BMW is celebrating the 30th birthday of the M3 this year by looking back at the model's rich history. And some of the most intriguing parts of that history involve prototypes that never saw the light of day in the showroom, or even beyond the factory. These four BMW M3 prototypes reveal what could have been.
BMW M3 Pickup (1986)
Yes, BMW built a pickup version of its first-generation M3, but likely not because it had any hopes for production. This vehicle is the result of BMW workers looking for the perfect vehicle to transport parts and equipment around the automaker's factory in Garching, near Munich. Essentially, BMW took a 3 Series convertible and transformed it into a pickup, putting in a 2.0-liter engine that delivered 192 hp. Later, the engine was swapped out with a more robust 2.3-liter four-cylinder with 200 hp. The model proved quite durable, lasting 26 years before BMW put it out of service.
BMW M3 Compact (1996)
It's quite likely the BMW M3 Compact could have entered production, but it wasn't meant to be. Intended to lure younger buyers to the M brand, the BMW M3 Compact was lighter and more powerful than the standard model, boasting 321 ponies. While it may seem like a loss, perhaps it was better that the model didn't go on sale. BMW says it likely would have produced less power in production form, and it ended up representing an important stepping stone in the automaker's history anyway. "To a certain extent, the M3 Compact can be regarded as the forefather of today's BMW M2," notes Jakob Polschak, head of vehicle prototype building and workshops at BMW M Division, in a press release.
BMW M3 Touring (2000)
The BMW M3 Touring was an exercise in engineering. BMW wanted to see how much work and money it would take to build an M version of the standard 3 Series Touring. BMW wanted to prove it could rework the doors of the M3 from the standard 3 Series so they would accommodate the different wheel arches. BMW says the experiment was a success, as it wasn't much trouble to tack on M-specific parts after the fact. It's unclear why this model never transpired, as BMW was considering a production run.
BMW M3 Pickup (2011)
BMW retired its original M3 pickup four years ago. But just before that, BMW went to work on a second M3 pickup in 2011, and once again, it would only be used for rolling around the factory. But that's not what BMW wanted the public to believe. Just prior to April Fool's Day, BMW sent its new M3 pickup around the Nurburgring, and spy shots soon surfaced. Inevitably, the public was lead to believe a production version was coming. In a press release on April Fool's Day, BMW boasted the model was a new 420-hp addition to the M3 lineup before setting the record straight that it wasn't destined for showrooms. While we may never see a production M3 pickup, there are rumors that BMW is mulling a global pickup truck to compete with the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLT. Only time will tell.