I spent the summer of 1969 in Europe, and what a golden time it was for cars then. Although the Peugeot 504 may have won Europe’s COTY (voted on by journalists throughout the continent), the number two vote-getter clearly gets my nod for CCOTY. The brilliant new six cylinder BMWs “New Six” (E3 internal code) sedans, in 2500 and 2800 versions, was the new heart throb for those with more gasoline than absinthe in their veins. My youthful lust for these was practically obscene: how could a car be so equally ravishing in both its external looks and everything underneath? This was the perfect car. That was probably the best judgement I had about anything that summer, being sixteen and with almost unfettered freedom (including being able to drink legally). So when I look at this picture, it’s 1969, and I’m in love allover again; especially since I don’t have any pictures of Gabrielle.
I have yet to find an E3 on the streets, and when I do,a full CC will ensue. But let’s just put it into perspective, at least briefly. Although the E3 was the first step of an evolution to what became the 7 Series, this car is smaller than a new 3 Series in almost every dimension, and weighed some 500 lbs less.
The E3 was a superb car all-round, but obviously its greatest asset was under its hood. The M30 straight six was heads and shoulders above any other engine in Europe at the time, and Mercedes never could equal it in terms of its brilliant “bite”, and heroic capabilities. “Turbine smooth” became the predictable and over-used terms to describe its smooth running nature. Initially, it came in 2.5 and 2.8L form, but its capacity grew along with its reputation, all the way to 3.5 L, and a DOHC head as used in the M5 and M1.
No matter what you may think about BMWs today, in 1969, this was the second coming of the car. That was me behind the wheel, flying down the autobahn at 220 km/h, in a white 2800. You’re only sixteen once, so why not fall in love with the fastest and hottest new thing?