BMW M3 Retrospective
The BMW (F82) M4 Coupe is the fifth-generation of BMW M’s high-performance sports coupe and it launches in South Africa next month. To whet your appetite for it, we thought it only appropriate to trace the 29 year history of the iconic M3 model, from when the company unveiled the first-generation E30 M3 at the Frankfurt Motor Show back in 1985.
E30 M3: ‘The Racer’
The first-generation formed the basis for what BMW calls the ‘world’s most successful touring car ever.’ In 1985, BMW Motorsport began developing a racing machine to line up in touring car competition but back then a road-going version was required for homologation, so 5 000 examples of the E30 had to be built for sale per year to satisfy the sporting regulations.
Conceived from the outset as a race-ready Group A machine, the original M3 featured a naturally aspirated four-cylinder developing 143kW from a 2.3-litre displacement (growing to a 2.5-litre in later EVOs). It accelerated from 0 to 100kph in 6.8sec and had a top speed of 230kph. The E30 M3 was fitted with a mechanical limited-slip differential, and a Getrag five-speed manual gearbox that featured a dogleg shift pattern for certain European models.
Of course, running concurrently with the M3, BMW Motorsport South Africa created the infamous 333i during the period with a 3.2-litre ‘big six’ from the 7/6/5 Series. These cars were built in small numbers with help from Alpina in Bavaria and are considered highly collectable nowadays.
The first-generation BMW M3 exceeded all sales expectations for BMW and various evolution stages of the car and special-edition models allowed BMW to sell a total of 17 970 units worldwide by the time production wrapped up in 1991.