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The Unloved 3er: 1983 BMW 320is


As some of you may recall, I purchased a project car a few months ago off of a farm. It’s a Euro-market BMW 320, and the reason there haven’t been any updates is because there’s nothing to report! The motor is with a machine shop for rebuilding and they are reeling from a massive backlog. So let’s enjoy one that’s more complete, such as this US-spec 1983 BMW 320i here on eBay, one of the last E21s with the desirable sport package.


Right off the bat, you’ll notice a few features that these original “IS” cars received: the Recaro sport seats, three-spoke steering wheel and cross-weave alloy wheels as seen in the top photo. The sport package also gave the little 320i a limited-slip differential, large tool kit and an aggressive front air dam, among a few other tweaks. The Recaro interior in this example is in good shape, but will still need a recovering to be perfect.


Now, the shock towers in the E21-series of 3ers weren’t quite the rust trap that they were on the 2002s, but it’s still good to see clean sheet metal back here. The aftermarket sound components are less encouraging, but I suppose every 80s car has had a sound system installed in it by now. Though the 320i is located in New York, the seller brought it out East after spending all of its life in California, so rust overall is a non-issue.


This generation of the 3-Series has been unloved by the BMW faithful for a long time. However, some marque experts feel that sentiment is changing, especially when your realize a very attractive body resides underneath those gargantuan U.S. safety bumpers. Swap those out and you have a svelte, attractive 3-Series for far less money than a 2002 in similar condition. Bidding is active and the reserve was met once it cleared $5,000. Where will it end up?


  1. Mr. TKD

    I like it. It will be interesting to see how long these remain attainable for those who don’t have inheritance $ to spend.

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  2. scot carr

    ~ Owned and loved 2 X 320i – I am still amazed by the reliability of those that I had.

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  3. JK of Miami

    I have owned a couple of these tight and well handling little cars. They literally made a million 320s worldwide so parts are relatively cheap and plenty.
    Stick an old Callaway turbo on it and it will fly!

    Like 1
  4. Dolphin Member

    I didn’t know there was an ‘is’ version of the 320 available in No America. Nice car, but it doesn’t have the desirability that the 325is does. I think for about the same money as this car is bid to I would prefer a similar condition 325is that would have the desirable 2.5 liter straight-6, LSD, leather sport seats, lowered suspension, basketweave wheels, and front air dam.

    Having owned or driven both I think the seller has gone overboard in a number of areas of his description that I would disagree with. He says this car is the pinnacle of the 3-series besides the M3. That sure covers a whole lot of models over the decades.

    Since the E30 M3 and 325is were both based on the 325i, the 325is is very close to an E30 M3 in lots of ways, which definitely places it above this car IMHO.

    And the 2002 is what just about everyone thinks was the invention of the sports sedan, not the 320i. …but this is a nice 320is.

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    • Jeff Staff

      This has been fiercely debated (the “IS” version) in BMW circles. Some say BMW actually had it down on paper as a real model, others say the dealers made it up.

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      • Mark-A

        The later E30 had a 320is specifically designed for the Italian market as cars above 2.0ltrs had a massive Tax Bill associated with them. It actually used a shorter Bore/Stroke E30 M3 Engine which made 192bhp which was roughly the same as the 325i 6 cylinder.

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  5. ron tyrrell

    Nice car and very dependable , my BMW that I considered the ultimate was a grey market 323 i with a high energy 2.3 six cyl. Big brakes, special seats and A very dependable six. It would get around 26 mpg regardless of how you drove it and wouldeasily attain speeds above 120 mph. (Ellensburg Wa. To Spokane ) one trip rarely under 100 up over the speedo and very comfortable at that speed

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    • Dolphin Member

      I have heard the same thing about the Euro 323i, which No America never got unfortunately.

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  6. Mark-A

    Here’s the information about the E30 320is (NOT Si as I said previously) enjoy!! http://bmwmregistry.com/model_faq.php?id=10

    Like 0

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