If you're reading this website, you're at least familiar with the modern gearhead obsession with the first-generation BMW M3. Hailed as the perfect driver's car; touted as the platonic ideal of rear-wheel-drive dynamics; annoyingly proffered as the internet's universal answer to the question "what car should I buy;" E30 M3 lust borders on religious fanaticism among car enthusiasts.
But, c'mon. It's been damn near 30 years since the original first-gen M3 hit the streets. Progress in engines, suspensions, and tires has led us to a point where the hottest E30's low-six-second 0-60 times and 150 mph top speed are the domain of front-wheel-drive hatchbacks. Analog mechanical feedback is great, but it loses some charm when your touring car homologation special gets dusted by a four-door crossover.
England's Simon Lord proposes a solution: , or "revived lightweight." It's part restomod, part cafe racer, and part evolutionary experiment, a look into the crystal ball at a parallel future where BMW continued refining the E30 to its eventual perfection instead of changing tracks to the bigger, softer, less delicate offspring of later generations.
If Simon Lord can make his dream a reality, we'll have a real E30 renaissance on our hands.
In 2004, while serving as a British Army officer in Germany, Lord was about to order a brand-new BMW, an E46 M3 to follow up the two previous E46 coupes he'd owned. But a Macau Blue E30 M3 caught his eye; the new car order was cancelled, the E30 was purchased, and as Lord told R&T, "it exceeded all expectations."
But then, life intervened. Lord retired from the British Army in 2005 and moved to Asia. His E30 M3 was stored, then sold—for £7500, or just under $12,000, a pittance given today's first-gen M3 market. Lord stayed in Asia for nearly a decade, and intended to take a job in South Sudan, but threats of civil war in that region scuttled his plans.
Back in England, having nursed the dream of building a modernized BMW E30 M3, Lord went into action. A chance run-in with an old army general he'd served under led Lord to an organization supporting veterans in entrepreneurial pursuits; a mentor in the organization had once been marketing director for BMW in the UK during the E30 and E36 era. An ex-BMW CEO, a former F1 team owner, and a legendary British Touring Car Championship driver who'd driven for BMW in the E30 days soon joined the cause.
Clive Hartley, an automotive designer with a resume that includes work at Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Nissan, and Porsche Design, came on board, as did consulting designers Toby Mellor and Bujar Muharremi, whose shop . Jonathan Gould, who designed the last Rolls Royce built at the company's traditional Crewe facility, is involved in the design and modeling process.
They've got a design in the works, one that Lord promises will pay loving tribute to the E30 M3's iconic design while adding flair and function that the designers in Munich could have only dreamed of back in the 1980s. The Redux Leichtbau team is keeping the details pretty close to the vest for now, but they were able to give R&T a sneak peek at some of their concept sketches, put together by design consultants Toby Mellor and Bujar Muharremi.
So, it'll look cool, sure, but what's going on under the hood? Glad you asked. Lord's not about to trash the legendary, free-revving S14 2.3-liter four-cylinder that's the E30 M3's hallmark—there will be no V8-swap blasphemy here—but he isn't afraid to give it a significant boost. Each Redux Leichtbau M3 will be bored out to 2.5 liters, matching the very limited Sport Evolution variants that BMW produced at the end of the E30 M3's production run. Custom cams and a brand-new rotating assembly take full advantage of the increased displacement.
Reaching beyond the Sport Evo spec, though, each Redux Bimmer will get a custom turbo setup. This isn't big-turbo shenanigans —Lord explains that BMW experimented with turbocharging the S14 engine during the E30 M3's development as a DTM and BTCC racer. Engine builder Kieran Smale of will be in charge of building the custom turbocharged S14 engines, designed using data provided by a BMW Motorsport engineer who was involved in the legendary engine's development.
Output? Lord figures on a power-to-weight ratio of more than 300 horsepower per ton. For reference, the hottest E30 M3 could only muster a touch more than 175 horsepower per ton. And there's chassis improvements to match: The Redux project will bring custom front and rear anti-roll bars, upgraded AP Racing brakes (6 piston front, 4 piston rear), a 2.5-turn lock-to-lock steering rack, and chassis hardware inspired by Group A Touring Car racers.
Each donor car will be acid-dipped, stitch welded, gusseted and resprayed, with custom carbon fiber body panels and a half roll cage. The goal is to keep each completed build well under 2500 lbs, lighter than the most stripped-down stock E30 M3. Chassis development and tuning fall to the capable hands of Neil Yates, whose specializes in building competition BMWs for road racing, rallying, and the street.
If you're getting a distinctly bespoke Singer-esque vibe here, that's not a mistake. Lord says his goal is to build M3s that are "race car inspired, modified for the street," paying homage to the great racing BMWs of the past, with a cafe racer's attention to detail and improved handling, feedback and performance. It's not unlike the work done by ICON, which stuffs modern drivetrains and amenities inside lovingly restored vintage bodies with tons of custom flair. Or, well, those other guys building heavily restomodded European sports cars.
The plan for now is to build nine Redux Leichtbau "prototypes"—made-to-order one-offs with top-shelf touches inside and out, customized to each buyer's specification. Once those nine are completed, Lord and his team will contemplate building a larger run of Redux Leichtbau machines. As is customary with this level of restomodding, it comes at a price: Figure that a fully-bespoke Redux M3 will run you about as much as a nice new Ferrari.
But with only nine of them planned, you'll have rarity that your average Ferrari owner can only dream of. Plus, you'll win the undying respect of every car enthusiast you come across—after all, you'll be piloting the purest driver's car ever built, only made better.
To find out more, ; if you're interested in getting one of the first nine prototypes, email Simon Lord using the info on the site.