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CAR advice older BMW

Old 06-17-2020, 11:39 AM
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Default CAR advice older BMW

My son who is almost 14 has been saving and already looking forward to driving . He has decided he wants a E30 late 1980's 3 series . He loves the classic look and is using his own money for purchase (with maybe a bit of help from dad ) . So my main question and I think I know the answer already ... But I assume a late 80's model would be a thousand times easier to work on than the modern day computer on wheels . Is this accurate ? My plan is to look to acquire said car in the next few months and have the "project" car to work on with my son and restore to as close to perfect as we can while we await him starting to drive . My other concern for this "project" would be parts availability . I know we got some bimmer guys on here . Anyone with some input good ,bad, or indifferent on a late 80's E30 . I have already begun the shopping around for one that is not a crap heap , and it appears one can be had in pretty good shape for 4-7k . Any insight appreciated .
Old 06-17-2020, 11:42 AM
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Those were some good BMWs. They will have oil leaks and some electrical issues but they are pretty solid cars. I had a 1989 735I toy car. The headlights would not work and I could not figure it out so I just wired them in with a relay as day time running lights. You can spend a fortune in money and time on these cars or just fix it and move on.


My current 2009 750LI is garbage compared to my older BMW. Computer on wheels that is designed to make it through a lease and a CPO warranty and that's it.
Old 06-17-2020, 11:43 AM
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Something like this , and manual of coarse
Old 06-17-2020, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Lorne Greene View Post
Those were some good BMWs. They will have oil leaks and some electrical issues but they are pretty solid cars. I had a 1989 735I toy car. The headlights would not work and I could not figure it out so I just wired them in with a relay as day time running lights. You can spend a fortune in money and time on these cars or just fix it and move on.


My current 2009 750LI is garbage compared to my older BMW. Computer on wheels that is designed to make it through a lease and a CPO warranty and that's it.
We don't plan to spend a fortune but if the right one comes along that needs some work He/we are prepared to spend a few dollars to make it nice . (not showroom pristine nice) in a ideal monetary realm 3-4k for car and a couple grand to make it a nice car . Keep in mind he is 14 and is positive this is what he wants to do That could change next month . But he is pretty serious and said "if" we do this it will be a car he never sells ! HAHA kid doesn't even have a license and is planning his "toy" garage ! I love it !!!
Old 06-17-2020, 11:51 AM
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Hi, all BMW cars (can be said for all desirable cars) are complicated. That said if your son puts in the time to understand them, he can fix or repair things easily.

He will feel a good sense of accomplishment to fixing items that don't work. they are not very expensive, just convoluted and he may have to wait for parts.

I would encourage this unless you think all he will do is bring it to the shop.
Old 06-17-2020, 11:58 AM
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I had a 90 325i 5-speed. It was the best car that I've ever owned. I'd still have it today if not for hitting a deer on the freeway and totaling it.

I didn't have much in the way of issues - it's an interference engine, so watch out for the timing belt. That was expensive. The guibos fail, but that's pretty typical. And one other very odd issue that was almost catastrophic - the door locks have a full shutdown when you turn the key 90 degrees (rather than a normal 45). It disables the ignition. I always locked it all the way down, because why not? The issue is that the key cylinder isn't designed properly for that feature to be used all of the time. After some use, it's hard to get it to stop at 45. And eventually, a small ball wears a groove in the cylinder and it can get stuck in that full lockdown position and can't be unlocked. So, even if you gain entry, the car is still disabled until you can get to that cylinder.

Never had any electrical issues with mine.

And it's gonna be tough to find one in decent shape for that price. The 325 5-speed is the one to get. The automatics are sluggish as hell - even with the six cylinder. I'd get a 318 with a 5 speed before buying an automatic in that car. It's that bad.

eh, going to back to look - yeah, probably 6-7K ought to get you a decent one.

Last edited by Knoxes; 06-17-2020 at 12:06 PM.
Old 06-17-2020, 11:59 AM
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Great cars

buy from another enthusiast. Not some beat kid

otherwise the kids rice them and race them and it’s way too much to
catch up on maint
Old 06-17-2020, 12:00 PM
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Great idea to get to know how cars work before you actually drive them.
That model of BMW was a very reliable no nonsense car.
Only suggestion would be to avoid any rust issues, try and find a car that spent its years in AZ,NV,TX,NM or OK. Not that hard to find the right car on the net and have it shipped or have your first road trip in your son's car!!
Good luck, it all sounds like father son fun.
Old 06-17-2020, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bluedart View Post
Hi, all BMW cars (can be said for all desirable cars) are complicated. That said if your son puts in the time to understand them, he can fix or repair things easily.

He will feel a good sense of accomplishment to fixing items that don't work. they are not very expensive, just convoluted and he may have to wait for parts.

I would encourage this unless you think all he will do is bring it to the shop.
No shop unless its something he and I cant research and tackle ourselves . A large portion of the reason I am in love with this plan is exactly what you mentioned ! A sense of accomplishment to see what we can do working together and learning along the way . Another reason why I would like to get the vehicle sooner than later so he is not 15 with a learners permit and a car that may not be road ready sitting in the driveway ...
Old 06-17-2020, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Knoxes View Post
I had a 90 325i 5-speed. It was the best car that I've ever owned. I'd still have it today if not for hitting a deer on the freeway and totaling it.

I didn't have much in the way of issues - it's an interference engine, so watch out for the timing belt. That was expensive. The guibos fail, but that's pretty typical. And one other very odd issue that was almost catastrophic - the door locks have a full shutdown when you turn the key 90 degrees (rather than a normal 45). It disables the ignition. I always locked it all the way down, because why not? The issue is that the key cylinder isn't designed properly for that feature to be used all of the time. After some use, it's hard to get it to stop at 45. And eventually, a small ball wears a groove in the cylinder and it can get stuck in that full lockdown position and can't be unlocked. So, even if you gain entry, the car is still disabled until you can get to that cylinder.

Never had any electrical issues with mine.

And it's gonna be tough to find one in decent shape for that price. The 325 5-speed is the one to get. The automatics are sluggish as hell - even with the six cylinder. I'd get a 318 with a 5 speed before buying an automatic in that car. It's that bad.
Sluggish isn't a terrible thing for a new teen driver But I hear you . a 318 in manual would certainly be on the table if its the right one . I really would like for him to learn on a manual . I read the other day that 18% of people can drive a manual WTF .... That's insane . I learned on a 1980 celica gt in a rather hilly area in PA known as North Hills . I believe it made me a better driver .
Old 06-17-2020, 12:17 PM
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I had a 87 325 convertible for a few years. I’m certainly no mechanic, but I found the car to be reasonably easy to work on. I even changed the timing belt/water pump myself without any issues. Did a few other projects as well.
This was a handy book..

https://www.abebooks.com/101-Perform...SABEgJFVfD_BwE
Old 06-17-2020, 12:19 PM
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Well, sluggish is probably a compliment to that automatic. It's bad. And it's not a quick car with a 5sp either. I mean, it'll buzz along a 100mph with ease, but getting to 60 takes some time - maybe 7 seconds? I think the automatic adds two seconds to that.

Oh, and to add to another poster, the rear shock towers were known for rust problems in the earlier years.
Old 06-17-2020, 12:21 PM
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https://bringatrailer.com/bmw/e30/

Old 06-17-2020, 12:29 PM
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Nice ! Thanks for the info Knoxes and others ! Will keep this updated when we find the gem in the rough .
Old 06-17-2020, 12:46 PM
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Geezus. Here's my car - exactly the same model, color and interior:

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1990-bmw-325i-60/

There's some good info on issues in the comments on that auction, reelin'. R134 upgrade, water accumulation in the doors, overhead warning lights always on...
Old 06-17-2020, 01:16 PM
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I would do it! Most these kids can't do squat. I'm only in my 30's and my generation can't do much either. Grew up working on cars.pulling motors, electrical. My dad who was a tank mechanic in the army would help me. Super fun.

I do my own service on my brand new merces and people think i'm nuts. Then ask me to fix their cars... Not even close to my profession, just a fun hobby. Helped my neighbor super charge in his corvette + other mods. 1000+ hp on the dyno.
Old 06-17-2020, 01:29 PM
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Isn’t the E36 way better and not much more $?
Old 06-17-2020, 01:59 PM
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I have found, If you get into the GERMAN DESIGN mindset, BMWs even newer are actually not hard to work on. You just have to remeber not to attack it like a GM or ford. I have had several and now I actually find them refreshing and enjoyable to work on. Even the "Computer Controlled" versions.
Old 06-17-2020, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by EMC Pursuit View Post
I have found, If you get into the GERMAN DESIGN mindset, BMWs even newer are actually not hard to work on. You just have to remeber not to attack it like a GM or ford. I have had several and now I actually find them refreshing and enjoyable to work on. Even the "Computer Controlled" versions.
you are a braver man than I

I just finished a complete makeover of my ‘02 F250 7.3. New bed/rocker/cab corners paint. Injectors/starter/water pump and A ton of other stuff. Have my bobcat torn apart right now replacing hydraulic hoses and pulled both final drives to have sandblasted plus new paint on the entire machine.

My wife has a ‘18 X5 and no way in hell am I even going near that to change the oil.
Old 06-17-2020, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by bluedart View Post
Hi, all BMW cars (can be said for all desirable cars) are complicated. That said if your son puts in the time to understand them, he can fix or repair things easily.

He will feel a good sense of accomplishment to fixing items that don't work. they are not very expensive, just convoluted and he may have to wait for parts.

I would encourage this unless you think all he will do is bring it to the shop.
Most of this is fake news. Not picking on ya, but I had an E30 as my first bimmer. under the bonnet, they are practically built like tractors.... You can do just about anything short of a major engine overhaul with the tool kit that comes in the boot. I have never seen another car from any other maker where maintenance and repair was so well engineered into the design (Except for classic land rovers). I can't think of a better car to learn how to spin wrenches on.

Also, this is a global economy now and the worry about parts supply is an old wives tale. Parts are relatively easy and affordable to obtain. Check out sites like Bavarian Auto and Pelican Parts. They were both "catalog" outfits back in the 80's.

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