Deutsch trio: BMW M coupe + Porsche 968 + BMW E30 M3

By: Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: Nathan Jacobs

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A legend, a rarity and something quirky wander onto a road...what could go wrong?

For some of us, this little 1980-90s line-up of hotshots from Europe could be the basis of a dream collection. All completely street legal, they offer a range of possibilities, including a tolerably comfortable city excperience through to a full-on and very convincing track attack. And all without spending a million bucks.

What you see lined up here are, in order of age, a first-gen 1987 BMW M3, a 1994 Porsche 968 Club Sport and a 1998 BMW M Coupe. They kind of have roughly the same intention, but approach it from very different angles.

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Unusually for a collection of historic cars, we were able to get to thrash this lot and get some basic time comparisons. Not something you get to do every day and that was down to an owner who not only ‘gets’ playing with performance toys, but does a fair bit of the thrashing himself!

The exercise stretched across a mixed road driving loop, including typical freeway and country B roads, along with just a touch of city. Then the serious ‘work’ began with a hillclimb circuit of a shade over one-minute in length, plus a 0-100km/h sprint.

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It was the performance testing which produced the biggest surprise. Despite some big gaps in year, power claims and overall spec, all three cars were within a whisker of each other, while providing three very distinct driving experiences.

We owe thanks to three people for this story: Clive Massel, owner of the cars and Makulu Vehicle Storage in Moorabbin. He’s a former South African touring car and endurance series champion. Next is Chris Boribon, auction manager at Shannons and a familiar face to anyone who has witnessed their standard-setting events. Finally, Matt Thewliss, who is a well-respected racer and driver trainer with Tampered Motorsport and Fastrack. Joins us us they share their views.

 

1998 BMW M Coupe

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Sometimes given cruel nicknames for the unusual styling, the first-gen M Coupe had an uncanny ability to silence its critics once they went for a drive. The straight six in E36 M3 spec, the big footprint offered by the generous-sized wheels, along with a general sense of refinement made it a winner.

Clive: My overall impressions of this car are that this is a magnificent vehicle. It has a unique look about it, that you either love or hate. For me it is a factory-built car on steroids. It has a wide aggressive look with performance to match.

| Read next: BMW Z3 M Coupe review

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The car is extremely well balanced and can be driven as a daily driver or in anger on the track or tarmac.

This car has a unique feel about it and gives you the impression that you are driving something that is different to the run of the mill machines on the road.

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It’s very quiet, but as soon as you start driving through the upper rev range, the sound of the six-cylinder engine is music to the ears. It handles and stops superbly and is a joy to drive in anger.

As an investment the M Coupe is a winner. They are scarce and hard to find. These cars will keep growing due to their quirky design and "must have" appeal for the true collector.

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For me M Coupe is always on the top 10 list of BMW cars to own.

Chris: The M Coupe very distinctive in its design – a two door shooting brake, with wide hips, and fat rubber on the rear, I love the uniqueness and look of this car!

The cabin is nicely layed out, with the necessary gauges in front of you, including the Motorsport logo on the gauges and gear knob to let you know that this is not a standard BMW model. It was also the most comfortable car of the 3 vehicles on test.

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A purpose built performance orientated car, its M3 sourced 3.2 Litre engine, mated to the five-speed gearbox makes it a pleasure to drive either through everyday traffic or out on the open road. The handling is like an M3, its big rear tyres ensure plenty of traction and the gearbox is a joy to flick through at low and high revs. Take it up high in the rev range and the twin cam M engine sings, with a great note from the exhaust, it surely puts a smile on your face.

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Our drive through the winding roads was a lot of fun, with the M coupe probably doing it with more ease than the others. After a day of spirited driving, it provided a comfortable drive back on the freeway and had enough torque in fifth for easy overtakes.

1998 BMW M Coupe

ENGINE: 3.2lt inline six
POWER: 236kW @ 7400rpm
TORQUE: 350Nm @ 3250rpm
GEARBOX: Six-speed manual
WEIGHT: 1390kg
0-100KM/H: 5.86sec (measured)
HILLCLIMB TIME: 1:00.56 (measured)

 

 

1994 Porsche 968 

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PORSCHE’s front-engined cars for years struggled to get anything like acceptance in the classic market, but that has changed in recent years, particularly as air-cooled 911 prices reached for the skies.

For Porsche, the 1993-95 Club Sport was a way of injecting renewed interest in the 968 series by producing a car that dropped at least 100 kilos and presented as a raw track-day-ready special.

| Buyer's guide: Porsche 944/968

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Clive: The Club Sport is very deceptive. It is very quiet and frankly needs more noise to give you a true feeling of get up and go. This is a car that comes into its own when driven in anger.

Above 4000rpm, it develops a new sound and, when driven through the higher rev range, in all six gears it becomes a real delight.

| Past Blast: John Bowe drives a Porsche 968CS

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The handling of the car, with the competition suspension as well as the racing brakes, is outstanding.

Good 968 Club Sports are now hard to find as only 19 were brought into the country. As an investment the 968 Club Sport is undervalued and will see substantial growth in the next few years.

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Chris: Many professional drivers have commented in the past on how well the 968CS handles, and it clearly holds its own amongst the best of the modern classics. Somehow Porsche managed to also get this 3.0lt four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine to perform in a surprising manner. It’s easy to understand why the 968 has proved a popular choice as a club or tarmac car over the years.

The first thing you notice, upon opening the door, are those great looking factory Recaro leather covered race seats, with the back matching the exterior colour. Once seated in the 968, the basic layout of the dash remind you of the earlier front engine Porsches.

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There is a lack of steering adjustment, however I still managed to find my comfortable spot. Once on the road, the 968 is responsive and quiet enough at speeds through town and on the freeway, a little firm in the ride, but with its six-speed gearbox, revs were at a respectable 2500rpm at 100km/h.

The 968CS really comes into its own through the twisty roads, a little bit hard in the suspension (due to the current set-up), but very much point and shoot, and with great braking to pull it up. Between second and fourth gear, the CS is in a happy place through the mountains and twisty roads, and very surefooted.

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This is a car you could take out on week-ends for a burn through the mountains or the occasional track day to satisfy your high speed needs.

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1994 Porsche 968

ENGINE: 3.0lt inline four
POWER: 177kW @ 6200rpm
TORQUE: 305Nm @ 4100rpm
GEARBOX: Six-speed manual
WEIGHT: 1320kg
0-100KM/H: 6.60sec (measured)
HILLCLIMB TIME: 1:01.33 (measured)

 

 

1987 BMW E30 M3

THIS has become a must-have for dedicated collectors of European sports cars – the first-generation M3. For many, it changed how we thought about off-the-shelf street car performance by providing serious punch in a package that was still light and very ‘flickable’. It’s become a darling of the classic market and is now in big demand.

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Clive: Driving an unmolested E30 M3 in traditional left hand drive format, leaves you with an overwhelming feeling of awe. This car was and is the most successful touring race car ever built.

The M3 comes into its own when driven to its full potential and that was, after all, what it was designed for. To be driven in anger, on the limit and to win races.

| Read next: BMW E30 M3 review

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Driving through the mountain stretch of this test comparison revealed the sheer magic of the car. Using the brakes, driving through the rev range at maximum rpm, turning it into tight corners and powering it out in a controlled slide is an addictive experience. And it keeps coming back for more.

The motor is cammy and just wants to be driven, while the screaming sound of the engine 7000-8000rpm is symphonic and addictive.

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Some may argue that the left-hand-drive version is a negative for our roads and that the right-hand-drive conversion models are a better buy. If you are looking for authenticity you should stick with how the car was built.

Sitting on the left-hand side and really working the car the way it was designed for, leaves you with a feeling of what it was like for the true greats like Johnny Cecotto, Steve Soper, Emmanuelle Pirro, Christian Danner, and our own Peter Brock powering these cars to multiple championships.

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Chris: The oldest of the fleet, I had forgotten how a well sorted E30 M3 handled till we were driving through the twisty roads of Licola.

This particular example had the engine uprated to 2.5lt from 2.3 and it really came into its own between 5-7000rpm, That familiar bark in the high rev range, and intake noise, brought back memories of the famous racing BMWs of the late 1980s. It was a ‘pinch me’ moment.

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Combined with the great balance and handling, the M3 was really fun to drive. Even if those approaching drops on the right handers looked far too close at times, driving from the Left hand side, it stuck to the road like it was on rails.

It had the most manageable amount of horsepower available on tap of the three cars, so you were able to extract the most from the M3.

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1987 BMW E30 M3

ENGINE: 2.5lt infline four
POWER: 147kW @ 7000rpm
TORQUE: 230Nm @ 4750rpm
GEARBOX: Five-speed manual
WEIGHT: 1170kg
0-100KM/H: 6.89sec (measured)
HILLCLIMB TIME: 1:01.68 (measured)

 

From Unique Cars #451, April 2021

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