Keeping the Legend Alive

In its 12th year, SIGFest honors the legendary E30 M3.

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December 3, 2010

The E30 M3’s success on track may have made it a legend, but its purity as a road car has sustained that legend over the last 25 years, earning the original M3 a place alongside the 328 roadster and the 2002 in the pantheon of great enthusiast BMWs.

As racer Roberto Ravaglia says, “For me, the M3 has been the best BMW touring car, especially compared with other touring cars of the same period. The standard E30 M3 road car was so good that to upgrade the car for racing was fairly easy.”

E30 M3s are becoming rare on the road these days, and their numbers are starting to dwindle at track days, as well. Meanwhile, the devotion of E30 M3 owners to their cars hasn’t waned at all, and nowhere was this more evident than at SIGFest 2010 in Hamilton, New Jersey in August.

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The E30 M3 SIG—an acronym for Special Interest Group—was started by Donna Spinelli when the car was new and has been run by Filippo Morelli since the mid-’90s.

SIGFest was started in 1999 by Tony Rausch to give E30 M3 SIG members a chance to bring their cars together and share stories, tech tips and food. (Rausch still organizes the event, along with John Henriquez and James Liu.) Back then, the E30 SIG had just 40 members worldwide and only 11 cars showed up. Subsequent events have seen attendance rise steadily even as the E30 M3 gets older, and this year’s SIGFest drew 55 cars. Fifty-five E30 M3s in one place is pretty incredible, especially when they gather in central New Jersey rather than Germany or California.

The cars were impressive not just for their number but also for their diversity. The field included everything from Liu’s all-original E30 M3 cabriolet to a highly modified example by Azevedo Racing Designs and everything in between. Some cars were still original, others featured minor modifications like DTM carbon fiber airboxes and still others showed off straight-six engine transplants. My personal favorites were Joe Zeppieri’s beautifully prepared Salmon Silver car, Stephen Valeski’s Jagermeister-liveried DTM replica and Todd Crossley’s turbocharged M3.

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“SIGFest has really developed over the years, not necessarily in quantity of cars, but in quality,” says Liu. “The first year I participated, I brought the convertible and there were probably over 120 people registered with everything from track rats to garage queens. As the cars have appreciated, they’ve become more of a weekend type of car. People are buying and restoring them, and they’re also personalizing them with everything from motor swaps to custom interiors.”

While most of the cars were registered in New Jersey, others came from as far away as Ohio, Virginia and Massachusetts. Owners who wanted to make a long weekend of it could attend a tech session at Princeton BMW on Friday, the concours and picnic on Saturday and a BMW CCA autocross on Sunday, with plenty of opportunity for socializing throughout.

“The camaraderie is terrific,” Liu said. “Some people are meeting here for the first time but already feel like they know each other from either the SIG e-mail list or the forum.”

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No car show is complete without awards, and winners this year were Don McGarrigle for SIGMeister’s Choice (the car judges would most like to take home), Al Bossert for Best of Show, James Liu for Best Stock/Street and John Dunnock for Best Modified.

Although it will remain in New Jersey, SIGFest will likely be held at a different venue every year going forward. Regardless of where it takes place, I had so much fun at the event that I’ve already put it on my “must do” list for 2011.

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