I’m not sure whether it’s the Agave Green color or the perfectly lowered stance, but Tim Chinen’s 1972 Bavaria makes me smile when I spot it in the parking lot of an In-N-Out Burger in Long Beach. There’s just something about the Bavaria’s straightforward, uncluttered lines that continues to appeal more than 40 years after these sedans first rolled off the assembly line in Munich. It’s the kind of big-hearted car that makes you speak in clichés, unintentionally saying things like, “They just don’t make them like they used to.” The Bavaria is rolling proof that they don’t, and it seems to fill everyone who sees it with nostalgia for the good old days of solid—and stolid—German engineering.
“Almost every time I drive it, someone comments on it—at gas stations, parking lots, while I’m driving in traffic,” says Chinen.
On the road, this Bavaria feels as good as it looks, thanks in large part to the aforementioned swap to lower, firmer suspension and a set of larger alloy wheels sourced from a later 7 Series. More importantly, the Bavaria’s original twin Zenith-carbureted 3.0-liter M30 has been replaced with a fuel injected 3.4-liter M30 engine sourced from an ’85-88 E28 535i.
In stock form, the larger engine makes only slightly more horsepower—182 instead of 170 hp—but significantly more torque: 214 lb-ft instead of 185. The added torque of the injected engine really brings the Bavaria to life, especially when mated with the E28’s Getrag five-speed transmission and limited-slip differential, which Chinen’s car also features in place of its original four-speed and open differential.
From E3 to E28…and beyond
The drivetrain improvements were already in place when Chinen bought the car, having been installed by previous owner Pete Schoenenberger. Schoenenberger sold the car to Chinen’s longtime friend Eric Ingraham, who took Chinen for a ride in it shortly after he purchased it in 2006.
“I told Eric to give me a call if he ever decided to sell it,” says Chinen. By early 2009, the Bavaria was for sale and Chinen couldn’t resist, despite already having an E36 M3 parked in his garage—he’s been driving BMWs since high school and has owned a number of M3s—along with a pristine, low-mileage Porsche 914 bought new by his father.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for old BMWs and Porsches,” he explains, “so I thought this was such a cool car, especially since it had tasteful upgrades from newer BMW models to make it a more modern and better-performing car.”