The original BMW M3 quickly secured itself iconic status, so extraordinary was its success in the sporting arena. German champion, European champion, world champion – there was no limit to the talents of this apparently conventional sedan. The M3 was enormous fun, and its handling, performance and ergonomics ticked every box. In 1988 the fixed-roof model gained a soft-top sibling, adding unbridled joie de vivre to the race-bred engineering below. No wonder any showroom lucky enough to house one had the noses of young enthusiasts pressed up against its windows. Arm’s-length admiration wasn’t enough for Tino Laub, though; now old enough to earn and drive, he went right in and bought one.
1998, and a new apprentice at BMW in Munich was just embarking on his working life at the age of 18. Like most of his youthful peers, Tino Laub dreamed of owning a top-drawer driving machine – preferably one with a big ‘ol M on its badge. The object of Tino’s affections was the original BMW M3 Convertible of E30 fame, then already ten years post-launch and no longer on sale. 786 examples of the M3 Cabrio were waved on their way at the factory gates, making it one of the automotive world’s lesser-spotted species. Most aficionados would have to be content with a poster of the car on their bedroom walls. But not Tino.
Young and flush.
The young Herr Laub happened upon a seven-year-old E30 M3 Convertible in Sterling Silver at a Mercedes-Benz dealer around the corner from his house. It had racked up just 60,000 kilometres (approx. 37,300 miles), so was relatively lightly used and pretty much “as new” all round. In contrast to the majority of kids his age, Tino was quite the saver and his bank account was in unusually rude health. But he still had to scrape together everything he had to turn his dream car into an ownership reality. The car/owner bond was sealed with an aluminium plaque reading “BMW M-GmbH, M3 Cabrio, No-558”, which Tino made himself and stuck to a scratched patch of leather next to the gear lever.
The first BMW M3 Convertible – the best of both worlds.
The BMW M GmbH engineers went to work on their new project, taking the body shell from a standard BMW convertible of the time and adapting it to accommodate the M3’s suspension componentry and beefier wheels. And so the rather fetching “box-flared” wheel arches which had made such a visual impact on the sportiest version of the BMW 3 Series in hard-top form also graced the cover of the M3 Convertible. 195 hp, 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 228 km/h (142 mph) add up to an enduring statement of intent.
As with cars, so in other areas of life, Tino wasn’t the type to hang around. Aged 19, no more than a year after snapping up the BMW, he became a home owner. In financial terms at least, this was dreaming on an even grander scale, and something had to give. So out went the M3 – all the way to England, where its fanbase was similarly robust. Goodbye, my love, goodbye.
The end of the story? Not so fast!
November 2019, and Tino is now well into his next stage of life. Flicking through images of cars on his phone one night, an E30 M3 Convertible catches his eye, one of probably only seven silver examples to have rolled off the assembly line. Cue an urgent WhatsApp to the owner: Does it have the plaque? A picture arrives confirming as such: this was “Tino’s” car! The M3’s clock had now turned to 133,000 km and it had eleven happy years in a dry Oxford garage under its belt. That was all Tino needed to know; he did the deal without leaving his bed and the M3 Convertible was his. Again.
A few weeks later, in mid-December, Tino flew to England on a one-way ticket. The 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) of the return leg were covered at the wheel of his new purchase. It was an incredible feeling. The car still had its original blue soft-top and original paintwork, and the underbody was in mint condition. The gear lever had been swapped for an AC Schnitzer item, but other than that nothing had changed. Even the original German license plate number was revived, re-registration in Germany revealing that M-LT 20 had become free again.
This, then, is not one of those familiar instances of déjà-vu, no trick of the mind. Instead, Tino’s is a barely conceivable tale of young love relinquished prematurely, where the protagonists get a second bite of the cherry. Hopefully this time it’s for keeps.