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bfrance
bfrance None
7/10/11 9:50 p.m.

Pondering replacing my 855 turbo with my first bimmer. Budget wise, it's going to have to be a older one. 5-speed is a must, as is aftermarket support and usability.

Curious to get some input from peeps who have owned either a E30 or a E36. What did you like/dislike about the car? How was the general reliability? Any specific things to look for?

Thanks,

-Ben

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard SonDork
7/10/11 10:11 p.m.

They're equally reliable, except E36 interiors and cooling systems, which (put crudely) suck major donkey balls. E30s are simpler and easier to work on. Parts are about the same price.

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
7/10/11 11:29 p.m.

E36 interior problems boil down to the inserts on the doors coming unlaminated (easily fixed) and the fabric on the headliner coming down.. also easily fixed... if you can do it yourself. Not hard.just takes time and patience.

Even the renowned problem with the windows breaking their tracks can be fixed with some regreasing.

The cooling system.. not so much. You are looking at complete replacement of waterpump, thermostat, engine mounts, and probably radiator before 100K

I say engine mounts because if they are worn out, they will allow the fan to hit the shroud and it will "explode" and probably take the waterpump, radiator, and possibly the hood with it

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt Dork
7/11/11 10:00 a.m.
mad_machine wrote: E36 interior problems boil down to the inserts on the doors coming unlaminated (easily fixed) and the fabric on the headliner coming down.. also easily fixed... if you can do it yourself. Not hard.just takes time and patience. Even the renowned problem with the windows breaking their tracks can be fixed with some regreasing. The cooling system.. not so much. You are looking at complete replacement of waterpump, thermostat, engine mounts, and probably radiator before 100K I say engine mounts because if they are worn out, they will allow the fan to hit the shroud and it will "explode" and probably take the waterpump, radiator, and possibly the hood with it

Not to thread jack, but do you have a link to how to fix the delaminated door panels? My 328 suffers from that problem.

Note that the later (1997-up?) E36s do not have the water pump or thermostat issues. They eventually replaced the fragile parts with metal. The radiator is still a time bomb though. Had mine go off last month.

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
7/11/11 10:01 a.m.

not off hand.. the Ti uses different style door panels all together. not as pretty.. but more robust

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker SuperDork
7/11/11 10:40 a.m.

Reliability same/same... except like Tom said - E36s have some delamination issues and the cooling systems are an 80k mile wear item...

I would argue with him in that the E36 is much easier to work on than an E30. Just from the fact that you can replace the front struts/springs w/o having to drop a ball joint and that the hood opens to the rear so you don't need to remove it to work on the front of the motor... the rear suspension is more sophisticated but easier to remove and R&R bushings... no valves to adjust, timing belts to replace, etc... the list goes on. The E36 was built to be mass produced - and so it is easy to assemble (and disassemble). For a DIY'er .... its a bonus.

Josh
Josh Dork
7/11/11 10:52 a.m.

For all the talk about E36 interiors falling apart, it's hardly universal. Mine is 13 years old, 140k miles, and my headliner and door panels are perfect. Even the grey (almost white) leather still looks good for its age. I did replace the leather on the armrest and shift boot, but in general I have no complaints about the durability of the interior (ok, the coin dispenser in the console did fall apart, but that's a pretty silly feature to begin with).

wagonfanatic
wagonfanatic New Reader
7/11/11 12:08 p.m.

If you want to track the car, go with an E36- they hold up much better.

E30s are simple and nice, but can be finicky. Finding one in good condition can also be a little harder

I live E30s better (looks wise)- they are super classy and are already collector cars. It will retain its value better. BUT an E36 is probably a better buy in terms of price, maintenance, performance...

Tom_Spangler
Tom_Spangler Reader
7/11/11 12:12 p.m.
Josh wrote: For all the talk about E36 interiors falling apart, it's hardly universal. Mine is 13 years old, 140k miles, and my headliner and door panels are perfect. Even the grey (almost white) leather still looks good for its age. I did replace the leather on the armrest and shift boot, but in general I have no complaints about the durability of the interior (ok, the coin dispenser in the console did fall apart, but that's a pretty silly feature to begin with).

Same here, my doors and headliner are also perfect on a 98 with 130k on it.

Regarding the cooling system, yeah, it needs to be done, but I bought a kit from Bimmerzone with an aluminum radiator, new T-stat with metal housing, new metal-impeller water pump, new expansion tank, and associated hoses and gaskets for $400. Took me a couple of weekends to do it, though I could have done it faster if I'd been under more time pressure (I did it in winter when the car was off the road). I don't consider that to be too bad, and now I'll never have to worry about that stuff again.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
7/11/11 12:34 p.m.

If your E36 door panels haven't become unglued yet, they will. BMW used a bio-degradable adhesive to attach them, and over time the glue fails. Mine started to come apart at around 130K miles. YMMV though.

These guys do a good job fixing them, as we mentioned in GRM: www.Allsherinteriors.com

Besides the door panels, and headliner the interiors are fine. Mine has held up well, and is still presentable and a pleasant place to spend time.

E30 interiors also have issues. (sport seats frequently fail)

Both are great cars. I'd find the best example of either for the $$$.

Osterkraut
Osterkraut SuperDork
7/11/11 12:51 p.m.

At this point, I think the E30 is decidedly a classic, while the E36 still has some "looks like a 90's car" happening to it.

I'd find a beautiful M50 swapped E30.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 Dork
7/11/11 1:02 p.m.
MadScientistMatt wrote: Not to thread jack, but do you have a link to how to fix the delaminated door panels? My 328 suffers from that problem.

Ha! Took the words right out of my mouth. Same here. Need to find that info.

nderwater
nderwater Dork
7/11/11 1:08 p.m.

...That and how to fix the headliner without busting up the A/B/C pillar covers. I hoped that spray glue would work, but no dice.

Ian F
Ian F SuperDork
7/11/11 1:47 p.m.
Giant Purple Snorklewacker wrote: I would argue with him in that the E36 is much easier to work on than an E30. Just from the fact that you can replace the front struts/springs w/o having to drop a ball joint and that the hood opens to the rear so you don't need to remove it to work on the front of the motor... the rear suspension is more sophisticated but easier to remove and R&R bushings... no valves to adjust, timing belts to replace, etc... the list goes on. The E36 was built to be mass produced - and so it is easy to assemble (and disassemble). For a DIY'er .... its a bonus.

Having now spent a fair amount of time working on nice examples of both, I would agree. Although not really difficult to R&R, I'd swear the coolant hose routing on the E30 325is was designed by Rube Goldburg. There are just a bunch of little things that often had me scratching my head wondering how BMW mass-produced those cars and made money doing it...

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
7/11/11 2:14 p.m.
Osterkraut wrote: At this point, I think the E30 is decidedly a classic, while the E36 still has some "looks like a 90's car" happening to it. I'd find a beautiful M50 swapped E30.

The E36 is about bottomed out depreciation wise. All the tatty ones are slowly being scrapped (including my own Ti) and their values as a classic sports sedan can only go up from here

Tom_Spangler
Tom_Spangler Reader
7/11/11 2:28 p.m.
Osterkraut wrote: At this point, I think the E30 is decidedly a classic, while the E36 still has some "looks like a 90's car" happening to it.

I agree, so it comes down to what you want from the car. An E30 is more of a classic and is certainly cooler, but an E36 is a better everyday car, IMO. Safer, quieter, more modern convenience features, etc. I've been using mine as a daily driver all summer, and I don't have the same tolerance for old rattletraps that most people on this forum do.

I also agree on the depreciation angle. I may be biased, but I think the amount of car you get for your money in an E36 M3 is simply absurd and it's hard to match in the used-car market.

GTwannaB
GTwannaB Reader
7/11/11 2:29 p.m.
Giant Purple Snorklewacker wrote: . no valves to adjust, timing belts to replace, etc...

No timing belts? Is there such thing as a BMW straight six with a timing chain in an E36? I know the 4 cyls have timing chains but I thought all of the 6 cyls are timing belts.

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
7/11/11 3:07 p.m.

nope.. the M50 and up were all chains

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt Dork
7/11/11 3:08 p.m.
GTwannaB wrote:
Giant Purple Snorklewacker wrote: . no valves to adjust, timing belts to replace, etc...

No timing belts? Is there such thing as a BMW straight six with a timing chain in an E36? I know the 4 cyls have timing chains but I thought all of the 6 cyls are timing belts.

Yep, the 6s are chain driven cams too on the E36.

ddavidv
ddavidv SuperDork
7/11/11 5:27 p.m.
wagonfanatic wrote: If you want to track the car, go with an E36- they hold up much better. E30s are simple and nice, but can be finicky. Finding one in good condition can also be a little harder I live E30s better (looks wise)- they are super classy and are already collector cars. It will retain its value better. BUT an E36 is probably a better buy in terms of price, maintenance, performance...

Dis-a-gree. Nothing against the E36, it's a fine car, but the E30 I would hardly call fragile. I beat mine mercilessly on the track and nothing has broken. Nothing. (Well, okay, one motor mount that I should have replaced and knew better). No cracking shock towers or tearing subframe mounts like later BMWs are cursed with. Cheap, cheap parts. Performance? Well, Spec E30s are turning lap times similar (and frequently, faster) than comparable Spec 3 (E36) cars. What I would say is they are different cars to drive, and the OP should probably try both to see which he prefers. The E36 is built to a price a bit more than an E30, but the E30 will be more aged and require some more initial freshening/maintenance to bring it up to snuff.

HStockSolo
HStockSolo New Reader
7/11/11 7:46 p.m.

E36 issues probably vary depending on where and how they have lived. The headliner on my 1994 325i is fine as is most of the rubber bushings. I do have a little bubbling on one of the rear doors. The cooling system is mostly fine, the original motor mounts are fine.

My cooling fan gouged up the radiator at an autocross and I found a broken transmission mount to blame. I replaced the water pump too, but it was probably fine. There has been quite a few good parts that I've replaced.

I bought mine to autocross and right now I'd rate it as an also-ran in GS, which unfortunately it is currently in DS. The E36 325 is definitely faster than the 328 and E30s. But these are all slower than the E46 330 ZHP. The ZHP is probably a better choice for STX too.

bfrance
bfrance New Reader
7/11/11 10:00 p.m.

Wow! Thanks for all of the input peeps! I guess I really need to drive both to figure out which I'd like better. It'll be the all-around car if I pull the trigger on one, ie: daily driver, weekend fun car, auto-crosser, wife-approved grocery getter, etc.

As much as I love the utility of the 855 I have, the auto-tragic really kills the fun factor. Couple that with a it being fwd and I'm sure either Bimmer would be more my style.

Other than the cooling system issues, any other areas of concern for the E36 (beyond the usual used-car type of things to look for, that is)?

Thanks again,

-Ben

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker SuperDork
7/11/11 10:42 p.m.
ddavidv wrote:
wagonfanatic wrote: If you want to track the car, go with an E36- they hold up much better. E30s are simple and nice, but can be finicky. Finding one in good condition can also be a little harder I live E30s better (looks wise)- they are super classy and are already collector cars. It will retain its value better. BUT an E36 is probably a better buy in terms of price, maintenance, performance...

Dis-a-gree. Nothing against the E36, it's a fine car, but the E30 I would hardly call fragile. I beat mine mercilessly on the track and nothing has broken. Nothing. (Well, okay, one motor mount that I should have replaced and knew better). No cracking shock towers or tearing subframe mounts like later BMWs are cursed with. Cheap, cheap parts. Performance? Well, Spec E30s are turning lap times similar (and frequently, faster) than comparable Spec 3 (E36) cars. What I would say is they are different cars to drive, and the OP should probably try both to see which he prefers. The E36 is built to a price a bit more than an E30, but the E30 will be more aged and require some more initial freshening/maintenance to bring it up to snuff.

I'll agree and disagree.... the E30 is built like a tank. Stuff just does not break. It does leak out though. It can be light if you plan to gut it. It can post similar laptimes in specE30 trim to an SE36 at short, twisty places where gearing, weight and agility help. Give an SE36 some room to run and a good driver... it will spank it blind (better rear grip, aero and taller gearing). It can handle more power. A lot of it. NA power costs more than the car is worth. Boost is cheap... but sucks at road racing.

I put an modded E36 M3 drivetrain in mine, gutted it to 2100lbs and it is probably the only $9k race car in the whole field at a BMWCCA event that has the potential to finish top 5 (needs a better driver to make good on that claim... lap times concur however... I'm like Vettel!).

Assuming you are not planning to put more drivetrain in the car than it is worth... the only real "fragility" issues with a well maintained 6 cyl. M20 powered E30 are those damn broken rockers and the eventual death of the Getrag 260 gearbox. Everyone who tracks one (with a chip that increases redline) eventually has to face rockers... and the trans thing... well, I don't know a single track junkie with the original trans... but they all made it past 150k :)

Really - you can't go wrong with a good example of either car.

WilberM3
WilberM3 Dork
7/11/11 11:00 p.m.
GTwannaB wrote:
Giant Purple Snorklewacker wrote: . no valves to adjust, timing belts to replace, etc...

No timing belts? Is there such thing as a BMW straight six with a timing chain in an E36? I know the 4 cyls have timing chains but I thought all of the 6 cyls are timing belts.

yep all chain. in fact the only NON-chain (at least modern but i cant think of any other) bmw inline 6 is the m20 engines found in the e30 and e28/early e34.

mr2peak
mr2peak Reader
7/12/11 12:47 a.m.
Osterkraut wrote: At this point, I think the E30 is decidedly a classic, while the E36 still has some "looks like a 90's car" happening to it. I'd find a beautiful M50 swapped E30.

Just started on swapping my M50 into a beautiful alpina '87 shell today. Early rear arches, late bumpers, shadowlined trim, rear pop-out windows, shaved bay. Should be a beautiful car by the time I'm done. I'll have a build thread up on r3vlimited as soon as I get organized, also a part out thread to help finance..

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