Finding an E30 M3 isn’t particularly hard.
Unlike contemporaries such as the Audi Quattro, locating a good example on any given day of the week is easy. eBay has no less than seven for sale at the time of writing, all in generally good shape. Specialists such as Enthusiast Auto Group (EAG) have the same number, none of which would be unwelcome at a high-brow show. Since BMW brought over 5,000 of these homologation specials to the U.S. market, you don’t need to search long and hard to find exactly the E30 M3 you want.
Paying for it is another matter entirely.
TTAC commentator tedward writes:
I thought I’d finally throw my hat into the ring as my wife and I are on the hunt for a second family car.
We currently own a ’91 BMW 318is and a ’13 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen 2.5 — both manual, of course. In our previous lives as NYC residents, this was an extravagant stable that required personal sacrifice and demanded constant justification in casual conversation.
On one hand, we find ourselves with one real life car that fits us all; on the other, a relatively unsafe car that shouldn’t be relied upon (at 200,000+ miles) for day-to-day duties.
If there isn’t some sort of church-basement support group for unrepentant car shoppers and buyers, there should be, with stale coffee and plenty of doughnuts. I know there are thousands of us nationwide, eyes bleary from constantly refreshing eBay and Craigslist searches.
Those two are gateway drugs, certainly. The layout of eBay and Craigslist easily allow one to browse their listings like an automotive Silk Road until a car catches one’s eye, whereas places like Cars.com and Autotrader are for the hardcore junkie; the one who knows somewhat specifically what machines they choose to lust over.
I guess I’m the methadone user who is also selling the good stuff on the side: Obviously, I write about these classics a few times a week, pushing the product onto screens everywhere, but I barely have enough spare funds to shop the free section of Craigslist.
So here we are, celebrating forty years of the “Dreier”, or 3-Series, depending on how Euro-wannabe you wannabe. Since I don’t wannabe, I’m going to call it “39 Years Of The 3 Series”. After all, we didn’t get the 320i in the United States until the 1977 model year. When it did arrive, it was a thermal-reacted boondoggle with a tendency to rust out from under the feet of the unlucky first owners.
Although it looked like a million bucks, particularly in “S” trim, and it was one of the dream cars of my pre-teen years, I cannot allow any of you Millennial readers out there to come to the mistaken belief that the E21, as adapted for the American market, was anything other than a shitbox with the lifespan of a fruit fly. It was also easy meat for a Rabbit GTI in any venue from the stoplight drag to the road course. It was, however, expensive, costing about as much as a base Cadillac Coupe de Ville, so at least it had that going for it. The most damning thing I can tell you about the 320i is this: I worked for David Hobbs BMW for much of 1988, and although the newest 320i was just five years old at that point, I never saw one come in for service, and we never took one in on trade.
The “E30” 318i that appeared for the 1983 model year was a major improvement over its predecessor in everything from climate control to rust resistance, but it was “powered” by the same 103-horsepower, 1.8-liter, eight-valve four-cylinder that made the badge on the back of the 1980-1983 320i a comforting lie. I put “powered” in quotes because the E30 318i struggled to break the 18-second mark through the quarter-mile in an era where the Mustang and Camaro were in the low fifteens and even a 1981 Dodge Omni 024 “Charger 2.2” could rip the mark in 17.2 seconds. That’s right: if you were in a brand-new BMW and a three-year-old Dodge Omni pulled up next to you at the light, the only thing that could save you from an ass-kicking would be a swift activation of the turn signal.
But then, one day about halfway through the first year of the 318i’s lukewarm tenure in North America, things changed.
I’m a working musician from NYC. I have a conundrum.
Since 1998 I’ve owned a 1989 BMW E30 ‘vert, which has served me well as a touring artist — it just hit 160k, most of those miles mine. However, all those miles have come at a price, between 40k timing belt changes and other occasional maintenance items, I wind up putting roughly $1500 into it every two to four years.
But I’ve always loved it, and it never let me down, until recently.
TTAC commentator bumpy ii writes:
It’s definitely going to be used in this case. Anyway, I’m looking to pick up a fun weekend car in another 3-4 years. I like to plan ahead. Here’s what I want:
* 4 doors
* manual transmission
* normally aspirated inline 6
* (the kicker) curb weight under 3,000 pounds
* preferably built after the Reagan administration (most everyone had their emissions stuff sorted out by then)
From what I can tell, this narrows the list down to 4 cars (in order of preference):
For the second time in a row, a BMW E30 has taken the win on laps at a 24 Hours of LeMons race. Does that mean that the E30 is an inherently superior low-buck road-racing machine? Not exactly; of the 11 E30s at the Real Hoopties of New Jersey, only four cracked the top 20. What happened over the weekend was a combination of excellent, screwup-free driving by Team Cardorks/Invisible Pink Unicorn… and a pair of lead-destroying black flags on the Alfa Romeo Milano that led for most of the race.
The Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons race was all about a Nissan NX2000 versus BMW 3 Series versus Honda motorcycle-engined Geo Metro battle for quite a while, but black flags on the Nissan and the Geo gave the Spin-N-Out Burger BMW E30 the chance to grab the win on laps.
Steve from Seattle writes:
As regularly mentioned on Piston Slap, the LS-X engines are the best in the world for their compact size, low weight, simplicity, reliability, cost and ability to make more power with simple bolt-ons. So I wanted to share my project to TTAC’s readers: we put a ’99 LS-1 and T56 into our BMW E30. Everything works, A/C, cruise control, etc. Seriously.
It’s a sleeper, except for the “357i” numbers on the trunk (nice of BMW to make a “735” that we could cut apart) and our “E30-LS1” license plate!! Only those ‘in the know’ get it.
We published a “How-To” CD, which documents how to build the E30-LS1. It contains pictures from the build, Catia drawings, wiring, fuel system, driveshaft mods, engine mounts, radiator system, A/C, HydroBoost, etc. I also have more pictures here.
Thanks and I hope everyone likes it.