1982 BMW 323i Baur

1982 BMW 323i Baur
Memorial Day 2010 First Drive 1982 323i BMW Baur Lapisblau M20 5 speed #4154 of 4595 made. The car was imported to California by Dietel Enterprises. I have since changed the wheels, installed the clear turn signal lenses, and I am in the process of installing a new cabriolet roof. I have to do something about those bumpers, too. :) I love this car! To see one of the reasons why, check my post "Score One For the Good Guys" on 6/26/2011.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Petrolicious Baur Article Response November 21, 2014

The following post is in response to an article that 

appeared on the Petrolicious website today.  

Muchas gracias to our good friend Harry Bonkosky 

for posting it in Facebook today.

Thank you for posting those wonderful pictures of 

that beautiful example of the E21 Baur, al so know 

as the Top Cabriolet (TC1).  My compliments to Gilles, 

the owner!  Fantastic pics!

However, I take strong exception to the content of the 

article that accompanies those photos:  it is filled with 

errors and misconceptions, which probably derives from a profound

 misunderstanding of the whole 'raison d'être' of the unusual design of 

the Baur.  I don't mean to single out this particular author, because the

 opinions and 'facts' that he stated are, unfortunately, very commonly held. 

 I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is too young to 

remember, or perhaps he is older and has simply forgotten a certain period 

in automotive history in which this rather ungainly Baur design first emerged.  

There is a REASON that the Baur looks the way it does!  

In the late 1960's and 1970's there was a strong concern about 

automobile safety. 
 Ralph Nader had published his famous "Unsafe at any Speed" 
book about the 
Corvair, and governments around the world, for the first time, 
were starting to look 
seriously at automotive safety.  Seat belts became mandatory, 
for example.  
Convertibles quickly became a high profile issue because of their 
perceived danger 
in a rollover accident.  There was talk at the government level 
(including the United 
States Government) of banning convertibles altogether!   As a 
direct result of the fear 
that government might ban convertibles, factory production of 
convertibles stopped.  

\The last American factory convertible in that period was the 1976 
Cadillac Eldorado.  
Factory tooling was dismantled.  With very few exceptions, no automobile 
built any factory convertibles until the crisis passed, in the early to mid-1980s.   
The only 
way you could obtain a convertible, again with a few exceptions, was 
through an aftermarket 
coach builder, such as American Sunroof Corporation here in the US. 

It was during this period of fear and anxiety about the future of the convertible
 that BMW 
contracted with Baur, the noted coach builder, founded in 1910 in Stuttgart, 
to provide
 a 'convertible' for BMW customers who, despite the safety concerns and the 
government ban, wanted a top down automobile.

In the article your author states:
"You see, Baur had to start its convertible 3-Series by taking an already-built 
3-Series coupe 
and sawing off the roof. As a result, there wasn’t any extra rigidity built into the 
body or the 
chassis – since the car was never intended to be a convertible in the first place. 
So Baur had to engineer this rigidity into the top."

That statement is completely backwards.   The rather ungainly design of the Baur 
Top Cabriolet actually follows a universally accepted, and time-honored, engineering 
concept:  form follows function.  But since your author has no clue about the function, 
the form makes no apparent sense to him.  
The function drives the form.  The 'function' is passenger safety in an open top car.  
How do you provide that safety particularly in a rollover accident?  Well, how do race 
cars do it:  they require the installation of a roll cage!   Now take another look at the 
Baur top cabriolet.  You are looking at fixed windows with a built-in roll bar:  that is a 
roll cage!  Is it strong.... is it safe?  You tell me.  This a TC2 E30 Baur Top Cabriolet.  

I love this pic, btw.  :)

The explanation for the rather 'ungainly', or 'strange'  design of the Baur Top Cabriolets 

is that it is a roll cage built into the car to address the safety concerns in a rollover 

accident, and still provide a 'top-down convertible' experience!  The Baurs are arguably

 the safest convertibles in the world!  

By the mid-1980s, the crisis had passed.  Governments did NOT actually ban convertibles, 

and automobile manufacturers slowly began to retool and resume factory convertible 

production.  BMW did not present its own convertible until 1986-7, with design help, btw, from Baur.  

Once BMW began production of its own 'true' convertible, BMW Baur Top Cabriolet 
production gradually diminished.  Your author is correct in that there were 4,595 E21 
Top Cabriolets produced.  We also know that at least 1 other vehicle was built here 
in the US by American Sunroof Corporation under Baur license.  Baurspotting has 
located that example in North Carolina, btw.  

But he is incorrect on some of his other figures:  BMW produced 10,865 E30 TC2s at 
Stuttgart. That does include the 114 325ix Baurs.  An additional 3,000+ TC2 Baurs 
were produced in South Africa under license to Baur.  There were also 311 E36 Baurs 
built before production completely stopped.  That was indeed a 4 door convertible..... 
NONE of which were ever imported to the US, btw.  

In summary, while I applaud the fact that you have featured this very special car---- 
and the E21 Baur is my favorite---- I hope that you will also post my complete
response, which may serve to enlighten your readers to the true significance
of this very rare and unusual car.  It is an historical artifact of a nearly forgotten
period in automotive history when .... convertibles were almost outlawed!
Imagine that!  :)

We haven't even mentioned the fact that Baur was designing and building
convertibles for BMW long before the E21.  We can go back to the 1930's
for that.  More recently we can cite the 502 Cabrio and the 700 cabriolets as
good examples.

But let us not forget the fact that Baur built the beautiful 1600 and 2002 Voll
Cabrios---true convertibles------- as well as the 2002 Cabrio Targas, which were
actually the first BMWs to show the unique built-in roll bar, hardtop targa roof
and fixed window design.  Those Cabrio Targas were the first BMWs to sport
the unique 'targa roof with soft top convertible roof'.

But there were many others showing a similar design from that era:  the
Jaguar Cabriolet shown below may be the most familiar example, but
there are many more! 

Here is some additional material from a variety of earlier 

posts about this subject:

Baur-Type Jaguar Targa Cabriolet

Thanks to my friend, Mike E., up in the Puget Sound Region for the
heads up on this little beauty!

OK, ready?

Fixed windows, check!

Removable targa top, check!

Soft fold down rear top, check!

Built-in roll bar, check!

A Baur by any other name, would still smell as sweet!

Try to find a 1985 Jaguar full Cabriolet.  You won't find one.  Why?  For the same reason you wont find any other factory cabriolets!  This Jaguar's design is the Jaguar response to the same exact problem that BMW responded to with the Baurs:  there was a perception that convertibles were going to be banned for safety reasons in those days.  "Unsafe in a rollover"  And what do you see as the most prominent feature in the pic above..... just as you see it as a prominent feature in the BMW Baur Top cabriolets:  fixed windows and a built in roll bar..... it is actually  more  of a cage..... in response to the 'unsafe in a rollover'  issue.  The BMW Baurs, and this Jag also, are historical artifacts of that period in automotive history when there was widespread concern that many governments, including the US Govt, were going to ban convertibles!  That is the 'raison d'etre' of the Baur Top Cabriolet design, and this jaguar cabriolet, as well!

This is the  "1985 Rare Jaguar XJ SC 3.6 5-Speed Cabriolet Targa Top XJS ". Check it out!

ehind it!  Notice the Baur-type soft rear convertible top?
It appears to be a Lancia Zagato, which we have mentioned many times as a Baur-type two piece convertible top:  hard top over the driver, soft top over the rear seat.  Check it out!


Also notice the built-in roll bar in the center of the vehicle, another Baur-type feature. 

That Lancia Zagato, like the BMW baur, is an historical artifact:  it's unusual design is a classic 

form-follows-function!  At the time this car was designed, there was a very serious concern in the

 automotive industry that governments were moving to BAN convertibles altogether, because of a

 perceived danger in a rollover accident.  That is why this Lancia Zagato, like the BMW Baurs, has

 a built-in roll bar as a feature of its design!  It may make for a rather ungainly appearance, but...... 

that is missing the point!  Its design derives from 'form follows function':  the built-in roll bar is there 

to address the 'unsafe in a rollover' issue that had many governments seeking to ban convertibles 


Is that roll bar structurally sound?  You decide:


 I love this pic!


by Doug DeMuro / 21 Nov 2014
Grey BMW Baur 323i

Photography by Rémi Dargegen
It happens every few years, like clockwork. First, they come out with the sedan. Then the wagon. Then the coupe. Then the convertible. Invariably, there’s always a performance version, and occasionally a hatchback.
Except, that isn’t how it always happened. Once, they made one that looked like it was wearing a hat.
I am referring here to the BMW 3 Series, which has been produced consistently since 1975, when it was codenamed “E21.” (Yes, for all you young’uns, there was 3-Series life before the E30.) Back then, there were only two body styles: a coupe, which is what everyone bought. And one of the most bizarre convertibles on the market.
That convertible came courtesy of a Stuttgart-based coachbuilder named Baur, who had a long history with BMW and apparently saw the market for a BMW convertible before BMW did. So the two teamed up to make a convertible 3-Series – with only one little problem. It wasn’t quite a convertible.
You see, Baur had to start its convertible 3-Series by taking an already-built 3-Series coupe and sawing off the roof. As a result, there wasn’t any extra rigidity built into the body or the chassis – since the car was never intended to be a convertible in the first place. So Baur had to engineer this rigidity into the top.
The result of this was a convertible of … unusual … proportions. For one thing, it isn’t a full convertible: the top panel comes off, and only the soft top over the rear window retracts like a typical convertible top. But then there are the pillars. In “roof open” mode, the A-pillar is still in place, of course. But so are the B-pillar, and the C-pillar. And there’s a huge bar connecting the B-pillar on the left side of the car to the one on the right side – even when the top is off.
Speaking of when the top is off, the Baur E21 cars had another unusual aspect: roof storage. Because the regular 3-Series wasn’t built with a rear-hinged trunk to accommodate the folding roof, the convertible soft top just kind of sits on top of the trunk when it’s down. The benefit is that cargo volume is the same as a regular E21 coupe – and Baur drivers swear it doesn’t block their vision. But then they’d probably also swear their car doesn’t look like a regular 3-Series wearing a hat.
Grey BMW Baur E21 side viewGray BMW Baur 3-series rear view
BMW Baur E21 front view
French BMW Baur 3-SeriesBMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series Cabriolet

The result of all this top engineering is that the Baur E21 isn’t really a convertible – but rather more like BMW’s take on the targa top, which was all the rage back in the ‘70s. But unlike a Porsche 911 Targa, which only had a removable roof panel, a top-down Baur E21 had the roof off and the rear window removed, giving it slightly more of a convertible feel.
And we stress slightly.
In the end, Baur manufactured this unusual 3-Series – officially called the “TopCabriolet,” and referred to in BMW circles as the “TC” – for four years: 1978 to 1981. They made precisely 4,595 units – and while I’ve only ever seen 323i models, they apparently covered all engines: from the frugal 75-horsepower 315 to the raucous 143-horsepower 323i. Needless to say, it was a different time in the land of 3-Series.
Of course, you all know the rest of the story: the TopCabriolet was such a success that BMW decided to make actual convertible versions of subsequent 3-Series models, and everyone lived happily ever after, especially wheel repair guys, because lease-return 3-Series Cabriolets make up 90 percent of their business.
But that isn’t quite the rest of the story. You see, even though there was a factory BMW 3-Series convertible on the E30 body style, it didn’t start out that way. Instead, Baur made another 14,426 E30 3-Series convertibles (including 114 all-wheel drive iX models!), with the unusual targa-ish convertible roof and all the pillars and bracing in place before BMW finally took the reins and did a factory convertible with a normal roof and no extra pillars or bracing.
And here’s the crazy thing: it still didn’t end there! My personal favorite Baur 3-Series is the E36, which was actually a four-door sedan with a folding roof over both front and rear seats. Once again, the sole roof brace joined the B-pillars, meaning that the rear seats enjoyed a limousine-style landaulet look.
Unfortunately, the Baur 3-Series stopped there: there was no E46, no E90, and certainly no F30. But sometimes, it’s nice to remember the classics. Especially the ones wearing a hat.
Thank you to Gilles, from the French BMW E21/E30 club, for letting us photograph his car!
BMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series CabrioletBMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series CabrioletBMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series Cabriolet
BMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series CabrioletBMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series Cabriolet
BMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series Cabriolet
BMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series CabrioletBMW Baur 3-Series interiorBMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series Cabriolet
BMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series CabrioletBMW Baur E21: The Original 3-Series Cabriolet


Want more examples of similar cars?  :)   We have tons!  ;)


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