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BMW E30 Three Series - Convertibles


Baur TC "Top Cabriolets"

Although they work on cars other than BMWs Stuttgart coach builder Baur had cut their teeth on 2002 targa style convertibles (not actually called targa as Porsche owned the copyright). They followed up with a successful and popular E21 version and it was no surprise when they released an E30 called the TC2. This was done in co-operation with BMW as there were no initial plans for a factory soft top. The car had a folding rear roof with plastic window and removable roof section that fitted in the boot. It kept the B pillar which gave the car more strength and good roll over protection.

BMW e30 Baur convertible

Baur 320i with the roof down.

Baurs could be ordered from the normal BMW dealer chain in any engine and trim combination available for the hard topped cars. It's not uncommon to see a 316 Baur with steel wheels and wind up windows nor a fully loaded 323i. In all Baur sold nearly 14,500 examples, a figure which I must admit surprised me.

Baurs have a strong frame which forms a protective roll bar and is welded inside the bodywork, it's a well engineered design. However if rust is visible externally it normally means that what lies underneath is past repair.

BMW e30 Baur convertible

Close up of the Baur roof assembly.


BMW e30 convertible

Early car with optional M-Tech 1 body pack.

Factory Cabriolets

BMW's own open topped E30 started production after the 1986 facelift in June and was available alongside the Baur although produced in far larger numbers. Production carried on until 1993, after the saloon had been replaced by the E36 in 1991. They were available with most of the engines and options, there was even a rare (and slightly pointless) M3 version.

BMW e30 convertible

One of the last chrome bumper cars (chrome painted red).

Unlike the Baur the factory car needed significant chassis strengthening to cope with the removal of the B and C pillars. The first thing the driver notices are the two large girders welded to the inner sills along the base of the door and making the foot wells a little narrower. The firewall was strengthened and the strut tower had large webs to tie them in to the inner wings more effectively. The windscreen surround and A pillars have strengthening inserts and there are numerous extra webs to connect body panels. The rear quarter panels are different and the wheel housing is 28mm lower. In the boot BMW added a 25kg steel weight to damp out torsional vibrations! The scuttle of the rear roof surround protrudes into the boot and adds flex resistance to the upper body. These cars are not well suited to very stiff suspension as it can cause scuttle shake, as is the case with most 80s and 90s cabriolets.

BMW e30 convertible

Strut tower strengthening webs.

The roof material has three layers; a synthetic outer, rubber inner and cloth interior. Spring steel cables are used to tension the roof. The rear window is plastic and originally came with a protective cover for use when stowed. It is kept clear by a rear blower motor of it's own.

Roof operation could be manual, electric (dreaded!) or hydraulic. Many failures are caused by seized joints on the frame, to avoid this pivots and linkages should be lightly lubricated from time to time. It also greatly reduces the strain on the mechanism if you get into the habit of manually helping the motors a little. These are not easy things to work on if broken. If you can't fix it yourself take it to someone who's worked on one before otherwise you're paying a mechanic to learn by trial and error at your expense. As far as replacement hoods go you get what you pay for and the genuine BMW part is worth the extra.

BMW e30 convertible hard top

Inside the optional hard top, note different rear seat.

The late 87 facelift didn't occur until September 89 on this model, so far more cars have the chrome bumpers and old style tail lights. In practice these were expensive cars and could hang around in dealerships so it's not uncommon in the UK to see them on G or even H plates.

Most E30s were built at Dingolfing but the cabriolets were produced in the Regensburg plant, the home of the 5 and 7 series. It's generally agreed that Regensburg cars rust less and are slightly better made so this implies that cabriolets are less rusty and this is often the case.

BMW e30 convertible

M-Tech 2 body pack, shadowline trim and 15" cross spoke alloys.

Special Editions

There were run out 318i MotorSport Design editions in vibrant electric blue and neon green colours with matching trim piped in body colour. Sadly these had the M40 8 valve engine and not the M42 16 valve used in American and South African cars.

These are not to be confused with the 325i Motorsport Edition, one of the most desirable E30s ever. These had //M-Tech suspension, leather including door cards and centre console and an optional limited slip differential. They came in both M-Tech 1 and 2 flavours depending on year, the later cars had highly sought after 15" cross spoke alloys painted in Nargaro Silver. All automatics were the EH sport type.

BMW e30 MotorSport Design edition convertible

MotorSport Design edition interior.