Here’s how I came about owning this 1980 323i. In 2014, I sold my 1994 E36 325is track car project for no good reason.
I didn’t have enough to keep my mind occupied so I decided to rebuild an engine. I’ve done almost everything else on a car but have never done a solo rebuild on an engine.
I decided on a BMW M20 inline-6 from an E30 because it’s a simple design, easy parts availability, and plenty of tech support. The rebuild went extremely well and by January 2015 I could think about what it was going into. The M20 came in only a few models – E21 323, E28 528e, E30, and E34 525i. The easy choice was the E30 because I had previously owned two, as well as built a Spec E30 racecar for my boss, Will Turner. The E21 323i was never sold here so that was unlikely. A E28 528i would be interesting but it was hard to find a pristine one with a manual transmission. I don’t have any interest in the E34 unless it’s an S52 swap. I focused my searches on E21 and E30.
I used several sites for E21 engine swap research, including bimmerforums.com where the E21 section has some decent activity. And that’s where I stumbled on a guy from down South who was having engine trouble with his 323i. It was blowing smoke, drinking oil, and would barely idle. I didn’t think he would actually sell the car but I pursued him and was caught off-guard when he agreed to sell. I think he was trapped by his words and couldn’t say no. I’ll keep the price a secret for now but I believe I made out better than he did. The car also came with half a dozen boxes of parts, 4-sp transmission with driveshaft, and the factory “blue book” service manuals.
The 323 arrived at my house on April 5 and I could finally, officially call myself an E21 owner (and make the requisite Facebook post).