Car enthusiasts live for their weekends. Cars and Coffee, drag strip runs, track days, festivals—Saturday and Sunday is when car culture comes alive. For me, this past weekend meant a visit to the BMW E30 M3 heaven that is SIGFest and some Subaru and Mitsubishi rally car hotness on the drag strip.
Upon arrival I was greeted by the sight of nearly 50 E30 M3s. Some completely stock, some extremely modified. All throughly cleaned, show prepped, and absolutely gorgeous. I immediately knew I was in for something special.
Like most car meets, this event was a safe haven for owners and enthusiasts alike to mingle and discuss their love and interest for these cars. That’s a beautiful thing. And that’s all you, or at least I, needed to get up on a Saturday morning and cruise for an hour to South Jersey.
Though most cars in attendance sported local license plates, one father and son made the trip in their original-owner M3 nearing 300,000 miles with an untouched motor, an extremely stiff ride, and many interior bits removed—all the way from Montana. Not a journey for the weak. Because of their dedication, they were awarded the “Road Warrior” prize at the end of the day.
Also notable was both an original E30 M3 Convertible, one of only 786 ever produced, as well as a factory Evo III E30 M3, one of only 600 produced. Neither were ever sold or marketed by BMW in America, which makes them even more impressive to come across on a chilly New Jersey Saturday.
One husband and wife duo drove out from Central PA in their grey E30 M3. But for them, the M3 was by no means the star of their collection. Back at home, they had a Z3M Roadster and Coupe (clown shoe), a 2002tii, and a Z1 and more great Bimmers. I was even told that their basement garage tiling is striped in ///M colors. How fucking boss.
Each of these cars and their owners had an individual story; something special to share about their car, what it’s been through, and how they got here. It’s truly special to see there are still people who are willing to not only keep their classics roadworthy, but to also go out and share the car, the stories, and the experience with others.
This beautiful red E30 was purchased in the mid 1990s back in the owner’s college days when he gave up a solid 325i E30 after coming across this M3 at a local Ford dealer. Someone had just traded it, an E30 M3, one of the greatest cars ever produced, for a Ford Taurus.
But it’s not surprising. Believe it or not, the first M3 was kind of a tough sell in its early days, before the M brand was as ubiquitous as it is now. Many early customers wondered why they’d pay more for a four-cylinder 3 Series than one with an inline six.
Because of the lack of knowledge surrounding these cars back then, the dealer’s asking price for the car was on par with normal E30 325i pricing. The soon to be owner ran back to his parents at home, and begged them to scoop up the insane deal. Which they did, but only after a notorious amount of back and forth pleading.
The owner has since put around 180,000 miles on the car. It has seen track days all around the east coast, but because of the rise in value and how expensive things have become to fix things when broken, the car has understandably seen less and less hardcore use over time.
After raffles and award handouts, I said my thanks and goodbyes. I could only get so much out of static cars in a parking lot. I wanted to see some machines in action.
Luckily for me, just half an hour away from SIGFest there was a Subaru vs. Mitsubishi day happening at Englishtown’s Raceway Park. Why wouldn’t I go? After all, it was mostly just a day of sharing stories and indulging in some proper real world car porn. (Also, my grandmother refused to hang out with me. But that’s another story.) I needed some real excitement. I needed to smell some race fuel.
Entry to Raceway Park was just $20 for spectating, a small price to pay for a racetrack entry fee.
As I rolled through the parking lot and paddock area in a 2015 Subaru WRX, I felt at home. Or at least more at home than when I rolled up to a Euro car meet just a few hours prior. It probably didn’t help that I overheard some Euro car snob smack talking my WRX because he felt that the World Rally Blue was “a shitty imitation of BMW’s Estoril Blue.” Yeah, okay buddy. Fortunately, that was the only amount of car snob I had experienced all day.
Though I arrived toward the end of the Mitsubishi vs. Subaru event, Raceway park was still filled with tons of cars and amped up enthusiasts. Everything from fresh off the lot Hyper Blue 2016 Subaru STIs to completely modified Mitsubishi Evo 9s, and everything in between.
Sure, the day was seemingly meant to directly pit Subaru owners against Mitsubishi owners, which is a joke that has gone on for too long (they barely even make the Evo anymore, so uh, we Subros won right?), there was very little sensation of hatred or negativity between either owner groups. They were all there to share their passion for their cars, compare mods, see what everyone else has, and push their cars to the limits on a two lane drag strip.
To be fair, there was a little more lulwut at the strip compared to the quiet, golf course hosted E30 event of the morning.
Of course Raceway Park saw a bit more hands on wrenching, which is to be expected at a race track. But hey, there was a leaky water pump that was getting attended to at SIGFest. That counts for something.
As cars blasted down the drag strip, fans and enthusiasts watched with joy from the sidelines. Following the speeding racers down the two straight lanes. Top speeds, 1/4 mile times, and driving advice were constantly being passed around and discussed throughout the stands.
One red Impreza L drag car had what seemed to be an incredible launch and run, but that quickly changed as tons of bluish white smoke began to pour from the car’s front bumper mounted exhaust tips as it reached the end of the strip.
All in all, both events truly represented what almost all enthusiasts love about car culture. The main differences for the most part were just the changes in hardware. Does that really matter?
Photo Credits: Aaron Brown/Jalopnik