The BMW M3 has turned 30 years old, and over the course of three decades, it not only became one of the biggest household names in the performance world, but also gave birth to some really special versions that never saw the light of the production line.
With the fifth generation currently on sale, the Bavarian high-performance sedan has been considered the default choice in the segment, at least for most of its life, and undoubtedly rightly so.
BMW never rested on a recipe for its mid-sized warrior, switching ingredients and its approach to what a driver’s car should be with every new generation and that is reflected when you think of all the M3s that hit the road in the last three decades.
But it’s the most unusual derivatives we are going to talk about here, the versions that never came close to production, the ones that were created just for the fun of it. Let’s start then.
The 1986 E30 M3 Pickup
The pickup version of the E30 M3 wasn’t created for BMW to see if people wanted one. Instead, this weird but wonderful creation was built as the perfect vehicle to transport work equipment and parts around the premises of the BMW M Division.
BMW M used the body of a E30 Convertible to serve as the basis of their M3 Pickup, thanks to its additional built-in bracing that made it ideal for a pickup conversion. The original M3 Pickup started its life without the characteristic flared wings as it was instead wearing a regular narrow body. The engine also came from the so-called ‘Italian M3’, the 320iS that employed a destroked version of the S14 engine, measuring 2.0 liters in capacity. Later though, a 200hp 2.3-litre S14 engine found its way under the bonnet.
The car went on and offered its services reliably around the factory for over 26 years before it was finally retired four years ago.
The 1996 E36 M3 Compact
In a way, this M3 Compact is the predecessor of the 1-Series M Coupe and the M2 Coupe models as the idea behind it is the same: to give younger customers an entry point into the BMW M world. If BMW had decided to put it into production, it would most likely feature a detuned version of the E36 M3’s 3.2-litre inline-six engine.
But the prototype itself though featured the same engine with the E36 M3 in a lighter body, meaning 321hp in a car that tips the scales at just 1,300kg (2,866 lbs). The hot-hatch world would have never been the same if it had came to production.
The 2000 E46 M3 Touring
Just look at it and weep. The E46 generation of the M3 is widely considered one of the most successful designs in the model’s course and combining the wide flares with the beautiful wagon body just makes us even sadder that this prototype never came to a production line.
BMW showed that it was possible to integrate a Touring derivative into the M3 production with little difficulty, even with the flared rear arches that demanded the rear doors to be reworked.
The 2011 BMW E90 M3 Pickup
When the original E30 M3 Pickup started to show the first serious signs of wear, the folks over at BMW M decided it was time for a successor. This time though, they thought to have a bit of fun as well as April 1 was just around the corner.
The E90 generation of the M3 Pickup served as one of the company’s best April Fool’s jokes, even testing the car on the Nurburgring, resulting to many spy shots and strong rumors emerging from every corner of the media universe.
The car itself followed the same recipe with its predecessor; BMW M engineers used a 3-Series Convertible body due to its existing strengthening elements, with power coming from a thunderous 4.0-litre V8 engine with 414hp. And unlike its predecessor, this thing is fully road-legal.