Is the new BMW M3 Touring out of reach? Well, I’ve got something slower, less well-equipped, more likely to break down, less crashworthy and, as estates go, not really that practical. But – and here’s the wonderful thing about the idiocy of loving cars – it might be just as, if not more, pleasurable to own. That’s not a guarantee, mind, but what's guaranteed for those on a budget is that this BMW 325i Touring is a lot, lot cheaper than a new G81. In fact, this is so cheap I had to do a bit of a double-take when I saw how clean it looks.
Sure, it has 122,000 miles on the clock but it’s 35 years old. What did you expect? And when you average that out it’s only 3,500 miles per year, which is nothing. Yet in the cover photo it looks really tidy, but then my usual scepticism appeared and I put that down to viewing it on my phone's tiny screen. Of course a 35-year-old E30 for £5,995 isn’t going to be that clean; it’ll have brown acne covering its white bodywork when I zoom in. So I did, but blow me down, nothing of consequence there. Even the rear wheel arches are smooth and white, which is rarely the case.
To me, it all points to this car’s home being mainly a dry garage rather than a street, but I’m not pretending it’s immaculate. It has signs of a life lived, such as the little scrape on the bumper rubber on its nearside front corner and, just above that, a corresponding small dent in the wing. A minor parking blunder, though, rather than a sign of wilful abuse. I’ll wager a rare parking woe, too, bearing in mind how tidy the alloys are after all those years. Some new propellers for the centre caps wouldn’t go amiss, though.
Having said all that, it's often the interior pics – rather than the exterior shots – that cause me to draw breath when a car’s been around as long as this one. You can look after the paintwork by choosing wisely where you park and regular polishing, but wear and tear on seat bolsters is almost inevitable. Well, this one’s showing some wear, fair enough, but no tears. Remarkably, the driver’s seat bolster is all velour with no sponge peeping though, and as for the rest of the interior it’s highly respectable. The only sign of the miles is the top section of the steering wheel, which is quite shiny and a wee bit bald.
It's not only the condition that makes this car stand out. Obviously, it’s an E30 and most of us have a soft spot for those, but the Touring is especially handsome. And the story about how the wagon came to be is interesting, too. If you’ve not heard it before, I’ll give you the short version. It was the result of a one-man skunkworks operation called Max Reisböck. He was a BMW employee in the mid-‘80s and at that time BMW didn’t do an estate car. But Reisböck and his wife had two kids, and when it came to the family’s summer holiday he needed more space – not just for luggage, but bikes and the like.
I don’t know about you, but if I needed more space, I’d probably have bought a Volvo estate. Clearly, Reisböck’s brain is more lateral and impressive than mine. Although, in my defence, I’m not a BMW prototype engineer. He was, which meant he had the necessary skills to do something pretty out there: he cut the back off an E30 saloon. It was a 323i he’d bought used, and he made it into an estate. This wasn’t some lash up, either. It was a properly engineered and well-finished conversion. It was so well done, in fact, that after he drove his estate to work the BMW board finished a meeting early to have a look. They said build it, and told the designers not to mess with the shape. Naturally they tried to – designers cannot help themselves – but they had their wrists slapped and the E30 Touring went into production in 1987 looking by and large the same as Reisböck’s original.
Right, that was a bit of a tangent, sorry. Back to this example. The other reason this car is so appealing is it’s a 325i, which means six, smooth cylinders and plenty of torque. No doubt appreciated by a previous owner, judging by the tow bar on the back. And it’s a manual gearbox. I am not sure how rare that combination was back then, but I think it represents a good find today. It also has an optional electric roof, electric front windows, the original handbooks and two keys. So where’s the catch? Surely there is one? £5,995 for a sought-after car that appears to be in good shape is too good to be true these days. Well, rather than a catch, let’s call it a clarification. The advert states:
‘On first inspection the car looks to be in very sound order but was last used in 2016 so will require recommissioning mechanically before going back on the road and therefore is sold as a project. The car runs and drives but will need to be trailered away.’
Here’s the thing: the fact that it drives and runs tells me there's at least some life left in the old dog yet, and I just cannot believe it’s completely rotten underneath when it’s that good up top. I’ll repeat what I said at the start, ‘that’s not a guarantee,’ but it’s often trims and interior pieces that are the hardest to source and you shouldn’t need too many of those. So as projects go, I’m going to hedge my bets here and suggest this one’s not going to be too involved. Almost certainly it'll be far less involved than the mega project Max Reisböck embarked on all those years ago – the one that created the car you see here. It's gotta be worth a punt, right?
Specification | BMW 325i Touring (E30)
Engine: 2,494cc, straight six, naturally aspirated
Transmission: five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 170 @ 5,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 163 @ 4,300rpm
MPG: 30 (ish)
Recorded mileage: 122,000
Year registered: 1988
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £5,995
1 / 5
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