Condition trumps service history

BMW E30 3 Series

by classic-cars |
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Chasing Cars: Quentin Willson's hot tips

BMW E30 3 Series hunters are chasing even the lowest-specification examples

BMW E30 3 Series

BMW E30 3 Series appear to be holding their value. In February, Mathewsons drew strong money for a brace of low milers. The first, a 1986 316 automatic, in Cashmere with just 14,300 miles, made £10k. Fresh, mint, bone stock and unmolested, still wearing its supplying dealer window sticker and plates, it was pronounced by Mathewsons’ promo video as ‘Too good to use’ and ‘This will not disappoint’.

The auto may not be the most desirable transmission, especially with the smallest engine, but I remember the auto four-cylinders as cosy, sweet-spinning and smooth. I liked the fact it was still on steel wheels with plastic hubcaps, had an almost virgin toolkit, and still carried its original factory music. Perhaps its unsporting spec helped it dodge owners who favour adding big wheels, slammed suspension and pumping sound systems. There didn’t appear to be a service history folder, although I could be wrong, but that didn’t deter bidders on the day, and it made all the money.

‘The E30 has a strong following which doesn’t seem to have been deflected by the downturn in classic car values’

The second 3 Series was one of Mathewson’s Bangers & Cash TV series finds that had apparently just needed a new fuel pump and scrub up. An ’89 318i manual in Dolphin Grey with one owner and 9864 miles recorded, but not warranted, it made £9050. Looking at the general condition, particularly the driver’s seat bolsters – a regular wear point on high-miler E30s – this one appeared to have been rarely used.

As with the first car, the lack of service history would bother me but clearly not the animated bidders. In terms of value, these examples were both good buys, given the time and expense involved bringing a tired example up to a similar condition. The E30 still has a strong following which doesn’t seem to have been deflected by the current downturn in classic car values.

Mind you, also in February, Brightwells sold a Black ’88 316 auto, with 88k miles, bills for much recent work, and 11 previous MoT certificates for just £3024. And it was a straight, original, well-kept example that you’d be proud to own and use every day without getting anxious about hiking up a low mileage. Perhaps this was the best bargain of the lot?

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