The first to arrive was Mori’s Alpine White example that featured a black extended Nappa leather interior. Mr. Y’s car was delayed as he had second thoughts about the color. He had originally ordered it in Diamantschwarz metallic (metallic black) but after further consideration, and while BMW M was performing the RHD conversion, he requested that the car be repainted Jet Black non-metallic—to match his Jet Black Ferrari Testarossa. While the car was at Garching, Mr. Y was informed of the upcoming Sport Evolution (due at the end of 1989) and seized the opportunity to convince BMW M to include the upcoming model’s interior in his Japan Evolution M3.
After the Japan Evolutions were delivered, BMW decided against any further development of a RHD M3. The reasons included the fact that BMW did not anticipate substantial orders for RHD versions of the models from places like Japan, where the stock market crashed in 1989. From an engineering standpoint, the work required to reconfigure the M3’s production line would have been too extensive to be cost effective.
The current custodian for the black Japan Evolution is another Mr. Y: Kevin Yeung, a Hong Kong businessman and car enthusiast. It is actually his second E30 M3. “I had a 1988 U.S. specification M3 while I was living in New Hampshire,” he says. “Since then, M3s in various guises have always been part of my life. But the E30 remains my favorite. I’d been searching for one in RHD since returning to Hong Kong over a decade ago. Earlier this year, I was alerted on the possibility of purchasing a black example in Japan. Only after it was delivered did I finally realize just what I had purchased.”
At first glance, it resembles a standard Evolution II with the Sport Evolution’s distinctive red bumper highlights. Once I noticed the steering wheel was on the right side, though, the realization hit—I was standing next to one of the rarest M3s in the world.
I board the car and settle into the generous Recaro seat (Mr. Y. is a large man by Japanese standards and requested BMW M to provide his car with a large size Recaro seat). A special dashboard plaque sits prominently ahead of the gearshift, clearly designating the car’s Japan Evolution provenance. The only modification Yeung, an audiophile, made has been installing a bespoke McIntosh stereo system.
I twist the key and the S14 wakes with a meaty wrarrrap. This is followed by the powerplant’s distinctive tapping sound at idle. It sounds raw. These S14 Evolution II engines were reworked with the introduction of high-compression pistons (11:1 up from 10.5:1) while the air intake was revised to include a 265-degree intake cam.
Evolution II aerodynamic modifications specific for homologation purposes were included on the Japan Evolutions. They received deeper front spoilers with brake cooling ducts in lieu of fog lights and rear lip spoilers on the boot. While the standard Getrag five-speed dogleg gearbox was carried over from the standard M3, the final drive ratio was changed from 3.25:1 to 3.15:1, resulting in a 0-62 time of 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 152 mph.
However, as I found, the E30 M3 is not without flaws. Its Achilles heel is its archaic braking system. The Bosch ABS braking system was developed in the early 1980s and worked with tiny two-piston calipers clamping on 280mm ventilated discs in front and 282mm solid discs at the rear.
Yeung also recognizes the problem and has commissioned a bespoke braking system based on modern AP Racing components. “When my car arrived,” Yeung says, “it came with two sets of 7.5x16-inch alloy wheels—the polished ones on the car today, along with the factory alloys. I wanted to keep the car on 16-inch wheels, but by doing so, I was unable to fit proper off-the-shelf brake upgrades.”
At length, my early-morning E30 blast comes to an end. As I part ways with my driving companions, I glance back at the trio of M3s and ponder the question: Which one would I want?