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Hammond driving the icons: E30 BMW M3

  1. Using the right tool for the job is more than just
    sensible advice; it’s a reason for doing the job in the first place. I would
    happily spend a day welding a combine harvester together or making furniture if
    I was given the right tools to do it. I’m not saying I’d be any good, but the
    satisfaction gained from using the right tool to do a job is something I
    believe to be fundamental to what makes us human. That explains why Jeremy is
    so bad at it. And it also explains why the M3 is – and always has been – such
    an obvious choice for anyone wanting to drive quickly. In the same way that you
    would choose a plane for shaving slices off a piece of wood or a broom for
    sweeping, anyone doing the sensible thing would take an M3 if headed for a
    track day or a fast scamper across Europe.

    Words: Richard Hammond 
    Photos: Justin Leighton

  2. The E30 M3 was another of those homologation specials,
    produced to allow BMW to enter their racecar in Group A championships. It only
    had to make 5,000 to meet regulations. Such was demand that they sold 15,000.
    Which, in a typically straightforward M3 way, says it all.

  3. It was left-hand drive only, it shared only the roof and bonnet with the rest of the range, power from the 215bhp, 2.3-litre four-pot is sent to the rear wheels through a five-speed dogleg ‘box, it does 0-60 in 6.5secs and there isn’t a radio. And that is it. Except it isn’t. Because what that basic recipe adds up to is a scintillating, fizzy, grippy, slidy, raspy little bucket of style and precision that eclipses most other stuff made to do the same job. There’s no buggering about with a fancy interior, trying to make it feel like an executive express or some wannabe F1 car. Black plastics, simple, gripping seats, plain wheel, straightforward BMW dash - that’s your lot. Now just get on with driving it. I did. And it was brilliant. 

  4. This one still felt like new after God knows how many years
    of abuse and hooliganism – a testament to a level of build quality that has
    become almost boring from the Bavarians. To use, it feels every inch the
    precision tool: serious about the business of arsing about on a track, but it
    flatters and rewards sensible control inputs with predictable, reassuring
    responses. The grip is astonishing, and this is achieved not by a Star Trek
    computer but by simple, mechanical design thoroughness. It works and doesn’t
    need anything to help it. 

  5. If it looks good – and I think it very much does – it’s
    because your eye knows this is something built for a job. And it just so
    happens that the job is something with which you want to be involved. Just the
    briefest drive, let alone a session spent spanking it,can only leave the driver
    with one enormous question: “Why haven’t Igot one of these in my life?” Over
    the years, the engine capacity and power increased, culminating in a 2.5-litre
    that made 340bhp. But it was always about having just enough to get on and do
    the job. Any showboating came from demonstrating that you had simply made the
    right choice and chosen the perfect tool for the job. 

  6. It’s still a great car in its current incarnation, which can
    only serve to bolster the excellent reputation of the E30 M3. I should imagine
    that drivers today are subjected to a daily cascade of knowing smiles from
    other road-users in much the same way that a blacksmith stepping up to the
    anvil carrying the best hammer in the world would earn the quiet approval of
    his fellow smithies.

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