Why on earth would you want to buy a 25 year old German car? Here are 5 reasons why newer is not necessarily better in my review of the iconic BMW E30.
The car of today is awash with convenience and comfort, but it has been said you only truly find yourself outside of the comfort zone. While you won’t find any 7 speed dual clutch transmissions or intelligent cruise control here, such things shortly appear superfluous to the peppy growl of the little 126kW, 2.5 litre straight six engine channelling its efforts through a short and sweet shifting 5 speed Getrag manual gearbox. Whilst this little Bavarian bruiser may struggle to show it’s behind to a modern hot hatch, the sensation of pace and connection from behind the wheel will convince you otherwise. While the performance credentials may fail to impress on paper, 0-100 km/hr in 8 seconds and a standing ¼ mile time of 15.7 seconds is not going to win many performance car awards in 2016, the BMW E30 is the classic case of the whole result being more than the sum of its parts.
In 1988 the ruler was the tool of choice for the designer elite, with which they chiselled the e30 3 series in all its Teutonic goodness. Style is subjective but there are only two types of people in this world, those who adore the E30 and those who are wrong.
With its boxy styling, skinny pillars, low beltline and large windows the BMW e30 offers a spacious and airy travel environment. It may lack conveniences now taken for granted such as cup holders and a proper centre console, but this little wonder wagen is built for driving not drinking! Unlike many of its modern equivalents you can even fit 2 moderately sized adults in the back seat without first removing their heads, always a bonus. I have even had a surfboard within its 2 door confines, and once channelled my many years Tetris experience to squeeze in a full size engine crane without so much as removing the passenger seat.
A clean manual E30 325i can be had for around $11000, with lesser models such as the 318i often going for a good deal less. Whilst that is expensive for a 25 year old car, prices have been rising steeply in recent years and will likely be worth much more in the future provided they are maintained to a high standard. Ah maintenance, the Achilles heel of complex German engineering you say? Well in this instance that is not the case. The e30 325i is one of the most robust and reliable cars ever to come out of the factory in Munich. By modern standards it is remarkably simple, with electric windows, mirrors, and an on-board computer being the most complicated options on the car. The M20 straight six engine is very robust, requiring only basic maintenance and regular 90 000km (60k miles) timing belt changes to keep ticking along nicely. That is more than a passing reference too, as the M20’s mechanically adjustable valve-train rockers commonly emit a faint ticking noise whilst the engine is running, perhaps bothersome but nothing to worry about.
Fuel consumption is perfectly acceptable for a vehicle of this vintage. Throughout my ownership experience I have found I average 10L/100km, good for at least 600km from the 62L fuel tank.
Parts can be harder to source locally than the average car, but online parts availability and pricing for the e30 is excellent with countless suppliers just a mouse click away. This is particularly beneficial for those who like to swing their own spanners and can afford to wait for shipping, but I admit it could be troublesome or expensive for the layman servicing his daily driver at the local mechanic.
The e30 M3 is the most successful touring car ever produced and whilst the 325i shares as much with the M3 as Stephen Hawking shares with Jennifer, the family connection is much more obvious. The e30 M3 is a shining symbol of motorsport success and the 325i is the substitute product for the man (or woman) on the street. For the budding enthusiasts among us, the e30 has some of the most comprehensive aftermarket support I have ever come across, in addition to reams of information from a very large enthusiast following. With such support it is possible to upgrade the vehicle to almost any point, from a lightly fettled street car through to 500 horsepower S85 V10 engine swaps.
So you want a drivers car on a budget? Can’t choose between classic style, rewarding driving and reliability? For he who must have it all, the e30 might be just the ticket…