Musings on the Motoring World

Everything about the Vilner M3 is awesome, except its engine

Not too long ago The Motor Muse came up with a shortlist of cars that would be prime candidates for getting a full-on Singer-style restomod treatment. Filled with plenty of definitive but imperfect classics, one fairly obvious car absent from the list was the legendary BMW E30 M3, instead the E24 6-Series bagged the nomination as the sole Bavarian representative.

Though as much thought was put into the list as the Swedish did with the Vasa, The Motor Muse still maintains that the E30 M3 doesn’t make for a good restomod recipient, and to answer why one only need to look at Vilner’s one-off E30 M3 restomod creation.

On the face of it, there is nothing to dislike about the Bulgarian-based customisation studio’s creation. Paired with 18-inch BBS RK wheels and tastefully draped in Tartan upholstery on every imaginable interior panel, Vilner’s creation is a stunning and evocative work of automotive art. Vilner themselves admit the philosophy behind their E30 M3 creation is similar to Singer’s, and rightly so.

The only gripe is that when you pop open the hood to find a whacking big 3.2-litre inline-six from the E36 M3 sitting in there. Great job that, but sorry, they removed the one irreplaceable gem of the E30 M3, its built-for-motorsports inline-four known as the S14. Yes, an LS-swap it is not, but that doesn’t make it any better.

On paper, an E36 M3 engine swap for the E30 M3 sounds like a distinguished hot rodder’s dream. The more powerful and torquier heart of the second-gen M3 would address the E30 M3’s high strung nature, adding the “consummate Teutonic cruiser” to its repertoire without betraying its German heritage, but in turn that won’t make it a better “E30 M3”.

Integral to the E30 M3 revered status is the story of the S14’s conception. Concieved by legendary engineer Paul Rosche in just 14 days, the S14 is still the stuff of automotive legends.

Built with an eye for entry into Group A racing, the S14 was an incredible powerplant capable of revving up to speeds of 10,000rpm and is still considered to be one of the greatest the M Division had ever devised, right up there with the E46 M3’s S54 inline-six and E90 M3’s S65 V8. Its place in BMW’s pantheon of greats is undeniable, so much so someone even dropped it into the nose of an E90 DTM racecar with remarkable results.

It goes without saying that despite inspiring four successive generations, many pundits still place the original M3 (and its Evolution derivatives) in the top three of M cars, with much of that acclaim being credited to its remarkable engine that complemented its “race car for the road” intent.

Unfortunately, Vilner’s “big engine, small car” treatment didn’t just remove the heart. It bored out the very core, and there is where it lost The Motor Muse’s vote.

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