19 March 2012

Affordable Classics: BMW E30

As a college student on a limited budget, my passion for fun classic cars generally translates to attending auto shows or looking at pictures on the Web. Classic motoring, however, is easily accessible — the trick is looking in the right place. A 911 or E-Type Jag is out of the question for many, but a near classic or future classic can be found for peanuts. The E30, BMW’s second generation 3 series, checks the boxes perfectly.

The E30 was huge in the late 1980s, earning legend status for its handling and style, and a reputation as a driver’s car. I am a sucker for the upright boxy style, the clean lines and tasteful chrome, and the iconic front end.  It was one of the last BMWs to feature the classic four circular headlights. The E30 really shines on curvy roads, where it eats up apexes and delivers sonic perfection from the glorious inline 6. Each gear is a masterpiece and running through them is smooth as silk. BMW engineered these cars to perfection, which shows in the overwhelming number of high mileage examples still hammering down country lanes.

For the college student on a budget, a reputation like this usually translates to unaffordable, yet the E30 sells for anywhere from $500 for a beater to $5,000 in mint condition. The most desirable, besides the legendary M3 ($5,000 to $20,000), is the 325is, boasting the 2.5L M20 engine and sport-tuned suspension. The 318 i/is will be easier at the pump while sacrificing much-needed power. Furthermore, with the 25-year import ban coming to a close, the floodgates are likely to open to handsome European examples.

The E30 is epitome of an affordable classic. Although it’s not rare and it won’t get much love at the premiere concours, it will bring a smile to your face — and isn’t that why we fell in love with cars in the first place?

Joseph Dillon is a college student and longtime car aficionado.

2 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Michael California March 19, 2014 at 12:31
    Does this mean Hagerty will be including these cars? I contacted Hagerty about my 325is and they said it doesn't qualify because its not considered a collectible like the M3 is.
  • 2
    moe London Ontario July 31, 2014 at 13:28
    I have a 1990 325is and I also own a 1990 325i cabriolet with 60 thousand original miles, it is completely original,A/C,"paint,rims. Car has no air bags all leather is mint saddle, paint color is champagne metallic with dark brown top not mint but excellent original condition,no leaks or ugly spots,No Cruise,No Fog lights,5 speed,nice car no winters ever! heated garage queen,but my 325is with automatic trans is a complete blast "point and click" that car bends around corners and is one of the most underrated 3 series out there,,This 325is BMW is not as clean as my rag top but when it comes to fun,,this is by far hands down the biggest bang for your buck even if its automatic you will still get the wow factor! A friend of mine did say that my car has had some mods done because "its just to damn fast to be stock" It looks completely stock except for the six carbs almost identical to my 1988 635CSi that BMW was a licensee looser but also a very clean car,,I bought it for 3000 dollars and sold it for 5000 it had all new complete suspension all urathane bushings that car was nice but very expensive compared to the 3 series e24 has a very small following where the E30 has a million aftermarket parts and they also had so many kinds of builds it's not uncommon for a 3 series to run all kinds of price ranges and a lot of expensive mods and the cars can still be affordable,,I paid 6 thousand for my rag top and have been offered 9500 I think I'll hang on because I just like the car and so far the wolf is only in the hood but not at my door,,lol,,you can't loose on a 3 series and for a bit of effort the 325 is still out there for a very affordable price if you pay 5K you will get 10k worth of fun and interested people the car has a very different front body look

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