Red BMW M3 E30

THE M ESSENCE.

The BMW M3 E30: class pioneer and eternal benchmark.

THE M ESSENCE.

The BMW M3 E30: class pioneer and eternal benchmark.

The M essence.The BMW M3 E30: class pioneer and eternal benchmark.

M3 – every sports car fan knows this letter-number combination. It stands for dynamics, sportiness and driving pleasure, and is based on the BMW 3 Series. Today, sporty offshoots of production vehicles are no longer a rarity. Back in 1985, when the BMW M3 E30 was presented at the IAA in Frankfurt, it was a sensation – thanks to its racing pedigree.

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THE BMW M3

IN THREE NUMBERS

  • 01 Premiered at IAA 1985
  • 02 By 1991, 17,970 models were built
  • 03 Basis for the most successful DTM racing car of all time

A MOTORSPORT STORY.

The idea behind the first BMW M3 was to make a racing sedan available as a street version. Nobody foresaw just what a roaring success the M3 would become – on everyday roads as well as the world’s greatest race tracks. As a touring car racing homologation model, the BMW M3 finally rolled to the starting line in 1986. The Group A regulations required that at least 5,000 road-legal copies of a racing car had to be sold within twelve months in order for a vehicle to be homologated for racing.

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Rear view of a red BMW M3 E30 standing in a old factory building

FOR ROAD AND TRACK.

Before that, the technicians at BMW Motorsport GmbH (the company name of BMW M until 1993) had done a great job. The developers supplied the future M3 with the best components from the BMW Racing Parts shelf. The brake system with ABS and ventilated discs ensured it was steadfast, while the suspension and damping were designed with racing in mind – without sacrificing suitability for everyday use. The manual transmission also radiated classic racing flair, so drivers found the first gear on the bottom left, as is typical in racing. Meanwhile, BMW Motorsport GmbH took over little more than the doors and the roof from the BMW 3 Series production car.

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Gear lever and center console of a BMW M3 E30 Convertible
Interior of a BMW M3 E30 Convertible
Doo sill of the BMW M3 E30 Convertible

Front and side view of a red BMW M3 E30

BMW M POWER.

The heart of the BMW M3 was undoubtedly its sophisticated four-cylinder engine. The basis for this was the two-litre four-cylinder from the then 3 Series, which was completely revised. Among the best features of the original engine were its low weight, high torque and durability. The typical M power treatment included increasing the displacement to 2.3 litres and integrating a four-valve head. This technology was already known in a modified form from the BMW M1 super sports car.

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Red BMW M3 E30 production car and white BMW M3 E30 racing car
Engine of the BMW M3 E30 Evolution

LIGHT AND FAST.

The first BMW M3’s performance data was a benchmark at the time and this remains the case, even today. Thanks to racing technology, the engine climbs exactly to the 200 hp mark – and achieves this without a turbocharger or compressor. Its maximum speed is 6,750 rpm. Thanks to the vehicle's slim weight of around 1,200 kilograms, the M3 reaches 100 km/h after just 6.7 seconds and boasts a top speed of 235 km/h. With the regulated catalytic converter, which was very advanced for its time, the engine only lost a little power down to 195 hp – a still considerable figure.

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PROVEN AT THE NÜRBURGRING AND NARDO.

The BMW M3 was tested at the Nürburgring before the start of its production cycle. The experience gained on probably the most demanding race track in the world served to ensure both the series and racing versions were durable. After its gruelling drives on the ‘Green Hell’, the M3 was able to showcase its full-throttle credentials in a 150,000-kilometre test at top speed on Italy’s Nardo Ring. Naturally, it passed with flying colours.

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SPECIAL MODELS AS THE CROWNING GLORY.

Other special models lifted the BMW M3 E30 series to the level of the most iconic sports cars in automobile history. The limited-edition special series were launched primarily to coincide with prestigious motorsport successes. Connoisseurs and collectors will turn their minds to the BMW M3 European Champion which celebrated the 1988 European Touring Car Championship title. Each one of the 148 cars, painted exclusively in Macao Blue and produced between October and November 1988, was fitted with a sticker signed by Italian racing driver and winner Roberto Ravaglia. The BMW M3 Cecotto, built 505 times, with 215 hp enjoys a similar cult status. 25 of these were delivered as another special model ‘Ravaglia’.

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BMW M3 E30 Europameister

UP TO 360 hp IN RACING TRIM.

In addition to other titles in other countries, BMW Motorsport scored a double victory with the M3 at the Nürburgring 24 Hours Race. That closed the circle, because the pre-series M3 cars received finishing touches for series production and racing on this famous circuit. For five years, this vehicle dominated the series across the globe and developed into the most successful touring car ever. In its most powerful variants, the M3 racing version with 2.5 litre cubic capacity went up to 360 hp.

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THE BMW M3 AS AN ART CAR.

KEN DONE.

BMW M3 E30 Art Car by Ken Done

KEN DONE.

In 1987, the M3 even became famous as a BMW Art Car: With its exotic colours and clear shapes, it is not only reminiscent of nature, sun and beaches, but also hints at next season’s beach fashion. A racing car that combines unrivalled dynamics with a pure Australian love for life. In 1987, the BMW M3 won the driving championships of the Australian Group A.
 

MICHAEL JAGAMARA.

BMW M3 E30 Art Car by Michael Jagamara Nelson

MICHAEL JAGAMARA.

Seven days, 300 hp and the colours of the outback. This was the 1989 BMW M3 designed by Michael Jagamara Nelson. “The car is like a landscape as seen from the plane,” explained the artist with Aboriginal roots, and one of the leading contemporary representatives of Papunya art. He painted the black-finished high-performance sports car with abstract shapes that turn out to be emus and kangaroos on closer inspection. He adapted the ancient Aboriginal technique of capturing personal experience and religious myths in so-called “dreamings” – usually seen on rock and cave walls. This BMW M3 is an original from the Motorsport Department of BMW Australia – a true ethno-art work.

MANY MODELS - ONE MYTH.

Whether as a closed two-door or from 1989 or as the BMW M3 Convertible, almost 18,000 vehicles were sold. The first M3 ever came on the market for 58,000 DM, while the M3 Sport Evolution at the end of the production cycle had a starting price of 85,000 DM. All these M3 models are the basis of a loyal fan community and an important pillar for the BMW M GmbH’s success today. Above all, this model is the origin of the myth of the M3 letter-number combination, which continues to inspire to this day all around the world.

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PRODUCTION MODELS

OF THE BMW M3 E30:

  • 1986 BMW M3 (147 kW/200 hp)
  • 1987 BMW M3 (144 kW/195 hp)
  • 1987 BMW M3 with Evolution engine (159 kW/215 hp)
  • 1988 BMW M3 Convertible (144 kW/195 hp)
  • 1988 BMW M3 Europameister (144 kW/195 hp)
  • 1988 BMW M3 Evolution II (162 kW/220 hp)
  • 1989 BMW M3 Convertible (159 kW/215 hp)
  • 1989 M3 Cecotto & Ravaglia (159 kW/215 hp)
  • 1990 BMW M3 Sport Evolution (175 kW/238 hp)
Model badge of BMW M3 E30