As someone who is pushing 40, I grew up during the golden era of the Need for Speed franchise. By far the most recognizable BMW to star in a video game was the M3 GTR extensively featured in Most Wanted released back in 2005. Of course, that iconic E46 is important among enthusiasts for another reason – it’s the only E46 to come from the factory with a big ol’ V8.

A new video looks back at the ultra-rare Strassenversion (street version) that BMW had to build to comply with American Le Mans Series (ALMS) racing regulations. The race car was officially unveiled in March 2001 during the Sebring 12 Hours race in Florida where it finished on the podium with JJ Lehto and Jörg Müller behind the wheel. After being introduced at the Petit Le Mans event in Braselton, Georgia later that year, production of the road-legal variant commenced in January 2002.

While the term “race car for the road” tends to be overused these days, the M3 GTR Strassenversion was effectively that. Back in the day, BMW said it was “kept technically as close as possible to the racing version.” It had a dry weight of just 1,350 kilograms (2,976 pounds), which made it a remarkable 185 kg (408 lbs) lighter than the regular M3 sold during the E46 era.

The most expensive M3 ever sold by BMW, the street-legal GTR was offered for approximately €250,000 and only 10 units were ever made. All of them had a two-seat layout and a naturally aspirated 4.0-liter V8 taken straight from the race car. It used a slightly restricted version of the same P60B40, which pushed out 346 hp (258 kW) and 365 Nm (269 lb-ft) of torque. The 4.0-liter unit routed power to the rear axle via a six-speed manual gearbox (instead of the race car’s sequential transmission) and a variable limited-slip differential.

The M3 GTR was faster than the standard M3 of those days by being able to hit 183 mph (295 km/h), or 10 mph (15 km/h) more than the series-production flagship. This was the only BMW street-legal car to use the P60B40. These cars were built in a fixed specification since all came in Titan Silver Metallic with numerous carbon fiber body parts and 19-inch wheels wrapped in 225/40 front and 255/35 rear tires.

Not even BMW knows what happened to those 10 cars after selling them for a quarter of a million euros a pop. As for the racing version, it completed the 2001 season in the GT class of the ALMS after finishing in first and third places in seven races, out of a total of 10. It was its first and only season as regulations changed, requiring 100 road cars instead of just 10. The M3 GTR lived on in Europe where it raced between 2003 and 2005, taking part in the grueling Nürburgring 24 Hours.

Source: VisioRacer / YouTube