The five door 'estate' variant of the E30. Call it a "tourer" and we'll kill you.
The E30 Touring reached the UK in 1988 with the facelift models of the E30. It featured a new rear body with an estate style rear door and split folding rear seats, and was available in 316, 318, 320 and 325 versions. The touring is approximately 80kg heavier than the standard saloon mainly due to the reinforcement that runs vertically around the car level with the rear suspension turrets. This reinforcement compensates for the removal of the metalwork behind the saloon seats to allow the folding rear seats. This extra weight towards the rear means that all tourings came with the battery mounted under the bonnet, and shorter (lower geared) final drive ratios than the equivalent saloon.
To cope with load carrying, all Tourings are equipped with the 325i spec suspension of 51mm struts, front and rear disc brakes, and front and rear rollbars . Nearly all Tourings are equipped with ABS, but there are some early four cylinder cars without ABS.
The E30 Touring, along with the Cabriolet, outlasted the two and four door saloons as BMW swapped production over to the E36. The youngest Tourings on the road today are generally 1994 L reg. The last ones were built in February 1994.
In terms of reliability the E30 Touring benefits from the same strengths and suffers from the same weaknesses as the E30 saloons. Tourings have developed a reputation for possibly rusting less than other versions, but ironically their distinctive Tailgate is a noted rust spot, usually starting with the rubber seal beneath the rear window shrinking with age and trapping water in the channel it is designed to protect. These seals should be replaced before rust starts.
The load capacity of the Touring, while useful, is not generous. The floor plan is identical to the saloon and the rear hatch opening is restricted (possibly BMW were conservative in their attempts to retain rigidity) so although a Touring does have the useful ability to take long loads with the seats folded, it is hard to take advantage of the whole load area with a single item.
On the move, E30 Tourings have more weight over the rear wheels and have near 50:50 weight distribution which, while unable to change the underlying nature of the E30 trailing arm rear suspension, does give a more predictable rear setup than other versions with less weight on the rear wheels. This characteristic, coupled with the 325i spec suspension, makes 4 cylinder tourings ideal candidates for engine swaps to heavier engines which are sometimes criticised for causing understeer in E30 saloons.
Overall the Touring provides a more practical proposition as a small family car while losing none of the E30's sporting feel.
In 1985 Max Reisböck built in his garage a BMW 323i 3-series Touring.
Max Reisböck had a problem: his family was growing and the BMW in his garage would be too small for a family of four with prams and holiday luggage. For Reisböck, a BMW enthusiast who worked at the factory in Munich in the prototype construction department, it was clear: there had to be an estate. BMW didn't make a single estate model. The solution: build one yourself. He bought a BMW 323i with rear damage and put it in his garage. As a bodywork specialist, he knew that it would not be a matter of cutting and pasting. He first moved the C-pillars back, and then made-up the missing roof section.
Step by step Reisböck changed the 3-series sedan into a touring and 500 man hours later it was finally ready: Reisböck's family wagon was ready to leave the garage. "But before I go on a trip with my creation", Reisböck thought, "First lets show the boss". Who insisted on showing his own boss. And so it happened that one morning at seven o'clock the then chairman of BMW, Eberhard von Kuenheim, was shown the Reisböck-estate. The chief executive of BMW decided spontaneously: "This car will not leave the factory any more. This model we will build".
In reality, the distinguished touring went into production shortly thereafter with relatively few changes made from the original. Only the rear tailgate was drawn deeper down between the lights to reduce the load threshold. The German magazine Auto Bild headlined enthusiastically: "A BMW like never before."
No one could suspect the creation of Reisböck was some 15 years ago to be a trendsetter. The hitherto largely used vehicle combinations became more luxurious. Athletes also discovered the ability to transport their equipment and comfort while travelling.
Suddenly there was talk of a lifestyle estate, and the idea of an estate with the equipment level and the driving performance of a sedan soon followed.
And what does Max Reisböck do today? The 51-year-old still builds prototypes for BMW - now as a foreman. Eberhard von Kuenheim praised the commitment of the bodywork specialist: "There are many great people at BMW. Employees who work independently and enthusiastically on things that were not explicitly requested by them. I am thinking especially of a man who in a sense invented the 3-series Touring".