As with the first 5-Series, the E21’s reputation has suffered in the wake of the models that replaced it and the legend which preceded it. The US-market models were long on bumpers and short on engine choices and while a lot of them sold here when new, they just never really grabbed the enthusiast following of either the ’02 models or the E30.
Yet there are good examples that pop up from time to time, especially when they’re presented in European guise and with the gutsier inline-6 under the hood. The model that often pops to mind is the 323i, one of which I looked at back in 2018. But there was also a carbureted version called the ‘320/6’, which used the M20 hooked to a single Solex. That’s what we’re looking at today, but this one not only has the more desirable look at motor, but also a host of period-style mods to go with it:
80s M Mania continues with little abatement, and the spill-over effect has impacted the rest of the lineup. Manic pricing increases have rivaled the Porsche 911’s market stardom in a smaller audience. For the most part, outrageous bids have been limited in the general enthusiast world to the M3; but within the E30 sphere of influence, outstanding examples of each particular model have reached astonishing levels of pricing. How crazy has it gotten? How about consistent mid-to-high $20,000 pricing on 325s? Granted, that is reserved for the best examples, but it shows the massive swing in values of the highly desirable platform.
Stepping up to the M3 will cost you a lot more – even if it’s not as nice an example. Of course, there’s an alternative if you really desire M DNA in the form of the screaming S14. BMW slotted a de-stroked 2.0-liter version into the Portugal and Italian-market 320is – and as luck would have it, one popped up on eBay recently:
No, you’re not reading the headline wrong. But if you’re clever, you know this is special right away. Because the title specifically says ‘Sedan’, and because the M3 Sedan didn’t arrive on these shores until 1997, that must mean one of three things.
- I didn’t have enough coffee when I wrote this
- I got the year wrong
- It’s a European-market example
(please be 3 please be 3 please be 3)
Yep. While it’s true that I most likely have not yet had enough coffee at time of writing, I assure you – this is not a typo. This 1995 M3 Sedan is sitting up in the Great White North, ready for your consumption. But the story on this one doesn’t end with the special motor under the hood. No, this one’s also a very special color combination, too – Daytona Violet over a BMW Individual interior called Saffron with wood trim. Yeah, it’s worth a look!
I don’t spend a lot of time talking about air-cooled models on these pages, and that’s a huge gap in Volkswagen’s history. It’s also not so long ago that VW continued to crank out brand new Beetles alongside their water-cooled replacements. The proliferation paved the way not only for the water-cooled replacement models I tend to favor, but some pretty awesome air-cooled examples, too.
Of those my favorite certainly must be the Type 34. I dissected Volkswagen’s first attempt to move upscale in an article on The Truth About Cars back in 2008:
Volkswagen’s Other Karmann Ghia: the Type 34
Basically, like the Phaeton, the Type 34 was a sales failure. It was too expensive – costing about 50% more than a normal Type 14 Ghia. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a very good looking failure. While the underpinnings were shared with its less exotic 1500 cousins, the upscale Karmann Ghia was aimed squarely at making peasants feel like landed gentry and certainly looked the part. Sweeping character lines ran the length of the car, giving it its signature “razor” nickname. Added to the upscale look in terms of desirability today is rarity. Never imported to the United States, the Type 34 only achieved about 42,500 units – less than 10% of the total number of the more popular and familiar Type 14 Karmann Ghia. But we’re lucky to find one today in Mississippi, of all places:
While BMW wouldn’t launch the U.S.-spec iX until 1988, Europeans were introduced to the concept in 1986. Unlike Audi’s quattro system which utilized a rearward driveshaft tacked on to a front-wheel drive transmission output shaft, BMW mated a transfer case and two viscous couplings, which effectively were front and rear limited-slips. This was very different from Audi’s contemporaneous system, which relied on the driver to lock the rear and center differentials that were otherwise open. The 325iX was able to be mated to an automatic transmission long before Audi would do so in the small chassis. BMW’s system was also more rearward biased, with 67% of the power being sent to the back wheels. While still more prone to understeer than a standard 325i, it was less so than the Audi.
But outside, there was little fanfare to celebrate the massive change in drivetrain technology. The iX just got a simple lower body kit similar to the Scirocco 16V kit and a single “X” after the 325i designation on the trunk. That’s it. European examples could even be more stealthy, like this ’86 that sports wheel covers. And this one in particular is quite special, as it’s never been road registered and has traveled just 500km since new. Pricing? The ‘E30 Tax’ is strong, my friends.
Okay, the messy M3 Lightweight was too much of a heavy lift, and the ’94 M-Design – while cool – really isn’t an M car. So where to look if you want a collector-grade E36 today?
Well, I think this is a good starting point. What at first glance may just seem like another silver M3 is revealed as something more special if you consider the date: 1994, in this case. Since there were no US ’94s, that automatically means it’s a European-specification car, with the stronger motor, better lights, and better brakes. Sweet! And it’s in the US already! Double sweet! Throw in that it’s got under 60,000 miles, Hurricane cloth Vaders, and an affordable entry price point (relative to some others we’ve looked at, at least) and this one seems a winner:
When I look through the history of E28 5-series I’ve written up, it’s not hard to notice a pattern. Most are modified, and most feature European-style modifications. Perhaps that annoys the purists and I’ll start off by saying a half-hearted ‘sorry’ to all of them, but here we go again.
It doesn’t take a much of a look to tell that this E28 has undergone the same series of modifications that the last ’87 535iS I looked had; namely, European headlights and bumpers and BBS Style 5s. But unlike that example, this one is done. As in, really, really done. If you’re looking for an as-new 535i with some stellar mods, check it out – but first, move the coffee away from the keyboard, especially as you get to the ‘price’ section:
When enthusiasts think of custom coachwork and Germany, one name usually springs to mind: Karmann. Most identifiable for their combination with Ghia’s designs for Volkswagen, Karmann produced not only their eponymous creation Karmann-Ghia in both Type 14 and Type 34 configuration, but also the Beetle convertible. Volkswagen’s association didn’t end there, though, as the first Rabbit Cabriolets, both versions of the original Scirocco and the later Corrado were all built by the firm. So, too, were some of the first Porsche 356, 911 and 912 models, along with the 914. BMW, too, turned to the firm for ‘Big Coupe’ production, from the 2000CS to the E24 6-series. But when it came time to take the top off of their small cars, BMW looked elsewhere.
From Osnabrück, BMW headed into the heart of the enemy’s home in Stuttgart, where Karosserie Baur was located. Baur was the company that BMW turned to when plans with Lamborghini to produce the supercar M1 fell through. Baur would later be the home that the infamous Group B Sport Quattro and Porsche 959 were produced in. In short, Baur was responsible for some of the most significant designs in German motoring and has plenty of expertise in factory-quality experience. It should come as no surprise, then, that they were the company that BMW selected to produce the first 3-series convertibles.
Taking the roof off the car seems simple enough; just grab a saw and say ‘How hard could it be?’ Well, not so fast, as structural rigidity rears its ugly head. Beyond that, in the 1970s government nannies were indicating that the idea of a topless car was going to be outlawed, leading many manufacturers – including all of the major U.S. brands – to abandon the idea. Baur’s solution to the problem was to create a roll hoop ‘Targa’ model, which as we know from Porsche models offered multiple roof positions while simultaneously solving the issue of structural rigidity and occupant safety. But Baur wasn’t able to utilize the ‘Targa’ nameplate, as Porsche owned the copywrite of the title. Baur instead called the new partially topless 3-series the Top Cabriolet, shortened to TC. BMW offered these as a full-factory option and maintained the warranty, as these cars were expensive in period – a 320i like this one hit the market at the equivalent of $14,000 in 1979 (about $50,000 today) and selecting the Baur TC1 option added some $6,000 (about $21,000 today) to the price. Just for reference, that’ll buy you TWO brand new 230is today.
Andrew’s ultra-low mileage 996TT was certainly impressive. But if you want a real ship-in-a-bottle moment, this post is for you. Perhaps it would be better termed car-in-a-bubble?
This 1997 BMW 740i was apparently bought new and then never used. It’s traveled just 158 miles in 23 years; I don’t live very far from the closest gas station to me at all, but basically I’d exceed the mileage on this car by doing a round-trip just to the pump only once every 365 days. Nuts? Yeah, probably. But here you go – if you want an as-new E38, this is the auction for you:
The follow-up to the quite popular Scirocco was the even better driving, even more popular, even more powerful, and way more expensive Corrado. And after looking at a neat Euro-spec G60, I thought it would be neat to look at a Canadian-spec VR6 that popped up for sale.
Mechanically, there were basically no differences between US market Corrados and Canadian market examples. However, there were a few odds and ends which help to set them apart for the Corrado fans. Most notable is probably the wheel design, which was shared with European models but not available in the US. More subtle, though, was the lack of fog lights – different bumper regulations meant that the Canadian market cars got dummy lenses. So you had to live without fog lights, but you also had the opportunity to live without the running mouse seatbelts. That’s right, Canadian Corrados got NORMAL SEATBELTS. Gosh, that alone could probably sell the car.