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The name "Bavaria" is often used as a catch all title for all models using this same basic body style. This tends to confuse most newcomers since there are different modelsFront view of E3 from brochure made between 1968 to 1976 that are a spin off of this basic body type. BMW uses a factory designated nomenclature to identify the basic chassis type, hence the name E3.

......> BMW Factory Codes <

Under the E3 heading we have 9 different models differing in engine size, appointments, options, and subtle styling. Due to the the subtle nature of these differences, many confuse the models until a trip to the right rear trunk lid for a verification. The 9 different models are as follows (including European versions):

2500 - 2800 - 2.8L - Bavaria - 3.0L - 3.0S - 3.0Si - 3.3L - 3.3Li

To add to the confusion, some of the E3s overlap years and engines plus with additional options, models can include equipment / items that are normally stock on others. Factor in that some European versions were imported into the US and you can see where the confusion develops(Although there were far fewer European spec. cars imported into the US, you will come across one occasionally).

The Bavaria was the first of the E3s with the 3 litre engine, although it still had the 2800cc power plant in '71. The Bavaria was essentially a 2800 without the leather upholstery, power
equipment, and funky Nivomat self-leveling suspension. The price was lowered and sales subsequently took off. The "S" versions of the E3 were essentially option loaded while the Euro "L" versions had more options and were stretched between the B and C pillar to give more rear passenger room. The "i" version of E3 added the Bosch fuel injection. All previous models came with twin Zenith carbs that were not the best in tunability and smoothness but were fine when performing well.

The biggest physical difference affecting the US E3 was the new US bumper regulations which came into effect in 1974. 5mph bumpers were required on all cars from '74 on; like many others, the E3 did not take well to the ugly larger bumpers which tended to look tacked on. Many prefer the pre-74 cars for this very reason.

David Woodham in M powered E3 - scary bastard!
The following are excerpts from the excellent article written by Peter Bohr for Road & Track Used Car Classics: A Guide to Affordable Exciting Cars in March of 1985. This article is one of the best overviews available anywhere on the Net and thanks goes to Gerald Stanley for locating it in print.




Road & Track Used Car Classics:

A Guide to Affordable Exciting Cars
By Peter Bohr

"...[BMW] expanded its line in 1968 with a group of new luxury models, two 6-cylinder sedans and a fancy 6-cylinder coupe... This was a gutsy move, for BMW was now trying to encroach on Mercedes territory as a maker of pricey, high-quality, high-performance sedans.

The two 4-door cars, called the 2500 and 2800, are nearly identical except for engine displacement and trim. ...Styling cues [included] a low beltline, tall greenhouse, a relatively flat hood and trunk, a continuous fenderline, and the completely distinctive grill.

Perhaps the most brilliant features of the 2500 and 2800 are their 6-cylinder engines, with displacement of 2494 cc and 2788 cc respectively. ...Alex Von Falken directed BMW's racing activities before WWII and had designed the 4-cylinder engines and its variations for the 1500, 1600, and 2002. Like the 4-cylinder engines, the 6-cylinder had a cast iron block and an aluminum cylinder head with an overhead cam. But it had another feature as well, a trispherical turbulence-inducing combustion chamber... [The chamber] allowed more complete burning of the air / fuel mixture with a minimum of residual hydrocarbons, and in the late 60s, as U.S. emissions regulations came into effect, that was a major concern. Von Falkenhausen's engine was clean enough that it didn't require an air pump in the U.S.

Germany's Andy Wunsch's E3 stable - see in  Featured Bavrarias

Road & Track called the engine a 'jewel...with a sporting exhaust note...and practically no underhood noise.' We added, 'at low speeds it belies its modest displacement with surprisingly generous amounts of torque and flexibility.' We went on to proclaim the engine the best inline 6-cylinder in the world. (!)

The buyer of the 2500 or 2800 had the choice of a 4-speed manual transmission of a ZF 3-speed automatic. Road & Track's road testers had praise for the crisp 4-speed, but as for the automatic, the testers minced no words: 'the worst we've ever encountered in any car.' Oh, dear.

The suspension is independent at all four corners with MacPherson struts up front and semi-trailing arms in the rear, an arrangement very similar to the 1500, 1600, and 2002. It gives an excellent ride over rough surfaces, with generally neutral handling. The 2800 also came with a limited-slip differential and a novel Boge Nivomat automatic load leveling device as standard equipment.

Both sedans have 4-wheel ATE disc brakes. Oddly enough, the more sporting CS coupe has discs only in front with drum brakes in the rear. So, in this respect, the 2500/2800 sedans are more advanced.

The simple instrument panel, which contains very legible round dials with black and white facings is exactly as an instrument panel should be: no digital displays or video -game gizmos here... In fact, the whole interior is utterly functional. There's enough room to carry five people quite comfortably, and ingress and egress are very easy. The trunk is huge and with all the glass outward vision is outstanding. Yet, there's a simple elegance inside with high quality fittings and materials, including the leather upholstery that came as standard equipment on the 2800.

All the 6-cylinder cars first appeared in this country as 1969 models. The 2500 listed for $5,367, while the 2800 went for $6,369. Five or six grand isn't much today, but back then it was not an inconsiderable sum - a 1969 2002 was only $3,053. [Considering the competition such as Mercedes] it's not surprising that sales of the 2500 and 2800 were less than robust.

But Max Hoffman came up with a clever marketing plan. He suggested that the two models be combined into one called the Bavaria. The car appeared in 1971 and was actually the 2800 minus the leather upholstery and Nivomat rear suspension. A few items that had been standard on the 2800, such as the heated rear window and the handsome tool kit attached to the underside of the trunk lid, were made optional.

However, the Bavaria's most important feature was a lower price tag. At less than $5000 - $4,987 east coast point of entry (POE) - the car suddenly became a bargain. The name, too, was a clever strategy because it reinforced the Bavaria's Teutonic origin. It worked splendidly and sales firmed up. In 1972 BMW increased the engine displacement to an even 3.0 liters and decreased the compression ratio so the car could use regular gasoline. But the Bavaria name remained. That year, BMW also switched from the miserable ZF automatic to a more acceptable Borg-Warner unit.

Then in 1973, BMW resurrected the idea of having two 6-cylinder 4-door models, and added the 3.0S, a car identical to the Bavaria but with every conceivable option, from leather and air conditioning to power assisted steering and stereo. The same two models were offered in 1974, but by that time the Bavaria's base price had nearly doubled to $10,000 - in just three years. The 1974 cars also received simple but not very well integrated 5-mph bumpers.

In the following year, the Bavaria nameplate was dropped. But it lived on through 1976 as the 3.0Si, which was the old loaded up Bavaria with the addition of Bosch electronic fuel injection instead of the previous twin carburetors. In fact, the 3.0Si and the new 530i shared the same engine. When emissions standards tightened in 1975, BMW chose to use thermal reactors...instead of catalytic converters. Thus, these Bimmers are some of the few 1975 and 1976 cars that can use leaded gas."

The original scanned article (courtesy of Gerald Stanley) can be found HERE.



Here is a basic specs comparison between the ' 69 2500, ' 71 Bavaria, and ' 75 3.0Si from the Road & Track Classic Cars article. It is interesting to note the changes in performance relative to the model. Also remember the actual track tests were more than likely conducted by different drivers.


  1969 2500 1971 Bavaria 1975 3.0Si
Curb Weight, lbs. 3005 3170 3420
Wheelbase, in 106.0 106.0 106.0
Track, f/ r 56.9 / 57.6 56.9 / 57.6 58.3 / 57.9
Length 185.0 185.0 195.0
Width 68.9 68.9 68.9
Height 56.1 56.4 57.2
Engine Type sohc inline 6 sohc inline 6 sohc inline 6
Bore x stroke, mm 86.0 x 71.6 86.0 x 80.0 89.0 x 80.0
Displacement, cc 2494cc 2788cc 2985cc
Horsepower, bhp@rpm 170 @6000 192 @6000 176 @5500
Torque, lbs ft@rpm 176 @3700 200 @3700 185 @4500
Transmission 4-sp M/ 3-sp A 4-sp M/ 3-sp A 4-sp M/ 3-sp A
Suspension, f/r ind / ind ind / ind ind / ind
Brakes, f / r disc / disc disc / disc disc / disc
Steering type Worm and Roller Worm and Roller Worm and Roller

Performance Data  from contemporary tests
0 - 60 mph., sec 10.0 9.3 NA
Standing 1/4 mile, sec 17.3 16.8 NA
Average mpg 20.9 18.0 NA
Road test date 6-69 8-71 NA be continued -COMING SOON: SPECS FOR ALL U.S. MODELS