1988 BMW 325i Convertible

The beautiful M3 Convertible I looked at yesterday was a reminder that I often skimp on drop-tops entirely. On top of that, I’ve been ignoring one of the most popular options in the classic German car market – the E30.

Introduced midway through E30 production, the Convertible you see here was the first factory BMW convertible since the 1950s. It showed in the execution; BMW’s slick top folded neatly away under a hard cover, in stark contrast to Volkswagen’s Cabriolet which looked like it was sporting a neck support pillow in back. Little trunk space was lost in the execution, meaning you had a fully functional 4-seat convertible replete with storage for the weekend. Base price was nearly $29,000 in 1987, but that included leather sport seats, electric windows, anti-lock brakes, cruise control and an on-board computer. For the U.S. market, there was only one engine option, too – the M20 2.5 liter inline-6, meaning no “E” model and plenty of spin on the tach, along with 168 horsepower. This helped make up for some additional weight from the top mechanism and structural strengthening, resulting in around 3,000 lbs of curb weight. But while the E30 was the benchmark as a driver’s car, many more of these were used in a relaxed manner; top-down luxury cruisers to enjoy the sun:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 325i Convertible on San Francisco Craigslist


Year: 1988
Model: 325i Convertible
VIN: N/A
Engine: 2.5 liter inline-6
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 98,500 mi
Price: $10,000

There are very few E30s like this around in terms of condition, maintenance and documented history.

2 family car. Original owners gave it to their daughter, who gave it to her daughter. I bought it from her.

I’ve put only 10k miles on the car over the last 4 years but I have done tons of preventive maintenance on the car.

The car is an automatic in the original Bronzit color.

Highlights include:

98k original miles. yes, they are accurate and the odometer is original

timing belt and water pump

brakes all around

complete steering and suspension including new control arms, offset M3 bushings, swayer bushings and brackets, Bilstein shocks. Professionally aligned of course.

oil pan gasket replaced

reinforced welded subframe installed

upgraded injectors and ECU (the only “mod” of any sort besides keyless entry and aftermarket radio)

new tires

a/c converted to R134

new top

redone drivers seat and rear seat leather

clean Carfax

just passed smog (easily)

Everything, including cluster, trip computer, check system, works. If there was anything that needed to be done, at all, I did it. The drivers seat does not have heat due to the refurbishing, but I have it.

This is a no-excuses car with the kind of condition and detail that can win a concours. The paint is not perfect (there are some chips and a possible repaint in one or more places) but it turns heads. You can fly here and drive it home anywhere.

If you’ve been wanting an E30 but lament that they all have over 200k miles or have been modded to death, this is your chance. Owned by a BMWCCA member with too many cars.

Bronzit was a popular tone on the Convertible, and while it doesn’t pop as much as the reds and greens did, it still looks great nearly all the time and is certainly classic. Keeping the theme going inside is a nice looking beige leather interior; black would be a standout, but you probably wouldn’t want to sit in those seats after a few minutes in the sun unless you like the smell of bacon more than most. The seller has spent some time sorting age-related issues common to older cars which provides worry-free enjoyment of this classic. With lower mileage and in great condition, along with a reported clean bill of heath and without excuses, this is a great way to get into a 325i Convertible and enjoy one of the nicer driving drop-tops from the period without breaking your budget.

-Carter

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4 Comments

  1. Convertible, strike one.
    Automatic, strike two.
    Bronzit, strike three.

    Some cars have a higher perceived value with a top down option, the E30 isn’t one of them. Over the years we’ve seen some really optimistic prices on verts…

  2. Nice E30 vert! I had one just like it. Loved everything about it but the auto trans. Didnt hurt that I pick mine up for much less $3.3k, but I put along of cash into too. This one seems like good value to me.

  3. True the e30 hardtops especially slick tops are more sought than verts but the drop tops are on the rise of late. The auto is definitely a negative in any e30 but can be swapped for the manual fairly simply and cheaply (I’ve converted my 1992). The price is a bit dear on this one and it’s my least favorite cold combo. Nonetheless it’s a nice example.

  4. Hey, thanks for the feature and comments.

    When I bought the car, I told the lady “look, I hate the color and I hate the transmission, here’s my offer.” So I get it.

    However, the bronzit color has really grown on me, and if your traffic is anything like mine here in the SF Bay Area, the automatic is highly desirable.

    As far as the droptop, it’s personal, but driving around with the top down is awesome, and the top works extremely well on this one when you need it up (far better than the Alfa Spider I’ve replaced it with).

    I’m open to offers but frankly, $6k gets you a beater E30 that has 200k+ miles and/or a bunch of mods. What would it cost you to have someone replace the top, suspension, brakes, steering, subframe, and on and on? The top alone was $1500, and there’s a lot more recent work on the car (see updated craigslist ad).

    This is the kind of car you buy for your wife/husband/mom/whatever and say “I know you always wanted one of these, here’s a nicely sorted one.”

    I have loved working on this car, the E30 is like a lego car – everything is logical, and relatively easy, except replacing the oil pan gasket. Even doing the timing belt required only one special tool, a bicycle wrench!

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