This is a 1988 BMW 325i Cabriolet (or “cabrio” if you’re overly cautious around syllables). Generally when I do research for these things, I find myself wanting the car in question. This is normal (totally normal– I checked with my doctor), and until now it hasn’t been an issue. However, as years of action movie trailers have taught us, the operative words in that sentence are “until now.”
The reason for all this gravelly-voiced soliloquizing is quite simple. The BMW 325i is a car that I could actually buy. It’s relatively reliable, it’s rear-wheel drive, and it is, in my opinion, one of the only cars that looks better as a convertible than as a hardtop. Back in 1962, BMW released the very innovative, very German Neue Klasse line of small, sporty four-doors. This started with the 1500, a very popular car that led to the introduction of several others including the 1800, 1600, 2000 and eventually, the 2002.
To be clear, the BMW 2002 wasn’t introduced in the year 2002: this was still the late 60s to early 70s period. That being said, its popularity meant BMW was facing a not-insignificant problem. Now, worryingly, they had to make a sequel. What they came up with was the automotive equivalent of Godfather II. A legend. A benchmark. An ultimate driving machine. In other words, a 3-series.
This car is actually a second-generation 3-series, known internally as the “E30.” Since its introduction in 1982, the E30 captured the hearts and aspirations of many. Perhaps it was the BMW badge, or the restrained, purposeful styling, or the excellent handling dynamics and characterful engine. There was just something attractive about sports car characteristics molded into the shape of a practical, executive sports sedan. Whatever the case, everyone from ladder-climbing businesspeople to college students to car enthusiasts loved the E30.
Speaking of enthusiasts, the E30 was no slouch in the performance department. This was a 325i model, which means it was powered by a 2.5 liter, 168 horsepower inline six-cylinder. This was one of fifteen different 3 series models to choose from, ranging from the entry-level 316e to the efficient 324td to the iconic M3. You could have your 3 series as a cabrio, like this one, but you could also choose from sedan, coupe or (in Europe) wagon bodystyles. And there were four different transmissions to choose from as well.
What made the car such a hit among drivers was a simple formula that BMW perfected in the 80s and, if you as me, has lost sight of recently: feedback. When you steer an E30, as well as some of its successors, you feel the characteristics of the road through your fingertips on the steering wheel. When you put your left foot down, your whole body surges forward in union with the car, underscored by a sonorous, mechanical exhaust note. It’s just brilliant. Now someone buy this one before I do.
- Most articles about early 3-series’ feature at least one mention of the word “yuppie,” so here’s Forgotten Metal’s: yuppies drove a lot of E30s.
- The Neue Klasse of BMWs is actually the series of vehicles that started what’s called the “Hofmeister Kink,” which sounds like a sex thing, I know, but is actually a classically BMW styling cue involving a design flourish by the back of the window. This car doesn’t have it though, because it’s a convertible.