Roscommon mechanic, James Lannon, has restored a classic 1990 BMW E30 325i Sport Coupé to concours condition. The car is original with no after-market modifications.

The BMW 3 Series is one of the most important cars ever made. It started out in the mid-1970s with the E21. This was a quality car but didn’t handle that well. It was a good seller for BMW with over 1.3 million units manufactured.

In 1982 the E30 was launched and quickly established a new market segment – the small executive sports saloon. It had understated styling, an aggressive front profile and great road presence. The six-cylinder in-line engines were powerful and smooth. It was the go-to car for the younger generations of up-and-coming bankers and business executives and sold well.

By the time production ceased in 1994, it had sold over 2.4 million units. It set the benchmark for design, build quality and performance. It paved the way for cars such as the Mercedes C Class and Audi A4 whose manufacturers were forced play catch-up to compete in the new market segment established by BMW.

While James Lannon has restored other cars, this one is a bit special. He always wanted an E30 but could never afford it when he was younger.

A mate imported the car from the UK in 2006 but used it for only a short while. Inevitably, deterioration from lack of use set in. While various components required attention and, or replacement Lannon was satisfied that the structural elements of the car were sound and the bodyshell had no isssues apart from needing a paint job. Lannon acquired the car three years ago.

The E30 stripped down bodyshell (Picture: J Lannon)

The car was dismantled, stripped back to its bare shell and re-built as if from new. The biggest challenge in a project like this is sourcing the correct parts. It’s not that they aren’t available, rather it is that parts catalogues are difficult to find. Every part is coded to the year and model. Without these codes you can’t be sure you have the correct part. Lannon was lucky that his local BMW dealer was able to find an old hard drive containing the original parts catalogue.

He was able to source all original-specification new parts from BMW, even down to bolts, screws, brackets and clips. Every part in the restored car is from the original equipment manufacturer. Without the parts codes from the old catalogue, a restoration to this standard would have been almost impossible.

Fully restored BMW E30 in James Lannon’s workshop (Picture: J Lannon)

Lannon is fortunate in that he has a fully-equipped workshop at home and has a body shop as part of his business. The car has had a full body respray in the original BMW ox-blood red. The engine and gearbox have been rebuilt and the wiring entirely replaced. The car even has its original radio. The interior is also original with black leather upholstery and sports seats. The oirginal Alpina alloys have been expertly refurbished.

Original Alpina alloys expertly restored (Picture: J Lannon)

Working evenings and weekends, the restoration project has taken two and a half years to do and lots of cash. But it has been worth it. The car is as good as when it left the BMW plant in Bavaria in 1990 and is good for another thirty years. It is also worth a lot more now that it was then. It would be hard to find another restoration of this calibre anywhere.

James Lannon talks about the restoration of his BMW E30 325i Sport Coupé (Video: K Feely)

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