In Reply to: Looking at 89 M3 with 173,000 miles... posted by Lester on April 27, 2001 at 00:34:13:
Get the whole car checked by a qualified shop. Have them do a compression test (180psi - 210psi, no more than 10% variation among all 4 cylinders), leakdown test (more important than compression, more than 20% means rebuild now), check: clutch wear, front subframe for cracks, all rubber bushings (esp rear subframe), emissions (CO, NOx, HC), shifter action, guibo and driveshaft, exhaust for cracks/holes/leaks, valve clearance, A/C (if that's important), heater core leaks (smell of coolant inside the car), steering rack leaks, vacuum leaks, etc, balljoints, control arms, brakes, and most importantly, RUST! On the interior, check the operation of the seats, OBC, SI lights and instruments, and blower fan.
Those are most of the expensive repairs. Most of all, DRIVE the car. Does it shimmy under braking? How do the shocks feel? Sloppy or tight? Open the oil cap. See a nice gold color, or is it brown? Brown = varnish = neglected oil changes! Does it have lots of mods? Was it a track/driver school car?
I'd say even with lots of records, it's only worth $9k unless it's spotless with great paint, no rust, all new parts, everything works, engine checks out good (for 173k miles), tranny shifts smoothly, no diff whine, leather isn't worn/torn, then you can go as high as $11k, maybe $12k. If there are lots of go fast mods, factor in about 1/10th of their actual cost. It's rare that an owner puts on coil-overs, strut brace, cams/cam gear, adjustable Konis (or worse, Tokico), camber plates, etc, without tracking the car.
I paid $8400 for mine at 167k miles, and it needed a winshield, all new front suspension, brakes all around, cap, rotor, plugs, wires, O2 sensor and muffler. It still has a slight PS pump leak, oil leaks, non-working A/C, faded wing paint (Henna) and worn leather. But it's rust free, drives like a top, runs to 7800RPM thanks to Jim Conforti, and is one of the best cars ever made for pure driving.