New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Words: Ian Ram­say Pho­tos: Ian and Scott Ram­say, Vic­to­ria An­der­son


Con­sider an en­dan­gered an­i­mal species. Once plen­ti­ful, now, through poach­ing and chang­ing cir­cum­stances, the species is sel­dom seen in the wild, while spe­cial­ist vets and keep­ers sus­tain it via ex­am­ples sur­viv­ing in parks and zoos. Per­haps our clas­sics are the same — plen­ti­ful in their youth but now rarely seen as daily-driv­ers, tucked away in garages for fine-day out­ings to show and shines, or gath­er­ings by brand, era, and coun­try of ori­gin, all the time pam­pered by proud own­ers, with spe­cial­ists called in when they re­quire surgery or cos­metic work.

BMW in New Zealand

BMW cars ini­tially ap­peared in New Zealand as quaint lit­tle Isetta bub­ble cars in the 1950s and ’60s. In 1967, Ross Jensen im­ported three of the 1600cc two-door BMWS, a Po­laris sil­ver ex­am­ple be­com­ing the sub­ject of an ar­ti­cle in a not so re­cent is­sue of this mag­a­zine. Next came the BMW 2002 (E20), now very rare, but re­stored or tidy orig­i­nals oc­ca­sion­ally ap­pear in pub­lic and mod­i­fied ex­am­ples on the race track. The first 3 Se­ries (E21) two-door model ap­peared from 1975 through 1983, with fourand six-cylin­der en­gines.

Post World War II, while the Bri­tish were re­viv­ing the Volk­swa­gen fac­tory and en­gi­neer­ing (see the VW West­falia ar­ti­cle in De­cem­ber’s is­sue), Bris­tol also ac­quired BMW small-en­gine and car-man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­per­tise. This is ev­i­dent in qual­ity Bris­tol cars and en­gines pro­duced in the late 1940s and early ’50s. So, the BMW six-cylin­der en­gines have a long lin­eage.

The sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion BMW 3 Se­ries, the E30 “com­pact ex­ec­u­tive sedan”, was man­u­fac­tured from 1982 to 1994 in both Ger­many and South Africa.

Ini­tially pro­duced as a two-door coupé, four-doors were in­tro­duced in 1984, Baur TCS (Top Cabri­o­lets) from 1985, in-house con­vert­ibles from 1986, and a Tour­ing es­tate in 1987. The ‘316’ and ‘318’ des­ig­na­tions iden­ti­fied the four-cylin­der mod­els up to 82kw, the 320i hav­ing the 1990cc six­cylin­der, in­creas­ing from 92 to 96kw dur­ing its model life. The later and rarer 325 peaked at 126kw, with a lower revving and more eco­nom­i­cal mill. Three- then four­speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sions were of­fered, as were four- and five-speed man­u­als. More than 2,433,000 of all vari­ants were pro­duced over 10 years.

In com­pe­ti­tion

We only have to look at pre­vi­ous is­sues of this mag­a­zine to see the E30 on the race track in the BMW Race Driver Se­ries, with up to 34 par­tic­i­pants in a race. We also see them per­form­ing well in the Targa Rally un­der the Dad’s Pies ban­ner, and three cars pre­pared and driven by the Kirk-burn­nand fam­ily.

There is also the rare and cov­eted M3, pow­ered by a 2.3-litre four-cylin­der, de­vel­op­ing 175kw, race pre­pared to com­pete with the Mer­cedes 190 Cosworth in the Group A Tour­ing Cars. The M3 had highly mod­i­fied and strength­ened sus­pen­sion and body, be­ing cham­pi­oned by Pro­drive and Bmw-backed AC Sch­nitzer. They had mul­ti­ple suc­cesses in Europe, and even five wins in the Welling­ton Nis­san Mo­bil street race from 1987 to 1992, Tony Longhurst sur­viv­ing a hor­rific crash in Welling­ton in his yel­low BMW to walk away with only mi­nor in­juries. In to­tal, 16,208 were built.

Rare ex­am­ple

Baur, a Stuttgart-based karosserie, or coach­builder, formed in 1910, con­vert­ing BMWS from the 1930s. Sim­i­lar to Cray­ford En­gi­neer­ing in the UK, it also trans­formed Opels and Fords, and com­pleted Porsche 959 bod­ies and unique in­te­ri­ors to or­der. Baur con­verted BMW 2002, E21, and E30 mod­els. In to­tal, 10,800 E30 cabri­o­lets were made, with 2538 of the Baur TC 320i pro­duced, mak­ing the right-drive model shown here a rare ex­am­ple.

Com­pleted bod­ies left the BMW fac­tory be­fore Baur cut the roof off and, know­ing the strength was com­pro­mised, in­stalled a stiff­en­ing ‘cage’ that was welded in be­hind the wind­screen. The side gut­ters had a cross mem­ber be­tween the B-pil­lars as per the Tri­umph Stag, and an ex­tra panel/frame un­der the rear par­cel shelf. The lat­ter is the Achilles heel of the change, as cars are prone to rust­ing through the lo­cat­ing holes at the bot­tom of the C-pil­lars where this fab­ri­ca­tion is at­tached. A com­bi­na­tion of this, the fab­ric roof fit­ting, and the speaker cav­i­ties may cause wa­ter to leak into the boot in re­ally heavy rain. An English web­site pes­simisti­cally sug­gests writ­ing a car off if rust ap­pears in this area.

Liv­ing in the South Waikato

The E30s are now be­tween 25 and 35 years old, so it is hard to find tidy, orig­i­nal, un­mo­lested ex­am­ples. Mo­tor sport may be tuck­ing away spares, lim­it­ing those seen on the roads. Own­ers may also be re­al­iz­ing that their cars are get­ting rarer, and only ven­ture out on spe­cial oc­ca­sions — al­though one was re­cently spot­ted on the out­skirts of Mor­rinsville tow­ing a trailer load of tree trim­mings to the lo­cal green waste / land­fill. And to the owner of an equally rare Tour­ing wagon seen near Hamil­ton — yes, we did see your en­thu­si­as­tic wave to our con­vert­ible.

The two ex­am­ples shown here both live in South Waikato. The or­ange coupé is a daily-driver — a 1984 auto, two own­ers, with 230,000km un­der its wheels. It has a fac­tory sun­roof and man­ual win­dow winders. A re­cent clean and de­tail re­vealed uni­form orig­i­nal paint, al­beit with mi­nor scars and ox­i­da­tion. There was no ev­i­dence of rust or re­pairs. The car trav­els from its

… with 2538 of the Baur TC 320i pro­duced, mak­ing the right-drive model shown here a rare ex­am­ple

con­vert­ibles are still around, and why the Mazda MX-5 is such a suc­cess, as warm, fine-weather trips with the top down are pure joy. It’s sim­i­lar to be­ing on a bike, with fresh air on the move quickly chang­ing. The odours of road kill, dairy-farm ef­flu­ent sprayers, hot bi­tu­men, hot brakes, burned diesel, fast-food out­lets, the per­fume from road­side flow­ers, pine trees (and privet), then the smell of the sea and es­tu­ary add an­other di­men­sion to the Waikato to Whanga­mata jour­ney. The top down also al­lows the sonorous ex­haust note of a so­phis­ti­cated small six to reach your ears. With­out the con­straints of a left-side speaker, a spir­ited drive (within the speed limit and con­di­tions of course) on a wind­ing road makes driv­ing the fo­cus, and al­lows one to re-hone driv­ing skills that can be­come lazy and dis­tracted dur­ing ev­ery­day driv­ing. She-who-mustbe-obeyed also en­joys the change from driv­ing a mid-size late-model au­to­matic air-con­di­tioned SUV. Op­er­at­ing a man­ual ul­ti­mate driv­ing ma­chine with one’s bum closer to the ground and a dif­fer­ent per­cep­tion of speed can be re­vi­tal­iz­ing.

Tak­ing care

Over the past few years, Gretta’s 20-yearold paint has been treated to a good cut and pol­ish with Meguiar’s prod­ucts, fol­lowed by six-monthly fine-cut / wax treat­ments. It is reg­u­larly washed, and any flaws are at­tended to with cut­ter and de­tailer spray. Tyres and rub­ber/ plas­tic com­po­nents also re­ceive reg­u­lar pro­tec­tion. This was found to be worth­while when a re­cent stone chip be­came a crack re­quir­ing a wind­screen re­place­ment. The fit­ter com­mented that the rub­ber sur­round was in good con­di­tion, mak­ing the job a lot eas­ier.

Mi­nor me­chan­i­cal hic­cups have been at­tended to, in­clud­ing steer­ing-com­po­nent bushes, the gear­box-se­lec­tor gate and rub­ber boot, re­plac­ing the elec­tric win­dow reg­u­la­tor and re­tainer on the driver’s door, a cou­ple of leak­ing air hoses caus­ing poor run­ning, and over­haul­ing a steer­ing col­umn when wash­ers and seals par­tially col­lapsed where it passed through the fire wall — a bit fright­en­ing when the steer­ing nearly jammed. With each re­pair, parts were read­ily avail­able through SD Euro­pean and other Waikato BMW agents, even if they had to come from Ger­many.

The car runs on 95/premium petrol, and reg­u­larly re­turns 9.5 litres per 100km. On a Waikato to Welling­ton trip, it sipped at 8.2 litres per 100km — 34 miles per gal­lon in the old money. Not bad for a 31-year-old 2.0-litre six-cylin­der en­gine. Both the coupé and cabri­o­let have mi­nor rocker-cover oil leaks. This has been par­tially re­solved by putting card­board on the garage floor and car­ry­ing a litre bot­tle of Mag­natec in the boot.

Pro­vided both cars are ser­viced, lu­bri­cated, and wa­tered reg­u­larly, there is no rea­son for them not to give their re­spec­tive own­ers many more trou­ble-free kilo­me­tres be­fore any ma­jor work is re­quired.

Dur­ing this model’s pro­duc­tion, BMW also in­tro­duced the 5 and 7 Se­ries, the E30-based Z1, and the stun­ning 635 coupé cham­pi­oned by Jim Richards, all of them be­com­ing mod­ern-day clas­sics. Long may they live.

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