Prodrive’s East Kerry rival – John Hickey talks us through his BMW M3 E30 build

By Sean Moriarty 

Legendary local rally engineer John Hickey is in the process of  building a works specification historic BMW M3 E30 to use in local rallies. 

Hickey has a reputation for building unusual rally cars, including the only four-wheel-drive Ford Escort currently rallying in Ireland – if not the world – but his latest creation is one of his most ambitious projects to date. 

Using free time during the lockdown the Headford-based engineer and rally driver is nearly finished a full replica build of the legendary German rally car. 

The car, once completed, will conform to full FIA Historic rally car regulations and will be painted in the original works colours of red blue and white. 

‘It’s going to be a full works specification E30 M3. Every single thing is done in-house at Lisnagrave, Headford, fabrication, welding, painting, engine, transmission, suspension, all done in-house. It’s being built to full works FIA regulations right down to the bonnet pins,” he told Kerry Motorsport News. 

Hickey, who has been rallying for over 30 years, has competed in all manner of rally car, from various versions of the Ford Escort Mk2,including his famous self-built Subaru-powered four-wheel-drive machine. to an ex-Carlos Sainz Toyota Celica ST165. 

An accomplished rally driver, his real skill is his engineering ability, and he was never one to shy away from any project no matter how difficult it seems. 

The BMW M3 E30 is one of the most popular rally cars amongst fans, the late 1980s and early 90’s years of the Rally of the Lakes were dominated by BMW drivers like Bertie Fisher and Austin MacHale while in recent years (relatively) local ace Denis Cronin has driven his ex-Fisher M3 to much success.

The cars were originally built by engineering firm Prodrive but John Hickey Motorsport is ensuring that the legendary car will live on for years to come.

“It is a lockdown project. It is going to be a works specification M3, the ultimate spec,” he added. “Built in Kerry to be rallied in Kerry.” 

It is not the first BMW to be created by John Hickey Motorsport. 

Two years ago he built a 1600cc E30 for local driver Shane Doyle when the Barraduff man first started rallying. Now that he has a sufficient number of events under his belt Doyle can progress to the bigger engined cars and, supported by John Hickey Motorsport, he can use the same car, just upgrade the engine, as he moves up the classes. 

“Affordable motorsport is using the one platform of car, you can move up, just change engine and away you go,” added John. “It is always the clubman ethos here. Motorsport must be affordable – shop local and then the money will stay local.” 

Once Hickey’s car is ready it will be the third rally prepared BMW M3 E30 in Kerry following Alan Ring’s immaculate version which was built by VINK Motorsport in the Netherlands, a car that Alan drove to a top ten result on last year’s Killarney Historic Rally.  Kevin O’Donoghue also rallies an E30 M3 with a Volvo engine and it has be used to much success by the Killarney driver and his son Colin in recent years.

“There is no need to go to Holland, all of this is from a shed half way up the Paps Mountain,” added John. 

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