1988 BMW 320is

We try to stay far away from politics on these pages, but there’s a story I have to share with you that has hit the news here in Rhode Island over the past few weeks that in a round-about way is relevant to this car. Rhode Island, if you’re completely unaware of its reputation, isn’t known for having the most…shall we say morally upstanding lawmakers and leadership. A few years ago, twice-convicted felon Vincent “Buddy” Cianci was nearly elected for the third time to run the capital of Providence. So notorious is the corruption on Capital Hill that when RI recently announced its complete debacle of a revised state slogan in “Cooler and Warmer” (reportedly, it cost 5 million dollars for a firm to produce that), people on social media changed the catch phrase to “Lobsters and Mobsters”. That gives you just a hint of context to contemplate the next story with.

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Less is More? 1990 BMW 320is

The perfect counterpoint to Volkswagen’s GLi 16V like the one we featured earlier has to be the BMW 320is. Ostensibly, these two cars were aimed at close to the same market although the BMW was a fair chunk of change more expensive than the Jetta. But both were sports sedans, both came only as manuals, both had BBS wheels, grippy Recaro seats and sport suspension, and critically both featured a 2 liter 16V motor. But it’s there where the similarities end, because while Volkswagen rung 134 horsepower out of the 9A, BMW squeezed a seemingly unbelievable (for the time) 192 horsepower out of the lower displacement S14. For some time, the 100 hp/liter mark was considered about as good as naturally aspirated motors got and the 320is was hauntingly close with 192 ponies from 1,990 CCs – proportionately, more powerful than the larger 2.3 and 2.5 variants. We’ve previously covered this model a few times and so won’t go into lengthy detail about the history (plus, some of it is included in the listing), but if you wanted to understand why you’d pay more for one of these BMWs in the late 80s, that engineering feat alone was a good indication. As the E30 market has been red hot and importation becomes possible for more of these cars, we keep seeing them pop up:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 320is on eBay

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1988 BMW 320is

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I’ve focused heavily on the now-importable forbidden fruit of Volkswagen recently, but the models VW kept from us tend more towards the funky instead of the fast. One of the tastiest BMW offerings that never came across the Atlantic is the “Italian M3,” or E30 320is. As a reminder, these were standard E30 chassis heavily upgraded with M parts, including the M3’s S14 but with a shorter stroke to circumvent Italy and Portugal’s heavy taxes on engines over 2000cc. It produced almost as much power as the M3 with a little less torque, and the same Getrag dog-leg gearbox ensured a powertrain experience as close to the all-conquering M3 as any. The suspension setup was similar as well, but an M-Tech II bodykit provided a much more subtle, gentleman-racer look compared to the E30’s legendary box flares. Carter featured one of the few in the US (and one of 2,542 in the world) a while back. It was for sale by the oft-derided Enthusiast Auto Group, well known for snagging low-mileage examples of rare BMWs and proceeding to ask exorbitant amount of money for them. That car with 50k miles was left on the auction block despite a high bid of $29k. It was also pretty much all-original, which is not the case here.

This 320is has had quite a few owners, starting with 3 in Italy, two in Germany (including the current seller), and 8 years with one in the UK. The British owner spent heavily to elevate his 320is to a true track weapon with an FIA M3 roll cage, race seats and 4-point harnesses, and a fully upgraded suspension. Other OEM+ items like E30 M3 rear brakes, E36 M3 chain tensioner, and M Coupe differential cover complete a package that is well thought-out and is surely an exceptional performer on road and track. In an effort to make it more streetable, the Recaros and roll cage are supplemented by by a custom rear seat-delete parcel shelf. It’s racy for sure, but none of it looks so extreme that it couldn’t be enjoyed regularly on the road. The exterior follows a similar path with jagged M-stripes crossing the beautiful Delphin grey. They’re vinyl, so you can take them off if you want to return to its original sleeper status. With the performance parts it’s packing and the rollcage peaking out of the back windows, I’d leave them on to proclaim BMW Motorsport for all to see. It will be in Germany until early next year which complicates the sale a little, but if the rare and unique 320is is your style, I’d say it’s worth getting in touch with Norbert to see what you can work out.

Click for details: 1988 BMW 320is on eBay

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10K Friday: BMW 3-series Showdown

Rightly so, I’ve been accused of comparing everything to BMWs – so for today’s 10K Friday, I thought why not compare BMWs to BMWs? Part of the reason I compare various cars I write up to the alternative BMW products is because for some time they have been considered the benchmark, and their popularity from new to the used classic market means that they set the pricing trends against which others can be judged. That’s especially true of the 3 series; for some time, the go-to performance product from Germany, increasingly many earlier generations of the 3 are being viewed as not only collectable, but indeed as investments. So, what does your $10,000 budget buy these days? I’ve rounded up five examples from the first five generations, covering nearly every configuration the small executive platform has been available in. Which is the winner?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 BMW 320is on eBay

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Feature Listing: 1988 BMW 320is

Edit 7/15/2015: This 1988 320is was relisted due to non-payment from the high-bidder!

This past weekend, Hagerty sent me a lovely email announcing the five cars that I should have bought when they were cheap. It should come as no surprise that the BMW E30 M3 was amongst them. Long considered the throw-away of the M lineup, their meteoric rise towards the top of the German collector car market has been pretty well documented. One of the lesser known aspects, though, is that combined with the Porsche 911 and a few other select cars, these market leaders have redefined the market in its entirety. Now all 1980s cars in good condition have been on the rise; we’ve seen $15,000 Volkswagen GTis and Audi 4000 quattros, mid 20s for good 944 Turbos and the R107 SLs have been the latest to surge upwards. So while I can gripe that the market is overpriced, it would seem that for the foreseeable future, the market is going to be high on these cars. How high? Hagerty now puts a condition 1-2 M3 between $45,000 and $70,000. We’ve seen even more for special editions. So, the clever and budget-minded enthusiast needs to look towards lesser known but equal provenance vehicles. Obscurity is your friend here, and the base 320is fades into the background of E30s perfectly. Outwardly, there’s nothing to hint that this is anything more than a stripped base-model 3-series. But as you can tell from the picture with the hood raised, the truth is far from that. That’s because the 320is was effectively a budget M3 underneath, perhaps in the most fitting tribute to the famous World War 1 “Q-Ships” the Germans have been able to produce. It is a truly special car, and this is a special example.

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1983 BMW 320is Turbo

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E21s seem to be gaining popularity, with some beautiful, low-mileage examples coming out of the woodwork and pulling upwards of $20k! This 1983 320is is more about fun and less about preservation, strapping a Mitsubishi TD04 turbo on, a snail more commonly used on Saabs. To support the increased output, parts from a fun variety of cars – Audi 200 Turbo, VW GTI, Volvo 240 Turbo – come together to give this little 3er a bit more oomph than the M10’s original 125hp. With the “is” model’s inherent improvements in handling and power delivery and a hefty new-parts list, this E21 looks to be a fun little handful.

Click for details: 1983 BMW 320is Turbo on eBay

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1989 BMW 320is

Just the other day I watched an auction on a 1983 Audi Quattro. Not considered to be the best of the breed, it was nonetheless an opportunity to buy one of the few that were imported to the U.S., since only a reported 664 were sold here. Many have died, several have been repatriated, and that leaves a precious few left if you enjoy the original box-flared wonder of the Quattro. What was interesting about this car was that it was in pieces; partially disassembled for a restoration, it looked like it was going to be work to put it back together – a lot of work. Despite that, bidding was quite active and I was somewhat surprised to see the final price crest $15,000 – money that would have bought you a really nice and complete 1983 last year. There were some extra parts and some desirable items like 8″ Ronals included with the sale, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand why the bidding went so high when it looked to me like there was another $10,000 worth of work waiting to happen. But cars from the 1980s are on the ups, and that’s especially true of limited models like the Quattro. You can thank, in no small measure, the recent popularity of the E30 M3 for that trend. And if you think the M3 has had a ripple effect on the rest of the 1980s legends, you better believe that it’s had a major effect on E30 sales. And within E30s, outside of M3s arguably the most desirable is the “Italian M3” – built for tax purposes, the special Motorsport GmbH S14B20 engined 320is:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW 320is on eBay

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1983 BMW 320is

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Today we have a nearly immaculate survivor of the best E21 model BMW brought to America. With some handling and cosmetic upgrades, the 320is was a tidy little package. It’s amazing that after 32 years and 117k miles this Hennarot example looks as showroom fresh as it does. The paint, chrome, interior, engine bay, and even the toolkit all look virtually unused. The E21 generation has its own distinct charm, a bit more quaint than the E30 but still a playful little sports sedan, and this is among the best examples we’ve seen.

Click for details: 1983 BMW 320is on eBay

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2 Liter Terror: 1988 BMW 320is

There’s something I can appreciate about the 320is versus the M3. On the surface, the M3 with its iconic boxflares and big wing is the DTM star you want, right? But if you’re a connoisseur and you’re looking for the driving experience, the narrow body 320is offered nearly the same experience. Sure, it was down a bit on power thanks to the destroked 2.0 S14 compared to its more illustrious brother. But it was lighter too, being a base model. The same thing happened in the Audi Coupe world in the 1980s; on paper, the Quattro was the model you wanted. However, if you were an enthusiast, the last of the 1987 Coupe GTs offered the same performance as the Quattro did thanks to their lighter weight and upgraded engine over earlier models. The result is that these narrow-body cars offer discrete performance in a less showy package for those in the know. aSo that means that the 320is is a lot cheaper than a normal M3, right? Not so fast….

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 320is on eBay

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Diet M3: 1988 BMW 320is

We often speak of sleepers on these pages, but in truth none of the cars we typically cover are truly sleepers. Cars like the E28 M5, 500E and Audi S4 all sported bigger wheels, special badges and fatter exhaust. Often you see flared fenders, special lights and in most cases you can see the lowered stance hinting at a stiffened suspension. Inside are special and unique interiors with heavy bolsters, badges and enough electronic gizmos to make a Brookstone blush. Sure, they generally wear the same clothes as a German airport taxi, but honestly unless you’re blind not going to mistake them for anything picking you up outside Frankfurt Flughafen. But there are some serious sleepers available if you like discrete performance and complete anonymity. I’d argue that likely the best is this particular car – the BMW 320is:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 320is on eBay

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