BMW e30

E30 – The Story

e30 BeginingsProduced between 1983 and 1994, the BMW E30 is one of the most iconic cars of its time. Built to suit everyone’s needs, the E30 came as a four door saloon, a two door coupé, a convertible or an estate. Under the bonnet you will find a straight-four or a straight-six engine, powered by petrol or diesel. The power range goes from the 90 hp of the 1.6 carburetor model, to 235 hp developed by the 2.7 liter fuel injected straight-six. You could choose from a range of four manual and three automatic transmissions, to get the most of the engine’s power down to the wheels. To the rear wheels, of course, because the old bimmer is an undiluted drivers’ car. Also, some of the models were all-wheel drive for improved control and stability.

It may be old, but the E30 is still as much of an ultimate driving machine, as the modern models from nowadays are. Built for the passionate drivers, the E30 was the perfect choice for those who appreciate sheer driving pleasure, sharp handling and fast acceleration more than ride comfort and optional extras that distract your attention from the joy of driving.

The birth of the “M3” legend

e30 BMW M PowerTuned and raced on the circuits by speed addicts, or used by parents for the school run, the BMW E30 gained a lot of popularity thanks to its versatility, engines and most of all, because of the way it handles. That’s why, in 1986, BMW’s “M” division decided to use their racing experience and knowledge to create a road legal speed machine that was fast and handled like a racing car, but could also accommodate five adults and their luggage.
The M3 resulted, and it was a real hit. The engineers modified the 2.3 liter straight four engine, and boosted its power up to 238 hp. They also modified the exhaust, the front suspension, and put more efficient brakes with special calipers and rotors, that were able to deal with the car’s new top speed and acceleration. On the exterior, the car was pretty much alike the standard E30, but 12 body panels were replaced, to improve aerodynamics and to make the taller, wider tires fit.

Engine types

Following on from the E21, the E30 was fitted with M10 straight-4 and M20 straight-6 engines. The 316 used a 1766 cc M10 fed by a carburetor and producing only 66 kW (90 PS; 89 hp), but this allowed BMW to offer a cheap, entry-level car in the range. The 318i had the same M10 engine, but with Jetronic fuel injection, pushing power to 77 kW (105 PS; 103 hp) and improving fuel economy. Finally, the 320i (2.0 L M20 with 92 kW (125 PS; 123 hp)) and 323i (2.3 L M20 with 105 kW (143 PS; 141 hp)) completed the range. Later, in 1985, a 2.5 L version of the M20 boosted the power of the top model to 125 kW (170 PS; 168 hp), replacing the old 323i. The 325ix (All Wheel Drive model) had a 2.5 liter M20 with 125 kW (170 PS; 168 hp) (same as the 325i).

BMW e30 325i engineEurope and North America received an economy version called the 325e (the e stands for the Greek letter eta, signifying efficiency). Strangely enough, the engine was the largest available in the chassis, aside from the rare South African version which was available with the 3.3 L M30. The 2.7 L had a longer stroke than the 2.5 L, with a more restrictive head, four cam bearings instead of seven (less internal friction), and softer valve springs. This resulted in 90 kW (122 PS; 121 hp). In 1987, the E30 was revised. The revision contained two significant changes in the engine department. First, the M20 straight-6 engines changed from Bosch Jetronic to Bosch Motronic. This boosted the 320i to 95 kW (129 PS; 127 hp) and the 325i to 126 kW (171 PS; 169 hp), all the while improving the economy. The M10 was replaced by the new, belt-driven cam M40 which also incorporated Motronic injection. The new 318i now had 85 kW (116 PS; 114 hp) and was noticeably smoother than the old version. A new engine had been developed, a chain-driven cam 4 cylinder M42 1.8 L DOHC 16 V engine creating the 318is in 1989. This is the most modern engine built to the E30 (this engine has been later used in early 318i E36s).

The 316 was replaced by a 316i, which used a 1600 cc version of the M40, producing 75 kW (102 PS; 101 hp). Not quite as torquey as the 66 kW (90 PS; 89 hp) 1766 cc M10 it replaced, it nevertheless offered superior performance. In some markets, like South Africa, the old M10-powered 316 continued a lot longer, gaining the new bumpers of the other models. In South Africa, The 316i was released in 1991.

Transmission gear ratios

4-speed manual 5-speed manual 3-speed automatic 4-speed automatic
available on 316, 318i 316, 316i, 318i, 320i 323i standard, 325i 323i sports 316, 318i 320i, 323i 325i
1st 3.76 3.72 3.83 3.76 2.48 2.73 2.48
2nd 2.04 2.02 2.20 2.33 1.48 1.56 1.48
3rd 1.32 1.32 1.40 1.61 1.00 1.00 1.00
4th 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.23 - 0.73 0.73
5th - 0.81 0.81 1.00 - - -
reverse 4.10 3.45 3.46 4.10 2.09 2.09 2.09

E30’s retirement

e30 RetirementIn 1990 the E30’s successor was launched. With modern design and better engines, the E36 was also a commercial success, but true fans didn’t give up on their beloved E30. The last one rolled out of the production line in 1994, but thanks to its great reliability we can still see them today on the roads. Nowadays, the E30 is for many people, their first car. And we can honestly say that it sets a pretty high standard!