Guest contributor: Ryan Lee on his 1972 BMW Bavaria
The BMW Bavaria is, in the words of its Wikipedia entry, “generally considered the forebear of the modern BMW high-performance sedan as it combined excellent acceleration, good fuel economy, plenty of room for four people and a large trunk. The majority of them were sold with a four-speed manual transmission, reflecting the sporting nature of the sedan. With a fully independent suspension along with four wheel disc brakes, the E3 was well ahead of its time in the early 1970s” (source).
Put another way, if you like the classic CS (E9) coupe but want the practicality of a sedan, then this would be the car to get. We invited Bavaria owner Ryan Lee to talk about his.
MCB: Why the Bavaria?
RL: I had been wanting to get something to replace my 2003 BMW 330xi (E46). I’m not that mechanically challenged, but I always saw myself getting into something brand new. I hadn’t even heard of the Bavaria until a VW friend showed me the classified listing on VWVortex, but much to my surprise it was love at first sight. I told my friend I was getting it, and a few weeks later I was driving it 800 miles home from Georgia.
MCB: What’s it like to own?
RL: I thought I got a lot of looks in my E46, but the Bavaria gets everyone looking and waving. I have strangers honking and giving me the thumbs up on the highway, teens stopping what they’re doing and watching me roll down the street, and older adults admiring a 40 year-old car driving by that they used to see as kids. My almost-stock Bavaria has so much more character than my heavily modified E46 could ever possess.
MCB: What’s it like to drive?
RL: The Bavaria is just a solid machine and really marries the driver with the action of driving. It has a stroked, Metric Mechanic’s 3.7L M30 swapped with a 5–speed conversion, so for a 40 year-old car it’s got moves. This is my first car without power steering and I have no problem with it. It’s got a solid transmission where I’m confident with the shifts and a new OE Alpina shift knob. No working radio, roll-down windows, and the comfiest seats I’ve ever sat in— I love it!
MCB: What do you know about this particular car’s history?
RL: This particular car began life in the States forty years ago in the ports of Elizabeth, NJ, and was then delivered to its first owner in Colorado. From there it moved on to its second owner in Tennessee, and then on to owner I bought it from in Georgia. While in Tennessee, however, it received a big restoration— new paint, new interior, and an engine/transmission swap. But it sat for ten years after that and it shows— a little rust in common areas and leaky gaskets. But don’t get me wrong, the car is near-mint. The floor pan has no rust but does have what seem to be two bullet holes!
MCB: What should someone look out for when buying one of these cars?
RL: The main thing to look out for is major rust. The floor pan, inside the wheel wells, the nose, and behind the rear fenders are the problematic areas. Besides that the engines should be solid (the M30 is the longest-running BMW engine), but I believe it is now harder to find a manual than an automatic. The previous owner also told me that the tachometer in Bavarias always seem to break (although that could just be the case for mine).
MCB: And how much can someone expect to pay for an example comparable to yours?
RL: For one in as good a condition as mine with a swapped engine and transmission, I’m sure you should be looking to pay at least $7,000. When I took it to a knowledgeable BMW mechanic they told me the engine and transmission cost that much alone. Mine being full restored with a mint interior and near perfect exterior, I really got a bargain.
MCB: Any concluding thoughts?
RL: Finding this Bavaria was meant to be. It fits me well and I absolutely love everything about it. And just a shout-out to my car club Euro.Techniks, and to a BMW enthusiast blog I’m a photographer for, Ultimate Klasse.
Words and images: Ryan Lee