To Modify Or Not? This M3 Might Have The Answer

We’ve all been there, searching for that unicorn of collectable cars that has both rarity and purity.

The thing with collectable cars though is that everyone wants a slice. Most proper classics are over 20 years old and have been around the traps with more than one lover. Some lovers are less gentle than others.


You might get lucky and find something with zero or minimal modifications. Perhaps it has only shared its driver’s seat with one or two careful guardians and still has all its original carpets intact. Those are the cars with untapped purity. Sometimes they’ll even still have the factory plastic wrapping on the door sills and an unused factory spare tyre in the boot.


Those unmolested specimens also come with a hefty price tag. ‘One careful owner’, if true, can be the difference between a house re-mortgage and the steal of the century.

If you do find something special in near-original condition though, how far would you go with the modifications? Of course, it’s going to depend what car it is, its rarity, and what those modifications are.


You could be the opposite kind of masochist though, looking for something ragged and abused to either enjoy it as is, or painstakingly restore it to its former beauty.

Aside from the act of owning a classic and enjoying it, there’s an annoying monetary element to contemplate too. And some of those are scarier than others.


If you can’t help but customize your rare or classic car, then how far should you go before you resign to the ‘I’ll never get my money back so I’ll just keep it forever’ point? I’m not talking about resto-modding in the way of Singer or Alfaholics, because there’s definitely a value added to the car in those instances. I’m more talking about getting your local garage to fit a roll cage and roll the fenders on your Ferrari 250 GTO (for argument’s sake).

I’m not saying that the E30 M3 is a super-rare car in the same league as a 250 GTO, because obviously they’re leagues apart, but with only around 16,000 examples of BMW ’80s homologation special ever built, they’re definitely in the ‘in demand’ basket.


These days, genuine E30 BMW M3s are selling for silly prices. On Japan’s Goo-net Exchange website there’s only one for sale, a convertible in blue that’s listed for the equivalent of US$122K. There’s a Targa rally-prepped M3 in Australia for around US$95K, and the rest are priced upwards of US$110K. Average E30 M3 sold prices on Bring A Trailer seem to be a little lower, but low-mile examples in original condition are still fetching the highest hammer prices.


The other option of course is to buy a sister model of that desirable car and build a replica. There are plenty of cars that share their chassis with high-production models which can be bought for a fraction of the price. In contrast to a genuine E30 M3, you can pick up an E30 320i coupe for around £6,000 (approximately US$8,300) in the UK. The cheapest two-door E30 coupe I could find on Goo-net, a 325i, was the equivalent of US$27K.

There are surely bargains to be found, but after those prices I’ll let you grab a box of tissues and have a quick look at Instagram reels of puppies playing with ducklings to bring your equilibrium back to the bright side.


The owner of this Madlane-built E30 M3 obviously wanted something with a bit of attitude and a custom modified vibe. Those are generally not words that go easily with ‘priceless classic’ or ‘£70K+’. When owners start cutting holes in original carpets to make way for roll cages, or modifying steering racks and suspension components beyond salvation, those things definitely affect the value of a rare and collectable car. Basically, anything that can’t be reversed is a big no-no if an investment is your first priority.


Previously, the M3 had been stashed away by a well-known Japanese racing driver in a storage unit near Fuji Speedway. The paint was in a bad way, but luckily the interior still looked brand new. In other words, it was perfect for a resto-mod.


The engine is a stock M3-spec S14 unit, but outside there are some tasty updates including carbon fiber DTM aero and an M3 EVO-style front spoiler. Custom 17-inch wheels featuring Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary model centers complete the look.


Looking inside, the rear seat has been removed, and a roll cage is fitted along with new custom carpets and bucket seats. Who doesn’t love a Momo Prototipo steering wheel and CAE shifter, either.

I really love the black and tan combination, which ties in so nicely with the new exterior.


The exterior colour chosen for this German classic is actually a Suzuki kei car hue. Not only does it help it fly under the radar but also means that any body shop can access paint if any repairs are needed. I think it works fantastically.

Full custom paint jobs and body kits are probably right on the cusp of being irreversible. If the car’s original paint needs a respray, then choosing a custom colour is probably OK, considering the factory paint colour can always be applied again to maintain purity. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to the rules and loads of people (especially those whose pockets are deep) will modify their priceless classics however they see fit.


Personally, I’ve never driven an E30 M3, but countless reviews will tell you that in stock form they aren’t as good as they look. That’s probably true of so many cars from the ’80s era.

So is it worth keeping a car like this stock? Isn’t a faster, better-handling version better than the original? I think you’ll agree that in this case, tasteful modifications contribute towards an E30 M3 that absolutely is better than stock. Don’t agree? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Toby Thyer
Instagram _tobinsta_



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Beautiful specimen and solid read! I struggled with this decision on my 1 of 1 AMG wagon as well.



I think you've mastered this remote camera lark, Toby. Wow.


These were shot hand held Paddy, but shooting the 22B I used the rig!


Well, to answer your question i have a very simple method that i use it myself and not only in car related decisions: ask yourself "why not?"
As a simple example: i searched for a sepcific car for 5 years and finally got it. why not pampering it on the non perfect mountantious roads near home? because these roads are the only reason i started my search in the first place. Why i push only to my limits and not the car's limit or try harder extending my limits? i'm affraid of an accident that will result in another long hunt for a new chassis.


Cool article and great car, and the 7th picture in the story of the E30 coming around the corner stood out to me and looks awesome. Great job!


I think that’s my fav shot too. Cheers!


To Modify or Not? That is the question
And that E30 looks so nice I love the wheels!


Except for this shifter its awesome.


The shifter is more or less the best you can buy and once you use one you do not want any other shifter. The problem is, that the engine looks to be totally stock. They are quite wimpy by modern standerts and can be greatly improved with a dtm style intake manifold, modern day igniation ...


Hopefully the owner will match power to looks in the future.



Like the car except for the clear taillights. My mechanic has an original E30 M3 that the previous owner "rolled" over and crushed the roof. He restored the whole car
It is nice. White with black interior. Engine compartment is cleaner than a washing machine. And he's got BBSes on it. But they weren't that powerful you're right. Still a very cool car.


if you buy a sporty classic to actually drive it, then it is nothing bad to change at least suspension,brakes & tires


Absolutely! bolt on mods make little difference to this question.


Okay, so this is absolutely no where in the same league - my Nissan 180sx I've been building for the 3 and a bit years was something of a dog. I've sunk an awful lot of time and money into it, which arguably is a pointless exercise considering it's not the cleanest example - However from my point of view I have saved a car that was destined to be scrap. I've done everything I can to the best of my ability and now have the car I have always wanted to own; modified in the way I wanted it modified without the guilt of cutting up a clean example. Yes it is only an s13, however being realistic, like every car after a certain age it is becoming and will be at some point, rare.


Sounds like you could have gone either way- restored it back to clean original condition, or just keep modifying/cutting it up in your own vision. If you’ve no intention of selling it then either way works! Thanks for the msg!