BMW M3 E30 – The Legendary Original M3
The BMW M3 E30 first arrived in 1986, establishing a new performance benchmark for the brand. Built from the two-door 3 Series coupe, the E30 M3 brought race-tuned performance to the street. This iconic first M3 generation combined track-capable handling with everyday drivability, creating an instant legend.
Race Performance for the Street
At the heart of the E30 M3 was BMW’s high-revving S14 4-cylinder engine, a bespoke motor developed for the car. Displacing 2.3 liters, it produced 197 horsepower combined with a 7,500 rpm redline. This allowed 0-60mph acceleration in just 6.7 seconds despite the M3 weighing under 2,900 lbs. A 5-speed manual transmission enabled drivers to keep the engine on boil while cornering hard thanks to perfectly spaced ratios.
The suspension was lowered and specially tuned, with increased spring rates and larger anti-roll bars. This provided pinpoint handling and high limits when pushed hard on track. Impressive brakes with 4-piston calipers gave the M3 immense stopping power. Everything about the E30 M3 was designed to unleash BMW’s racing expertise on public roads.
Iconic BMW M3 E30 Styling Hints at Performance
While understated by today’s standards, the E30 M3’s appearance communicated its capabilities. A boxed out and slightly flared wheel arches accented the lowered stance. Rocker extensions added aggression and reduced body roll. The M3 also received a discreet rear spoiler. Inside, heavily bolstered sport seats kept occupants firmly in place during hard cornering. A thick, small-diameter 3-spoke steering wheel conveyed precision. The E30 M3 didn’t need to shout – its potent presence was self-evident.
Precision Handling and Balance
Few cars of its era could compete with the M3’s handling capabilities. The 50/50 weight distribution and responsive suspension gave the M3 perfect balance. Minimal body roll, tenacious grip, and quick reflexes made the M3 feel like an extension of the driver. The steering provided detailed feedback, allowing any nuance of the tires to be felt. While well-mannered in everyday use, the M3 came alive on backroads and tracks. Its chassis delivered an unfiltered and rewarding driving experience in all conditions.
The BMW M3 E30 Ultimate Evo Model
BMW would go on to produce the M3 across multiple generations. But the E30 M3 holds a special place as the original, setting the tone for the storied M3 bloodline. It distilled BMW’s racing expertise into a street-legal package before the concept of sport sedans became commonplace. The E30 M3 shaped BMW’s sporting character just as the brand entered a renaissance. It also inspired a generation of enthusiasts through its purity, homologated specifically to go racing. The E30 M3’s legend will live on forever.