car. On the way back, I stopped and saw James in Virginia for an inspection. He took it for a drive and put it up on the lift. All seemed good. No weird noises, no signs of the dreaded rear subframe issues. Go drive it and enjoy it, he said. 

While there, I picked up some things plus some upgraded Powerflex bushings. Then I headed back to Florida with a visit to my parents. No issues, no nothing on the voyage home. 

But all these years, I never really warmed up to the car. Did I fear the much-discussed rod bearings? Were the subframe mounts about to tear loose? Was that battery drain real or just in my head? 

And did I buy an example that was too nice to track? Did I really want to stick a seat and roll bar into that nearly mint interior? 

Adding to my internal dithering: Very soon after I bought the M3, Hagerty released a list of cars to buy now. The E46 M3 kicked off the list. Suddenly, this was no longer a lower-buck daily. It was worth some money. Perhaps I should try to preserve the car for the inevitable BaT sale? 

I admit, I love to worry, despite evidence that all was okay. Oil analysis said the engine was healthy, and nothing suspect turned up when doing the bushings. I found the battery drain.

Add up all the back-and-forth conversations in my head, and this car–something truly special–just sat in our garage. I drove it enough to keep it fresh, if that, and generate content. Including that initial trip back from Tennessee, I had only put about 4000 miles on the car over more than six years. Mostly, I admit, I looked at the car, waxed its paint and changed the oil every year. 

Finally, a wake-up call: I’m an idiot and need to start driving this thing. It’s kinda been a dream car for more than 20 years, right? 

So I had the rod bearings done–not that painful–and fixed a clunk that had developed in the rear. Moving to squat 17-inch wheels gave it a distinctive, purposeful look. You can find the updates here

The big news: I’m now driving it–not everywhere, but enough to enjoy it.

People often ask me if I want more cars. No, I say, I just want time to enjoy the ones that I have.

So now it’s time to enjoy our M3. 

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Comments
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/15/23 12:41 p.m.

What's in the DSW fleet these days?  do you still have the Innocenti?  and the 911SC?

V2U_03
V2U_03 GRM+ Memberand New Reader
8/15/23 2:00 p.m.

Had an uncle who always bought Cadillacs. Rarely drove 'em. Kept plastic on the seats and stacks of newspaper on top of the floor mats. So it's certainly a valid affliction. I don't have it. I regularly turn $1800 worth of 200tw tires into slicks in 6-8 weeks. Same for brake pads, fuel, oil, track fees, etc. With this hobby the fiscally responsible need not apply. Not fully enjoying a car so the next guys can, hoping he'll pay more, would be a tiny bit of sense in a sea of lunacy. Although it's a thing, I'm a full on lunatic I guess.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/15/23 2:14 p.m.
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) said:

What's in the DSW fleet these days?  do you still have the Innocenti?  and the 911SC?

Sadly we the sold the Innocenti Mini to buy our current Civic Si. So we have that plus the M3, 911 Carrera and Miata. 

BimmerMaven
BimmerMaven Reader
8/15/23 3:11 p.m.

another vote for DRIVING  cars from me...not that anyone would care about one man's opinion.

however, if you care to indulge me, I would propose that art hangs on the wall...people look at it

statues fight gravity, people look at them.

 

musical instruments make music...play them.

when the time comes, a specialistic in restoration can enjoy his project....and restore something.

 

everybody is happy.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
8/15/23 3:12 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) said:

What's in the DSW fleet these days?  do you still have the Innocenti?  and the 911SC?

Sadly we the sold the Innocenti Mini to buy our current Civic Si. So we have that plus the M3, 911 Carrera and Miata. 

That's still a nice setup.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/15/23 3:30 p.m.

In reply to z31maniac :

Thanks and, yeah, no complaints at all. If anything, I’d only like more time to enjoy them. (Okay, also wouldn’t mind something I’m comfortable putting on track–more about that soon.)

ZOO (Forum Supporter)
ZOO (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
8/16/23 8:57 a.m.

I regret selling mine, and worse, I regret not buying it back when it was offered to me.  If I weren't space limited I'd be all over acquiring another one.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/16/23 9:05 a.m.
ZOO (Forum Supporter) said:

I regret selling mine, and worse, I regret not buying it back when it was offered to me.  If I weren't space limited I'd be all over acquiring another one.

In this case, I wasn’t looking for an M3 as it found me. (Truth be told, I was looking for a BRZ at the moment.)

Warlock
Warlock New Reader
8/16/23 10:30 a.m.
BimmerMaven said:

another vote for DRIVING  cars....

A speed bump there is the insurance industry.  "Normal" auto insurance companies don't issue limited-use policies -- cutting back your estimated mileage saves you almost nothing.  And classic car insurers make it no secret they don't want you to drive your classic car in the real world.  Drive it to shows, drive it to the mechanic, take it out occasionally for "pleasure" if you must...lock it away the rest of the time!   So you have a choice -- pay out for a regular policy, which becomes pretty expensive past a couple of cars (lunatics we may be, but most don't have bottomless pockets), insure as a classic and skate along the edge of the use limitations, knowing you'll be dropped at the first claim, or limit yourself to the occasional weekend.

(Meanwhile, if you happen to see [redacted] or [redacted] at the grocery store, Home Depot, or somewhere near my place of work, someone told me there was going to be a car show in the parking lot.  Or I'm doing a post-maintenance test drive.  Or driving during business hours for pleasure.)

Slippery
Slippery GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/16/23 11:02 a.m.

In reply to Warlock :

I dont think any of what you wrote is true. I drove my S2000 insured by Hagerty from Florida to California via Colorado and back. I then drove that same car from Florida to the tail of the dragon twice and back. I always made sure to call Hagerty beforehand and ask, every-time they told me go for it. 

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