AS BMW prepares to grow its family of M3 and M4 power players into even more niche variants including Pure, Competition, CS and Club Sport cars, it is easy to forget where the impressive line-up of modern day M models finds its roots.
Like tracing the mighty Amazon back to a tiny and seemingly insignificant trickle high up in the Rio Mantaro drainage, the car that fathered the vicious 368kW M4 GTS was a 147kW, four-cylinder 3 Series that debuted in 1987.
Since the E30 M3 blasted into the history books 30 years ago, the German car maker has punctuated the journey with rare and desirable special editions that mark the way to today’s M-power empire. Here are our ten favourites.
It might not have been sold as an M-car, but lift the bonnet of the 320is and its engine sends a very different message. To sneak in under Italian and Portuguese road tax thresholds, BMW stroked down the 2.3-litre S14 of the original E30 M3 to just under 2.0-litres.
The result was one of history’s greatest sleepers. Its body had none of the 2.3-litre M3 calling cards but its M-Power engine pumped out just 4kW fewer than the 147kW M-badged car.