A Boy Racer for the Ages

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At first glance, the first-generation BMW M3 looks like a boy racer’s dream. You see a big air dam, a big spoiler and big wheels rolling under big flares.

You have to get into this car, start it and roll it down the road before you know exactly what the E30 (BMW’s internal designation for the car) is all about. In its first four years of production, it won more races and titles than any other BMW ever — and it is still the most successful racing saloon of all time.

The 1988–91 M3 represents a purity of purpose that BMW had not shown before — or since. The car was developed in reverse order of most — if not all — of the production cars of today. BMW first developed the race version of the M3 and then made it into a saleable homologation. Some will argue the M1 also fits this, but the E30 M3 was designed to go racing first, then became a road car. The M1 was developed as a sports car and then as a racer.

Steve Johnson

SCM Contributor

Steve started to love of cars when he was 5 years old and sitting on the front porch with his father, who could tell what type of car was coming by the location of the headlights. He discovered road racing at Riverside Raceway, and crewed on a couple of Porsche pro teams in the 1980s. He became a fan of BMWs after driving a 2002 in 1971, and he has owned many since then, including a 1989 M3, a 1972 3.0 CS and an E91 wagon. He is the current Executive Vice President of the BMW Car Club of America and has been an Instructor in their high-performance driving program for 15 years.

Posted in Affordable Classics