40 Year Owner: 1979 BMW 320i

This 1979 BMW 320i was owned by the original owner for 40 years, and remained in California the entire time. As such, the original Sahara Beige paint remains in excellent condition, and this car checks every box for being a true survivor. The automatic transmission may limit some of the interest, but it’s still an incredibly pretty car not often seen in condition like this. Find it here on eBay with bidding at $3K and the reserve unmet, and thanks to Patrick S. for the find.

The E21 platform is one that is near and dear to my heart, owning a 1980 gray market example equipped with the Europe-only carbureted M20 engine. Still, enthusiasts are warming up to the long-ignored E21, which was sandwiched between the iconic 2002 and the much-loved E30. This one shows quite well down the sides with U.S.-spec bumpers.

Those bumpers are a bummer, as they effectively killed off much of the eyeball appeal the original design team strove so hard to create. The seller has done a nice job with presentation, opting to spring for the new “checkerboard” genuine Coco mats that match the interior nicely. No cracks in the dash and the OEM BMW radio remains installed – nice.

The engine bay is stupidly clean, especially considering the 320i comes with just under 95,000 original miles – certainly, enough distance traveled to muck up t


  1. doug

    I’m not a BMW fan but that is worth every penny it sells for.

    Like 4
  2. Big Len

    Values are climbing on these, especially on THE s models.

    Like 1
    • Ike Onick

      Always been curious- Is there a “Little Len”?

      Like 3
      • Big Len

        O Little Lens….I had daughters 🙄

        Like 2
  3. Frank Sumatra

    Every car of the era had stupid bumpers, so this fit right in. They look jarring today but not in 1979.

    Like 4
  4. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Feeling sooooo old. Remember these when new.

    Like 1
  5. CJinSD

    If this had A/C, a manual, and was an attractive color; it would be a very nice 20 MPG economy car. At least it has better styling than anything BMW has sold in the past twenty years. I went on a road trip that involved passing a large number of current BMWs last week, and it really made me nostalgic for the good looking ones.

    Like 5
    • vudutu

      Being a Beemer freak and having owned five newer than this one I disagree. I am especially fond of the E39 5 series, its classic look inspired many other designers. My 2000 540 Msport was one of my favorite cars.

      Like 5
      • pat gill

        the E39 range are future classics, home maintainable, long distance cars,

    • Ike Onick

      Especially the ones with AC, manual, and in attractive colors, I’ll bet!

      • Vudutu

        Yes, nailed that, the 540 was a six speed, autobaun crusier.

    • Sam

      Definitely more for a manual.

  6. JoeNYWF64

    Surprising seeing crank windows here(tho they used to be in Ferraris too!) & no passenger door mirror. Yet, apparently, even as early as ’79, one can see an ugly cheap plastic triangular piece at the front of the door, where there should be glass. At least there’s no phony “vent” window.
    Like the ’79-93 mustang, the roof should be lower, & side window door frames have no place on such a sporty car.

    Like 1
  7. dab

    My excitement stopped when I saw it was a auto. Keeps me away from the BMW rabbit hole that I swore I would never venture towards again. Nice specimen though.

  8. mike

    looks just like the one from Halloween

  9. Glenn

    Nice car. Can’t believe what great shape it’s in.
    After owning a 1981 VW Scirocco S for two years, a disaster of a car, I purchased a brand-new ’83 320i S (E21) while in college. No problems, kept it until bought a new ’88 325is. Same for my ’88. I kept that car for 9 years and 240,000 miles with no major issues. I kept the car serviced and maintained religiously.

    Like 2
  10. Bruce,

    What a gorgeous car the owner deserves a gold star for its magnificence condition.Each one i used to see was riddled with rust.I hope the next owner takes as much care and interest as the prior owner.Well worth what ever he is asking.If i wasn’t so far away i would be all over it.I am in Australia.

    Like 2
  11. bog

    Owner really babied this one & luckily lived in SoCal. Here in Chicagoland it wouldn’t have survived so well..salt by the ton & people park “by sound”. I was turned off by the automatic too. Have avoided them on 90 +% of the cars I’ve owned, and my current 328is IS a 5 speed. Sadly, BWM is removing true stick shifts from across it’s entire model line…ps: that Sahara Sand color is actually quite handsome in person.

    Like 1

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