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Before And After: 1974 BMW Bavaria

left front

Some of the older BMWs have become very collectible, but not the Bavaria. The Bavaria is the American version of the E3, but with the 2.8 L engine. The E3 is said to be BMW’s first performance sedan. In 1974, the big (ugly) bumpers were added to the US models. This BMW is listed on craigslist in Janesville, Illinois. The asking price of $6,300 seems high, but this is a very nice, rust free car. It was stored from 1989 until 2 years ago, when it was sold for $1,500. It has had extensive mechanical restoration at a shop with a good reputation. It would be interesting to see the total for repairs. The repairs must have been expensive, so the seller might not be making much money on this one.

in the barn

This appears to be the car as it was found. This picture is from an article on Jalopnik in 2014 and was referring to a listing on craigslist.

inside front

Someone has done a great job cleaning up the interior. It looks really nice but the dash does have cracks.

inside rear

The interior presents well in the roomy rear seat area as well.


Things look orderly and complete under the hood and doesn’t appear to have been detailed. This is the dual Zenith carbureted engine. Fuel injection wasn’t available until the following year.


The seller provided several excellent pictures of the underside. There’s a bit of surface rust visible, but I don’t see anything serious.

right rear

The E3, or Bavaria is a roomy, nice handling car and this one looks to be a fine example.The paint looks very nice, but the seller says there are flaws. With  4 wheel disk brakes and fully independent suspension this BMW drives like a modern car. If you can forgive it its extra doors, automatic transmission and ugly bumpers this might make a really classy driver. Except for possibly changing out the bumpers, would you do anything to this BMW? I look forward to reading your comments and learning from those of you more knowledgeable about BMWs.


  1. Tirefriar

    I welcome the 4 doors (love sport sedans, had a ’74 Bavaria as well as AR Berlinas), I can forgive the bumpers (swap them out, bolt on parts) but I cannot get sat the automatic(had a ’74 Bavaria). Great looking car and priced right for the condition. The reason price is reasonable is…automatic trans.

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  2. Dolphin Member

    Looks like a nice rust free Bavaria. It might be a nice vintage BMW sedan, but these came out at a bad time, when US emissions regulations were tightened up and most carmakers were having trouble getting their engines to conform. When they did conform, through things like EGR and thermal reactors, they were often poor performers and got poor gas mileage besides. I can’t recall whether the Bavarias were worse or better than the later E12 5-series cars from 1975-’78, but BMW techs used to call the emissions control systems on those cars the systems from hell.

    OTOH, this car has a new exhaust system that looks like it’s just a plain exhaust system, and the car is described as being “really fast…surprisingly fast” by the seller, so it seems that the car got just a regular exhaust, which is a plus.

    This Bavaria looks way better everywhere than anyone would expect an old, entry level BMW sedan to look, but with an auto transmission and at $6,300 the seller will have to find the exact right buyer who wants this car.

    For that, I think some of the BMW websites and the BMW CCA magazine ‘Roundel’ would be better than a local CL site, even if it is Chicago. Even Ebay would be better for this sale.

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    • Tirefriar

      The E3 sedans, as well as E12, are no strangers to rust. If this a truly rust free car it’s definitely worth the asking price. In fact, it might even be worth to spend sever extra K’s to install a manual.

      I had the Bavaria for a very short time back in the late ’80’s. It was an auto and not particularly fast. I went from that to a ’78 530i, also auto. Back then it was like going upgrading from a prop to a jet. I don’t recall the Bavaria having thermos (maybe they were removed by previous owner) but the E12 had them. I promptly had those surgically removed. I can’t rember exactly when California law went to a bi-annual inspection but i never had smog issues. This E3 being a ’74 is not subject to smog, at least in Cali.

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  3. Paulb32862

    The car is in Janesville, Wisconsin but listed on the Chicago Craigslist. Nice car but the auto disappoints…

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  4. Rando

    i *almost* owned one. It came down to an Audi Fox and the Bavaria. The Bavaria was quite a bit higher priced and I was pretty close out of high school and didn’t have much money. So I bought the Audi. Shoulda bought the BMW. Even with the dual carbs. I still think those are very sharp cars, along with teh 3.0 Coupes. The Bavaria became the 3.0S (? – sedan?) and then the 5 series, right? Seems like it anyway. I may be wrong since the 3.0 coupes became the 6 series. Whatever. Good looking car and wish I could justify it and afford it.

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    • D. King

      Interesting, Rando. We were trying to choose between a new 2002 and a used Bavaria in 1971. Neither won. We found a used ’69 2002 instead just before we signed on the dotted at the Bimmer dealer. I never cared for the car (my husband did), but it was the first of 5 BMWs.

      We also bought a new Audi Fox, back in ’74. Big mistake. Our ’80-something Quattro was much better.

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  5. WaltB31

    I owned a ’72 Bavaria Automatic in 1978. These are good solid cars and quick but not overly fast.
    This is a good price for this car, although the right front wheel structure seems to need adjustment. ’72, and ’73 Bavarias weren’t saddled with the emissions issues which killed performance. I’d make sure the emissions controls were removed from this car prior to purchase.

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  6. BOP_GUY Greg Member

    I remember driving one in the 1980s owned by a high school friend. Fun, but I really liked my later year ’72 2002 with a stick. Man that was a great car! Wish I had kept it, seeing what they’re going for these days.

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  7. Greg S

    As a kid I would see the occasional Barvaria on the freeways in the east Bay Area of San Francisco. I was bitten by the car nut bug at birth. To me this car was breathtaking. Forget about the Mercedes and Audi of the time, this car made me breathe heavily even before I found interest in girls. When I came across this post it stopped me in my tracks. this car is still amazingly beautiful. The color is perfect. I want it. Wife says sell a car and then we can talk. I’m sure it would be gone by then. In the mean time I will keep dreaming, just like I did as a kid.

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    • Rando

      Yes, the Bavaria and the coupes were very striking. Even in the 80s when I was working with my friend on his collection of them. The lines of these cars were some of the best to me.

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  8. Dave Wright

    I was about 20 crusing my Volvo 142S north of Spokane when I came upon an interesting looking sedan on the highway in front of me. I would close on him at 90 to 100 MPH and he would simply walk away from me………finally we came to the little town of Colville ( I think) and I pulled him over, said to him we need to talk about this……I bought him a cup of coffee. He explained that it really wasn’t a fair race, he had a newly imported BMW 2800. He was a Greman salesman and had just brought it into the country. It was so smooth and fast it was just incredible. Later while living in Germany I had a 3.0 Bavariia with a manual trans, BBS wheels, Koni shocks, and a sun roof……what a great car. One of the few BMW’s I have ever been able to warm up to.

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  9. CarNut from Winnipeg Member

    I recall as a teenager my father telling me he had made a great mistake not buying a Bavaria in 1973. We lived in Toronto and there were not many to choose from. He ended up buying a 1973 Audi 100GL 4dr instead, which was $1000 less but cost $6000 in repairs over the 6 years he had it. Bavaria was about $6500-$7000 Cdn at the time.

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  10. Drew

    switch out the trans and she’s a beauty!

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  11. Fiete T

    Dad was military, grew up in Germany. Neighbor had one of these when I was a little kid in dark metallic blue with aluminum wheels, absolutely loved that car

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