Shed of the Week: BMW 325ti Compact

This week we are going to have a short history lesson. Stop groaning at the back there, this stuff is good for you.

For a surprisingly long time after World War II, there was a gap between the handbuilt motors that only the rich could afford and the crappy heaps that ordinary people struggled to buy.

BMW's 1962-on 'Neue Klasse' 1500 brought quality to the middle earners and was pretty much the first affordable BMW. The other less well-known point about the NK is that it was the first BMW project to benefit from the substantial investment made in the company in 1960 by the mysterious Quandt half-brothers Herbert and Harald.

We won't dwell on the history of the Quandt family, who ran a few interesting businesses in Germany's difficult times, but we can dwell on the remarkable fact that they still have a powerful hold on BMW. Stefan (son of Herbert) is reputedly the single biggest BMW shareholder with a 'takeover blocking stake' of just over 25 per cent that was worth a handy 13.4 billion euros a year or so ago.

It's thought that Stefan is now worth something in the region of 21.7 billion euros. Not that he'd tell you that. The Quandts don't say a lot in public.

Anyway, the NK 1500 and the subsequent 02s led of course to the first 3 Series, the E21 of 1975, and to its high water mark model, the 1977 323i - which Shed thinks was the first small BMW to feature a six-cylinder engine. This concept of big power in a little body laid the foundations for the M3 and really opened up the idea of everyman performance.

The 3 Series success story goes on through the 1982 E30 to the 1990 E36, which was the basis of the 1993-on 3 Series Compact, a final-year example of which you are now looking at.

Many years ago Shed did some summer work in a Blackpool rock factory. That's where he met Mrs Shed, in fact. Using an enormous wooden paddle, she was in charge of stirring the enormous syrup vat, a job that is now done by a robot but back then it had to be done by someone with mighty tricep muscles and thighs like ham hocks.

Shed's job was to operate the guillotine that chopped the spearmint rock into foot-long lengths. In deference to the more delicate souls who read this rubbish, we'll let you put your own joke in here. The reason for mentioning all this is that whenever Shed sees a 3 Series Compact, or indeed Mrs Shed, he thinks of that rock-chopping machine.

If you don't count the 2002 Touring, which many would categorise as an estate anyway, the Compact was BMW's first hatchback. In the eyes of many it was a shame that such a momentous event in the company's history was marked by something that looked so clumsy.

Typically though, despite general press derision, the Compact achieved strong sales. It went on for over a decade from 1993 to 2004 and survived a whole platform change in 2001, when the E36 became the E46.

Put bluntly, one of the Compact's major targets was the class of lower-level business users who didn't qualify for a proper Three. From an aspirational point of view, that should have killed it stone dead, but it turned out that the power of the badge overrode everything. Spotty junior sales reps were more than happy to be able to toss a BMW key on the pub table, even if they might not have been quite so forthcoming about the stunted bootlid or the numbers on it.

The Compact generated a healthy supplementary market among trophy wives who liked the idea of smartly ramming into a tight space outside Kookai, plus at the end of the day it was still a rear-wheel drive BM, a fact that did not escape those of a drifting persuasion.

The 'ti' on the hatch might have offset some general negativity too. Those letters were added to remind folk of the Neue Klasse compact BMWs and the 02 cars that famously included the fuel-injected 2002tii, now a pricey classic.

As mentioned earlier, our Shed is from the last year of manufacture. It's also a 325i manual, so in Compact Bingo terms we're dib-dobbing all the right boxes. The seller clearly knows his stuff. This is one of two 325tis in his possession, and he is offering the wings off his older '02 car to replace the slightly frilly ones on this later '04 one. The advisory-free MOT tells us that this area is not a cause for concern.

Clearly the vendor is a Compact enthusiast who sees the value in both the 'big power, small footprint' ethos and the Compact's excellent handling reputation. He has spent good money on keeping those attributes alive. His car benefits from xenon lights and a healthy smear of Alcantara in the suitably sporty Sport cabin. With only 116k miles up and the good reliability of these petrol six Compacts - the fours can drink oil and the 320td diesels had turbo issues - there's plenty of life in this old, tail-docked dog yet.

Here's the ad.






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Comments (107) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Venisonpie 01 Feb 2019

    That's a cracking shed, negotiate the price of a set of rear tyres and away you go. Smoke about for several years to come.

  • Cambs_Stuart 01 Feb 2019

    Rusty wings aside, I like the look of this shed. Compact, 6 cylinders, rwd and a nice cabin. Like the alfa from a few weeks ago, it's good to see a car at this price that looks like it could be fun...

    Edited by Cambs_Stuart on Friday 1st February 06:20

  • carinaman 01 Feb 2019

    Shed is on a roll.

  • GTEYE 01 Feb 2019

    A good shed!

    Interesting that these are actually now quite well liked when at the time they were on sale they were pretty unloved...

  • Mogsmex 01 Feb 2019

    I dont follow BMW so apoligies if this is common folklore but at first glance does anyone else see a mid 90's Rover or is it just me ?

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