Posts Tagged 'BMW M3'

Auto Spotlight: BMW M3 E30, Part 4: The Victories

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

     It’s as simple as the title of the “most victorious racing car of all time“.  1,436 victories in just 1,628 days.  Imagine that.  Over the course of four and a half years, the E30 M3 achieved a win every-day.  Every single day, whether it was a weekend, a vacation, or any day without a race (which is pretty often).  Against a competition that furiously improved their race cars to have more power, more grip, more everything, the E30 M3 only had two small revisions during its four year reign where its power increase was summed up to only 60 horses.   The road-going version featured a 2.3 liter engine which pushed out around 200 horses, but the race-going version peaked at 300 horses with the same 2.3 liters and without forced induction.  Weight was also reduced to 960 kilograms, or around 2110 pounds.  This gave the racecar a power-to-weight ratio of 3.2 kilos per hp.

     BMW’s first major race was round one of the first World Touring Car Championship in 1987, featuring the legendary Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, Maserati Bi-Turbo, and Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo.  Judging by their names, the opposition featured turbocharged engines, while BMW decided to stay “au natural”.  This decision usually gives engines better durability due to (relatively) lower engine temperatures, something needed when running a race-car at full throttle for up to twenty-four hours straight.  Round one started with a Ford taking pole position while six M3s took second to seventh place on the grid.  Unfortunately, while all six M3s finished 1-2-3-4-5-6, they were disqualified due to illegal lightweight bootlids.  And while round one gained them no points, it showed the world that BMW was ready to dominate the world.  That year (1987), the M3 won the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC), European Touring Car Championship (ETCC), German Touring Car Championship (GTCC), and the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) all with different drivers.

     What made the victories more amazing was the fact that the M3 ran with 300 horses throughout the season, while the Ford Cosworth started off with 360 ponies and ended up with 460.  That’s a 160 horsepower difference, or a 2 to 3 power ratio in favor of the Ford.  And with the introduction of the legendary RS500 which took the power-to-ratio crown away from the M3 later on in the year, the M3 had only superior reliability and handling to rely on to win.  By the end of the season, BMW recorded four wins, while Ford took five, but BMW took home more class victories which added to their point total to give them the outright victory of the World Touring Car Championship.

     The victories kept piling up in 1988 as well.  The cancelling of the World Touring Car Championship just let BMW focus their attention on other touring series’.  They won the ETCC again with three straight race victories for total domination of the 2.5 liter class.  The Asia Pacific Touring Car Championship and British Touring Car Championship added to BMW’s list of trophies.  In ’89, the ETCC was cancelled, and BMW decided to focus on the German, British, and Italian podiums instead.  The same year, while the Evo 2 was released giving BMW a six-gear transmission and a small bump in power, the outright performance numbers couldn’t come close to that of the Ford RS500.  That year, BMW only won the German Touring Car Championship.

     With the turn of the decade, the E30 M3 was starting to show its age.  Even so, BMW bagged the Italian, Dutch, Swiss, and Belgian Touring Car Championships and finished second in the German Touring Car Championship.  The Evo Sport debuted in 1991 with 360 horses, but it was the newly developed 2.0 liter that BMW put into their M3 that won the BTCC in their new 2 liter class.

     1992 was the last year the E30 M3 raced in Europe due to new regulations and the introduction of the E36 M3.  BMW’s last season running the E30 M3 was in Australia in 1993 where they were allowed to run against V-8s and the new regulations.  Though they didn’t win the Championship, but the few podium victories against the newer V-8s was testament to the aging M3’s prowess.  The end of the season ended on a high note though, by winning Macau Ghia Trophy Race, one that BMW won 4 times prior with the M3.

     All in all, BMW recorded over 1,400 victories in almost as many days.  The M3 toiled against superior technology, massive amounts of horsepower, and AWD traction, but still came out on top.  They routinely passed Sierra Cosworths, Audi 300 Quattros, Holden Commodores, and even Nissan Skylines on their road to the top of the podium, which seemed to happen quite often.  This clearly shows that a well developed balanced car is more important than one with all-out horsepower or AWD traction.


Auto Spotlight: BMW M3 E30, Part 3: The Specs

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

     Let’s move on to the fun part: the numbers.  Ain’t no room for opinions here, it’s all hard numbers and tests.

     When M started development of the M3’s then unnamed engine, they decided to go with the high-revving 4 pot route instead of a lower-revving 6 cylinder.  They based the block on BMW’s 1.8 liter M10 engine which was powering the rest of the 3 series lineup at the time.  The head however, was based on the M88 engine (cut down to 4 cylinders of course) which powered the street version of the M1,the E28 M5, and even some second generation E34 M5s.

     The stock 2.0 liters of displacement wasn’t enough for M, so they decided to both bore and stroke it to 93.4 mm and 84.0 mm, an increase of 4.4 mm in bore diameter, and 7 mm in stroke length.  They then adapted the M88, which featured double overhead cams, onto their 2.3 liter block by machining both the intake and exhaust ports for better flow.  They added eight counterweights to the crankshaft to deal with the increased rev limit, and also added individual throttle bodies (ITBs) to help each cylinder breathe with maximum efficiency.  This combination gave the S14 around 200 horses (197 hp i believe ) in production form.  While being powerful and efficient all the way around, M also wanted their S14 to be seen as clean and fuel efficient as well.  Thus they added a catalyst converter, which when tuned with their engine management, would return over 30 miles per gallon.  While the inclusion of the catalyst converter would lower the maximum output, it only sapped around 5 ponies in all, leaving the final power output at 192 hp.  The more powerful special edition M3 EVO2 which arrived in 1990 sported a larger power unit, both bored and stroked again to 2.5 liters by increasing bore diameter to 95.5 mm and stroke length to 87 mm to produce 238 hp.

     The chassis was also modified to accompany the increased power figure.  Lightness and stiffness was the goal.  The chassis was stripped down to only its bare necessities and then some.  The front windscreen and rear window were bonded to the chassis for improved stability and handling.  The front and rear bumpers, sidesill, boot lid, and spoilers were built from plastic to reduce weight.  Brake disc sizes were increased, while the front disks were exchanged for ventilated ones.  Stiffer anti-roll bars and springs/dampers were also included.  At the end of the diet, the stock weight was around 1200 kilos, or 2646 pounds, giving the car an impressive 6.15 kg per hp.  (Keep in mind that the E46 M3, which ended production in 2006 sported a 5.50 kg per hp ratio.)

     In the area of aerodynamics, you can definately see the improvements.  A large front spoiler was installed to reduce front axle lift by one-half, and the loud rear wing reduced rear lift by two-thirds.  The larger wheel arches helped increase track length by a bit, and could hold larger wheels and tires for increased grip.  The rear C-pillar was shortened and widened to allow better airflow to the wing and the front windshield was raked back as well.  The coefficient of drag was a low 0.33, which probably attributed to its efficient fuel consumption and high speed.

     As for real world performance figures, zero to sixty was found in 6.5 seconds, and reaching the century mark was done in 19 seconds flat.  The top speed was an impressive 143 mph with the catalytic converter, and 146 without.  Remember that this car was released in 1982, and those numbers were very impressive at the time.  If they seem tame to you, we’ll take a look at the motorsport variants of the E30 M3, which featured increased power figures, and even more madness.  Stay tuned.

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

Part 1 is here.


     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.

December 2017
« Jan    


Contact Info:

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


© 2009 Rusi Li