HomeMediaPick of the Day: 1979 BMW 320i (E21)

Pick of the Day: 1979 BMW 320i (E21)

The "It" car for a generation of automotive enthusiasts


It is interesting that many people attribute the BMW 2002 as the car that made BMW the company that it’s today. Yes, the 2002 was a successful car and had a cult following among enthusiasts from its introduction, but it was a car that really did not register beyond the car lover’s community.

The car that really put BMW on the map, not just with the enthusiast community but with people looking for an aspirational car, was the 320i.

1979 BMW 320i
1979 BMW 320i

The 320i was introduced in the U.S. in 1977 and was a hit from the start. The Paul Bracq design took elements from earlier BMW models but also added some touches that we see in the current BMW design language. It became one of the ‘It’ cars for the yuppie generation and made the BMW brand a true automotive status symbol in the 1970s and 80s. From my standpoint the 320i is the single BMW model responsible for the success of BMW as a company and the reason that they are such an automotive powerhouse today.

1979 BMW 320i
1979 BMW 320i

The Pick of the Day is a 1979 BMW 320i finished in Sierra Beige with a Camel interior offered for sale on ClassicCars.com (Click the link to view the listing)

The owner in Bethesda, Maryland describes the car as a true time machine stating that, “…the moment you open the door you’ll flash back to the look, smell (even the songs) that defined an era. This is THAT car and calls it as fun to drive at it is sensational to look at.”  

1979 BMW 320i
1979 BMW 320i

The owner is selling the car due to being transferred back to Alaska and did not want to send such a nice example to a harsh climate. Over the last six months the current owner has installed a new air conditioning system, new brakes including pads and rotors, new shocks all around, and new tie rods. All this the work was completed by one of the most decorated BMW specialty shops on the east coast.

1979 BMW 320i
1979 BMW 320i

The owner adds that the paint is 100% original and gleams especially glossy and bright in the sun. The caramel leatherette upholstery is also said to be flawless and the seats are surprisingly comfortable. The original Berber carpet is in amazing condition, save for one coffee spill in the back. 

The owner has made a few minor modifications, including an Alpine Bluetooth deck and new Sony speakers. The tires have also been upsized to 15” alloy wheels with brand new Continental Contact Tour tires. There have been no other modifications beyond that.

“This car has lived in a garage its entire life (Marin County, CA Salt Lake City, UT and Windemere, FLA),” the listing states. “I had it trucked to Bethesda, Maryland where it now sits in a garage and is driven about 60 miles a week. Based on records, I understand this car has always been covered and garaged. The prior owner passed along records spanning nearly 3 decades from BMW of San Francisco and I have receipts for all of the work I’ve had done to it since taking ownership.”

The sale includes service records spanning nearly three decades from BMW of San Francisco and the seller has receipts for the work they have done since taking ownership. The car, of course, also includes all books and tools that it was delivered with.

The asking price for this BMW 320i is a very fair $23,000. If that seems high I challenge you to find an example this nice and original for less money.

With BMW 2002 prices continuing to climb it might be a good idea to buy this 320i before their value climb even higher.

Andy Reid
Andy Reid
Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.


  1. Driver’s seat shows a scuff in the pic, so, not quite flawless. ans Berber carpet you can’t get a “coffee” stain out of? Bigger wider rims/tires, and new tie rods? Guy’s been pushing it around.

  2. …. when I moved to Los Angeles in 1982 at the age of 24, these were all over the place! Several friends owned them also. Coming from good ole Michigan I stuck with my Cadillacs and Lincolns… and an occasional Toyota in-between. Still driving the same 1997 Lincoln Town Car for the last 20 plus years that now has 106,000 on it AND still looks pretty good. Enough so, that I have people coming up to me often asking to buy it. Of course, it won’t fetch anywhere near $23K no matter how well I’ve taken care of it or have kept detailed maintenance records all its life…. well at least since I purchased as a 4-year lease return.


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