At $2,990, Could This 1988 BMW 325i Convertible Be The Ride For Your Endless Summer?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

The seller of today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe 325 drop top says it has “no needs” at this time. The pictures in his ad however, tell a different story. Let’s see if this solid but somewhat in-need Bimmer is also needy when it comes to its price.

If you looked at the engine bay of yesterday’s 1990 Nissan 300ZX TT you might initially think the car to be powered by a V4. That illusion is owed to the V6 sitting so far back in the bay that only the first four intake runners are discernible on initial glance.


Another illusion presented by the car was one of perceived value. Well, at least that seemed to be the case seeing as its $13,500 asking price managed an impossibly narrow 50 percent Nice Price win. That tight finish was due to some issues with its unoriginal paint and a general consensus that the market for these cars is currently tepid at best.

One model of car that seems to garner interest and fan boi-dom well beyond its station in life is BMW’s E30 3-Series. For whatever reason, the second generation of the 3-Series has become the model line’s standard bearer for identification and for many, desirability.

Why is that? Well, mostly because it was during the E30’s reign that BMW went from niche German car maker here in the U.S. to yuppie-certified symbol of success. Many people growing up in that age couldn’t afford even BMW’s smallest, but that didn’t make them any less desirous of that ownership experience. Years later, depreciation and maturation converged allowing that fantasy of a misspent youth to be fulfilled. This is befuddling to younger generations who wonder why you’d even want a car that’s so… well, analog.


This 1988 BMW 325ic is about as analog as you can imagine. It also sports a convertible roof so its heavier and less competent than its closed-case compatriots. That’s okay though because there’s a place for open-top motoring for many, and even the least aggressive BMWs will generally be pretty nice to drive once proper expectations are set.


This one should be fairly fun seeing as it rocks the 168 horsepower M20 straight six and a Getrag 260 five-speed stick. Aside from having a timing belt rather than a chain, the 2494cc SOHC eM20 is pretty much simple as a pimple. The Getrag has a decent rep too, however the ad notes that the cog-box presently in the car is its second.

The ad also claims $2,700 worth of recent work that has gone into the car. That wrenching included a new timing belt, a good bit of the braking system, a battery and an oil change. The result is what’s claimed by its seller to be “a solid car with no other needs at this time.”


Well, allow me to disagree. The car may be mechanically sound, which is a big plus, but there are some issues that still may need addressing, if not at this time then very soon.


The bodywork here appears to be in very decent shape. There’s no major road rot to be seen, and all of the trim, lights and whatnot all seem intact. There are a few blemishes in the paint, which is a coat of hot red that’s said to have been applied back in 2010. Popping and rust bullets are not uncommon on a car of this age, but they are things that should be addressed soon lest they get worse.

Perhaps the most egregious issue is a good bit of corrosion showing under the driver’s side tail lamp. That’s nasty, but there’s nothing here that couldn’t be dealt with in the driveway after a few tutorial YouTube video sessions. Still, the idea that this car is day-one ready to go is a bit of a stretch.


Bottle caps underpin here and there’s some waffling on the rear-bumper snood that’s an unfortunate aspect for everyone following the car in traffic to have to gander.


The interior is a bit more of a construction zone. The lovely sport seats are in desperate need of a new suit of clothes, while the dash exhibits cracks in multiple places and the center console is coming apart. There’s a general scrubbing needed here as well, as it’s pretty grungy in places.


In the seller’s defense, he does note that the car does come “with second set of vintage seats that are in like-new condition.” Are those also sport seats? Who knows, we don’t get to see them. We also don’t get to see the top which is claimed to have been renewed a decade back. How’s that plastic back window fairing?

None of these issues should be deal killers. Neither so should the car’s impressive mileage. The seller lists it at 247,102 however that was where the barrels stopped rolling when the odometer broke all the way back in 2008. Present mileage would hence have to be a guesstimate and I’m going to go on a hunch and guess that it’s likely more than what the dashboard claims.


The thing of it is, all of this car’s issues aside, it still seems to have some pretty solid bones. Yes, all the rubber bits in the suspension are probably shot, and who knows whether that driver’s inside door handle even works. Based on the pictures, I’m going to go with a solid maybe on that latter quandary. You can still be smitten by an old E30, and the seller has used his iPhone’s camera to the car’s benefit, giving us some of the prettiest pictures of what’s in some ways not so pretty a car. I’ve never seen torn upholstery and filth treated with such artistic grace.


Another factor possibly in this car’s favor is its price. The seller is asking $2,990 to take it off his hands, and that’s about a third what these cars can go for when spruced up a good bit. And, as I noted at the outset, there’s still an audience for these cars.

What we need to decide is whethere there’s an audience for this E30 that might be willing to pay that $2,990 asking. What do you think, is that a fair deal for a needs nothing/needs a lot 325ic? Or, would it be better to look elsewhere for fun in the sun?


You decide!


Knoxville, TN Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Bill W for the hookup! 

Help me out with NPOCP. Hit me up at and send me a fixed-price tip. Remember to include your Kinja handle.

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.