SMG Equipped: 2002 BMW M3 Convertible – $18,500

by | Feb 2023 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Topless Thursday

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February 17, 2023, Update – We confirmed the seller of this “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

The BMW E46 M3 is in a place right now where it’s hovering in bargain territory – for the time being. This is not because of a fatal car flaw but because it’s in the natural downward swing of the market. Nice ones with low mileage will still set you back a decent amount, but you can find cars with good maintenance histories and clean cosmetics for comfortably under $30,000.  Our subject car falls directly into this territory, as it’s a 2002 convertible with the SMG transmission for just $18,500. We first spotted this example on Craigslist in February 2023 in Palm Beach, Florida, where it is offered for sale due to an illness in the owner’s family. Comparing that price against the Classic.com model guide shows that the seller is asking for reasonable money, as the asking price slots in just below the going rate of $20,000 for an SMG-equipped droptop.

The E46 M3 represented a rare instance of the successor to a popular generation of a loved model actually being better than the car it replaced. Particularly in the world of BMWs, wherein there were numerous instances of the younger sibling being a disappointment, such as the E21 to the 2002 and the E36 to the E30, the E46 M3 was a significant improvement over the much-loved E36 M3. The S54 inline-six was perhaps one of the finest M engines ever built. The E46 platform was still old-school enough to be considered part of the classic BMW era before the company moved heavily into turbocharged four-cylinders and largely automatic transmissions. A naturally-aspirated inline-six, excellent chassis dynamics, and a slick-shifting manual gearbox make the E46 an appealing evolution of what came before while also improving greatly on the shortcomings of the E36. While this car has an SMG, many enthusiasts have found this transmission a compelling alternative to a manual gearbox.

The MotorWeek RetroReview YouTube Channel features this test drive of the 2000 BMW Z3 to see improvements had been made over the launch model:

Despite all of its inherent goodness, the E46 M3 had one potentially fatal flaw: rod bearings. This issue is well-documented, and the local BMW dealer has already repaired many cars. You can often find examples for sale that have this work performed with the necessary receipts included to provide much-needed peace of mind. The seller of this convertible M3 doesn’t mention if this widespread issue – caused by BMW spec’ing the incorrect rod bearing sizes – has been fixed on his car, but he does explain that the tires are new, the oil has been recently changed, and the power top works flawlessly. The rod bearing issue was fixed on many vehicles under a formal recall issued by BMW, and the fact that he claims there are no open recalls on his car may indicate the work has been done. The affected M3s were made between 2001 and 2003, so this car would be eligible for work if not completed. With appealing colors and under 100,000 miles, this 2002 E46 M3 looks great to find an off-season deal on a desirable drop-top.

Here’s the seller’s description:

“Gorgeous 2002 M3 convertible with SMG Transmission. It looks and runs great.
Recent service, including transmission service, oil and filter, BRAND NEW TIRES, complete interior and exterior detail, touch-up of scratch on the front bumper, and rock chips on the hood, all within the last 20 miles.

The interior carpet is very good; the seats have no tears or rips. Original in every way. The convertible top performs as it should and goes up and down effortlessly.

No open recalls. No accidents that I’m aware of. Clean Carfax. Two keys and all manuals. Selling due to a recent illness. Open to reasonable offer.

SMG debate: is the SMG a detriment to this convertible or a potential negotiating tactic?   

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