We’ve been witness to an interesting trend over the past few years in the E30 lineup, as 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. Just the other day, a Hodge-podge of parts assembled on a 325i hit $19,000 on a no reserve auction. Granted, it was a good-looking example, but it shows the massive swing in values of the highly desirable platform.
Today I have an interesting comparison to consider. Like the $19,000 example linked above, one of the models I have here is admittedly not original. However, it’s the swap that is very interesting, as the builder managed to source and stuff a M3’s S14 power plant into a 318i, bringing with it the brake and wheel upgrades. Of course, BMW also did this themselves in the Portugal and Italian-market 320is – coincidentally, one of which is also on eBay at the same time. What does the market look like on these two shining examples of 4-cylinder fun?
Edit 7/15/2015: This 1988 320is was relisted due to non-payment from the high-bidder!
This past weekend, Hagerty sent me a lovely email announcing the five cars that I should have bought when they were cheap. It should come as no surprise that the BMW E30 M3 was amongst them. Long considered the throw-away of the M lineup, their meteoric rise towards the top of the German collector car market has been pretty well documented. One of the lesser known aspects, though, is that combined with the Porsche 911 and a few other select cars, these market leaders have redefined the market in its entirety. Now all 1980s cars in good condition have been on the rise; we’ve seen $15,000 Volkswagen GTis and Audi 4000 quattros, mid 20s for good 944 Turbos and the R107 SLs have been the latest to surge upwards. So while I can gripe that the market is overpriced, it would seem that for the foreseeable future, the market is going to be high on these cars. How high? Hagerty now puts a condition 1-2 M3 between $45,000 and $70,000. We’ve seen even more for special editions. So, the clever and budget-minded enthusiast needs to look towards lesser known but equal provenance vehicles. Obscurity is your friend here, and the base 320is fades into the background of E30s perfectly. Outwardly, there’s nothing to hint that this is anything more than a stripped base-model 3-series. But as you can tell from the picture with the hood raised, the truth is far from that. That’s because the 320is was effectively a budget M3 underneath, perhaps in the most fitting tribute to the famous World War 1 “Q-Ships” the Germans have been able to produce. It is a truly special car, and this is a special example.
Just the other day I watched an auction on a 1983 Audi Quattro. Not considered to be the best of the breed, it was nonetheless an opportunity to buy one of the few that were imported to the U.S., since only a reported 664 were sold here. Many have died, several have been repatriated, and that leaves a precious few left if you enjoy the original box-flared wonder of the Quattro. What was interesting about this car was that it was in pieces; partially disassembled for a restoration, it looked like it was going to be work to put it back together – a lot of work. Despite that, bidding was quite active and I was somewhat surprised to see the final price crest $15,000 – money that would have bought you a really nice and complete 1983 last year. There were some extra parts and some desirable items like 8″ Ronals included with the sale, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand why the bidding went so high when it looked to me like there was another $10,000 worth of work waiting to happen. But cars from the 1980s are on the ups, and that’s especially true of limited models like the Quattro. You can thank, in no small measure, the recent popularity of the E30 M3 for that trend. And if you think the M3 has had a ripple effect on the rest of the 1980s legends, you better believe that it’s had a major effect on E30 sales. And within E30s, outside of M3s arguably the most desirable is the “Italian M3” – built for tax purposes, the special Motorsport GmbH S14B20 engined 320is: