- Post is under moderationShark Hunting
CAR: 1981 BMW 323i TOP CABRIO
OWNER: Sanjay Seetanah
/ #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic
Have you heard classic BMWs described as ‘sharknose’? Sharknose-era BMWs were manufactured from the 1960s through to the late ’80s and represent a crucial period in BMW’s history. They can be as different as they are similar. Some were built for racing, some were built for families.
Some featured cutting-edge technology, others were a little more basic. What brings them together is a common design aesthetic. They range from the Neue Klasse models of the ’60s through to the M1 and E28 (the second-generation 5-series), taking in the CSA, CS and CSLs and the earlier 3-, 5-, 6- and 7-series along the way.
Now the #BMW-Car-Club has introduced a new umbrella group called the Sharknose Collection, and I was delighted to be asked to attend a gathering of cars from this collection to produce a video for the club’s website. As club secretary Richard Baxter says: ‘These cars are now becoming sought after yet finding parts and specialists can be difficult. The Sharknose section of the club aims to give cars and owners a collective platform at shows, to help with parts and accessories, to share technical days, and allow networking with fellow owners.’
The pressure was on to get my Baur looking as good as possible, given the company that it was going to be with. I contacted Joseph Crowe, owner of Knowl Hill Performance Cars in Maidenhead (www.knowlhill. com), and he obligingly ensured that the car was machine polished to look its best.
Gathered together for the shoot were some of the very best examples of sharknose BMWs in the UK. In the picture, above, from left to right are Stu and Lizzy Blount’s grey #BMW-E28 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW-M5-E28 , Tony Wilkes’ beige #BMW-E3 , Georg Champ’s red #BMW-2002 , Sam Lever’s blue #BMW-3.0-CSL-E9 , Trevor Gude’s white #BMW-E12 / #BMW-M535i-E12 , my own BMW-323i Baur Top Cabrio and Kos Ioizou’s beautiful red #BMW-635CSi-E24 . I was amazed at the depth of knowledge and passion for the cars shown by all the owners – the future of these classics is safe in their hands.
The Club is looking for ownership and restoration stories to share in its monthly publication Straight Six and hopes to attract owners of cars not yet known about. Cars from the Sharknose Collection will be on show at several events this year, including Masters at Brands Hatch on 26-27 May; Sharknose Europe at Rosmalen, Holland, on 23 June; Silverstone Classic on 20-22 July and the club’s National Festival on 12 August at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon. There’s more info at www.bmwcarclubgb.uk and I hope I will get along to at least one or two in the Baur.
Above and below Sharknose Collection members lined up some of the UK’s finest examples, including Sanjay’s 323i Baur cabriolet.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationCar #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
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
BAHNSTORMER HEADS FOR HOME
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’
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- 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 famou 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. More ...
- Post is under moderationIn the year of the departure, three German sedans set completely new accents. The Audi 100 emancipated itself from DKW and immediately became a star of the middle class. With the six-cylinder Type 2500 BMW celebrated its comeback in the luxury cars, and Mercedes said goodbye to the bestseller dash-eight of Blechbarock and swing axle.
/ #Audi-100-F104 , 1968–1976 / BMW-2500 3.3 Li, Typ E3, 1968–1976 / Mercedes-Benz W115, 1968–1976
/ #Mercedes-Benz-220D-W115 / #1970 / #1970-Mercedes-Benz-220D-W115 / #Mercedes-Benz-220D / #Mercedes-Benz-W115 / #Mercedes-Benz-W114 / #Mercedes-Benz
/ #BMW-2500-Typ-E3 / #BMW-2500-E3 / #BMW-2500 / #BMW-E3 / #BMW / #1971 / #1971-BMW-2500-E3
/ #Audi-100LS-Typ-F104 / #Audi-100LS-F104 / #Audi-100LS-C1 / #Audi-100-C1 / #Audi-100 / #Audi / #Audi-Typ-F104 / #1974-Audi-100LS-Typ-F104 / #1974-Audi-100 / #1974Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderation/ #BMW Sad end to an / #BMW-E3 / #BMW-2500-E3 / #BMW
The BMW E3 saloons made from 1968 to 1977 were lovely old things and in their day were a rightful competitor to Mercedes’ finest – this excellent BMW saloon was the model that really woke Stuttgart from its slumbers and made it recognise that BMW would be a real threat. Not many were sold in the UK because they were a lot of money – a #BMW-2500 cost more than a 4.2 XJ6 for example.
I heard recently of a 2500 – a very rusty one dragged out of a damp garage – that ended up in a scrap yard. You’d think BMW breakers would be putting a bid in for this but, really, they’re not good news. Assuming there are some decent bits on it, who will even buy them? There are so few left that the demand for parts is minimal and because it’s not a 3.0 variant, the engine is of no use to E9 owners either. A breaker said to me: “I could get the useful and saleable bits off that in about 20 minutes. It’s not worth the yard space”. By comparison, a knackered E9 will always yield some useful stuff.
Some bits are like this, though. A mate has a carbon fibre 320Si cam cover for sale, the N45-engined homologation special. With a new price of £2500 and genuine BMW Motorsport pedigree you’d think a mint used one was worth £200 or £300 but in reality, they’re worth much less than that. Why? Because again, there are very few 320Si cars around, the cam covers don’t go wrong, and they only fit that model. For the £150 he paid, it would make a very nice office wall ornament but not much else!Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationWhat’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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- Post is under moderationWHAT’S IN YOUR GARAGE?
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 (www.classicheroes.co.uk) 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”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationE3 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 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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- Post is under moderationFive seats #E3 body #1971 ; 127 mph; 0 to 60 mph in 8 sec. At a Glance: Latest version of #BMW-E3 six-cylinder saloon with larger engine and more performance. Excellent refinement bestowed by superbly sweet power unit and light manual gearbox. Much improved brakes, better handling, but slightly more choppy ride. Same remarkable fuel consumption as before. Well finished throughout. Very satisfying car at all times.
Above: The six-cylinder engine is inclined to the fight and accessibility once the air cleaner is removed is excellent. The bonnet lid is self-supporting.
It was at the Geneva Show this year, after a successful racing programme using a prototype 3-litre engine, that BMW introduced the first of their new models using an enlarged six-cylinder power unit. That was the #BMW-3.0CS coupe #E9 and we published a full test of the right-hand-drive version on 15 July last.
This week the saloon powered by the same engine is launched in the UK, so once again our Autotest is very topical. As well as an additional 10 bhp and 15 lb. ft. more torque, the 3.0S has ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels (with duplicated hydraulic lines to the front callipers), improved front suspension geometry, intermit-tent as well or two-speed wiper action, revised seats with rear headrests in addition to those in front and some detail changes to the ventilation system and exterior trim. The limited-slip differential and self-levelling roar suspension have been deleted from the specification and the price goes up by USD 191 (1971 in USA for #BMW-3.3Li ) compared with the 2800 saloon which is discontinued.
Changes to the engine comprise little more than a 3mm increase in bore size, the same camshaft and twin progressive-choke Solex carburettors being retained. This is enough to push the DIN output up from 170 to 180 mph and peak torque up from 173 to 188 lb. ft.
Top speed therefore goes up from 124 to 127 mph (the overall gearing remains the same) and acceleration is improved by similar substantial margins. From 0 to 60 mph, for example, comes down from 8.9sec to 8 sec dead, and the 0 to 100 mph time is down from 27.8 to 23.9sec. The standing quarter-mile time is now just under 16sec.
Compared with other high performance cars in the same class, like the #Jaguar-XJ6 4.2, the BMW is substantially quicker. In general terms the XJ6 we tested in May this year worked out very close on performance with the #BMW-2800 . So the differences ore about the same as those already quoted. In making comparisons though it is all too easy to forget that the BMW has only a 3-litre engine, and despite its five-seater bulk and 27cwt kerb weight. Its acceleration is not much slower than that of the E-type 2+2 4.2 (0 to 60 mph 7.4sec, 0 to 100 mph 19.4sec) and from rest to 30 mph it is the equal.
To be truly fair this remarkable BMW performance should be compared with that of cars with a similar engine size. It is only when we look at the figures for the Broadspeed Bullit (0 to 60 mph 8.1 sec. 0 to 100 mph 24.5sec, top speed 124 mph) and the Uren Comanche (0 to 60 mph 8.4sec, 0 to 100 mph 24.6sec, top speed 132 mph), both cars being based on the Ford Capri 3000 with power output increased to 185-190 bhp, that the true mettle of the BMW starts to show up.
It is exactly true to the BMW tradition that the figures we measured on a car imported new and run-in here with no special preparation came precisely within the factory performance specification with very little effort on our part and virtually no recourse to special techniques other than two practice starts.
Getting the #BMW-3.0S away from rest quickly was easy. With about 4.000 rpm showing on the dead accurate rev counter, we dropped the clutch and shot away with several yards of wheelspin, reaching 30 mph in only 2.7sec. The tyres yelped with the snatch change into second, but not into third and top. There is a red warning on the rev counter from about 6,200 to 8,000 rpm but the engine rowed up to it so freely that we ran slightly over to about 6,500 before changing up.
The gearbox has the same ratios as on the 2800 but a change to stronger synchromesh makes the action slightly more notchy and a trifle rubbery when going into bottom at rest. It is still an ultra-light and tremendously precise shift, one which must surely be the envy of all other manufacturers.
The clutch is both light and progressive with plenty of bite, a truly remarkable achievement for a car this heavy svith so much torque. To be honest we did not notice the effect of not having a limited-slip differential (it had only a 50 per cent locking action in any case) and on decent tyres there is no shortage of traction even in the wet. Unfortunately the test car was shod with German made Veith-Pirelli radials which wore miserably lacking in wet road grip and seemed very prone to squeal in the dry. We know from our experience with the 3.0 CS coupe that #Michelin-XVR radials transform the car in this respect and it seems a pity that all #BMW 3-litres delivered to this country cannot come with thorn fitted.
If any aspect of the 2800 could be criticized, it was the brakes which did not seem to take kindly to hard use and became rather rough and rumbly when used hard from high speed. This characteristic has now been completely eliminated by changing to ventilated discs all round, backed up twin vacuum servos and duplicated hydraulic lines to the front callipers. Thus, if one circuit fails 75 per cent of the braking effect remains acting on all four wheels and if the other circuit fails. 60 per cent remains on the front wheels only. There is also the mechanical handbrake which recorded 0.33g from 30 mph with ease.
The brakes on the test car were a little lacking in initial bite (like many dual systems), and it took as much as 120lb effort to record an ultimate of 0.98g, which was the best possible on the ##Veith-Pirolli tyres. When checked out for fade, there was some initial fluctuation before the system settled down to give repeated stabilized readings which decreased as the car's speed dropped. This speed sensitivity was reversed with the brakes cold. 0.5g from 30 mph requiring as much as 50lb effort compared with only 30lb from 70 mph. The net result is that the brakes feel better the faster you travel, which is a nice way to have things in a car with this kind of performance.
Power steering is still an optional extra and it was fitted to the test car. It seems to have more feel than on the 2800. Slight front-end geometry changes give more negative camber to the outside wheel on a bend and the whole car feels better balanced as a result. Before there was initial understeer which gradually gave way to slight roll oversteer, but now the characteristic is virtually neutral, with immediate steering response at all times. It is probably because of this change that self-levelling rear suspension is now felt to be unnecessary.
Most of the time the ride is the same smooth and very refined affair it was on the 2800, but occasionally there seems to be some conflict between front and rear spring rates which sets up rather too much pitching on roads like French chaussee deformee, especially when the car is well laden. As well as the 1,600 miles we drove the 3.0S in this country we drove a similar model through France for another 200 miles or so mostly on lesser grade roads. It was here that we spent several hours in the back and tried the optional cloth seat trim.
Fittings and furniture
The driver sits quite high in the 3.0S with a commanding view over the large flat-deck bonnet and through the low-silled side windows. Pedal angles and operating arcs are good, provided you sit veil up to them, but the throttle is a bit awkward in the latter part of its travel. The short stubby gearlever is exactly whore it should be and the long-handled handbrake is well-placed between the seats. The 16.8in. dio. steering wheel feels too large and it is set just a shade too high.
Upholstery on the test car shown here was a kind of plaited pvc which despite its breathing capabilities was hot and sticky to sit on in warm weather. We much preferred the optional cloth which had the added advantage of softening the padding, or so it seemed, and giving a much more suitable air of luxury to the interior.
Front scats have redining backrests and detachable headrests (as on the 2800) and similar headrests arc now mounted also on the rear shelf for those in the back. They tended to get slightly in the way, of vision through the rear view mirror, even when folded as for down as possible.
There is at least 40in. of total rear legroom even with the front seats right back, and enough headroom for 6ft passengers. In the middle of the back seat is a folding armrest which tucks away to give ample three-abreast seating (56in. of hip room). Front seats feel slightly short in the cushion and much too firm for real comfort when covered in pvc.
Directly in front of the driver is just about the best integrated instrument panel we have ever seen. Under a single glass are sot a huge matching speedometer and rev counter, with the fuel gauge and a temperature gauge between them. Below in the centre is a strip containing all the warning lamps for ignition, oil pressure, main beam, low fuel level, handbrake on and low brake fluid level.
Under the right-hand side of the wheel rim is a stalk for the indicators (and left or right hand parking lamps with the ignition off), screen washers and vipers. The washers squirt when this lever is pulled up towards the wheel and at the same time the wipers start up and continue for several wipes after the water stops. Pushing in the end starts and slops the wipers alternately, their speed selector switch being right across the car in its original position to the left of the ashtray. As well at two continuous speeds there is an intermittent action with 5 sec. delay between double sweeps.
A similar stalk under the left of the wheel is the dipswitch and headlamp flasher. Side and headlamps are operated by a push-pull knob on the facia to the right of the instrument cluster. Headlamps extinguish automatically when the ignition is switched off.
Under the facia are three coloured push-buttons which light up when in use. One (amber) is for the heated back window, another (red) for the four-way hazard-warning flashers and the third (green) for fog lamps when fitted. The horn is sounded by push bars in each of the three steering wheel spokes.
The main interior mirror can be dipped at night and the standard outside one on the driver's door is fitted with smoked glass.
Heater controls are grouped in the centre of the facia, with a progressive air-blending temperature selector, an air intake lever which also operates the three speed booster fan, a distribution control and an air-flow regulator for the very effective ventilation system. Extractors in the rear quarters are now hidden under flush panels which replace the 2800s painted grilles.
In front of the passenger seat is a deep drop down glove box behind which is concealed the bonnet release and fuse box. In the centre ahead of the gearlever is a big hollow console, ideal for maps, guide books, camera or handbag. In each front door there is a pocket and two more in the backs of the front seats.
It is hard to think of a car less likely to need Spanners, but with every BMW 3-litre there comes the kind of tool-kit most mechanics would guard with their life. It is almost hidden in a padded compartment in the boot lid and contains spare bulbs, fuses. spanners, three new spark plugs. Allen keys, feeler gauges and even a spare wheel nut. Unfortunately the ring spanners do not have cranked ends, which makes them much loss useful.
The spare wheel is under the floor of the boot, so virtually all the luggage must come out in the event of a puncture. On the right inside the boot is a very useful stowage box where odds and ends can be packed away to prevent thorn rattling.
The BMW six cylinder cars were the first to use flat smooth sided "computer" keys which operate the lock tumblers by means of recesses drilled to different depths. The keys are therefore smooth in the pocket and much stronger. Two are provided in the form of a master key for all locks and a sub key for the doors and ignition only.
Accessibility under the bonnet is good, especially after the large flat air cleaner has been removed. The lid is self-supporting and it has a positive lock.
Four tungsten halogen headlamps give a tremendous blaze of light on main beam, but not much spread in contrast when dipped. Adjustment is critical but easily taken care of by means of plastic knurled screws under the bonnet on the backs of the light units.
It is very hard indeed to think of any car which makes even a fair showing against the BMW 3.0S when all its considerable appeal, m terms of performance, economy, refinement and carrying power, is taken into account. Some models arc more luxuriously trimmed inside (especially in the opinion of those who put great score by such things as real wood veneer and genuine leather), some are a little quieter to ride in and others perhaps more comfortable over undulating roads. But when it comes down to the real crux of how much fun there is in driving, how much verve the car naturally wants to display and how much satisfaction it gives the driver, the BMW 3.0S in our opinion is unmatched in the saloon car class.
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- Post is under moderationNEW 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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