Most of us have seen the pictures of the E30 M3 pick-up, but never quite like this. And what's the story behind its existence, anyway?
According to BMW, when the first-generation (E30) M3 first came out, it wasn't just the public that was excited, but also the BMW Motorsport department, which was responsible for its development.
The excited folk at the Motorsport department thought it would be cool to have an M3 to transport work equipment and parts around what is now known as the BMW M Division in Garching near Munich. The only problem, of course, was that goods transport didn’t feature very highly on the list of the first BMW M3’s "many talents".
And so a clever plan was devised. Using the body of an E30 BMW 3 Series Convertible, the decision was made to create a BMW M3 Pickup. “The convertible bodyshell was chosen as the basis for two reasons,” recalls Jakob Polschak, head of vehicle prototype building and workshops at BMW M Division and an employee at the company for more than 40 years. “Firstly, we happened to have such a model at our disposal and in perfect condition. And secondly, the convertible’s built-in bracing made it the ideal choice for a pickup conversion.”
This, then, is the reason why the first BMW M3 bakkie (pick-up) did not feature the original M3's flared arches, as it featured the narrower body of the convertible model. At first it was powered by the engine fitted in the so-called “Italian M3”, which had a reduced two-litre displacement due to tax regulations there and an output of 143 kW. “Later we switched to the original 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine with 149 kW,” reveals Polschak. This BMW M3 Pickup then went about its business around the factory premises reliably for over 26 years before finally being retired a few years ago.
According to BMW, the M3 bakkie's long service record shows that one-off versions are not always mere gimmicks or engineering exercises. "They are high-performance cars that have been optimised to perfectly match their intended task or field of use." Plus, they also fulfilled another important purpose: “Our apprentices, graduate trainees and placement students assisted in the construction of all of these prototypes,” explains Polschak. “This allowed them to gain invaluable hands-on experience at the same time as freeing up resources for us – a classic win-win situation.”