1991 BMW Z1

BMW took a big leap at the end of the 1980s and introduced some pretty extreme design language. First was the E31 8-series, a seeming quantum leap from the outgoing 6-series. That chassis pioneered, for better or worse, a tremendous amount of technical and electronic innovation for BMW. Side by side with the more famous Grand Tourer though was a diminutive roadster BMW produced based heavily on the E30 chassis. Instead of a heavy reliance on computer technology, the futuristic (hence Z for the German word for future – Zukunft) plastic bodied Z1 looked like a supercar even if it didn’t go like one. Park one next to a E30 convertible and you’d never know the two are related! They never made it to U.S. shores and only around 8,000 examples were ever produced, but surprise! They’re 25 years old now….

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW Z1 on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1982 BMW 320/6 Baur TC1

Calling Baur a tuner isn’t really very fair, but since we don’t have a separate category for semi-aftermarket carriage works, it will fit in. Baur worked in conjunction with a few manufacturers – most notably BMW, though a few Audi fans will remember that they were responsible for construction of the Sport Quattros too and they assisted in the assembly of the Porsche 959 as well. Much like Porsche originally started as, they were linked to the factory efforts due to their high level of unique production capability. That manifested itself in limited run models that required special construction – such as the Sport Quattro and 959 – but what most enthusiasts will remember are the multiple 3-series Cabriolet models produced through Baur. These were offered through dealers as an expensive option and to this day remain a very unique expression of Munich motoring:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 BMW 320/6 Baur TC1 on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1986 Alpina C2 2.7

From earlier’s obscure E21 B6 2.8 we move on to the much more popular (then and especially now) E30 model. Alpina once again worked their magic in many ways over the production of the E30, steadily increasing output to try to stay one step ahead of the factory. Up until 1986, that was a bit easier, but the introduction of the M3 model that year put some serious pressure on Alpina and would result in the M30 based B6 2.8 and 3.5 models, but the earlier Alpina models were based upon the M20 323i powerplant. Punching that out to 2.5 and later 2.7 liters as BMW released its own updates, the ultimate result was 210 horsepower from the larger unit. These were expensive cars in their day and consequently few were sold, but performance was top-notch and it was a premium product from the unique manufacturer:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Alpina C2 2.7 on eBay

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1988 BMW 325ix Touring

For proof that automobile enthusiasts often don’t make much sense, one doesn’t need to look much farther than the E30 325ix Touring. Built on exactly the same formula as yesterday’s Passat 4Motion, while enthusiasts will look upon that car generally as an overpriced oddity, pop a clean ix Touring onto their computer screen and wallets begin to fly. Understandably, there’s a style difference between the Volkswagen/Audi products and the highly sought after E30 Touring, but honestly does this car do anything appreciably better than a S4 Avant? I can only think of one thing – it generates income for the seller:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 325ix Touring on eBay

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1987 BMW 528e Euro-Spec

The allure of European specification cars from the 1980s is great with me. Beyond being equipped with items that never made it to the U.S., there’s the look – especially when it came to BMW and Mercedes-Benz models. Audi’s mid-80s refresh and updated bumper skins meant that by 1985 it was hard to tell the difference outside of the headlight glass; contrast that with this BMW 528e. While I’m sure there is a devoted U.S.-spec 528e fanbase somewhere, it is really low on the appeal spectrum when you consider the 535is and M5 that ran alongside it. Usually presented in drab and unpolished tones, the 528e has always struck me a bit as a German speaking Eeyore. However, revert the car to its original European specification, and suddenly it’s a different ball game. Slimmed down and cleaned up, it’s a smart looking sedan again – and few appear in this condition:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 528e on eBay

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1985 BMW 323i Baur TC

There was a period in the mid 1970s where it appeared that safety nannies like Ralph Nader were going to bring about the death of the convertible. Consider, for a moment, that in 1965 Americans bought nearly 500,000 4-seat convertibles – but by the late 1970s, Detriot had completely abandoned what had been a very successful market. Today, it’s German firms that are the leaders in convertibles sold in the U.S. – no surprise, really, when you consider the number that are available. From the Eos and Beetle to BMW’s 3,6 and Z series, along with plenty of Mercedes-Benz models and Audi’s TT, A3, A5 and R8, there’s no shortage currently of options with air above. Go back to the early 1980s, though, and there were really only two. You could pay a lot of money for a Volkswagen Rabbit Cabriolet, or you could pay a ridiculous amount of money for a Porsche 911 Cabriolet. In response, many aftermarket tuners offered to take the top off just about everything from the S-Class Mercedes to the Porsche 928. Baur was one such firm, offering a drop-top version of the 3-series before BMW did. Rare to find, there’s one that’s popped up for sale today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW 323i Baur TC on eBay

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10K Friday: BMW 3-series Showdown

Rightly so, I’ve been accused of comparing everything to BMWs – so for today’s 10K Friday, I thought why not compare BMWs to BMWs? Part of the reason I compare various cars I write up to the alternative BMW products is because for some time they have been considered the benchmark, and their popularity from new to the used classic market means that they set the pricing trends against which others can be judged. That’s especially true of the 3 series; for some time, the go-to performance product from Germany, increasingly many earlier generations of the 3 are being viewed as not only collectable, but indeed as investments. So, what does your $10,000 budget buy these days? I’ve rounded up five examples from the first five generations, covering nearly every configuration the small executive platform has been available in. Which is the winner?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 BMW 320is on eBay

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1979 BMW 323i

BMW’s recent advertisement campaign for the 3-series has notably featured the E21; interesting, since it’s the first time that I can remember BMW actually acknowledging the first 3. It’s not that the E21 didn’t have the right recipe; Paul Bracq’s design was lovely and of course coupled to the traditional front-engined, rear-drive platform with a manual gearbox, but I think that a large part of the E21’s problem was the perceived lack of sport for the 320 model that came here. If you were in the rest of the world, you could get a hotter and better looking option than what Americans would enjoy – the 323i. With the fuel injected M20 motor under the hood, the 323i enjoyed a healthy 20 horsepower bump over the standard 320i, and since it was a Euro car it had better looking….well, it goes without saying. The slimmed down and beefed up 323i made it here through the grey market, with this particular example having the added interesting bit of history of having been imported by notable BMW specialists Hardy and Beck:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 BMW 323i on eBay

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Motorsports Monday: E30-off – 1989 v. 1990 BMW 325i

A funny thing happens when you go to the track often. People arrive with generally a slower car in stock form. The immediate experience most have, once hooked on heading to the track, is that their driving is not the limiting factor, but the speed of their car. So the story goes, with searches of the internet resulting in stiffer suspension, chips and exhaust, engine mapping and dyno runs, camber plates and coil-overs, sticky rubber and the lightest wheels possible – even if they’re ugly. Why? All in the quest of speed. However, once those drivers get towards the top, a few strange realizations occurs: first, there will always be someone with more money (often, a lot more) who will turn up at the track with a weapon capable of making your turned up and tuned up ride look positively slow. The second is more profound – the guys in the slow cars are coming off track with bigger smiles. It’s simply very satisfying to drive a slow car fast, and it turns out that those drivers get closer to the edge and experience a more pure driving experience. Anyone can plunk down $110,000 at your Nissan dealership and go and let the car set fast lap times. But it takes panache to take a step back and enjoy an older, slower car – to hone your skills and make yourself a better driver. While there are several cars from the 1980s that will afford you that opportunity, arguably the most popular in the German car realm is the venerable E30:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW 325i on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday E30s: 1986 Alpina B6 3.5 and 1990 325i Hartge

These days, I think you could slap an E30 badge on just about anything and the cult of the small sedan would perk up and pay attention. If the E30 was the natural choice for a sporting executive in the 1980s, it’s become the defacto way to instant street credentials in the European scene. “Sure bro, you might have a 2JZ-GTE Supra, but I got an E30 dawg!” you might overhear being conversed with a heavy beat from Ludacris pumping in the background and scantily clad women draping themselves over your Claus Luthe designed hood, for example. Is that not what happens? Well, the appeal of the E30 is such that you could easily believe that might be the outcome of turning the key in one. As an Audi fan from the same period, I have to admit a certain amount of jealousy; not so much in the design, but in the plethora of choices of what’s available in the market and the amount of manufacturer and aftermarket support. It’s something you just don’t really see in the Audi camp, for example. That means that you can have some mild to wild examples of E30s to choose from each and every day of the week. They’ve also hit importation status on some later models, so the flood gates have quite literally opened and a steady stream of Euro market cars is popping up for sale, trying hard to capitalize on the car made popular by the success of capitalism. As such, today for Tuner Tuesday I have two E30s to consider; a wild Alpina B6 3.5 from 1986, and a 1990 325i right hooker with a host of Hartge upgrades. Who wins the tune-off?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Alpina B6 3.5 on eBay

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