As a self-consciously intellectual town, Bloomington, Indiana has a pretty predictable car culture and the frequency with which I see recent Subarus makes most sightings a non-event. If I pass by a GL-10 or Legacy Touring Wagon, you can bet I’ll post one (because I love them), but the all the Outbacks I come across are frankly, banal. While they nevertheless define this city’s car culture, there is another model which is unusually common in this wannabe bohemian haven: the BMW E30 convertible.
What’s especially peculiar is that while I don’t see a huge number of similar sedans and coupes (a shame, really; my ideal E30 would be a 1990 or 1991 318i sedan) or E36 convertibles, I come across more than one E30 ragtop daily. They’re inevitably owned by self-styled anarchist types and as they seem like the discarded playthings of an uncaring bourgeoisie, I can understand why.
Most examples I see are inevitably trashed and this blue car is in better shape than most, though the owner seems to have an organic lemonade problem. There’s a white-over-red example nearby by house which only recently had its top put up after several days of heavy rain.
I honestly don’t even mind to see it mistreated this way; while I’d cry if I were to see a Baur conversion treated the same way, these ragtops have always seemed a bit effete. It’s an impression which carries over to the driving experience as the structure is very obviously compromised and rickety when driven quickly over the urban bumps and train tracks which dot our streets. If you must go topless, a VW Cabriolet, Saab 900 or Miata are more compelling choices.
When I visited my partner last year before moving here, the sight of a gaggle of boot-clad “punks” stepping on the decklid while piling into their red on black E30 convertible made an impression on me. It was both destructive and disrespectful and looked like a lot of fun; as if to complete the carefree fantasy, the driver recklessly sped away, wagging the tail as he exited the parking lot where I saw somewhat menacing posse.
The usual default for this group, the diesel Mercedes W123, isn’t quite manic enough for such antics on residential streets. With so many Volvo 240s driven into the ground by hippies, a more audacious set of wheels is just the ticket for crust punk kids who work so hard on cultivating their brash image.
Regardless of how much tape is used to patch the convertible top or how worn out the seats and suspension are, the low gearing, throaty growl and top-end pull of the non-eta M20 straight-six will always turn heads. It’s a combination which says don’t mess with me and since we’ve been on the topic of convertibles today, with the beater 450SL and the fantastic Corvair Monza Spyder, these Bimmers makes for a cheeky addition to the impromptu theme.