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A Streetcar Named Desire: The BMW E30 M3
BY Mike Maravilla //
January 20, 2023
@mike_futureclassic
Photography: Brennan Long
@brennan610
Owner: Andy Hong
@andyman746
  • The E30 M3 was the first 3-series in a long line of proud performance-minded cars birthed by BMW’s motorsport division.
  • Its engine combines an M10 block with an S38-derived four-cylinder head (named the S14) to propel 215hp forward, but the car’s iconic status is much more than the statistics.
  • Andy Hong’s example leaves the factory powertrain as intended but styles up all the right bits for a truly perfect, OEM+ execution.

Andy Hong’s 1988 BMW E30 M3 is no stranger to internet attention. I vividly remember setting his car as my computer’s background nearly ten years ago — the same Diamondschwartz example that you see here, but with 17-inch OZ Futura wheels and a New York license plate that read “THRWBCK”. It was a car that set the bar high, not just for fellow E30 M3 owners, but for what made a BMW build great in general.

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

In its purest form, the E30 M3 hides its true prowess under the guise of revs. Under 4,000rpm — thanks to lower torque figures than the equivalent inline-six 325i — the car could be crudely referred to as pedestrian and uninspiring, but above it, it transforms. Bewitchingly magical and sonorous would be understatements of the sensations the car manages to translate from every touch point to the inner child inside your body. Although it packs a modest 195hp by modern standards, the S14 engine’s Mighty Mouse personality makes it feel like so much more. Indeed, the E30 M3’s crux was always its on-paper performance; those who were quick to judge have never sat in the driver’s seat at 7,250rpm in third gear. Those that have can thoroughly respect BMW’s wizardry in creating a true Jekyll and Hyde adaptation.

COMPANY CAR TO FANTASY

I know, I’ll cool it with the old-timey references. But I still need to go back in time for a moment.

At launch, the E30 M3 was…a dud. Despite all it had to offer on tap, most people unfairly measured the car the only way they could: Its aforementioned paper stats. As a result, E30 M3s were a common sight on dealer lots. Rumor has it that they were handed out as company cars just to keep them moving.

Fast forward thirty years, and the world is a very different place. The generations of M cars that the E30 M3 helped birth had grown in size and output. Each iteration, while indisputably great in its own way, was a bit further away from the ethos that made the original so special. BMW M’s blossomed reputation for producing the definitive enthusiast’s street car made people take a retrospective look at its lineage. That exercise contributed to the E30 M3’s meteoric rise in value. People soon realized it was undeservedly overlooked, and it became a desired mainstay on Bring a Trailer. Now, your dollar decides between an E30 M3 and a 997 GT3. The prices are that high.

JUST A PINCH OF SALT

Having owned the car since 2009, Andy has seen its value rise, but that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying it as intended — even displaying it in Turn 14 Distribution’s lobby for a brief stay. His affinity for the E46 M3 prompted him to add a more modern-day touch to the E30’s cabin. The factory seats were immaculately reupholstered in Cinnamon leather, complementing the Diamondschwartz exterior well. Outside, a gorgeous set of 17-inch BBS RS wheels were custom face-mounted for a period look. A set of TC Kline coilovers drops the body down to eliminate any semblance of wheel gap, and a Stromung exhaust brings out more of the S14’s rich notes. Rather than more attention-seeking exterior add-ons, every other accompanying mod simply tightens and focuses the driving experience. Andy’s approach might be considered minimalist to some, but to me, it’s just the right amount of flair for a true future classic.

Just as it did a decade ago for me, Andy’s execution has cemented his example for an entirely new generation here. As ever, it is, as the title suggests, a street car that we all desire.


Andy Hong | 1988 BMW E30 M3

Exterior: Diamondschwartz
Interior: OEM leather seats custom refurbished in Cinnamon color, Z3 short shifter
Engine/Drivetrain: Stromung exhaust
Brakes/Suspension: TC Kline coilovers, Ground Control camber plates, Powerflex bushings, VAC roll-center spacers
Wheels/Tires: 17-inch BBS RS (custom face-mounted)

 

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A post shared by Turn 14 Distribution (@turn14)


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