Earlier in the year, BMW announced a special M3 version to celebrate the model’s 30th anniversary – the “30 Years M3” is a 500 example limited-edition run of the F80. Shod with a Competition Pack and dressed for the occasion, it’s quite the birthday candle, but it seems the M folk aren’t content with just that to trump up the jubilee.

The company is bringing four unique M3 prototypes out of storage to help with the commemoration, vehicles which, for various reasons, never made it past the exploratory stage. The quartet are the M3 Pickup from 1986, the BMW M3 Compact from 1996, the M3 Touring from 2000 and the second version of the M3 Pickup, which came about in 2011.

The first of these, the E30-based pickup from 1986, came about as a laugh – it was developed by BMW Motorsport engineers, who saw it as the perfect means of transporting work equipment and parts around what is now the M Division’s premises in Garching, Munich.

A 3 Series Convertible was picked as a donor car, because one happened to be handy, and the open-top variant’s built-in bracing made it an ideal choice for a pick-up conversion, so it goes. The vehicle was initially powered by a 192 hp 2.0 litre engine fitted in the so-called “Italian M3,” before that was changed to the original 200 hp 2.3 litre four-pot.

The M3 Pickup proved to be a hardy study – the one-off went about doing utility runs around the factory premises for over 26 years, before being retired four years ago.

The second special is the M3 Compact from 1996, which was eyed for production. If the E36/5-based offering had gone into series build, the company says the engine’s power would in all likelihood have been lowered somewhat. In the prototype, it was allowed to unleash its full 321 hp, which made easy work of hustling the 1.3 tonne vehicle along. Hair-raisingly so, if you know what the compact’s handling was all about.

Next, there’s the M3 Touring prototype from 2000. Like the E36/5 Compact, the monster E46 estate materialised because a production model was under consideration, though it was meant more of an in-house feasibility study, aimed at showing that, from a purely technical standpoint at least, it was possible to integrate an M3 Touring into the then ongoing production of the standard E46 3er Touring with very little difficulty.

The fourth example, the second iteration of the M3 Pickup from 2011, was targeted as a successor for the original mule, which was starting to show the first serious signs of wear after a quarter of a century of service. Someone with a warped sense of humour came up with the idea of marketing the vehicle as an April Fools’ joke, and so the nonsense was born.

To prime the public, spy shots of calibration runs on the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife circuit emerged in the run-up to the day, which served to fuel speculation about a production model. The press release on April 1, 2011 finally dispelled the thing as a hoax. A rather nice-looking one.

GALLERY: 1986 BMW M3 Pickup (E30)

GALLERY: 1996 BMW M3 Compact (E36/5)

GALLERY: 2000 BMW M3 Touring (E46)

GALLERY: 2011 BMW M3 Pickup (E92)