1987 BMW E30 M3 driven in Dubai

We drive a pristine original BMW M3 in Dubai – video and pics!

By Shahzad Sheikh

1987 BMW E30 M3 driven in Dubai

It’s a legend. Its name is always mentioned in hallowed respect, arguments cease whenever this car comes up in conversation and it remains one of the most desirable and sought-after classics of the 1980s. Seeing one is a delight, sitting in one is privilege, but getting to drive one – that’s a bucket-list check-off right there!

Click to play video

This I’ve now done. Watch the video above and you’ll see me get to realise a childhood dream and drive Luke McGreevy’s immaculate and original 1987 BMW E30 M3. There was a time I wanted this car so bad – but could not afford it – that I bought the next best thing, a 1988 BMW 325i SE Coupe. It was absolutely one of my favourite cars and driving this, immediately reignited memories of my old car.

Having said that, apart from the silhouette and most of the interior, they weren’t actually all that similar. And digging deep into the depths of my memory, I can confirm that they are actually quite different to drive too.

1987 BMW E30 M3 driven in Dubai

How did the E30 M3 come to exist?

Racing, pure and simple. It was created to compete in Group A Touring Car Racing and aimed directly at beating arch-rivals Mercedes and the almost equally iconic 2.3-16V version of the 190E. The BMW not only did this, but raced in World, German, British, Italian, French and even Australian Touring Car championships becoming the most successful Touring car of all. It even had a go at – and won – rallies.

The racer packed a 300bhp version of the 2.3-litre four-cylinder BMW engine developed by Paul Rosche (also responsible for the power unit in the BMW Brabham F1 car that Nelson Piquet took a championship in during the 1983 season) getting up to 380bhp for later 2.5 versions.

1987 BMW E30 M3 driven in Dubai

The M3 road car

The road-going version, produced between 1985-1992 managed around 190bhp giving 0-100kph acceleration in 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 235kph, rising to an eventual 235bhp for the 2.5 in later ‘Evo’ versions able to dispatch 0-100kph in 6.1 seconds and reach 248kph. There was also a 210bhp version of the 2.3 (0-100 in 6.7 and 240kph).

Launched at the Frankfurt motor show of 1985, whilst it was based on the E30 coupe, the only exterior panels it kept were the bonnet and roof. It had an aggressive front bib, flared box fenders, and a massive spoiler on the back.

Inside there were four-individual bucket seats and (for European versions) a 5-speed manual transmission with a ‘dogleg’ first gear. (to the left and down rather than up). It had beefed up brakes, wider track, bigger wheels and revised suspension with some of the front bits from the E28 5-series, whilst the rear was mostly carried over from the E30.

1987 BMW E30 M3 driven in Dubai

Driving an BMW E30 M3

Repeatedly awarded plaudits such as ‘best drivers car’ and ‘best sports car’ during contemporary times and since, this car has gained a lofty status as one of the greatest cars of the 1980s. It’s racing pedigree and achievements back up the acclaim.

Even today it’s an absolute gem to drive, weighing only about 1200kg it feels light and sprightly on its very planted feet. Nearly 30 years old there’s obviously some muting of the original car’s abilities when it would have rolled off the factory floor (Luke’s car is not a restored example, but a well kept and regularly used original car).

1987 BMW E30 M3 driven in Dubai

The steering has quite a bit of play in it, the brakes are a little mushy and the suspension’s a little softer than you might expect. Having said that, once you get the engine screaming over 5000rpm and bouncing off the redline, which it is genuinely quite happy to do – as is its owner, thankfully – it feels as rapid as legend suggests and it will streak past legal limits with joy.

The transmission balks slightly on the shift from 2nd to 3rd but is otherwise a delight to use (albeit the dogleg takes getting used to) and the clutch is completely intuitive. Initial turn-in is good, but followed by understeer as the back digs in and clings to the tarmac – no wonder racers love the handling, it was fast but secure and predictable.

1987 BMW E30 M3 driven in Dubai

Of course I couldn’t help but compare it to my old 325i, which by comparison had a bit less grip at the back and a more wayward rear end should you get too ambitious – almost the reverse of the M3. Performance wise it would have been close as my car was only down about 20bhp and about half a second slower to 100kph.

But the power delivery of the silky smooth (yes I used that cliché) straight six was also completely contrary to the peaky M3, with more low-down torque instantly available and allowing me wheelspin most of my way up the gearbox.

The trouble with the E30 M3 was that despite Luke’s encouragement, I was still hesitating to fully exploit the upper power band, being very aware of the car’s vintage as well as its value, rarity and importance.

1987 BMW E30 M3 driven in Dubai

Should you get one?

It seems to me then that actually the perfect E30 would be this car but with the 325i’s engine – but hang on, wasn’t that the Alpina version of the E30 M3 with 250bhp? Now that would be an amazing car to try. However only 62 of those were ever made, compared to about 18,000 M3 models from BMW in seven years.

But for a 30-year old car that still feels solid, exciting and, most importantly, thrashable, plus is as reliable and practical as ever, and can even be a daily driver in our hot temperatures (we drove this car in the Dubai summer and the temperate gauge never budged whilst the air-con was as good as a modern car), there are few classics to touch it.

1987 BMW E30 M3 driven in Dubai

Plus you get instant street-cred and respect, thumbs-ups all around (can’t say that about newer M3/M4 models) an appreciating asset and most crucially of all, it’ll keep you engaged and happy all day long!

If you want an E30 M3 as good as this car, you’ll have to look abroad as there are just too few here and Luke is resolutely not selling – he thinks, for now… Beware though, these are rocketing up in value fast. Originally priced at about $35,000 they now range from $40k-170k depending on condition and whether they’re the later more Evo models.

Meanwhile even top condition E30 325i models can command as much as $40k but good ones start from about $7k – damn, I wish I’d kept mine!

Let us know your thoughts and memories of the BMW E30 M3 below

2 responses to “1987 BMW E30 M3 driven in Dubai”

  1. Med says:

    Yeah very true Luke, I called you and bought back the car :)))

  2. Med says:

    Bought back the car 🙂

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