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HomeFeatured VehiclesPick of the Day: 1983 BMW 320i

Pick of the Day: 1983 BMW 320i

The car that built the brand

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BMW started to use the tagline “The Ultimate Driving Machine” in their ads around 1975 and continued through the end of the 2002 era. While many people credit 2002 as being the model that made the company what it is today I tend to disagree. Yes, feel free to post your comments about how I am wrong about this but try to do so after finishing this story.

The 2002 was a great car, but by the time of the coining of this phrase, it was an old car. Yes it was fun to drive and successful on track, but it was not the right car to take BMW where they wanted to go. The car to actually do this was the one that succeeded it: the BMW 320i.

The 320i was for many years largely forgotten as a model, mostly due to how truly great the E30 3 Series that followed it was. But let’s look at the impact the 320i had. The 320i car was the car that made yuppies, who were the people with money to spend in the 1980s, go into showrooms and buy German cars. Sure, they also bought Porsches but the 320i became the entry level status symbol to tell people you were on the way up financially and socially. It was the ultimate feeder drug to German cars, as it was extremely well crafted, fun to drive, and had terrific styling that looked expensive. It shared much of the design DNA with the more expensive 5, 6, and 7 Series cars and was immediately identifiable as a BMW. It was to a great many their first truly high-end car, and as a result BMW sold 186,039 of them in the U.S. alone and more than 1.3 million built in total.

The Pick of the Day is one of these Ultimate Driving Machines, a 1983 BMW 320i finished in Alpine White over a blue cloth interior and located in Denver, Colorado.

The seller describes this 320i as nearly 100% original! They state that the car runs great and is a completely drivable car but would also be a wonderful candidate for restomod. Personally I would leave it alone and use it as is.

They give some history of the car stating that it was originally purchased and garaged in Seattle. It remained there until early 2000, when it was purchased from original owner and brought to Colorado where it has been driven and mostly garaged/stored since 2006.

The car has received routine oil change and basic regular maintenance has always been performed to keep in good running condition. It has spent a lot of its time in storage but used during periodic trips to Denver while living overseas. Recent work includes a new muffler and steering bushings in Jan 2022. In addition the climate heater control, distributor seal, front/rear struts and wheel bearings replaced 2019 at 156k miles and the front brakes replaced in 2016 at 153k miles.

The interior is stated to be in excellent condition with original and nearly perfect carpet, perfect armrests, a nice original headliner and seats that have been recovered in correct BMW factory blue cloth. They note that this is also an original 5 speed manual equipped car, that all gauges and controls work except the clock. They also add that it is also equipped with a factory sunroof but that it does need a new crank knob.

Happily the car still has its original 13″ BMW factory turbine alloy wheels.

The seller discloses that there are some very rust spots on rear trunk and base of B-Pillars. The add that the body straight but has a few minor dings/dents in body around doors and a few small rock chips in front hood from 35 years of driving.

The car also has its original tool kit in the compartment in the trunk lid, something I tend to look for in any old BMW I purchase.

Yes, there are probably mint 320i cars out there but the problem with a mint car, in my personal experience, is that I end up worrying too much about it and don’t drive it much. I honestly prefer a car like this example, as it is quite presentable and I would not stress if I picked up another stone chip or two while driving and enjoying the car.

Now for the best part. This car is being offered for only $8,500. A BMW 2002 in the same condition would likely cost as much as three times that amount and I don’t really feel that the 2002 is three times the car you see here. Sure it is a bit more analog and a bit more classic, but the BMW 320i offers more comfort and is a car that has been quietly moving up in value.

So if you are looking for the single model BMW that most helped bring the BMW brand into the mainstream as a desirable automobile, look no further than this 1983 320i. It to me was the first BMW to deserve the title “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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Andy Reid
Andy Reid
Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

4 COMMENTS

  1. BMW created whole new segment when they added 2 doors & I6 to this, Mercedes went downmarket for 1st time with 190E to compete & had to buy AMG to compete with M.

    • Mercedes has always offered downmarket cars. Some of them have even appeared in the American market before the 190.

      The market segment you describe was carved from the 2002 way before this vehicle was built.

      And, considering the engineering prowess of Mercedes, it’s not to suggest the company could not start from scratch to develop a performance subsidiary. Buying AMG was merely the most expeditious.

  2. My first BMW was a 1980 320 is import. The gauges were metric and the is package included fog lights, BBS wheels, corduroy Recaro seats and a manual sun roof. I bought the car in 1987 from a car guy who raced it locally at Nelson’s Ledges here in NE Ohio. I kept it for a couple years and traded it in on an Accord. Since I still had the Bimmer bug, I found a 1971 2002 which I bought in 1990 and kept until 1994 when I bought a new 320 is M-technics. The 2002 could not compete with the 320, however the M-tech was the best I have owned. I have since owned a 2003 325, a 1998 323 convertible, a 2009 328 ix and a 2007 Z4. If I buy another it will be with a 2.5 engine.

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