E3 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER
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
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.