Here's Why The BMW E30 M3 Commands So Much Money Today

German automaker BMW has been racing since the 1920s. The brand cemented its motorsports dominance in the 1940s with the 328 racing car: It swept the Mille Miglia (one of the first motorsport race events, established in 1927) in 8 hours and 55 minutes, achieving an average speed of 105 mph. However, it wasn't until 1973 that the BMW's M division earned its legendary blue, purple, and red colors with the 3.0 CSL, a car that set a lap record on the Nürburgring, won six European championships, and became BMW's first ever art car.

Then again, the folks at BMW's M division outdid themselves with the E30 BMW M3 — the first-ever M3 that made a huge splash at the 1985 IAA in Frankfurt. BMW said the first-gen M3 is a "touring car racing homologation model" based on the second-gen 3-Series. The racing variant took the World Touring Car Championship in its maiden year, and won the 24-hour races in Spa and the Nürburgring in the following years.

The BMW E30 M3 remains the most successful touring car in the brand's illustrious motorsports history. Some regard the E46 M3 as the best M3 among the lineage of BMW sports cars, but the E36 and E46 wouldn't be iconic if not for the granddaddy of M3s — the magnificent E30.

BMW E30 M3: Rising valuations

There's more to the BMW E30 M3 than meets the eye. It has lightweight plastic bumpers, side skirts, a boot lid, and a rear spoiler to shed weight, tipping the scales at roughly 2,645 pounds (1,200 kilograms). It has a naturally aspirated 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine that generates 200 horsepower, enough to pull it from 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds using a standard five-speed dogleg manual gearbox.

In 1988, the BMW M division unveiled the M3 Sport Evolution. It came with a revised 2.5-liter version of the original inline-four with 238 horsepower, making it the most potent E30 M3. Unfortunately, only 600 M3 Sport Evolution models left the factory, making it one of the rarest and most sought-after vintage BMWs on the auction blocks. According to Classic, a 1990 to 1992 BMW M3 Sport Evolution would cost from $197,000 to around $260,000 in today's money.

You won't spend that much for a regular BMW E30 M3. Still, prices range from $55,000 to $72,000; fitting numbers for a vehicle named by Automobile Magazine as one of the 25 Greatest Cars of All Time, a monumental accomplishment shared with classic bigwigs like the Lotus Elan and Porsche 911 Carrera RS.