1988 BMW 325is Coupe Is Today's Bring a Trailer Find

1988 bmw 325is 5 speed
1988 BMW 325is Coupe, Today's BaT FindBring a Trailer
  • The E30-chassis 3-series is the type of car BMW no longer makes, but one we all wish it still did.

  • This example hits all the high notes with a revvy straight-six, a manual transmission, and a limited-slip differential out back.

  • Prices for the contemporary E30 M3 have already gone to the moon. Here's your chance to get a hold of an E30 model that just might be even more lovable, in an auction that ends on Wednesday, February 28.

BMW is such a storied marque that just saying its name immediately conjures a picture of your favorite model into your head. Perhaps it's a svelte Z8 roadster. Maybe it's the leather-lined ICBM that is the M5. Or perhaps it is the 738-hp XM hybrid crossover, because you are the talking warthog from Disney's The Lion King. But for the vast majority of people, the pick of the Bavarian litter is a 3-series from the late Eighties and early Nineties.

This 1988 325is up for auction on Bring a Trailer (which, like Car and Driver, is part of Hearst Autos) is a wonderfully original example of what for many a fervent BMW fan was their first love. The 325is was the top of the range at the time (apart from the M3), and prices have been rising. With just 27K miles on the odometer, this 325is will likely fetch strong numbers, but it's also incredibly collectible.

After all, it represents the ideal recipe from the fine folks at Bayerische Motoren Werke: rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission, steering that buzzes with thrilling feedback, and the balanced perfection of an inline-six engine. Here, that 2.5-liter M20 six is good for 168 horsepower, which isn't a great deal by modern standards, but its time of 7.1 seconds to 60 mph was only a few tenths of a second behind the M3.

1988 bmw 325is 5 speed side
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The 325is was wildly popular in its day: special to drive, nimble yet also refined. We've called it one of "the Greatest Cars of the Eighties." Yes, it was also a yuppie totem, and one wonders if those buyers truly appreciated what they had.

1988 bmw 325is 5 speed engine
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This example spent its life in Montana and Washington and has all the BMW goodies you want. On the outside, the 325is got subtle spoilers front and rear, and this one wears the correct 14-inch basket-weave wheels. Inside the all-business cabin are 325is-specific bolstered sports seats, and a gorgeous three-spoke M-Tech 1 steering wheel. These days BMW's sporting models have you gripping a rim thicker than a pool noodle on steering that feels artificial as a simulator, but back in the day there was a delicacy to the handling.

1988 bmw 325is 5 speed interior
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The tires are new, as is the battery and some wiring components, and the brake fluid has been flushed. The underside has been cleaned up with dry ice blasting, and the history is without blemish. As the M20 is an interference engine, that 10-year-old timing belt might be due for a change, just in case.

Because, even though this is a highly collectible example, essentially a holy grail condition of a beloved car, the successful bidder really needs to drive this car to show it proper respect. We already have the E30 M3 to set on a plinth and keep out of the rain. This 325is deserves a caring and sympathetic owner, but also one who remembers BMW's "The Ultimate Driving Machine" tagline and wants to experience it.

1988 bmw 325is 5 speed rear
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BMW does not build a car like this 325is anymore. If it did, it's not even clear that modern shoppers would be interested in it. But if you're a true propeller head, let the others cruise past on the highway in their X5s and X3s, take the next exit, and experience those back-road curves in your new-to-you 325is.

It won't be cheap, but the driving experience will be worth every penny. This no-reserve auction ends on February 28.

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