The BMW E30: 8 reasons why it’s a cult classic today

The E30 generation BMW 3-Series first made its global debut in 1982. Since then, over 2 million E30s rolled off the showroom floors in the 11-year production run, and it is one of the most talked about BMWs even in our present day and age. Here are 8 things that make the E30 so well appreciated even in today’s motoring society.

Its iconic styling.

The E30 generation 3-Series has unmistakable styling, and is easily distinguishable. Unlike the modern cars of today with a “family face” such as the current generation Mercedes-Benzes, the BMWs of the 1980s era had very distinct model-specific styling. With its boxy body lines and its signature twin helical round headlamps on either side, the E30 made itself stand out among the competitors of its time. The projector headlamps, the “Hofmeister kink” and twin front grilles can still be found on present BMW models.

Its tried-and-tested chassis

Complementing its good looks is the E30’s chassis. For a 37 year old car, it has the driving dynamics that have a true “go-kart” feel. The car is light on its feet, tipping the scales at 1120kg, allowing for quick changes in direction. The E30 uses a hydraulic power steering setup. This allows the car to have a more organic steering feel due to the pressurized fluids providing power assistance whenever you turn the wheel. This is a big contributing factor to the praised dynamism of the E30. With the E30 bagging impressive motorsport victories such as the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) European Touring Car Championship (ETCC), German Touring Car Championship (GTCC), and the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), it was dubbed by BMW as the Ultimate Driving Machine for good reason.

 The practicality

Now, fans appreciate the fact that the E30 3 Series is a four-seater, no matter the configuration: sedan, estate, coupe or convertible. With a wheelbase of 2700mm, a height of 1380mm, a length of 4400mm and a width of 1645mm, the E30, a C-segment car back in the day, has dimensions similar to a B segment sedan of today. For instance, the current Honda City is very similar in dimensions, with a 2600mm wheelbase, while being 40mm longer than the E30 at 4440mm and is 50mm wider at 1695mm. Compared with its modern counterpart, the G20 BMW 3 Series, the E30 has a 151mm shorter wheelbase, is 309mm shorter and 182mm slimmer, as well as 62mm lower from roof to ground. Talk about cars growing!

Owner support

One of the perks of owning an E30 is the sheer amount of support readily available to you from fellow owners. A UK based website called e30 zone is one such avenue where owners from around the world share knowledge about the machine, and even show DIY tutorials from simple things like oil changes all the way to a nut-and-bolt engine restoration. Other avenues closer to home such as E30Malaysia on Facebook helps you to source parts locally, which would be costly to import from overseas.

Its sheer customizability

Since it has been around since 1983, there are plenty of parts available for the E30 from various body kits such as the factory optional M Tech kits, to the full send Rocket Bunny and Liberty Walk kits. The E30 from the factory  came with a range of engines starting with a 1.6 litre carbureted 4 cylinder all the way to the 3.2 liter straight-six from the E24 6 series. Outputs range from 100 – 168bhp from the factory, for a car that weights from 1200kg and below. With these engines being around for a long time now, there is a myriad of modification opportunities going from simple air filters to extremities such as twin turbo kits or superchargers, from brands like Hartge and AC Schnitzer. The E30 models had an iron block engine regardless of the iteration, which contributes to its robustness. Needless to say you will have more than adequate performance with the E30.

 Its relatively low maintenance

Don’t let that classic car status scare you away. With over 2 million E30s produced, spares are in abundance. Anything under the sun can be found, from a simple cigarette lighter all the way to full on body panels, engines and gearboxes. With so many made, naturally the supply of parts is just as high as the demand, allowing for the not so eye wateringly expensive prices the modern BMWs command. With sparse electronics, this means that the wiring is easy to repair and unless you own a concourse-winning example, you need not take your car to a BMW dealer for a service. For reference’s sake, here are the prices of some of the serviceable components:

  • An oil change costs anywhere between RM110 to RM350 for 4 litres of 10W40.
  • An original Hengst oil filter will set you back around RM35,
  • Brake pads will set you back around RM300 for a full OEM set.
  • Discs start from RM110 per disc.
  • Lower arms start at RM180 for a pair.
  • Suspension absorbers can set you back RM800 for a reconditioned original set of 4.
  • Engine mountings start from RM60 per piece.

Its price point

The cherry on top of the cake has got to be the prices of E30s right now. With decent examples that need some work going for RM14k, the entry into the E30 realm of ownership need not require robbing a bank, even though they can only be bought in cash. RM14k is very similar to the downpayment for a new 2020 Honda Civic 1.5 TC-P on a 90% loan.

No doubt, for a car of this age, there’s quite a bit of upkeep that’s required, plus the safety net of a warranty rests in the past, 3 decades ago. But if you are willing to put in the effort, then the rewards are worth it. For RM14000, you’d be buying a rear wheel drive, german sports saloon with a rich motorsports heritage. And most importantly, would not burst the bank to maintain.

Its increasing value

With mint E30 M3s commanding crazily expensive prices considering their rarity, the “non-M” E30s have started to pique the interest of collectors. You could end up turning a profit with these cars if you’re crafty with your purchase.

The E30 comes from a time when BMW touted their creations as the Ultimate Driving Machines, just take any relatively well maintained E30 for a spin and you’ll immediately know why it is deserving of such a title. With all said and done, the BMW E30 regardless of the model has earned the respect of enthusiasts, collectors and commoners alike. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Shane Michael Nalpon

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