Easter may be over, but that doesn't mean cracking open today's egg-colored Nice Price or Crack Pipe E21 wouldn't reveal some surprises. Will its price however, make you think the seller is cracked as well?
Strangely, BMW's E21 never garnered the same kind of rabid following as did the precedent 2002, nor its successor, the venerated E30. But that doesn't mean that the first-generation 3-series doesn't have its adherents, and as evidenced by this ground-up rebuild of BMW's late ‘70s coupe, they can be just as nuts.
The version of the E21 offered in the U.S. was notably different from those sold elsewhere. The American car sported four round headlamps while the European cars could be had with two big torches as well, depending on the model. The thin blade bumpers applied to cars sold in countries lacking excessively litigious populaces were replaced with massive aluminum and rubber battering rams that extended out from both ends and mitigated the car's shark nose appearance in front.
That forward lean to the grille is a continuation of the style originated with the ‘New Class' cars the emerged in the sixties, and while it found its way onto multiple generations of the 5, 6 and 7 series, it's interesting to note that this is the only 3 to carry that element. Behind the
music grille was another differentiator for U.S. Cars - a 1,990-cc 110-bhp (and later 1,766-cc, 101-bhp) fuel injected four was the only engine to find its way under the American editions' hoods while Europe enjoyed a full spate of fours and sixes in the car.
And none of that matters in consideration of this white rabbit of an E21. The seller claims that it has been taken down to the bare metal, inspected for rust in that manner returning soldiers are eyed for VD, and then resprayed in that chicken egg white. The paint job goes all the way inside too, where the yoke's on us as it's been completely stripped and fitted with some major league piping that would do NASCAR proud. The 320's driver-oriented dash has been supplanted by a flat piece of metal pocked with gauges, and sitting next to a crossmember-mounted tach of the big-ass variety.
A racing bucket faces this basic information delivery system, and while the rest of the interior looks like a hermit's delight, the seller claims there's a passenger seat that comes with the car, and room to mount it. Sprouting from the bare center tunnel is a billet shift lever, which is attached to a Getrag 265/5-speed gearbox. That's attached to what is possibly the car's most jaw-dropping feature - the engine. You might think that making such radical change to a thirty year old car would motivate the builder to avail himself of the advances in engineering that have occurred over that time, possibly fitting the car with something touched by the house of M, or maybe just one of the modern turbo engines that power today's decedents of his 3. You would be wrong however.
Popping the clamshell hood reveals not a modern BMW engine, nor the cheap and easy and unimaginative switch to an LS1. Instead, the builder has chosen the era-appropriate, but rare and really weird turbo 3.4-litre turbo out of the Europe-only 745i.
That's a discovery worthy of a triple Moe Sizlack bug-eyed Whaaaa?! The light pressure (6-psi) turbo six was BMW's attempt to compete with the Mercedes' V8 and Jag V12 sedans of the time. As America seemed complacent in the ‘70s to buy cars without consideration of horsepower, BMW avoided the nightmare of attempting to smog that sohc beast. In the ad, the seller claims to be ignorant of the engine's power as it has yet to be dyno'd, however it looks completely stock and a quick trip to Wikipedia reveals that in the 745i (so called because of some turbo multiplication rate BMW applied) it weighed in at 249-bhp.
Here it sits a little bit longer than any of the fours or sixes originally intended for the E21, requiring the front crossmember to undergo some surgery, although aside from that, the installation doesn't look like a hack job. It's just weird.
Other than the turbo and the five speed, the car comes with an LSD rearend in between the semi trailing arm IRS, and dual exhaust exiting just aft of the passenger door and ahead of the rear tire. Bumpers, side trim and the four light grille have all gone the way of the rest of the car's niceties potentially making it significantly lighter (discounting that 7-series mill) than its already bantam weight 2,600 lbs out of the factory. As far as looks go, removing all that crap gives allows the subtle lines of the E21 to shine through, and the two-light nose gives it the appearance of a very earnest insect, although the black-painted double kidney does get lost up there. Also, he doesn't say whether or not the Alpina stripe shown in a couple of the shots is included or not. It does looks like the 320i's original drum binders in back sadly are.
It would be easy to dismiss this as one individual's Frankensteinian parts bin mashup, but it's just too freaky. A glance at the pics show that the seller is not unfamiliar with the marque, apparently possessing a garage full of Roundel-badge beauties, and even recently offering a full-on Euro 745i for sale. The question is, does its $25,000 price tag make this a Bimmer you'd like to find in your Easter basket? Or, does does that price make it less than eggcellent?
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