Which old-school BMW should you buy? We asked the experts.

By Colin Wood
Jun 16, 2021 | BMW, Buyer's Guide

Photography Courtesy BMW

Even though you can’t go wrong with an old-school BMW, it can be overwhelming trying to pick a single model out of the long list of potential candidates.

Need some help? We asked some BMW experts which models they recommend, and you can read what they had to say now over on Classic Motorsports.

If you could only have one car in your garage—and it had to be a BMW—which model would it be?

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View comments on the GRM forums
stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
6/16/21 2:19 p.m.

It doesn't appear they actually recommended any specific cars other than the M1 and the e9 CSL Batmobile, and both of those are way out of the price range of any normal human being.

I own and daily drive an e30 325iX and an e28 M535i; I think those two series and ages are well worth owning.  They're built like tanks, and parts are still reasonably available.  Newer cars worth considering are the e36 and e46 3 series, e34 and e39 5 series, and e32 and e38 7 series.   Z3s and Z4s are another consideration but I don't know much about them.  With cars newer than these, you start to go down the road of too much complexity and reduced reliability for the average Grassroots-type person.

iansane HalfDork
6/16/21 3:03 p.m.

I will always say e30. The simplicity/reliability to beauty ratio is off the charts. Plus they take any drivetrain you can think of.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/16/21 3:24 p.m.

I miss my E30 cabrio.  Noisy little brick, but what a sweet ride.  Even at 200k, it was tight.

...except the shifter bushings.  Not tight.

iansane HalfDork
6/16/21 3:49 p.m.

In reply to Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) :

I don't know how the germans did it but they engineered the hell out of e30's. Except for the shifter/bushing design. That they obviously gave to the intern.

docwyte PowerDork
6/16/21 4:04 p.m.

That was a remarkably uninformative article.  Buy a CSL batmobile or M1.  Really?

CyberEric Dork
6/16/21 6:40 p.m.

Yeah my E30’s shifter felt like a spatula in a bag of pretzels. Had oil leaks for days too. BMW can’t seem to make a gasket that doesn’t do that. I still loved driving it.

ddavidv UltimaDork
6/17/21 6:34 a.m.

My Spec E30 was by far the most fun car to drive I've owned. 160,000+ miles, engine never apart. Just wail on it. Even the stock brakes were adequate with the right pads.

I switched the shift lever to a Z3 one and it was snick-snick precise.

The E36 M3 I had after that was way faster and arguably a better handling car but...it wasn't as easy to drive at the limit as the E30. I had total confidence with the E30 at the ragged edge. And that M20 through a glass pack and no cat was music.

Olemiss540 HalfDork
6/17/21 7:52 a.m.

E36TI is the magic answer. Lowest weight e36. Plenty of aftermarket. Easy engine swaps for easy power. And cheap as snot to boot since the mini hatch didnt become popular until a decade later.

Really want a 2002 tho just to be a baller. No idea how I would keep it together.

350z247 Reader
6/17/21 10:32 a.m.

Easy: E28 M5. They pre-date the M3 and cost way less than an M1 or M3. They're value will climb, but you can pick a great example up for less than $40K pretty easy. I've even seen good drivers below $30K. Most non-car people won't give it a second look, but you certainly will.

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