It’s been a balmy couple of days in DC, with temperatures shooting up to around 60 degrees. One could be forgiven for wondering where the winter went. It will soon be here, I’m sure. And with it the snow and ice, the city-wide shutdown, and the terrible drivers causing pile-ups around the beltway. What would be the ideal winter warrior for times like these? The E30 325iX quickly comes to mind. A brief search on Craigslist throws up a number of tidy options (as well as the usual plethora of over-priced rust buckets). But one in particular stands out, a bit of a unicorn. AWD? Check. Manual? Check? Wagon? Check! Eye-watering price? Double check!
We don’t see much of the 325ix around here (though Carter’s recent 325ix touring was a special treat), as they seem to have mostly died undignified deaths in Colorado and the northeast. This Vermonter has somehow survived without too much damage, not even showing any of the usual rust that appears around the M-Tech II bodykit. It’s covered the better part of 200k miles and has a few flaws (note to the seller: saying that “the car need a power sterring holes fot the power streeing to work again, and the paking brake is not woking now” four lines after “a lot money spent to keep it in top running condition” does not inspire trust. However, this is a rare 5-speed coupe E30 with all wheel drive, so it still warrants a close look.
Click for details: 1988 BMW 325ix on eBay
I’m always interested in clean examples of the 325ix. Rare to begin with, their all-road capability means they’ve often experienced crueler conditions than a standard E30. This example has covered an amazing 248k miles but is a hard-to-find manual coupe. The engine was replaced about 1k miles ago with another M20B25 that has 120k total miles but recently had a top end rebuild. The interior looks good all things considered, with cracked but not ripped seats and an intact dash. The exterior was recently repainted after the common rust areas were professionally repaired, letting the Delphin Gray give off its great subtle luster. With axles and other maintenance items done within the last 50k miles, this seems like the right kind of high-mileage car to pursue, especially given the rare specification.
Click for details: 1988 BMW 325ix on eBay
As we get into the slip-slidy ice times here in the Pacific Northwest, all-wheel drive is on my mind more than ever. We are fortunate to have both an E28 M5 and a Subaru Forester in our household each providing fun drives across a variety of conditions, but what if I could have both cars wrapped into one? Sounds great to me, and the first car that comes to mind to fit that bill is the E30 325ix. Deliciously analog in the 80s Bimmer way while dishing out AWD security in any condition is a tasty combination.
This example comes from the state that may hold the highest concentration of ix models, Colorado. It’s been repainted white and is fairly straight, if a little rough around the edges. But I chose this car because any time I see an E30 the Project part of my brain starts turning: what are you going to do in the future? Engine swap, suspension, spruce up the interior – all pretty typical E30 items that this 325ix would be a great foundation for. With 180k miles, the engine may be coming up in not too long, but that will provide an opportunity to get the autobox out as well. It’s no showstopper, but it’s exactly the kind of 80s German metal I want to play with heading into winter.
Click for details: 1991 BMW 325ix on eBay
An old friend emailed me the other day for advice on getting his own adventure van. We ran through the whole gamut of options, from the classic Westy to Sprinters to Ford Sportvans to Transit Connects. We had some good discussions examining various priorities and rationales, and he had a hard time envisioning shelling out $35k for a nice 25 year-old van, even if Volkswagens are clearly the most stylish and sentimental choice. So, we looked at some other options and kept the discussion going.
Then this van came onto eBay, and I was right back in a puddle of Vanagonlove. The High Tops have grown (no pun intended) on me a lot recently with even greater sleeping and storage space than the standard Westy. They still have a small-van footprint, but bring big-van capability, especially with Syncro. This van has had some very interesting modifications, most importantly a turbocharged Ford Zetec conversion by well-known Van converters Bostig mated to a rebuilt transmission. You could spend days reading the aggressive arguments on forums debating the pros and cons of different engine swaps – 1.8T keeps it OEM+, Subaru has the most power potential, the Ford has the most parts availability, and then there’s the one guy in the corner shouting “911S! 911S!” I move on as soon as people start saying THERE IS ONLY ONE GOOD OPTION, as it seems like all can result in awesome vans as long as the work is well-done and holistic. All of this to say that I have no issue with a Ford engine in a Vanagon and see it as a reliable, reasonably efficient way to more power.
The other modifications are not nearly as contentious or involved as the motor swap, but they do contribute to creating a unique and attractive van. The interior has been swapped out for that from a top-of-the-line Carat, creating an OEM-plushness the Syncro never received. One of the coolest and most resourceful modifications is using the passenger-side jump seat mounts to hold the stove and fridge combo but leaving it detachable, so it can be placed outside the van under the awning when camping. Genius! Other aesthetic and mechanical bits abound, from the always-lovely (and trendy) South African grille and headlights to big brakes and Emu shocks. A very tidy and sorted package that, despite hot bidding even as I type, is way below normal Syncro Westy prices.