1985 BMW 323i Baur

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1985 BMW 323i Baur


While some think the Golf GTI and Peugeot 205GTI best epitomize the eighties, for us the BMW E30 is the one; after all, city traders only drove hot-hatchbacks until they could move up to a BMW 3 Series.

Yet, good though the standard car was, BMW knew there would be a demand for a convertible, so relied on its long-term partner and independent coachbuilder Karosserie Baur to build one. The conversion was hugely expensive and genuine Baur cars carry an identification plate on the nearside door shut with the factory name of ‘Karosserie Baur’ alongside the build number and roof colour. (You can see the one on this example in slide #123.)

That conversion was comprehensive with the underlying car being extensively reinforced to compensate for the loss of the metal roof skin and rear window. The roof was replaced with Baur’s trademark two-piece canvas roof, a design that is known as the ‘Top Cabriolet’ or TC.

Available between 1982 and 1991, the E30’s fabric roof is divided into two parts, with the division being made across the B-pillars. These two parts can be utilized individually enabling a variety of roof options to be configured from a targa-style open front, a landau rear or the full cabriolet.

The Vehicle

An original right-hand-drive, factory-ordered example, this Baur 323i was first registered in August 1985. Finished in Zinnoberrot (Vermillion Red) with a charcoal chequered cloth and black vinyl interior, it’s fully loaded with Recaro seats, a sports steering wheel, central locking, electric front windows, green-tinted glass and a front spoiler.

Fitted with the 2.3-litre straight-six engine, from factory its well-heeled owner could reply on 148bhp and 151lb.ft of torque. Driving the rear axle via a five-speed manual transmission, performance easily exceeds two miles per minute and a spirited driver should be able to dispatch the benchmark 60mph in under eight seconds.

Showing just four previous keepers on the V5, this slice of Bavarian gold is being offered with no reserve, so is going to sell, no matter what…

On the Outside

The Zinnoberrot paintwork was resprayed in 2014, with one wing being replaced and some metalwork cut out and made good at the same time. All-in-all, the work set the owner back around £4,100 but it was worth it because it was clearly done and has weathered the intervening years impressively. Still bright and glossy, the red paintwork shows off the neatly aligned panels.

There is no significant bodywork damage noted, and certainly nothing as vulgar as ripples and dents to mar what was THE colour of choice back in the day.

The black convertible roof was replaced and the targa panel recovered in 2017, so it still in great condition. It fits well, and opens and closes as it should. It’s a brilliantly executed idea, bringing all the advantages of a full-blown convertible.

It also sits on the correct set of 14-inch ‘bottle top’ alloy wheels. Refurbished as part of its refresh in 2014, they are in a good condition and show a few small blemishes.

The tyres are matching across the axles and are legal, but they are budget brands.

Faults? Well, there is a small dimple in the centre of the boot lid and the usual stonechips and minor marks. The door mirrors are a bit scuffed too, as are the rubber corner sections of the rear bumper. The offside outer headlamp is also misted up.

On the Inside

The cabin is just as impressive as the coachwork being in an original condition with no extraneous instruments, switches, or holes.

The front seats are still very comfortable and yet still firm enough to give great lateral support in the bends; clearly, whoever ticked the box marked ‘Recaro’ in the showroom knew their stuff…

The rear seat has some small holes and marks but it’s still very usable.

The rest of the interior is only lightly patinated in the usual high-wear areas, which means you’ll see paint loss around the ignition key switch and some scuffing to the driver’s door card.

Everything else like the headlining, carpets, door cards, and dashboard, is very good. Hell, it’s even still got its (original) Becker Mexico headunit in the dash!

The boot contains the BMW tool kit and an alloy spare wheel, and lifting out the latter shows only solid metal in the wheel well.


The BMW was Waxoyl’d at the same time as it was resprayed, so the underside has been protected against road salt and other unpleasantness, but this has worn off now and there is some surface corrosion to deal with.

The engine bay is mildly grubby but no worse, and the engine itself starts well, runs and ticks over as it should, and makes a surprisingly fruity exhaust note for such a modest capacity! Please note, however, the coolant light appears from the warning light section, something we would encourage to have investigated.

History Highlights

The full list of factory options reads as follows:

  • 215: Power-assisted steering
  • 219: Sports steering wheel
  • 300: Central locking
  • 311: Nearside electric door mirror
  • 324: Front spoiler
  • 350: Green tinted glass
  • 410: Electric front windows
  • 485: Recaro sports seats
  • 551: Onboard computer
  • 829: Baur conversion.

While we’re listing The Good Stuff, the 323i’s most recent service was carried out by Stathern Garage in June 2021 at 101,281 miles. This work comprised new spark plugs, fresh engine oil, and new air and oil filters.

July 2020 saw the same firm replace the rear brake discs, pads and caliper seals, as well as the rear anti-roll bar links and bushes, one of the rear wishbones, the radiator, and the battery at 101,063 miles.

A full service was performed by BMW specialist AutoTechnik a month earlier and the oil filter and steering rack gaiter were replaced in April 2019.

The routine service history prior to this is extensive and we counted 45 stamps in the dog-eared book; that’s not a bad service history really, is it?

All these stamps can be seen in the service history booklet that forms part of the car’s history file, a file that also includes the BMW book pack and wallet, a bunch of old MoT certificates and tax discs, and a huge quantity of old invoices and bills. The recent vehicle history check is clean, too.

That said the BMW’s MoT has expired, running out in September 2022. The seller has kindly agreed that a fresh MOT will be offered with the car upon sale.

The red service indicator lights are on, so the new owner will need to budget for a service. It also needed the assistance of a battery pack to start, so the battery might be on its way out or it might just have discharged after sitting for a while.

What We Think

The Baur E30s are always sought after, and we expect this one to continue the trend. With a great service history, a recent respray and hood, and an original interior, this one is sure to draw significant interest from discerning car enthusiasts who recognize that cars from the eighties provide a beguiling blend of classic design and modern-day reliability.

The 323i adds performance to the mix too, and this example is so versatile you could show it, use as a daily driver – or both.

We estimate that it’s going to fetch somewhere between £10,000 and £15,000, but the reality is that it could end up anywhere, especially given the owner has such faith in his car he’s prepared to let you lot squabble over it with no reserve.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; we are open weekdays 9am-5pm, to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

Bidders MUST ensure they are aware of the registration situation of a car in auction, and whether it will be possible to export/register a vehicle in their country BEFORE they bid.

All vehicles MUST BE COLLECTED WITHIN 7-DAYS of the auction end. Storage fees of £180 + VAT apply (per week) thereafter without exception.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage can offer you options, plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping both domestic and international.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we always encourage bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using basic cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen (Caveat Emptor) and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, a return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: The Market HQ, Abingdon, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Trade
  • Odometer Reading: 102000
  • Chassis Number: 7996374
  • Engine: 2316 cc
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Steering position: Right-hand drive
  • Colour: Zinnoberrot (Vermillion)
  • Interior: Charcoal Fabric
  • Estimated Price: £10,000 - £15,000

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