The BMW M3 is 30 this year. It’s one of the most successful cars in the German marque’s history – a classless saloon that mixes kickass performance with everyday practicality. I don’t have to say anything more because you know the story. But what you probably don’t know is that BMW built these four whacky versions of the M3: strange experimental prototypes and exclusive one-offs that never made it to final series production.
1986 BMW E30 M3 Pickup:
This high-performance pickup was built to transport work equipment and parts around the sizable BMW Motorsport division HQ. Based on a standard 3-Series Convertible it had no flared wheel arches and at first came equipped with the 196bhp 2.0-litre engine fitted to the 320is – the so-called “Italian M3.” Eventually it got the full-fat 200bhp 2.3-litre engine. The BMW M3 Pickup went about its work around the factory premises reliably for over 26 years before finally being retired four years ago.
1996 BMW E36/5 M3 Compact:
The idea behind this M3 Compact was to allow a slightly more affordable entry point into M car ownership. Had it gone into production it would have had a detuned engine – probably so that it didn’t undermine its heavier sibling. “It is 150 kilograms lighter, more agile, firmer and even more uncompromising,” enthused German motoring magazine “auto motor und sport” (issue no. 13/1996) after testing it. Unfortunately it never went beyond the prototype stage.
2000 BMW E46 M3 Touring Concept:
In 2000 BMW teased the world with an estate version of their high-revving E46 M3. Unlike the Compact prototype nobody outside the company ever got to drive this über-wagon for themselves – not even motoring journalists. It too never saw the light of day, which is a pity because it would have been the perfect rival for the Audi RS4 Avant. Sigh. What could have been.
2011 BMW E92 M3 Pickup:
With their original E30 M3 Pickup starting to show signs of wear and tear, BMW decided to build a replacement. And so in 2011 they made this: the ultimate Chevy UTE SS rival. Unlike its ‘80s predecessor that had always been under the radar, the marketing department decided to “officially” release the E92 M3 Pickup to the press as part of an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke. Many took the bait and within hours the digital rumour mill was churning out tales about it coming to market. Of course it never did. Instead it was yet another unique one-off designed simply to transport goods around the BMW Motorsport factory.