By on May 20, 2012

Between the old-timey 2002 and the hugely influential E30, there was the E21. Over in Yurp, BMW shoppers could buy 315s and 316s and 323s and I don’t know what all, but here in North America we know the E21 almost exclusively via the good old 320i. The 2002 overlapped E21 production by a couple of years; likewise, BMW showrooms in 1983 held the final examples of the 320i side-by-side with the brand-new E30-platform 318i. Here’s an example of one of those end-times E21s, spotted last week in a Denver self-service wrecking yard.
Either somebody pried off the little “i” on this emblem without leaving a mark, or we’re looking at a European-market 320 trunk lid. Such are the mysteries of the junkyard.
Almost 220,000 miles on the clock, extremely respectable for a Late Malaise Era car that probably got hooned every day of its life.
This car is fairly straight, a bit of rust but nothing too terrible. Looks like somebody grabbed the seats right away, perhaps the same BMW aficionado that picked this nearby 2002 clean.

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28 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 BMW 320i...”


  • avatar
    LeeK

    Ah, the BMW Three Series, theautomotive equivalent of Rod Stewart: so much talent ending up squandered by so much excess. Both made piles of money going that way, but both ended losing their soul in the process.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Are you we in the US didn’t get the 318i? In 1976, you did. Good dear family friends once had a light metallic blue 2 door version of this car, it even had the sunroof, and yes, his was the ’76, bought new and kept for years.

    Though don’t know if it was on the same platform but it looks very similar to this car.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      In 1976, the 2002 was still being sold. The 320i arrived in 1977. He might have had one from Europe as a grey-market car…

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The later e21 did eventually get the new 1.8l motor that continued in the e30, but the badge stayed the same in the US – they were 320i’s regardless of which motor was under the hood.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    I remember this one, my only BMW, as having the best ride of any car i’ve owned. It hardly lived up to the brand’s high-performance image, though. As one of the dew car’s I’ve had with rear drums, it remains my only example of brake fade. But what I do miss is the fresh air ventilation system, completely separate from the HVAC/fan system. It let me enjoy cool air at head level and warm heat to the feet, something no modern car bothers to offer.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      My ’11 328i (e91) is quite capable of delivering cool air to the face and warm air to the feet. Seperate temp dial up between the center vents. Amusingly, a lot of the BMW forum idiots complain about this feature.

      • 0 avatar
        GiddyHitch

        As a resident of temperate Northern California, I had to RTFM to figure out the purpose of the upper vents temperature dial on my E46.

      • 0 avatar
        lilpoindexter

        I had a 1991 honda civic and i have a 1988 BMW 528e that both allow unheated/uncooled air straight into the cabin..I think these are great when you get a little zealous with the AC or heater and need some quick relief without opening a window.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Is that feature really that unusual? My old K car allowed for heat on the feet, cool out of the dash vents, with or without the compressor running. Come to think of it, I prefer old school manual HVAC as opposed to climate control, provided the manual system gives lots of setting options…

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    Nice find – one of the last Bimmer’s that the yuppies who’ve been priced out of vintage Porsches haven’t taken a fondness to… yet.

    Always interested in the detritus that heads to the crusher with these cars: in this case a newish Nike football boot. Funny.

  • avatar
    SuperACG

    The E21 is the only BMW I really would own, aside from an E30 convertible. I’d take an E21 and cut the top right off and have a convertible! Really piss off the Beemer guys, eh?

    I was gonna tell Murilee to save me those wheels! Until I saw they were 13s…

    • 0 avatar

      It’s BIMMER.
      It’s BIMMER.
      It’s BIMMER.
      Anybody posting here should know IT’S BIMMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      A Beamer is a BMW motorcycle, or a BMW car to a Hollywood TV show writer, or a yuppie, or a Northern Californian. IT’S BIMMER. It was always Bimmer. It will always be Bimmer. So pay attention.

      This is a US car – the 85 m.p.h. speedo is the give-away. Thanks to James Earl Carter, D-Georia, and Joan Claybrook, D-Euphoria for this detail.

      The great Ernst Furhmann was sure the NHTSA was kidding when the 85 mph speedo came in…

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        Speedo would not be a dead giveaway. My dad brought four used cars from Germany back in the gray market heyday of the 1980′s, and had the speedometers replaced to US spec ones on all.

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    With the prices of E30s on the rise, there is bound to be a growing interest in the E21. They look great with euro bumpers and some BBS RS wheels.

  • avatar
    Garak

    That US-spec bumper is absurdly huge, but it seems to have done its job well.

  • avatar
    skotastic

    The e21 is a great little car, but it will never be a cult classic in the same league as the 02 and e30.

    They do though, finally get some respect in their own right, and as pointed out, will slowly rise in price as e30s do, but at a lesser rate.

    The really impressive part of the e21 is how many are still for sale (in decent climates) as drivers. There are always a few beater e21s for sale it seems, which is credit to the model.

  • avatar
    roger628

    I always hated these back in the day because of the twerp d-bags who drove them.

  • avatar
    vdubinsd

    Looks like it was a sport package car (320is-before they were called that)

    BBS wheels, 3 spoke wheel-and if the person how nabbed the recaro seats (that it should have had) did not take the limited slip rear diff, they need some lessons in junkyarding with BMW’s.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The fact that I still see 320s being daily driven is testament enough for me. My pair of 528es turn 25 this year. Best commuter car ever built. Thursday, I take off for Winston Salem. I’ll be riding shotgun in my son’s 83 533i, Then we’re going on a 5 day tour of , NC, VA, WVA and TN. Mostly twisted secondary or tertiary mountain roads . Something called “Tail of the Dragon is included. Mostly old E28s, with a few M5s and Alpinas. It is a loosely conducted tour. Stops are preplanned , reservations have been made This is the 3rd yr we ‘ve been doing this. I met this bunch in 03 after posting on a forum for 3 yrs. We come from all over to do this.

  • avatar
    svenmeier

    I’m surprised the author knows about the 315. Those were pretty rare even in Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      They were pretty popular in the Netherlands in 1984. 315s were easy to spot because they had single headlights. The engines were actually 1.6 liters, but with a single carburetor and 75 hp.

  • avatar

    Ah, the car that sold me on BMW. I was a poor student, and commuted with a much better off friend. We’d carpool, my rusty 72 Nova being my contribution. He liked to go out late and party, which made driving to school @6 am leave time rough. We worked out a plan where he’d go party, and the next morning I’d drive….his car-the deal was I’d always drive…twist my arm. (we didn’t go out together so I’d have a normal night’s sleep) Daddy bought him a new 320i. (I later found out the 320i was to slow him down…he’d crashed out two new Vettes, but we all know life is not fair.) I’d pick him up, he’d sleep, and I’d have a great ride into and out of school. He slept pretty soundly too. I loved this car, it transmitted the BMW virus I still have today…the only thing is it was slow for a kid whose prior car was a 400 Firebird-euro teacup motor didn’t really cut it, but the chassis was sweetness and light.

    We later bought a 325is, the later model, and it had the missing HP….now a 7 second 0-60 time is considered slow.

    BMW cars are very well built. You can bitch about I drive or the transmissions in the 5 series, but with a good owner, they run for a very long time. I had a salesman claim he was told by an engineer at BMW that the service life is 24 years or 400k miles. I cannot vouch for that but working on my 9 year old 3 is easier than my 4 year old Acura, and there is much less rust on the fittings of the BMW. With less to go wrong and simpler electrics, I’m not at all surprised that the car made it this far-and someone is enjoying those sport seats.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    At one point I was looking at old BMWs just for the build quality, I decided against one thanks to parts cost.

    • 0 avatar

      There is a huge aftermarket. Front control arm bushings, dealer, $250 a set. $90 aftermarket. Front brakes, fronts, $700 with pads. $200 aftermarket. Most BMW parts can be bought from the OE makers with equivalent markdowns. You can usually see where the BMW logo was ground off when the part comes in a “lemforder”, “ATE” or “Bosch” box.

      IF you can DIY they are a lot of fun.


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