New Zealand Classic Car - - FEATURE CARS -

The orig­i­nal

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

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