2016 marks the 30th anniversary of a motorsports icon, one that revolutionized the mid-size sports car segment when production began in 1986: the BMW M3. This car set a new standard by which it was measured, and after five model generations, the other manufacturers are still being measured.
BMW Motorsport Division, the forerunner of the BMW M Division, was incredibly rigorous in using racing technology in the development of the first generation of the BMW M3. Their efforts created a true high-performance sports car - based on the BMW 3 Series production model - that was perfectly suited to everyday use.
Over the next three decades, BMW M has carefully refined its creation from generation to generation, always scrupulously preserving the original character of the BMW M3. The result is no other car that blends carefully selected racing genes with the ability to be practical on a daily basis in such an exciting package.
The 30th anniversary of the BMW M3 offers a perfect opportunity to look back at four interesting variants of the model that, for various reasons, never made it past the prototype stage ...
BMW M3 PICKUP (1986)
When the first generation of the BMW M3 was unveiled, it was not just customers who were impressed by its exceptional dynamic abilities. It also caused a sensation in the BMW Motorsport department responsible for its development, which saw it as the perfect way to transport equipment and parts at the premises of what is now the BMW M Division in Garching, near Munich. The only problem was that freight was not high on the list of the many talents of the BMW M3. It didn't take long to remedy the situation by transforming the chassis of the BMW 3 Series Convertible into a BMW M3 Pickup.
“The cabrio chassis was chosen as the basis for two reasons,” recalls Jakob Polschak, Head of Vehicle Prototype Construction and Workshops at the BMW M Division and an employee of the company for more than 40 years. “First of all, we had this model at our disposal and in perfect condition. Second, the convertible construction made it the ideal choice for its conversion to a pickup ”.
The first BMW M3 Pickup did not use the original daring spoilers, as it was equipped with a narrower chassis than its production brother. At first it had the engine used in the so-called "Italian M3", which was two liters due to the tax regulations of that country and a delivery of 192 hp. “Later we switched to the original 2,3-liter four-cylinder with 200 horsepower,” explains Polschak.
The BMW M3 Pickup performed its work around the factory premises with complete reliability for more than 26 years, before finally being retired four years ago. The long service stage of the BMW M3 Pickup is proof that the unique versions presented here are not mere whims or engineering exercises. On the contrary, they are high-performance cars that have been optimized to perfectly fulfill the task they had as their objective or their field of use. They therefore embody the philosophy of the BMW M. In addition, they also serve another important goal: “Our apprentices and trainees helped build all these prototypes,” explains Polschak. "This allowed them to gain valuable experience and, at the same time, free up resources for us, a situation that was beneficial for everyone."
BMW M3 COMPACT (1996)
The same happened with the 3 BMW M1996 Compact, naturally. The idea in this model was to present to young customers, in particular, an entry point to the world of BMW M cars. “To a certain extent, the M3 Compact can be considered the predecessor of the current BMW M2”, highlights the workshop manager of BMW M with sparkle in its eyes, and it's easy to see where it gets the comparison from. Had it gone into production, the M3's engine power would have been lowered a bit. However, in the prototype it was allowed to deliver its 321 hp in full, which made it easy to power a light car (it only weighed 1,3 tons). "It is 150 kilos lighter, more agile, firmer and with fewer compromises," enthusiastically commented the German motorsport magazine auto motor und sport (issue 13/1996) after testing it.
BMW M3 TOURING (2000)
The BMW M3 Touring prototype also materialized because a production model was being considered. The M3 Compact was available for press tests to project an image and probe customer interest, but the M3 Touring served entirely internal purposes. “This prototype allowed us to show that, at least from a purely technical point of view, it was possible to integrate an M3 Touring into the production of the standard BMW 3 Series Touring with very little difficulty,” explains Jakob Polschak. “One important thing we had to demonstrate was that the rear doors of the standard production model could be modified to fit the rear wheel arches without the need for expensive new tools.” Once passed through the assembly line, the M3 Touring required a Minimal manual labor to include the M specific add-on parts and interior details, for example.
BMW M3 PICKUP (2011)
Once the first generation of the BMW M3 Pickup described above began to show the first major signs of wear after its first quarter-century of service, it was time for a successor. As in the original, those responsible for its creation once again opted for a convertible chassis due to its reinforcement elements. "The conversion work was carried out in a normal and unspectacular way at the beginning during the spring of 2011. But then someone had the idea of showing the vehicle as an April fools day, since the date was very close" remembers Polschak.
To heat up the mood, photos of test laps at the Nürburgring Nordschleife appeared before that day, fueling speculation about plans to create a production model. And it worked. Reports from that time show that many journalists and bloggers took the bait and believed the rumors.
The official statement published on April 1, 2011 did not immediately set the record straight, first introducing the BMW M3 Pickup as the "fourth chassis variant" after the saloon, coupe and convertible, before saying: "309 kW / 420 hp under the hood and a load capacity of 450 kg on the rear axle take the mix of competition and practicality typical of the BMW M models to a new level. It also highlighted that the Cd was only slightly higher than that of the BMW M3 Coupé, the car was 50 kilos lighter than the cabrio and that the 20 kilos roof could be removed to lower the center of gravity and therefore offer a dynamics even better.
The press release did not reveal until the last paragraph that the model in question was a one-off construction for use as a transport vehicle in the workshop. Unlike its predecessor, however, it was also approved for road use.[sam_pro id = "0_1" codes = "true"]