Meet The E21, The Forgotten Middle Child In The BMW Family

Illustration for article titled Meet The E21, The Forgotten Middle Child In The BMW Family

Welcome to Found Around The District, where we highlight fascinating cars we find around a city where people are too busy fighting through traffic and hunting for parking to drive anything interesting: Washington, D.C.

You have to feel a little sorry for the E21. Sandwiched between the iconic "New Class" cars that put BMW on the map and the much-loved E30, this iteration of the 3-Series built between 1975 and 1983 — the first car to bear the 3-Series name, mind you — always feels like it gets lost in the shuffle.

That's a shame, because it's a great-looking little car, and kind of a quirky one as far as that line of BMWs goes. Unlike the New Class and E30 3 that came before and after, the E21 only had two doors, so it feels like it's more explicitly a sporty coupe than anything else.

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Illustration for article titled Meet The E21, The Forgotten Middle Child In The BMW Family

I found this lovely E21 a few weeks ago not far from Eastern Market. I actually felt kind of bad because at first I thought it was an E30 until I took a closer look. A couple things gave it away, including the more angled trunk section, the headlights and taillights, and those horrendous DOT bumpers. (Did those ever look good on anything?) I think it's been repainted, but otherwise it looked fantastic. I would have taken it home if I could have.

Illustration for article titled Meet The E21, The Forgotten Middle Child In The BMW Family

I feel like it's a styling mix between the earlier 2002 and the later E30, and while I may catch hell for saying this because I know how much everyone loves E30s, I actually think it looks better. It's a bit less boring, more of a classic coupe. To me it looks like a shrunken-down version of the original E24 6-Series, which makes sense because they came out around the same time.

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Illustration for article titled Meet The E21, The Forgotten Middle Child In The BMW Family

This one had its badges removed, so I don't know what motor it had or what year it was. As always, you are all more than welcome to try and figure it out.

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Do you have any stories about the original 3-Series?

Illustration for article titled Meet The E21, The Forgotten Middle Child In The BMW Family
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Illustration for article titled Meet The E21, The Forgotten Middle Child In The BMW Family
Illustration for article titled Meet The E21, The Forgotten Middle Child In The BMW Family
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Illustration for article titled Meet The E21, The Forgotten Middle Child In The BMW Family
Illustration for article titled Meet The E21, The Forgotten Middle Child In The BMW Family

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DISCUSSION

I agree, I prefer this styling over the E30. The E21 reminds me a little of the 3.0CS coupe which was one of the most beautiful cars ever by BMW.

I had two of them, both 1982: a US spec 320i and a euro spec 323i and the cars were night and day. The US version was a nice enough car but clearly strangled by the malaise era. Performance was not even a word I would use near it. A comfortable and nice handling commuter car at best. The Euro spec 323i had the 2.3 6 cylinder though and OMG was it fun. Dual exhaust, lighter bumpers, and a completely different car. If you can find one of those, I would highly recommend it buying it.