Fast and beautiful, BMW’s M3 is one of the most desirable cars on the road. At £23,550 it is also expensive, a shade more than the 530, which offers more room but less pizzazz. With the top shaved off, the price rockets by £13,700 to £37,250.

For performance, handling, accommodation, and sheer exhilaration, it is worth it. What makes it even more attractive is that it is unlikely that another one will be encountered on the road, for BMW is strictly limiting numbers. Only 130 were built last year and a similar number seems likely for 1989; only a handful will make it to this side of the Channel, all of which will be left hookers. So a convertible M3 is a poseur’s dream.

Performance is naturally high on its list of strengths, and the four-cylinder 16-valve engine, with its racing background, develops 200 bhp at 6750 rpm and a recorded top speed of 143 mph. It delights in being made to work, pulling willingly to the cut-out point at 7200 rpm. It is not quiet, but part of the charm is the high decibel rating, as it advertises the fact that it is working hard.

More impressive still is the car’s ability on twisty roads. Shod with 225/45ZR16s, it grips the road tenaciously both in the wet and the dry and never becomes unruly. Ride is firm, but not uncomfortably so, which makes the handling all the more impressive.

Despite being a road car born out of a racing car, it is well appointed. The all-black leather seats are comfortable and room in the back is more than adequate. Wing mirrors, windows and hood are all electrically operated; operation of the latter is almost Heath Robinson, but very effective all the same. Rear vision is superb with the hood stowed, and only marginally less so with the hood up, although the plastic rear window is not in keeping with the rest of the car.

Boot space is ample, cockpit storage well taken care of by two large doorbins and the glovebox. One particularly noteworthy item is the deadlock central locking combined with an alarm which comes as standard, and which for a car of this calibre and rarity is absolutely essential.

This is certainly not the car for the driver who likes to run around incognito, for it continually attracts admiring glances, but even for those with a nervous disposition it can calm and soothe as well as excite and tantalise. A giant among road vehicles. WPK