Sound of Music
and the 323i at $43K, while the four-cylinder 318i followed a year later at $34,500. By that time, the larger-engined versions had risen in price, while the 323i was replaced by the 325i in 1986. When the last of the E30s arrived, in early 1991, a four-door 325i SE cost a hefty $79,800 with manual transmission and $84,900 with an automatic one.
A racing class for the model was created 14 years after the last new E30s arrived here, allowing 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre versions plus an open category for classic M3 versions. The E30 spawned the largest one-make class in New Zealand, with ageing, used 3 Series sedans hot property as potential race cars. M3s have long been prominent on New Zealand race tracks, and the E30 series won no fewer than 12 major touring-car championships globally between 1987 and 1991. The car has inspired Conrad Timms of M3 Motorsport Ltd to design and make selected parts for the model in New Zealand.
The list of drivers who raced E30 M3 sedans reads like a who’s who of down-under motor sport, with names such as Peter Brock, Jim Richards, Paul Radisich, Trevor Crowe, Mark Thatcher, Robbie Francevic, Brett Riley, Tony Longhurst, Allan Grice, and Graham Lorimer. Sadly, Denny Hulme suffered a fatal heart attack while racing the Benson & Hedges–liveried yellow-and-white M3 at Bathurst in October 1992. took us through a BMW high-performance driving course. Frank ran the motor sport division of BMW Australia, and, in 1987, the JPS-BMW team carried Jim Richards to victory in the Australian Group A championship.
By comparison, I also drove E30s on closed roads in Germany with several Asian drivers, who, when asked, could not apply sufficient brake-pedal pressure to activate the car’s ABS. Then there was a late ’80s episode of seeing how long it was possible to hold an M3 at 230kph on a quiet German autobahn devoid of any speed limits.
Experiences linger, like that drive into the high country in the M3 to the Hotel Schloss Pichlarn half a world away. On arrival, the waitresses, dressed in traditional Austrian costumes, served dinner, and, next morning, the sky was bright and cloudless. It was an absolutely stunner of a day as we drove through picture-perfect scenery. All was silent, apart from the occasional ringing of bells from cows dotting adjacent slopes. So ideal, so pristine, it was the supreme place to ponder the merits of the E30 range and the M3 performance flagship. Even then, the signs were clear that here was a classic in the making.