The 1977–83 BMW 320i is climbing

For a long time, the BMW E21 (1977–83) has been the forgotten 3 Series of the lineage. Even though the E21 was the first to wear the long-lived 3 Series badge, this inaugural generation of BMW’s bread-and-butter sport sedan goes overlooked and underappreciated compared to the legendary 2002 that preceded it and the popular E30-generation 3 Series that came after. That attitude might be changing—prices for the E21 are on the rise.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/09/13/1st-gen-bmw-320i-is-climbing

Shhhhh…I’ve been keeping this secret for a number of years as the E21 is one the last true analog BMW’s and they are immensely fun to drive and easy to tune and change suspension pieces to make them what everyone loves about the 2002 and hates about the E21, only at a much easier hit on the wallet than the 2002 or the E30.
Love the Paul Bracq styling on this car and it’s nice to see and hear that they are gaining some respect and that there is increasing interest…at least as long as my Alpinweiss '83 is safely tucked in the garage. I’ve owned 2 of them and they are sweet little cars, rear wheel drive and very tossable. Just drove it to work yesterday and it sure gets the comments and thumbs up. A forgotten BMW that went a LOOOOOONG way toward saving the company.

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BMW CCA has just authorized the formation of the E21 special interest group for owners and enthusiasts of the E21 3 series. Please join us as we grow and build support for the shark nose BMWs. Facebook “E21CCA”
thank you for a great article!

The 1980 “320” with the 1.8L was a real dog on acceleration. I remember well that my 1977 Celica GT was a much more enjoyable drive for that reason. While the Bimmer was tight on the handling, the power/torque was a bummer.

I admit that I am not that aware of the BMW’s. However, when we were in Germany back in mid 80’s I did own a few BMW’s and MB’s. I found that you got a whole lot more for your money with the BMWs. The best one that I had was a 323i. Very fun to drive, fast and handled great.

My wife and I owned an '83 320is for 18 years. It was a wonderful car that taught me how low horsepower cars could feel fast. It represents German engineering at it’s best. Simple, well built, dependable and easy to service. It was also great fun to drive. I set ours up with a Bavarian Autosport header and anti-sway bars, Bilstein struts and Eibach springs. That little E21 went through turns faster than any car that I’ve owned before or since. That includes two 911s, a Miata and my E30.

Prior to the E21, I had been into restoring V8, 4 speed pony cars from the 1960’s. The BMW was my wife’s car and I didn’t pay much attention to it at first. But as I began servicing and driving the car, my appreciation grew into enthusiasm. Despite the low horsepower, the car was always going faster than I had intended.

Our little 320is got me into '80’s German cars. I sold the '60’s cars and spent some time with Porsches. For the past 3 years, I have been restoring a 325is, which is a very nice car. But the E21 has a beautiful simplicity that will hold up over time. The E30 has a lot of plastic electrical connectors that have become fragile and prone to breakage. German plastic from the 1980’s is often fragile and difficult to source. The E21’s simplicity minimizes that problem.

Rust is the enemy of the E21. My wife drove her car in the winter for just two years, but a massive and thorough restoration effort was unable to reverse the damage of a short exposure to road salt. So, if you are looking for an E21, get one with a rust free body. They are worth owning and restoring, regardless of market value.

I bought a new 81 320i and although it was underpowered we enjoyed it for many years. Sold it in 1997 and bought an 82 911SC. I still have it and enjoying it immensely.

I’ve always love the front end of the E21 but the rear and trunk are so damn ugly. :slight_smile:

…and just like that, they crept up on everyone! I’ve always loved the E21, well I’ve loved most all Beemers! But just this past Saturday, I treated myself to a E36 convertible, because I’m sending a trend here! Their numbers are steadily dwindling too! It’s a 318i, so it’s slow. But it’s so perfect for cruising and hasn’t been beaten up with mods!

HA! I had my 82 320i in almost original condition for sale for close to a year. The only folks who buy these cars are the ones who want to tear them up and turn them into weekend race cars. And they want to pay dirt for them. I could not stand the idea of somebody hacking such a great specimen into a racecar. I finally traded it off to somebody for a bike after having the 30th person come by and do the tire kicking thing offering $500.

How is it that BMW went from making some of the most beautiful cars in the form of this 3 Series to the being among the most ugliest cars on the road today.
The Chris Bangle and successive years marked the steady decline of BMW’s essence.