I am no stranger to E30 Tourings, having owned one for nearly three years when the 25-year exemption first allowed them to be imported without federalization to the United States. I’ve also sold more than a few E30 Tourings through my side business, but I have never really done well with them. That’s because in Europe, many wagons were used to the full extent of their utility, leaving them in need of significant work to bring up to par. That usually burned through any meat left on the bone that would make for a good business decision, but it never stopped me from trying!
The allure of the E30 Touring has always been too difficult to resist, but there is one example that stands out….
No, really, it literally stands out, thanks to a Warsteiner DTM Touring Car tribute livery. It also stands out because when I had first heard about its importation to the United States, I didn’t buy it. Fortunately, it found its way to Colorado when my friend bought it. It’s been here for a few years now, but I hadn’t seen it in person until last week.
To call the Warsteiner livery eye-catching is an understatement. Massive M stripes dominate the motif diagonally from the left front wheel—a pattern that dates back to the M1 Pro Cars of the late 1970s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the E30 M3 made those diagonal stripes famous through its utter domination of Touring Car racing with primary sponsor Warsteiner’s crest front and center on the hood. The E30 Touring pulls this off wonderfully; it quite literally could have put the Touring in Touring Car racing!
Like most E30 Tourings, the history of this one before it was imported is mostly a mystery. It was imported from the Eastern Bloc country of Bulgaria, which has a very active classic BMW-enthusiast community. At some point the stock engine was replaced with an M30B34 from an E28 5 Series, and then a massive turbo was mounted, running a relatively low one bar (14.5 PSI) of boost. Underneath the car, a five-lug suspension was fitted with what appear to be Mazda RX-7 Brembo brakes. Borbet wheels—one of the few designs that will clear the thick calipers—are painted in white in order to honor the original white BBS wheels worn by at times the Warsteiner E30 M3. The interior is relatively stock sans a pair of E30 M3 sport seats, an OMP steering wheel, and a huge parking-brake handle connected to a hydraulic parking-brake conversion that makes stepping out the rear end a cinch.
Turn the key and the M30 engine rumbles to life. It takes a moment or so to clear its throat, but once it’s up to temp it becomes obvious that the M30 responds wonderfully to forced induction. Out on the open road, it is a symphony of snorts, snarls, turbo spooling, and blow-off-valve KUSHHH sounds. Roll into the throttle, wait for the boost to build, and ka-POW! The turbo power hits with violence, but it is still controllable, thanks to the relatively low boost pressure. It also cements to the world that this E30 Touring is definitely not, in Jeremy Clarkson’s voice, “all face and no trousers.” In fact, it has more than enough drama under the sheet metal to back up that livery—which is a good thing, because it draws attention everywhere it goes.
Before it came to me in person, I had seen this E30 Touring a dozen times on the local car-spotting social-media pages thanks it to getting posted on virtually every drive. I’d check Facebook, see Chris’s Touring, and think Ah, Chris is running to the store again. I could literally trace his travels by Facebook post. The effect is no different in person.
Driving the wagon, I may have been a little too vigorous in the view our local law enforcement during our photo session. But as the officer and I timidly made eye contact, I was met with a nod and an expression that said, That’s pretty cool, I’m gonna let this one slide. Phew!
Boy racers in Subaru WRXs are a more significant threat, incessantly challenging like an aroused whale with blow-off puffs and waste-gate spews. While it doesn’t make modern turbo power, the E30 Touring can easily hold its own on the inevitable stoplight drag race that follows. Throw a curve into the mix, and the challengers disappear into the rear-view mirror, because, after all, this is an E30!
If I’m honest, this car brings out the aroused-whale boy racer in me, too. Even though it isn’t an M car, I’m proud that it wears the livery that made BMW M cars so famous. The fact that it does so on an E30 Touring makes it feel even more special. That effect is contagious; it’s like a real-life Matchbox car, bringing out smiles and compliments from children and adults, car people and civilians alike.
Somewhere in Bulgaria a BMW enthusiast built this car, and now, a hemisphere away, it is still making people happy.—Alex McCulloch.
[Photos courtesy Peter Thompson.]