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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The clownshoe thread the other day had me searching the interweb for M Roadsters yesterday. One of my favorite looking cars of all time. I have been looking for a second car/weekend for a couple of months now, and this is one that I have considered. My questions are about maintenance and random crap breaking. I searched but nothing recent or useful came up.

This car http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?searchRadius=0&listingId=358893002 seems clean, 1-owner, etc. But it's still a 14 year old German car with 90,000 miles. What sort of things should one look for, and what should one expect to fix/replace within the next 15k or so? I have zero mechanical ability. I don't mind spending on maintenance, but having owned a MKIV before I get panic attacks thinking about what could wrong.

So I ask TCL, should I consider something like the car above and Pepper?
 

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I believe M roadsters up to the year 2000 had S52 motors (i.e. the motors from the E36 generation of cars - around 240 HP/240 lb-ft). These engines are reliable and 90K should be no problem, but are relatively lackluster compared to the S54 and S50 motors. Don't get me wrong, they still sound great, have decent mods, and are quick. The others are better.

If I were you, I'd be looking at a 2001+ which will have the S54 (320 HP/250 lb-ft) motor from the E46 generation. They are more problematic as far as I know but are far more rewarding, powerful, and better sounding than the S52. I would assume these would have a 6-speed box versus the 5-speed.
 

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FV-QR

Bimmers of that vintage all had mediocre cooling systems that never lasted particularly well. at 100k expect to be doing things like waterpumps, radiators, coolant changes, etc. Bushings in the rear suspension seem to also have issues around that age/mileage, so listen for squeaks, clunks, weird play in the suspension.

obviously, a maintenance history on any 15 year old german car can be worth thousands of dollars in the long run.

don't hesitate to get a thorough PPI from an independent shop, a couple hundred dollars will also save you thousands long term if something isn't right.

personally, i'd rather have a solstice gxp/sky redline as an impractical fast toy. fewer headaches, newer design, new chassis, phenomenal LNF motor, and very good looks.
 

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www.mroadsterbuyersguide.com

They're a great buy (unless you're a certain member on here with a blue car that was purchased sight unseen...)

S52 is super stouty and fun engine, but has cooling system made of cardboard. Replace that upon purchase, do a suspension refresh and you're golden.

Biggest flaw is the rear trunk floor which likes to separate and bring your diff mount with it. If those spot welds there are clean, all body vin stickers match and it has been relatively maintained, you might be looking at a good car.

Later models (01-02) had the S54 engine which turns the car into a whole new monster (with a few added mechanical flaws like potential Vanos & rod bearing issues)
 

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I wouldn't want a roadster with the S54. The flexy chassis and short wheelbase are not well served by even more power.

The S52 is fine. But honestly I would look for a Z3 3.0 roadster, which is quick enough for the chassis.
 

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Ballpark what should one expect to spend repairing/replacing the cooling system and suspension?
depends on if it has issues and how its been treated. the E36 M3 shares the motor, so you can probably find a lot of information about maintenance schedules and what needs to be done. nothing about any of it is way past a normal shadetree mechanic, and there are plenty of DIYs online. after a little research it also appears that the securing nut on the oil pump can work it's way off...this of course leading to a kaboom when you run out of oil pressure. it's an easy fix, you just have to drop the oil pan.

hardest work is probably the belts/getting to the T-stat/waterpump...that could set you back probably 750-1k at a shop with parts.
 

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depends on if it has issues and how its been treated. the E36 M3 shares the motor, so you can probably find a lot of information about maintenance schedules and what needs to be done. nothing about any of it is way past a normal shadetree mechanic, and there are plenty of DIYs online. after a little research it also appears that the securing nut on the oil pump can work it's way off...this of course leading to a kaboom when you run out of oil pressure. it's an easy fix, you just have to drop the oil pan.

hardest work is probably the belts/getting to the T-stat/waterpump...that could set you back probably 750-1k at a shop with parts.
It's an extremely simple job with basic tools. The parts aren't more than $350 total.
 

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Ballpark what should one expect to spend repairing/replacing the cooling system and suspension?
A comprehensive cooling system replacement (water pump, thermostat, radiator, possibly expansion tank, and coolant change) would probably be about $500-700 in parts. If you aren't doing it yourself, I'd figure about $1500-2000 (this about how much it would cost for my BMW E90 at dealer prices).

I've seen BMW Bushings cost anywhere from $50-150 in parts. I'd figure labor costs would bring that up to 300-400 easily.

All these prices are just guestimates based on what I've seen in my past research. It's not cheap like a Japanese car but these cars are higher performance and should run and perform well if these things are taken care of.
 

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I believe M roadsters up to the year 2000 had S52 motors (i.e. the motors from the E36 generation of cars - around 240 HP/240 lb-ft). These engines are reliable and 90K should be no problem, but are relatively lackluster compared to the S54 and S50 motors. Don't get me wrong, they still sound great, have decent mods, and are quick. The others are better.

If I were you, I'd be looking at a 2001+ which will have the S54 (320 HP/250 lb-ft) motor from the E46 generation. They are more problematic as far as I know but are far more rewarding, powerful, and better sounding than the S52. I would assume these would have a 6-speed box versus the 5-speed.
S52's with simple bolt-ons will be around 220. 240 is a very hopeful number, wheel hp that is. The US S50 isn't highly praised, and the S52 shouldn't be 'lackluster' when compared to it. Very small differences in those engines: OBDI vs OBDII, .2L displacement difference, and a different manifold. The S52 makes more torque than the S50, unless you were referring to the S50B32 (euro), which is a completely different ball game.

But I do agree 90k on an S52 isn't much, just look at the service records and see if the cooling system has been gone through, if not it will be needing it soon. S52's like to burn oil, but some if not looked after can be burning more than an allotted amount. I'm not 100% sure if the Roadster shares the same rear as the M coupe, but if it does it's not that bad to do bushings on compared to an e36, but would probably be more than the $300-400 quoted above. Make sure there's no popping or clunking coming from the rear when taking off or stopping.
 

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It's an extremely simple job with basic tools. The parts aren't more than $350 total.
yup. of course, you can easily double the cost of parts with labor at a shop...:/
 

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S52's with simple bolt-ons will be around 220. 240 is a very hopeful number, wheel hp that is. The US S50 isn't highly praised, and the S52 shouldn't be 'lackluster' when compared to it. Very small differences in those engines: OBDI vs OBDII, .2L displacement difference, and a different manifold. The S52 makes more torque than the S50, unless you were referring to the S50B32 (euro), which is a completely different ball game.

But I do agree 90k on an S52 isn't much, just look at the service records and see if the cooling system has been gone through, if not it will be needing it soon. S52's like to burn oil, but some if not looked after can be burning more than an allotted amount. I'm not 100% sure if the Roadster shares the same rear as the M coupe, but if it does it's not that bad to do bushings on compared to an e36, but would probably be more than the $300-400 quoted above. Make sure there's no popping or clunking coming from the rear when taking off or stopping.
I was referring to the Euro S50B32 not the US S50B30. S52 is better than the US S50B30, but not the Euro S50B32. If the USDM E36 M3 has the S50B32, it would be my all time favorite M.

Nonetheless the S52 is still a great motor and as a previous poster pointed out, might be the motor of choice in the roadster. I would just adjust my budget accordingly for an S52 versus S54 roadster.
 

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A comprehensive cooling system replacement (water pump, thermostat, radiator, possibly expansion tank, and coolant change) would probably be about $500-700 in parts. If you aren't doing it yourself, I'd figure about $1500-2000 (this about how much it would cost for my BMW E90 at dealer prices).

I've seen BMW Bushings cost anywhere from $50-150 in parts. I'd figure labor costs would bring that up to 300-400 easily.

All these prices are just guestimates based on what I've seen in my past research. It's not cheap like a Japanese car but these cars are higher performance and should run and perform well if these things are taken care of.
I just don't understand why this is, I mean its not the mid to late 80's anymore (talking about year 2000 reliability and workmanship) where the Japanese made engines like a swiss watch and everyone else..... didn't. And before you play the "but its a performance car" angle, lets keep the playing field level and only discuss Japanese performance category cars like the S2k, Supra...ect.

What are the Asian makers doing right OR what are the Germans (lets keeps it just between those two camps, please) not doing right? Note that I'm not saying: "What are the Germans doing wrong"..... because I don't think there was anything wrong with that generation //M vehicle.

Then and now I think its a superb drivers car and the numbers don't lie. What is it that, around this mark (say around 10 -> 15 year old, 100,000 --> 150,000 mlle mark) that Japanese engines can do with little more (if that) of routine maintenance and the German makes need at a minimum, costly components to be replaced (actual part costs notwithstanding).
 

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I just don't understand why this is, I mean its not the mid to late 80's anymore (talking about year 2000 reliability and workmanship) where the Japanese made engines like a swiss watch and everyone else..... didn't. And before you play the "but its a performance car" angle, lets keep the playing field level and only discuss Japanese performance category cars like the S2k, Supra...ect.

What are the Asian makers doing right OR what are the Germans (lets keeps it just between those two camps, please) not doing right? Note that I'm not saying: "What are the Germans doing wrong"..... because I don't think there was anything wrong with that generation //M vehicle.

Then and now I think its a superb drivers car and the numbers don't lie. What is it that, around this mark (say around 10 -> 15 year old, 100,000 --> 150,000 mlle mark) that Japanese engines can do with little more (if that) of routine maintenance and the German makes need at a minimum, costly components to be replaced (actual part costs notwithstanding).
This is a good question that I honestly don't know the answer to. I would assume the Germans would take the appropriate measures to ensure reliability in their cars, being the generally cautious and fastidious people that they are.
What I can say with some certainty is that from my experience and knowledge, BMW I6 motors are reliable and robust. A gasket here or a seal there, but the motors are nearly as reliable as Japanese motors up to 200K miles. The problem is the ancillary components such as electrical systems and cooling - maybe third party suppliers provide these components which are not designed as robustly as they should be.
Maybe in the pursuit of profit, BMW decided to cut corners and design components with a shorter lifespan. Maybe Germans believe these products should be replaced anyways by 100-150K.
Beyond that, the cost of the components are more expensive than the Japanese equivalents. Also, sometimes it is harder to replace a part on a German car versus a Japanese car (although I find BMWs easy to service).

I believe all high mileage cars have some things that need replacing here or there, Japanese, German, or American. Problems crop up in high mileage cars and it's just an accepted fact. A lot of the problems are overblown through forums and Internet talk.
 

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I believe all high mileage cars have some things that need replacing here or there, Japanese, German, or American. Problems crop up in high mileage cars and it's just an accepted fact. A lot of the problems are overblown through forums and Internet talk.
this is probably true, but personally, i'd trust an F20c to 120k a lot more than a S-series bmw motor (particularly the S54).

OP, on a very serious note, i'd consider the Solstice/Sky turbos or the S2000 before jumping into an M roadster. they can be had in the same price range, offer great driving experiences, and don't seem to have as many issues as a 15 year old higher strung BMW. it's quite possible to find a late build Solstice/Sky with factory powertrain warranty left (particularly if they opted for the extended warranty).
 

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BMW I6 motors are reliable and robust. A gasket here or a seal there, but the motors are nearly as reliable as Japanese motors up to 200K miles. The problem is the ancillary components such as electrical systems and cooling - maybe third party suppliers provide these components which are not designed as robustly as they should be.
Maybe in the pursuit of profit, BMW decided to cut corners and design components with a shorter lifespan. Maybe Germans believe these products should be replaced anyways by 100-150K.
i agree with you on it being a different design/ engineering philosophy, however, rod bearings are part of the long block, and I don't think its right how they need replacing on the s54 engines and the m5 v8 when they do, this should have been thought thru when designing a high revving engine
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thank you for the advice and info. Compy - I had an S2000 a few years back and had to sell it soon after purchasing it (for something that could accommodate a baby seat...) before I could really enjoy it. I'd love to own another, and have been searching for those as well. It seems that the S2000's that I see for sale can fall into one of three categories. 1 - it's a 2003 with 17,000 miles and the owner wants 23 grand for it. 2 - I will find one with less than 90,000 miles and in my price range (10-15k), though it has had 7 previous owners and now has a cheap aftermarket exhaust and black wheels. 3 - I will find a 1-owner example that looks great, has records, but has 176,000 "highway" miles and the owner still wants 13 grand. I hate the styling of the Solstice/Sky, but do agree that the panic attack I get thinking about maintenance/repair bills of the M-Roadster makes me think I should keep looking for a clean S.
 
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