The History of the BMW M3

The History of the BMW M3

BMW M3: Everything you need to know


Bayerische Motoren Werke in German or Bavarian Motor Works in English, commonly known as BMW is a German based luxury automobile company which manufactures premium cars, its engines and motorcycles. The company was founded in 1916 by Karl Rapp and has its headquarters in Munich, Bavaria. By the year 2015 BMW became world’s twelfth largest manufacturer of automobiles with around 2,279,503 vehicles produced. BMW uses different series for the classification of its cars. Or in other words, we can say that the bigger the class number is, more expensive will the car and larger will its size. Also, the series with the odd numbers like 3-series, 5-series and 7-series are used in sedan and SUVs whereas the series with the odd numbers refer to more sporty cars and convertibles.

BMW 3 Series

BMW 3-series has a range of compact executive cars under it and is being manufactured since May 1975. The 3-series is the BMWs best selling model which has also been accounted for around 30% of the BMW brands total sales which is after excluding its sales from motorcycles. The first version of 3-series which was E21 replaced the 2-series and it was initially was available only as a 2 door sedan. The second generation of 3-series was E30 which was manufactured from 1982 to 1994. In its beginning stages, E30 was manufactured solely in the two-door sedan body style. The E30 model was the first 3 series which was made available in the wagon and four-door sedan body styles. Also, it was the first 3 series which offered a diesel engine and an all-wheel-drive car. The first BMW M3 was built on the platform of E30. It was only supposed to be a track car but became the envy of every garage in the world. It’s just a variant of another model, but it’s the most famous line its maker has.

        BMW E30 M3 series

How it all began?


In the early 80s, Mercedes upended the German racing scene when they turned their little 190 compact sedans into a monster. Even with a defined Cosworth engine, the updated 190E 2.3-16 absolutely obliterated speed and endurance records and made Mercedes the go-to badge for the prestigious DTM track car series. This was a home-grown German series, and all the major German manufacturers wanted to win it to make their brand stand out. So when the new Mercedes seized the DTM crown, BMW CEO Eberhard Von Kuenheim decided they needed to put a cooler engine into their 3 series if they ever wanted to win the DTM again but the work required was very difficult in its league. Well, it turned out that BMW happened to have a Motorsports division, called M. for Motorsport. Now, at that time, the M division only worked on track cars/racing-spec cars and that was all Kuenheim wanted: A racetrack version of the 3 series that could throw Mercedes out of the circuit. But there was a problem: Homologation. To qualify for the racing series that BMW wanted to enter, the Homologation rules required that BMW produce at least 5,000 units of the car. The racing leagues didn’t want companies to produce track cars, they wanted modified versions of street-legal cars. Because of this rule, they were going to have to make this new 3 series available to the public. BMW’s sales department didn’t think there’d be enough demand to justify a 5000-unit production but then Mercedes challenge would not stand. So Kuenheim decided to green light production anyway. And so, Motorsport was off to the races. The first order of business was to build an engine, and as it turned out, they grabbed the six-cylinder inline motor from their earlier M1 sports car but found that it was too heavy for the 3 series. So they decided to cut off two cylinders. Now, with a four-cylinder block, they threw the rest of the parts and went from zero to working prototype in just two weeks. Then it was time for the body, but the 3 series had its own body out of which Motorsports threw away all but four panels. Every single other part was re-sculpted to be more streamlined, efficient, and aerodynamic and then Motorsports retuned the suspension, its throttle and its brakes. The end result in 1986 was a BMW 3 series designed exclusively armed with its new 20hp straight-4 engine.

How it got named?


Now all that was remaining was to name the car. So since Motorsports was called M, and the series was 3, so BMW decided to name the car M3. The M3 did its job pretty well: It won a truckload of race trophies, and against BMW’s expectations, it actually sold all of its 5,000 production runs. In fact, it sold another 10,000-15,000 on top of that. Because of the unexpected popularity, the Bavarians made a few variations, like the Evolution and Sport Evolution models, and they even made an M3 pickup truck. Granted, it never went into mass production, but the Motorsports Division kept the concept truck and used it for another twenty-six years.

                  BMW E30 M3 Sports Evolution

Since New is always Better


All told, the original M3 became an icon of its era and remains a halo car to this day. Here’s the thing though, that original E30 M3 was always meant to be a track car/race car. It didn’t have many features, the interior wasn’t great, and it didn’t exactly say ‘Luxury’. So, when the time came to update the M3 to match the 90s 3-series, Munich decided to make the car more like a proper BMW. When the E36 M3 launched in 1992, it had a plush interior, a standard equipment range, and a much more restrained exterior. Then they put back the two cylinders they’d cut out of the original engine so that even though it looked modest on the outside, it was a straight-six rocket on the inside. And that engine was at 282hp in 3L, it had the best hp/L ratio of any naturally aspirated car at the time. The US, for reasons unknown, got saddled with a defined version of the engine. While the original E30 M3 might have a lock on enthusiasts heart, but the E36 is the M3 that set the direction for all future models. The next model, E46 in 2000, was to the M3 that the M3 was to the 3 series. Rocking the last naturally aspirated straight-six in the history of the line, it produced 338hp, over a 100 more than its predecessor. The E46 was the true juggernaut of the M3 range, with over 85,000 units sold worldwide. Road and car magazine called it their favorite sports car of all time. For the E90 model in 2007, BMW made the V8 the standard and only engine option for the M3. Mid-way through this generations run, BMW refreshed it as the E92 which was exactly like the E90, only better and with a sedan variant. For some reason, the convertible got a whole new version number, as the E93. In 2014, BMW updated the M3 to the F80, and with it, split the brand in half. The new M3 was only available as a four-door compact sedan; the two-door coupe was spun off as a brand new badge, the M4. The new M3 returned to the good old straight-six, this time with two turbochargers and with electric steering too. Purists didn’t like the sound of these changes, but none of that put a cramp on the M3’s style. Because when it released, the F80 was considered yet another Munich masterpiece, a 425hp with a top speed of 174mph. After all this time and five different generations, the new M3 is still the king or queen of its class. For thirty years, the BMW M3 has proven that “Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you just need to make the best wheel”. From the E30 M3 on the race track, to the F80 on the road, the M3 has no single reason why it’s the best, IT JUST IS.

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