Long overdue, here is the story of our E46 M3 acquisition.
My brother and I had been planning on buying an E46 M3 for the past couple of years when we had the means to do so. The original plan was to find an M3 that had been individually ordered with special paint. We had decided on Dakar Yellow II (44 NA models built) after disappointingly coming up empty on our search for a Techno Violet E46 M3 (8 NA models built). The last week of January 2015 we decided out of the blue to find and purchase an M3 within a couple of weeks.
The search began.
We went straight to the for sale section of M3forum.net as we figured we would be more likely to find unique optioned M3s that had also been well maintained. Autotrader, CarMax, Craigslist, eBay were also scoured to find the ideal M3. Among these searches there were some interesting finds. One of them included a 10/2005 Phoenix Yellow M3 at CarMax with approximately 80,000 miles. For those who are unaware, Phoenix Yellow was discontinued from production in February of 2005. That made this car one of nine individually ordered Phoenix Yellow M3s. But, alas, this car had more miles than what we wanted and it just was not exclusive enough. It would take someone really in the know to even realize that there was something unique about this vehicle.
Obviously, the best chance of finding a unique M3 was to buy from an enthusiast on M3forum.
We quickly found two Dakar Yellow M3s for sale that had low mileage with a decent price. After contacting both sellers, we decided that one had an overall maintenance discrepancy and the other one may be the one to buy.
Finding the perfect M3.
After several days of searching and not getting much information out of the other Dakar Yellow seller we saw an Interlagos Blue ZCP M3 that had no moonroof with cloth seats. We had seen this listing a few days earlier, but had put it on the back burner as we were set on finding an individual M3. We finally decided on this specific M3 as it was pretty unique in it’s own right. Interlagos Blue was only offered on ZCP M3s which made it the next best thing to an Individual paint job. Plus, this car had great service history and had been kept up on maintenance including valve adjustments and upgraded Vanos parts such as the Turbotoy Vanos hub, Vanos bolts, Beisan seals and the IAT had been relocated. There was also a Discovery Automotive tune (an Active Autowerke tune before that) on the DME along with TTFS CSL SMG parameters. Underdrive pulleys had been installed by VAC Motorsports for the original owner along with Agency Power headers, and Discovery Automotive section two racing cats. We felt these mods helped enhance this M3 to be a better breathing and performing machine.
It was time to make a deal.
After contacting the seller of this vehicle, checking the CarFax, etc., we decided to make a deal. After talking back and forth with the owner we agreed upon a price and decided that we would drive to Tampa, Florida where the vehicle was located and check the car out before the deal was final. The only stipulations being that the M3 have the front passenger airbag replaced due to the Takata recall (circa late 2014) and the car have a full tank of gas upon us arriving. The seller took the vehicle to his local, private BMW dealership who took the M3 in and provided a loaner for him. Surprisingly, they replaced both the front driver and passenger airbags within one day.
After acquiring a rental vehicle, my brother, father and I headed to Tampa.
Picking up the M3.
We arrived on an overcast, drizzling day, but was able to look over the car in an empty bay of the detail shop at the dealership where the seller worked. We spent about two hours looking over the vehicle. I ran diagnostics on all of the modules and checked for any current or past faults. Everything checked out good. I then went over the whole car twice with a Defelsko paint gauge to check for any past repairs. We also discovered that the OE xenon headlights had been upgraded to the OE bi-xenon headlights which was a plus (the seller wasn’t aware of this). We then took a test drive to see how the car ran, while being careful as the rear tires had about 1/32 of tread remaining. Our father had other plans, and said we weren’t testing the car hard enough. He hopped into the driver’s seat and left my brother and I, along with the seller, all pale faced and white knuckled. The car drove flawlessly. The engine pulled hard and made no noises that would be cause for alarm. After the test drive, we drove to the seller’s bank and completed the deal.
To Key West.
We all decided since we were already in Tampa, FL that we would drive to Key West. First, because it would be a nice break from the frigid weather back in Tennessee and second, because it would be a great opportunity to drive to the southernmost point of the continental United States.
Leaving Tampa, we drove south towards Naples and then through the Everglades of Florida across Alligator Alley to the East.
Here is an aerial view of a section of I-75, also known as Alligator Alley and the Everglades Parkway.
The Overseas Highway.
After arriving in Fort Lauderdale we headed south towards Miami and Key Largo. We drove all day and arrived in Key Largo near dusk. As the sun passed over the horizon we kept driving through each Florida Key on the Overseas Highway, all the while keeping an eye out for Key Deer as the signs had warned us. We stopped in Islamorada for dinner at the Islamorada Fish Company and finished the journey to Key West.
US Route 1 – Mile 0.
The road that goes through the Florida Keys is US Route 1. What is interesting about US Route 1 is that it is the longest north south road in the United States. Beginning in Key West, Florida and ending in Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border. The above photo is of one of the most photographed places in Key West which is the mile 0 zero sign. After driving around Key West on a Friday evening around midnight, we decided to turn around and head back.
We pulled over on a pull off point on the Overseas Highway to try to catch a glimpse of the ocean and to take a quick snapshot. It was as dark as the bottom of the ocean with the dull glow of the moon, stars and the occasional car driving by. A tripod and long exposure was necessary to get a decent shot. We then trekked forward back up US Route 1 to Marathon where we took a quick stop for fuel. Surprisingly, the car averaged 26mpg during the trip.
Stop in St. Augustine
After heading back to the mainland we decided to stop somewhere to get one last good view of the Atlantic.
After leaving St. Augustine it was a straight shot home to Nashville, TN.