Thursday, June 12, 2014

15k: I Find Your Lack of Plates Disturbing: 1989 BMW 324TD Wagon E30 Diesel

When Admiral Motti gets lippy with Darth Vader in Episode IV of Star Wars, the Sith lord starts choking the insubordinate Death Star XO and utters the quotable line "I find your lack of faith disturbing."  I'm no Jedi knight, but whenever I see a European import without license plates in California I put on my best James Earl Jones impersonation and say "I find your lack of plates disturbing."  Find this 1989 BMW 324TD Wagon E30 diesel offered for $13,500 via craigslist.

I've seen some really nutty prices on Euro imported E30s in the recent past, particularly on the touring (wagon) versions, so it is good to see this one in a reasonable price range...high for a non-M E30, but not ridiculous.  Which brings us back to those plates, the biggest problem you are going to have with this car isn't importing to the USA, (it is 25 years old now, so those legal hurdles can be jumped) but it is California DMV who won't let you register the car unless it is/was able to pass 1989 emissions standards. 

The M21 2.4 liter turbo diesel engine is 6-cylinder turbocharged and direct injection unit that was first available in the E28 5-series and later in the E30, but not before being used as optional power in the Lincoln Continental and UMM Alter II.  In this E30, it is rated at 113 horsepower and thankfully mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox.

The E30 is going to drive like a smaller and tossable version of a Mercedes diesel wagon, which means it will still be slow -- not prison camp slow like a 240D automatic -- but it'll probably get smoked by a Prius in a drag race.  The seller includes a video for more information here.

See another temporary tagged California car with a negotiable price?


  1. Diesel--it should be smog exempt if the paperwork is done correctly.

    1. I believe it is only exempt from a bi-annual and transfer smog check, but when it is first imported it needs to either be 50 state legal (which it probably isn't) or you need to do some serious testing at a facility like this. More info here in this MotoIQ article.

    2. You are correct. Even though diesel light duty vehicles are not smogged in CA until my 1998, they were subject to standards after 1979. Which means they would have to be made compliant through one of the two labs in the state who do that. Except that neither do diesels currently/anymore so post 1979 grey market diesels can not be brought into compliance.... So yeah. Not an option in this, our fine state :(

    3. Yet when we swapped OM617's into 4Runners (thru '89) and Toyota pickups, all we had to do was take them to the smog ref to be "forever" branded as Diesel and thus exempt from the sniffer for life.

      What we had to do was ensure we had proof that the diesel engine was the same year or newer than the gas engines in our trucks, and that the diesel engine was sold in vehicles in CA. The B.A.R guy (head smog ref) told us that there are some combos that work (pre 1998 vehicle with post 1998 engine that wasn't imported to CA, for example) but he didn't give specifics.

  2. On the bright side, the 1989 passenger vehicle diesel emissions regulations in CA were probably pretty sparse. I'm having trouble finding quantitative limits from 1989 for PV diesel (if they even existed). Here is an extensive guide to worldwide emissions regulations from Delphi, but it doesn't seem to go back earlier than 1993. This E30 was made pre-Euro I, so it is likely pretty "dirty" compared to modern cars, but may be fine for 1989 CA standards if you can afford the testing that Vince referenced above.

    1. You are right, I don't think they would be hard to meet if that was possible. Unfortunately, quoting from

      "No motorcycle or diesel-powered vehicle can be converted to California emission standards."

      Which I believe is a result of neither of the (2) in-state labs ever getting/renewing their ability to modify diesel vehicles. Oh well

  3. "prison camp slow".another classic line.

    On the smog front.......I live in the mountains east of San Diego. Believe it or not...if you live in this particular area gas and diesel are SMOG EXEMPT. So the thinking (if you can call it that) in the Legislature goes like this: if the air is clean and the people somewhat less nutty than down in the dont have to smog your vehicle........go figure!

    So maybe a new owner can avoid the whole BAR deal by living in an area of Cali where vehicles are smog exempt and you can happily drive your particulate spewing machine without fear!


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