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  • 05/05/2015 - 18:00

    Tiff Needell's First Racing Car - Fifth Gear


    Tiff Needell's First Racing Car - Fifth Gear

    45 years ago Lotus launched a competition to win a Lotus 69F, and the winner was none other than Tiff Needell! This helped kick-start his career in motorsport, and after being sold through...
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    Fifth Gear
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    3961

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    Time:
    06:51
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  • 05/02/2015 - 18:00

    Fifth Gear: Series 4 - Episode 5


    Fifth Gear: Series 4 - Episode 5

    In Series 4 Episode 5 of Fifth Gear (Air Date 10th November 2003) We test out BMW's X3, the ultimate Mercedes-Benz and Tiff has a go becoming a MotorGP Rider! For more fantastic car reviews,...
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    Fifth Gear
    Views:
    5414

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    Time:
    21:00
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  • 04/30/2015 - 18:00

    Casino Royale: Behind The Scenes #TBT - Fifth Gear


    Casino Royale: Behind The Scenes #TBT - Fifth Gear

    It's #ThrowbackThursday! Fifth Gear are given access behind the scenes of the 2006 hit film, Casino Royale. Highlighting how stunt and crashes for the film are created. For more fantastic...
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    Fifth Gear
    Views:
    6181

    127
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    Time:
    11:40
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  • 04/04/2022 - 17:01

    New York show: BMW M6

    The

  • 05/24/2015 - 01:01

    Buying and selling a BMW 3 Series - James Ruppert's used car buying guide

    As a BMW car salesman in Park Lane in the 1980s, James Ruppert had a front-row seat for the 3 Series revolution
    The 1980s had it all: decent music, hairspray-assisted hairstyles and the BMW 3 Series. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and even luckier to get a 316 as my first demonstrator.That may not sound like much, but back in 1983 no salesmen had them; they were too busy flogging the things. Compared with the British rubbish and assorted Eurotrash I’d been used to, it was a revelation. No wonder everyone wanted one.It may be hard now to realise just what a giant leap in car technology, brand building and all-round automotive awesomeness the E30-generation 3 Series was. I mean, it actually handled. The doors shut with a reassuring ‘gerthud’. Nothing ever rattled. Sitting in a 3 Series made you feel confident. Driving one turned you into a demigod. Not owning a brand-new 3 Series was not an option, and I was there to help.The customers came in all shapes and sizes as BMW developed the compact executive car to the point where absolutely everyone wanted a 3 Series. The yuppies may have been the early adopters, but there were also company car buyers who would dump their user-chooser Ford Sierra Ghia in a heartbeat for a chance to pilot a boggo-spec three-door 316 in Henna Red.The brilliant thing about all German cars was that everything was an extra. What made me smile was ‘radio preparation’; that’s 50 quid. For that, you got a couple of speakers, a few wires and a manual aerial.Yes, it was all about the extras. That’s because it was all about profit. We were not playing the ‘park ’em deep, discount ’em cheap’ game like Henry Ford. More profit in the deal meant more money in my double-breasted suit. Some dealers did discount, but we never did. It was pretty much a sackable offence. Indeed, it was our job to raise the retail bar and it was relatively easy to get customers to spend comfortably over £20k on their car.All I needed was a customer with a 323i and a sense of adventure whom I could steer towards a dog-leg, close-ratio gearbox, limited-slip diff, alloy wheels, air-con and all the technical wonders that Bavaria could provide.But there was more. Much more. We were well ahead of the customisation curve at Park Lane, because we had the facilities to do anything to make your 3 Series look a lot less like the one belonging to your mate on the foreign exchange floor. This may have been a good thing for my bank balance, but it did lead to some aesthetically challenging bodykits, colours and leather trim.A 3 Series needed the right spec and we always pre-ordered stock with a sunroof and central locking as the bare minimum. I did have one customer who insisted on keeping the solid roof on the grounds that someone would dive through the sunroof and onto his daughter, for whom he was buying the car. I explained that it would knock the resale value for six. He went ahead and ordered a 320i without a sunroof. He needed to worry less about resale and sunroof divers and more about the salesman doing the handover.There was nothing else like the 3 Series around. Nothing. Well, Mercedes-Benz tried with the 190. We got a left-hand-drive, part-exchange car and drove it around the Mayfair block. It was no 3 Series, although clearly accountants would love it. No, the appeal of the 3 Series widened with the introduction of each model: the Baur Convertible, Convertible, Tourer. This is where BMW began to mine multiple niches.The 1980s marked the birth of the best 3 Series and the rebirth of BMW. These days, it’s possible to sate your 3 Series desire for not a lot of cash. Here’s what to look out for across the first five generations.E90 (2005-2013), from £4400This is the ‘Bangle-ised’ one (as in Chris Bangle, former BMW design boss), and is all the more expressive for his sharp-edged input.That said, the E90 generation has yet to find itself a place in the affections of the diehard 3 Series fan and has been under attack from the lithe 1 Series, which is, in effect, the E30 3 Series reborn in a new body.But that apathy should be taken as a major result by us fans of used car bargains: look around and there are some great-value models to go for.With just £4400 to play with, you can get a proper 320i SE from 2008. You may reasonably expect an M Sport car to take you towards a five-figure sum, so a 2008 3.0 325i M Sport doesn’t seem bad value at below £5k.E46 (1998-2006), from £4500For some, including me, this is the last time that the 3 Series looked right, and there are loads of lovely things to choose from here.The big-engined petrol models are the place to be. The 2002 330Ci with an electric roof and a low mileage is yours for £4500. With a roof, a 330Ci Sport Coupé is the same money with a full history. Swap over to an M3 from the same year and that’s £7995 or so, and a 2004 facelift blips the price up to £9995. The competition package CS can start at £15k, and that has to be a tip for the future, but lower-milers are £23k-plus.E36 (1990-1999), from £4000Early examples of the E36 weren’t that great when it came to build quality, but it got better and ended up being what most people think a 3 Series should be.This generation became the most abused of the lot when the cars trickled down to all the wrong owners.Plus there is a whole heap of M3s to choose from, in coupé, convertible and saloon forms. This is the eye-opener, because you can climb on board an M3 coupé for £4k. However, you would be far better off paying something closer to £8k-£9k.It is, though, becoming difficult to find the M3 saloon, and I would tip that as the E36 model most likely to be a future collectable.E30 (1982-1994), from £3000The classic 3 Series that is modern enough to still be taken seriously as a proper driving machine. But which one? As with the E21 generation, it is worth finding standard cars that haven’t been mucked about with. Six-cylinder models are worth the effort and the 320i is underrated.There are some ‘one family owner’ examples out there, but also some real rubbish. Restorations below £1000 are not worth it, but £3000-£5000 gets a decent car and that has to be underpriced for a six-cylinder car.The sleeper remains the 318iS, the BMW idea of a hot hatch that you can now get for £3500. M3s are pulling away from us now into the stratosphere; your starter will be £35k if you’re lucky.E21 (1975-1981), from £2000If I can give would-be buyers one piece of advice, it is that they shouldn’t forget about the original. Many do, and that’s a mistake.Here is the 3 Series in its purest form. I would heartily recommend a 316 on steel wheels to anyone that will listen. At least it won’t kill you, whereas a 323i can have you facing the wrong way on a roundabout.Rust has been killing all early 3 Series cars for some time, and that’s what you need to worry about. You can get parts but they are pricey. So an unfussy 316i in tidy condition starts at £2000 to £2500.It doesn’t take long to get into five figures, because immaculate 323is start to skim £10k and a concours example is on its way past £14k.Read more:Celebrating 40 years of the BMW 3 SeriesGet the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

  • 05/24/2015 - 01:01

    Max Reisböck - the father of the BMW 3 Series Touring


    Reisböck built the first 3 Series Touring prototype from his own money

    The E30 3 Series wasn’t roomy enough for BMW employee Max Reisböck, so he made his own estate version, inadvertently creating a hit for the firm
    Big companies are fond of saying that 
they are only as good as their employees, but it’s rare that one man can make as 
big a difference as Max Reisböck did at BMW in the mid-1980s.This, though, is 
a story of one man’s endeavour swaying both the path of a corporate giant and the automotive landscape.Launched in 1982, the second-generation, E30 3 Series was always destined to adopt more bodystyles than its predecessor, but there were no plans for an estate to join the line-up. Quite simply, estates – especially compact ones – weren’t considered to be either premium or in demand.No matter. Reisböck, a BMW prototype engineer in Munich by trade, had a growing problem that he needed to address. Back in 1984, he was married with two young children and foresaw a difficult future when it came to taking the family and their assorted bikes, trikes and baggage on a drive.“My motivation was to build a car with a bigger boot, pure and simple,” he says. “There was no Touring, and other vehicles were too small. There was a four-door 3 Series, so in my head the project looked pretty simple. I just needed to spend some time and money and start from the C-pillars.”His solution was to buy a well-used 323i saloon, move it into a friend’s workshop and set about it with only his imagination to hold him back. In fact, Reisböck didn’t even bother drawing up blueprints – and it was all done in his own time, with his own tools and with no factory involvement.“There were no notes – just what was in my head,” he says, smiling. “Before I bought the car, I walked around for four or five months playing with what was possible in my head, and then I had to adapt and adjust those plans as I went along. I had an agreed budget with my wife – 30,000DM [about £7000 today] – and so I knew I could not create anything new. I had to use what was available.”The work took about six months, and by the end of the build, Reisböck had moved the C-pillars back to the corners of the car and taken pre-cast bodywork to fabricate the additional length of the roof panel and new rear door frames. The rear side windows were trimmed from Plexiglas and the car was given a fresh coat of paint. The rear windscreen, though, was more of an issue.“It was law that a rear windscreen had to be certified, but I couldn’t find anything that was the right size or shape,” says Reisböck. “Then one day there was a big football match at the Olympic Stadium here in Munich. While everyone else went in, I went to the car park and measured all the screens. It turned out the Volkswagen Passat had exactly what I needed.”Throughout his project, though, Reisböck knew he had a looming deadline with his bosses, because his contract explicitly forbade him from creating anything that wasn’t officially sanctioned. “I knew that I had to show them, because there would have been big trouble if I had taken it on the road without permission,” he recalls. “It was a relief when the reaction was positive, but a surprise when one board member came to see it – and then another at 7am the next day.”They were so impressed that they commandeered the car on the spot. “I remember it so well. One of them said: ‘The good news is that it is gorgeous. The bad news is that it must never leave BMW premises again.’ I was compensated, of course – although not perhaps in the way Pininfarina might have been! – and the overwhelming feeling from my wife and I was one of pride. It was not about money.”It was almost three years later that the production 3 Series Touring went on sale – a relatively fast development cycle back then but helped by there being a full-scale, working model.“There were members of the design team who took a look and then started talking about changing this radii and that proportion, but the board members just said: ‘No, leave it as it is’,” 
says Reisböck. “As a company, we learned so much from that project. In fact, from that moment on, my team in prototype engineering started growing fast as the value of full-scale models was understood. I retired in 2008 and I don’t think there was a BMW, Mini or Rolls-Royce that made production without my team building the first one or two examples for examination.”The production 3 Series Touring was launched in 1987 and was almost entirely faithful to Reisböck’s original, save for a few tweaks here and there, not least of which was the famous ‘beer crate’ dip in the load lip, created to aid access to 
the boot and perfectly proportioned to slide a Munich beer crate through.Laughing, Reisböck recalls that after his prototype was taken away, he went out and bought a VW minibus to take his family around in. Although he was immensely proud of the Touring, he wasn’t in a position to buy one. However, on 2 February 1994, coincidentally his birthday, the last of that generation of Touring, a 318i, came down the line and was presented as a gift to Reisböck. It was a well-earned honour, as BMW had sold more than 100,000 Tourings in the previous seven years.Reisböck’s legacy is far beyond what he imagined his goals to be when he set about modifying that car more than 30 years ago, but he’s rightly proud that his inventive spirit has led to such success.“Even today, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews, whenever they see a Touring, they call it ‘my’ car, and that makes me incredibly proud,” he says. “But it is not just a story about me. I was at BMW from 1973 until 2008, and as the influence of my department grew, so did our responsibility. We were given fantastic opportunities – and the Touring really helped make that possible. I got to work on these prototype projects all my life. In reality, I was the one who was very fortunate.”Read more:Celebrating 40 years of the BMW 3 SeriesJames Ruppert's guide to buying and selling a BMW 3 SeriesGet the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

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