Back in the 70s and 80s the Mercedes was more popular than the BMWs. People in India bought them for their luxury and as a status symbol. I wasn’t there as many of you can tell but based on the used cars available I can come to that conclusion. The Benz is comfortable and feels great on your bottom, those spring seats are out of this world, but when you’re in the driver’s seat you’ll almost always prefer the BMWs, these seats hold you in your place, hug you around corners as your heart races. They’re just more fun to drive, lighter and more powerful, that’s all. Even though they’re rare around here you’ll occasionally come across one. Here’s an E12 525i I found with a collector in Pune who was lining it up to be restored. It’s got a 2.5L straight six which should pack quite a punch!
Maneesh’s E30 316
If I compare the E30 to the 190(w201) I’d say it feels like more fun to drive, every turn is rewarding, the suspension may not be as suitable for some of our roads but where the roads are good the E30 feels amazing! It feels like an extension to your own body. I’m biased towards the BMWs so it’s better to test one out for yourself instead of listening to my lies.
This 316 here belongs to a friend from Bombay. The 316 is a carbureted 1.8L 4 cyl engine, the engine was also used in the 2002 turbo and the E30 m3 engine was built around this block. I’m not saying it’s a high powered beast, it’s a lovely little engine for a daily driver but it also has potential for some serious power.
I’ve driven a few E30s and compared to the fuel injected replacement this felt so much better! There was noticeably more low end torque, a nice purr to the exhaust and it was complete in every aspect. Every corner had the required trim, it wasn’t like this when he first got the car but over the years he completed it. Everything was so tight, it was like when I’d shift gears the car reassured me of the decision. It’s not an easy task to complete a car when it needs many parts especially with rarer cars. Classic BMWs aren’t as common as Benzs in India so you have to hunt those parts down, then worry about transport. If you’re on a budget, asking friends to hand carry for you would be the best but that’s difficult if you plan on talking to them again. No one appreciates carrying those bulky parts and getting stopped my customs, but what are friends for?
We discussed mild performance mods since I wanted to do the same setup. Carb options are numerous, from superbike carbs to dual Weber’s to individual throttle bodies. You could change the cam, you could get headers and a free flow, you could use an m3 crank and pistons. Basically there are different options to leave you broke to different extents but it won’t matter when your smile stretches from ear to ear.
I grin every time I see this car, it just looks perfect. The chrome of the early E30s, paired with classic cross spoke BBS wheels, a jet black paint job(I’m sure BMW has a fancy name for black too), round headlights and a chrome kidney grill. These are the features that remain in your mind and they’re just so beautiful and simple.
Rayomands E34 525tds
The E34 seems to be the next best thing. Everyone wants the E30 but considering the low numbers available in India the E34 is a great alternative. I’d estimate around 50 E30s around India. This was my first time driving an E34 and though it was around traffic I got a pretty good idea of the feel of things.
It lacked the light and nimble feeling the E30 had but it felt more comfortable. It was something that needed more power to push around, a little 4 cyl just wouldn’t do.
One thing about classic Beemers is that they make the driver feel like the center of attention and it’s not only because they make you smile. I believe since the early 70s every part of the dashboard faced the driver, audio unit and AC controls included.
Sadly BMW ownership is a fearful practice, the owners usually ask you not to touch anything because if you break something replacing it will be a pain. Plastics of 80s Merc’s and beemers often seem to have dried up and tend to be brittle and ready to crack. A dashboard without a flaw is to be appreciated.
My E34 drive ended with the opportunity to look at an e36 m3 cab, sadly no drive or opening of doors but the sight was enough.
The hardtop hung above the car with the help of a custom built pulley system made by the owner with the help of a few of his friends, the paint was flawless, not a single dent, no scratches just a glowing purple with a mirror like finish. M3s always have these lovely lips and wonderfully wide wheels. Replicating this combo is what period correct BMW styling is about.
After seeing all these I felt like I really should get to my project, manual swap and carb setup, maybe some wheels too. A few upgrades wherever replacements are required. Sadly not only is the sky the limit, so is my wallet.