Mess with the E30 M3 at your peril, right? The first of a legendary family of BMW M cars, still the most successful touring car of all time and one of the most famous homologation specials ever. Oh and a bonafide classic with values to match. Nobody dares touch those box arches or S14 engine for fear of meddling with the originality of an icon. That is unless your Manhart.
Fresh from its new Classic division - check out the Delta Integrale here - the MH3 3.5 Turbo is about as far from an E30 M3 as it’s possible to get while still vaguely resembling one. Out has gone that fizzy 2.3-litre four-cylinder, replaced by the 3.5-litre M90 straight six as found in the first M535i. A cool swap, sure, but there’s way more to it than that. Because this MH3 has the Alpina B7 S Turbo spec of that engine; thanks to forced induction, there’s 330hp and 369lb ft. Once upon a time, it made an E12 5 Series the fastest four-door saloon in the world but - Manhart being Manhart - even that potential on offer from so much extra power and torque was insufficient. So they modified the KKK turbo and intercooler, for 405hp and 479lb ft. In an E30. Not exactly known as the most forgiving rear-wheel drive car in the world.
Still, Manhart has tried its damnedest to give the old 3 Series a fighting chance. There’s a boost controller for one thing, in case the power gets a bit much, plus a Drexler limited-slip diff. Brakes are upgraded with some chunky 330mm front discs and Brembo calipers, while suspension is now by Manhart’s own coilovers paired with H&R springs. It promises ‘optimal road adhesion of the wheels and extremely agile handling of the civilian racing touring car.’ Probably sounds pretty great, too.
This being a Manhart overhaul, there’s a bit more to the MH3 3.5 Turbo than just mechanicals. It gets a few carbon add-ons to create something more akin to a Sport Evo, with new 19-inch wheels at each corner in the familiar Concave One design. Not exactly for the purists, but big brakes won’t fit behind small wheels - and stopping a 405hp E30 should probably be a priority.
Indeed, with any concession to originality long since abandoned, the Manhart M3 gets a smart new interior rework as well. There’s now cardinal red leather everywhere, a three-spoke Momo wheel and a wooden gearknob with the Manhart logo. Appropriately enough, the treatment actually looks quite Alpina-like. Note as well the air vent that’s been swapped for a data display, keeping an eye on the vitals of that straight-six. And how much boost you’re not using because it’s scary.
A lot of work has gone in, basically. A full project price hasn’t yet been released, but given the going rate for an E30 M3 it’s going to finish up a long, long way into six figures. Still, promises to be nothing if not exciting. Wonder what they’ll come up with next…
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