It uses the engine from a BMW 7 Series
The 333i was based on the 323i E30, but the M20B23 inline-six was swapped for the bigger, M30B32 unit, used in the BMW E23 733i. The engine produces 198 horsepower at 5,500 RPM and 210 pound-feet (285 Nm) at 4,300 RPM. This allows for a 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) time or around 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 144 mph (231 km/h). As befits a lightweight sports coupe, power goes to the rear wheels, through a close-ratio, dog-leg, five-speed manual gearbox, and a limited-slip differential.
|Power||198 HP @ 5,500 RPM|
|Torque||210 LB-FT @ 4,300 RPM|
|0 to 60 mph||6.9 seconds|
|Top Speed||144 mph|
Packaging issues meant you had to sacrifice some equipment
The 3.3-liter inline-six that you usually find in a BMW E23 7 Series is quite a lot bigger than the standard 2.3-liter mill, so a lot of things needed to be changed. Among the changes are a cooling-fan delete, as well as a completely redesigned manifold. The weirdest thing, however, was that there wasn’t enough space for the A/C and the power steering, so you had to choose one.
The car in the video below has been equipped with an A/C and does not feature power steering, which is the way to go. According to the driver, “having no power steering puts all the feel through the wheel” and what’s what you want.
Like the M3, it was a homologation car
The triple three was built for racing, just like the E30 M3 was. However, as soon as the car was put on sale, the race series it was meant for was canceled. It’s safe to say that the BMW E30 333i suffered the same fate as the Ferrari 288 GTO Group B that never saw any racing.
The South-African M3
The BMW E30 M3 was never sold in South Africa, so the Bavarian company’s South-African division came up with the BMW 333i. The recipe was simple – take the small and lightweight E30 and put a bigger engine in it.
Alpina and BMW Motorsport Gmbh helped develop the 333i
BMW South Africa developed the triple three with help from Alpina and BMW’s Motorsports division. The car featured Alpina dual-vented disc brakes all-around and an M-Technik body kit. Alpina also worked on the exhaust system in order to improve the gas flow.
The tires are much skinnier than you would expect
Nowadays, we are used to cars like the M3 having 20-inch wheels, while some of the bigger models can even be had with 21-inch wheels. The E30 triple three brings us back to the old days, where a performance car was perfectly fine sitting on smaller tires. In the case of the 333i, the factory tire size is 195/50R16 all around.
Much rarer than a BMW E30 M3
The coveted M3 E30 was produced for just over five years – from March 1986 to June 1991. At the end of its production cycle, 17,970 E30 M3 were made, in total. Despite being introduced around the same time – 1985 – the 333i was produced in much smaller numbers. Only 204 were made, which is why the 333i is the more sought-after version, by some collectors.
More refined than the BMW M3
While driving the triple three, Ciro – the channel’s host – mentions how the car actually feels more like a GT than an all-out performance car. This is a sharp contrast to the hardcore E30 M3, which is as close to a DTM race car as possible. The engine is taken out of a 7 Series, which is a comfortable, luxurious car and despite minor adjustments, it has retained its smoothness and mid-range punch, which the M3’s S14 engine lacks. I addition, the car is much quieter, which should make it easier to live with, on a daily basis. That is if at least one of the 204 triple threes isn’t turned into a garage queen.
A mix-mash of BMW M and Alpina design cues
There are obvious signs of collaboration between the two companies, in order to help the 333i stand out as its own model. The three-spoke steering wheel is unique to the triple three and the 16-inch thin-spoke wheels look like something you’d find on a car that’s been touched by Alpina. The gauge cluster also features an Alpina sign, reminding you that the tuner has worked on this car, while the gear lever is a typical M-piece. Of course, there’s the entire body kit of the 333i, which as we mentioned, also comes from BMW’s M-division.
The BMW 333i is one of those cars, born out of stubbornness. South Africa never got the E30 M3, so they made their own and you have to love that. Putting a big engine in a small car to make it faster is not a new formula, but it has given birth to some of the most iconic cars ever made, and the BMW 333i is definitely up there. Sadly, due to modern emissions regulations, we are seeing more and more big cars with small engines, instead of the opposite, so cars like the 333i will be fondly remembered…and sadly, become even more unattainable.
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