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.