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CATEGORIES (articles) > Donor vehicle information > BMW > BMW E30 3 Series

BMW E30 3 Series

Manufacturer: BMW
Production: 1982–1992
Predecessor: BMW E21
Successor: BMW E36
Class: Compact/family luxury car
Body style: 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door sedan
5-door station wagon
Platform: FR
Engine: I4, I6
1.6-3.2 L, 73-236 kW
Related: BMW M3
BMW E30 318i coach
1987 BMW E30 325es w/"diving board" bumper

The E30 automobile platform was the basis for the 1982 through 1991 BMW 3-Series. It was the successor of the BMW E21 in 1982 and was replaced by the BMW E36 in 1992. BMW continued to produce the cabriolet (convertible) E30 well into 1993. The M3 cabriolet was never officially offered for sale in North America; it was offered only for the European market.

This was also the first platform that BMW introduced their famous Motorsports division 3-series, the BMW M3. A widened version of the E30 front suspension and the drivetain from the E30 325i were used in the BMW Z1 roadster.

The E30 3 series was produced in four body styles, a 4 door saloon, a 2 door coach (actually just a 2 door variant of the saloon), a 5 door estate (marketed as the "touring"), and a two-door convertible. The 325ix was produced from 1988 to 1992, and featured all-wheel drive. It was available as a two-door (coach) or a four-door (sedan). The BMW M3 utilised a widened and heavily redesigned and restyled variation of the 2 door body style. The M3 shares few parts with other E30 models.

The primary distinctive feature of the BMW E30 models produced in 1984-1987 are the elongated front/rear chrome bumpers. These bumpers are commonly known as "diving boards." In 1988, the chrome bumpers were shortened by revising the cover/fillers and shortening the shocks. In 1989 the chrome bumpers were finally replaced with shorter black plastic bumpers. The later model plastic bumper can fit onto a 1988 E30 without any modifcations. This is not the case with E30s older than 88. The original chrome bumpers can be tucked in by draining the bumper shocks and compressing them to shorten the bumper. This, however, in the event of a colision, removes the ability of the shocks to absorb impacts and transfers the force directly to the chassis, which is more likely to cause serious damage even in low-speed scenarios.

The cars were powered by a range of inline 4 cylinder (BMW M10 , BMW M40 , & BMW M42) and inline 6 cylinder (BMW M20 and BMW M21) engines, with both petrol and diesel power. Power output for the engines ranges from 140 N·m torque for the 1.8 L (1766 cc) 4 cylinder engine, to 230 N·m torque from the 2.7 L (2693 cc) 6 cylinder petrol engine. The E30 BMW M3 was fitted with a 4 cylinder engine (BMW S14) producing more power, but less torque.


Following on from the E21 the E30 was fitted with M10 4cyl and M20 straight six engines. The 316 used a 1766 cc M10 fed by a carburettor and producing only 66 kW but this allowed BMW to offer a cheap entry level car in the range. The 318i used the same M10 but with Jetronic injection, pushing power to 77 kW and improving economy. Finally the 320i (2.0 M20 with 92 kW) and 323i (2.3 M20 with 111 kW) completed the range.

Later a 2.5 version of the M20 boosted the power of the top model to 120 kW.

In 1988 the E30 was revised. The revision contained two significant changes in the engine department. First the M20 straight six motors changed from Bosch Jetronic to Bosch Motronic, this boosted the 320i to 95 kW and the 325i to 125 kW, all the while improving the economy, specially on the 320i. The M10 was replaced by the new belt-driven cam M40 which also incorporated Motronic injection. The new 318i now has 85 kW and was noticeably smoother than the old 77 kW version. The 316 was replaced by a 316i, which used a 1600 version of the M40 producing 75 kW. Not quite a torquey as the 66 kW 1800 M10 it replaced it nevertheless offered superior performance. On some markets, like South Africa, the old M10 powered 316 continued a lot longer, gaining the new bumpers of the other models. In the South Africa fans had to wait till 1991 for the 316 to make way for the 316i.

Special models:

In addition to the famous M3 there where other special models of E30. BMW South Africa's Motorsport division created the 333i in 1986 by fitting the 3.3 M30 "big six" of the 733i to a 2-door E30. The resulting 333i was a major success in saloon car racing in that country and is now a collectors item. These cars were built with help from Alpina in Austria featured some interesting compromises like forcing the buyer to choose between airconditioning (vital in South Africa) or power steering. They were only built in small numbers in 1986. Later when it became clear that South Africa would not be getting the M3, the 325iS was created. Initially this was merely a 325i 2-door fitted with a bodykit and a close-ratio gearbox (improving acceleration at the expense of top speed and economy) but more changes where made to keep the car competitive in South African saloon car racing. Nevertheless, these cars were always sold to the public. This culminated in the 325iS EvoII of late 1991. By now several body panels were made of aluminium, preventing the car from being washed by automated car washes, and the M20 engine has grown to 2.7 and now produced 155 kW.

E30 production totals
1982 15580
1983 218201
1984 285134
1985 297886
1986 329460
1987 316075
1988 269074
1989 257307
1990 246818
Total 2235535

Further reading

  • Jeremy Walton (2001). BMW 3-Series Collectors Guide: Generation 1 and 2 including M3. Motor Racing Publications. ISBN 1899870555 (paperback).
  • R.M. Clarke (1990). BMW Series 3 - 4 Cylinder Cars Gold Portfolio. Brooklands Books. ISBN 1855201496 (paperback).
  • A.K. Legg & Larry Warren (1996). BMW 3- & 5-Series Haynes Service and Repair Manual. Haynes. ISBN 1859602363 (hardcover).
  • Various authors (1993). BMW Serie "3" (Modelos después 1983) Estudios técnicos y documentación. ANETO-ETAI. ISSN 11347155 (paperback).

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