Tuesday, February 4, 2014

1980 BMW 323i - An E21 Worth Owning

The E21 was the first of BMW's 3 Series cars. It had a tough mission in life... Replacing the near mythical 2002 in BMW's lineup.

It looked more modern than the 2002 and it handled very well. However, it was not very fast. The 2.0 liter (later 1.8 liter), emissions controls strangled, 4 cylinder engine we got here in the US, put out just around 100 HP. The 5 MPH bumpers added extra weight.

Not too surprisingly, enthusiasts started importing Euro-spec E21s though the gray market. Many came here with BMW's I6

The European 323i's 2.3 liter 6 cylinder engine put out 143 HP. Along with the more powerful engine, the Euro E21 had thinner, lighter bumpers and better brakes and lighting. It's easy to see why many people chose to purchase a grey market E21, instead of the US spec 320i.

It's not clear when this car was imported, but it was restored by a "BMW tech" sometime in the 1990s. It was restored to stock and looks great.

If someone asked me if they should purchase an E21, I would probably say "no" and steer them towards a 2002, or a later, much improved, E30 3 Series. Unless it was this car... As the seller states, this is essentially an unbadged M car. It's rare and has been well cared for. This is an E21 worth owning.

Located in San Jose West, CA, click here to see the Craigslist ad. There are no pictures with the ad, but the seller leaves a link to a Flickr album with 49 photos. Find it here.)


m4ff3w said...

Your title is absolutely correct, that is an e21 worth owning!

Chris Keen said...

Ugh, so close and yet so far... car shows no signs of having CARB approval so it can test and pass emissions here. Nice car though...