Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ultimate Cheapskate Machine: 1983 BMW 320i

The E21 3-series is the middle child stuck between two BMW icons: 2002 and E30.  The 320i was not a fast car when new and could be considered painfully slow by 2018 standards.  The good news is that there are still sane asking prices out there for these unlike the newer E30. In addition, the 320i's have unmistakable vintage BMW styling that is arguably more handsome than a E30. A BWM 320i certainly will not be confused with being anything other than a BMW.  Find this 1983 BMW 320i for sale in Bel Air, MD for $2,300 via craigslist.

Details by the seller:

1983 E21 BMW 320i 5 speed for sale

Car is all original and in decent shape, runs great but needs work.

Shifter is sloppy but still finds every gear fine. Clutch feels good. 

Odometer shows 244xxx 

All new suspension components and fresh service brakes. Parking brake inoperative.

Bomb-proof M10 1.8L ... isn't exactly desirable but was arguably bmw's most reliable and fuel efficient engine

Car has fair shape spartan interior with manual windows, black leather and crank sunroof.

Front seats are a little beat, last time I drove it the battery light came on and off after 20 minutes. Doesn't overheat

Small spot of rust on top of driver side fender

Brand new oil and filter, just did valve lash adjustment- comes with new valve cover gasket in box

There's a lot to talk about with this car so come take a look at it and make me an offer. Clean MD title. 

Great candidate for a swap 

The seller lists the car as a 320i, but all signs point to this being a 320is as sport steering wheel, sport seats, and fog lights are visible from the pictures.  These cars have a peculiar and irritating interior quirk that is shared with a similar year Chevy Citation- the radio is mounted facing the ceiling rather than at the driver.  The BMW M10 is not a powerhouse, but does respond very well to boost if you wanted to try and add some power without swapping engines.

See another budget friendly BMW? email


  1. I have the twin to this that we are about to tear down for parts. it is the IS model, same colour. Good body and motor. No seats. I hate to do it, as I am sure I'll regret it one day. Just wish there was more interest in these!

    1. Yeah, it is funny that the 2002 and the E30 is so popular and these not so much.
      My dad had one, brown with gold Eniki 92 wheels. We put 350,000 miles on the original drive train.
      I had my mom buy him a sweet Alpine deck (glowing aqua buttons). I remember clearly how odd the horizontal mount of the stereo was.

    2. The market will pick up once they've almost all been crushed/parted! :)

    3. I have to posit that the reason these aren't as valuable or popular is that the styling is awkward in comparison to its predecessor and successor. It's not a bad looking car by any means (except maybe for the diving board bumpers), but when you line up the 2002, E21, and E30...subjectively I think the majority of people would pick the E21 last in ranking attractiveness. Mechanically they're very similar to both 2002 and E30 in a lot of ways, so I don't think that has much to do with it.

    4. Euro bumpers and some larger wheels and these 320's look pretty cool. I have a picture of a kermit green one with gold mesh wheels from the last Caffeine and Carburetors that was really on point.

  2. I owned both an 83 320i (e21) and an 84 318i (e30) and without question the e21 was more fun to drive. The e30 was definitely 'nicer' but the e21 was just more visceral and engaging. Also had an 83 320is and that's a massive improvement. The 'is gave you not just much better seats, wheels, etc. but also much larger swea bars and a 3.90 LSD. My dream car is an Alpina e21 and not an e30 M3...

  3. It's BMW's Alfetta. Everyone wants a 105/115 GTV or a GTV6 but few want the Alfetta...

  4. Well put, Keen. You crystallized the analogy perfectly, I think. The e30 have that sort of touring car, boxy-but-racy look, while the e21 looks as if it would have a little trouble finding its way off a roundabout.


Commenting Commandments:
I. Thou Shalt Not write anything your mother would not appreciate reading.
II. Thou Shalt Not post as anonymous unless you are posting from mobile and have technical issues. Use name/url when posting and pick something Urazmus B Jokin, Ben Dover. Sir Edmund Hillary Clint don't matter. Just pick a nom de plume and stick with it.
III. Honor thy own links by using <a href ="http://www.linkgoeshere"> description of your link </a>
IV. Remember the formatting tricks <i>italics</i> and <b> bold </b>
V. Thou Shalt Not commit spam.
VI. To embed images: use [image src="" width="400px"/]. Limit images to no wider than 400 pixels in width. No more than one image per comment please.