BMW E30 COUPE AND BAUR CABRIOLET
OVER THE YEARS, WE’ VE DEVOTED MANY COLUMN CENTIMETRES TO THE QUESTION OF WHEN AND HOW A CAR CAN BE CLASSED AS A‘ CLASSIC ’. HERE’ S A BMW WHICH SHOULD MAKE THE GRADE
FUTURE CLASSIC BMWS
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.
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.
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.
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.