1985 BMW 333i Coupe E30

1985 BMW 333i Coupe E30

From 1985 to 1987, BMW South Africa manufactured a limited number of the E30 333i. It was only manufactured there and has become a cult hero in the country, and this specimen is one of the neatest examples.


TRIPLE THREAT

Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms

Photos: Simon Luckhoff

We take a look at the rare and rather special South African E30 333i.


1985 BMW 333i Coupe E30

Few BMW enthusiasts are aware of the E30 333i and the fact that South Africa was home to the first BMW factory outside of Germany. However, that didn’t mean that every model made by BMW Germany was made available to the South Africans. The E30 M3 was never officially available in South Africa, but the country was full of BMW enthusiasts who wanted a high-performance E30. The result is that BMW South Africa made its own high-performance versions. These included, at a later stage, the E30 325iS Evo 1 and Evo 2, but predating these cars was the 333i – a car that is today an icon among South African enthusiasts.

These cars have become incredibly collectable over the past decade, resulting in several enthusiasts ensuring mint examples are always prominently on their radar. The topic of this article is such an example, and it is in an absolute mint condition.


1985 BMW 333i Coupe E30

The 333i received the M30B32 3.2-litre straight six-cylinder engine developing 197hp at 5500rpm and 210lb ft at 4300rpm. South Africa’s CAR magazine tested the car in January 1986 and recorded a weight of 1256 kg, a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 7.23 seconds and a top speed of 144 mph. However, today, these figures matter little to those who have, or want to have, the keys to this car. The owner of this gorgeous explains how he came to buy the car.

“I bought my first 333i back in 1992; she was five years old and identical to this ‘new’ one, the paint colour and the seating etc. The guy selling her was buying one of the first M3s (E36) ever imported into SA. I think that I got the better car, and he must have always regretted that sale. I drove her every day even though she was a tough girl to hustle, as there was no power steering. She had the air conditioning option, and since you couldn’t have both air con and power steering due to a lack of bonnet space, I had arms like Arnie within a year… but it was so special,” he says with a smile.


1985 BMW 333i Coupe E30 - The M30B32 featured in cars such as the E23 733i, and the E9 3.0 CSL

The M30B32 featured in cars such as the E23 733i, and the E9 3.0 CSL


“She was my only car then – my other special cars came later. In fact, I eventually traded her in for a brand new Audi RS2 in Nogaro Blue, a car I still own that has also undergone a full ‘nut-and-bolt’ restoration. I had owned a 635CSi E24 before the 333i and later owned a couple of M5s, but the 333i is just unique in terms of what she is, represents and offers a driver.”

“There was a very long search for this car, more than two years, with the specialists at The Archive helping me. I was then connected with Maqbool Rooknodien, the restorer of this example. Maq found the car in a barn on a farm in the Northern Cape, so she really is one of those mythical ‘barn finds’. Maq can honestly find you a needle in a haystack! It was the right colour and spec and, though not in good condition but running perfectly, she was the perfect base for a full restoration.

“The car (number 168 of 205 or 210 built, depending on the source) needed a lot of work, but she was a solid vehicle. The car was always going to be a full restoration, and the brief to Maq and his team of specialists was simple: there are only a few of these cars remaining, so this car must be the best by far of any still in existence. Spare no expense to achieve that goal,” says the owner, so you know the end result was going to be something special.


1985 BMW 333i Coupe E30

“They hit that ball out of the park – she is as good as the day she rolled out of the factory. She simply looks, sounds and drives as though she is brand new! Maq did the entire restoration, and he is known as the number one BMW man in SA for any restoration job. I saw his work, and there just couldn’t be anyone else to do it.

“The absolute perfection of the paint and every tiny detail is awe-inspiring. When she was unveiled and handed over to me, I was actually speechless, as the work was clearly that of an artist in love with a project and a man who takes immense pride in his work. That wasn’t the end of this 333i journey, though. A beautifully detailed book, showing the car from its discovery in the barn, through its restoration journey and ending with my speechless acceptance of the keys, was later handed over at a surprise coffee meeting,” the owner tells us, and what an incredible experience and a wonderful memento of the car’s restoration that is.

However, the owner is also one who appreciates beautiful works of art, and the restoration process also had a role to play here. “Then there was more. We decided to use all of the engine parts that were purchased as spares during the restoration to create an entire working spare engine. A special glass presentation box on rollers was built, and that engine sits in one of our offices today. It’s an incredible talking point since it just looks so impressive,” he says with a smile.

“My collection of cars is small and based on cars I have owned. The goal is to only have perfect specimens that look and drive as if they have just left the showroom. My first 333i was great, but this 333i is like taking delivery of a new car every time I drive her and believe me, she does get driven. All my sons love her.


1985 BMW 333i Coupe E30

“The car comes alive as the speed builds, but she just loves corners and feels tight and planted all the time. The five-speed dogleg ’box and lack of power steering just make the experience unique, and I am slowly getting my Arnie arms back!” the owner adds with a laugh.

The process of acquiring such a unique car is never easy. Richard Webb, proprietor at Cape Town’s specialist motoring destination The Archive shares the story. “The owner is a true petrolhead and is a highly respected customer of The Archive. He is also one of the very first to entrust us with some of his very precious metal as a storage client. It was well known through our various chitchats that he was a fan of the early driver-focused, ’90s sales representative – or executive – pocket rockets. Top of his car pop charts was the ever-elusive E30 333i that he once owned.

“Alex [Richard’s business partner] and I searched high and low for two years and after many dead ends, unearthing a couple of shady examples and eventually exhausting virtually all our professional resources, we partnered up with BMW specialist Maq to assist us in the search for this collector’s perfect 333i. Maq eventually found us an exceedingly original barn find but in need of a full restoration.”

“We had gone down the restoration path before with the collector when he bought a Citroën DS for his father, and that was a challenging and painful exercise. We realised we had to pull out all the stops to convince him to take on another restoration, and who better than Maq.

“We engineered a plan and arranged for him to bring us one of his previous projects, a 325iS Evo 2 and then asked the collector to pop in and have a look at Maq’s work. Thankfully, it was instant gratification. Seizing the opportunity in front of us, we put on our romantic matchmaker caps, presented the found project and connected Maq with the collector…thus connecting all the dots.”

Maq elaborates. “On the 15th of August 2020, I picked the car up, and the project started. It was an honest car which was perfect for a restoration. Some parts we had to source locally, others from overseas and we also used selected parts from a donor car. The trim of the seats came from Germany, for example. The highlight is undoubtedly the day the car hit the road for the first time, and you see peoples’ reaction.”

It is not often that a story comes full circle like this one – in this case, it did. Walking around the car, we try to find the smallest of faults, but to no avail. After all, Maq has restored a 333i before. What an absolutely beautiful specimen this is and a perfect car for the next generation of BMW enthusiasts to be able to enjoy and appreciate.

The car comes alive as the speed builds, but she just loves corners and feels tight and planted all the time. The five-speed dogleg ’box and lack of power steering just make the experience unique, and I am slowly getting my Arnie arms back!

This car is finished in Aero silver, one of the four 333i colours that were available. The interior features Sport seats, an M Tech 1 steering wheel and, in this example, air-con.


TECHNICAL DATA 1985 BMW 333i E30

  • ENGINE: 3.2-litre straight-six M30B32
  • TRANSMISSION: Five-speed manual dogleg gearbox
  • MAX POWER: 197hp @ 5500rpm
  • MAX TORQUE: 210lb ft @ 4300rpm
  • ACCELERATION 0-62MPH: 7.4 seconds
  • TOP SPEED: 142mph
  • YEARS PRODUCED: 1985-1987
  • NUMBER BUILT: Approx. 200-210

The M30B32 featured in cars such as the E23 733i, and the E9 3.0 CSL

The 333i received the M30B32 3.2-litre straight six-cylinder engine developing 197hp at 5500rpm and 210lb ft at 4300rpm I bought my first 333i back in 1992; she was five years old and identical to this ‘new’ one…

1985 BMW 333i E30

The guy selling her was buying one of the first M3s (E36) ever imported into SA. I think that I got the better car

Article type:
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