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First Generation BMW M3 E30 History

Sep 15, 2020

What Makes the BMW M3 E30 Special?BMW E30 3-series

The 200 HP rear-wheel drive was initially built for the track only. In order to comply with the touring car competition Group A sporting regulations, 5,000 units of the street-legal version required for homologation had to be built for sale each year.

The European street version of the first-generation BMW M3 E30 officially began production in the spring of 1986. The car quickly became the iconic racing sensation as it rivaled its competitions and snatched several Touring Car Championships in Europe.

As the new flagship gained popularity and recognition all around the world, the BMW M3 E30 North American version production took place in 1987, and in 1988 its official release was announced.  By the time production of the first generation had ended during 1991, worldwide sales of the road-going Coupe was a total of 17,970 units sold.6646″

The Evolution of the BMW M3 E36

In 1992 Paris Motor Show, the M3 E36 3.0 Coupe came equipped with a brand-new engine – S50 B30. It offered individual throttle bodies and Variable Valve Timing System (VANOS or Variable Nockenwellen Steuerung). The new model received an overwhelming response from the United States enthusiasts.

In 1994, the Coupe in U.S. specs (without individual throttle bodies and VANOS in order to keep the cost down) made its American public debut at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. While in the same year, the sedan and convertible versions were produced and made available only in Europe.

In 1995, BMW Motorsports fitted the newer models of E36 with a higher performance 3.2-liter engine S50 B32 (M3 E36 3.2 Coupe) and presented its latest craft at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Production in Europe began a year later.

In 1996 at the New York International Auto Show, the new United States Model of the M3 E36 3.2 was being announced with a specialized S52 engine and electrical traction control system ASC+T (Automatic Stability Control + Traction Control).

At 1997, the M3 reached a new height by becoming the world’s first volume-produced car to introduce Sequential M Gearbox (SMG) as optional equipment. Built based on the conventional gearbox, the gear change could happen with a clutch that was activated electro-hydraulically. There was no more need to press the clutch pedal, and the drivers could easily and instantaneously shift by pulling or pushing the gearshift leveler.

By this time, 71,242 units of the M3 Coupe, Convertible, and Sedan combined were produced in Regensburg.

BMW M3 E30 SpecificationsBMW e30

Production Year

  • 1986 (Europe)
  • 1987 (North America; released in 1988)


  • 195 HP (Catalyst* European Version & Twin In-line Catalyst North America Version)
  • 200 HP (Non-catalyst European Version)
  • 215 HP (Catalyst Version)
  • 220 HP (Special Edition Evolution II)
  • 238 HP (Special Edition Sport Evolution)

*Note: Catalyst is a pollution control device that converts unsafe substances produced through the car’s exhaust into non-toxic substances.


2.3-liter 4-Cylinder (S14 B23)


5-Speed Manual


  • 0-60 MPH in 6.8-Sec (200 HP Coupe)
  • 0-60 MPH in 6.6-Sec (215 HP Coupe)
  • 0-60 MPH in 6.7-Sec (200 HP, Evolution I)
  • 0-60 MPH in 6.1-Sec (220 HP; Evolution II)
  • 0-60 MPH in 6.1-Sec (238 HP; Sports Evolution)
  • 0-60 MPH in 7.4-Sec (200 HP Convertible)
  • 0-60 MPH in 7.3-Sec (215 HP Convertible)


15-inch alloy cross-spoke

BMW M3 E30 Production VersionsBMW M3 E30

The BMW M3 E30 Coupe had a total of 11 production versions with mechanical and cosmetic variations. Of which four were standard production versions with mechanical upgrades, three were limited edition versions with mechanical upgrades, and there were four more special editions with mainly cosmetic upgrades. There were also three versions of the M3 Convertible that was a hand-assembled limited lot.

Standard BMW M3 E30 Production Versions with Mechanical Upgrades

  • European Non-catalyst version with 200 HP
  • European Catalyst* version with 195 HP
  • European Catalyst version with 215 HP
  • North American Catalyst version with 195 HP

*Note: Catalyst is a pollution control device that converts unsafe substances produced through the car’s exhaust into non-toxic substances.

Limited Edition BMW M3 E30 Production Versions with Mechanical UpgradesBMW e30 white

  • Evolution I (Non-catalyst; 200 HP)
  • Evolution II (Non-catalyst; 220 HP)
  • Sport Evolution (Catalyst; 238 HP)

Special Edition BMW M3 E30 Productions Versions with Cosmetic Upgrades

  • Tour de Corse (Non-catalyst; French Edition)
  • Europa Meister 88 (Catalyst)
  • Johnny Cecotto (Catalyst; Swiss Edition)
  • Roberto Ravaglia (Catalyst)

Limited Edition BMW M3 E30 Convertible

  • European Non-catalyst version (200 HP)
  • European Catalyst version (195 HP)
  • European Catalyst version (215 HP)