Based on a standard E30 drop-top rather than a wide-arched M3, this quirky one-off was built to ferry tools and equipment around BMW’s Garching plant, now the home of M Division.
Rather than use the M3’s 2.3-litre inline-four, it sports the 2.0-litre, 192bhp S14 engine from the 320iS, a tax-friendly ‘downsized’ version of the M3 built for the Italian market.
It fulfilled its workhorse role at M Division for 26 years, before being retired four years ago.
Given that the E36 Compact ran the E30’s less sophisticated torsion beam/trailing arm suspension, this thing must be bonkers to drive. And bearing in mind the similar underpinnings, we should think of it as the M Coupe’s more practical cousin.
Unlike the E30 Pickup, there was actually a chance this bonkers Compact could have gone into production. Given the suspension setup and the lower weight figure (it’s 150kg lighter than a regular M3), BMW notes that the power from the 3.2-litre straight-six would likely have to be turned down a bit (probably sensible), but the prototype had the full 321bhp to play with.
Since its remit was to provide a tempting entry point to M Division machinery for younger buyers, BMW says the “M3 Compact can be regarded as the forefather of today’s BMW M2.” So in a way this car does have something of a legacy - it’s just a shame the car itself never reached showrooms.
Here’s a version of the E46 M3 we all wish existed in production form, especially if you’re a petrolhead who’s chosen to procreate. Sure, there are plenty of aftermarket M3 Touring conversions out there, but what you might not know is BMW made its own.
It was a ‘feasibility study’, built to see if the Touring’s extra set of doors could be adapted to fit the M3’s wide-arched rear without shelling out vast sums of money on extra tooling. It turned out producing an M3 wagon wouldn’t have actually been that difficult, but sadly, the project never progressed past this early point. Damn and blast.
With the E30 M3 Pickup reaching retirement age, a replacement was needed. The answer was obvious: repeat the same process that created the original, by grabbing the E93 M3 convertible and crafting it into a monster V8-powered ute.
BMW went one step further though, by turning it into a marketing stunt to coincide with April Fool’s Day. An actually clever motoring April Fool’s prank that doesn’t involve hardcore Photoshopping? You better believe it.
Unlike the E30 version though, this one’s road legal. Can we have a go, BMW…?