Prices are rising for the E30 – but as finding a good one can be tricky, we’ve done the hard work for you
Germany – the home of Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Sabine Schmitz, Michèle Mouton, the Nürburgring and three of the world’s fastest production vehicles. Germany is in love with the car.
It’s only natural, then, that this country also maintains the legendary Autobahn, as well as sits at the forefront of technological advancement and motoring phenomena. It seems that relentless reliability, an air of indestructability and a sporting pedigree are common to all car brands under the German umbrella – and the BMW 3 Series E30 has these attributes in spades.
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On top of that, values for the E30 are set to skyrocket. What was once a cheap hack, albeit with supreme handling ability, has turned into a prime investment. Once available in the classifieds for less than £1k, healthy examples now change hands for more than 15 times that. Those who recall the car sitting in the scrapyard and dodgy dealer forecourts may consider the formerly cheap runabout to be unworthy of such a price tag – but you get what you pay for.
While you can still pick up one today for as little as £1500, at this bargain price it’s unlikely to be in good condition. For this money think more along the lines of a yobbo’s modified – and likely once wrapped around a tree – monstrosity. Track down a solid E30, however, and you’ll find it’s not only very wise monetary investment but also a sure way to restore your passion for driving. Guaranteed.
The unwritten rule dictates that BMWs are often driven ‘to the max by drivers on a budget’. For this reason alone, it’s imperative that you make sure your potential purchase comes with at least a semblance of a service history. Even better is if the folder of information is the substantial size the car’s age warrants; with this kind of documentation, you’ll reap the rewards once the E30 is worth its weight in gold.
If you can get your hands on a convertible in good condition, book your luxury Caribbean holiday for around five years’ time. The price tag for a smart E30 drop-top is predicted to rise faster than any other German convertible on the market.
While the E30 is fun, aging gracefully and relatively inexpensive compared with its Mercedes rivals, certain traits highlight a lifetime of abuse. The sills and wheelarches rust badly, and repairs have often been botched by a DIY mechanic or shifty garage. Fixing this up can cost in excess of a grand.
A further problem is the fuel pump, which tends to self-destruct at around 90,000 miles – nearly all of these vehicles will have covered a minimum of that distance. If you can hear a sound like Brian Blessed humming in the back seat, then your pump is on its last legs. Oil seals also perish prematurely, and if the E30 omits blue-ish exhaust smoke then you’re in trouble.
Engine noise may indicate worn valve gear due to neglected oil changes. If the engine is old and worn, don’t suddenly switch from whatever is in there to synthetic, unless you fancy the idea of potential sleepless nights as it slowly ruins your life.
With their straight-six power paired with rear-wheel drive and perfectly balanced handling, the higher-spec models are the ones to find. Nothing gets you closer to a driver’s experience than a pure-bred BMW, and these are prime examples.
The previous models’ wild oversteer was curbed by this stage, although wet weather will continue to scare the hell out of you. Meanwhile, although the engine is not particularly frugal, neither does it drink like a fish.
The space up front is ample even for the tallest passengers. However, the seats are huge, meaning rear legroom isn’t comfortable for anyone with normal-sized legs.
These cars are rapidly disappearing from UK, US and European roads, so now is the right time to grab a good one. Healthy specimens can still be found, but trawling through their foibles and potential issues can test the patience of a saint. However, don’t panic – AutoClassics has got this prime example in our classifieds. It’s even in the best colour…