While probably not the ultimate Ultimate, today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe 320is is still a pretty rare and damn-desirable driving machine. You’ll just have to decide how its price and provenance ultimately plays out.
So, I’m bookending the weekend with BMW goodness as that seems like a nice thing to do. On one side we have Friday’s 1984 BMW 733i with its rare in the States five-speed stick and a laudably low price. That walked away with an equally rare thing: an 83% Nice Price win.
On the other side of the two days everybody’s working for we have an even rarer Bimmer, one that’s from the same era as Friday’s 733i, but which is perhaps far more lusty-worth, and hence also far more expensive.
Called the Italian M3 for being specifically kitted to meet the tax threshold in that Southern European country, BMW’s E30 320is brought a lot of the M3 to Italy, only in a substantially less expensive package, and one that had another big benefit.
This 1988 320is is said to be one of six that have been imported into the U.S.. The seller claims responsibility for two of those and notes that out of the other four two are track cars. One of those has been fitted with an LS. Sacrilege! This one looks to be lock, stock, and barrel…er, stock.
But what, you might be asking yourself, is an Italian M3? And why should I be caring about this rather than moving on to Jason’s story about the Illuminati’s secret messages hidden in the left-turn signal flash frequency on the 1960 Imperial LeBaron? Okay, let’s get the history out of the way up front. Also, sorry to disappoint but it seems that the turn signal story has been pulled under what appear to be suspicious circumstances.
Following OPEC’s dick-move, made-up oil crisis in the ‘70s, Italy imposed a hefty tax on cars with engines greater than two-liters in displacement. The government’s goal was reducing the nation’s fuel consumption, but sadly it took its toll on fun as well. Here in America we got the 55 MPH speed limit, so no fun here either.
Back in Italy, the tax led to a spate of special 2.0 and just under models, even reaching the lower tiers of the exotics with models like the Ferrari 208 and Lamborghini Urraco P2000.
In the late Eighties BMW built a special 318is model just for the Italians that limbo’d under the tax with a unique de-stroked (and as a dude, I hate being de-stroked) edition of the M3’s S14 mill. That was dropped into the E30 body, either in four-door sedan guise or, like this car, in a two-door with full-on M-Technic body kit. Between ‘88 and ‘90, about 2,540 two-door 320is cars were built.
The smaller displacement S14 produced 192-bhp, or three less than the M3’s 2.3-litre, however it was way down on torque with only 155 lb-ft to bring to bear rather than the M3’s 170. The 320is also had a shorter rearend than the M3—3.46 vs 3.25. A dogleg five-speed stick sat between those two extremes to keep things interesting. Now, here’s the kicker, the 320is tips the scales at fully 242 pounds less than the wide-body E30 M3.
This all makes this 320is a pretty appealing car on paper, and in the metal it’s a freaking boner machine. This one looks in the pictures to be almost as if as-new. The Delphine Metallic paint is shiny shiny and the interior looks like it’s never had so much as an ass in it. Remarkably, the dash is untracked, and the IP has the added bonus of an oil temperature gauge in the bottom of the tach. Cloth sport seats invite long stints behind the sport steering wheel and the stock head unit means breaking out the 99 luftballons cassette for your driving soundtrack. The odo may read 199,000 kilometers, but the interior belies that tale.
Stepping back outside and you’ll note the BBS baskets and that M-Technic body kit. I think we can all agree about the former, but a few of us may not like the latter. Pop the trunk and revel in the fullness of the factory toolkit because who doesn’t like tools? Smiley headlights up front and M badging here and there accessorize the look, and over all you will be hard pressed to find a cleaner E30 no matter what the model.
While it’s advertised in New Jersey the car is in fact located in Florida so you may just want to pay to have it shipped home. The seller says that all import duties and related fees have been paid and that the car comes with a Florida title, for what that is worth. It also apparently comes with receipts of work done as well as the manuals. A bunch of those can be seen here.
Let’s circle back to last Friday’s bookend Bimmer. That car asked a couch cushion hunt $1,700 to drive home. On this side of the shelf we have a car that is far more rare, and as you might expect, far more expensive. How much more? Thirty-eight thousand, three hundred dollars more. I know, yikes!
That’s $40,000 for the opportunity to rock one of the rarest E30 Bimmers there is, and also one of the most interesting for its Latin provenance. What’s your take on that price and this car? Does that seem like a fair deal for so nice a 320is with all the important import work already done? Or, is this an E30 with a price that makes you go EEEK!
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