PH CARPOOL: BMW E30 325I AND VW T3 CAMPER
This week's carpool isn't exactly exotic, but it's as versatile a pairing as you're likely to get
Car: 1987 E30 325i, 1982 VW T3 Camper
Owned since: BMW - Sep 2007, Camper – Aug 2011
Previously owned: Renault Clio, Mazda 6, Megane Sport Diesel, MG ZT-T+, Audi A3 Sportback (current daily)
The BMW was something I had wanted for a while; my dad had a brand new 316 in 1983 and, though I was aware of it, I wasn't really impressed at the time. It was when looking at old photos I gradually grew to love the styling. I didn't really do much research, I just decided I wanted the 325 and a decent spec. I bought the 4 door Auto because it was quite a bit cheaper than the 2dr tech 1 sport manual I really fancied. It's solid - no rust - and starts first time every time. It also has a higher spec than many of the previous modern cars I have owned!
The Camper was a hilarious purchasing experience. I saw it on eBay one Thursday lunchtime, advertised in Newquay. We'd not actually thought about T3s - at the time we were looking at T4s with a view to buying one in early 2012. I e-mailed the link to my wife with a sentence that read "what do you think?" She e-mailed back almost immediately saying it was cute, which I read as "buy it" so I rang the guy that evening and asked loads of questions, made a cheeky offer and when it was accepted flew down to Newquay on the Saturday morning from Leeds (Yorkshire), handed over the cash and drove it home. It was a long day! But it didn't let me down, and never has.
Weirdly, despite the obvious issues associated with running older cars I have no regrets, and haven't had any major issues... apart from the auto box in the Beemer disintegrating, which was an excellent excuse to put a manual box in (Good work! – Ed).
The BMW is pretty thirsty, but it does have an air leak that is long overdue fixing, but it's pretty simple to work on. I do wish I had held out to find the tech 1 sport I wanted as values are on the up, but at the time this was what I could afford and ultimately I have been very lucky in that it's solid, reliable and has a good spec - it was a total punt! I bought it over the phone and the guy delivered it to Cheltenham when I was visiting a client...
The Camper is a bit of a money pit and I've had to set limits on what I spend on it, otherwise it could easily become ruinously expensive. My advice to anyone looking at either of these vehicles is e30zone.net or club80-90.co.uk. Invaluable resources both, and they have great buying guides and enthusiastic members in the technical sections who are only too willing to give advice (whether you want it or not).
The BMW is just a pleasure to drive. It's light and it's pretty quick, it has a wonderful soundtrack and because the pillars are all so thin the interior feels really spacious despite the car being quite small. I've changed the suspension, put M3 control arm bushes on it, cleaned the injectors and had the manual gearbox put in there.
The VW is just hilarious, it's slow and it's heavy, it has no PAS, the brakes are rubbish and the visibility (with all the cupboards etc) is non-existent, but it's impossible not to grin while you drive it. You get loads of waves from people as they bomb past you on the motorway, but as my sticker says... "You may get there first, but we have beer in the fridge."
The ever-increasing list of things to do on both, keeping on top of them is a never-ending task. Fortunately there's a lot of support out there in both communities and I have a fantastic T3 specialist not far away (Brickwerks).
Insurance is really quite reasonable on both vehicles as I have them on limited mileage classic policies through Lancaster and Adrian Flux. Parts are for the most part plentiful and working on the Beemer is easy enough for a competent DIYer.
Brickwerks in Honley help me keep costs down on the camper as they generally know what's up before I've finished describing the symptoms. Though other than some essential maintenance work and a few minor niggles it's been trouble-free. The Camper is a 1.6 non-turbo diesel and when I worked out the mpg it came out at about 35 on a recent trip to the Lakes. Fuel consumption on the Beemer is irrelevant; it's a toy.
Not done any track days, but the Beemer has been my companion on more than a few road trips. Before we had our daughter my wife used to work abroad from time to time, so I'd take the dog, a tent and a sleeping bag and just set off with no real plans of where I'd end up. Northumberland coastline, North Wales, Peak District, Lakes, wherever really.
The Camper has been up and down the A65 a few times, Camping in North Yorks & the Lakes. It's also been the 'base' when we've been camping with friends. The drive back from Newquay was my biggest adventure. I was on my own, in a bus I'd bought minutes earlier, having never seen it in the flesh, with my roadside assistance details, wallet, and a sleeping bag, I was almost disappointed I didn't break down as it robbed me of a good story!
No plans to sell either of them to be honest. The Camper will provide a few more camping trips for my family this year and we will use it over winter for days out too, it's great to just be able to stop and have a cuppa wherever you are. I hope to get a few longer trips in over the next few years.
The Beemer is currently SORN, but will be put back into action early next year in preparation for a trip to the Nurburgring with a few mates. I've some work to do on it before we go, new discs and pads, stainless brake hoses, new brake fluid and a bloody good service.
In the unlikely event I sold one of these two I'd be looking for another BMW, maybe an E28, or a 2002tii in Inca orange...