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Old 10-23-2011, 12:40 AM   #1
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Default Anyone owned/driven an E21 3-series?

Just came across a nice looking 1983 BMW 320i a few hours away for $2400 obo. Waiting on better pics, but it looks clean and seems to be in good shape. Seller added 1" drop springs and leather sport seats from an E30, otherwise stock.

Specs say these are under 2500 lbs and have about 100 HP. I'm guessing slow but lively like an early 1.6 Miata. I've read that suspension bushing wear is common in these and can produce shimmies at speed.

Any BMW experts have the inside scoop on these? I know everyone loves E30's and 2002's but there's not as much info on the E21.
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Old 10-23-2011, 12:58 AM   #2
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I don't know much other than that some kid I went to high school with had one that caught fire when he tried to do a detergent burn out. Quite possibly the funniest thing I've ever seen.
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Old 10-23-2011, 02:24 AM   #3
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bushing on bmw's wear, are expensive, and take a car that used to handle like rails and turn it into a fat drunkard.

my experience is from the 2 E34's i've worked on, when we were done though it was a blast to drive
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Old 10-23-2011, 02:06 PM   #4
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I bought one after I sold my miata.
They're cool cars, but sort of the bastard children of the BMW brood, sharing parts between the 2002 and e30 with no real rhyme or reason as to why they picked what they did.

The pre '79 cars came with the 2 liter m10 (which is what I got) and a 4 speed. Later cars came with a 4 or 5 speed and a 1.8l m10. The 2 liter is desirable for several reasons, but most notably thicker rods (stock rods/crank are supposedly good to 400+whp), double timing chain cog, and the obvious higher output.

All 4cyl E21's came with a 'small case diff' which is rated for about 240ft/lbs of torque. There are a few diff swap options, but all of them require a lot of fabrication work. There supposedly exists an 'easy swap' that involves using an e12 sideloader diff, but I've not seen the exact procedure. (I'm planning on cutting up my subframe and swapping in an e30 325 diff, which is popular enough that there are rough how-to's)

AFAIK, nearly all E21's came factory with k-jet mechanical fuel injection. While neat from a 'how it works' standpoint, it is the ******* devil and needs to be ripped out of the car as soon as you can afford a megasquirt to toss into it.

Oh, and they use weird old german ceramic fuses that can be rather hard to find.

Anything specific you want to know?

Mine (before I tore it into a million pieces)


Edit: Oh, and there is the 323i, which was the m20 version of the car. Very rare, came with rear disks and a different front subframe alltogether. The rest of the E21's came with ONLY rear drums. Some people do homebrew rear disk setups, but there exists a 1 time $700 kit you can buy to convert.
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Old 10-23-2011, 02:16 PM   #5
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Fun drive when stock? I'm not planning on turning it into a major project.

Seller says it could probably use a new heater blower motor, and exhaust (not sure what he meant by that -- if it's rusty, or has a hole in it, or what).

Other than body rust, or burning/leaking oil, and other obvious stuff, any particular issues unique to these cars I should keep an eye out for?

Any opinions on the "$2400 obo" price? Anyone in the Huntsville area want to go take a look at it for me?

http://huntsville.craigslist.org/cto/2662161302.html
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Old 10-23-2011, 02:37 PM   #6
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Quote:
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Fun drive when stock? I'm not planning on turning it into a major project.
They're fun to drive. Quite tail happy. They aren't nearly as 'peppy' as a miata (stock redline is 6500 due to the rockers being held in place by springs) but I enjoyed it.

Quote:
Seller says it could probably use a new heater blower motor, and exhaust (not sure what he meant by that -- if it's rusty, or has a hole in it, or what).
The heater blowers are easy to replace, but hard to find. They came in a couple of different varieties and can be a bit pricey to replace

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Other than body rust, or burning/leaking oil, and other obvious stuff, any particular issues unique to these cars I should keep an eye out for?
Nothing particular comes to mind. Check for vac leaks. Since the whole premise of K-jet runs on vacuum, even a small leak can have big effects.
Look for rust under the trunk seal. I thought the body on my car was perfect. I was wrong, it looked like swiss cheese under there :(.

Quote:
Any opinions on the "$2400 obo" price? Anyone in the Huntsville area want to go take a look at it for me?

http://huntsville.craigslist.org/cto/2662161302.html
I paid $1800 for mine, and fair condition cars seem to go for <2000 range. Excellent cars sell for 3-4k. If it is in good condition, 2400 isn't too bad.
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Old 10-23-2011, 03:07 PM   #7
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I realize this is in Texas and not even totally sure if it is still for sale (as in, not sure if the seller has fully decided to sell it), but if you're set, may wanna check it out.

http://www.tamscc.org/forum/showthre...-and-much-more
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Old 10-23-2011, 08:58 PM   #8
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my uncle has a 320i that I've driven a few times, it's fun as hell and moves pretty good. If he was ever going to sell it, I'd buy it off him. No power steering, no frills, and moves decent for a 30 year old car. I think the only modifications it has are an exhaust (remus maybe?) and kamei front lip.

I wish I had some decent pics of it
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Old 10-23-2011, 09:36 PM   #9
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Why not just buy an E30?
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Old 10-23-2011, 09:51 PM   #10
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Yup, I'm with Pusha with a little looking that 2500 can snag a decent E30 that is loads easier to soup up if desired.
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Old 10-23-2011, 09:58 PM   #11
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I'd wait for an E30 too, think about how much you'd prefer a nice E30 325is over an E21.
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Old 10-23-2011, 10:09 PM   #12
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Yeah, I know. I'm not going to say E30's are played out, but the less common nature of the E21 does appeal to me. And finding a decent condition E30 down here isn't super easy...car culture in the deep south sees them as just another old tincan import, not as an enthusiast car worth maintaining.
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Old 10-23-2011, 11:56 PM   #13
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I'd be happy to go take a look at it. From the pics, I think the guy is in my old neighborhood.

One of my buddies had a gang of E21s, including a Callaway Turbo car, and a Euro 323i 6 cylinder car. Parts are cheapish and easy to come by, and (like an E30) once you replace everything under the car, they're extremely cool. Also like an E30, what you see is pretty much what you get, so once you've looked it over and driven it, there should be no surprises.

They're pleasantly simple cars, once you throw the K-Jet into the nearest lake and feed it with a couple of DCOEs or modern fuel injection.
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Old 10-24-2011, 12:48 AM   #14
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The guy has been a little slow in responding to my inquiries, so don't go to any great effort, but if you don't mind checking it out for me, I'd greatly appreciate it. Basically just want to verify condition (rust, paint, mechanical, etc.) before I make a 10 hour round trip to look at a car. I'd owe you a case of beer for the favor.
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Old 10-24-2011, 01:14 AM   #15
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I've never driven an E21 but I've always kinda wanted one. The guy who helped me out with my gray-market E23 745i had an Alpina 323i that I would've killed for. Goddammit that was a sweet car. Looks-wise, the Euro bumpers make all the difference. But the E21 should be about the same as any Bimmer of the era as far as reliability an parts availability. I had no trouble getting Euro parts from the dealer for my 20 yr old E23 orphan. Joining the BMWCCA helped too - I scored good deals on parts out of The Roundel mag, and my local dealer offered BMWCCA discounts that usually beat the mailorder houses. Also, if you're not a BMW dork, it helps to get to know a good independent mechanic. I had one on speed dial who didn't mind answering random questions at odd hours - dude was a life saver when I was first trying to get my car running. Once I got it going, it had its quirks, but it was a solid daily for 10 years.
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Old 10-24-2011, 02:34 PM   #16
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While researching E21's on bimmerforum.com I came across a "What oil do you use?" thread. The OP's post was too good not to share:

Quote:
I Run Castrol Edge with Syntec Technology Full Synthetic 5W-50 Motor Oil . Cold Starts are fast plus get 2 mph more over conventional 20w50 at 3000 rpms.
That is an amazing motor oil.
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Old 10-24-2011, 02:45 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mgeoffriau View Post
While researching E21's on bimmerforum.com I came across a "What oil do you use?" thread. The OP's post was too good not to share:



That is an amazing motor oil.
Bimmerforums has some of the dumbest people I've ever encountered on the internet. I try to be a good source of information about turbocharging and EFI (since that forum segment is stuck at least 10-15 years in the past) but some people just don't get it/don't want to get it.
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Old 10-24-2011, 03:34 PM   #18
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It has a doubleplusungood Bondo spot on the passenger side. I'm passing on it.

I did discover while perusing bimmerforum.com that the seller also has a turbo E30.

http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum....php?t=1732337
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Old 10-24-2011, 03:36 PM   #19
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Did you have to drive all the way there to find that out?
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Old 10-24-2011, 03:38 PM   #20
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Aw, hell, I know that guy... He is a freaking weirdo. He was THRILLED when he got his turbo car out of the 10s in the 1/8th mile.
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