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That time BMW made a pickup out of an M3

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Alas, there is no G81 M3 Touring Wagon in my future, short of moving to Europe. It’s April Fools Day, and I thought it would be fun to celebrate a little trick BMW M played on us in 2011. But the story of how the E94 (?) M3 pickup came to be is actually based on a real-world need.

Who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humor.

Who’s your daddy?

BMW M3 pickup
The original E30 M3 pickup. Photo: BMW

In the 1980s, there was no such word for SUV in der motherland unless you spoke Mercedes (Geländewagen!). BMW had nothing so large or practical. But they needed something to carry around spare parts and such for cars they were testing around Garching.

I would have loved to have heard the conversation and meet the initial person to suggest to the room full of engineers that they should turn an E30 M3 into a pickup truck to haul around said parts.

“Klaus, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. We will start tomorrow.”

To make the M3 pickup happen, BMW wisely chose a convertible chassis. It had the additional bracing already in place to support a frameless bed. Being a mutt, this M3 was missing the fender flares of a typical example, making it look like a ho-hum 3 Series. It also originally had the engine fitted in the so-called “Italian M3”, which had a reduced two-liter displacement due to tax regulations there and an output of 192 hp. This was fixed during the car’s lifespan – the 2.3 engine was fitted as the car Gods intended.

Lifespan matters here, because this E30 M3 pickup served for 26 years.

By 2011, it was time to retire. Surely they didn’t need another pickup.

That did not stop BMW.

The E9…4? M3 pickup

BMW M3 pickup
The E9X-based M3 pickup. Photo: BMW.

This wasn’t even supposed to be a big deal.

They needed to replace the E30, and the E9X was well into production, so naturally they’d use one. Again a convertible for the same reasons.

But as they started to Frankenstein the body, someone suggested they use the wow factor to their advantage. Let’s reveal it on April 1st, with a real press release and honest-to-god photo shoot. Everyone will go bananas.

Everyone went bananas.

BMW M3 pickup
They honestly put a lot of thought into it. Photo: BMW.

There were spy shots on the ‘Ring. Details that it had less weight than the convertible. A Targa roof. A drag coefficient just about equal to the Coupe.  Could this be the real thing?

By now you know it was not meant to be. But while the original E30 M3 pickup wasn’t road-legal, this E9X-based one was. Imagine driving around Munich and seeing it woosh by. Rumor has it that this glorious car lives on today.

Just another reason why this is the best M3.

Why did BMW make these M3 pickups?

BMW M3 pickup
Damn right I’d have one. Photo: BMW

They say that both cars provided “valuable engineering expertise” to their staff.  Ahem…

“They are high-performance cars that have been optimized to perfectly match their intended task or field of use. As such, they epitomize the philosophy of BMW M.”

“Our apprentices, graduate trainees and placement students assisted in the construction of all of these prototypes, allowing them to gain invaluable hands-on experience at the same time as freeing up resources for us – a classic win-win situation.”

Whatever. They did it because it was fun! I’ve been in enough shops to know what happens when mechanics get bored and there are spare parts around.

BMW M3 pickup
It’s ok to be weird. Photo: BMW

That’s no reason to be embarrassed. If you ask me, BMW could use a little more fun today.

If only they made a new M3 that could haul things around. Maybe enclose the back to keep out the elements. They could even sell this one to the public.

What’s that kind of car called again…?

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