The BMW M Coupe stakes its claim as a collector car, not just a clown shoe

2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe 3/4 front

There isn’t much fence sitting when it comes to the BMW M Coupe. You either love the “clown shoe” or you hate it. Regardless, when one crosses the auction block, the collector car community takes notice.

So it was at Bonhams Scottsdale Auction on Thursday, where an immaculate 2002 Z3 M Coupe sold for $56,000, falling squarely within Bonhams’ pre-auction estimate of $50K–$70K. Since M Coupes rarely change hands at public auction, the car’s $56K sale price set the bar for prime examples in the U.S. (This one sold for €64,960—or about $74K—at RM Sotheby’s Duemila Route 2016 sale in Milan.)

Hagerty valuation editor Andrew Newton rates the original-condition 2002 in #2+ (Excellent-plus) condition—heady stuff considering that ratings this high are rarely bestowed upon new cars. #1-quality (Concours) ratings are usually reserved for “better than new or overly restored” vehicles.  

2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe engine
2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe interior passenger seats
2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe rear 3/4
Bonhams
2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe

“It’s been driven,” Newton says of the coupe, “but you wouldn’t guess that by looking at it, and it has clearly been pampered since new.”

The 2002 is from the last model year of the M Coupe and is equipped with the later 315-horsepower, electronic fuel-injected S54-code 3.2-liter straight-six—the same mill used in the popular E46 M3—rather than the earlier S52-code six that made 240 hp. The car also features five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, and it has less than 23,500 miles on the clock.

The late-model M Coupes are also rarer. Only 2180 of the S52-engined cars were offered in the U.S. in 1999–2000, while a miniscule 678 S54-powered models were sold in 2001–02.

2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe 3/4 rear
Bonhams
2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe

Legend has it that a group of BMW engineers, led by chief engineer Burkhard Goeschel, went rogue from the product planners and bean counters to develop the M Coupe behind closed doors with one goal in mind: to create a driver’s car. That’s mostly exaggeration, but considering its unusual styling, that emphasis on function over form clear. While it may not have the handsome good looks of other sports coupes, the responsive BMW is a blast to drive. As Automobile wrote in 2016, with “315 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque, you don’t have to do the math to figure out what happens when you stuff a big, bawdy motor under the hood of a small car.”

Nor do you have to do the math to know that a $56K auction result reaffirms the strength of the M Coupe’s cult following. Private sales and online sales for the M Coupe reach into the mid-$50,000 range for exceptionally low-mile and well-preserved examples, with bonus points for rare colors. No doubt this strong result will attract more M Coupes to auction, although this result wasn’t the game-changer some thought it would be to stretch the market definitively. into the $60,000 range.