The readers of this blog will be divided into three distinct categories: those who’ve not the slightest idea what I’m talking about, those who know M3 exactly what I’m talking about but can’t imagine for a moment why I might want to, and, I hope, just a few who will understand and share the same need as me to get out more often.

The subject is simply this: BMW has run out of E numbers. Every BMW road car for more than 40 years has been referred to internally by a codename comprising the letter E followed by a one or two digit number. Among fans, these numbers have the same resonance and importance as ‘993’ and ‘997’ have among Porsche cognoscenti.

Why do they matter? Well, without E numbers, conversation among propeller-heads would be impossibly stilted, with them they have a language of their own, where the type and generation of any BMW from any time in the last four decades can be identified at once by one simple code.

In this time, certain numbers have come to acquire special meaning. The first M3 is never described as such, nor even as ‘the original’ M3. It is, and always will be the E30 M3.

For me ‘E34’ will always have a special resonance, as an E34 5-series was the first car I drove on my first day at Autocar, twenty years ago. Others will have their own reasons to go weak-kneed at an E46, E60 or, of course, an E26. For those less sad than me, which I’m hoping will be most of you, these are, respectively, the previous generation 3-series, the current 5-series and the fabled M1 supercar.

E numbers have been up in the 90s for a few years now, but I just presumed they’d spill into three digits. Not so: the new 7-series is an F01 – not even a rather cooler sounding F1 – and it doesn’t sound right at all. Am I (as I suspect) alone in lamenting the passing of the original coding system, or is this just a one man storm in an E-cup?


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