A Photoseries For Sunday: The Panther Of Bavaria

The hunt for quality: where does the perception of goodness reside in this car? 

1992 BMW 3-series E30.

Recently the opportunity afforded itself for me to take a lot of photos of a car Clarkson called an over-priced Escort, a chance to hunt for quality. What did I find? This is a close look at the car:

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On the inside we see where the potential Sierra customer was most tempted:

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The interior is composed of premium plastics and top-quality upholstery (bolster-wear notwithstanding). Once inside the car, the customer observed well-fitted and noticeably robust materials. Colour, finish, material (CMF) is a branch of design that emerged from the car industry. It was in products like the E30 that the power of material and finish (if not colour) to persuade customers was refined. This car positively glows with a sense of refined durability that alternatives from Ford and Opel lacked, even at the top of the price hierarchy.

On the outside, the E30 then is a symphony of small refinements and some eye-catching embellishments. On the inside, the customer is seduced by a sense of well-being. The geometry of the shapes is calm; the dashboard puts the driver in charge but the way it is put together seals the deal.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “A Photoseries For Sunday: The Panther Of Bavaria”

  1. I wonder if the number of comments reflects the general level of interest at DTW in this model.

    I have to be honest and say that E30s generally do nothing for me at all. Neat and tidy, yes; some pleasing detailing, certainly; well put-together, undoubtedly. And they have aged well. But my lack of emotional response to this car is probably surpassed only by that to subsequent 3s. It’s not even that I dislike them, as such, although I’ve driven them with both four-pots and sixes under the bonnet and I’ve never really thought they lived up to the hype. But I find it lacking in any emotional flair, whim, flight of fancy, call it what you want (perhaps mixed in with an ever-so-slight contrarian tendency, so sue me).

    1. This is a surprise. While I don’t love these cars the market and automotive press did. This car pulled BMW into the mainstream too. It’s an important product. So, I assumed that it was a well- or properly-regarded car, like the 190E, Saab 900 or CX.

    2. I’m not denying its import, at all. It’s probably the single car more responsible than any other for BMW’s current upmarket(ish) image and it certainly introduced a lot of people to the marque. It’s just that, you know, I’d rather have a Prisma, for reasons that seem self-evident to me but probably not to most.

    3. I think you mean a Lancia Trevi, don´t you? I´d take the Trevi anytime.
      In the case of Prisma versus 3, the argument is harder. Have you a jones for Zegna cloth and Macpherson struts?

  2. I remember as a teen, when the parents were car shopping, taking a close look at a used 316i at the local dealer, and being extremely bemused at the lack of equipment for the price. Japanese rivals had electric-this and power-that, and this 3er had roll your own windows and plastic wheel trims, for three times the price. Outrageous! But at the time, it was The Car To Have, and I did not fully understand the big deal. Not long after turning 20, I financed myself up to the eyeballs and bought one. For five years I got to know the car well, and it really was brilliantly made, with a very solid and dependable outlook. Ultimately, I got bored and went down the Italian road instead. I think the biggest achievement of this car is how to make such a dull, practical shape so polished, so enticing. That, and of course the fact that the interior is simply a masterclass in how to do the inside of a car. The devil is really in the detail, and the more you sit and look at an E30, the more you’ll notice, and the more you’ll appreciate the stunning simplicity of it.

    1. The great act of imagination lay in realising the undrawable. If you looked at sketches from Ford, BMW and Renault from this time (for example) they would all look as competent and appealing. Either a manufacturing specialist or a supplier and the designers had to conceptualise this quality and drawing don’t express that.

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