The E21 is BMW's middle child between the 2002 and E30, watching enthusiasts spring on either side of the E21 for most of its life. The iconic 2002 has that famous agility, and the E30's dramatic racing history gives it some magic.
But the middle child deserves some more love.
Famed designers Bracq and Hofmeister were in charge of design.
A sharky under bite and a wide open greenhouse, thanks to Bracq and Hofmeister made the car look like a more refined 2002. Far from revolutionary, yet unmistakably BMW.
BMW would return to this driver-focused design again and again. Often overlooked, the E21's interior casts more influence than most realize.
Minimalist designs featured a dash angle toward the driver. Ergonomic Recaro seats kept drivers in control and comfortable, while the wide open greenhouse allowed for great visibility.
Engines came in either 1.6, 1.8 or 2.0 liters. The later 320i saw a performance increase thanks to Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection. Most of the reported power problems came oil crisis regulations.
Try as they might, engineers couldn't pull the 2002-style performance out of regulation-hampered designs -- especially in the US.
Even so, critics and and customers favored the car. They enjoyed the comfortable drive and forgave some of the under powered flaws. After all, what oil crisis cars didn't lose some performance?
The E21 was most exciting when BMW teamed up with McLaren. The 320i couldn't keep up with Porsche 934s and 935s. BMW charged McLaren to craft a turbocharged version of the 320i. McLaren answered, and came up with a 320i that could put out 500BHP. The car would do well enough to at least match Porsche, and occasionally seize a win
Looking back 30+ years, the car holds up as a charming example of 70's BMW. Unfortunately, most of the best examples have been completely used up. Find it in a great color and good condition, you have yourself a great example of Classic BMW.