The E30 M3 is a car that has graced the pages of every car magazine worth its salt at some point in its life. It still gets fans panting breathlessly on BMW forums, and any poll asking for an ultimate garage is likely to have an E30 very near the top of the list. This year marks 30 years since E30 M3’s release, meaning it can now officially be considered a classic.
It boasts bulging, boxy wheel arches front and rear; the sort of menacing front end that only an ’80s BMW can pull off; and proper racing pedigree to boot — but the E30 M3 was something of a begrudged chicken-or-egg build.
To ensure BMW, AC Schnitzer, and other race teams had a BMW to take to the track for touring car championships around the world, a production vehicle was needed on which to base the race car so it could meet homologation regulations.
The E30 M3 was released in 1986 with a 147kw 2.3-litre in-line four-cylinder engine — the S14 — matched to a slick dog-leg gearbox in the Europeanspec cars to ensure gear switches from second to third to second — where most changes are made around a tight circuit — were as fluid and as quick as they could be. With all that wrapped up in a relatively bare-bones package, there was no doubting the M3’s spiritual home: the track.
The E30 swiftly made its mark as a race car, taking out a clean sweep of the European, British, Italian, German, and Australian touring car championships in 1987. As the E30 generation progressed, the S14 engine became more refined and — of course — more powerful. As it was designed for racing applications, it was a small highrevving four-cylinder unit. With catalytic converters in place, this engine produced 145kw (195hp), although owners of the original often removed them for more power and torque.
In 1989, the second version of the S14 was introduced in the Cecotto and Ravaglia special editions, and, eventually, that became the standard power plant for