High-Mile Club: One Million Miles In A 3-Series

Not many cars come with their own info stand...
Not many cars come with their own info stand...
A million miles is a long way. It will get you to the moon and back a little over four times. It will take you around the world almost 40 times. And it would take you 83 years to clock up if you stuck to the 12,000-mile national annual average.

It is also fewer than the number of miles that has passed under the wheels of an unassuming E30 BMW 3-series that was recently delivered to PH Towers as my weekend wheels.

There are some leggy cars out there, and surviving examples of the E30 3-series are far from immune from big miles, but how many of them have clocked up seven figures? A quick trawl through the classifieds failed to turn up any E30s showing more than 200,000 miles. The closest I got to the million was a younger E36 318i that had, according to its advert, amassed 610,000 miles, although I suspect the uploader had hit the '0' key one too many times.

Bodies in white - three generations of BMW
Bodies in white - three generations of BMW
So the million-mile BMW is a rare beast indeed, but it's at this point that I have to confess to a bit of a cheat. As you'll no doubt be able to deduce from the stickers, this car is a promotional tool for Mobil oils, and so all is not quite what it seems.

This particular car, a US-market 325is auto, was bought by Mobil back in 1990, its engine was filled with synthetic oil, and the car was plonked unceremoniously onto a rolling road. Where they ran it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For four years. It was serviced according to BMW service intervals and run at speeds varying between 45mph and 85mph.

Okay, so a million miles in lab conditions isn't exactly representative of the wear and tear that a car goes through during its lifetime, but it's still an impressive feat, and we wanted to see how the venerable straight-six felt.

Riggers feeling special, but not over-indulged,,,
Riggers feeling special, but not over-indulged,,,
First impressions are of an extremely tight car - albeit a rather tappety one. The sluggish four-speeed auto 'box does rob the straight six of some of its enthusiasm, but the car still pulls strongly and smoothly - that synthetic oil it used on the rolling road has clearly kept the motor singing sweetly. (Are you on the blag again Riggers? Ed)

The rest of the car is also a bit of a time-warp. According to the odo, the car has done around 40,000 'real' miles, so it's rather like driving a three-year-old car, just one that's been around for 20 years. It reminds you how good the 1980s 3-series was. It's taut, compact, lively, and is possessed of just enough luxuries to make you feel special without being over-indulged.

It's the sort of sporty, compact car that BMW no longer makes (though the 1-series coupe gets close) and, as well as testing the longevity of the old 325i, Mobil's million-miler has proved to me that I really, really want an e30 of my own. If only I could find a lower-mileage example...

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  • Insight 29 Jul 2009

    What a complete con, we all know that engine damage is done when the engine is cold and warmed up from the start. So doing this many miles under those conditions, is as impressive as having a three year long shower, at home, but getting out every day, and just leaving the water running.

  • Dooshbag 29 Jul 2009

    This is not representative of real life is it ? I reckon even a French thing could do that many miles in the same conditions.

  • G_T 29 Jul 2009

    Crap scientific method or not I remain impressed.

  • russellwatson17 29 Jul 2009

    Was reading in a bike mag not too long ago that a guy in the states had done 1,000,000 miles on his harley (i think) so they gave him a brand new one for a bit of advertising.

    Surely running the car constantly on a rolling road wouldn't do much as i would imagine most engine wear comes from revving it too high when its cost and constant slowing down / accelarating that you get in everyday driving

  • Working class 29 Jul 2009

    Didnt nissan run one of thier 2 litre engines on a test bed for 100,000 miles at 100mph or something like that?

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