Feature Listing: 1979 BMW 323i Baur TC1

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 to 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 go, ‘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 323i like this one hit the market at the equivalent of $18,000 in 1980 (about $53,500 today) and selecting the Baur TC1 option added some $6,000 (about $17,000 today) to the price.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 BMW 323i Baur TC1 on eBay

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Eye of the Survivor: 1983 BMW 528e

It’s funny how priorities change. A decade ago, I would not have given a second look to a 528e. Growing up with a E28 M5 in the garage created both an appreciation for the E28 and the dichotomous dismissal of lower range vehicles. Sure, the M5-look 535is was cool, and alongside the M5 we even had a very nice ’85 535i that was a pretty good driver. But below that? No, I seldom gave the 533i, 528e or even 524td a second look on the road. Today, though? Even if it’s not a performance car by most standards, a survivor 528e is certainly worth a second look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 BMW 528e on eBay

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1982 BMW 323i Baur TC1 Turbo

In a post I wrote for The Truth About Cars this past week, I covered a few E30 models that offer affordable and interesting visual and performance alternatives to the E30 M3. One of those models was the Baur TC2, the model which gave BMW a soft-top before BMW made its own in 1985. Of course, the E30 wasn’t Baur’s first foray into convertible 3-series models, though, as they had started with the E21 model. Baur only produced a little less than half the amount of E21s – 4,595 according to Petrolicious – as they did E30 models at over 11,000, but as importation of early 1980s cars was easier, it seems more common to see the E21 Baur than the E30 Baur. Though fitted as standard with no performance upgrades, this unique 1982 example remedies that with a turbocharged M20:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 BMW 323i Baur TC1 Turbo on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1986 Alpina B6 2.7

$65,000 for an E36?Bullsh*t!“, most of you are probably saying. That money should be reserved for true classics or brand new models. Heck, you can get a perfect condition, lightly used M4 for $65,000 even in a cool color. But anyone can walk down to a dealer and get a brand new car. You’re an enthusiast, which means you enjoy the purgatory of older car ownership. Few of your non-automobile related friends understand why you like old, smelly, slow, uncomfortable, often in need of repair hunks of metal and plastic. “It’s just a car”, they say. But it’s not just a car to you – it’s an identity, a feeling, a Joie de vivre those who don’t know will never have. It doesn’t matter that they don’t understand, because you understand. So you take that $65,000 that you could have spent on a brand new, ultra-flash and ultra-fast M4 but you don’t spend it on an ultra-obscure two decade-old E36, because they’re not worth that much – obviously. No, you instead spend it on a sure thing, a car that isn’t a flash in the pan, a recession-proof investment-grade BMW like….an E30?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Alpina B6 2.7 on eBay

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1985 BMW 528e

1The 528e is a bit of an odd duck. The product of the oil crisis of the late 70s and early 80s, this was essentially a gasoline engined car that attempted to mimic the frugality of a diesel, at a time when BMW was yet to bring a diesel engine to the US market (the e stands for “efficiency”). Powered by a 2.7 liter, de-tuned version of the inline-six cylinder M20 motor, what you got was a car that offered all the good looks of the E28 5-series, but with none of the performance to back it up. In other words, you bought this car to drive cheaply and slowly with a bit of German style and sophistication.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW 528e on eBay

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1982 BMW 323i

Feeling blue that all of the affordable classic options are quickly becoming, well, not so affordable? There are still bastions of value if you’re willing to overlook the flash of the big names and instead just focus on a clever, unappreciated car. The E21 might just be the most unappreciated BMW ever brought to the United States, but most of that reputation is thanks to a relatively soft M10 engine allocation and one of the worst applications of federally mandated crash bumpers. Move on up to the M20 and the associated European trim and the story changes quite a bit. Suddenly, you have a 7/8ths scale M635CSi on a very affordable budget:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 BMW 323i on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1985 Alpina C2 2.5

It’s a strange world we live in when I first looked at the $39,500 asking price of this 1985 Alpina C2 2.5 and thought, “Well, that’s pretty reasonable”. But at what may be the height of the Zeitgeist of E30, when asks on 318is models are in the 20s, 320is are in the 30s and you’ve heard enough about the M3’s race winning streak to nauseate Jochen Neerpasch (no, no, I’m sure you know who he is without looking it up, “lifetime” M3 fan!), is it really all that outrageous to ask $40,000 for an excellent condition, ultra limited Alpina model? This particular one was a stranger even in Europe; the C2 2.5 was a Japan-only model with 74 reported produced. It was also the second least powerful on offer from Alpina, with only the C1 2.3/1 below. Although that meant it was more a sheep in wolf’s clothes than the typical other way around, the C2 2.5 still packed 185 horsepower and matched it with upgraded suspension, wheels, brakes, exhaust, and of course the typical Alpina décor. This particular example, looking splendid in Lapis Blue, comes to the market with only 46,000 miles:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Alpina C2 2.5 on eBay

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1990 BMW 320i

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Even with automatics, I love perfect examples of old bimmers, and this 20k-mile 320i is no exception. It has lived most of its life in Japan but is thankfully still LHD. The island life has kept its use regular but minimal, resulting in the extremely low amount of miles. It’s a beautiful example of the E30 sedan and would make a great daily driver with a pay-no-mind transmission deciding how to best use the most diminutive M20, a teacup 2.0-liter inline-6. The seller is hoping for strong E30 money even though it’s a basic model, but that’s to be expected when the car has traveled roughly one American’s yearly miles over a quarter century.

Click for details: 1990 BMW 320i on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1983 Alpina C1 2.3

The E21 generally remains the affordable classic in the 1970s to 1980s BMW range, being undervalued when compared to many of the E10s and E30s. It has all the right ingredients for the BMW faithful, too – especially in little six European trim. The 323i looked like a scaled down 6-series and it effectively was, but that doesn’t make it in any way unattractive. Alpina, too, had their had in this model, producing no less than seven variants in a short run. The most popular is the bad boy B6 2.8, but there was a lesser known M20 powered C1 2.3, too. With 170 horsepower and all the right Alpina details, it’s begging for the attention that it deserves:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Alpina C1 2.3 on eBay

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Feature Listing: 1987 BMW 325ic

April 2017 update: The seller of this car has relisted it HERE!

It’s very interesting to me to look back and compare the 1980s offerings from the big three luxury producers in Germany. In many ways, BMW lagged behind the competition early on. Audi launched the B2 chassis in 1980, and it revised the standards of the near luxury market for Germany. There were diesel and gas motors, two or four-door configurations, and even a wagon from sister company Volkswagen. But the real addition gearheads loved was the wide-winged turbocharged and all-wheel drive Quattro, the first of the hot versions that would come to the market for junior executives. Indeed, it was the Quattro that changed the future of the W201, as Mercedes-Benz changed the mission of the future 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth from rally to circuit racer. So, Mercedes-Benz had a track version of the W201, and it also set the standard in build quality. Bringing those reputations to the small luxury market meant a whole new class of clientele and the W201 was massively successful thanks to a bunch of factors. While VAG produced about 1.6 million B2 chassis cars between 1976 and 1987, an amazing 1.8 million W201s made it to market. Those successes put more pressure on BMW, and it responded.

The E30 was without doubt the sportiest of the three out of the box, and just like the B2 is was amazingly versatile. There were sedans and 2-door sedans, and BMW was able to match the Volkswagen Passat with a Touring offering. Hot shoes liked the addition of the Motorsports division M3, which not only met the challenge of the Quattro and Cosworth but exceeded it by nearly every measure. Build quality was great but performance was even greater. But BMW wasn’t done, as it took the versatility – and the small executive market – to a new level. Not satisfied with the diversity of the range already, the Munich engineers introduced a trump card over its rivals by removing the roof. An often overlooked development in the hot E30 market, the ic models would set the standard and demand responses from its rivals.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 325ic on eBay

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