CC Capsule: 1991 BMW E30 Touring – The Reluctant Bavarian

Thankfully, you do find the occasional interesting foreign car when wondering about France. If it had been a run-of-the-mill E30 saloon, I don’t think I would have bothered, but old BMW wagons are definitely a CC-worthy catch. These were never imported new in North America; even in old Europe, they were never common and are getting mighty rare, but they sure look cool. Funny thing is, BMW took their sweet time to understand the point of wagons.

Historically, some carmakers displayed a strange resistance to the station wagon. Mercedes-Benz and BMW are a classic example of this: for the longest time, the only way to acquire a long-roof Bimmer or Benz was to pay a coachbuilder a small fortune so they’d make one for you. Mercedes sort of made the Fintail Universal part of their official range, but those were still made outside (by Binz in Belgium, to be exact). M-B only really began to integrate wagons in their plans with the W123 in the late ‘70s.

BMW were even more oblivious to this body style. Back in the ‘60s, the Neue Klasse saloon was a prime candidate for a wagon, but the Bavarians never bothered. By that point in time, BMC, Citroën, Fiat, Opel, Peugeot, Simca, Rootes, Triumph and many others had already integrated this variant into their product planning. Even as the ‘70s turned into the ‘80s, BMW remained stubbornly wagonless, at least officially.

In fact, BMW wagons did exist, but only in literal handfuls. Baur made at least two 1500 Neue Klasse for BMW’s racing team (top left), and coachbuilders such as Pichon-Parat and Jacques Coune also tried their hand at this exercise. Baur seems to have repeated the operation on a pair of E3s in 1972 (bottom left), and at least one British E3 was also transformed. The Series 7 (E23) and series 5 (E28) were even more wagonized by a cornucopia of outfits (in the present case, Pichon-Parat for this particular E23 and Schulz for this E28 conversion), some more competent than others.

When the new series 3 (E30) arrived in late 1982, the plan was still to have a two-door saloon, a four-door (which arrived a year later) and perhaps a convertible (in 1985), but no wagon. That wasn’t good enough for BMW engineer Max Reisböck. He wanted more cargo room in his E30 and he guessed others might too. So he went and made one himself and showed it to his bosses, who were suitably impressed by the result. So much so, in fact, that the E30 Touring was included into the range for the 1988 model year – on some markets only. The saloons were replaced by the E36 after MY 1991, but the E30 convertible and Touring stayed on until 1994, adding this BMW to the list of wagons that outlasted their saloon equivalent.

I’m not sure why North America was left out, nor which other markets never got the E30 Touring. Nor why the BMW emblem on the rear of this one turned into a shiny silver medal, whose doubtless unintentional anonymity fits quite nicely with this car’s absence of any model number. Is it a 4- or a 6-cyl., Diesel or unleaded? No idea. Not practical? You want practical, get a Volvo. The E30 Touring is arguably the best-looking European wagons of the ‘80s, and it handles exactly like a BMW saloon — that’s its selling point. Personally, I love how the Hoffmeister kink was moved to the D-pillar, and how compact and sporty the result is. Pity BMW waited until the E30 to get their estate in order.


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