There are many, many pretty cars in the PH classifieds, so I am not going to say the E30 BMW 3 Series – saloon, estate or convertible – is the prettiest; that would be to needlessly court controversy. But here’s the thing. It’s all very well making something like a Lamborghini Miura look slinky and sexy. Often, the practical bits, like leaving enough room for someone to actually drive the thing or providing a place to stick a washbag, so you can travel with a toothbrush and flannel, are conveniently forgotten. Designing everyday family transport is a far bigger challenge, because the fella or lass with the crayons and a blank sheet of A3 must consider such things and many more besides. That’s when the compromises kick in and possibly the frumpiness, too. But the E30 isn’t frumpy, is it?
Why isn’t it, though? I mean, just for a moment, don’t view it as an E30 – as the ubiquitous car you’ve always loved. Look at it through fresh and dispassionate eyes. What do you see, other than a bunch of straight lines and right angles? Apart from the wheels, the arches, the headlights and the badges, everything is straight up or straight down. If you were to describe what makes a car beautiful, it would be when a designer uses curves and swoops, not set squares. That’s not designing. And yet, isn’t the E30 a magnificent piece of design?
Even making it a convertible works. There are plenty of convertibles that don’t. The ones that look good with the roof up, instance, like the original Jaguar XK8, but when you put the roof down, there’s a mass of steel and rucked up canvas sticking up behind the driver’s head that rather spoils the effect. And don’t talk to me about the tonneau cover. Most people can’t be bothered to popper it on, and even if they do it’s nothing more than a big PVC sticking plaster with funny, protruding ears.
There are also cars that look better the other way around: handsome when the hood is down but an eyesore when it’s up: yes, Renault Megane II, I am thinking of you, with your fat, heavy-looking, unsavoury bottom. And then there are cars that were designed with such a high-powered ugly stick that they look comprehensively gawky whatever the hood status, like the only-its-mother-could-love-it Peugeot 308 CC. Or the Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible. Or the Crossfire… But not the E30 Convertible. It looks effortlessly pretty hood up or hood down, right?
So there you go. Claus Luthe designed a car with all the wrong tools, all the wrong lines and all the myriad compromises of the everyday, and yet, somehow, came up with a peach: a car that looks as fabulous today as it did on the day it arrived, and every single day in between. Have you ever heard a dissenting voice on the beauty of the E30 over its lifetime? I haven’t. It’s a work of genius: clean, pure, unfussy and perfect – not something you can say about BMW’s latest efforts.
You might think £13,950 seems like a lot for the everyday E30, even in convertible form, but think about what you’re getting. A supremely handsome car that will only ever be considered as such. And here, one that looks to be in great condition to show that beauty off perfectly. It comes with what’s described as smart-looking hood, unworn seats, wax oil in all its nooks and crevasses, and ‘folder full of service history’. Plus it’s a six-cylinder with a manual ‘box to top it all off. So, with my case laid out and brimming with confidence about why no one will have anything negative to say about this car’s design, I open the floor to comments. And, of course, duly expect to be shot down in flames.
Specification | BMW 320i Convertible (E30)
Engine: 1,990cc, straight-six, naturally aspirated
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 129 @ 6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 120 @ 4,300rpm
First registered: 1988
Recorded mileage: 71,000
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £13,950
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