1983 BMW 320is

I still wonder when the day will come that the E21 commands a premium and a dedicated following. It seems like every time a clean 320is pops up on eBay (and it has happened more often than you’d think as of late), the seller is pushing the envelop in terms of what the market will bear when it comes to naming their price. Normally, I’m right there with them – I, too, see them as under-appreciated classics right in our midst. The key ingredients, from cloth Recaros to factory basketweaves to the thicker sway bars, mean that the E21 Is cars fit the mold of BMW’s sport models. But why don’t they ever catch fire with cash-in-hand enthusiasts? Low mileage IS E30s have been rising steadily for years while cherry E21s like this one oftentimes sit on eBay for months just trying to crack the $10K threshold. Maybe this will be the one to do it, as it certainly has the documentation to back up its impressive condition.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 BMW 320is on eBay


Year: 1983
Model: 320is
Engine: 1.8 liter inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 34,181 mi
Price: Reserve auction

Purchased as a collector car in 2008 from the original owner, this iconic sport package car has many sought after options and is in impressive condition for its age. It’s almost like someone went back to 1986 and put the car in a time capsule. There is an extensive collection of documentation and items that highlight the character of the car and tell its whole store. Selling it instead of moving it cross country, but this is not a fire sale. Not worth selling for less than the price listed above, we would rather keep it and continue to enjoy it.

Overall condition:

Generally speaking the car is in good to great condition for its age and being unrestored. The original owner took great care of the car from 1983 to 2008. Since then the car has been stored, maintained, and driven less than 700 miles over the last 6 years. That said I will pick it apart from a collector stand point. I will list as many defects as I can find but that is not to say I might not miss something. I’ve done my best to capture these in the photographs below. To be clear the car is in exceptional condition with a handful of items that could use some light restorative work to maintain its condition. It is mechanically sound, the body looks amazing, and the interior is very nice.

Physical condition: The car has never been in any accidents and has a clean title. There has been no body work performed on the car. The chrome trim does not show any noticeable signs of pitting or defects. The metal on the bumpers has a dull finish and water spotting marks. The rubber is generally soft/compliant for most of the cars seals and edges. There are few areas where the stripping has begun to harden and or fade. There is a mark/whitening on the passenger side rear accordion section about 2″ by 2.” The paint in generally clean/clear coat is in good condition. There are a few trouble areas where paint has chipped to the primer. This is most notable around the fuel door and a few spots on the roof. No chips are larger than a pin head. The largest paint issues are on the passenger mirror where a scuff about 1.5” tall x 1.5” long occurred. The second area of concern is an area on the top of the passenger side rear fender where the paint has a pitting of unknown origin, it has been like this since purchased in 2008. There are other minor defects on the clear coat in the form of staining, some may be correctable. The lighting and lenses are all clear of any visible defects. The BMW badges are both worn/missing color. There are no obvious problems on the undercarriage. All of the wheels have some level of paint loss, the fronts are worse than the rears. The window glass all appears to be in good condition with no noticeable defects. There is a small spot of rust on the passenger side of the front bumper inside the wheel well about the size of a nickel.

Under the hood condition: I can find no leaks, drips or seepage from the engine, it starts, idles, and runs well. The under hood fabric was replaced a few years ago. All stickers are present, some are lifting. The engine and peripherals are in sound mechanical condition. The battery is newer and kept on a tender out of the car while in storage. All fluids have been checked. The original owner was adamant about using only AMSoil products for the life of the vehicle. Air filter looks new. No exhaust leaks. Car was heated to operating temperature; all systems appear to be working correctly. The clutch was replaced last year. The upper shock mounts show some cracking and may need to be replaced if the car is going to be driven. An aftermarket power kill switch was installed to isolate the battery for storage. According to service records the car had the OE air condition unit installed at a dealer after initial sale. It has been serviced a few times over its life. The clutch, master cylinder, and slave have also been serviced a couple of times. The accessory belts have been done twice. Tires have been replaced three times. It has had multiple services for the fuel sender unit. Presently the gauge works intermittently. Most recently the clutch was replaced, the exhaust gasket was replaced, new brake shoes, new brake pads, and wheel cylinders along with normal fluid servicing.

Interior condition: There are no rips in any of the upholstery; both OE Recaros are in good working order including the adjustable leg bolster. Generally from a few feet the interior appears to be in good to great condition. Minor stains along the center tunnel (looks like coffee), white marks on black vinyl (superficial), package tray carpet has faded and has a dried powered left, driver side rear speaker grill is cracked/damaged, sun visors have lost their shape and need to be rebuilt, cracking around vents on center stack, sun roof crank handle is missing knob, center dash vent has slight warp, driver side seat has some chipping to vinyl on outer bolster, driver side carpet has wear spot under gas pedal, front floor mats are worn, e-brake handle grip separating, radar detector loose in mount, minor de-lamination on center review mirror, some staining on headliner, especially on sunroof door where it has picked up dirt when opening/closing, threads in shift boot coming undone. Two aftermarket screws were used to secure the driver side dash under trim panel.

In the trunk: The trunk condition is virtually new, the tool kit, though missing a couple of items is believed to be complete as originally delivered. The jack and lug wrench are in place along with the spare, spare cover, screw down cap, and trunk carpet. The trunk has a couple areas of concern with regard to condition. Under the carpet on both sides near major body seams there is the formation of minor rust spots, no blow through. The passenger side has area of concern that is about 3 inches long and 0.5 inches wide. There are more areas that are smaller and less severe that should be evaluated as well. The trunk also contains the extras which are included with the car. This included the original dealer option first aid kit, in new unused condition along with a safety triangle. Three bottles of BMW fuel additive that have been in the trunk since the mid 1990’s according to the service records. A car cover (ripped), full size paint matched spare, window screens, weighted trash can, key chains, misc. OE replacement parts in bags, all of the books, collection of maps, and a binder containing extensive records of the car.

Operating condition:

The car has been stored with the battery out on a tender. We put it back in on January 7th this year, performed some post storage checks which it passed with flying colors, the car started easily. All of the lights, indicators, signals, stop lamps, etc. are in working order. The car went easily into gear and drove out of the garage, did a lap around the neighborhood and got a bath. The car idled and warmed up without issue and ran strong. The engine was cycled off and on a few times and we checked over all the basic items but could find no mechanical issues.

All of the interior accessories appear to be in proper working order. The only noticeable issue was the fuel gauge would go from reading to not reading, which has been a known problem throughout the cars life. The clutch engaged smooth and the car pulled away from a stop with ease. There were no complaints/noises from the steering or suspension on the short drive.


The car was originally purchased by a TWA pilot (had a bumper sticker which was removed but there is still a mark on the rear bumper, photo included) in Delaware; it was originally licensed in Florida and believed to be a winter residence car for him. Most of its miles were accumulated in its first few years and then declining to very few per year in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

I have composed a book containing all of the known/held records and documentation for the car, including many extras that document its European delivery and owners clippings, about 150 sleeve pages (many with multiple pages per sleeve).


You cannot fault this owner for their exhaustive reporting on the car’s history and condition. He or she goes out of their way to put your mind free of any doubts that this car is anything less than what they say it is. It is the epitome of great eBay listing, almost having too much content (if that’s possible). But will it be enough to convince the Bimmer folks to validate this car as a 5-figure classic? We’ll have to watch to find out.


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3 Comments on "1983 BMW 320is"

  1. Kelly Bonds says:

    Here is the problem. To get that reputation as a classic, you need something that is compelling in the ownership, and compares favourably to other options out there. The problem with the US E21 is that it was underpowered for its weight. You can’t deny this and it just makes for a sluggish driving experience. It never felt lively. Now a Euro 323 6cyl might be a different story.

  2. KevinR says:

    Kudos to the seller for a very detailed listing. However, if they had spent a little less time with the camera and a little more time with the cleaning supplies, the car would have come across much better.

    In my opinion this one isn’t worth $10K. To get their asking price, this car would have to be a time capsule of a showroom fresh car, but it isn’t. Just by looking at the pictures I can see there are paint issues and rust on some of the components. It also needs a new sunroof crank, touch up painting, a replacement headlight and replacement roundel badges. Those are EASY fixes. The fact that they haven’t been done leave me wondering what other maintenance issues have been ignored.

    I like E21s but I have my doubts that they will ever reach the status of other older BMWs.

  3. MDriver says:

    what Kelly said^^^…only an E21 lover would appreciate this….if it were a 323 then you are in another catagory….