Mileage: 39,500 Miles
Engine: S52B32 6-Cylinder Engine
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual Transmission
Exterior color: Cosmos Black Exterior (303/9)
Interior: Black Leather Interior (N5SW)
Stewart Water Pump
Stoptech Braided Brake Lines
Pioneer AVH3500 Single Din Flip Out AV Receiver
4 Channel Amp
Original C33 BMW Stereo Included
11-Button On-Board Computer
Manual Sport Seats
Fold Down Rear Seats
Automatic Air Conditioning
17-Inch Style 39 DSII Motorsport Wheels
Continental DWS 06 Plus ExtremeContact Tires
Factory Took Kit
Time Capsule Condition
Fleece Fitted Car Cover
Extensive Recent Maintenance/Restoration
The BMW E36 (1992 to 1999 3 Series) M3 sedan is the best car for the buck—period! M3 sedans, also called M3/4/5’s in manual form (M3/4 door/5-speed), were only produced for the 1997 and 1998 model years to fill the gap between the outgoing E34 M5 and incoming E39 M5. It was revolutionary when the E36 debuted in the spring of 1991 for the 1992 model year. It was the first BMW designed by computer-aided design and a stark contrast to the traditional 3-box design language used in the E21 and E30 generation 3 series. It was such a leap forward that it still looks relevant amongst today’s modern cars. In our opinion, the sedan is the best iteration of the M3.
What makes the E36 M3 so good is that it occurred at a sweet spot of BMW evolution where power, weight, size, suspension design, reliability, and luxury all intersected. The driving experience is connected and visceral, yet offers luxuries that took other marques years to match. With only the slightest amount of talent, it is a competent platform that can easily outperform much more powerful and expensive vehicles. The ease at which it can be pushed to the limit makes it the weapon of choice in many track applications. The sedan’s extra B-pillar adds rigidity, four doors add utility, and the shorter door cards don’t suffer the de-lamination that coupes do. The population of worthy examples has been decimated by abuse, neglect, and entry-level buyers, making clean, well-cared-for examples difficult to come by.
This Cosmos Black/Black Leather 1997 BMW M3/4/5 is truly a time capsule example of an E36 M3. Its 39,500 miles are shown through many details often lost on most E36 M3s, like the softness of the leather, virtually pristine paint (a tall order for a Cosmos Black car), and the tightness of the overall package. The E36 generation didn’t age as well as others, and there is no substitute for low mileage. Factory options include Cosmos Schwarz paint over a Black leather interior, the proper 5-speed manual gearbox, manual sport seats (less weight, less to break), the 11-button on-board computer, fold-down rear seats, and 17-inch Double Spoke II (DSII) Style 39 wheels. We added a Stewart high-performance water pump with our cooling system refresh and braided StopTech brake lines with our brake fluid flush. The only other notable aftermarket additions are keyless entry and a Pioneer AVH3500 single-din flip-out AV receiver and stereo system. This upgrade is a welcome way of bringing the car’s audio and connectivity capabilities into the modern day without significantly affecting the period-correct interior due to the hide-able nature of a flip-out display. The BMW CD33 stereo is also included to preserve originality.
This M3 has a production date of November 11, 1996, and shows being imported in December of that year and sold in February of 1997 in San Francisco, California. It stayed there for the next seventeen years under two long-term owners, followed by a brief stint in Maryland under the third owner. The current owner (who we are selling on consignment for) bought it in November of 2018 36,500 miles and brought it back to the San Francisco Bay Area. Upon arrival, he did a thorough round of preventative and routine maintenance, including rear brake pads, rotors, and sensors, an oil service, battery, and a partial cooling system refresh. Over the next several years he drove it sparingly as part of a collection that also included a Berlina Black Metallic Acura NSX. Records from the current owner are included, along with the invoice for the work outlined below, prior to that, the Carfax documents the mileage and the history since original delivery.
The current owner sent it to us last year to sell, along with the NSX, and when we saw how pristine of an example it was, we got a little obsessive about making it even better. Our work included another preventative cooling system refresh (adding improved components and missing items on the previous one) consisting of a Stewart high-performance water pump, a factory thermostat and housing, along with hoses, expansion tank, cap, pulley, and bleed screws. We did fresh belts, idlers, and the air conditioning belt tensioner while we were in there. Then we addressed typical oil seeps with the valve cover gasket, VANOS oil pressure line, and all of the power steering lines. From there, we tightened up a few loose items like the shifter cup and front control arm bushings. All fluids (the coolant with the cooling system refresh), transmission fluid, differential fluid, and engine oil were flushed. We replaced the brake lines (due to age) with Stoptech braided brake lines and flushed the brake fluid. Then we sorted cosmetic items like the front splitter, windshield cowling, rear window rubber seal, front door handle gaskets, and the front hood struts. On the inside, we replaced the center (Darth Vader) vent and leather shift knob. Lastly, we replaced the tires with fresh Continental ExtremeContact DWS06 Plus tires on each corner.
As it sits, this is one of the most pristine and sorted M3/4/5s on the market. We would like to find a new owner who will continue its ownership pedigree for the next chapter of its story.
Cosmos Black Metallic is an excellent choice for an E36 M3, and the paint on this E36 M3 is exemplary. The paint is all original, with all panels gauging between 3 and 5mils, and it has withstood the test of time with only a few minor paint chips and a couple of tiny scratches to show for it. The worst are light chipping on the front bumper cover. There is no rust. The door jam VIN sticker and all VIN tags are in place, along with all warning stickers. There are no panel gap inconsistencies to be seen. All trim, black-work, and rubber seals are all accounted for, with no signs of UV fade, thanks to our refreshed cosmetic items. The glass is in great shape and crystal clear, with only the windshield showing any imperfections; the most noticeable only being a BB-sized chip near the rear-view mirror. The headlights, taillights, and indicators are all fully functional, and the lenses are in pristine condition. The DSII wheels are exceptional, except for the left front, which has light curb rashing, a larger rash, and evidence of wheel weight adhesive. They are wearing fresh Continental ExtremeContact DWS 06 Plus tires that we mounted in preparation for sale.
The interior of this vehicle is also in fantastic shape and indicative of its low mileage. The softness of the leather, in particular, is noteworthy; it is not hardened or worn as is common on the typical E36. There are no odors; it has never been smoked in. The headliner is in good shape but does sag a bit under both sun-visors (this sag is only visible when the visors are in use). We have a re-covered headliner that can be installed if desired. The pillar trim covers have no wrinkles, but there is also a tiny rip to the cloth on the driver-side A-pillar. The door cards are in great condition with no separation; however, the leather on all four armrests is lifted and loose. This is the most notable interior flaw. The steering wheel is in incredible shape, with virtually no signs of wear, and the same can be said for the dashboard. The instrument cluster and steering column with accompanying stalks and switches are also in great shape. There are no warning lights or check panel alerts. All switches for windows and locks are functional, undamaged, and show no signs of wear. Climate control blows hot and cold; the fan functions at all speeds and does not chirp. We were torn about putting the stock stereo back in, but the Pioneer stereo is a great addition adding modern functions and a backup camera. The sound quality is excellent. The original stereo is included as well. The climate control screens have no failed pixels, but the 11-button on-board computer does have a few pixelated areas. We may be able to replace or repair this prior to it leaving our hands. The center console, specifically the shifter (which has been replaced), are in pristine condition. The front seats have only slight creasing, the worst being on the driver’s outer bolsters. The back seats are pristine, sans two small indents, likely from a child seat. The trunk is also in fantastic shape, with no stains, and the factory toolkit, jack, and spare tire are complete. Two keys and keyless entry fobs are included, and the factory owners’ manual booklet is complete.
This is a turn-key M3; all common mechanical E36/S52 issues are either not present or have been preventatively addressed. We would not hesitate to drive it across the country. The S52B32 engine fires on command, idles smoothly, and pulls strongly to redline. It has no VANOS rattle or lifter knock. It does not leak, drip, or spot. The cooling system has been preventatively refreshed, along with the belts, rollers, and typical oil seep spots. The oil stand gasket and oil pan gasket will probably be next on the oil seep list, but they do not need attention at this time. The clutch and shifter are factory-crisp, as expected at this mileage; there is no 5th-gear lean. The are no driveline or wheel bearing vibrations or whine. All suspension bushings are solid, and the suspension itself is firm, yet compliant. The brakes have lots of life remaining, the rears being most recently replaced. We pay for and ensure it passes emissions in the State of Colorado.