Love retro ’80s cars? You’ll love this. The Manhart MH3 3.5 Turbo is a bad-ass modified reinterpretation of the iconic BMW E30 M3.
The E30-generation BMW M3 is many people’s favorite M car, and while we’d stop short of calling it the greatest M car of all time (that honor surely sits with the E46), it’s not hard to understand why its so adored. For a start, there’s the way it looks – there’s just something about Claus Luthe-designed Beemers that works so well; it’s the perfect blend of aggression and restraint, resulting in an appearance which commands attention without shouting in your face. Something that modern BMW designers could perhaps take note of.
Then, there’s the performance. In its standard guise, the E30 M3 was a real hero of its time. A homologation special based off of BMW’s championship-winning Group A racecar, it had motorsport running through its veins. As a result, its primarily street-focused rivals simply couldn’t hold a candle to it.
For those reasons, there’s a good case for it serving as a brilliant base for aftermarket magicians to improve upon. That’s where Manhart comes in. Here’s what they’ve done to it:
From the factory, the E30 M3’s engine was no joke. It was a high-revving 2.3-liter four-cylinder unit which seemed to perfectly match the car’s personality. But Manhart wanted to give the E30 a new persona, so four cylinders have been traded for six. That six-pot is a very special engine in its own right. Originally found in the Alpina B7 S Turbo, this 3.5-liter block could propel the E12 5-Series-based B7 all the way to 161mph, making it one of the fastest sedans of the ’80s. Back then, the engine produced 330hp and 369lb ft of torque, but this is 2023, and those are rookie numbers now.
So, Manhart has spent some time tinkering with the old dog, handing it a set of new tricks including a modified Kühnle, Kopp and Kausch turbocharger, and beefed-up intercooler. The result is a new output of 405hp and 470lb ft of torque. In a car which weighs around 2900lb (1300kg), that will make for a rather rapid ride, but Manhart haven’t gone too mad – they could’ve easily fallen into the trap of giving the E30 too much power for its own good, but 405hp feels about right to us.
The ferocity of the engine is adjustable too, thanks to manual boost pressure controls in the cabin. Once you’ve got it set-up how you like it, the power gets transferred through a 5-speed manual gearbox and 25-percent lock differential (complete with extra cooling). Manhart’s performance exhaust helps the car to flow freer, and sing even louder, too.
Manhart have been wise not to mess too much with the E30’s original lines, constraining bodywork mods to simple touches like a front splitter and carbon rear wing lip. It’s wrapped matte green which some people will love, others not so much, and the rear taillights are smoked out as well.
The alloy wheels are an in-house design known as Manhart Concave Ones. In this specification, they measure 19 inches in diameter, and come shrouded in 215/35 tires at the front and 245/30s at the rear. The braking system features drilled rotors all-round, with four-piston Brembo calipers at the front, while suspension comes in the form of H&R-developed coilovers. Those not only improve the car’s handling, but also add to its fearsome stance. Inside, you’ll find a red leather interior with three-spoke Momo steering wheel and plenty of Manhart trimmings.
But what if you prefer your ’80s icons to have more of an… Italian vibe? Well, Manhart’s got you covered. Check out this awesome Lancia restomod of theirs, next.