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BMW M3 history: the success story of the top 3-series model

BMW M3 history
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D he BMW M3 saw this in 1985 for only one reason Light of the car world: It should serve as a homologation model for racing. The top model of the 3-series was therefore destined to become the sporty benchmark in its class from the very beginning.

First M3 generation causes a stir in DTM & Co.

The first generation of the BMW M3 operated under the internal development code E30. However, it should still be some time before its retail premiere. It was not until 1987 that the first proud owners could go on a Porsche hunt with the 1,200 kilogram lightweight M3. The 5,000 copies of the M3 road version required for the race homologation were anything but slow-moving, the demand was huge. Under the hood of the angular sports car, a four-cylinder in-line engine with a displacement of 2.3 liters and 200 hp (with catalytic converter: 195 hp) did its job, running at top form at 6,750 revs and providing a maximum of 240 Nm at 4,750 tours. In the mid-1980s, the BMW M3 offered previously unimagined driving dynamics for a sedan.

The BMW M3 then entered its real living room, the race track, on March 22, 1987 as part of the World Touring Car Championship. However, there was an uproar right at the start of the season because all M3s were disqualified due to non-conforming sheet metal thicknesses. Only a small blemish, because at the end of the season Roberto Ravaglia was established as world champion and thus ensured that the BMW M3 won the World Touring Car Championship title in its very first season.

In the DTM, too, the M3 immediately made the competition's ears jittery - not just because of its infernal sounding naturally aspirated engine. The Belgian Erik van de Poele clinched the first DTM title in the first year of the BMW M3. The dominance of the over-3, who sent up to 360 hp to the rear wheels in the race trim, also underlined the places three to five in the final ranking.

The perfect motorsport debut of the M3 was rounded off by the European championship title by Winfried Vogt and the victory by Bernard Beguin at the World Rally Championship on Corsica. The extremely successful premiere year was to be followed by further victories and titles, including the DTM championship title with Roberto Ravaglia in 1989.

Based on the motorsport successes, BMW launched two each with the BMW M3 Evolution I and II 500 copieslimited special models on Kiel. Up to 238 hp from a displacement of 2.5 liters ensured even greater driving pleasure. Adjustable front and rear wings awakened the play instinct. The first M3 generation had sold a total of almost 18,000 times by the end of production in 1991. Only 786 buyers opted for the M3 convertible, which was offered from 1989.

First BMW M3 with inline six-cylinder from 1992

In 1992, BMW left the DTM. At the same time, the second M3 generation made its debut. The coupe weighed in at 1,460 kilograms. Instead of a four-cylinder as before, an in-line six-cylinder with initially 286 hp drove the rear wheels. The technical progress was reflected in the specific output of 95.2 hp per liter of displacement and the chassis tested on the Nordschleife. You could hardly see the extra power in the new BMW M3 E36. Compared to the angular, spoiler-reinforced M30 E30, the new one looked almost conservative. Distinguishing features were the special exterior mirrors and the M3 rims. For the first time, the BMW M3 was available as a coupé, convertible and sedan.

BMW also launched various special models of the second M3 generation, including the 295 hp BMW M3 GT Coupé in 1995, which in turn was used for homologation purposes. BMW competed in the ADAC GT-Cup with the 325 hp M3 E36. In 1993, Johnny Cecotto continued the motorsport success story of the M3 with the GT Cup title. From 1995 the six-cylinder of the M3 made 321 hp. By the end of 1999, a total of 71,242 buyers had opted for a second-generation M3 model.

BMW M3 from 2000 with 343 hp

At the turn of the millennium, the BMW M3 E46 followed, with its 343 series six PS mobilized. From four tailpipes, the meanwhile 1,570 kg heavy M3 trumpeted its sporty claim audibly to the world. The visual restraint was also over: In contrast to its rather subtle predecessor, the BMW M3 now boasted again with wide flared fenders and power domes on the bonnet. The displacement grew to 3,246 cubic centimeters, and the pistons rotated at 8,000 revs at a speed of 20 meters per second.

The technical progress in terms of engine management did not stop at the M3 either: a switch in the cockpit allowed the pilot to activate sharper characteristics for the accelerator pedal and throttle opening. BMW served the hardcore faction among sports drivers with the BMW M3 CSL, which has been boosted to 360 hp. It was lighter than the normal M3 and had an SMG gearbox and sports tires. As a homologation basis for the racing car successful in the American Le Mans Series, the first M3 with an eight-cylinder engine in a small series made its debut in 2001 with the 351 hp BMW M3 GTR.

When the third generation of the M3 was phased out in 2006, 85,139 were sportyMotorists opted for the Bayern Sporler. The BMW M3 Convertible alone sold 29,633 times. BMW had not offered an M3 sedan from this series.

BMW M3 from 2007 with V8 engine

In 2007, BMW threw the six-cylinder tradition overboard and donated one to the M3 V8 engine that mobilizes 420 hp from a displacement of four liters. The curb weight of the BMW M3, which was initially available as a coupé and later also as a sedan and convertible, rose to 1,580 kilograms (convertible: 1,810 kg). For the first time, the BMW M3 is now also available with a dual clutch transmission.

In 2010 the BMW M3 made its debut, a 450 hp special model for club sports with a roll cage, coilover suspension and seven-speed DSG. The E90 series also successfully continued the motorsport tradition of the M3. Among other things, Bayern won the 2010 24-hour race on the Nürburgring with the 500 hp BMW M3 GT2. This vehicle had already scored numerous victories in other endurance races.


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