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Excerpts of BMW M3 E30 - 17.970 Emotions

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Foreword by Marc Hessel

I was probably marked for life when my father picked me and my mother up from the hospital in Bonn in a BMW 1800 Tisa after my birth in May 1964. At the age of just four weeks, I was driving along the Nordschleife* of Nürburgring with my father for the first time in a BMW Tisa prepared by Sepp Schnitzer, lying in a shoe box behind the driver’s seat.

After starting life this way, it was only obvious that one day I was also to land in a race car. So following the usual Kart years, I entered the wild race in Formula Ford we all remember so warmly today. Indeed, the entire second generation back then came together in Formula Ford: Johnny Herbert, Damon Hill, Mark Blundell, Bertrand Gachot, J.J. Letho, Eddie Irvine, Roland Ratzenberger…to name just a few.

By 1986 I was good enough to win no less than 17 races in Formula Ford, which quickly prompted Niki Lauda and Wolfgang-Peter Flohr to take me on for the BMW Junior Team.

Destined to drive the new BMW M3, I was employed under the patronage of Niki Lauda in the fiercely contested DTM** - and at the wheel of race number 1, I was able to win my second touring car race on the rainy track in Zolder. That was even after technical problems in practice had put me back to 23rd place on the starting grid. And it marked the first racing win of an M3 from the factory.

I felt at home in the M3 immediately.

But of course there were many further races full of action in that early DTM era. One example was when my team mate spun me around in the first bend at Norisring, forcing me to wait and let the whole field pass before turning round in the right direction. And so being right at the end I had to chase the entire field from behind. Even so I finally managed to clinch 2nd place in a badly damaged car, only 2 or 3 seconds behind winner Olaf Manthey.

Under normal circumstances I would have won the DTM right then in my very first year, but unfortunately Zakspeed’s team management decided against me in the last race in Salzburg. Then I got the chance to........

The Original Idea Back in 1983

To begin with, let’s take a look far back into the secrets of a man they nicknamed “Camshaft Paul”, or Paul Rosche, to give you his real name: In the late ‘70s and early ’80s, Paul, at the time BMW’s Director of Engine Development, had developed the successful Formula Two power units for the March-BMW and was responsible for a certain share in the Company’s development budget. BMW placed full and unqualified responsibility and confidence in Paul Rosche, and he justified this good faith by producing appropriate results.

And so Paul got together a small team of discreet and highly creative engineers and other specialists to develop highly efficient projects in complete secrecy, far away from the prying eyes of the public. Joining forces with this closely knit team made up of a Mr Öfner, Mr Dippelhofer, and Mr Kaschner, to mention just three names, Paul started to cook a very special "soup" in his kitchen in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s: The incredible idea was to transplant a "drivable" Formula Two power unit into the current 3 Series (the E21) and prepare the car for the road.

The result was terribly fast and stung like a bee.

Secret test drives confirmed that this was really a high-performance 3 Series with the qualities of a Formula car in regular traffic. Dieter Stappert, at the time BMW’s Racing Manager, was given the........

1983: A Vision Becomes Reality

Thinking of Munich, many people first think of the Hofbräuhaus. But there is another building in the north of Munich which fascinates the aficionado of great cars, enthusiasts of sporting performance and true visionaries a lot more: the BMW Four-Cylinder Building on Petuelring. And that is precisely where a vision was born in 1983.

BMW had of course already set the standard in motorsport in the past, starting with the BMW 328, moving on to the 1800 TISA, the legendary 02, the beautiful 3.0 CSL, the wild Group 5 320, the 528 and all the way to the 635 CSi. But by 1983 the 6 Series had passed its climax and the time had come to develop a project with a great future.

In February 1983 the brains, development specialists and visionaries at Motorsport GmbH got together, started thinking hard, and developed the concept of a new racing car. And they very quickly agreed on the main features and highlights the car had to have: It was to be a racing car from Bavaria once again setting standards the world over. The ultimate Group A car ideal for outstanding success not only in motorsport, but also on the road. And, of course, a car full of emotion........

The Philosophy of Motorsport GmbH

Straight from the heart
It was to be compact, featuring a four-cylinder power unit, the most successful engine concept already boosted by BMW in Formula One to 1000 bhp. Because BMW had always been very successful with four-cylinders.

BMW had been using an appropriate engine block ever since 1962. With power and performance in motorsport coming from engine speed, six-cylinder engines reached their physical boundaries relatively soon due to torsional vibration on the crankshaft. By contrast, the four-cylinder, with its shorter and stiffer crankshaft, is far less sensitive to high engine speeds........

Coming straight down from “heaven”
The father of all M engines was and is Paul Rosche.

Paul Rosche: “ZS is based at two locations. First, in Preussenstrasse, where we develop and build the engines. Second, in Garching just north of Munich, in Daimlerstrasse, where we build our M Cars. Gerhard Richter, my successor, is now responsible for engines and the car itself at ZS. And since, in the course of time, there were simply too many ZS products, the subsidiary was re-named “M”, which remains its name to this day.” It is however only fair to add that ”Camshaft Paul“ was not the only man developing the engine. For right at the beginning of the S14 engine generation all the way to the end of 1982, he was supported by a........

“Crucifixion” and “re-birth”
Basically speaking, therefore, the engine block was already available. So the next point was the cylinder head, which at the time was still conceived for six cylinders – for the legendary BMW M1.

What then happened might easily break the heart of every engine builder: Project Manager Werner Frohwein decided to simply saw two cylinders off the six-cylinder head of the M1! The water ducts were closed by plugs and the head quite literally trimmed back to the right dimensions was placed on the four-cylinder block. Certainly an easy way to create a four-valve four-cylinder…

With both bore and stroke as well as the valve angle to be exactly the same as on the M1, this was the birth of the M3’s power unit.

Paul Rosche: “The geometric origin of the S14 power unit was the M88. Building a high-performance engine, the first point you have to consider is the conrods. Vibration was a well-known factor to us on the first engines, since we were already acquainted with this phenomenon from the two-litre power units. So it was the second-order mass forces we had to consider. The objective was to reduce mass, which we tried to do by using lighter pistons.

Paul Rosche: “Over the years, the materials used for the cylinder head have become much better and the development of fantastic gaskets (author’s note: to properly seal off the combustion chamber the gasket came in stainless steel surrounds on the combustion chambers! ) made it possible to build high-performance engines with a really long running life. BMW’s in-house and highly competent aluminium foundry, which also made the cylinder head for the S38, cast the S14 cylinder head according to our specifications and nearly all crucial parts of the engine such as the regular production crankshaft were made by BMW. The only real exception was the crankshaft housing cast in its crude form – like on all other BMW engines – by EWB (Eisen Werke Brühl) in Brühl near Cologne.“

The oil sump (with the upper section made of GD-AlSi6Cu4/GD-AlSi8Cu3/GD-AlSi10Cu2 alloy and the lower section in GK-AlSi6Cu4/GK-AlSi10Mg(CU) – both supplied by Handtmann) was specially ........

Based on the E30

In 1983 BMW was set to change over to the new 3 Series. And with the body of the car already fully developed and ready for production, the obvious decision was to take the “foundation” of the new 3 Series as the starting point for BMW’s new compact supersports.

It was really a coincidence and nothing but a coincidence that BMW developed the M3 and that incredible engine at the same time. Others claim this was BMW’s reaction to the Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 very successful at the time. But that is definitely not true, since the initial idea to build a really fast and dynamic 3 Series went all the way back to the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. So the concept had already been in place for a long time.

Focusing on the M3, BMW’s “M” visionaries had very clear and concrete ideas about the performance of their baby: They wanted a car with wide wheel arches for racing wheels, with spoilers front and rear for ........

Going through its paces in “Green Hell”

The new M3 was not just a particularly sporting version of the regular M3, but was rather intended to set the absolute benchmark in all Touring Car Championships. And where is the best place to test any car to the absolute extreme? It’s on Nürburgring.

In terms of its chassis and suspension, the M3 was to stand out clearly from the most powerful 3 Series at the time, the 323i, while still offering acceptable comfort in everyday use. The regular single-joint spring strut axle at the front was upgraded by fitting new axle stubs and bolted tiebar levers, with wheel castor being increased to 16 millimetres for optimum directional stability.

At the front the entire car was lowered by 25 millimetres through the use of specially modified springs, with carefully matched gas pressure dampers guaranteeing unique driving behaviour. Diameter of the anti-roll bar was increased to 19 millimetres and the pivot points were modified accordingly, now........

Not just “beating panels”

The last essential decision was taken in Munich in March 1985 regarding the material on the outer skin: The original plan was to give the new model the ultimate body made of a special plastic material, an innovation coming straight from the research experts at BMW AG, who believed this was the future. In their opinion the M3 was to be a compact sports car and a high-tech test bed in one, which clearly pointed against the use of regular sheet metal.

A further consideration was that light plastic would subsequently help to provide great results on the race track.

The experienced innovators at Motorsport GmbH nevertheless remained faithful to the metal body, quite simply because such a bodyshell offers greater benefits at the end of the day than a body made of plastic........

Frankfurt Motor Show, 12 - 22 September 1985

The press day on 11 September 1985 was marked in BMW’s calendar as the day of all days. Because this was the official presentation of the new M3 in Frankfurt. People were already expecting something incredible from Munich, and the public everywhere were looking forward to a “Big Bang”.

When the flag drops, the bullshit stops!
Gerhard Richter: “Launching the M3 at the 1985 Frankfurt Motor Show, we had a car on display where the rear section we called the car’s “glasses” was placed only loosely in position – meaning that you could take it off to find the regular bodyshell beneath. The model at the Show didn’t have the right skin at the outside and its body structures were made of glass-fibre plastic. But in its overall silhouette, the body did look the same as the M3 scheduled to enter production later on.

The car was a test model, so we only needed a few days to prepare it for the Show. And we said to ourselves that if we were not able to build a real show car – also because of our budget – we might as well take a development model and say that it’s just that. I remember the car was light green.”

Clearly, BMW was not able to cut any corners, since Stuttgart was presenting the 190E 2.3-16, which created rather a tight spot, especially as the M3 project still had to prove its merits. So when the car was finally unveiled, Munich presented the first test model made of sheet metal bearing the number VT 124.

The BMW M3 – a compact and genuinely high-performance saloon built for Sheer Driving Pleasure and destined to become a highly successful athlete. There it was – squat, wide, aggressive, sporting, compact, ready to go. Expressions of delight by motor journalists from all over the world confirmed that BMW had done the right thing, especially in giving the car its unique look. Everybody was waxing lyrical – certainly very good news for Motorsport GmbH!

VT 124 was the first complete M3 to be presented to the public. And while certain similarities with the “regular” E30 3-Series were still to be seen, appropriate modifications were made not just outside, but also inside, to reflect the high standard of this high-performance athlete: BMW sports seats........

Thomas Ammerschläger, the Director of the M3 Project responsible for preparing the car to production standard, had really done an excellent job. And the result was a “real hit”, as the world press stated in Frankfurt right away. Still, BMW had to tread very carefully to develop the new model in the right direction.

But Thomas Ammerschläger did the right thing in every respect, his former jobs at Ford – where he developed the likewise legendary racing version of the Capri – and AUDI – where he worked on the quattro concept – ensuring appropriate experience to successfully take on all competitors in the midrange segment.

For out on the road the new M3 was stacked up against the turbocharged Ford Sierra Cosworth, the Mercedes 190 E 2.3-16, and, from Italy, the very successful Lancia Delta Integrale. Still – virtually all of these cars had their own philosophy or a different concept. On the one hand a turbocharged power unit, on the other hand all-wheel drive. And the Mercedes was more of a mediocre family saloon without any genuine sportiness. So actually the street racer from Bavaria had no genuine competition.........

Mugello, Italy

The first official presentation of the BMW M3 was on the race track in Mugello, Italy. The choice of a race track was of course intentional, since the M3 was supposed to tell journalists clearly and unmistakably what it was built for.

On the great day in Mugello, more than two dozen M3s were lined up perfectly in the pitlane, offering journalists a wonderful sight right from the start. As had already become clear at the Frankfurt Motor Show, BMW’s new road-going athlete offered beautiful looks clearly bearing testimony to the car’s purpose in life. But here in Mugello the body attachments, contrary to Frankfurt, were in their final material and not just stuck on. So the muscular extensions to the wheel arches were in metal plate and the front and rear air dam as well as the rear wing in plastic, fitting precisely in position and with exactly the right design by Motorsport GmbH where the wind really rushed by the car.

BMW’s new top model was built for motorsport from tip to toe. Right from the start in planning the new car, the engineers in Bavaria had provided the space for wheels up to 10 inches fitting within the wheel arches. The real “heart” of the car was of course hidden beneath the engine compartment lid and the journalists from all over the world were only able to guess what kind of muscle machine was coming out of Munich. But after the first few laps on the track at racing speed, they all realised that this street racer was destined to bring home victory also on the race track very soon. Quite simply because the M3 with its 2.3-litre four-valve four-cylinder engine developing 143 kW/195 bhp with a catalytic converter and 147 kW/200 bhp without a catalyst was an incredible performer, also thanks to the particular set-up of the suspension.

The reliability of a production saloon combined with sporting features such as sports seats, specially tailored power steering, a five-speed sports gearbox, differential lock, ABS anti-lock brakes and light-alloy wheels created a unique concept based on the “regular” 3 Series and developed by Motorsport GmbH, but built on the same assembly line as the other models in BMW’s Munich Plant.

One point clear from the start was that the M3 was created by its fathers on the basis of vast racing experience, the letter ”M“ standing out clearly for Sheer Driving Pleasure. Indeed, this was always a particular strength of BMW on all sports models in the past, with the Bavarian car maker always focusing on the production of sporting and active cars with high-performance engines dedicated to one objective in particular: outstanding success in motorsport. ........

September 1986, The first cars hit the road

Daily production in the first few days was 15 M3s, increasing to 60 units by the end of 1986. Obviously, production of the M3 on the assembly line involved a few changes versus production of the regular 3 Series, with nearly all body panels differing from the “standard” model.

The allocation of parts and the assembly process as such was masterminded by machine-readable data carriers also used in production of the 3 Series. Production of the M3 deviated from production of the “regular" 3 Series only where special processes were required.

After the first few steps in production and delivery of the floorpan, these components were separated from the other floorpans on the 3 Series for construction of the basic structure or “skeleton” of the car, being transported for this purpose to a body construction trolley. This is where the floorpan was completed and the side structure and roof were bolted on, largely by hand. And indeed, being carried out by skilled craftsman, this manual process ensured the same high quality as on the regular 3 Series welded by robots.

The roof on the M3 was welded on in a rolling seam process as on the standard model, but again by hand.

The initial body structure formed in this way then went back to the regular production process, going through the same steps in production as the regular 3 Series, where the cars were prepared for the special equipment to be fitted later. In the first weeks of series production the basic structure of the M3........

Opponent and “question mark”

The example of the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 was not exactly good news for the BMW M3. True, it is difficult to measure one’s image in financial terms, but the sporting Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 was definitely not a winner for BMW’s competitor from Stuttgart. Was it too expensive or too sporting and aggressive – who knows? The truth is, at any rate, that the four-valve 190 did not account for even 5 per cent of overall sales of this model series.

Still, the Mercedes 190 E 2.3-16 dominated the segment of compact midrange performers until the introduction of the M3 in 1986. So it was not until September 1986 when the winged streetfighter from Munich entered the scene, that things started to change. Confident that aficionados of the brand would appreciate the extra power and technology of the M3, BMW positioned the new car in exactly the same segment as the 190. And it was clear that BMW had had the idea to build a sixteen-valve performer much earlier than the competition ........

No match for the “dream engine”

The brand-new M3 entered the world with a deep rumbling sound clearly betraying its superior muscle, shamelessly loud and aggressive both inside and outside. Maximum output without the catalyst of 200 bhp was to set the foundation for the car’s homologation on 1 March 1987.

Not even trying to conceal its four-valve technology, the power unit simply yelled for revs in all gears in developing its supreme performance. Quite unusual for the typical BMW driver so used to extra torque and engine capacity, and quite a new experience to take in.

The engine block derived from the four-cylinder M10 was similar to the unit used back then in Formula One, although the version featured in the M3 came with cast cylinder liners measuring 93.4 mm in their bore. At 84 mm, engine stroke was relatively long, with engine capacity adding up to exactly 2302 cc.

The supply of fuel and air to this four-valve performer by BOSCH Motronic Digital Motor Electronics with air volume measurement was very elaborate, as was the intake manifold with four separate intake ducts and four individual throttle butterflies.

Not least, the four separate throttle butterflies were the reason why the M engine offered that dramatic power and muscle. The engine literally “stuck” to the gas pedal, responding immediately to the throttle butterflies when opening. And they did this right from the start just above idle speed, and not only at medium and high revs. Acceleration was therefore quite outstanding from ........

1987: The Evo’s and the World Championship all in one

The 5,000th M3 came off the production line on 23 February 1987, fulfilling motorsport regulations and enabling the M3 to move on to one of its main missions, successful participation in motorsport. In the words of Gerhard Richter: ”The cars were built in Munich, at Plant 1, where all of BMW’s “old hands” were still on the job. Actually it was quite impossible to build so many cars in such a short time. But when we asked them whether they could do it, they said they could – and they did! That’s what people are like – and in this case everybody was thrilled. Afterwards Munich was full of M3s, enabling us to prove we had really built 5,000 units.”

According to motorsport regulations, a car has to be built in a certain minimum number in order to qualify for specific categories. The BMW M3 was homologated by FISA on 1 March 1987, receiving the approval required for international motorsport. ........

These 505 models bearing chassis numbers 2190005 – 2190787 were absolutely identical from outside to the regular M3, and were sometimes even claimed to be “non-existent”. But they did exist and they are now as difficult to find as a needle in a haystack. To find out whether an M3 has one of the first series evolution engines, all you can do is look inside the engine. Indeed, most of the first-series evolution engines were not yet called Evo’s and only had a modified cylinder head, throttle butterfly manifolds, throttle butterfly flanges, a two-piece exhaust gas manifold, and a modified exhaust funnel unit with additional throttle nozzles. These engines were marked by a white colour dot on the throttle butterfly flange as well as the letter “E” stamped in beneath the throttle butterfly ........

An American Friend

Starting in 1987, BMW delivered the M3 also to the USA, but with a number of significant differences: With US legislation being quite different, the export version of the M3 had various national features only obvious at second sight.

From outside, the first difference to catch the eye was the side lights integrated into the bumpers front and rear. The headlights were replaced by the light units required in the USA and the obligatory third brake light was featured in the upper middle of the rear window. The entire system of lights and illumination units was adapted to the US market by way of special relays, since in the USA the side lights or direction indicators have to remain on permanently whenever the lights of the car are switched on.

Engine output of the US M3 was 192 SAE-hp, equal to the power level of the European catalyst version. A significantly different component, however, was the transmission: With maximum speed being limited on public roads in the USA, at least in part, to just 65 mph or 105 km/h, the US version of the M3 came from the start with a completely different transmission concept. In the interest of effortless cruising, this export version of the M3 featured the five-speed overdrive-type gearbox already fitted in the 6 and 7 Series. ........

“Hard Core” straight from the Factory and the Evolution M3

Only tough guys go to heaven...
The next highlight presented by BMW at the 1987 Amsterdam Motor Show was variable suspension.

”Built for the tough guy“.
In 1987 BMW responded to many requests from sporting and ambitious drivers, offering as of 1988 a variable damper set-up straight from the factory at extra cost (at the time DM 3,225.-, equal to € 1,662.37).The big advantage of this variable suspension was that it catered both for the comfort-minded motorist and the genuine racer.

Many factors had to be considered in developing this adjustable suspension, such as the weight of the car, axle load distribution, the centre of gravity, the configuration of the drivetrain and of course the position of the engine. So taking all these criteria into account, the engineers had to find the right solution enabling the driver to vary and control the dampers in both their inbound and rebound strokes. In a conventional, hydraulic twin-sleeve gas pressure damper, the damper piston presses on the hydraulic fluid when compressed, the fluid flowing back through a valve in the piston and a further valve on the bottom of the damper when rebounding. The actual behaviour and hardness of the damper depends on the size of these valves: The smaller the valves in the damper, the less fluid can be pressed through, making the damper harder.........

The M3 European Champion: an homage to Roberto Ravaglia
To commemorate Roberto Ravaglia’s incredible winning streak – following the 1987 World Championship “Bob“ Ravaglia also won the 1988 European Touring Car Championship – BMW Motorsport GmbH built a special model series limited to 148 units and finished exclusively in Macao Blue Metallic.

All of these 148 cars built from October to November 1988 featured a catalytic converter (195 bhp) and bore placards with Roberto Ravaglia’s signature.

The only difference versus the standard model was the complete package of European Champion features. Otherwise, the performance data, dimensions and all other specifications relevant to the M3 were the same as on the

Extra power straight from the factory
The series models with 200 non-catalyst horsepower were available as of 1988 with a further increase in output to 220 bhp provided directly at the factory, raising them to the same level as the Evo version. This performance was available ex works via the Racing Parts Department of BMW Motorsport GmbH and comprised the re-programmed DME control unit with the same specifications as the Evo. Made by BOSCH, this special control unit was marked by a corner of the label cut off at the end and the parts number 0261 200 090.

The performance kit increasing engine output required modifications on the front axle or, more generally, at the front of the car on all models with the general homologation number E254. Specifically, a modified lower track control arm had to be built in on the front axle to give the car a wheelbase of 2565 mm and the side-sills left and right had to be replaced by the version with smooth sides at the front.

The conversion kit comprised the re-programmed control unit (BMW parts number 1 312 777), the camshaft on the intake side (BMW parts number 1 311 821) marked “C“ or “821“ at the front, the inner valve springs (BMW parts number 1 312 110) stamped ”HF 4847” (and marked with a red/blue dot), pistons (BMW parts number 1 312 631) ........

1989: Engine Output with Catalyst now 215 bhp and Winner of the DTM

M3 with 215 bhp and catalytic converter also in the Convertible as of September 1989.

After just three years on the race track, the M3 had already paid off for BMW, becoming the No 1 choice for the ambitious touring car driver and giving the Company outstanding fame and honour the world over. At the same the time the M3 significantly boosted the image of its “regular” brothers in the 3 Series.

To continue this success at least for a while, BMW Motorsport GmbH decided to give its favourite “baby” a little boost for the 1990 model year: Modifying the valve timing and injection system, the engineers succeeded in increasing engine output from 195 catalyst-bhp to 215 catalyst-bhp at the same engine speed of 6750 rpm. Strictly speaking, this was the Evo engine, but now with a catalyst. And while maximum torque remained unchanged at 230 Nm, the peak now came at 4600 (and no longer 4750) rpm.

This made the power unit of the M3 one of the most efficient engines available in the market, with output per litre now reaching 93.4 bhp or 68.6 kW, an absolute record at the time. What made this even more astounding was the docile behaviour of the engine, with the ’89 model not showing the slightest nerves even when pushed to the extreme and not demanding any special treatment by the driver. The only requirement the driver had to fulfil was to use the gas pedal properly – for the author, himself the proud owner of a 1990 M3 with 215 bhp ........

1991: End of Production

Total production of the E30 M3 from September 1986 – July 1991 was 17,970 units. This figure comprises all special models, convertibles as well as road-going and racing M3s.

From September 1986 – August 1989 5,207 M3s were built in Munich for the European market. Total deliveries in the USA between March 1987 and 1991 amounted to 4,995 units. Production of the catalyst version from December 1986 to December 1990 was 6,697 units, with the last model being built on 7 December 1990.

The last Convertible was built in July 1991 when the “regular” 3 Series Convertible reached the end of its production. Individual production figures in the five and, respectively, six years of production were as follows........

Heavy metal

The original placards on the special versions of the M3 are highly coveted rarities quite often faked today. In all, the various special versions of the M3 came with five different placards specifically allocated to individual cars. With the exception of the XXX/500 Evolution placards bolted at the customer’s request on to the centre console, all other placards were stuck on. On the Cecotto and European Champion special models, the placards were hand-signed by Johnny Cecotto and Roberto Ravaglia, with one extremely rare version of the Cecotto placard: Out of the 505 Cecottos, 25 placards were signed by Roberto Ravaglia, with these 25 special versions of the M3 all going to Great Britain in the honour of Roberto Ravaglia and bearing the official title “Ravaglia“ in the United Kingdom.

The rarest placard is the Cecotto-Ravaglia placard on the Cecotto special model: This car bearing the Cecotto number 066/500 had one of the serial numbers and was a Cecotto going to Great Britain as a Ravaglia – and of course there was also the Swiss version of the Cecotto placard, with only 50 Cecottos exported to...........




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