Forgotten Hero

Overshadowed by both its predecessor and successor, the 1990 E36 generation BMW 3 Series celebrates its thirtieth birthday this year, but will anyone turn up for the party?

BMW E36 Saloon. (c) autoevolution

By the late 1980’s, the E30 generation 3-Series, although still popular and well liked, was beginning to look (and feel) distinctly old fashioned. The E30 had been in production since 1982 and was, stylistically, a careful update of the 1975 E21 original. The 1986 E32 7 Series and 1988 E34 5 Series had introduced a new and more dynamic style for BMW. It was time for the 3 Series to follow suit.

The E36 was launched in October 1990 in four-door saloon form, followed shortly by a two-door coupé version. The design was credited to Pinky Lai and Boyke Boyer. The coupé represented a break with 3 Series tradition for BMW: the E30 two-door was a saloon that shared its profile and most body panels with its four-door sibling, while the E21 was produced in two-door saloon* form only.

With the E36, the saloon and coupé shared no external body panels. The saloon’s doors were one-piece pressings incorporating window frames that covered the A-pillars and concealed the roof drip-rails. The coupé instead employed frameless door glasses. Even items one might expect to Continue reading “Forgotten Hero”

I Would Wait For You Like The Patient Swans Of Inish Glora

In 1978 Audi withdrew from the lower end of the market when the daring and distinctive 50 ceased production. While it might have been a landmark for Audi, it was a molehill for everyone else.

Fancy some Golf?: Autoevolution.com

The 50 didn’t sell awfully well and Audi felt it ought to focus its efforts on larger cars. However the penny dropped that premium car makers could offer smaller cars as the 90s wore on. BMW chopped up the 3-series to make the Compact (1993) and Mercedes got with the programme in 1997 with the A-class.

In between, Audi reworked the Golf platform so it could Continue reading “I Would Wait For You Like The Patient Swans Of Inish Glora”

In Capricorn’s Orbit

Since the day’s other article was a little on the short side, I felt like I’d treat to you to one of my sightings on a recent visit to Sweden.

The same year Honda dazzled us with the NSX and Lotus revealed the Carlton, BMW dazzled us with this mediocrity. I had forgotten that 1990 was such a special year. Continue reading “In Capricorn’s Orbit”

Mercury White Moonlight Makes Landfall on the Littoral

We recently explored the matter of how long it takes to align two ranges of cars when one company takes over another or there is a merger. In the cases of Ford and GM, covered earlier, the process seems to take under a decade. Are there counter examples?

BMW didn´t know what do with this: autoscout24.de

Today I will take a look at the case of Rover, which marque came under the control of BMW in 1994. Rover (when under BL) had already been part of a co-operative venture with Honda.

That process began under the Triumph brand when BL decided to use a slightly modified version of the Ballade as the basis of the Acclaim. The cooperation changed tracks slightly when Triumph was shuttered and Rover began to Continue reading “Mercury White Moonlight Makes Landfall on the Littoral”

As They To The Lychgate Draw Near So Waxes Quick The Quiet Fear

Chopping the back off a saloon can lead to unfortunate results.

1979 Buick Century Aeroback

The 1978 A-body cars at GM lost a lot of fat in the downsizing wave of the mid-70s. Half a tonne of car vanished per model. For the Aeroback cars such as this 1979 Century coupe even more metal got sliced off (the same went for the very similar Olds Cutlass Salon).

The 1977 Talbot Sunbeam and 1975 AMC Pacer underwent the same sort of radical surgery in the name of making one car out of another. But if you want to Continue reading “As They To The Lychgate Draw Near So Waxes Quick The Quiet Fear”

Hindsight: The 1994 BMW 3-series Compact

We have recently discussed BMW’s invasion of the lower end of the market. This is the car that really kicked it off.

1994-2000 BMW 3-series compact: for the same money you could get a loaded Astra, Golf or Escort.
1994-2000 BMW 3-series compact: for the same money you could get a loaded Astra, Golf or Escort.

You don’t really notice these vehicles. They are dissolving into the background of the streetscape like any jaded old Escort or roughed-up, worn out and uncared for Astra or Golf. This one is in BMW’s Ignore Me dark blue. Base-model blue if you like.

The motoring press were in awe of this car when it came out. “A new 3-series for a song,” raved Car magazine in October 1994. They showed the front end of the car which, of course, was identical to the standard 3-series, just as the front end of a Chrysler Sunbeam was much the same as that of the Avenger. However, from the A-pillar back it was cost-cutting and decontenting as far back as the tail-pipe. Continue reading “Hindsight: The 1994 BMW 3-series Compact”