Saturday 14 July 2012

Is the E21 3 Series worth saving??

Nice bit of blurb about the E21 from 2008 on, surprisingly at the top of an advert for a Henna Red 316 in the 'Shed Of The Week' section... lol!

Before Chris Bangle came along, BMW styling was simple. Whatever the size or intended market, you'd give it a well-balanced three-box profile, a thrusting shark nose complete with kidney grille, add in the trademark 'Hofmeister kink' on the C-pillar, then put the pen down, with the satisfaction of a job well done. No flame surfacing, no controversial rumps, just variations on an 'if it ain't broke then don't fix it' theme.
The first 3-series - the E21 - was the epitome of this styling approach. And it worked, too. During the course of the first 3-series' production run between 1975 and 1983, BMW factories in Germany, South Africa and Egypt churned out more than 1.3-million E21s, making it the best-selling BMW in history.
In doing so, the smallest BMW helped to define an entire class of car - the compact executive saloon. Now, junior and middle management types could afford a classy, sporty car that looked just like their boss's 5-series.
As you'd expect in a small BMW saloon, the neutral handling, rear-wheel drive, faithful steering and light weight make the E21 a car with track-shed potential, especially if you can find one of the later, fuel injected six-cylinder models.

A lot of people on there panning the four cylinder model E21s, saying only the sixes are worth preserving as classics. I'd have to disagree with this. There are so few E21s still left on the road in Britain, where rust and rot are magnified by 10, that surely they're all worth keeping. 1.3 million E21s may have been produced, but in the UK they were massively overpriced compared to their British Leyland or Japanese counterparts, all of which came with heaps more trim than the BMW and this meant they never really sold that well here in the first place, the E30 becoming a much more common sight in the 1980s. Never the less, Morris Marinas and MGBs, both using the same BL 1800cc lump, are cherished, restored and no one could suggest they be broken up to save one scrapped hot model like a B V8, and who is to say the genre-defining E21 is any less significant or rare?
A 323i for instance is faster than the 316 for sure, but it would get beaten to a pulp by a modern 320d and besides, in a 30+ year old car how fast can it really go? Components are going to be worn and if the car is truly well looked after is it worth pushing it to the limit? Ok, so there are going to be people buying E21s that are destined for the track, but a classic car will need serious modifications for this and when the chassis and brakes have been done is the ancient M20 323i lump going to feel so fast? The real way to make a go-fast E21 is to swap in a modern injected BMW engine. M42 (316/8i) and M43 (318is) engines from the E36 will drop straight in without any modifications to the engine bay and these 4-cylinders will already be keeping up with the six-cyl originals - they'll also be more reliable and a lot easier to find bits for like injectors, ahem. By this point though, you no longer have an original classic and that's the true essence of preserving a car this old.
Who cares if it won't melt tyres when it looks this good? E21s are all about keeping alive the shark-nose BMW tradition that began to fade away with the E30. The quad headlights from the 3.0CSL also became a mainstay on the E21 and brought with it the transition into the meaner looking BMW's of the '80s, most notably the E24 6-series and E28 saloon. Before this were the much softer, European looking models with two large bug-eyed headlights, like the gorgeous 2002 and original E12 5-series. The 315/6/8 E21 hark back to these historic models, where the sixes heralded the sporty future and boy-racer image that bound the marque from there on. This, arguably, makes the single headlight E21 models the prettier car and even more worthy of preserving with the '70s models, as true BMW classics. 

1 comment:

  1. I really like your blog, it helpt me with things on my car alswel