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2003 M3 with 196k miles for $7500? Sure, why not... After months of unsuccessfully searching for a "clean" E36 M3, I saw this 2003 M3 pop up for sale on m3forum.net, located somewhat locally in Las Vegas (I'm in SoCal). I didn't really look into an E46 M3 as I was wanting a car that was more modern than the 1987 E30 325is I was moving up from but with less issues than an E46 M3, which a E36 M3 would have fit perfectly. But sometimes the right opportunity falls right in front of you and you just have to go for it... At first look, this M3 checked all the right boxes. One family owned (father sold it to his son), 6 speed, relatively unmolested mechanically (except for some Ground Control/Koni Street/School coilovers), valves adjusted recently, rod bearing service performed, and supposedly an uncracked rear subframe mount. But the bad was it had not been garaged while it lived in the desert climate of Las Vegas so the clearcoat was peeling in several location, lots of paint chips, exterior plastic trim parts were melting/crumbling/fading, and the leather seats were dried out. Oh, there was 196k miles on the odometer. After consulting with my M3-knowledgeable friends (thankfully there's a large M3 support base here in SoCal) and getting the OK that it was worth a look (and what to look for when I was there), I contacted the seller and set up an date to meet and test drive it. I had earned a few free car rental days to use from all the traveling I did for work, so I used one of those free days for this little trip. Stopped by the bank for some cash and headed off on a 4 hour drive solo trip to Las Vegas. Met up with the sellers (who were very nice) and went over the car and its history. They had the car on jackstands when I arrived so I was able to look all over and below the car. No visible signs of any cracks on the subframe mounts, so that was very good news (cracks still possible under the bushings though). Test drove the car and it felt strong. No overheating in the 100+degF summer heat. No strange noises heard during the test drive, though the clutch needed replacing. The cosmetics did look as bad as the pictures depicted. But most importantly, the car was mechanically sound. I offered $7000 and they accepted. After dropping off the rental car at McCarran and saying goodbye to the sellers, I set off for home at around 9PM in my new-to-me 2003 M3. I cruised steadily at 80+ with no issues, coolant temp holding steady. It was a long boring drive back through the pitch black desert but I was ecstatic on my drive back, excited I now owned an E46 M3 (and mixed with a little adrenaline from what one does with a M3 on a road in the desert in the middle of the night :D).
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