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BMW E30 Three Series - Tourings

BMW had made a 2002 three door touring in the 70's but despite a prototype there was no E21 equivalent. There had been some after market E28 tourings but no factory model.

BMW e30 touring 3 door

Rare three door example.

All of this was a problem for BMW employee and bodywork specialist Max Reisbock who wanted an E30 with more space, so in 1985 he turned his 323i into a five door. It took Max over 500 hours but turned out much as we see the final cars today. This was the only 323i touring as by the start of production the 2.3 had been replaced by the 2.5. The car was shown to BMW chairman Eberhard von Kuenheim who immediately decided it had to go into production and so a new class of car, the performance estate, was born. In thanks for his work BMW gave Max the last car off the production line in 1994.

BMW e30 touring

All we love about the E30 but with more practicality.

There were several three door tourings some of which survive to this day in the wild. But all main production cars were five door. None of them made it to the US market however.

Tourings were made from 1988 (so no chrome bumper cars) until February 1994 which makes them the final E30s produced. They came with the M40 1.6, 1.8 or the M20 2.0, 2.5. They weighed 80kg more than a saloon and in the case of the four cylinder cars had a 4.27:1 instead of 4.10:1 differential to help with performance. Six cylinder versions have the battery in the engine bay instead of the usual boot mount.

Unlike smaller engined saloons the tourings had rear disc brakes regardless of engine size. ABS was fitted to a good number of UK spec 318i tourings, the only M40 318i to have ABS.

BMW e30 touring

The "beer crate" gap.

Partly in order to help with rigidity and partly to keep costs down the car had a fairly narrow rear opening. The normal tail lights were used and it was joked the gap between them was the correct size for a crate of beer. In practice it reduces the ease of loading considerably for larger objects and limits the cars practicality. That said I had one and soon got used to being able to carry larger loads such as bicycles. Once you have a touring you tend not to want to give up the load space. As a result I'm on my fourth, an E46 after two E36s and my original E30.

The rear seats splits in the middle unlike the E36 and later tourings which had a 60/40 divide with one side having a rear armrest, a feature missing from the narrower E30. The seat also folds differently from later tourings. You pull the seat base forwards around it's front pivot, if you need a few inches more space it can be easily removed. You then push the seat backs forwards to lie flat but you need to remove the rear headrests first. The area under the seat cushion is carpeted. It's not an elegant solution compared to the current cars and points to the speed at which it was produced in a body that was never designed to have a folding rear seat.

BMW e30 touring

50/50 split rear seat.

The load bay cover is a long bar containing a roller blind which hooks at the back. Optionally it could have a net style dog guard which hooked to the roof lining. For some reason these covers always seem to be missing from used E30s but not later models. The boot has side pockets of a decent size one of which contains a tool roll in place of the usual boot lid tool kit.

Tourings don't handle much differently from a regular E30. They had the larger front struts from the 325i and a larger size rear anti-roll bar. Rear wash / wipe was standard but other than that they could be as luxurious or spartan as any other E30 depending upon the depth of the buyer's pockets.

BMW e30 touring

An elegant design that never seemed to be an afterthought.

Personally I always thought they looked better than the four door but not as good as a two door. The only problem they have over a conventional E30 is that they tend to rust below the rear window as a black rubber trim strip tends to collect dirt and moisture behind it. The strip isn't hard to remove for cleaning behind. If you're after an E30 don't rule the touring out, they're superb cars to own and I think they look superb with a charm all their own.