Courtesy of Auctions America
Chassis number: 5UMCN93462LK61096
  • S54, 3.2-liter, 315-hp 6-cylinder engine
  • 5-speed manual gearbox
  • One of 678 with this engine
  • One of two with factory sunroof deleted
  • 21,000 miles on the odometer
  • Imola Red paintwork
  • Comes from a climate-controlled private collection
The BMW M coupe was built to be a German masterpiece — to perform and handle better than most sports cars on the road. The purpose behind creating an M Coupe was to increase the rigidity of the much-loved Z3 roadster. After this new project was approved, a stipulation of making it cost effective was given to the engineers. To meet this goal, many of the body panels are shared with the Z3 roadsters, making many body components interchangeable between the roadster and coupe. In 2001, the BWM M Coupe got an engine transplant. This engine was the same one that was used in the E46 BMW M3. The engine is a DOHC S54, 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder engine that is equipped with an iron block, aluminum head and a Siemens MSS 54 engine control system that features port fuel injection. Power produced was 315 brake horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque, a great improvement from the previous years. Backing the engine was a smooth-shifting 5-speed manual gearbox. The M Coupe could reach 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and reach its governed top speed of 162 mph in no time at all. The M Coupe was produced in small numbers for the U.S. market that equate to 2,180 built with the S52 engine and 678 with the S54 engine. U.S. production cars totaled 2,870, while 3,433 M coupes were built for the European market.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe
Years Produced:1999–2002
Number Produced:2,858
Original List Price:$46,000
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $13,800; high sale, $57,185
Tune Up Cost:$500
Chassis Number Location:In engine bay on right-side strut tower
Engine Number Location:Top of engine block nearest firewall
Club Info:BMW Car Club of America
Alternatives:1999–2004 Porsche 996, 2000–06 Audi TT RS, 1993–98 Toyota Supra Turbo
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 125, sold for $53,900, including buyer’s premium, at Auctions America’s Hilton Head Island, SC, auction on November 5, 2016.

You won’t find many fence sitters when it comes to BMW’s 1999–2002 M coupe. According to detractors, the boxy coupe roofline looks like something a drunken executive scrawled onto a photo of the Z3 roadster with a Sharpie. The Germans derisively called the design Turnschuh — “Sports Shoe.”

But to its fans, the coupe’s shooting-brake design delivers the same chassis-stiffening benefits that accrued to previous coupes, such as the venerable MGB GT. The M Coupe combines surprising interior space with the best of BMW performance and reliability. The fact is if you think the coupe is an ugly duckling, you’ll only have to look at it briefly as it blows your doors off.

This car is often known as a Z3 M Coupe, but BMW simply named it the M Coupe. The car was indeed based on the Z3 roadster in its chassis and driveline, but BMW purists will tell you it’s technically an E36/8, a unique designation. The hatchback coupe design made the unibody chassis 2.7 times stiffer than the roadster, and BMW put its hottest engines of the day into the M Coupe.

Engine S&M

In a paradox of product nomenclature, normal BMW engines are designated with M, but the high-performance M cars use engines designated as S. The first European versions of the M Coupe built from 1996 to 1999 got the super-hot S50 engine rated at 317 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This engine was the first to feature BMW’s VANOS variable cam timing on both sticks. But unless you find a gray-market car to buy, that’s just trivia to impress your friends at track day.

M coupe imports to the U.S. and Canada started in 1999, and the cars were equipped with the U.S.-spec 3,152-cc S52 engine, detuned to just 240 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The S52 offered VANOS only on the intake cam. This is the same engine featured on the U.S.-bound E36-chassis M3 sedans of the same era. When the M3 moved up to the new E46 platform and the S54 engine, the M Coupe engine was also upgraded.

The S54 engine was introduced for the 2001–02 M Coupes, and it brought European performance to the American model. Displacement was bumped to 3,246 cc, and VANOS was applied to both camshafts. The S54 engine yielded 315 horsepower and 269 pound-feet in U.S. trim.

The other thing to know is that you’ll only find a 5-speed manual transmission in an M Coupe. There were no boulevard cruisers made. If you don’t want to pull your own gears, you’ll have to get the roadster.

Just a few to choose from

Over four years of production, just 2,858 M Coupes were built for North America. That’s about half of total production. A total of 2,180 of the early S52 models came over in 1999 and 2000, and just 687 of the S54 models in 2001–02. You can measure those numbers against about 10,000 Z3 M Roadsters and somewhere around 30,000 ordinary Z3 roadsters imported in the same era.

However, for such a small production run, it’s surprisingly easy to track down M Coupes for sale. Prices vary based on mileage, condition and original equipment. In essence, you should treat an M Coupe as a collectible — but recognize that the seller may still be treating it as a used car. Remember that used cars hit their lowest values at about 15–20 years old — which is right now for the M coupes. Then they trend back upwards or head for the junkyard.

Our subject sale, however, is not simply a used car. This is a pristine, well-kept car from a collection. With just 21,000 miles on the clock, everything is in as-new condition.

The Imola Red color suits the nature of the car, and omitting the sunroof only makes it better. A sunroof increases weight, reduces chassis stiffness, and offers a place to leak in wet weather.

The seller had this car on the market early in the year with an asking price of $77,988 — and then tried to auction it at Monterey. But bidders failed to meet reserve in Monterey, and so it sold this November at Hilton Head.

The original MSRP of this car would have been right around $46,000. At a sale price of $53,900, that’s hardly keeping up with inflation. Most 1999–2000 examples are currently trading in the low $20k range — at used-car prices. Comparable 2001–02 low-mileage M Coupes have traded as high as $55,000, so this sale is representative and not a new high-water mark.

I’ll call this car well sold and well bought.

The seller got about as much as possible, and the buyer spent appropriate money on a truly spectacular car that is sure to rise in value. That rising value is not contingent on keeping the car under wraps, either. This is a car that the new owner should not be afraid to drive and enjoy. Just keep it insured for an appropriate sum. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Auctions America.)

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