Thursday, May 26, 2016

5-Speed Mint Condition: 1986 BMW 325e E30

The E30 generation BMW 3-series have all but disappeared from modern traffic, you will see the occasional beater or fan boy stanced version cruising around.  Few and far between are the original condition E30s with a manual gearbox that look as good as this next one.  Find this 1986 BMW 325e E30 offered for $9,000 near Boston, MA via craigslist.  Tip from Carter.

First thing right outta the gate, I've got to admit that $9k is a crazy asking price for an E30 that isn't an M3 or with a trunk full of gold bullion.  Nevertheless, this is one of the better preserved examples of the E30 that can be found for sale around, so let's take a closer look.

Under the hood is a 120 horsepower of the 2.7 eta engine, not the sportiest thing BMW ever put in 3-series, but it puts out a decent amount of low end torque and gives good fuel economy.  The BMW eta (greek for efficiency) engines are lame unless you compare them to any non-turbo diesel engine from the same era and you'll love it.

Inside and out this thing looks in great shape -- almost too good, so you wonder if this has been restored since it rolled off the assembly line. Does it matter?

See a better deal on a classic 4-door rear-drive sport sedan with a clutch pedal?


  1. People like to hate etas, but they're fantastic at their eponymous goal. They're great for driving in traffic, and you don't have to rev past 2000 if you don't want to. I have a 528e (same engine) that I modified with an "e2i" cylinder head swap. Well, if I got another 30 horsepower or more, I can't feel it, but I can feel all the low end torque I lost.

    It's not like these can't be driven fast. Fast car slow < slow car fast.

    1. Interesting observation, Hunter. Is it possible that those 30 extra ponies only live up in the rev range where we spend so little time in day to day driving? I have always preferred the experience of off-the-line grunt compared to singer-sewing-machine revs.

      This particular BMW seems to be premium priced, but I am not a marque expert. As far as DT pondering "does it matter if it was restored", I would say "Yes". I will pay a premium for an excellent original car over one that has been rusted and fixed.

    2. It doesn't help that I only refreshed the top end when I did the conversion. I'm pretty sure my quart-every-2-fill-ups oil consumption and 50psi less compression comes from shot rings in the #1 cylinder. I'm also not sure I picked the right camshaft. I took one from a 323i instead of a 325i, which gives me more duration, but less lift.

      I'm actually pretty interested in taking it back to stock and rebuilding the bottom end. Bottom end torque is underrated. Revs are great, but largely useless if they're just getting you to work.

  2. Well, I was driving one this weekend, and in traffic occasionally with half a dozen others.

    Of course, that wasn't on the street, so you know where they all end up.

    I'd never wrenched on one before we ended up with this one, they are an amazingly simple car.


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