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[NEWS] From the archive: on this day in 1987

From the archive: on this day in 1987

We were hugely impressed by the way the E30 M3 handled itself

The most successful road racer yet, Bob Lutz on the future of motoring and a Toyota from the future

It isn’t hindsight that makes the BMW M3’s arrival historic: we were sure it was such at the time.

Not much remained from the regular E30-generation BMW 3 Series, the chassis being totally revised, the body superbly redesigned and a 2.3-litre 16v straight six making 200bhp fitted. Sounds puny today, but this car weighed just 1252kg.

On a damp track, we hit 60mph in 7.1sec; the power delivery was never peaky, unlike some might have suspected; and mid-range punch was very impressive.

“Handling is very predictable,” we said. “The overall feel is of a very well-balanced car, one which can be turned through corners deceptively quickly and one which also feels very safe at the limit of adhesion.”

Plus the steering was precise, responsive and communicative. So the M3 had better manners than either the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth or Mercedes-Benz 190 2.3-16 and was more nimble.

Despite the M3 allowing itself minimal body roll, the sacrifice in ride comfort was only marginal.

Around town, too, it was as docile as anyone would wish. “Stepping into the M3 is one of those rare occurrences when a driver feels immediately at home in a car,” we concluded. “It’s perhaps the most successful road racer offered to date.”

Bob Lutz on the future of the car industry

Bob Lutz is one of the car industry’s most famous executives, having sat on the boards of GM, BMW, Ford, Chrysler and GM again, serving up many successes and bold quotes – as seen in our interview on how he was getting on at Chrysler.

On the AMC deal, Lutz said: “I was pretty neutral about it. It could be a burden, but also there are a number of pluses. The biggest is Jeep. Then there’s the new [Brampton] factory and the dealer network, even though it isn’t the strongest.” 

On the American industry’s health, he said: “I deplore our deindustrialisation. [Chrysler boss Lee] Iacocca is leading a one-man crusade in trying to wake up the government and country about it.” Was free trade the answer to all the US’s problems?

“[I say] productivity, plus some reduction in the standard of living, as has happened in Europe, and a realisation that things can’t just get better all the time.” 

As for Europe? “With some good years there, most of the companies will survive.” Japan? “I think it will be facing difficult times. Its competitiveness will diminish.” 

South Korea and Taiwan? “Neither the US nor Europe will serve as a dumping ground to help ever more countries establish their automobile industries.” But overall? “I’m optimistic and I’m very happy. Some days are better than others, but even the bad ones are pretty good!”

BMW's supreme M3 racer

The M3 was a homologation special, so we had to know it in race spec too, getting racer James Weaver to try one at Silverstone. 

“Normally Group N cars won’t put the power down. As a result, they can be tedious to drive. This, on the other hand, is terrific,” was his initial reaction.

 “It’s so nicely balanced and has sufficient power and traction that you can drive right through the understeer. [The engine] is fabulous. About the only difference is that the racer seems to rev on a little better.” 

Indeed it was supreme, winning Australian, British, Italian, German, Japanese, European and world touring car titles.

The Toyota from the future

Japan always seems years ahead of the rest on tech, as seen when we met the Mk2 Toyota Soarer, a JDM coupé. It had Toyota’s most powerful engine, a 3.0 straight six with four valves per cylinder, DOHC, L-Jetronic injection, computer engine management, a turbo and an intercooler; Toyota’s unique electronically controlled air suspension; and a cabin seemingly designed by Gerry Anderson. There was a ‘multivision’ 6in colour screen, which could give you navigation from special cassettes, and even touch panels for the air-con and stereo.

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