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Profile – BMW e30 325i – A new Classic

Profile – BMW e30 325i – A new Classic

If you are looking for a Classic BMW, but you’re not prepared to spend upwards of $15,000, you just can’t beat the BMW e30 3-series. The ‘e30’ was delivered to the US Market between about 1984-1992, but I’d stick to the 325i versions from 1987-1992.  You can get them cheap, they are extremely reasonable to service, and they are a blast to drive.  What more can you ask for in an older BMW?  The e30 was available in various engine and interior combinations over the years, but the two that stand out are the 325ic and the 325is from about 1987-1992.

The BMW e30 325ic (1987-1992) – BMW goes topless for the Masses

Above is a 1991 325ic, a great choice for a fun ride that will turn heads.  In San Diego, you can currently pick up a decent 325ic candidate for under $2500.  As usual, have the car checked out to make certain that you haven’t purchased a money pit.  That said, expect to spend a decent amount to bring it up to a nice level.  Buy a car that doesn’t need paint or body work.  Solid colors like red, white, and black will have considerably better paint than any of the metallic colors such as silver or beige metallic.

On the interior, get into a car that has a dashboard with little or no cracks, carpet that is not worn (dirty is ok), and door panels intact without speaker holes or other defects.  The seats will be re-upholstered and you’ll be getting a new top.  Plan to spend anywhere from $4-8k above the purchase price of the car to transform it into a really nice daily driver that’ll get you the occasional ‘thumbs-up’.

The BMW 325is – BMW Sports Edition without the ‘M’ Price

Above is a 1987 BMW 325is, a sporty car that handles incredibly well with room for upgrades in every area. What made this car great in the 80’s was that it was much cheaper than the famous M3, but with all the fun already built in.  This Bi-Polar BMW contained a sporty little demon that begged to be thrown around on the track and a smooth finish that could be dropped at the valet at a fine restaurant.

In stock form, it came with sport seats that hug you through the corners, and a factory sport suspension.  Spend in the area of $2-3k for a car that’s ready for some interior re-freshing and some mechanical refreshing.  Once road-ready, you’ll have a great daily driver that is perfect for auto-crossing and driving schools at the track.  Follow the same rules for buying a 325ic and you’ll be on your way to owning a great classic BMW.  There are many different options for upgrades, so make sure that the car is built to suit your needs.  If you only go to one or two autocross events a year, you don’t need a roll cage and fancy seat belts.

 These two BMWs were instant classics and were the quintessential yuppie mobiles of the late ’80s. They are growing into a credible collector car and have most modern amenities such as power windows and cruise control — a great balance of performance and comfort wrapped in a classic design. Once you’ve gone through the car and had it restored, expect to own a car that is fun to drive, extremely reliable, and reasonable to maintain compared to modern day BMWs.  What more can you ask for?

Chris Keefer

Independent Motorcars

5836 Autoport Mall

San Diego CA 92121


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  • jason morrison September 15, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Great Blog,

    I am trying to find a 1992 325 convertable, with out success, if you can shead any light on the situ-
    be greatly appreciated!


  • sandiegobmw September 16, 2008 at 5:27 am


    Where are you looking? Here in San Diego there are MANY convertibles for sale but you’ll have to be a bit patient for a 1992. It is the most popular year due to the bumpers.

    Keep searching on Craigslist and Autotrader and good luck!

    Chris Keefer
    La Jolla Independent BMW

  • Cary G. February 1, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I bought a 92 325iC last year and it’s everything you say it is…fast, great handling…an excellent bargain…

    But a month ago I took it to a BMW dealership to have the timing belt replaced and when I got it back it had lost a lot of the horsepower it had…I took it right back to the dealership and they told me it drove just fine…I took it to two other private BMW mechanics and they told me the timing marks matched up perfectly. I’ve timed other cars and motorcycles before and I know what happens when the timing is too advanced…the vehicle runs smooth but slow…has anyone else had this problem?…and what can I do about it?…the whole front of the engine has to come off just to check the timing marks and that’s too much job for me…help, somebody…I want my fast car back!!!

    Cary G.

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