Junkyard Find: 1977 BMW 320i

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
While I may be guilty of not photographing all — or even most — of the interesting BMWs I find in the car graveyards on my appointed rounds, I’m making an effort to get the complete set of discarded 20th-century 3 Series cars. In fact, once I remember to shoot the next junked E46 I find (which will be easy, as these cars have become plentiful in the yards I frequent), we’ll have the complete junkyard history of the 3 Series from 1977 through 2006.The first-ever 3 Series, the E21, has become something of a junkyard rarity in recent years, but I found this ’77 in Central California back in December.
As the successor to the much-beloved 02 Series BMWs, the 320i got a bit bigger and plusher, enabling BMW USA to start snarfing up sales that the spartan, cramped 2002 might have missed. I recall my childhood dentist, orthodontist, and optometrist all bought 320is soon after they became available.
Europeans had a much larger selection of engine choices in the E21, ranging from a tiny 1.5-liter four all the way up to a 2.3-liter straight-six, but all the American-market versions had either 2.0-liter (1977-1979) or 1.8-liter (1980-1983) M10 s. This car has the 109-horse 2.0, which was plenty of power for a small car in Malaise Era America.
For some reason, one of this car’s owners — presumably the final one — swapped an icky, rusty, orange hood onto a much-less-icky black car. Maybe this BMW was a parts car for another, nicer 320i, and the bad hood got switched to the donor car to keep the rain off the engine.
I would have pulled the cool-looking rectangular VDO clock for my collection, but I have a good one already.
The real gone cats all had four-wheel disc brakes by 1977, but not this car. The Volvo 242 carried a couple hundred additional pounds over the 320i in 1977 (and 13 fewer horses), but had discs all around.
Here’s a genuine 1990s Socially Hazardous sticker, straight out of the Orange County home of The Vandals, slapped on the quarter window next to the Hofmeister Kink.Want to check out 2,000+ more Junkyard Finds? You’ll find links every one of them at The Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.
Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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3 of 24 comments
  • Garak Garak on Mar 17, 2020

    109 horses? Jeez. Those early emissions control systems were a nightmare.

    • Jlc Jlc on Oct 02, 2020

      Which was I you pulled them off and plugged the hole in the exhaust manifold with a plug. Did it at a BMWCCA meeting with some friends.

  • Jlc Jlc on Oct 02, 2020

    I had a 77 I bought right out of college. I had rebuilt a 914 with my dad and the second day I drove it a lady pulled out in front of me and I t-boned her and total thePorsche. Bought the 320i and auto tossed it for years until I sold it 10 years later. Loved the car, could actually work on it myself. That was back in the day when Bimmer drivers flashed their headlights at each other; before they became Yuppiemobiles. Just bought an 85 CSi, the car I always wanted when it came out but couldn’t afford then.

  • 28-Cars-Later They were mocked as whales in their time but the last B-bodies really were ideally suited for decades of family use and long distance travel.
  • 28-Cars-Later "Naturally, GM turned to its most tech-forward engineering team to work on the [Cadillac] Northstar: Oldsmobile."The most GM phrase I have seen yet.
  • Carson D The automotive equivalent of necrophilia appeals to people who have no redeeming social value.
  • Funky D These cars appeal to such different clienteles that it is completely comparing apples to oranges. I would go for the Mustang, especially in convertible form, but wouldn't mind at all a weekend behind the wheel of a Z.
  • Funky D Take it from an IT professional: ALWAYS have a backup plan! And then have a backup to that plan if possible. And always rehearse the plan every once in awhile.Always keep local copies of your data, or you don't really have a backup. My current company is working on revising our plan now, while we still have the opportunity.