An '80s Icon: The BMW E30
For many, the generation of BMW 3-series built from 1982 until 1994—identified by enthusiasts with the car’s chassis code, E30—represent the ultimate “Ultimate Driving Machine.” Crisp handling coupled with driver-oriented ergonomics and timeless looks make even the economy-minded “eta” model a joy to drive. There’s something about the car that is appealing to a broad range of people, even today, something that makes it a modern classic.
Like any good racehorse, pedigree is everything, so it’s important to understand where the E30 got its start. In 1962 BMW launched the Neue Klasse, a line of compact sedans and coupes, starting with the BMW 1500. Powered by the celebrated M10 4-cylindar engine, the 1500 became popular with both amateur racers and people seeking a 4-door sports car, something that wasn’t widely available at the time. The car was so popular, in fact, the manufacturing facilities couldn’t keep up with demand. That popularity led to the development of the 1800, the 1600, the 2000, and ultimately the venerable 2002. It was also during this time that Hofmeister kink became a thing (thank you Wilhelm).
As the 2002 neared the end of its production, BMW was faced with the tough task of putting together a successful follow up act to a highly popular car as well as creating a new compact car that moved upscale in line with their new 5-series. The resulting 3-series (chassis code E21, 1975–1983) did just that and introduced the world to BMW’s newest sports sedan. The E21 helped attract a new segment of buyers to BMW and was wildly successful; despite the commercial success, the press reviews were somewhat mixed. By the time the E30 was introduced in 1982, the E21 had established a loyal fan base, but updates to the suspension and interior helped make the new 3-series a vast improvement over its predecessor.