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Rare Sport Package: 1980 BMW 320is

This stunning 1980 BMW 320is is actually my personal car and it’s being sold to make room for another purchase. This BMW came from the factory with the rare and desirable “S” package. This car has been well cared for and it’s ready for the next owner to have some fun with. The car is located in Boise, Idaho, and is listed here on eBay where the auction is ending soon!

If you’ve listened to the new Barn Finds podcast, then you’ll already know this car’s story. Josh and I found it by accident. We were wanting to build a BMW 2002 with all the popular upgrades people do. You know; Recaros, 5-speed, LSD, and BBS rims. In most cases, these parts come from high-optioned 1975-1981 (e21) BMWs. It’s sort of like old school hot rodding, but instead of Fords, you use BMWs. Anyway, during our hunt, we came across a red ’76 BMW 320i on craigslist. Someone had installed an inline-six into it so we had to go take a look…

That car was okay but while we were conversing with the seller we discovered that there was another BMW in their garage. The owner asked if we wanted to take a look. Much to our surprise, it was an alpine white over black 1980 320i “s” and it looked amazing! All the factory-installed trick parts were there; Recaro seats, sport steering wheel, basketweave rims, limited-slip, sport suspension, etc. This was the car that everyone is trying to make their ’02s into. I had to have it!

After some quick negotiating, a deal was struck and we attempted to drive it back to the shop. It sure looked good out there in the sun but the soft brakes made the journey a little nerve-wracking. So, the first thing on the todo list was to address the stoppers. A new brake master cylinder and hoses were installed. We also replaced the clutch slave, master, and hose while we were in there. That seemed to do the trick. Now we could take it on a proper drive. With the tight suspension, limited-slip diff, and body-hugging seats, this thing felt like the perfect corner carver!

Next, we turned our attention to the very short list of cosmetic needs. The driver’s seat had a hole on the bolster but luckily we had just picked up an extra set of Recaros. So we swapped the upholstery off one of them and now both seats look like new. After that, we did some random sorting and cleaning. The only problem with being on the hunt for cars at all times is that there’s always another find around the corner. Well, I found another car I just couldn’t pass up so this one has to be sold in order to fund it.

This will make someone a great driver and the sport package makes it something special. In fact, I wanted to take it to this year’s Legends of the Autobahn before the show was canceled. Perhaps we will see it there next year? There’s an article about what made the “is” special here on Bimmer Magazine. And here’s a list of everything that made up the “S” package as taken from a 1980 BMW brochure:

“S” Package Features:

  • Front air dam
  • BBS 5 1/2 alloy rims
  • Sport suspension (thicker front and addition of rear sway bar)
  • Limited-slip differential
  • Passenger electric mirror
  • Halogen high beams
  • Dual operation manual sunroof
  • Recaro sport seats
  • Sport steering wheel
  • Leather shift knob
  • Deluxe tool kit
  • Fog lights
  • Badge delete

The service booklet has entries from new all the way up to 105k miles. The car resided in Oregon until it came to Idaho. We aren’t sure how many previous owners it has had but it’s obvious that each owner loved the car. There’s an aftermarket stereo installed and everything works as it should. The foglights look new and have not been hooked up yet. The engine runs well and the transmission shifts through all the gears without grinding. A previous owner installed H&R springs and Bilstein shocks all the way around – a nice upgrade by the way!

This car may not be as powerful as the BMWs before or after it but it’s more refined than a 2002 with more of a vintage feel than an e30. It’s a nice mix really and with the uprated suspension, this thing is a hoot in the corners. The Recaros do their job very well and are actually quite comfortable. So if you are looking for something sporty that’s out of the norm, this could be the perfect little Bavarian for you!

View Photo Gallery Here


  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    The earlier 320i’s are just really clean,
    good looking cars.
    I’d be interested,but don’t need another
    vehicle around here,plus you really need a car
    with A/C here in Virginia.

    Like 4
  2. Kingryan86

    Where did you get the original recaro material? Have any extra?

    • Josh Staff

      We actually found another set of e21 Recaro seats that were in really good shape, so I swapped the upholstery and foam from the good seat onto the original driver’s seat frame.

      Like 1
      • BOP_GUY Member

        Great job! It’s beautiful.

  3. PHJ

    Beautiful. Must be heartbreaking to let it go. Slap KingRyan for his bid!

    Like 1
    • Jesse Mortensen jesse Staff

      Wish I could keep them all but unfortunately there’s limited money and space!


    Did I read that right, no a/c?

    • Jesse Mortensen jesse Staff

      The AC was usually left off on the sport models to save weight. These cars were already made lighter in 1980 to make up for the switch from the 2.0 to 1.8 liters so you didn’t want to mess up a good thing with frivolous things like air conditioning. Just kidding! This car is light and chuckable. It was made when BMW actually made driving machines instead of luxo-barges!

      Like 1
      • menko

        Nice write up and a very desirable BMW. Just not enough pictures.

        Come on… I’m just kidding

        Like 1
      • Mark

        I bought a new “S Package” in Santa Clara, California in 1981. It was exactly like this one, except an 81 with the typical Recaro headrests, not the ones shown in this one. The dash was different on the cars that had AC installed. All S Package models came to the US with no A/C. The guy told me that it was a weight issue ran afoul of a weight restriction for the 320 Series with the the US government. That never made sense to me, but I did love this dash better than the one that had A/C. It had a lot more space to store things, and is the same dash you see on earlier 2002s.

    • djjerme

      A/C is a fairly rare option on these cars. More often they didn’t include it, and finding the correct bottom center vent for AC upgrades is difficult at best.

  5. Allan Hesch

    I don’t know, mistakes in publications are always irritating but when they’re about your own car that you’re selling and several of the mistakes are describing how the car is more special or rare than it actually is, that crosses the line for me. Especially when you’ve already been corrected privately after making some of the same mistakes in your podcast.
    No U.S. bound e21 had A.C., not a single one, s-package or not. AC was added at the port or at the dealer on any e21, nothing at all to do with weight savings or the s-pac. The majority of e21s got AC along with a clumsy-looking A.C. console. This car is one of the few spared the add-on AC so it still has its nice looking factory console. That’s the plus with this car.
    The sunroofs were all the same 2 way type and most e21s have one.
    All U.S. bound ’80 and later cars had right and left power mirrors standard, not even an option.
    Standard wheels are also 5.5″ wide, same as the s-pac basketweaves.
    Fog lights had nothing to do with the s-pac, any car could have them added.
    The car itself looks great, I’m sure the new owner will love it! I think it definitely deserves to be described accurately. That would probably help with credibility too.

    Like 4
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      @Allan – All the features listed were taken directly from an official 1980 BMW brochure. I’ll scan it tomorrow and post it so you can see for yourself. Thanks.

      Like 1
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      Here’s a scan of the options section from the 1980 brochure. AC is listed as an option but all the other things I mentioned are part of the “S” package.

      Like 2
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      And here’s the main section about the “S” package. Notice the lack of a badge on the trunk. All the other cars featured in the brochure have 320i badges.

      Like 2
      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Nice docs Jesse. Great rig! Best of luck with the auction.

        Like 2
    • YourSoundMan

      I think – in ’80s context – It’s more important for a ‘Sport Edition’ of anything to have a sun/moon-roo than A/C.

      To me, it’s an embarrassment for Honda to have a ‘Sport’ trim of its recent Accord, and load it with every interior creature comfort, wide, low-profile wheels – yet leave off the mooroof… duhh!!

      • YourSoundMan

        That’s SUNROOF/MOONROOF.

        Sorry, I don’t have those nimble Millennial digits required for typing on a piece of plastic, lol!

      • DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

        It would seem as though there are significant differences in what constitutes “Sport” as it refers to automobiles.

        Like 1
  6. Jeff Lavery Staff

    Beautiful example, guys. Rare to see the Recaros with the headrest netting still intact.

    Like 2
    • Todd Zuercher

      @Jeff Lavery – did the nets arrive later in this model’s run? I have the E21 Recaros in my Bronco but they don’t have net headrests. I think mine are from a 77 or 78 model.

  7. Kevin Barr Staff

    I never understood why E21’s don’t get the attention that its predecessor (the 2002) and its successor (the E30) tend to attract, this is a lovely little car.

    Like 2
  8. Rick

    we would always look for these in the wrecking yards to pull the 5 speed,LSD,Recaro’s and sport steering wheel for our 2002 projects…although they were pretty alright looking ,they were seriously underpowered..

    Like 2
  9. Leslie Martin Member

    So true! I’ve spent the last year sourcing all those same parts (5 spd, LSD, Recaros, Sport steering wheel, etc) for my ’73 2002 tii project. And it makes me wonder how many different 320is were cannibalized just for the parts I’ve rounded up.

    Anyone who’s ever owned an ’02 knows why they are special and worth resorting or restomodding. But I am still baffled why the E21s were so underappreciated and are still so undervalued today.

    Like 1
  10. Mountainwoodie

    Back when these were new, we called them “Iranian War Wagons” because the freeways in SoCal were littered with them, driven by Iranian expats who fled Khomeini along with the Shah.

    Imho they look better with the Euro bumpers but I dont know if youd want to do that to a more less original 320.

    I totally agree these were drivers cars, if a little underpowered, before BMW’s developed into behemoths. A different world and hard to believe……forty years ago! WTH!

    Like 1
    • Sam

      That’s hilarious. Never heard that one. I’m Iranian and growing up, I assumed every one of them coming was given a Mercedes. House parties looked like dealership lots. I’d walk around checking out all the models. Too funny.

      Like 3
  11. Wayne

    I had one of these for a few years. (Although I had to convert it to the sport package from one in the bone yard that also had Bilsteins installed.) It was a nice driving slow car. (I ended up installing a 6 cylinder also to get it up to speed) I was not able to procure European bumpers. But I did collapse the front bumper absorbers and bring the bumper in about 3 inches. I got really lucky in the fact that I was able to shorten the side acordian bumper trims and they looked factory. I had 3 piece Italian wheels ( don’t remember the brand at the moment) But the front bumper got all the comments from the BMW guys. It really improved the looks.

  12. brlister

    I purchased one of these new in about ’78. It was a great car until I hit a sheet of black ice somewhere in New Mexico and rolled it down a hill a few times. It landed upside down. We had five passengers and we all climbed out with only a few cuts and scrapes. Bought a replacement and passed it on to my son until he finally blew the engine. Loved this little car. Both did have A/C though…didn’t work great but at least it was something.

    Like 1
  13. Brent Lister

    Now that it is mentioned, I remember that the A/C was a dealer add on. On a separate matter, I wonder whatever happened to my E21 323 Baur. That’s the one I should have kept:(

  14. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

    This one didn’t meet reserve so we’ve relisted it here on eBay!

  15. Mountainwoodie


    i’d love to have your E21!

    But I knew I couldnt carry the freight :)ood luck on fleabay

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      We received lots of good offers on this one but none were quite where we needed to be.

      • Wes

        Hello Jesse What make and model is the little motorbike in your garage ?
        Thank you.. Wes

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

        @Wes – That’s actually an as-found photo so I’m not sure.

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