Auto Spotlight: BMW M3 E30, Part 2: The History

Part 1 is here.

     ///M.

     The M badge is the symbol for the BMW subset now named BMW M GmbH (shortened from BMW Motorsport GmbH) that was created within the company in the 1970s to support their own racing efforts.  BMW M (also known as M-Technik) is the subsidiary of BMW that modifies and produces all the ///M versions of their parent company’s stock models for sale to both the public and to the motorsport world.  For their full history, click here (part 1) and here (part 2) for a full article on their history.

     As I’ve stated before, the E30 M3 was the first M3 ever, and may still be the most loved model even after more than two decades, three evolutions, and numerous technological advancements.  Just like how the M3 series is considered the “best” sports car in the world, the E30 model was, and still is considered to be the “best” out of all the M3 models (E30, E36, E46, E92).  Why?  Well let’s start off with the history lesson (you can skip this all of course.  The next post will be on the fun part: the engine and the specs).

     Three years after the launch of the E30 model (1982 -> 1985), the greenlight for an especially dynamic engine solely for the 3 series was given by the Chair of the Board of Management to BMW M (still BMW Motorsport GmbH at the time).  BMW M immediately began work on the power unit, deciding against a larger 6 pot and staying with a smaller 4 cylinder engine.  The obvious reasons were the weight savings and the increased headroom for higher piston speeds, and after only two weeks (fourteen days!) a prototype engine was built which we’ve come to know as the S14; named after the 14 (once again, only 14!) days it took to create the inline-4 engine.  So what did fourteen days give us?  An existing 2.0 liter 4 pot which was bored and stroked to just over 2.3 liters to match the displacement of their 6-cylinders.

     In addition to that, while spitting out around 195 ponies (5 lost due to the catalyst converter), the 4 cylinder could reach up to 143 mph while maintaining up to 30 miles per gallon.  Not bad.  But that wasn’t all.  M wanted to push the envelope even further by turbocharging it, but unfortunately, due to homologation purposes (the main purpose of development of the road-going M3) the M3 had to be kept atleast a little bit “civil” to sell the 5,000 required units.  (The homogolation rules required that a car that was entered into the European Touring Car Championship or World Touring Car Championship had to have sold atleast 5,000 models to the public within 12 months.  This rule was put in place to keep companies from building one-off race cars just for the ETCC.)

     But if “civil” was weighing about 1200 kilos (or around 2650 pounds) to give the car a 6.15 kg per hp ratio which would stand up to today’s sports car standards, then make some more “civil” cars!  Fortunately for BMW, keeping the engine naturally aspirated didn’t matter one bit (I believe it was better that the S14 was kept naturally aspirated) as the E30 M3 sold around 18,000 units over the course of its lifetime of 6 years (’86 to ’92).  So popular was the original model, that BMW decided to offer quite a few variants to the dedicated enthusiasts, starting with the Evo 1, continuing with the Evo 2, finally culminating with the Evo Sport, which sported around 235 horsepower and featured both an adjustable front spoiler and an adjustable rear wing.  By the end of the production cycle for the E30 M3, BMW had gained a new cult following and gained itself a new flagship sports car for years to come.  And the legacy it left behind?  How about the most winningest car model in history (true for the touring car circuit, but I’ll have to check up on that).  I think that pretty much says it all.  History has spoken.

     Next, I’ll detail both the engine and chassis in more detail, giving alot more numbers (yay) and specifics.  Stay tuned.

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If you'd like to contact me, please feel free to email me at projektrise@yahoo.com. Any and all opinions/ideas are welcome.

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© 2009 Rusi Li

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