Any enthusiast worth his or her salt knows that not only was the E30 BMW M3 the beginning of a long and successful line of M-Series automobiles, but also created a niche for factory-tuned performance cars that continues to this day.
The E30 M3 was developed by BMW’s in-house Motorsport Department with the intention of correcting whatever shortcomings the E30 platform had versus its competition, primarily for use in Touring Car racing.
Introduced in 1986, the first BMW M3 was powered by the unique S14 DOHC four-cylinder created by combining an M10 block with a bespoke cylinder head derived from the six-cylinder M88. The engine was backed by a Getrag 265 5-speed manual gearbox.
The front suspension was heavily modified versus a standard E30 and used a mix of unique components and others borrowed from the larger 5 Series. The rear suspension set-up was pretty much standard issue E30 with changes to springs and anti-roll bar. Larger caliper and rotors were installed all around.
What set the E30 M3 apart visual was its set of 12 unique body panels, which included front air dam, wider fenders, and a raised trunklid to aid airflow to the rear spoiler. The only exterior body panels the standard 3 Series and the M3 shared were the hood, roof panel, sunroof, and doors.
The collection below is comprised of photographs taken during the reign of the original M3, primarily in Touring Car racing but also as a Group A rally car. It was a potent weapon, capturing the World Touring Car Championship, the European Touring Car Championship (2x), the British and German Touring Car Championships (2x each), the Italian Touring car Championship (4x), and won the 24 Hours of Nurburgring a remarkable five times.
Of the 16,202 E30 M3 models produced between 1985 and 1992, just under 5000 were imported to the United States.
Here are 11 more of our favorite shots of the E30 Series BMW M3 in action: