BMW E3 SALOON (1968-1977) As far as Mercedes-Benz was concerned, the arrival of BMW’s big 2500 and 2800 saloons (inte...
BMW E3 SALOON (1968-1977)

As far as Mercedes-Benz was concerned, the arrival of BMW’s big 2500 and 2800 saloons (internally known as the ‘E3’) was akin to a poke in the eye with a stick. Mercs were well made of course but they were super expensive and as solid to drive as they were built. The Jaguar XJ arrived in the same year and would also cause raised eyebrows in the Daimler Benz boardrooms. The E3 sold slowly but steadily in the UK and whilst there weren’t many out in the sticks, they were a common sight in London and most towns had a few examples.

The 3.0 arrived in 1971 and shortly after, the 200 bhp 3.0Si which was quite a rocket ship that could outpace the 6.3 and 6.9 Mercs as well as XJ12’s on the sprint to 60 mph before surging on to 130 mph – these were seriously fast cars. BMW was a small company back then, known to make expensive cars with expensive spare parts and depreciation was swift. By the time the 7-Series took over in 1977, you could pick up an early 2500 in decent condition for 500 quid and by the mid ’80s they were just about worthless. Tired E3’s littered London streets like old Jaguars and it’s only in the last few years that anyone has bothered to save any – I bought a running one myself in 1999 for £100. As brilliant as it was, the E3 was just an old BMW for many years and most of the UK-supplied cars have now gone.
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  •   Daniel 1982 reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    Car #BMW-3.0Si / #BMW-E3 / #BMW-3.0Si-E3 / #BMW / #BMW-New-Six / #1977-BMW-3.0Si-E3 / #1977

    Name Tony Wilkes Age 38
    Occupation TV / film location manager
    From Glasgow
    First classic ’1974 Triumph GT6
    Dream classic Probably a ’1973 911 RS 2.7 Lightweight
    Best trip Lake Como, Italy, to Achensee, Austria, via the Stelvio Pass in the BMW


    Imagine my delight when I spotted My BMW 3.0 Si E3 on page 187 of June 2017’s edition of C&SC. Martin Buckley’s assertion that ‘it’s the best-driving chrome-bumper BMW of them all’ is one that I couldn’t agree with more. In the five years that I’ve owned it, my Si has been a most impressive companion over some 10,000 miles – the majority of which have been in mainland Europe.

    Built in January 1977 and delivered the following month, it wasn’t registered until July. RUW 848R was worked hard over its first few years. Traded in for an E12 M535i at 60,000 miles in 1981, the Si then found its second and longest-term owner in Motortune’s Brompton Road showroom. Lord Montagu- Pollock (who sadly passed away last year) paid the princely sum of £2800 for the E3 and owned it for 18 years. He used the car exactly as intended – on long, hard-charging European adventures, or cruising around central London in luxury and style. Towards the end of one of these journeys in 1992, the thermostat failed and cooked the ‘six’. The Si was fitted with Munich’s last reconditioned engine in Milcars’ Temple Fortune workshop.

    The Montagu-Pollock family made the difficult decision to finally part with their beloved companion in 1999, and the 3.0 Si was replaced by an E34 M5 Touring.

    Fast-forward 14 years, and I couldn’t believe my luck when I found the car – a rare, late Bosch L-Jetronic-equipped model. It came with voluminous history and a vast quantity of new-old-stock genuine BMW parts. Not being one to do things by half measures, I decided that RUW’s maiden voyage should be to the Leutasch Valley in the Austrian Tirol. Seven hours and 700km into the trip, I was hooked by the E3’s remarkable ability to hoover up the miles with absolute poise and comfort. Next was a jaunt to Italy via some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable. I was delighted to be invited to Munich in September 2016 to exhibit the car at BMW’s 100th-anniversary celebration weekend at the 1972 Olympic Park – one of the most fantastic events that I’ve attended. The E3 was also my wedding car, bought as a surprise for my wife.

    We got married at Lake Como in Italy, so my parents volunteered to drive the BMW across Europe in secrecy. I planned a route for them, plus one for myself and my fiancée, to ensure that there was no chance of spoiling the surprise along the way. My parents then changed their directions and ended up three cars ahead of us coming over the St Gotthard Pass. I was concerned to say the least. Once we’d dropped down the other side into Italy and onto the autostrada, I had no option but to pass as quickly as possible.

    Moments later I received a text from my mother stating: ‘That was close!’ Needless to say, we got away with it and the big reveal on our wedding day worked a treat. Our Si is now very much part of the family. In my ownership, the BMW has been phenomenal. It has never let me down and is perfectly comfortable occupying the outside lane of any motorway – more so now that I’ve fitted a five-speed ’box from a BMW 635CSi E24, which, as well as reducing revs at higher cruising speeds, has also improved fuel economy.

    Sadly, the passage of time has not been kind to the E3. A combination of rampant rust, savage depreciation when new and suppressed values in comparison to the more popular E9 coupés has meant that these handsome saloons have virtually disappeared from our roads.

    Many succumbed to terminal rot, while others were broken for parts. At the last count, there were about 50 E3s left in the UK, only a handful of which are roadworthy. They are hugely sought-after and attract incredibly enthusiastic owners. But then you could say that I’m biased, because I now own an Si pair and run the E3 Register on behalf of the BMW Car Club.

    Much-travelled BMW, during an outstanding run from Italy to Austria via the breathtaking Stelvio Pass, after Wilkes’ wedding at Lake Como.

    The Ultimate Driving Machine on one of Europe’s greatest routes, the Großglockner Pass. E3 part-way through its Alpine adventure. Previous owner Giles Montagu-Pollock RIP. Sierra beige Si at BMWCC Gaydon festival. Milcars fitted last recon ‘six’ from Munich.

    ‘Seven hours into the trip, I was hooked by its ability to hoover up the miles with absolute poise and comfort’

      Buckley has missed two examples of the 3.0Si: is fate working against him?

      Ten years ago I got friendly with quite a A CAR I WISH I’D BOUGHT

      Buckley has missed two examples of the 3.0Si: is fate working against him?

      Ten years ago I got friendly with quite a famous American film producer who shared my love of boxy Italian saloons. Lovely guy and not at all ‘Hollywood’ – as you’d expect for someone who owned a Fiat 125. I can’t remember how it came up, but one of us was offered a rather nice BMW 3.0Si E3. Mr Film Producer said he’d buy it for when he was in the UK and that I could run it the rest of the time. Somehow, we didn’t do the deal and a bit later I missed a sound 3.0Si E3 through another attack of uncharacteristic ‘sensible’ thinking, so maybe I’m just destined not to have one. Pity, to my mind it’s the best-driving chrome-bumper BMW of them all.
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