What to look for
Watch for corrosion afflicting the edges of the front wings, the front and rear wheelarches, and the panel around the rear lights. Check also that bubbling around the edges of the plastic body trim isn’t a sign of more serious rot beneath. Be sure to examine the bodyshell for any signs of accident damage; a thorough check of the history is strongly recommended as even smartlooking examples can be hiding all manner of crash and theft-related skullduggery. And don’t forget to look for the usual dings – especially the doors of some Evolution models, which were made from aluminium – and scuffed bumpers that signify a hard life.
NEGLECT IS COSTLY
Abused or neglected engines are financial no-nos. Mega-milers and tired track day warriors could be suffering from worn bottom ends, so listen for knocks or rumbles, and ensure that the VANOS valve-timing is healthy. Rattles or sluggish performance are signs of trouble and replacements are around £2000 each. They can, however, be overhauled with improved solenoid seals and bearings; budget around £1000 to rebuild the pair on a 3.2-litre engine.
READY FOR INSPECTION
Good service history is vital; scrutinise the paperwork and don’t just rely on the dashboard indicator lights. Expect to pay £550 for a specialist ‘Inspection 1’ service, with the bigger ‘Inspection 2’ nearer £800. Ensure that valve clearances have been checked at each service and check for oil leaks and smoke. The cooling system is a known weakness, so replacing the water pump at 60,000 miles is wise. New timing chains shouldn’t be needed on well-maintained cars.
AVOID TRANSMISSION TROUBLE
Worn second-gear synchromesh and clunks from worn mounts are the main gearbox issues. Clutches should last 50,00060,000 miles but budget around £1000 for specialist replacement, including the flywheel. Heaviness or a low biting point signifies hydraulic issues. The automated-manual SMG transmission is an acquired taste and pump failure can result in a £2000-plus bill. Lastly, listen for noises from the differential.
KEEP THE TRIM IN TRIM
Faulty electric windows, alarms and air conditioning aren’t uncommon and ensure that water hasn’t been leaking into the boot. The condition of a convertible’s hood and mechanism are paramount. It can be troublesome and sorting perished or leaking seals and failed tensioning straps won’t be cheap.
HEALTHY STOPPERS & SUSPENSION
Check brake disc and pad condition. Budget £500-600 to replace the fronts. Ensure that the ABS warning light extinguishes on start-up. Look for kerbed wheels and uneven tyre wear – the M3 is sensitive to proper alignment – plus worn bushes in the front lower control arms and rear trailing arms and failed rear damper top mounts. A full specialist overhaul will result in a
DON’T FORGET UNDERNEATH
Rust can affect the front and back ends of the sills, the box sections, the front sections of the floorpan and the jacking points. Check for rust on components underneath; rectification can be an expensive business if items such as the fuel tank and rear subframe need removing. Examine the exhaust too – is it a proper OEM part or has the owner skimped on a cheaper aftermarket system? If so, where else has he or she skimped?