Monday, August 13, 2018

E21 Classic: 1978 BMW 320i

Global sales of BMW's first 3-series started in the 1975 model year and by the time they switched factory operations to build the E30 version in 1983, over a million examples of the E21 had left the shipping dock. The E21 was not a cheap car when released, but the magic of depreciation made it an affordable classic for decades...and the uptick of collector nostalgia hasn't yet made them unaffordable.  Find this 1978 BMW 320i offered for $2950 in Bethesda, MD via craigslist.

From the seller:
 1978 BMW 320i e21 
condition: fair 
cylinders: 4 cylinders 
drive: rwd 
fuel: gas 
odometer: 133000 
paint color: green 
size: compact 
title status: clean 
transmission: manual 
type: coupe 
Here's your chance to get a future classic. OK, enough hyperbole. 

This little peppy 4-speed e21 does everything you want. Starts, Runs and Stops and it even has a sunroof (that works and doesn't leak). The car also has a/c and all the components are there, but I removed the belt.

I used this car as a daily driver for almost 3 years and now it's time to move on. In that timeframe I've replaced the following components: breaking system, tires, heater motor, complete bmw exhaust, shifting components, radiator, water pump, headlights, front and rear glass seals, gas lines, fuel injectors, ignition system, filters, battery, and many more small items. I made sure that it was running and driving without issue.

If you want a funky little driver that turns heads, this is the car for you. It needs to be painted and it will need some rust removed from the lower front fenders, but honestly who cares. It's just a cool car as it sits.

Car comes with a couple boxes of spares (window seals, suspension parts, etc) and a complete service history for 30+ years.

Understand that there is zero warranty expressed or implied and you buy the car as is, where is. No returns or refunds. You will get a clean MD title and a handshake (and a car).

See a better way to drive a classic?


  1. Those seats look good for 133k

  2. Slow car driven fast probably applies here. Timeless shape and manual to boot. We will all be sorry we didn’t buy an e21 within 5 years, I predict. E28 and e24 as well.

    1. Spoken like someone who probably hasn't suffered through owning one...LOL.

      If your prediction does come true, the experience can be replicated by taking an e30, trading the rear discs for drums, and swapping in an M10 engine.

      The nostalgia will pass quickly.

  3. I like these but BMWs from 1975 or 1976 to 1979 pose a problem: the thermal reactor. You can see that little tube where a nice header should be on the exhaust side of the engine, in the ad. The tube was some sort of chamber for final combustion to reduce CO emissions, but--at least for the M30 6s, it meant that every single head had been warped or cracked. I don't know whether M10s of the time had the same problem. Anybody know?

    Your hands would be tied, in a smog state, on getting rid of the thermal reactors (backdate to 2002 M10 induction/exhaust, custom EFI, or possibly adapt EFI from a 1.8 version of M10 from 1980 down--none of that would look like the original setup. Also, doing this could be expensive for what you get (90-120 hp?)).

    On the other hand, if this car isn't smoking and chugging now, and you are ok with getting a nice car that you may need to repower some day, it's pretty sweet. Just spray the seats with some cleaner and hope it eats the dirt off before eating the vinyl.


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