The BMW M3 (E30) was presented to the world public at the international motor show in Frankfurt in 1985. It was primarily used for homologation for the German Touring Car Championship (DTM). However, the demand was so great from the start that it was manufactured and sold in far larger numbers than originally planned.
The vehicle was essentially based on the standard 3-series BMW E30 with 2 doors. However, the body underwent extensive changes. The fenders were exhibited in order to be able to accommodate wider wheels and to enable a larger track width. Furthermore, the tailgate, which is now made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic, was raised by a few centimeters and a shortened rear window was installed. This measure reduced the lift on the rear axle and promoted straight-line stability at high speeds. Changed bumpers and side skirts also improved the aerodynamics. A large rear spoiler was also used, which was even adjustable on the Evolution models. The windshield was not drawn in with piping as in the standard three, but was glued in to ensure greater torsional rigidity. It was only through these aerodynamic improvements that the vehicle was able to reach a top speed of 7 km / h. The drag coefficient (CW value) was 0.33 and was therefore a very good level for the time.
A 4-cylinder engine (S14B23 and S14B25) with a split 4-valve cylinder head was developed for the motorization of the M3. The development time was only 2 weeks! The block of the M10 engine was used as the fuselage and the cylinder head shortened by 2 cylinders from the M635CSI. Due to the short forged crankshaft, the torsional and bending vibrations remained at a low level and high engine speeds were made possible. A single throttle valve system was installed on the suction side. Thanks to the intake manifold length being the same for each cylinder, this ensured optimized filling in all speed ranges. Racing technology also found its way into the transmission. Here, for the first time and for the only time in series models, the so-called “dog-leg gearbox” was installed as standard. With this gearbox, 1st gear is at the bottom left, so that the gears were only distributed over 2 shift levels. However, this gearbox was not installed in M3 vehicles that were intended for the American market. The reason for this was that the Americans could not be trusted to cope with the gearbox and they wanted to avoid accidents caused by accidentally reversing at the traffic lights and the civil lawsuits that might be associated with them.
The chassis of the M3 has also been optimized with regard to the motor sport use of the vehicle. A high-pressure pump also provided power assistance for the steering and brakes. This made the braking force assistance independent of the negative pressure in the engine.
The result was a sports sedan that offered excellent driving performance in terms of both longitudinal and transverse dynamics and also gave every sports driver of that time who could afford such a vehicle a piece of DTM for their own garage.
And the successes in motorsport must also be described as unique. Mention should be made here of multiple victories in touring car world and European championships as well as in the German touring car championship. This makes the M3 (E30) the most successful touring car of all time to this day.
Later, a convertible version of the BMW E30 M3 was also built in a small number of only 786 pieces,
which is a very small number with a view to the total of 17,970 BMW M3 E30s produced and you can already think of a “special model” like the Johnny Cecotto (505 pieces), the Evolution II (505 pieces), the Sport-Evolution (600 pieces) , the even rarer special model “European Champion” (also called Roberto Ravaglia, because the sticker on the vehicle is signed by him) (150 pieces) or the special model “Tours des Corse” intended exclusively for the French market, which is only available in 50 pieces was produced.
You can find everything about these special models in our article “BMW M3 E30 special models”, or under the following link:
With regard to the luxury tax for vehicles over 2.0 liter cubic capacity, some vehicles called “320is”, which are called “Italo M3” were only created for the Italian market and were only used for Italy and Portugal, which had the same luxury tax problem built. The reduced-displacement engine of the M3 (here S14B20), which made 192 hp and 210 Nm, was installed here. The body corresponded to that of the normal E30.
BMW E30 320 IS Italo M3
Everything you need to know and further information about the “Italo M3” can be found in our separate article, a separate article “What is the Italo M3 BMW E30?” or under the following link:
The vehicle manufacturer Alpina built 62 vehicles based on the M3 with a 3.5 liter in-line six-cylinder engine, the Kat version with 254 hp. This car was offered under the sales designation “Alpina B6 3.5 S”.
You can find everything you need to know about this vehicle in our separate article “ALPINA B6 3.5 S” or the link below:
The standard equipment of the M3 included: aluminum rims, 5-speed sports transmission, limited-slip differential with 25% locking effect. Intensive window cleaning system, ABS, tachometer, red needles in the instrument cluster, sports seats, oil temperature display, exterior mirrors painted in the vehicle color, heated door locks and windshield washer nozzles, sports steering wheel, a 15 liter additional tank and power steering with a shortened ratio. In addition to the standard equipment, all additional equipment like the “normal E30” could of course also be ordered as options when ordering, provided that they did not collide with the existing standard equipment. In addition, the M3 E30 already had 5-hole rims, which continues to make it differs from normal E30 with 4 hole rims.
|Engine||4-cylinder in-line engine, installed at the front and lengthways to the direction of travel, 24-cylinder inline engine, installed at the front and lengthways to the direction of travel, 2 overhead camshafts, 16 valves, bore x stroke M3 (all models): 93.4 mm x 84 mm, cubic capacity M3 (all models): 2302 ccm, bore x stroke M3 Sportevo: 95.0 mm x 87.0 mm, displacement Sportevo: 2467 ccm, timing chain, electronic fuel injection overhead camshafts, 16 valves, bore x stroke M3 (all models): 93 , 4 mm x 84 mm, cubic capacity M3 (all models): 2302 ccm, bore x stroke M3 Sportevo: 95.0 mm x 87.0 mm, cubic capacity Sportevo: 2467 ccm, timing chain, electronic fuel injection|
|Power||M3 o. Kat: 147 kW/200 PS bei 6750 U/min
M3 m. Kat: 143 kW/195 PS bei 6750 U/min
M3 m.Kat II: 158 kW/215 PS bei 6750 U/min
M3 Evo 2: 162 kW/220 PS bei 6750 U/min
M3 Sportevo: 175 kW/238 PS bei 7000 U/min
|Power to weight ratio:||5,37 kg/PS|
|Torque:||M3 o. Kat: 240 Nm bei 4750 U/min|
|M3 m. Kat: 230 Nm bei 4750 U/min|
|M3 m. Kat II: 230 Nm bei 4600 U/min|
|M3 Evo 2: 240 Nm bei 4740 U/min|
|M3 Sportevo: 240 Nm bei 4740 U/mi|
|Drive concept:||Front engine, rear drive, 5-speed manual transmission, limited slip differential (25%)|
|Dimensions:||Length x width x height: 4360mm x 1675mm x 1365mm,|
|Tank capacity:||M3 (alle Modelle): 70 Liter|
|M3 Sportevo: 63|
|Empty weight:||M3 o.Kat: 1237 kg|
|M3 m. Kat: 1287 kg|
|M3 m. Kat II: 1308 kg|
|M3 Sportevo: 1277 kg|
|M3 Cabrio: 1360 kg|
|Number of items (total):||M3 (all models): 17970 pieces (of which Sportevo: 600 pieces / Cabrio: 786 pieces, Cecotto 505 / Sport Evolution II: 505 pieces / European champions: 150 pieces, Tours de Corse 50 pieces.|
BMW E30 M3 S14 Motor
|Maximum speed (manufacturer information):|| M3 o. Kat: 235 km/h
M3. m. Kat: 230 km/h
M3 m. Kat II: 242 km/h
M3 Sportevo: 248 km/h
|Acceleration:||0 – 100 km/h: M3 o. Kat: 7,8 sek.
M3 m.Kat: 7,6 sek.
M3 m.Kat II: 7,6 sek.
M3 Sportevo: 6,7 sek.
|0 – 160 km/h: M3 o. Kat: 19,1 sek.
M3 m. Kat: 18,9 sek.
M3 m. Kat II: 19,1 sek.
M3 Sportevo: 16,7 sek.
|0 – 200 km/h: M3 o. Kat: 35,9 sek.
M3 m. Kat: 35,4 sek.
M3 Sportevo: 29,2 sek.
|0 – 1000 m: M3 o. Kat: 28,3 sek
M3 m. Kat: 28,1 sek.
M3 m. Kat II: 28,2 sek.
M3 Sportevo: 27,0 sek.
|Independent suspension on triangular wishbones below and McPherson struts, stabilizer /
Independent suspension on semi-trailing arms, shock absorbers, coil springs, stabilizer
|Wheel / tire combination
|M3 (all): 205 / 55R15 on aluminum rim 7,0Jx15H2
M3 Sportevo: 225 / 45R16 on aluminum rim 7.5Jx16H2
Brake power assistance via high-pressure pump, ABS, all-round brake discs, front with internal ventilation, Ø front / rear: 280 mm / 282 mm
Defects, problems and weaknesses
The basic design of the BMW M3 (E30) is based on tried and tested large-scale technology. Accordingly, the vehicle is durable and suitable for everyday use. The engine in particular is considered to be very robust and can withstand professional performance increases very well. As with all other sports vehicles, the key to long-term driving pleasure lies in proper maintenance and care. As the mileage increases, the timing chain tensioner can wear out and must be replaced. It is advisable to convert to the tensioner of the BMW M3 3.2 E36, which also has a spring and thus sets the correct chain tension at the start. Depending on the driving style and type of use of the vehicle, the connecting rod bearings can be worn out after a mileage of around 150,000 km. This occurs more frequently in vehicles in which low-viscosity engine oil has been used. The manufacturer’s specification here is 15W40 and should be strictly adhered to, as all bearing points were designed for this viscosity. Adjusting the valve clearance should also be done regularly, but is a bit more time-consuming when using adjusting plates.
If the engine runs irregularly and no longer revs up smoothly, the throttle valves may need to be synchronized. It is advisable to have this work carried out by a specialist, as extreme precision is essential here.
Another problem that only affects the M3 in the E30 series is corrosion damage to the windshield frame. As already mentioned, the windshield is glued in to achieve greater torsional rigidity. However, the window adhesive reacts with the body and thus causes corrosion damage in this area.
Attention should also be paid to the storage of the rear axle beam. These so-called “barrel bearings” tend to be subject to increased wear, particularly in vehicles with sporty movements. If the bearing is worn, this can be determined by the fact that the axle body is resting on the lower bearing cover. During the test drive, attention should be paid to rumbling noises from this area and a “floating” feeling from the rear axle. The Hardy disk between the transmission output shaft and the cardan shaft should also be appreciated. If cracks appear here, a replacement is urgently required.
The power steering gear should also be inspected. It is not uncommon for leaks here, which makes it necessary to seal or replace the steering gear.
A common E30 problem is also defective headlight range control. This is mandatory for vehicles from first registration on 01.01.1990 and, in the event of a malfunction, leads to a significant defect in the main inspection. The repair of the hydraulically operating system, however, turns out to be quite complex.
It is not uncommon for BMW M3 (E30) to be driven on racetracks. Therefore, before making a purchase, it is essential to pay attention to possible accidental damage.
The BMW M3 (E30) owes its genes to motorsport. Accordingly, the vehicle is sporty, tightly tuned and offers excellent feedback from the road. The transition from static to dynamic friction occurs first at the stern due to a pronounced tendency to oversteer. However, in contrast to many today’s cars, the limit area is very broad. The sporty driving is accompanied by clear rolling and pitching movements, which do not detract from the lateral dynamic potential of the car. The steering ratio, which has been shortened in contrast to the standard 3 series (E30), also supports the dynamic properties of the car. The engine likes high speeds, but runs very rough and accompanied by significant vibrations. The well-contoured sports seats offer sufficient lateral support and are also suitable for long stretches of the motorway. The M-Technik steering wheel is easy to grip and lies comfortably in the hand.
Conclusion and purchase advice
The BMW M3 E30 already has the status of a classic. Accordingly, the prices for well-maintained vehicles have risen by a good 100% in the last 10 years (as of 05.2012). With the Sport-Evolution models, the prices have slipped into astronomical heights. Unfortunately, these price explosions are in no relation to the value you get for them. This has clearly passed its zenith and will have to return to the level of reality in the years to come. Regardless of the current price range, the BMW M3 (E30) is a very good and eye-catching sports car that combines a high level of everyday practicality with great driving pleasure.