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BMW E30 M3. Balance between competition and everyday use.

ER Classics Desktop 2022

This year, the really spicy version of the BMW 3 Series is thirty-five years old, almost as long as Auto Motor Klassiek. In 1986 – based on the E30 Baureihe – the BMW E30 M3 saw the light of day. According to the makers, this was the car that set new standards in the sporty segment. And BMW – together with its Motorsport division – was committed to creating the perfect balance between a high-performance sports car and everyday use with the M3. The Bavarians succeeded in this plan.

To this day, the M3 is a fixed value within the BMW model range. That foundation was laid by the first generation BMW E30 M3. It was a special 3-series, which made many features of the E30 generation visible. At the same time, the debut of the BMW E30 M3 was immediately recognizable as such. The application of side-skirts, whipped wheel arches and spoilers formed landmarks. In addition, the c-pillar was designed differently than with the regular E30. The changes were not made for cosmetic reasons. They mainly served the aerodynamics of the Motorsport BMW. The developers also paid attention to lightweight principles, witness the application of a number of plastic parts (skirts, bumpers, spoilers).


BMW's M3 was also developed for competitive purposes. Image: BMW AG
BMW's M3 was also developed for competitive purposes. Image: BMW

Ready for a sporty future

From a technical point of view, the BMW was prepared for a sporty future. Suspension, damping and axle applications suited a sports car for the future. In addition, the braking system (ventilated discs, ABS) is equipped for high performance. Engine-wise, the first M3 was completely ready to live up to its fast-paced reputation. Initially, the developers chose the 2 liter engine from the regular E-30 versions as a basis. That premise has been revised. Motorsport opted for the 2.3 four-cylinder S14 engine, a derivative of the 3.5 S38 engine from the BMW M5. In addition, the technology from the BMW M1 was used. The power unit of the M3 was equipped with a modified M1 cylinder head. The power source in the base M3 delivered 200 HP and 240 Nm of torque. It had a reinforced crankshaft that could handle no less than 10.000 revolutions per minute. The engine was mated to a five-speed manual transmission. First gear was located at the bottom left of the shift pattern.

Sound editions

Later, special versions of the BMW E30 M3 – which was also developed for homologation purposes – were built with more power. The Evolution I and II are examples of this. Up to and including 1991, just under 18.000 copies of the BMW E30 M3 saw the light of day. 786 of these were delivered as hand-built convertibles. In addition, numerous copies were used for racing purposes. Many victories with the BMW E30 M3 showed the success on the competitive side of the coin.

A certain classic

In which variant the debut M3 was delivered: it has become an icon, which is also proving itself as a classic. It is simply a beautifully balanced concept, which has contributed greatly to the image of the Motorsport section of the Bavarian brand.

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4 Comments

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  1. The S14 is based on the old trusted M10 block which was used in many models in the 70s. The 02, first 3 series (as 320i with 4 cylinder) and also in the first E12, the 520i with 4 cylinder and Kugelfischer injection. The 10 block was also in the F1 engines of the early 80s and delivered up to 800 hp. The cylinder head does come/derive from the aforementioned 6-cylinder block. However, the block comes from the M10 and is also largely interchangeable.

    More info including here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_S14

  2. The S14 is not based on a 2.8 engine, but on a 3.5 six-cylinder S38B35 with a cylinder capacity of 3453cc. There they collected 2 cylinders 4/6 part of 3453 = 2302cc. That's the S14B23.

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