The original E21 320i and 323i wheels were 13×5.5″ with an 18mm offset (ET). There was also a 13×6.0″ ET13 Motorsport wheel available. These sizes are slightly larger than what was used on the 2002 models. It’s interesting that BMW did not give the 323i a wider wheel.
If you want to maintain the the OEM appearance from the factory wheels you can use wheel spacers. A 15mm or 20mm spacer would work nicely.
Tuners at the time jumped all the way to 15″ wheels for their upgrades. Here are three examples –
Alpina Kopi – 15×6.5 ET20
Melber – 15×7.0 ET12
Ronal LS – 15×7.5 ET25
Of those, the Melber wheels are the most aggressive, putting the wheel 25mm further out towards the fender. We can use this as our benchmark as a “maximum aggressive” fitment. Meaning, if they were any further out they would probably be rubbing on the fender. But they look impressive!
The Ronal are the second most-aggressive, adding 18mm to the track on each wheel. The Ronal is an E30 fitment so there are few resources to go by.
The Alpina Kopi (replica) wheels are the more conservative but still give 11mm of extra poke from the stock fitment.
E30 325i wheels are not a direct fit. They are a good size but a higher offset –
BBS Style 5, “Basketweave” – 14×6.5 ET30
BBS Style 5, “Basketweave” – 15×7.0 ET24
The higher offset means the wheel sits closer to the inside of the car (towards the strut). To use the E30 wheels you will need to use wheel spacers – probably a 15mm for the 14″ and a 5-8mm for the 15″ wheels.
Here are 14″ E30 wheels on 12mm spacers –
Of course, the one variable I left out of this is the tire size. Running tires with a taller sidewall would lead to rubbing on the fender. And running too wide of a tire will lead to rubbing on the strut or poke out beyond the fender. On 15″ wheels E21 owners are often limited to a 205 width tire on the front. I left out the tire variable on this page because of all of the different sizes.
I have yet to move beyond 13″ wheels on my own 323i. I’ve had the original 13″ factory “Alpina” and the 13″ Motorsport 320is wheels. In early 2019 I did a cosmetic restoration on a set of 13×6.0″ VIAL wheels (click for link). I think they look fantastic even in the tiny 13″ diameter. I will be on the hunt for 14″ or 15″ basketweaves to raise the ride height on these slammed H&R springs.
Have something to contribute? Let me know in the comments section below.