BMW E3 Series


The E3 was BMW's first large saloon since the 502 series, the company's first real post-war car. The design of the E3 used the same principles as it's ground breaking and highly successful Neue Klasse small saloons. The suspension used the same Macpherson strut and semi-trailing arm layout to ensure class leading handling, only minor geometry changes were required.

What distinguished the E3 from it's rivals? Quite simply this was a driver's car first and a big luxury car second, a true BMW. And it looked just marvellous.


In the US the legendary Max Hoffman shaped the course of the E3. The E3 was a great car but that came at a price. Hoffman ordered a US only model entitled the Bavaria, this was a stripped down 2800 and sold at a much more competitive price. The fact was a lot of customers were attracted by the low base price only to spend extra on more equipment! In 1972 the Bavaria became a 3.0.

The 2500 didn't even come with front head rests or power steering as standard. But larger models were more luxurious often coming with Boge Nivomat self levelling rear suspension, LSD, steel sunroof and electric windows.

The 2.8L, 3.3Li and the US 3.0L, 3.3L were long wheelbase models which arrived in 1974. The extra length was used for rear legroom in same way as the later seven series L models.

There was a very rare estate conversion, I think was made by Langley Motors in the UK. I have a few somewhat out of focus pictures but they're good enough to use on the site. I was offered a 3.0S estate in 2000 but I already had too many cars and didn't have space for it, shame.


<BMW E3 3.0Si

The world's nicest 3.0Si?

<BMW E3 saloon

E3 looked great from all angles.

<BMW E3 Police car

Even the Police had good taste in the 70's.

<BMW E3 3.0Si

Very nice, but the wheels aren't original.


All E3's used the new M30 "Big Six" engine with single overhead cam. This engine carried on until 1993 in the 735i and 535i, a testament to it's advanced 1968 design. Yet in racing form in the 3.0CS turbo it could produce over 750bhp! The 2500, 2800 and 3.0S used twin Zenith carbs whille the injection models used Bosch Jetronic-D electronic injection.

Model Body styles Engine Produced
Power / Weight
(bhp / 1000kg)
Final drive ratio
(manual / auto)
2500 Saloon M30 1968-77 1340 112 3.64 Disc/Disc
2800/L Saloon M30 1968-77 1340 127 3.45 Disc/Disc
3.0S Saloon M30 1971-77 1380 130 3.45 Vented Disc/Disc
3.0Si Saloon M30 1972-77 1380 145 3.45 Vented Disc/Disc
3.3Li Saloon M30 1974-77 1535 131 ? Vented Disc/Disc


See the engine details page for power figures. US power figures for this car were quite a bit lower than euro figures and the cars were a little heavier.

Known Problems


These cars have a lot in common with the E24 six series, so the problems section there is worth a read.

See M30 engine problems.

ZF HP 22 automatic transmissions can fail if revved strongly whilst in neutral or park.