Max Hoffman Special: 1974 BMW Bavaria

1974 BMW Bavaria

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Like many European automotive manufacturers at the time, BMW worked with legendary auto importer Max Hoffman to sell models that would resonate with American buyers. Enter the Bavaria, a sedan that featured the best ingredients for a sports sedan, a torquey motor mated to a manual transmission without a lot of frills. A tip of the hat to Mr. Hoffman, as that formula influenced many of BMW’s eventual creations and began the lasting legacy of building desirable sporting vehicles. This 1974 BMW Bavaria in Cape Cod is a clean example of an E3, and looks practically ready to roll with minimal refreshing needed. For more information, find it here on craigslist.

BMW Bavaria Motor

One of the best parts of the BMW story is how it transitioned to building cars that combined impressive driving dynamics with an affordable price tag. While the same cannot be said about the current lineup, vehicles such as the Bavaria and the 2002 drew a huge following that continues today, and even top-flight examples of these earlier models can still be obtained affordably with solid parts availability for spares. Of course, how much longer prices remain at reasonable levels for the average hobbyist is a good question. As we’ve seen in recent years, values for clean E9 coupes have risen steadily, along with newer models like the E30.

BMW Bavaria Interior

As a resident of New England, I’ve spent a good amount of time on Cape Cod, often looking for hidden “weekend” vehicles that have remained in the seaside community long-after the summer cottage has been shuttered. Although I haven’t discovered cars like this Bavaria in my searches on the Cape, I have spotted numerous vehicles laid up in storage and carports on the neighboring islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. For those fortunate enough to own a home in any of these places, keeping an old luxury sedan or vintage two-seater in the garage is hardly uncommon. Heck, they don’t have many miles to cover if their sole purpose is island transport!

BMW Bavaria E3

When I look at this Bavaria, I can spot a few indications in the photographs that this might be a solid buy. The shock towers front and rear appear to be in great condition, areas that are particularly vulnerable to rust on vintage BMWs. On the rear, this is an encouraging sign that the trunk has stayed dry all these years, usually due to good weatherstripping and clear sunroof drains. While not everyone loves the unwieldy safety bumpers, the metal appears clean and reflects well, a nice detailing aspect that speaks to the care the car has received. Just a new hood roundel away from looking complete! If I didn’t have space issues, I might give this one a look, but what about you? Does your collection need a vintage sports sedan? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Rick

    First thing I’d do is lose those bumpers and find a set ’72 or earlier US or Euros

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  2. rdc

    Nice car. I had a 76 2002 of the same era. I currently have a 95 525i as a DD. The 95 is still a lovely and fixable car.

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  3. Bradshaw from Primer

    In 1968 I was the office staff for Tricor…we were a racing team for Nearburg that was funded by having Mk IV in Dallas design Air Conditioners for the BMW 2002. BMW did not have A/C for its cars.

    I recieved a call from Max Hoffman one morning wanting all the details on the a/c installations.
    Later I found he had done the Speedster, and 2002. There was a very vibrant group of little shops doing sports cars then. Joe Starkey’s Gasoline Alley…(near the Strictly Tabu club) would have a XKSS tucked in the garage, a Speedster on the lot with an XKE, all on a 50 x 100 foot lot with an a-frame. There was a group of Quonset huts on Harry hines, that had a Mclaren, Apollo, 3 Lambos, a Lusso, and 4 250 GTE’s one day when I dropped by. All tucked away in the huts $3,000 to $9,000. I bought the Elan with a Hutchinson engine for $750.
    The last quonset hut seller I saw in 76 had a Daytona for $15,000.
    Max Hoffman triggered a lot of memories of Dallas Sports Cars…

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    • Mark E

      When I was in high school and college, my biggest dream was to have a huge quonset hut on a 5 acre piece of land somewhere. Thinking back, it would probably be loaded with more value than my 401k by FAR if I’d just bought and stored cars…

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  4. Mark E

    Based upon the title, I’m very dissapointed that the Max Hoffman Special isn’t some weird, funky body style like, say, the Bauer bodied BMWs for instance…

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  5. Eric M.

    I had a 72 Bavaria, picked it up for$500 in 1991. That was a fun car… oh, the memories… Torquey engine, and the 4 speed were the perfect combo. I agree with Rick, though. Lose the ugly safety bumpers and go to the 72 style.

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  6. Neil

    This is a really nice find – the kind of thing I bookmarked BF for and looks to me like the kind of thing Jesse would buy, sort out the minor problems, enjoy it and then move on to the next.

    I think this is priced just about right; dig out the machine polisher to bring up that paint, swap the ugly US spec bumpers as Rick and Eric have said and basically enjoy. These cars tend to rot around the wheel arches and the door bottoms – there are repair kits for both of these areas – but based on the smallish photos on CL this doesn’t appear to be a problem.

    With a bit of post-Christmas cash haggling, I bet you could have this car on your drive with the Euro-spec parts and all the inevitable minor bits and pieces fixed for well under $6k.

    Personally, I’d swap the wheels as well, but you’d have a good part-ex with the existing rims. This is well within the ability of the average home mechanic and well within the average household budget for a classic runaround.

    Great find!

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  7. jim s

    i too think this would make a great daily driver. it is $4k or best offer so take a close look at it then make the offer. i wonder why the air filter housings are in the trunk and what car is under the blue cover. great find

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  8. BrentF

    This particular example is no Max Hoffman import. This car was originally a European delivery vehicle as evidenced by the square red “fog” light to the left of the rear license plate.

    Like 0

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