BMW E30, #LemonsWorld 57: How Many Have Raced Lemons?

By: Eric Rood Photo Credits: Murilee Martin, Eric Rood, Nick Pon
June 5, 2020

BMW E30.” Yes, that phrase has been synonymous with “CHEATERS” since Lemons’ earliest days. The BMW 3-Series has been a staple of road racing for some time. Whatever you think about BMWs in Lemons, there’s no doubting that Lemons has seen its fair share of crapcan 3-Series Bimmers. How many? We’ll answer that question in a second. Before we get there, let’s ask if Lemons ruined the E30 for everyone in Episode 57 of #LemonsWorld.

What we do know is that the 1984-1991 BMW 3-Series—known internally at BMW and now among car geeks as the E30 chassis—grew in popularity around that same time as Lemons . There was some good reason, if we can detach professionally from their utter boredom. The E30 was rear-wheel drive with at least some vague notion of ability to corner. It also was about 15-20 years old at that point. That’s a starting point for most enthusiast cars.

The stock of cheap E30s got at least partially eaten up in the surge of cheap-car enthusiasm that has grown in the last decade. Are they all gone? Nah, there’s plenty of crapcan-ready E30s. You might have to get a bit dirtier and start with more of the car in cardboard boxes, but they’re out there.

So…How Many Lemons E30s Have There Been?

Lemons teams, too, gravitated toward the E30 for those same reasons. It was light, relatively efficient, forgiving to drive, and had enough power to compete. Trouble is, most E30 teams don’t bother applying much effort in the way of theme (excepting the above Bavarian Ranchero and Prickstine/Porcubimmer). It became the “easy” button for teams trying to win. Quite a few just rattle-canned their “CraigsList find” with bedliner and stuck a number on it. That lack of imagination isn’t restricted entirely to BMW racers in Lemons. However, it seems to be the marque on which you’ll mostly find them.

Anyway, out of curiosity, I pulled all of the BMW E30 teams from results over the last 15 years of Lemons. I sorted them out by team name and then eliminated a few I knew were the same car run under different team names. I no doubt missed a few duplicates, but the number came out just perfect for E30 dorks.

318.

We’ve had 318(ish) different E30s in Lemons. That was the best count we came up with. If you allow some error into it, that number likely falls somewhere between 300 and 350.

Considering that BMW sold in the United States something like 313,000 of them between 1984 and 1991, Lemons has used up 0.1 percent of all E30s for crapcan racing. If you figure—as many Lemons racers likely do—a parts-car-to-Lemons-car percentage of about 5:1, that’s still far less than 1 percent of all E30s. So it’s hard to imagine Lemons has ruined ALL of them, though 0.5 percent is a pretty significant amount for something as small as our crappy racing series. Maybe we spurred a few SERIOUS COLLECTORS to try saving them all for Radwood shows and maximizing value or something.

Is that a good thing? Who knows. We aren’t experts on that, but we certainly see fewer newly prepared E30s these days. And several recent E30s were acquired as little more than a bare chassis with its constituent parts in boxes. And we’re fans of anybody turning any box-o’-parts project into a Lemons car.

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