When the E30 was originally launched in 1982, it was only offered in a two-door saloon shell, with a four-door version appearing soon after. BMW had no immediate plans to offer a cabriolet, although they knew there was a demand for a soft top. So, in co-operation with Karosserie Baur, they offered a roof conversion as an optional extra, which saw the main roof skin and rear window removed and replaced with a folding canvas roof. This was a design that had seen success on the earlier E21 where it was known as a ‘Top Cabriolet’ or TC. The Baur E30 is known as the TC2.
BMW introduced its own full Cabriolet E30 in 1987, but Baur continued with its TC2 conversion into 1991. When the curtain came down on the Baur E30, 10 865 had been made in Europe (1 806 right-hand drive to the UK) and a further 3 561 assembled in South Africa.
The TC2 was more than just a cabriolet, offering Targa and landau-style open tops as well. To do this, the roof splits into two parts across the B-pillars. These two parts could then be individually removed – just the front out gave what the Porsche crew know as a Targa (and the brits as a Surrey Top), while removing just the rear section offered a landau rear opening. Whipping both out transformed the E30 into a full cabriolet.
Once again South Africa did it a little differently: frames attached before the bodies were painted so ours have nice uniform colour top and bottom. We didn’t get the door jamb-mounted Baur plate or stamp in the roof section either, but we did get arguably the best drop-top driving weather and scenery in the world.
This featured BMW 320i Baur is one of those South African units.
A one-family-owned car. The family business supplied pressed body panels to BMW South Africa’s Rosslyn factory and their relationship with the firm resulted in the car being bought directly from the factory – together with a BMW 745i.
The service book confirms that the purchase of the 320i Baur was done on 8 October 1985 and that servicing initially took place at the factory. When the owners moved back to Germany for a few years, the 320i Baur went along for the ride – for this reason there are things like a 160km/h max speed which remains on the dash (the tyres were only rated for this number on the autobahn).
On return to South Africa the car was used as a daily, and although the mileage wasn’t excessive, the Pretoria sun did take its toll on the dash, and the driver’s seat right-hand bolster wore from sliding in and out. The E30 has been parked up for the past few years, with usage limited to a monthly trundle around the block.
But that has all changed recently, with the car getting a thorough check-over to make it fit for many more road trips and family fun.
The original owner’s handbook/service book, radio instruction booklet, antenna cleaner, Motorplan pamphlet, cubby hole torch (not working) and spare key are still present in the car and so too are the odd bumps and bruises that an honest car of this age has picked up over life. These have been cleaned up to some extent but evidence has been left behind to pay homage to the car’s interesting family history.
View the auction listing here: 1985 BMW 320i Baur Cabriolet (E30).