Given that BMW did not import any 3-series station wagons prior to the 2002 (E46) 320i, seeing an earlier version is unusual to say the least. But there is a significant drawback to BMW’s first ever station wagon besides scarceness.
The story behind the wagon is a great one and reminiscent of the creation of the 2002 back in the 1960’s. The car sprang from a one-off personal project by prototype engineer Max Reisböck who built his own car based on an accident-damaged 1984 323i.
Reisböck moved the C-pillars from the sedan to the back of the body, and incorporated modified BMW pieces for many of the new parts needed.
You can see why the BMW executives who saw shown the finished product were sufficiently impressed to put the car into production.
The major change for the production model was the tailgate: in the previous photos you can see how Reisböck’s version had only a hatch that went down to the top of the tail lights; by contrast this was changed to include the section between the tail lights. Better, but still not great for loading large items even though a 3-er wagon is never going to be a beast of burden.
I saw this monochrome black 325i wagon a couple of years ago, and I recall that at the time it was for sale and had some Alpina modifications. The wheels are certainly an Alpina type style and the blacked-out appearance is not factory.
It really looks like a great example of the breed, and if you are partial to station wagons an E30 BMW must surely be an intriguing prospect. But given the compromised tailgate, personally I’m not too disappointed that they are basically unattainable here.
Ebay Motors article on the first wagon
Curbside Classic: 1985 Bmw 318i – Teutonic Respite At The Tail End Of The Great Brougham Epoch
Sweet looking BMW wagon. The first time I saw one was reading an article about it in Road and Track. Overall, I thought it was an awesome vehicle. Its only drawback was its taillamp design. They should’ve integrated part of it into the rear hatch. It’d provide a more practical opening for anyone who uses hatchbacks and station wagons.
Other drawbacks to the utility of such sport wagons: cargo volume is compromised by the short aft end, & too much hatchback tumblehome. But they’re better than a 4-door hatchback.
“cargo volume is compromised by the short aft end, & too much hatchback tumblehome”
That’s my main gripe with most modern CUVs. The cargo areas are severely compromised by the sloping hatches.
This wagon isn’t bad at all by modern standards, and even has side glass you can see though.
The “aft end” of this BMW wagon is the same length as the sedan’s, which is of course what it was based on. This is not a “hatchback”, but a true wagon, except for the compromised tailgate. That is pretty bad; I’m guessing there were structural reasons for it.
To use a cliche, it is what it is, being the size vehicle it is. The tailgate angle speaks to style rather than utility, but less so than similar era Audis or Hondas. Not a bad compromise in my opinion.
Either because of rarity in the USA, or because the cult of the E30 is the strongest BMW cult, these E30 wagons that trickle into the US under the 25-year rule are the most expensive used BMW wagons. I think the premium in most advertised prices is $7500-10k compared to a newer E39 or E46 in comparable condition.
This one in Alpina trim is very good looking, and I wouldn’t be surprised if John has found 1/1 here.
I love the look of BMW wagons but they seem to be just about the only modern car BMWs that do not suffer epic depreciation.
What a looker, especially with the classic Alpina wheels which seem to suit any BMW ever made. (Okay, they’d probably look strange on a 503 or 507, but I wouldn’t say definitely until I’d seen it!)
That tailgate design is pretty bad though. Even for a low-volume, “afterthought” sort of car, you’d think they could have strengthened other panels enough to give it a proper liftgate. Nonetheless, they’re so rare here, I’d have one!
I’ve always found these to be among the best looking of 3-series variants, and this early E30 version is one of my favorites. Simple, clean design, minimal frippery The tailgate is compromised but would be even worse without the center section dip. I had no idea of the history behind these and those original pictures are great.
That tailgate completely ruins any chance of practicality. As someone who adores and swears by the pros of a hatchback, that rear is 100% a deal breaker. Stupid.
FWIU the gap between the taillights was meant to be just wide enough to fit a standard German beer case through and that was the only reason they didn’t go with the full AMC Sportabout-style liftover that the prototype had.
I always thought the 3-series should’ve been hatchbacks, period, right from the start. (Apart from the convertibles of course). Not so much for its’ own sake but to head off a generation of three-box compact cars that you really couldn’t carry anything much bulkier than a six-pack in.
That is pretty funny! I wouldn’t be surprised if BMW didn’t want to spend more money making unique tail lights and so many changes to the body shell on what must have been a slightly experimental expansion of their offerings.
Gosh, that tailgate liftover is really ugly. That’s unfortunate because the rest of the car appears to be quite nice.
Sweet looking wagon. Looks like Reisbock’s conversion was similar to AMC’s Hornet/Concord/Eagle wagon body style with a hatchback vs. a “real” wagon tailgate. BMW’s solution with a centre cutout wasn’t really a very good solution at all.
There is one of these for sale here in Jacksonville, Florida at a dealer that specializes in “unusual” Euro-market cars. It’s painted a very dark green with a black interior, has the 2.5 liter 6, IIRC, and automatic transmission and A/C. Price? $15,000+, but in fairness it has only about 50-60K miles….IIRC.
It’s at united imports.com.
Supposedly the BMW X3 (1st generation) and X1 had the same kind of interior space, but it didn’t stop them from being runaway sales successes for BMW.