Based on the 1986 E30 3-Series and and boasting exceptional performance data: 200 horsepower, a top speed in excess of 230 km/h or 143 mph, and acceleration to 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds, the first M3 was introduced with a 2.3 L S14 engine, derived from the BMW M88 inline-6 block and the valve train and head architecture from BMWs M1 and later M6 inline-6 cylinder. The BMW M3 project had started a few months before at BMW Motorsport GmbH.
BMW M3 M30
The legend has it that Eberhard von Kuenheim, at the time the Chairman of the Board of Management, gave the go-ahead for a particularly sporting and dynamic engine in the BMW 3 Series in a talk with the Technical Director of BMW M GmbH, Paul Rosche. Rosche and his team were however well-prepared when they received the green light to build this exceptional power unit.
For Rosche, incidentally also the ?father? of the turbocharged engine which helped Nelson Piquet bring home the Formula 1 World Championship in 1983 in his BMW Brabham, had already checked out the ?bits and pieces? he needed for the engine: The new power unit was based on the crankcase of the four-cylinder already featured as a highly refined and dynamic two-litre in large-scale production, with its engine block already rendering an invaluable service in the World Championship engine. The decision in favour of a four-cylinder and against the six-cylinder introduced in the BMW 3 Series in the meantime was taken not only to save weight, but also and above all for technical reasons: The longer crankshaft on the large engine started to vibrate much earlier at increasing engine speeds than the crankshaft in the four-cylinder.
After an incredibly short development period of just 14 days, the first prototype engine was ready to go, proudly bearing the abbreviation ?S14? in a slightly modified version and destined to write history in both motorsport and series production. The first version produced 195 hp (143 kW) (catalyzed model).
Evolution models (not sold in North America) continued with 2.3 liters but adopted revised cam timing, increased compression along with the lack of a catalyst producing approximately 215 hp. Later the Sport Evolution model increased engine displacement to 2.5 L and produced 238 hp (175 kW). 786 cabriolets were also produced, all by hand in BMW’s Garching plant, at the time the 215 hp example was the world’s fastest four seater convertible.
The only bad news for Paul Rosche in this development process is that he was not able to integrate a turbocharger in the engine for reasons of homologation, since the ?fathers? of the BMW M3 had planned the car from the start also as a Group A racing car, which required production of at least 5,000 units in 12 successive months. To keep the car competitive in racing following homologation rules, homologation specials were produced. Homologation rules roughly stated that the race version must reflect the street car aerodynamically and in engine displacement; therefore, improved models were periodically released for the public.
Special editions and homologation specials include: the Evo 1, Evo 2 and Sport Evolution some of which featured less weight, improved aerodynamics, taller front fender arches (Sport Evolution; to further facilitate 18 inch wheels in DTM), brake ducting, and more power.
1988 E30 BMW M3 Evo1
E30 M3 Sports Evolution Seats
While focusing particularly on the power and performance of the new engine, the responsible engineers also had other important developments in mind. One point was that the four-cylinder in the BMW M3 was to pave the way into the future also in terms of emission management, forming a perfect team with a fully controlled catalytic converter ? a combination quite unusual back then in the mid-80s, when the catalyst still tended to increase fuel consumption and reduce engine output. A further potential drawback was that unleaded gasoline, obviously a must for an engine with a catalytic converter, did not have the reputation of being particularly good for a high-performance power unit.
And last but certainly not least, the quality of fuel in Europe varied significantly from one region to another ? again not good news for the reliable operation of such an engine. But again, Paul Rosche and his team found the solution: They modified the engine and reduced its compression ratio from 10.5 : 1 to 9.6 : 1. As a result, the power unit featured in the BMW M3 did not develop any destructive knocking effect even in response to fuel with a varying octane rating. And a truly sensational factor at the time was that even this reduction of engine compression and the integration of a catalyst meant a reduction in engine power by only 5 hp down from the regular 200 horsepower. J
ust a few months after the go-ahead for the BMW M3 project, the car itself was presented to the public at large for the first time at the Frankfurt Motor Show in autumn 1985. Even without the special paintwork otherwise featured on cars of this kind making their public debut, visitors had no problem to distinguish the BMW M3 from the other models in the 3 Series. The E30 M3 differed from the rest of the E30 line-up in many ways. The M3 was equipped with a revised stiffer and more aerodynamic body shell as well as “box flared” fenders to accommodate a wider track with wider and taller wheels and tires. The only body panels the standard model and the M3 shared were the hood and roof. It also had three times the caster angle of any other E30. The M3 shared larger wheel bearings and front brake calipers with the E28 5-Series.
Having won more road races than any other model in history, the E30 M3 is considered by many to be the world’s most successful road race car. Its wins include the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft, European Touring Car Championship and even the one-off World Touring Car Championship title in 1987. The E30 M3 is also a multiple winner of Guia Race, 24 Hours N?rburgring and Spa 24 Hours. Winning the Corsica Rally ? and thus scoring BMW?s first win in a race for the World Rally Championship in 14 years ? the BMW M3 impressively proved that its success was not limited to circuit racing or the race track alone.
Two very special offers for the private enthusiast followed in 1988: Bearing the additional letters ?Evo? for evolution, BMW introduced a small special series of even more powerful M3s. Standing out clearly through its opulent spoilers, this very special BMW M3 was powered by a 220 hp engine again also available in catalyst trim with maximum output of 215 hp. The second new model was addressed to the aficionado of open-air motoring ? the BMW M3 Convertible based on the ?regular? BMW 3 Series Convertible.
Developing maximum output of 215 hp and offering a top speed of 239 km/h or 148 mph, this was by far the most powerful and fastest open four-seater available in a small production series. By the end of 1991 no less than 17,970 units of the first-generation BMW M3 left the Plant, among them 786 Convertibles.