The Redux BMW E30 M3 Restomod Asks, ‘What if…a CSL?’

Redux Enhanced & Evolved BMW E30 M3 article highlights:

  • UK-based Redux Leichtbau imagined what a BMW E30 M3 CSL could look like and decided to make it happen
  • The shop upgrades everything from the chassis to the engine on the donor E30 M3 to better-than-new condition
  • It’s US-legal, but Redux is only making 30 examples—and including the donor car, you’re paying nearly $500K

It’s rare to get a shot at working on, much less improving a legend. Yet that’s what many restomod companies offer for classic cars. Whether you vibe with vintage Porsches, Alfa Romeos, or Mini Coopers, some shops can make your classic wheels go and handle even better than new. But restomodding isn’t just a way of giving these cars new lives; it can also explore interesting design avenues. The ‘what ifs’ of the car world, so to speak. And over in the UK, one shop is asking that question about the BMW E30 M3.

Redux’s Enhanced & Evolved BMW E30 M3 is a hypothetical CSL restomod

A red 1989 BMW E30 M3
1989 BMW E30 M3 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

It doesn’t matter how much horsepower the latest BMW M3 has, it won’t truly outrun the E30 M3’s legend. Released as a DTM homologation car, the OG M3 was a true lightweight race car for the road. Thanks to its motorsport-derived 7250-RPM S14 engine, it sounded like one. And with a redesigned body, beefed-up sway bars and suspension components, stiffer springs, ventilated ABS-equipped four-wheel discs, and a limited-slip differential, it handled like one, too.

Unfortunately, US customers had to wait until 1988 to get the BMW E30 M3. But even then, BMW never sent over the best versions of the E30 M3, Hagerty notes. We never got the Euro model’s dogleg transmission, for example, nor the later Sport Evolution models with, sequentially, 215, 220, and 235 hp.

However, even Europeans couldn’t get their hands on an E30 M3 CSL. No one could—because that car doesn’t exist. Oh sure, there’s a 3.0 CSL. And not only did the outgoing M3 offer a CSL, but BMW is working on a new version. But while there are several special-edition E30 M3s and even an ‘Italian tax special’ E30, there’s no CSL.

That’s where UK shop Redux Leichtbau comes in. Since 2015, the shop has been working on what it calls the ‘Enhanced & Evolved E30 M3.’ And the goal, founder Simon Lord says, is to make “’the CSL version of the E30 that BMW never built,’” Top Gear reports.

But what does that entail, precisely? Well, ‘CSL’ stands for ‘Coupe Sport Light.’ So, at the very least, Redux’s E30 M3 restomod must be lighter than the original. And it is. However, it’s so much more than just that.

The name says it all with this restomod

A black Redux Enhanced & Evolved BMW E30 M3 drives around a track
Redux Enhanced & Evolved BMW E30 M3 | Redux Leichtbau

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Redux Enhanced & Evolved BMW E30 M31986 BMW E30 M3
Engine2.5-liter ‘S14B25’ four-cylinder2.3-liter ‘S14B23’ four-cylinder
Horsepower300 hp192 hp (197 hp without catalyst)
Torque205 lb-ft170 lb-ft (177 lb-ft without catalyst)
TransmissionFive-speed manualFive-speed manual
Curb weight2535 lbs2712 lbs
0-62 mph timeUnavailable6.7 seconds

To make its restomod, Redux starts with a donor BMW E30 M3 and strips it down to the bare metal chassis. This gets media-blasted, heat-treated, and straightened to like-new condition before receiving additional reinforcements and seam welds. After that, the shop gives it a modern anti-rust and paint-protection treatment.

Once that’s done, Redux fits the bare E30 M3 with its brand-new carbon-fiber body panels. That includes the bumpers, rear spoiler, front splitter, basically everything but the door skins, Top Gear says. Also, while the second car didn’t have a carbon-fiber roof, subsequent builds will. But even in its current state, Redux’s body kit only weighs 88 pounds. And it’s partially why the restomodded M3 is almost 200 pounds lighter than the original.

However, the Redux Evolved & Enhanced BMW E30 M3 focuses as much on the ‘sport’ part of CSL as the ‘light.’ The coupe gets bigger-than-stock AP Racing brakes, 18” Cinel forged-aluminum wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 or Cup 2 tires, and either Bilstein or EXE-TC fully-adjustable coil-overs. Redux also adds new bushings, changes the suspension geometry and steering rack, and installs adjustable sway bars and control arms. And if you want even less unsprung weight, the shop offers carbon-ceramic brakes.

The blue-covered S14B25 engine in a black Redux Enhanced & Evolved BMW E30 M3
Redux Enhanced & Evolved BMW E30 M3 engine | Redux Leichtbau

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Then the engine work begins. Technically, this enhanced BMW E30 M3 still has an S14 engine. But it’s enlarged to 2.5 liters and fitted with a MoTec ECU, BMW M crankshaft, custom exhaust manifold, stainless-steel performance exhaust, aluminum valve cover, carbon-fiber air intake, and individual throttle bodies. And if you want, Redux can give it a billet-aluminum block and Inconel exhaust instead. Also, the shop fits a modern LSD, new final drive and gear ratios, and a lightweight flywheel and clutch.

Finally, Redux tackles the BMW E30 M3’s interior. The switchgear is improved, non-essential items removed, and various components replaced with 3D-printed metal versions. Redux also covers the interior with a mix of leather, cloth, and Alcantara. But because it’s a bespoke build, customers can request things like roll cages, rear-seat deletes, and upgraded audio systems.

This BMW E30 M3 restomod is “bloody impressive,” Top Gear says

Although the original M3 is a legendary sports car, in terms of raw performance, it’s been superseded by subsequent M3s. Furthermore, a used Fiesta ST can beat it to 60 mph and likely has a stiffer chassis. And the E30 M3’s various racing-related body mods weren’t always fitted particularly well, Top Gear notes.

That’s where Redux’s restomod comes in. Thanks to the 4000-hour build process and modern quality standards, everything has been “honed to perfection,” Top Gear reports. And not only does the Enhanced & Evolved E30 M3 retain its subtle looks, but all the work “looks very natural, very factory,” Carfection says. Plus, Redux sprinkled a three-dot motif—because M3—throughout the interior, exterior, and engine bay.

But the real fruits of Redux’s labor bloom once its BMW E30 M3 restomod gets going. That 2.5-liter engine makes “a glorious sound,” Carfection says, a hard-edge metallic bark that sharpens as the revs climb. And because of the shorter gear ratios, you can use more of the rev range. You’ll also enjoy rowing the solid-feeling shifter more than the original one, Carfection adds. But even at low RPMs, the engine pulls hard without any issues or chaotic idling.

With more power than any Sport Evo and less weight, Redux’s E30 M3 is noticeably faster than the original. It also handles better, though it hasn’t lost the E30’s spirit or character. This car is still a joy to flow around a racetrack—it’s just faster and more solid-feeling. And that’s with the road-going suspension setup, Carfection notes.

Arguably, this sort of “suppleness” and interior luxury detracts from the CSL-ness of Redux’s BMW E30 M3, Top Gear muses. But this restomod definitely enhances and evolves the original M3 experience.

How much does Redux’s BMW E30 M3 restomod cost?

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As noted earlier, Redux has built two Enhanced & Evolved BMW E30 M3s so far. And because it’s partnered with Enthusiast Auto Group in Ohio, it takes US orders. The engine is CARB-legal, too.

But if you want one, you’ll have to act fast, because the shop is only making 28 more. And be prepared to pay for the privilege, as the restomod costs about $436,000. That’s in addition to the donor car; a good-to-excellent condition example costs about $68K-$123K these days, Hagerty reports. Though if you can’t find one, Redux can procure one for you.

Regardless, you’re paying about $500,000 for an E30 M3. That’s about twice as much as the most expensive E30 ever sold at auction. Though to be fair, Gunther Werks charges about as much for its 911 builds. What if it’s worth it?

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