Maintaining this website, I obviously come across a lot of coupes. Most of the time I can just admire them from afar, but this time things worked out differently. For quite some time Rick Medeiros on the east coast, Mark Rand on the west coast, and I, here in Colorado, have thrown around the idea of buying a coupe with potential, helping said coupe realize it's potential, then finding a deserving owner to take it from there and enjoy it. The idea is not necessarily to make a lot of money, it's more about taking the opportunity to feed an obsession, learn more about the coupes we love by doing projects our coupes don't require, fully sorting nice drivers' cars for fellow enthusiasts and hopefully not losing money in the process. A couple weeks ago, we found just such a coupe and took the plunge.
The story of this coupe is an interesting one. It all started when I saw a post about someone having spotted a "Z3 hardtop" with a for sale sign in Jacksonville, FL. You never really know what people could mean, but I PMed the original poster and asked if he had taken any photos just in case. He texted me some photos which confirmed it was indeed an M Coupe, and the for sale sign in the photos had a phone number on it. We decided to call and were pleased to find out the owner was a military officer (in my experience, they always seem to have well maintained cars). He had owned the car for about 3 years and purchased it in North Carolina.
Photos from Original Seller
So what do you look for when buying a coupe sight-unseen? First, we decided to run a Carfax report to confirm its history. It showed a clean title and no reported accidents. It also confirmed that it had been in North Carolina 3 years before. Everything checked out. It was a little light on reported service records, but most independent shops don't report, so that's not necessarily unexpected. The good news was that it had spent the first 11.5 years of it's life in warm, dry New Mexico and Arizona. This is always a plus because you can be pretty sure it never had to deal with salted winter roads or salty sea air.
The next thing I usually do is Google the VIN number just to see what comes up. Most of the time, it's just brings up bmwmdata.com or my site, and that was the case with this search. Every once in a while I come across a warning on a forum of an unreported accident or a listing on an insurance salvage auction site though, so it's always worth checking.
Finally, I put the VIN into my own system. I started my M Coupe Buyers Guide site a little over 3 years ago, so I figured I must have had this coupe's previous listing in my database. Indeed I did, but I was disappointed by what I found. If you've been following the coupe market for a while, you've probably heard of ES Motorsports in Greensboro, NC. They do not have the best reputation, and they've sold some questionable cars over the years. This coupe happened to be one of theirs. We asked the seller about it, and he was aware of their reputation. He said he had done an independent inspection before purchasing it. He also pointed out that he had 3 years and nearly 25,000 miles trouble free since that time. Fair point. He then promised (with the word of a military officer) that we would not be disappointed. We took his word for it and bought it.
The next step was determining which one of us we should ship it to: Rick was closest, Mark had arguably the best market, and I split the difference. I guess I won the lottery this time :-). We used UZ Auto Trans Inc. out of Denver which got the car to us in great shape and remarkably fast (at least compared to my previous experience). In any case, I would definitely use them again in the future. It was not quite the same as when my coupe arrived, but it's never a bad day when a truck drops off an M Coupe in your driveway for any reason. It also happened to be the same weekend I was coupe-sitting for my parents during their garage sale. Three coupes in my garage? Yes, please!
Unfortunately the delivery occurred at 8:00 PM in the evening, and due to a miscommunication about the transportation company not accepting personal checks, the driver could not leave the keys with me until I could get a certified check or cash from the bank the next morning. My neighbors were probably wondering what I was doing on my driveway shining a flashlight into a car, the doors of which I could not open, but my curiosity was overwhelming. Up until that point, we had only some cell phone photos and its listing from 3 years ago. Would it really live up to our expectations?
This article got way too long, so I decided to split it into a multi-part series. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.