The unproduceables: four BMW M cars that never made the cut

Published: 24 October 2016

► Four BMW M cars that never went beyond the concept stage
► Take a closer look at the E30 M3 pick-up and more
► A shame the E46 M3 Touring didn’t make production...

The lure of an M car is a strong one. The combination of wonderful engines, slick handling and stout build quality result in an addictive experience that usually entices and latches on to keen drivers for decades.

Not all of BMW’s high-performance offshoots were instant classics, of course. The E36 M3, for example, is often regarded as proving that there was the occasional goose in a lake full of swans. But what about the cars that never even made production?

Here we explore a quartet of models that could and should have been built, if only to sate our desire for more Q-car M-cars.  

BMW M3 Pickup, 1986

Honed from an E30 3-er Convertible bodyshell to make use of extra bracing, this vehicle actually served 26 years at what is now BMW M Division’s base in Garching, near Munich.

BMW M car concepts

It was used to transport heavy equipment and parts around the plant, and originally featured the Italian-spec M3’s engine – a downsized 2.0-litre variant, with 190bhp, built to duck under a tax threshold in Italy – but the revered 2.3 found its way under the bonnet eventually, unlocking a proper 198bhp. It was retired four years ago to make way for newer pick-up...

BMW M3 Compact, 1996

Our testers are often found waxing lyrical about the M2, and we loved the 1M Coupe too, but BMW was considering a super C-seg-sized car long before those cars made a break for it. The M3 Compact tipped the scales at just 1.3 tonnes but borrowed the engine and running gear from its saloon sibling – so, with 317bhp on tap, this was one seriously speedy machine.

BMW M car concepts

This was also a car ahead of its time, as it was designed to appeal to a younger demographic of M car fans by being smaller, livelier and more affordable.

BMW M3 Touring, 2000

Could this be the best car BMW never built? This E46-generation M3 Touring concept was designed to demonstrate what was possible, but – alas – there were never any serious production intents. Everyone loves a fast estate, though, right?

BMW M car concepts

Although this car was never going to see the light of the showroom, it did demonstrate the wagon body was capable of conversion to M car status with minimal bespoke changes – and BMW has occasionally revisited the idea, with cars like the E61 M5 Touring.

BMW M3 Pickup mk2, 2011

Considering the E30 M3 pick-up served over a quarter of a century in-house, it’s perhaps no surprise that a second project was commissioned to continue the mantra.

BMW M car concepts

It was unveiled on 1 April 2011, and many consequently believed this was a joke. However, our spies had seen it undergoing tests at the Nurburgring a few days before, so here at CAR we knew there was some substance behind the story.

A 3 series Convertible shell was used again, but this time 415bhp was the headline power output – in keeping with the increase in performance (and, admittedly, kerb weights) M cars enjoyed over the years. 

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By Gareth Evans

Contributor, historic racer and now running sister title Motor Cycle News's website

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