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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  •   Chris Hrabalek reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    NEW SIX ON THE STOPS #BMW-2.8L automatic

    We see a lot of bagged cars but it’s rare to see something as majestic as this classic #BMW-E3 on air, and it’s a corker. The E3 was a revolutionary model for #BMW in the 1960s. This Belgian example gives the old-skool formula a 21st century twist.

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.8-litre straight-six #M30B28 , automatic transmission #ZF .
    CHASSIS: 8x17” (front and rear) #BBS RC 008s, AccuAir air-ride suspension setup.
    INTERIOR: Original seats retrimmed in leather, renewed wood trim, original radio.
    EXTERIOR: Full respray in original colour.
    THANKS: SG Motorsport, Kean Suspensions.

    The 1960s were turbulent but exciting times for BMW. The late- Fifties had seen much financial strife, with the gorgeous #BMW-507 roadster proving too expensive to be profitable, the Isetta-based microcars selling badly, and the motorcycle market imploding. BMW’s board of directors even proposed a merger with #Daimler-Benz in #1959 – imagine! – but this was vehemently opposed by dealers and shareholders. What the company needed was a shot in the arm, a new direction. And that came in the form of the Neue Klasse. Debuting at the 1961 Frankfurt Motor Show, the fresh new BMW 1500 demonstrated a solid set of values that have carried on through the model range ever since; it had disc brakes and all-round independent suspension, offering the latest technological developments in a wellequipped car that, while selling at a premium price, wasn’t absurdly out of the reach of the man on the street.

    Job done then, yes? The 1500 morphed into the slippery 2000C/CS coupés and the iconic ’02 series, and so BMW’s 1950s personality-split between big luxury cars and economical micros was smoothly merged into one logical 1960s whole.

    Ah, but that wasn’t the end, of course. You can’t build an empire on just one idea. BMW had been keeping a keen eye on Mercedes- Benz, eager to ensure that they could compete on all levels with their rivals over in Stuttgart. Benz was dominating the large luxury car sector, and BMW wanted to muscle in with a range that could both compete and offer a sportier edge. And the result? The New Six. The thinking behind this is what carries through to the modern Bee-Em that may well be sitting on your drive right now – luxury, with sporting intent and technological capabilities in spades. The poster boy for the New Six has always been the Batmobile – the superaerodynamic racy variant of the E9 3.0 coupé, the #CSL – but it’s important to remember that this mould-breaking range featured two body shapes: alongside the #E9 Coupé sat the car we’re looking at here, the E3 Saloon. The Neue Klasse’s hardy #M10 four-bangers were comprehensively reworked into the six-pot #M30 range, and the New Six styling featured such details as the twin-headlights-in-grille and the celebrated Hofmeister Kink that have since become BMW staples. At launch, the #E3 was available in either 2500 or 2800 flavour, and it’s the latter that we’re looking at today.

    This particular 2800 is owned by Belgian Kevin Pourtois, who’s taking the current stance scene’s excitement over retro motors to its logical conclusion, bypassing the E21s and E12s of the 1970s and diving right back to the previous generation (okay, his E3 is a #1976 model, but the ethos remains true…). So, was this a conscious decision to shake up the scene a little? “Well, no, actually,” he explains, “this was actually my grandfather’s car. It was sitting there in the garage in perfect condition, just waiting for me! So this is more of a sentimental project…”

    Keeping the concept all in the family, Kevin set about refreshing and contemporising the revolutionary old motor car along with his father. “First, we started with the interior,” he says. “The seats themselves were in good condition, but we wanted to recover them with something a bit more contemporary, so they’ve been retrimmed in quality leather.” You can see from the pictures that this was a good move, the creamy hue neatly complementing the otherwise bone-stock insides. These old E3s have a lovely solidity about them, and details such as the lozenge-like instrument binnacle and slender heater controls speak of a time of uncluttered simplicity. It’s a very classy place to be, and even more so now that it’s slathered in baby-soft cowhide.

    “I have to admit that we didn’t make a lot of progress for some time after that,” Kevin concedes, “but after a while I just decided it was about time I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in.” And so he, along with his father, attacked the project with renewed vigour, starting with the engine. The future plan is to swap the venerable old M30 out completely for something else, but in the meantime they’ve had the 2.8-litre six refreshed by SG Motorsport to ensure that all is running as it should. You’ll notice the ‘i’ badge on the bootlid too, indicating that this car is running fuel injection rather than the launch-spec carburettor setup.

    With motive power taken care of, they turned their hands to paint – or rather, one of Kevin’s friends did. “We wanted to keep the original colour, as that’s what my grandad chose, so I asked a friend of mine to refresh it in the original shade,” he explains. And you’ve got to admit that it looks pretty damn perfect. It’s a mysterious greeny-blueygrey that’s at once subtle and classy, and also pure hot rod. It complements the 2800’s oodles of extra chrome rather neatly too. It’s at this point that the project took rather a radical turn. Now, E3 aficionados will happily fill you in on the details of the car’s factory suspension setup – rather radical in itself, for its time, featuring Boge Nivomat self-levelling trickery at the rear – but that sort of pub-bore geekery won’t win you any trophies. So Kevin decided to take the concept of self-levelling to the next, er, level by having a word with Kean Suspensions. Regular readers will have spotted this name cropping up with increasing regularity of late, as the renowned altitude adjusters’ star rises in the stance sphere. And in Kevin’s eyes, their famed prowess in air-ride systems was exactly what he needed to freshen up the attitude of his grandad’s old Beemer. “I asked them to build me an AccuAir system, because I wanted this to be a fun project,” he grins. And the quality of the install manifests itself in two key ways: firstly, the neatness inside – that uncluttered BMW dash and console look factory-stock, if gently patinated, and it takes a moment to locate the air-ride controls. Go on, have a peek, see if you can spot them…

    Secondly, there’s the way the thing sits. There’s something about these large, slabsided old barges that lend themselves very well to being aired out and kissing Tarmac, isn’t there? Like some kind of vast snake, slithering on its belly. The wheels are neatly tucked, a bold wedge of camber presenting itself at the rear – it’s the perfect way to pull that ’60s style right into 2014.

    Oh yes, and those wheels. It’s always a tricky business bolting newer rims to a classic car, isn’t it? For every tastefully executed #E21 on a set of boxfresh Schmidts, there’s a shonky 2002 on ’90s three-spokes – you’ve just got be very careful with your choices. Fortunately for Kevin, his eye was bang on with this one. The E3 wears BBS RCs: “Because I just really like these wheels, I never considered any others!” he says. And they do work perfectly with the overall aesthetic; while clearly modernising the silhouette, that newness becomes less jarring in conjunction with the panscraping stance created by the air-ride. And hey, they’re hardly new-new, they’re a classic wheel in their own right now. Again, it’s all just about the appropriateness.

    He gives us a coy smile when we ask how much this retro uniqueness has set him back so far: “A lot,” he replies enigmatically, “but when you love something, you don’t count the money! This always had to be something a bit special, being my grandfather’s beloved old car, so I couldn’t do anything that would totally alter its character, and yet I wanted to do something fun that would make it stand out on the scene. I took some inspiration from forums and car shows, and I basically just wanted it to be a bit different, more oldskool.” It was lucky that this family heirloom was waiting in the wings, then – it’s turned out to be the perfect base for a project with such clarity of vision.

    All of those gorgeous classic touches, such as the fuel filler that sits behind the hinged rear number plate, the tall windscreen above the slender nose that makes it look like a Pixar character, the ‘automatic’ script on the bootlid, and the ohso- retro ashtrays in the rear doors, are superbly modernised by the simple concept of sitting it lower to the ground. And sometimes, with the right car, that’s pretty much all you need to stand out – no sense in changing things for the sake of change. Kevin’s E3 takes a near-perfect package and adds the finishing touches to create a showstopper. A success, wouldn’t you say?
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  •   Rob Scorah reacted to this post about 4 years ago

    We meet a man who loves his classic #BMW-3.0Si-E3 . After a 20-year wait #BMW-E3 enthusiast David Maughan finally got his hands on the car of his dreams. Here he talks to us about the thrill of owning a 3.0Si. Words & photography: Mike Taylor.

    Work began on the first generation of new #BMW engines, the in-line four cylinder units to replace the ageing 700 Series, in the early 1960s, designed by powertrain engineer Alex von Falkenhausen and his team. Critical features were a single overhead chain-driven camshaft and a cylinder block with exceptional strength and size, capable of being extended to increase its cubic capacity later. To overcome the unit’s height, the engine was installed at an angle, canted over for a lower bonnet line, a characteristic which became common practice in BMW power train installations over the years.

    It was an inspired concept and laid the foundations for the next generation of BMW engines, the straight-sixes, which over the years generated a deep-rooted reputation for power and smoothness. Initially, the straight-six would be used in the E3 Saloons in 2500 and 2800 capacity and the coachbuilt Karman E9 Coupés, first appearing in 1968 as the 1969 model year cars, the larger engined model boasting better quality trim level as befitting its improved performance.

    The straight-sixes used a crankshaft which rode in seven main bearings while carburetion utilised twin dual throat Zenith/Solexs. The aluminium cylinder head utilised two valves/cylinders in hemispherical-type combustion chambers. In ‘cooking’ level tune the #M30 2.8-litre engine produced 64hp/litre, an impressive output when for most manufacturers of the day 50hp/litre was reckoned to be more than acceptable. Underneath, the car utilised all independent suspension with MacPherson struts at the front and BMW’s semi-trailing arms at the rear. Transmission options included a four-speed manual or a three-speed automatic version, both ‘boxes being supplied by ZF.

    Designed to fill the gap left by the last of BMW’s large saloons the 2500/2800 E3 models, accompanied by the stylish E9 Coupés, provided BMW’s salesmen with a mouth-watering collection of upmarket models with which to tempt buyers who wanted elegance and performance. The introduction of the E3 3.0-litre versions, the 3.0S and the injected 3.0Si in 1971, elevated the Saloon (and the Coupé E9 version along with it) into an altogether different category. Autocar magazine was quick to point out in its short road test report of the 3.0Si in December that year that ‘standards of performance can be hard to keep pace with so much so they leap ahead at times. BMW has always been a trendsetter in this direction and the introduction of the latest 3.0-litres #M30B30 is nothing short of spectacular’.

    By replacing the carburettors with Bosch electronic fuel injection BMW hiked the 3.0 litre’s horsepower by a further 20hp, to 200hp, and while this doesn’t seem a major increase it was the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the car that so appealed; happy to respond with finesse to light throttle openings yet leaping forward with a satisfying surge and aggressive exhaust growl when pressed, covering the magic 0-60mph in just 7.4 seconds and going on to peak out at 132mph. ‘In terms of performance, BMW has taken the 3.0-litre saloon car records by storm’, added Autocar. ‘Because it looks so innocuous the Si is something of a Q-car extraordinaire, which can outdrag almost any car on the road yet, when the occasion demands, potter around like the smoothest limousine,’ concluded Autocar in its brief analysis. ‘Above all it is a driver’s car and in many ways we rate it as the ultimate in the five-seater category.’

    No wonder BMW enthusiast David Maughan has been a lifelong fan of the marque and model. “I was 14 years old and the first E3 I saw was owned by a friend of my father,” recalls David. “He was the kind of person who had the latest everything and he’d just bought it from a dealer in Cobham, Surrey. The car was a 2500 finished in Chamonix white and it was parked in his garage. It spoilt the rest of my day because I just wanted to have a closer look.”

    From then on David says his first objective was to try to encourage his father to buy one, but BMWs in the late 1960s were expensive cars and he thinks his father felt an E3 was not for him. “At the time I was tinkering with the family’s BL 1800 Land Crab and I realised the BMW was something totally different,” he tells us. “However, my father did buy a BMW 2000Ti. This meant we’d climbed onto the BMW ladder, which was the important thing. And while the 2000Ti did not have the pace and the up-to-date design of the E3, it did have the same engineering qualities. I recall thinking that one day I was going to have one of my own. In the event I had to wait until 1994.”

    “My first drive in a 3.0Si, one of the first in the country, and finished in Polaris silver, was owned by the friend of my father who had bought the 2500 a few years before,” explains David. “By that stage I had just passed my test. He lived on a private estate and he let me drive it up and down on his land.” David was instantly hooked. It was all about the sound, the smell, the feel and the engineering; the Si ticked all the boxes.

    “But, as time went by, BMW E3s went out of my mind as I became bitten by tuning my Mini within an inch of its life,” he continues with a grin. “Then, one day in April 1993, I saw an article in Classic & Sportscar magazine in which motor noter Martin Buckley compared a Daimler Double Six Vanden Plas, a Mercedes 300SEL and a #BMW-3.0Si under the title ‘The Big Bopppers’. Initially acknowledging that pitting the V12 from Coventry against the mighty Mercedes was nothing new, adding a ‘wild card’ (Buckley’s expression) like a BMW 3.0-litre took the task of meaningful comparison to a whole new level: ‘Yet we’ve forgotten too quickly what remarkable machines these big BMWs were,’ he remarked. Performance-wise, the Browns Lane bruiser and the stag from Stuttgart were ahead on points. However, in terms of styling, it was the Daimler which came out on top, the austere BMW coming last of the trio. Yet, in the final analysis it was the magic of the Munich motor car that caught Buckley’s heart, its performance, handling and above all, fuel consumption which brokered the deal. It was a powerful recommendation.

    “Having read the article I realised I had to have one,” says David. Flicking through the magazine pages he had a stroke of luck; the BMW 3.0Si he’d just read about was for sale through Tony and Barney Halse, then at Munich Legends. A quick call and the car was his! “When I saw it I was amazed; it was totally a time-warp car, with just one owner from new and full documentation,” David reveals. “There were, and still are, a number of E9 Coupés around but at that time the E3 was comparatively unloved, so I thought I’d better buy it in case I never found another in this condition. It had my name on it.”

    Climbing back into an E3 after a gap of 22 years David was both invigorated and yet realistic about how the BMW performed. He explains: “From the time when I drove the Polaris silver car at the age of 17 to driving the car which was featured in Classic and Sportscar, automotive technology had moved on considerably. So, it’s not surprising when you get back into a ‘70s car that you notice things, such as the wind noise and the large glass area. That said, in many ways the car exceeded my expectations because it doesn’t have electric motors to power the seats or windows, so for its size it is very light, and with 200hp it still felt very quick and didn’t disappoint.”

    At the time BMW’s marketing of the 3.0Si gravitated even more strongly towards the sporting motorist who could afford its price tag and enjoy its performance. In a full page advertisement showing the car set against a background of an Apollo moon rocket perched precariously on its launch pad the copy read: ‘Unlike some luxury three-litres, the BMW isn’t an extravagant decoration. It’s a powerful sports saloon that earns its keep in the nuclear power age.’ Another interesting marketing ploy was that 3.0Sis were used by the Traffic Division of the police, one of the first non-British cars to be selected under the notion that it takes one to catch one. Later, in their conclusion of a long-term (22,000-mile) test report of a 3.0Si Autocar remarked: ‘All things considered, though, this BMW more than all the rest deserves all the keen following it has found among owners and we count ourselves in that enlightened band.’ High praise indeed.

    “I don’t drive it that often. Indeed I don’t drive it enough,” acknowledges David pensively. “But every time I do it never fails to impress. One of the lovely things about my 3.0Si is that despite being kept in winter storage for about five months, once I’ve started it and got it out and on the road in the spring, within a short distance I’m doing 70+mph and everything is as it should be. BMW gave it that level of engineering integrity. That said, one must be mindful of its age. For example, the Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection system is pretty crude by today’s standards and uses a high pressure fuel rail. The hoses are prone to crack, although if it’s maintained correctly it will be reliable.”

    One aspect that has helped the longevity of David’s car is that the first owner was an engineer who worked on submarines and took a great deal of time looking after it, including rust-proofing the body. All that care and consideration has paid dividends. Eating up the miles at the legal limit four up with a full complement of luggage has enabled David to enjoy his 3.0Si on many cross Continent excursions. He’s also enjoyed driving it to Le Mans on several occasions. “I’ve parked in the Blanc grand stand car park surrounded by a whole load of other motoring exotica and it’s interesting the degree to which my BMW receives attention. They are becoming quite rare,” he says.

    When it comes to servicing the E3 is relatively easy to work on though David does acknowledge that with 85,000 miles on the clock the engine would benefit from a rebuild at some stage. “Values of E3s have not been especially high and rust is a consideration since owners may not want to spend more on repairs/restoration than the car is actually worth,” he concedes sagely. “However, values are beginning to rise significantly and recently they have broken the £15k ceiling as people begin to realise their capabilities.” Clearly, David enjoys a happy relationship with his BMW and plans to continue basking in its performance for many years to come.

    Thanks to David Maughan and Barney Halse of Classic Heroes ( for their help with this article.

    “I’ve parked surrounded by a whole load of other motoring exotica and it’s interesting the degree to which my BMW receives attention”

    “I thought I’d better buy it in case I never found another in this condition. It had my name on it”
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  •   Rob Scorah reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    What’s in your Garage? We meet a man with a passion for rare BMW-E3 models that have been converted to estates. Mike Taylor traces the fascinating story behind the handcrafted E3 estates and one man’s passion for owning the ultimate version Photography: Mike Taylor /// #BMW-3.0Si-Touring-E3 /// #BMW-3.0Si-E9 /// #BMW-E9-Touring /// #BMW-3.0Si-Estate /// #BMW-E3-Wagon

    David Maughan is a car guy, drawn unreservedly to the lines and engineering of German cars – BMW and Porsche in particular. “When I saw my first #BMW-E3 it blew me away,” David enthuses. Apparently, his mother claimed his fascination for cars came from the fact that while she was pregnant with David she also took her driving test, a gene thing, perhaps. Later, aged 17, he was given £50 to buy a car. “Like most youngsters my passion was for speed, but I ended up buying a Mini 850,” he continues. “Later, while my father was driving a BMC 1800 ‘Land Crab’, I saw one of the very first 2500 E3s in the UK. Later, the 1972 TV series Man at the Top featured a BMW 3.0Si, some of the filming being done outside our home in West London. It was a clever marketing ploy by BMW UK to promote the car as a top drawer executive saloon.” For David, at least, it had the desired effect.

    Sometime later Classic & Sportscar magazine featured a 3.0Si tested against an equivalent Mercedes, motor-noter Martin Buckley proclaiming the BMW to be the preferred machine. When the car then came up for sale at a BMW specialist in East Sussex David bought it without hesitation; he still has it. David’s introduction to BMW E3 Estate cars came in 1994 through an advertisement. “The car was reckoned to be the Team Alpina tow car,” says David. “While I can’t vouch for that I can say that its first owner was King Constantine of Greece. The opportunity was too good to miss. Sadly, when I went to collect it the car was a mess. The spare wheel well, the floor, the interior; it was too far gone. But it did launch me on my quest for an E3 Estate.”

    The story behind these unusual cars could be said to have started by the salvation of the company by Dr Herbert Quandt in 1959 and the programme to rejuvenate BMW models. The BMW Board was joined by Paul Hofmeister who focused the range on reaching a niche market while driving up exports. Before long BMW was successfully combining exclusivity with competition charisma. The 700 Series and the larger Neue Klasse saloons could be seen on events such as the Monte Carlo Rally and the Saloon Car Championships rounds. Meanwhile, the company’s competition department, set up in the main factory, was developing Formula 2 cars using, first, a Lola chassis powered by a highly modified M10 engine. Privateers and outside companies like Alpina and Schnitzer were compounding competition successes. Toward the end of the decade, to transport the cars from circuit-to-circuit BMW’s competition workshops arranged for three estate cars to be built based on the recently-launched E3. Meanwhile a small workshop for the rally department was set up at Pension Preußenstraße in Leipzig.

    The first E3s were the 2500 and the 2800 saloons arriving in the UK in time for the 1969 sales year, the larger engined model benefitting from an improved trim level. Both power units shared the same design – a chain-driven overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine. Its smooth running was the result of seven main bearings. Carburetion was provided by two twin-choke Solex/Zeniths feeding a cylinder head with hemispherical combustion chambers. Transmission was either a four-speed manual ‘box or a three-speed automatic, both well suited to the engine’s characteristics. Suspension utilised MacPherson struts at the front and independent trailing arms at the rear. On release the E3s set a new benchmark for top end luxury performance cars aimed at senior executives who enjoyed driving themselves. After the near-collapse of the company less than ten years before, the range was an astonishing achievement. Yet, there was more to come; a #M30 / #M30B30 3.0-litre car followed soon after drawing breath through carburettor induction while the flagship fuel injected 3.0Si followed in 1971. As tested by Autocar, with a 0-60 time of 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 131mph this version was truly a breathtakingly quick car for its day.

    However, it was the 3.0-litre versions that provided the platform for the competition estates, known around the factory as Kombis. Three estates were built. In the cockpit only the front seats were fitted with a grill behind to prevent tools and spares from flying forward in the event of heavy braking. In the rear was a flat panelled area which would be turned into a sleeping facility when the mechanics stopped for the night. A substantial roof rack was added taking spare wheels and tyres. The rear side windows were perspex while the tailgates are thought to have come from the Ford Taunus, adapted by seam welding it to the upright section of the bootlid complete with lock; overall, it was a very neat job.

    Over their five year career the Kombis were used as tow vehicles for both racing and rallying, ex-team mechanics recalling long hauls between rallies such as the Acropolis, the 1000 Lakes and the Monte Carlo. On one occasion a car was so over-laden that the alloy wheels, which were retrospectively fitted from the 3.0Si, cracked and collapsed. Significantly, as workhorses they proved ideal transport. Yet, BMW’s marketing team had no feelings or favouritism for the estate theme in their mainstream model line-up; if there was a hunting, shooting or fishing fraternity in Germany it was not considered worthy of satisfying their demands with a suitable vehicle; the three Kombis remained unique.

    From the outset BMW’s sales structure in the UK was an autonomous operation. By 1969 BMW Concessionaires (GB) Ltd was operated by Peter Beaumont, Raymond Playfoot and Peter Samuelson as an independent company owned by investment organisation (now part of the Inchcape group) Tozer, Kemsley, Milbourn Ltd. The 1960s was a period of consolidation for the BMW marque in the UK, with dealers being established around the country and 1788 cars were sold during 1969. In 1970 the numbers sold leapt to 3028, a trend which would multiply several times over during the decade.

    With this growth rate and the freedom to pursue their own marketing strategy a plan was conceived to offer an estate version of the E3, encouraged no doubt by the Kombis, which would have been seen around the international race and rally venues. A specification was drawn up, which included extending the roof, fitting a tailgate and retrimming the boot area. To make the package more attractive the client brochure offered several extras including a sunroof, a dog guard, a rubber mat covering the load area and a tow bar. The introduction of the Rover P6 Estate called the ‘Estoura’ in 1969, built by FLM Panelcraft and tested by Autocar, will have influenced the BMW UK concessionaires still further in their notion to introduce an estate version of the E3.

    FLM Panelcraft had been founded in the early 1950s. Based in Battersea, South London, FLM took its initials from the company founders, Messrs Fry, Lee and McNally, employing craftsmen from the declining coachbuilding industry, most notably James Young. They began by restoring and converting prewar Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. The company then embarked on a series of estate car conversions of contemporary upmarket saloons, part of this work being under sub-contract to another well known coachbuilding specialist, Crayford, based in Westerham, Kent whose name was already linked to turning BMC and Ford saloons into convertibles.

    Sadly, it’s clear today that these Panelcraft Estates were built down to a price using pop-rivets for joining the roof’s sections, lead loaded and covered with vinyl, panels being positioned over existing bodywork with no attempt at rust proofing. Having adapted the bodyshell the work of trimming was passed to Crayford, H R Owen or Hurst Park Motors, which would account for the subtle differences between the cars. From David’s experience the conversions carried out on BMW E3s also suffered from poor workmanship: “When I went to collect my first E3 estate I could see that the trim was incredibly crudely done; the conversion was mostly based on removing the rear scuttle, adding the roof and adapting the seat fixings with a bit of carpet. I was very disappointed. However, I took the view that there were probably more so it was eventually scrapped.”

    David’s second estate was supplied originally by Shirley’s of Croydon, South London. “Judging by the registration details I think the dealers gave the owner a copy of the brochure and he had it converted later, in 1981,” continues David. “I bought it in 1995 and again it was in a very sorry state. At the time I was talking to a restorer in Ireland and I was persuaded to send them the BMW and they did all the strip-out work. It had a metal sunroof and when we took the vinyl off we found that where the additional estate roof section met the original panel it had been leadfilled and pop-riveted. We ended up putting a complete new roof on and respraying it Polaris silver.

    But I began to realise it could never be restored to the quality I wanted and the project stalled.” But, David was still not done. In 2001 he saw another E3 estate for sale and decided, no matter what its condition, he would buy it to produce patterns. “For example the glass in the rear was specially cut. It, too, was crated up and sent off to the Ireland. Again, we took everything off worth saving and then the car was scrapped.”

    It was some years later when David read about a company who specialised in high end BMW restorations based just outside Chicago called ‘The Werk Shop’. “I knew it would prepare the car to the quality I wanted so, in 2008 it was placed in a container and sent over.”

    With the car unloaded the Chicago team began to evaluate the true measure of the task they’d been given. The predicament was whether to restore it to Panelcraft’s standards, or to undertake a thorough job. In the event David chose the latter route. Three doors, a rear wing panel and the inner and outer sills were all replaced while the tailgate required considerable fettling. But it was the interior trim which posed the conundrum. Not to be disappointed with the end result, David specified blue leather seats with matching quality carpeting.

    David found his fourth Estate car while browsing through eBay. “In 1973 Anton Hille, the UK concessionaires MD, formed a team with Tony Lanfranchi as competition/team manager and four competition 3.0Si saloons were built by Mathwall Engineering. Three were entered in the 1973 Avon Tour of Great Britain. The drivers were Roger Bell,Tony Lanfranchi and Mike Woolley. The team was based in West London and they used an E3 estate as a tow car. Those who remember the car recall it was a 3.0SA in white with a blue roof. The guys in Chicago said buy it, so in 2008 that went off to the States as well.”

    Today, David’s beloved E3, (his second in chronological order of purchase) is back in the UK with a little detailing yet to be done, and is in the capable hands of Barney Halse at Classic Heroes. “Through lots of research I know of nine-ten E3 Estates, which includes a recently discovered car in the West Country.”

    So, does the car live up to David’s exacting standards? “The drivetrain has been rebuilt and all the suspension components replaced,” he replies. “Overall, it’s covered around 60 miles, long enough for me to become acquainted with its strengths and foibles. E3 saloons were only blessed with average torsional rigidity for the day so converting one into an estate leads to greater flexing, which you can feel when it’s driven over our potholed B-roads or uneven surfaces. I may have a removable strutbrace fitted linking the twin rear suspension turrets. Other than that I’m very pleased with the result.”

    As for the Kombis, in #1974 they were disposed of and replaced by larger transporters more suited to the task. Only one has survived. The last of the trio to be built was actually bought by one of the BMW mechanics who had driven it in haste from event to event. He rebuilt it, the task including a complete body strip and respray in BMW’s competitions livery of white and sea blue. It was then sold to a UK-based #BMW specialist.

    The estate conversion could be ordered when new or even at a later date.

    THANKS TO: #David-Maughan , Alex Elliott, Barney Halse, John Castle, #BMW-UK and Jean Kittel for their help with this article.

    This is David’s second E3 estate that’s been restored and resprayed Polaris silver. All the mechanicals have been rebuilt, too.
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  •   Richard Gunn reacted to this post about 4 years ago

    The E3 Bavaria is a rare old beast, and this beautiful bagged example is a slice of sheer retro perfection. Brian Hoehne wasn’t all that impressed by the battered remains of this E3 Bavaria when he first clapped eyes on it. But we can all be thankful that he gave it a shot… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Dan Crosley.

    BMW’s New Six line of the late-1960s and ’70s can be neatly segmented into two distinct circles: performance and luxury. The former is probably what would spring to mind for most people when considering these early six-cylinder bruisers; the E9 coupé, darling of the motorsport scene in racy, Capri-baiting CSL form, and a boisterous statement of lurid paint and borderline-legal aerodynamic additions in road-going homologation form. And the latter? Why, that’d be the E3 saloon – the gentlemen’s express of the Europe of yesteryear, spiriting bankers to the next big-figure meeting in a Rolls-Royceesque fugue of ‘adequate horsepower’ and genteel appointments.

    But if we move these circles together to create a simplistic Venn diagram, an intersection appears in the middle containing this rather visually noisy E3 Bavaria, resplendent in disco paintwork and confrontational spoilers. It’s an angry and uncompromising thing, very much the apogee of both facets of the Jekyll-and-Hyde New Six, converging into one mean cruiser. Interestingly, despite what you might guess, that shade of Inka orange was actually a factory option on the E3. But we’ll get to that in due course… first of all, just what manner of person could create such a thing?

    Brian Hoehne scuttles in from stage left, eager to provide a little background on his thought processes. And it all began back in high school: “It was back then that my friends and I first got into cars,” he recalls, luxuriating in a swell of nostalgia. “A buddy and I would take out his father’s E46 328is and go cruising after school, running errands and so on. We would leave the neighbourhood, then pop the automatic into Sport mode and start speeding around the winding roads of Connecticut. After high school and in college, I have to admit I lost touch with my interest in cars for a short while, until I found myself detailing cars for a funeral home; although my major of choice in college was Mortuary Science, it was cars that became the really significant part of my daily life at that point.”

    Soon after graduating from college, Brian found himself settling into a happy routine of restoring and modifying cars as a hobby. “That’s when I met a friend who owned a small repair shop specialising in BMWs – it brought back happy memories of my high school years, and I knew that I wanted to restore a classic Beemer. I started a restoration on my ’91 M Tech 2 Convertible and, as with any restoration, a lot of work went into it – I just rolled up my sleeves and dove in. Ten months later I had my dream: a beautiful E30 Convertible!”

    But, as is so often the case with you itchyfingered modifying types, that wasn’t the end of the story. How could it be? After a month or so of cruising around in his freshly reworked E30, Brian started to feel a void within himself, a seemingly insatiable thirst for something different and unusual to tear apart and bring back to life. It was at this point that he decided his perceived ‘hobby’ was more than it seemed, and it was time to start a business doing what he loved.

    Working with a couple of friends, New Direction Motorsports made its first fledgling footsteps into the retro modifying scene. So why an E3 Bavaria of all things? “The search for my next #BMW had me looking through the pages of classic BMW magazines,” Brian recalls. “Stumbling upon pictures of E24s and E12s gave me a lot of inspiration, but I had real difficulty finding one for sale that I liked. And then one day, one of my business partners mentioned seeing an ad on a local Craigslist for an E3. The first time I saw a Bavaria, I have to say it wasn’t exactly love at first sight – frankly, it didn’t really catch my eye. But I’d always liked the sporty feel of the E9, and having a limited budget made me realise that the coupé was not in my near future, so I decided to give the E3 a chance.”

    The advert offered a running and driving #BMW-E3-Bavaria (for the uninitiated, the original Bavaria was a US-only offering – a variant of the E3 which fitted the 2800 model’s larger engine into the more basic 2500’s chassis, hot-rod style; when the range was updated in #1971 , the #Bavaria name stuck for the US domestic market) and, with life and business getting in the way a little, it was a month or so before Brian trekked a few towns over to take a peep. And he wasn’t all that impressed. “At first glance, it was a mess,” he sighs. “Walking around the car, I saw that every panel had flaws, trim was missing, there was filler everywhere, and each panel was a different shade of tan.”

    In addition to this, the interior was in bits, and the back seat and boot were brimming with random parts. Brian was on the verge of walking away when the seller revealed a fact that piqued his interest. “He told me that it had previously been a race car, and after years of track racing it was given away as a project and was soon forgotten. I wasn’t impressed by the state of the car, but I’m pleased I asked him to fire it up – the first time I heard the rumble of that M30, I knew that I wanted to help the legacy of this car live on. I had to have it! After a quick test drive, we packed every inch of it with spares from the seller’s basement and I brought it home.”

    Straight away, Brian set about sketching up a plan of action for the mighty Bavaria. The most important task – and most daunting in its involvement – was sorting out that battered and bruised bodywork; having been a race car for a significant period of time, there wasn’t a single panel that didn’t require some degree of repair, but such was Brian’s clear-headed forthrightness toward reviving the old warhorse, he made short work of getting everything straight and true. So the next fun step was choosing the right colour scheme to best display those painstaking straightening efforts.

    “I knew I needed to update the exterior colour of the car, to make it a bit more contemporary,” he says. “The styling of the tail panel made me think of the General Lee Dodge Charger from the beginning, so I had orange in mind. With a little investigating, I found out that Bavarias were offered from the factory in Inka orange, so I knew that it was the right choice – it worked well with the interior, and was the right colour to make the car look new and modern but still be in-keeping with the era of the E3.”

    Something else that Brian had been sure of from the start was that car would be running air-ride. For many, this is a nobrainer, as it offers a desirable mix of dayto- day practicality in terms of getting over speedhumps etc, decent ride and handling, and also the ability to drop the chassis rails to the ground on a whim and irritate pipesmoking purists. What’s not to like?

    “Throughout the project, I hadn’t been able to get those early thoughts of E9 CSLs out of my mind,” Brian continues, “and it’s this that very much informed the aesthetic – I wanted to create an E9-styled E3. The original plan was to incorporate the front airdam, rear spoiler and roof spoiler from a CSL, although in the end I decided to omit the roof spoiler after all, as it just didn’t work with the overall look of the car. I think it looks a lot cleaner without it. But I was still hard-pressed on the front airdam!” You’ll notice that the boot spoiler isn’t actually that reminiscent of a CSL wing, but is instead a sturdy rubber mini-ducktail affair. It’s actually a Motorsport item for an E21 3 Series but, by a fortuitous stroke of serendipity, it fits the Bavaria’s boot perfectly, neatly complementing the black number plate panel between the lights. Impressively cohesive, isn’t it?

    The interior continues that retro early-’70s gentleman’s express chic, augmenting the humming twin-carb’d 3.2 with a thoroughly civilised set of soft-and-squishy brown seats; brown, in fact, is very much a theme inside, with the doorcards inciting a craving for chocolate, and some lovely bespoke woodwork seeing the parcel shelf, dash, and air-ride install being swathed in custom oak. And it’s not often you see the phrase ‘custom oak’ appear in these pages.

    “I have a few talented friends who I trust and employ for their help on projects, because I know they seek out the same shared vision for each car,” Brian explains. “Working on any project at New Direction, especially this car, allows me to fill my need for accomplishing goals and fulfilling my love for cars – I find myself building cars for the sheer enjoyment, and the time spent with people who share this same hobby.” And that, really, is the reason we do all this, isn’t it? It’d be no fun to do it if you had nobody to share it with. And as the fledgling company forges onward into the future, you can be sure that this astoundingly orange old saloon is very much representative of New Direction’s skills and passion. This, it seems, is just the beginning.

    Original interior is a riot of brown with a few cool touches like the custom parcel shelf and duck’s head gear knob.

    “The first time I heard the rumble of that #M30 , I knew that I wanted to help the legacy of this car live on”


    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.2-litre straight-six #M30B32 , twin #Weber carbs, five-speed #Getrag gearbox.

    CHASSIS: 8x16” (front and rear) Rial Mesh wheels with 195/40 (front and rear) tyres, custom Air Lift suspension and management.

    EXTERIOR: Inka orange, custom CSL-inspired front lip, E21 Motorsport rear spoiler, shaved antenna, door mouldings and side markers.

    INTERIOR: Original #E3 , custom oak parcel shelf and dash inserts, duckbill gear knob, custom ten-gallon air tank with hidden compressor and oak surrounds.

    This is one seriously good-looking #BMW-E3 and slammed over those Rial 16s it’s a painfully cool slice of retro sexiness.
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