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Reader test: 1986 BMW 325i

2010-03-05 11:14

Gavin Myers

We’ve all heard of the legends that are the 333i, 325i Shadowline and 325iS, and I’m sure some of us were lucky enough to witness the 325s in action on racetracks around South Africa in the 80s and early 90s.

But for the average man, or at least the family man with petrol in his veins, these rare and iconic machines weren’t an option, and the ‘normal’ 325i would have to suffice.

This car was passed on to me by my late father who bought it new. It was on this car that I learnt about mechanics, the first car I ever drove and the car I had always wanted as my first car.

I must say this was the car that, very early on, got me hooked on everything BMW. The deep gargling sound from the exhausts at idle, turning into a raw shriek as that beautiful straight-six was sent deep into the redline to bounce off the limiter at a shade under 7 000 r/min (it was chipped early in life) turned me into an addict.

But make no mistake, it takes a good driver to get this car to behave as desired. The handling and grip, if I dare say, at first feel almost “sportscar-like”, but can disappear in the blink of an eye without the right balance of throttle (or careless and stupid use thereof) through a bend. As I, a then inexperienced 18-year-old, found out one Saturday morning after going sideways through a wall...

Guaranteed fun

But that damage was fixed (barring a few minor cosmetics), my driving skills improved and I had a new-found respect for the car. I learnt to drive it properly within the safe confines of many Zwartkops track days, and it still amazes me that this 24-year-old four-door sedan could lap-up the type of "punishment" on road or track that would cause more modern cars to start whimpering after a couple of kilometres.

For a car of its age, the 325i still hands out smiles to its drivers and fear to its passengers in bucket-loads.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m fully aware that by modern standards it’s not very powerful, though it’s still quick as some Golf IV GTI, Ford Fiesta ST, Audi A4 and a few other drivers found out. The handling and brakes, though entertaining, are of a car a few generations old and fuel economy, well...

However, that never stopped the 325i from serving as a great daily driver. Comfortable seats - even after all the years - aircon, electric-windows, a more modern radio for the odd occasion tunes are desired over the engine/exhaust symphony, enough torque to make traffic a breeze (ok, the heavy clutch did take some getting used to...), it really is a hugely entertaining and at the same time great all-round car, even today. Little wonder the 3 Series has remained such an accomplished range.

Unfortunately, LWD 108 GP was stolen in December 2008, and even though I would give almost anything to own just one of the legends mentioned at the beginning, I’d give as much to have this car back in my garage. It was nowhere near perfect, yet still holds a very special, irreplaceable place in my heart. It always will, as is often the case with a legend.

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