Posts Tagged ‘s54’

S54 M Coupe vs C6 Corvette

September 2nd, 2010 1 comment

S54 M Coupe vs C6 Corvette

Taka recently purchased (stole) this beautiful black sapphire metallic 2001 M Coupe and is fortunate to also own a 2005 Corvette in millenium yellow. In his words, here’s how they compare:

The Corvette is a lot of fun to drive, but in a very different way. I think the car is more suited to use at a road course, especially if it’s not too tight, so you can really stretch the car’s legs and use that V-8 for what it’s worth. It’s definitely a lot faster than the M- having another 85 hp and only 200 lbs. would do that. My car has long tube headers, exhaust and will eventually have an intake and a tune, so I’d say it probably has a tad more than 400hp- I could feel the difference in power output even with the stock tune when I added the headers. I also never had traction issues with the stock manifolds (esp. with 305 Bridgestone RE-11), but I do now that I have the headers installed.

However, turn-in is much slower in the Corvette (the big difference in wheelbase is probably why) and you don’t get the feedback from the wheel and the seat of your pants that you do in the M- it’s more blind faith to really push the Corvette hard. It doesn’t help that the seats suck- they’re comfy on long trips but they give you zero lateral support- I’m really tempted to buy a Recaro Pole Position and use it as the normal seat so I don’t have to brace myself driving the car. The M’s seats are much more supportive- I don’t feel like I’m sliding around when I push the car a little. Note that I used to daily drive my Miata with a Recaro Profi SPG (the narrower seat compared to the Pole Position) and I’m not a skinny guy.

The exhaust note is much better in the Corvette- it sounds like thunder when you open the throttle. The BMW I-6, while being exemplary in its smoothness, has a terrible exhaust note- whatever BMW did to the S38, that engine sounds awesome. The S54 has none of that. Reminds me more of a big motorcycle engine.

The control interface is generally better in the Corvette- I find the pedal arrangement to be much better- I have a lot of trouble heel-and-toeing the M- the brake pedal and the accelerator are on a vastly different plane. The shifters in both cars suck- the Corvette shifter is heavy, imprecise and notchy (I made it even notchier and heavier switching to the MGW shifter, but a great deal more precise- I still think it shifts like a truck); the BMW shifter is very light (which is okay), has very little self-centering and the gates don’t feel precise (I’m thinking about getting a UUC Evo 3 to fix that). If you’ve driven a Miata or a S2000, you’ll know what I mean when the shifters in those cars are damn near perfect.

I also miss not having tilt and telescope adjustment in the M, as well as seat tilt, which a lot of people complain about.

With all of that, I think the M Coupe is a much more entertaining car to drive than the Corvette. I’m a little afraid that I’m not going to keep the Corvette (I’ve wanted one for years though and I’ve always wanted an American V-8 sports car) because the BMW is more involving to drive. Tactile feedback is better, the powerband is ridiculously good (I can lug it from 1500 rpm and wind it out to 7600, I don’t know any other car that can do that) and the handling is quite good (but can really be scary- this car will definitely bite you if you screw up). I doubt that I’d get rid of the Corvette, though- the only car I could think of replacing it with is a Porsche 997 GT3RS or possibly a C6 Z06 with Z07 (carbon ceramic brakes from the ZR1, shocks from ZR1, wheels and roof from ZR1).

They’re pretty much sports cars from very different perspectives and I count myself to be very fortunate to have both.

If you have a comparison to share, please send it to me at and I’ll post it.

Categories: Coupe Comparisons Tags: , , ,

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

July 28th, 2010 13 comments
2002 Steel Gray M Coupe

My New Coupe!

…And I’ve waited a long time. Since starting my search almost 6 years ago I’ve gotten married, bought a house, bought a family car (Audi A3), and had 2 kids. But the wait is almost over. Earlier today I put a deposit on the coupe pictured above. This will officially be the last post in the “My Search” category.

2002 M Coupe Interior

Imola Red Interior

My search took so long because I was so picky. Ever since seeing an M Coupe in steel gray with imola red and black interior at the 2001 Denver Auto Show, I’ve wanted that exact color combination, and only that color combination. After not seeing another one in almost 9 years, I started to grow tired of the search and started thinking of opening my search to other colors. Glenn cured me of that notion when he let me come see and later drive his coupe (see Ruined for Anything Less). I was immediately re-hooked and the search continued.

Glenn’s M Coupe only has 7,000 miles and is one of the most original and well cared for coupes out there. It also happens to be just 1 of 2 in this color combination without a sunroof. I thought very long and hard about trying to buy his, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to save up enough to give him the price he deserves for his car. We are definitely planning a photo shoot with our coupes after I get mine and before he sells his.

I came across this coupe on Sunday when checking sales listings on my phone from Lake McConaughy, NE while at a family reunion. My phone was my only source of Internet at the house we were renting, so I immediately tethered it to my laptop to make sure my eyes were not playing tricks on me. Sure enough, there was a steel gray over imola red M Coupe for sale with Colorado license plates. I called immediately to get more details and have been working on securing financing since getting back in town on Monday.

S54 Engine

S54 Engine

This coupe is literally exactly what I had in mind when starting my search (if not a little nicer). It’s a 2002 with less than 30,000 miles. It’s completely stock besides a clear bra (which I love), clear corner lights (which I would have done anyway), and “M” valve stem caps (sure, why not?). The previous owner works for Adam’s Polishes, so I know it’s been well cared for by nice products. I love how wet the paint looks in the photos; I can’t wait to see it in person.

This coupe is actually registered just 40 miles away from me in Boulder, CO. Two days before posting it for sale, the current owner shipped it to his dad’s dealership in Delaware. It will now have to make the long trip all the way back to Colorado. It probably won’t see that many miles again for some time. It’s supposed to arrive in Delaware on Friday. Gambacorta Motors will inspect it, send me the report, and then ship it back to Colorado. I probably won’t have it in my possession until at least the end of next week if not the week after. I have a feeling those 10-14 days will feel longer than the 6 years I’ve been waiting already.

I’ve had a lot of help with my search and need to give some people credit:

  • Glenn – for reigniting my search for the color combination I’ve always wanted
  • Bob – for helping put things in perspective and giving great advice in all areas of the transaction
  • Eric – for helping figure out financing and making me aware of this cars existence before it was even listed
  • Jeremy – for solid advice and helping hold me over through the years with t-shirts, bumper stickers etc.
  • Josh – for your wealth of knowledge of these cars as well as great thoughts and advice
  • MY WIFE (most of all) – for letting me spend so much time looking and being almost as excited as I am now that we’ve finally found one

You can see more information and photos of the car by clicking here.

Categories: My Search Tags: ,

Buyer’s Checklist

June 25th, 2010 10 comments

While most of us are searching for the perfect color combination, there are many other things to look for in an M Coupe. To start, look for a complete set of maintenance records, so you can judge the car’s service history and verify its mileage. You should also consider ordering a title report from AutoCheck® or Carfax to verify a clean title and make sure there are no unknown accidents in its history. A Pre-Purchase Inspection by a mechanic knowledgeable of these cars is also a must regardless of the coupe’s apparent condition and mileage. Any inspection should include the usual checks for engine compression, cosmetic flaws, body and chassis corrosion, accident damage, malfunctioning accessories, etc.

There are many things specific to the M Coupe that should be checked as well. The list below encompasses most of the common issues you should be aware of and have checked out when looking to purchase an M Coupe. It was originally compiled by wildag ( in this Bimmerforums thread. I’ve edited it to be more coupe specific and added a few of my own thoughts.  I plan on editing and adding to it as I come across more information.

Water Pump:
The water pumps on Z3s fail like clock work around 60k. If the car is over 50k, and hasn’t had the water pump replaced, expect to replace it. The usual symptom of a failing pump is a noisy bearing. I highly recommend to upgrading to a water pump with a metal impeller like the one from Stewart. Part costs ~$150 and labor is 2 hours. (Water Pumps on Ebay)

Differential Mount and Trunk Floor Welds (Subframe Failure):
This I’m sure is the issue you are probably most aware of. As far as I can tell, the problem is not as widespread as you may have been led to believe, although it could be a significant problem. The issue is commonly referred to as subframe failure which is kind of a misnomer. The Z3’s differential mount and rear trunk floor welds are prone to tearing. To inspect, remove the carpet in the trunk and look for spot welds along the back floor. These spot welds should be little flat circles. If they are sunk, or cracked, there will soon be a problem. Under the car, look at the C shaped mount to which the differential is bolted. Inspect for tears in the corners of C. Also look at the bottom of the trunk floor for signs of tearing or separation.

Randy Forbes and Dinan both have kits that strengthen the diff mount and trunk floor. These can be used as a preventative measure. A comparison of the two kits is discussed here. If the coupe you are looking at has been reinforced, it’s a really big plus.

A lot more information can be found in this Bimmerforums thread and the Z3Power Website.

Alignment Bushings and Brake Pads:
While driving the car at least 40mph, lightly hold the steering wheel and press the brakes with force. If the car swerves, or does not stop in a smooth straight line, you’ll need to inspect the following: front control arm bushings, tie rod bushings, brake pads and rotors. The control arm and tie rod bushings may be cracked or broken, causing extra “play” in the steering alignment. The brake pads and rotors may be too worn or warped.

Rod Bearing Failure (2001-2002 M Coupes):
The S54 engine in 2001-2002 M Coupes had a very significant design flaw that can be fatal to the engine. The rod bearings on the crank shaft can become misaligned, causing the crankshaft to move out of alignment. Replacing these bearings with an updated version is a permanent, but costly fix. All S54 owners should ensure that this problem has been corrected. BMW covered this problem under warranty on other models, and has been known to cover this issue on a case-by-case basis for the Z3. If purchasing an S54-engined M Coupe, check the maintenance records to see if either the bearings or entire engine have been replaced. Expect to pay $800-$1200 to have it done on your own dime.

Manual Transmission Shifting:
The manual transmission shift lever may lean to the right (5th gear) or may be difficult to put in 1st and 2nd gear. This indicates worn shift pins, most often due to excessively aggressive driving or mileage. Replacement parts cost around $100. It could also mean the 5th gear detent needs to be replaced. The transmission needs to be removed and special tools are required for either of these services. BMW does not publish service instructions for the Z3 transmission, so a seasoned transmission specialist will need to be consulted. These issues may sometimes be resolved with a simple fluid flush and change.

Slight Seat Rocking:
With hard acceleration or braking, both the driver’s and passenger’s seat may rock slightly. This is caused by two very soft rubber bushings that have deteriorated. You can order a fix it kit from Doug Whalen or find one on Ebay. It takes about 3 hours to fix both seats. (Seat Bushings on Ebay)

Dash and Center Console Lights:
The lights behind the gauge cluster and HVAC controls in the center console may burn out. The lights themselves are very cheap, but replacement can take a few hours.

Check that dash and center console lights are illuminated when the head light knob is pulled out. If they do not illuminate, try turning the head light knob in either direction. If the lights dim heavily when they’re supposed to be lit, do not have a consistent slope of illumination or are completely dark, the head light knob circuit needs to be replaced. Parts are about $90 and installation takes an hour.

A/C Control:
Check that turning the “hot/cold” HVAC knob (center) has the desired effect. If the knob turns very easily, or not at all, there’s a problem with the tension cable. If the knob moves too easily, the HVAC control may need to be replaced for about $150. If the knob doesn’t move, especially from hot to cold, the tension cable needs to adjusted; 2 hours of work.

Check that turning the fan speed knob (right) has the desired effect on all 5 settings. If the knob only works on the upper most settings, its likely that a resister in the fan control has broken. Parts cost about $30 and require 2 hours of labor.

Blown Speakers:
Check that the stereo speakers all sound normal. The subwoofer and kick-panel speakers will degrade over time. The subwoofer is very expensive to replace, but there are many aftermarket options. The kick panel speakers can be replaced easily.

Sagging, Squeaky Glovebox:
The glovebox may sag, or not align correctly when closed. This is caused by poor design of the glove box door and latch. This can be fixed for about $20, and 2 hours of work. (Glovebox Fix Kits on Ebay)

Rear Shock Mount Bushings:
The rear shock mount bushings wear quickly in spirited driving. You will hear a solid “clunking” sound inside the cabin from either side of the rear. This indicates that these bushings have worn and need to be replaced. Parts cost ~$30. While Roadster install time is around 2 hours, Coupes require disassembling almost the entire trunk carpet, and therefore takes around 3 hours. I would suggest installing Rouge Engineering Rear Shock Mounts, as they will allow much easier replacement of these bushings in the future.

Parking Brake Cable Tension:
The parking brake cable can stretch over time. This may cause the parking brake to not fully engage, and the cable may rattle against its retainer clips during normal driving. The rattling sound will appear to come from outside the car and over the driver’s left shoulder. The cable can be re-tensioned using simple tools; takes about 30 minutes to learn. In some cases, a retaining clip and spring inside the rear wheel hubs may have failed, causing the rattle. These can be replaced for ~$20 and take about 30 minutes.

Uneven Tire Wear:
Moderately uneven tire wear on all four tires is normal. The factory recommended camber and toe setup will cause this uneven wear. Tires that are heavily worn on only on one side of an axle indicate a suspension geometry problem. This may be due to sagging springs, bent arms or NASCAR circuit driving. These kinds of issues can be quite costly, and should be remedied before purchase.

Thanks again to wildag for initially compiling this list and allowing me to post it here. Please let me know if I’ve missed any other issues that M Coupe shoppers should be aware of in their search.

Pre-Production S54 M Coupes

June 19th, 2010 4 comments
2001 Estoril Blue M Coupe - Production Date: August 9, 2000

2001 Estoril Blue M Coupe - Production Date: August 9, 2000

Last week, I came across this 2001 Estoril Blue M Coupe in Richmond Hill, ON, Canada that besides its great condition and very low mileage did not appear otherwise significant. The seller makes mention that this particular car is one of twelve pre-production S54 coupes. I had never heard of such a thing and decided to see what I could find out. After some research and consulting with a couple resident coupe experts Z3Couper and JoshS, we determined that there were indeed twelve S54-engined coupes produced in 2000 starting as early as March 16, 2000. Here’s how we came to this conclusion.

JoshS remember reading a Roadfly posting about a similar car years ago and even more amazingly was able to find it again. This Roadfly posting details the purchase of LK60000: a Laguna Seca Blue over Laguna Seca Blue M Coupe with an S54 engined built on April 12, 2000. There’s a little more information about it in this Roadfly posting as well. While it has the lowest VIN number of all S54s, it appears that both LK60001 and LK60002 were produced before it in March of 2000, and LK60003 was produced two days prior on April 10, 2000. The buyer goes on to say on the CarFax  report it says it was first imported into New Jersey on January 2, 2003. The buyer thinks the car may have been sent to Germany to shake down as a pre-production unit. We’re speculating it may have always been in the U.S., but because the factory is a foreign trade zone, in order to make it sell-able, it required some special paperwork to have it “imported”. New Jersey happens to be where BMW NA is based. The buyer mentions it had never been titled before despite being almost 3 year old, so it appears that some of these cars (maybe all) were sold as CPOs directly by BMW NA once they were finished with them.

After looking through the M Coupe production data, I guessed the estoril blue coupe pictured above was VIN LK60004 (as he says it was the 5th of 12) and was later able to confirm this with the seller. It then follows with the conclusion that these twelve cars are VINs LK60000-LK60011. Here’s they are:

  • LK60000 – April 12, 2000
    Laguna Seca Blue over Laguna Seca Blue
  • LK60001 – March 29, 2000 (Canadian Version and sunroof-delete)
    Titanium Silver over Black
  • LK60002 – March 16, 2000 (sunroof delete)
    Imola Red over Dark Beige
  • LK60003 – April 10, 2000 (sunroof delete)
    Steel Gray over Kiwi (?)
  • LK60004 – August 9, 2000 (Canadian Version and the car pictured)
    Estoril Blue over Estoril Blue
  • LK60005 – August 18, 2000
    Titanium Silver over Black
  • LK60006 – August 29, 2000 (Canadian Version)
    Steel Gray over Kiwi (?)
  • LK60007 – September 5, 2000
    Imola Red over Imola Red
  • LK60008 – August 29, 2000 (sunroof delete and 1 of 1)
    Laguna Seca Blue over Dark Beige
  • LK60009 – August 30, 2000
    Steel Gray over Imola Red (!)
  • LK60010 – September 11, 2000
    Steel Gray over Imola Red (!)
  • LK60011 – September 15, 2000
    Black Sapphire over Dark Gray

There are a few interesting things to note about this particular group of cars:

  • First, they were all built before the restart of coupe production on February 12, 2001 after a 5 month hiatus between S52 and S54 models.
  • It’s absolutely confirmed that 2 of them have S54s and are considered 2001 model year cars, and they all have model year 2001 VINs ending in 1LK60xxx.
  • 7 of the 12 have paint colors only available in S54 cars yet are not marked as special orders like the S52 coupe in steel gray for example.
  • The only 2 coupes with Kiwi interior are in the list. Perhaps this was a color they were considering offering then changed their mind.
  • The list includes 2 of the 23 steel gray over imola red coupes I would love to have one of.
  • The list includes the only Laguna Seca Blue over Dark Beige Oregon coupe.
  • LK60004 appears to have (as far as I can tell from the photos) all the S54 coupe upgrades as outlined in my article “Year Makes All the Difference“, but it is unknown if any of the other cars were fully upgraded or have some combination of available options (or potentially never publicly available options). There’s a mention of LK60000 perhaps not having chrome shadow wheels, having flat rather than the later curved badges, black rather than chrome trimmed rear-view mirror, and relocation of the AC and recirclating  switches.

I guess there really is always something new to learn. If you own any of these cars, I would love to hear what you know about their history and any interesting trim pieces or options. Finally, if you’d like to own one of these very special cars, details of the car pictured above can be found here.

Update: I’m starting a list of the cars that I can confirm made it to the public. Let me now of any others you know about.

Here Today, Gone…Today

June 17th, 2010 10 comments
2002 BMW M Coupe

2002 BMW M Coupe - $21,998

Pictured above is the first coupe I ever actually tried to buy in my 5 years of searching (click here for more photos). My 5 week-old daughter woke me up at 5:30 this morning, and I decided to drag myself out of bed. Before starting work, I did my morning nationwide M Coupe search and this car came up at a CarMax near Los Angeles. I immediately called them knowing they obviously would not be open at 4:30 AM local time, but deals like this on a car I want, do not come up often and I wanted to get my name in first. I left a message on my first call, sent an email through their website, then proceeded to call every 15 minutes to half hour until the store closer to me in Colorado Springs opened at 9 AM.

I had never dealt with CarMax before as the Colorado Springs store is 2+ hours away, and I honestly didn’t know it was even there. I primarily just had questions about their inspection, warranty, etc. and didn’t want to wait until the California store opened to ask them. After all, I had already been staring at the photos, looking for flights, planning my route home, and not getting any work done for 3.5 hours. The guy I talked to informed me about CarMax’s ability to do transfers between stores because CarMax is not franchised but has one parent company. He also enlightened me to the fact that if you purchase a car from a dealer in California, you pay sales tax to California whether or not you’re going to register it there. In essence, you would be paying sales tax twice. He said the transfer fee would be far less than paying California sales tax (not true, see comments below). Now that I was convinced I should have it transferred rather than flying out to get it, he put in the transfer request which was then immediately rejected because the car was non-transferable. CarMax did not have the title in hand yet, and Colorado consumer protection laws won’t let dealers sell you a car without a title. He said to wait until the dealer selling it opened and talk to them directly if I was willing to fly out and buy it in person.

I continued to try the California dealer’s number every 15 minutes until someone finally picked up. Somehow the salesman I talked to (who said he was one of 50 there), had already had 2 calls on it before me. One of which was from Cincinnati who I immediately knew was Enthusiast Auto. I told him I had cash and could fly out tomorrow to come get it. He started to put in my order but said someone had already put in a transfer request to Ohio. I told him I had tried to do the same thing a while earlier but was told it was non-transferable. He said it shouldn’t be able to be transferred and would talk to their business department and tell them he had a cash buyer. He also said that his particular CarMax didn’t sell to dealers which gave me a little hope. After quite a bit of back and forth and a call to the business department directly, I learned that Ohio allows transfers without title, the Cincinnati dealer opened 2 hours before mine and his formal transfer request was slightly before mine, they do “sometimes” sell to other dealers, and the car was sold.

What I learned:

  • Sometimes you can be prepared, get an early start, do everything you can do, and still not be able to get the car you want.
  • CarMax sales people are very helpful and informative (although not completely truthful) when they have a car they think they can sell to you but lose interest quickly.
  • CarMax does not know how to handle cars that generate nationwide interest.
  • It’s not the time you first call or email, but when you actually get a hold of someone and put in a formal request to buy a car that matters.
  • Consumer protection laws sometimes only protect you from the car you’ve been seeking for years.
  • CarMax buyers on the East Coast have a large advantage when looking for cars on the West Coast. I’m not sure if in the future I can call an Eastern time zone dealer and put in a transfer request then have the transfer request switched to my dealer later? I have a feeling I’ll never have another opportunity to find out.
  • Steel gray over gray at the right price, can make me compromise on my search for steel gray/imola. I’m not sure any other color combination could, and I don’t see a deal like this ever happening again.

I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Life goes on. The search continues…

Categories: My Search Tags: , ,

Victim of the Coupe Cartel?

May 24th, 2010 1 comment

M Coupe CartelMany people have noticed that the two M Coupes in the color combination I want happen to be by far the highest priced. Bad luck? Ironic twist? Or victim of a conspiracy? The so called “Coupe Cartel” was specifically created for coupes such as these. The cartel believes M Coupe prices should start at $60,000 and seems to have succeeded with these two. Here’s where it all started…


According to an inside source, the cartel originated on the Roadfly forums in November 2002 with a group of original S54 M Coupe owners. The concept was pitched by “Polar Bear” (Neal Zimmers who ironically owned a 1999 with the S52 engine), it was later named by “marauder” (Chaz the creator of, it was seconded by “MDork” (who created Dorkfest), and the price point was suggested by “dp” (Dennis Palatov of and The pitch went something (exactly) like this:

I was thinking (dangerous habit) there’s few enough S54 M coupes that will a little work, the owners could collude on prices and try and bring the resale value up…….

there’s what, maybe 500-600 S54 coupe owners?

And so it began…  This small group had no idea the far reaching effects this one innocent thread would have, and the impact it would have on this poor M Coupe lover almost 8 years later.

The original thread can be viewed here.

The Coupe Cartel Today

M Coupe T-Shirt at Mara's Birth

The cartel pricing policies are pushed today by many coupe owners including all E36/8 coupes – Z3 and M. Many not even knowing the true history. One of the most ardent promoters of the cartel philosophy is “Z3Couper” (Jeremy) who owns You may have noticed his silver coupe he sold last fall for $17,750 still posted on AutoTrader at the cartel price of $60,000. He only recently formally joined the cartel with the purchase of a beautiful 2002 Laguna Seca Blue coupe, but that hasn’t kept him from quickly rising through the ranks. He uses his cartel site for vile deeds like designing beautiful M Coupe t-shirts and wall vinyls for the coupe community. One of which I wore recently when my daughter was born (thought she should be introduced to the coupe early). He’s currently offering a cool “Coupe Cartel” vinyl sticker. Check it out:

Coupe Cartel Sticker

Coupe Cartel Vinyl Sticker

Am I Truly a Victim?

Having seen the Colorado coupe in person, I would be hard-pressed to say it’s worth much less than asking. I will say it will take the right type of buyer. One who is willing to pay the same type of money for a coupe as he could also get a late model Porsche 996 Turbo, Lotus Esprit, Lotus Exige, C6 Corvette Z06 or even some Ferrari F355s. I would be that type of buyer…if I had the cash. I think the coupe will age better than some, is more practical than others, cheaper to maintain than most, and can be just as fun to drive.

Despite it’s very suspicious price of $59,995, I have seen no evidence of collusion in the price of he M Coupe listed in California. The seller also owns a Cosmos Black over Imola Red S52 coupe that he daily drives. The car listed is his fun car and I think he’s only listing it for the price he’d be willing to let it go for.

And that’s the real story of the Coupe Cartel. Obviously no collusion has ever happened, it’s just that very few people are willing to leave the cartel once they own a coupe. $60k may not be what their car is worth or what they could realistically be able to sell their car for, but it is what their car is worth to them. I can’t hold that against them. I’ve heard of coupe owners insuring their cars for as much as $100k just because that’s the consolation they would need should something happen to their prized coupes, and more than one has said his kids can try to pry his coupe out of his cold, dead hands. I, for one, know I will one day be a proud member of the Coupe Cartel.

So if you ever run into a high-priced coupe and hear it referred to as “cartel pricing”. You now know what they mean.

I’d like to thank “JoshS”, one of the very first coupe owners, for being my not so confidential source.

Categories: My Search Tags: ,

My Unicorn

May 4th, 2010 Comments off

While I’ve looked at a lot of cars over the years and have always stayed faithful to my initial search to find a steel gray with imola red interior M Coupe, there is one car that may make me stray.  No, not one color combination, one car.  That’s why it’s called a “unicorn”.  It’s a fabled creature that you know is out there somewhere, but the chances of seeing it are slim to none.  My unicorn is the one and only 2002 alpine white over imola red coupe that just so happens to be a sunroof-delete.

After seeing an M Roadster in this color combination on Ebay a few years ago, I was intrigued.  There were seven coupes sold in this color combination.  Five of them are S52 cars, one was built in 2001, and the last is VIN 5UMCN93422LK61273.  If anyone knows any information about this car (or any of the others), I’d be curious.  I am far from having the money to buy a car that’s not for sale but to me it’s a cool part of coupe history, and I’m always hopeful when I seen an alpine white S54 come up for sale.

What’s your unicorn?

Categories: My Search Tags:

Year Makes All the Difference

May 4th, 2010 2 comments

In the four short years of BMW M Coupe production, there were essentially 3 different versions produced (6 if you count right hand drive and differentiate the European S54).  The first and most common is the North American S52-engined car.  Produced in 1999 and 2000, these cars produce 240hp and 236 lb/ft of torque.  This is the same engine as found in North American versions of the 1996-1999 E36 M3.   Europeans – as they did with their version of the E36 M3 – were offered the 321hp, 258 lb/ft S50 engine.  For 2001 and 2002, both North America and Europe received the 315hp S54 engine from the 2001-2006 E46 M3.

Model Year 2000

While the drivetrain carried over to the model year 2000 cars, a number of other changes were made beginning in cars produced after April 1999.  These include:

Exterior Color Changes

  • Discontinued
    • Arctic Silver Metallic
    • Boston Green Metallic
  • Added
    • Titanium Silver Metallic
    • Oxford Green II Metallic

Other Changes

  • Chrome slats added to front kidney grilles
  • Chrome surrounds added to headlights
  • Fuel door added to central locking system
  • Airbags upgraded to two-stage
  • Smaller chrome trimmed mirror with auto-dimming function added
  • “Coupe” detail removed from door sill (“M” remained)

Model Year 2001

The 2001 model year (cars produced after February 2001) brought the new S54 engine as mentioned above as well as an additional round of upgrades. These include:

Exterior Color Changes

  • Discontinued:
    • Evergreen
    • Dakar Yellow II
    • Cosmos Black Metallic
  • Added
    • Laguna Seca Blue
    • Phoenix Yellow Metallic
    • Steel Gray Metallic
    • Black Sapphire Metallic

Interior Color Changes

  • Discontinued:
    • Evergreen and Black Nappa Leather
    • Kyalami Orange and Black Nappa Leather
  • Added:
    • Laguna Seca Blue and Black Nappa Leather
    • Kiwi and Black Nappa Leather (never officially offered in North America)

Other Changes

  • 3.15:1 differential replaces 3.23:1
  • Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) replaces Automatic Stability Control plus Traction (ASC+T)
  • Tire pressure monitoring system added
  • Gray faced gauges replace black
  • Exterior “M” badges now curved rather than flat
  • Chrome shadow finish for the RoadStar wheels replaces satin chrome finish

Model Year 2002

  • In-dash CD player becomes standard in place of now optional cassette player

Chrome on the headlight pull knob, interior door pulls, and door lock buttons seemed to come and go at random throughout the model run.  It is not indicative of model year. (Thanks Josh)

Video Reviews

May 1st, 2010 Comments off

Top Gear

Top Gear has always been one of my favorite shows.  So if you have ever wondered what Jeremy Clarkson thought about the S50-engined M Coupe, watch this video.  Hint: “handling…perfection”.

Here’s the full version that the clip above is taken from including the S50 M Coupe beating the STI and Evo VI in a drag race around 1:15:

Tiff Needell also drove it back when he was still on Top Gear:

Fifth Gear

Tiff Needell of the other British car show Fifth Gear also test drove an S50 M Coupe. Here are his thoughts:

Motor Week

While not as entertaining is its British counterparts (and slightly critical of the “compromised” styling), this Motor Week test of an S52-engined M Coupe is very informative.  I thought it was interesting that their test cars were a silver sunroof-delete and a pretty rare evergreen/evergreen.

Auto Motor und Sport

Dont’ worry, it’s in English. This test is of a European S54 model and highlights some of the difference between the new 2001 model vs the 1999s and 2000s.

My Perfect M Coupe

April 30th, 2010 Comments off
M Coupe at Red Rocks

Glenn’s M Coupe at Red Rocks

The 1999-2002 M Coupe is one of the most polarizing designs ever released by BMW.  Both M Coupe lovers and haters will boast or disparage that it was designed by engineers not stylists.  With nicknames like “Clown Shoe”, “Breadvan”, and “Elf Hearse” even the most serious M Coupe owner has to have a sense of humor.   While it has many detractors styling-wise, you would be hard-pressed to find one complaining about the drive.

I, for one, was immediately taken by the design when it was shown at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show.  It was purposeful and curvy, striking yet classic, and caught my eye like few designs ever have before.  Thirteen years later I think it has stood the test of time like few others.  The M Coupe is styled so uniquely and without any of the design trends of its era that it looks just as modern today as it did then.  When I find my perfect M Coupe, I don’t plan on getting rid of it through any means other than my will.  I know because of its uniqueness, it will still be looking good many years in the future.

In early 2001, a guidance counselor at my high school purchased a silver 2001 Z3 Coupe.  It wasn’t an M, but still had all the curves I’d come to love.  Each day driving up to the parking lot, I would look to see if it was there and would park accordingly.  I always looked for excuses to walk by it.  I had a chance to talk to Mr. Graham one day after track practice and he was surprised that I knew everything about his car.  He promised one day he would let me drive it.  Months later, when the weather improved, I got my chance.  At the time, the only manual transmission I had ever driven was my grandpa’s pickup through an Iowa cornfield.  In the days leading up to the “big day” I drove several of my friends cars just to refresh my skills, so I wouldn’t embarrass myself in the coupe.  Well, it didn’t drive like my grandpa’s truck, nor any of my friends’ cars.  While my friends Geo Metro took a firm right foot just to get it up and moving, I had to be light on the gas pedal in the coupe.  I successfully pulled out of the school parking lot without an embarrassing stall.  I turned on to the country road that ran away from the school looking for some wide open spaces.  I babied the car for a while until we came to the end of the road and turned around.  Then Mr. Graham told me to stop babying it and punch it.  That was when I decided I had to have one someday.

The Denver Auto Show in March 2001 introduced me to the color Steel Gray that was offered starting in 2001.  While I liked the silver on Mr. Grahams’ car, Steel Gray was a much deeper color. It was also going to be more rare as it was only offered for two years.  The 2001 cars also brought the 315hp S54 engine from the E46 M3.  1999 and 2000 cars have the 240hp S52 engine from the E36 M3.  The topper was the display car’s black and Imola Red two-tone interior.  I knew then I had found my dream car.  While some might argue such an eye-catching car deserves an eye-catching color like Phoenix Yellow or Laguna Seca Blue, when I’m in the purchase for the long haul, I want a color I’m not going to get tired of.  The excitement is in the design itself and the beautiful Imola Red interior.

M Coupe Show Car

Since that time over 9 years ago, I’ve been in pursuit of this color combination.  I always knew this color combination would be a challenge to find, only recently did I learn just how hard it might be.  There are only 23 ever sold in North America in these colors.  At this time, I’ve only seen four come up for sale. The first came up for sale while I was still in college and did not have the funds, nor the garage to store it in.  The next popped up the day my son was born.  Yes, I was looking for M Coupes from my wife’s hospital room…they were both sleeping.  While it was a decent price, it was in Ohio.  Some things will always be more important than any car, so I let it go in order to spend that important time with my family.  It was soon sold.  The next was listed on Christmas Eve 2009.  At first I thought God had given me the perfect Christmas gift.  Not only was it my colors, it had 18,000 miles and is a sunroof-delete (1 of only 2).  The problem came when I saw the price…$59,995.  A month later, the other Steel Gray/Imola sunroof-delete coupe came on the market, and this one was only 50 miles away.  It seemed meant to be.  It only had 7,000 miles and was showroom stock.  And while a relative bargain, was priced at $49,500.  It’s just my luck that the only two cars I had seen in years in the color combination I had pursued were priced $15k and $25k more than any other M Coupe currently for sale (but worth every penny).  Both are still for sale, so visit my sponsors and help me buy one.

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