David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/28/17 3:43 p.m.

The original M3 grew out of BMW’s desire to infiltrate FIA Group A racing. To be competitive, the standard 3 Series was going to need some help, including more power, a reworked suspension and some extra aero.

The “more power” part of the equation came from the brand’s S14 powerplant, a detuned, non-turbo version of its old F1 engine. The theory was that the four-cylinder’s crankshaft would be better suited to high engine speeds than the longer unit found in the six-cylinder street cars. A widened track improved handling, while big brakes came from the larger 5 Series sedan.

Then there was the can’t-miss bodywork: massive box flares, deep front spoiler, rear wing and unique deck lid. To help aero efficiency, engineers gave the rear window a more gradual lean, necessitating more custom bodywork. As hoped, all these changes helped BMW dominate the day’s touring car racing scene.

This M3 wasn’t crude, though. The interior, including the well-bolstered seats, was nicely trimmed in leather. A power sunroof and a quality sound system rounded out the plush cockpit.

The M3 was conceived for European racing, but it did well in the States, too. Korman Autoworks successfully fielded M3s for BMW North America, while Russell Wiles drove one to SCCA Solo titles.

BMW needed to build 5000 copies of the M3 to satisfy those FIA requirements. The model debuted in Europe in time for the 1986 model year, with American-spec road cars arriving two years later. By the time the M3 left showrooms after the 1991 model year, BMW had delivered more than 12,000 copies.

That ample supply kept prices reasonable for years, with many owners using them as intended–and if they were crashed in the process, that was okay.

Lately, though, good examples have become scarce, with Hagerty saying that a perfect example is now worth more than $130,000. Sound crazy? At Monterey in 2015, we watched a museum piece bring in nearly $100,000.

Good, presentable drivers are also out there for more reasonable sums, though: Bring a Trailer recently sold two for about $40,000 each. If you’ve ever wanted one, now may be the time to strike.

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trucke SuperDork
11/29/17 10:08 a.m.

My best friend had one of these with the Ground Control/Koni suspension.  That thing handled like it was wired to your brain.  About 15 years ago we took first in a fun rally.  We did not tell anyone that it had a rally computer from the factory.

He was forced to sell by his wife.  I advised against it.  Was saddened to see it go!


wspohn Dork
11/29/17 11:01 a.m.

"The “more power” part of the equation came from the brand’s S14 powerplant, a detuned, non-turbo version of its old F1 engine. "

Not so much. The S14 only had one thing in common with the M12/13 F1 engine - the block out of the M10. Unless 'detuned' refers to removal of not only the turbo but also tossing the cylinder head....

akylekoz HalfDork
11/29/17 11:27 a.m.

I flogged one of those for 15 years, wired to the brain is an accurate description. Very confidence inspiring, mine had +1 wheels, Bilstiens a Dinan chip and cam gear. 

Sold it just as the value went up, also right before some expensive cost of ownership was about to happen.  Purchased from a Saab dealership before they had a chance to prep, it needed brakes and the exhaust had a crack in it.  I paid $9995 for it with 130k on the clock, sold it with 190k for $8000 15 years later, not bad for a used car.  Probably worth twice that today, it was red with tan int, paint was good interior very nice. 

I miss that car a lot. 



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