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LC61069 - Part 1: Introduction

Aloha fellow dorks.  It's been a while since our last article, and we've been busy since then.  We had a blast saving a coupe from the far reaches of Alaska, so we thought we'd cross an ocean for our next one.  Say hello to the next M Coupe Buyer's Guide Project Coupe coming all the way from Hawaii.  It's a 1999 Arctic Silver over Estoril Blue example with 85k on the odometer. You'll see the only noticeable modifications are 19” E46 Style 67 M3 wheels and a significantly lowered suspension.  Aside from that, it's a mostly stock example and will be our pride and joy for the next few months. Woohoo!

You might recognize this one from this very website.  It was listed on the guide for a few months, along with some humorous updates from the seller promising to push it into the ocean to start a new barrier reef if nobody bought it.  Well, luckily for us, he decided to trade it to a dealership instead and it was waiting for us once our last project coupe found a new home.

For those who aren't aware, buying a vehicle from Hawaii can be a bit of a logistical challenge if you live on the mainland.  Being a bit budget conscious, we opted to forgo an in-person visit, and decided to rely strictly on dealership photos and online descriptions from the previous owner.  Luckily, we had already reached out to the previous owner when he still had it, and he shared some of the maintenance receipts with us.  Good news is that it had already had the clutch replaced recently, as well as a handful of suspension and brake parts.  We also knew that it needed some work on the air conditioning based on our previous conversations with the owner.  Not a huge issue in Hawaii, but definitely something we will want to take care of ASAP.

The Transaction

You've read it here on M Coupe Buyer's Guide.  You've read it on the forums.  You've heard the horror stories and advice countless times when buying a used car.  Get a pre purchase inspection done at a local dealership or independent shop.  So, of course, with all of our previous experience and E36/8 expertise, what did we do? We opted to send a deposit mere hours after seeing the ad and forwarding the balance less than a week later to secure our purchase.  No PPI performed and just a handful of questions to the dealership regarding the maintenance history and requesting the CarFax report.  We figured (without worry) that whatever could possibly be wrong with this car could be fixed by us or by our trusty network of resources.

Once the monetary transaction was completed via wire transfer, the dealership notified us that we'd need to reserve a spot on a ship heading to the mainland.  After a bit of online research, we opted to use Matson as the shipping company.  Most cargo ships we found left from Honolulu on a weekly basis and arrived somewhere in Southern California about 2 weeks later.  Matson has a large cargo dock in Long Beach, so we figured if a trip to Hawaii wasn't in our future, at least we'd get a little SoCal experience!

You might remember some of the previous photos of this coupe showing an extremely large subwoofer box in the rear hatch area.  We inquired about that with the dealership, and they let us know that anything that wasn't 100% bolted to the frame of the vehicle would be removed and shipped separately.  Good to know, since they ended up cutting the speaker wires connected to the amp and leaving us with a non-functioning audio system.  Lovely.

Matson let us know that if the cargo ship arrived earlier than our scheduled flight, they would store the coupe for free for 5 days, and then charge us $15/day going forward.  We were pretty careful not to schedule our flight too early so we didn't have to sit and wait in Long Beach, so It came as quite a surprise when we received the call over a week before our scheduled arrival date that the coupe was ready for pick up.  The coupe had arrived safely!  Now it was time to pick it up and get it into Jon's garage.

The Journey

Our group teamed up on these project coupes because we all bring a specific expertise or strength.  At this particular junction in my life, what I brought to the team was time.  I had recently moved to Texas from California for a new job, and very quickly after that move, changed jobs again which involved a move from Houston to Dallas.  Amid that series of transitions, I had a surprising amount of free time and was able to dedicate some of it to a cross country road trip to pick up and deliver this coupe to Jon.  My move to Dallas caused me to lose some much needed coupe storage space, which Jon has in spades with a 3-car garage.  So begins the journey covering 5 states in 17 hours.

Major props to my best friend Daniel for joining me on this crazy trip.  I don't think I would have faired very well on this drive by myself, and while he isn't the biggest car enthusiast in the world, he enjoyed the idea of a trip to SoCal.  We found some super cheap airline tickets from Spirit Airlines flying one way from Houston to Los Angeles and another flight from Denver back to Houston a couple days apart.  That gave us just enough time to pick up the coupe, drive it 1,100 miles and rest for a day before leaving.

We arrived at LAX on a Friday evening, leaving us plenty of time to explore Venice Beach and some other fun areas around our hotel.  Uber was our friend for sure.  The shipping yard opened at 8am the next morning, so we got there early to be first in line.  After a bit of paperwork and paying for a few days of extra storage, we got the keys and could go see the coupe.

I did a quick walk around the car, and aside from the dust it didn't look all that bad.  Exterior paint showed typical rock chips and some crunching on the front splitters.  We already expected that from the photos.  Wow, this car was low.  Like, too low.  Like, we're going to have a lot of rubbing low.  Nothing we could do about that, so we moved on to the engine.  Popped the hood and the engine bay was dirty, but nothing really out of place.  The strut towers had some small cracks, presumably from the much-too-large wheels bottoming out all the time.  Lovely.

I hopped in to inspect the interior.  The Estoril Blue interior panels were in decent shape.  Some major wear to the driver's seat bolster leather, and a small crack in the shifter surround plastic trim.  Otherwise, it was as advertised.  I put the key in the ignition, gave it a turn and heard the glorious sound of…silence.  As I suspected, the last few weeks of sitting had caused the battery to lose charge.  This must happen a lot because there was a truck pulling up shortly thereafter with jumper cables.  After a minute of charging, she fired right up and we were ready to head out!

Because of our relatively tight schedule, and an impromptu BBQ scheduled by Jon with some of the other local M Coupe owners in Colorado, Daniel and I knew we had to make it to Fort Collins in one solid trip.  Aside from stops for gas and food, we agreed that it was all about making it there quickly.  We were tempted to stop about 4.5 hours in as we passed through Las Vegas, but we simply filled up with gas and pressed on into the Nevada desert.

The Southern California portion of the trip went by fairly quickly, as did Southern Nevada and the small portion of Arizona.  We made a short stop in AZ to swap out the battery at an AutoZone.  Our internal gauge lights were flickering and it was having trouble starting after our last fill up.  We simply didn't want to take the chance of being stranded with a vast expanse of Utah and Colorado wilderness between us and our final destination.

With a new battery installed we were ready for the rest of our journey.  Both rural Utah and Colorado offer beautiful views during the daytime, but we were blown away by the clear night sky.  The sky turned black about halfway through Utah and the stars were the brightest I've ever seen.  Unfortunately, the coupe had a sunshade sticker on the sunroof, so the only way to get a clear view of the sky was by looking up out the windows.  Still a spectacular sight that I wish our iPhone cameras could have captured better.

We took another break for gas and some food as we neared the Colorado border, just north of Arches National Park and prepared for the home stretch.  A group of teenagers yelled out to us across the parking lot that our car looked "dope" and asked how what we had done to it.  Aside from the compliment, it was 5 hour energies and gas station coffee kept us going into the early morning hours.  We passed through Denver around 1:30am and arrived at Jon's house in Fort Collins just before 3am.  All in all, we were on the road from 8:30am PST until nearly 3am MST.  18 hours of travel across 5 states and we made it in one piece.

Fun With Friends

As much as I wanted to sleep in after such a long trip, I couldn't help but want to take a closer look at the car.  Even though I had just spent almost an entire day driving in it, I didn't really get a chance to explore it.  I was also excited to meet Jon for the first time.  We've been working together on these project coupes for over a year now, and this was the first time we'd met face to face.

The third member of our team, Rick, also flew in from Massachusetts to join us for the day.  So we spent the next several hours tearing the coupe apart and figuring out exactly what we'd gotten ourselves into.  Around mid-day some other coupe owners began showing up and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying some brats and cold beverages while comparing notes on our beloved coupes.

Many thanks to Colby, Lindsey and Tyler for taking the time to dive right into this project coupe and helping tackle some fun projects like tediously removing those God-awful fog lights.  Who would have known they'd be made of glass and shatter all over the garage floor like that!? :)

In our next article, we'll take a look at the mechanical, electrical and other "features" of this car that will need to be addressed before finding it a new home.  Stay tuned...

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