As a used car, the E21 BMW 3-series has suffered from being neither fish nor fowl. It wasn’t as pure of a sports sedan as its famous predecessor, and hadn’t yet evolved into the significantly more successful E30 3-series. Part of this was by design at BMW, since they needed a more luxurious entry-level car for the evolving yuppie class to aspire to, and because they needed to accommodate modern safety standards. But part of it was by circumstance – the emissions and safety laws, which had already defaced the later square-light 2002, also had their way with the first 3-series. So what if the 2002 market has slipped from your grasp, but you’re not into the complexity of luxury bits required by moving further into the 1980s E30? Well, you could certainly do worse than buying an E21 that’s had some of the DOT and EPA mess undone. Check out this 1983 BMW 320is for sale for $3500 in Portland, OR.
Those BBS-mesh style wheels look an awful lot like the ones found on an E30 M3 or an E28 M5. While not the perfect match, they are classic and do suit the period. But wait, you say, those wheels are distracting from a major issue – what’s this nonsense going on with the hood and grill? Well, one of the many issues with the E21 3-series was lack of power – dropping a few horsepower while adding 300 lb. did not do much for off-the-line response. So the seller had planned to install an M20B25 engine from an E30 325i, which would make for an interesting bump in power. Unfortunately, kids and house got in the way, and the seller is doing the sensible (and difficult) thing – selling it on to someone who has time to complete it.
Here’s a not-so-good shot of the interior, though it does show the aftermarket Italvolanti wheel, sweet cassette holder, and 85mph speedometer. It does serve to illustrate the plethora of European-market and aftermarket parts that come with this car, including slim Euro bumpers, single headlights from a 316, coilovers, adjustable subframes (front for the M20), door seals, aerodynamic trim from Zender and BBS, and more. You have to pay a bit extra for the wheels pictured above, or take the stock 13″ turbine wheels and find yourself some Momo Vegas or the more obvious Alpina-style turbines.
So we’re taking care of power, and we’re covering aesthetics. Here’s the easy 3-step process: Pick this car up. Buy M20B25 from local junkyard. Assemble. There, that wasn’t so difficult, and now you have a car that’s more pure and unique than an E30, and faster than a 2002tii – perhaps what a 320tii might have been – or was that the 323i? Ok, scratch that, here’s a 50-state legal 323i – who wouldn’t want one of those?