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When we think of rare cars, we usually think about low-volume hypercars like the Lamborghini Veneno. But one oft-forgotten rarity has much humbler looks. The E46 BMW M3 GTR is one of the rarest modern cars ever. But what makes it special goes well beyond limited production figures.

BMW made only 3 M3 GTR models

The E46 M3 GTR is one of the rarest cars ever made, with just three models offered to the general public. Initially, BMW promised to produce 10 of this homologation special in total, with the 10th car sent straight to the BMW museum for display. However, only six ever left the factory, three of which were development cars that were destroyed post production.

The three remaining models are, to this day, part of BMW’s Group Classic collection and not available for public purchase.

BMW M3 GTR rear quarter

Why did BMW make so few M3 GTRs?

BMW’s decision to make such a small number of M3 GTRs was the result of a racing regulation in the American LeMans Series. For the 2001 season, ALMS rules allowed for purpose-built racing engines, so long as the manufacturer produced 10 roadgoing versions with the same kit. That allowed BMW to sock a 4.0-liter V8 into its ALMS contender, producing 444 horsepower at full chat. That engine was both lighter and more powerful than the standard V6, which offered just 333 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque.

Of course, that meant promising a 10-unit production run of road cars as well. The P60 engine in the E46 BMW M3 GTR Strassenversion was detuned to 380 horsepower to meet road-legal status. But the P60 V8 engine remained, and ultimately the M3 GTR Strassenversion became a pipe-dream for automotive enthusiasts.

The car’s success was immediate, winning 7 of 10 races in the 2001 season. The production-car controversy (and campaigning from rival Porsche) led ALMS to change the production-car rule for 2002. Automakers were then required to produce 1,000 roadgoing models instead of just 10. BMW couldn’t justify the cost to produce that many M3 GTRs, relegating the V8 E46 to the history books.

BMW P60 V8 engine
The BMW P60 V8 | BMW

How the GTR differs from the standard E46 M3

In addition to the V8 engine, there are several other big differences in the 2001 M3 GTR. The bumpers, hood, roof, and trunk are all carbon fiber as opposed to fiberglass, aluminum, or steel. In addition, even the roadgoing M3 GTR doesn’t come with a radio or air conditioning, so it wouldn’t exactly be an enjoyable daily, even if you could take one home.

Where can you see an E46 M3 GTR?

BMW M3 GTR front view
2001 BMW M3 GTR | BMW

Unfortunately, there are no E46 M3 GTRs on public display in the U.S. To see one up close, you’ll have to head to Munich, Germany to explore the BMW Group Classic collection. The BMW museum is open to the public, and there is a Strassenversion on display. You may never get to hear the P60 BMW V8 at full tilt, but you can see the engineering on display with a trip to Germany.


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