An older BMW 3 Series can be driving bliss, but if you’re not a German car stan, you may not know your E30s from your E36s. Lucky for you, the Team O’Neil Rally School is here to help with this super detailed guide to the most popular 3 series generations for racing and what you need to look for when you buy and fix one up.
This guide has everything your BMW fanboy friend would tell you to look for, but without the nuisance of having to take him out in the real world, outside of the BMW cave and into the harsh light of day.
It’s all pretty solid advice. E30s are joyfully simple, but watch the timing belt and protect the oil pan off-road, and you may not actually want the rarer, all-wheel-drive 325iX for hoon duty. The full-length E36's subframe is a known issue to watch for, and the more complex electronics can be more work than the older E30. The E46 is the most complicated, modern car, with more weight but all but guaranteed to have a straight six under the hood.
A lot of their advice centers around rally and drifting, as that’s what Team O’Neil does, but even if you’re not racing, it’s a good little guide to each generation of the 3er. They’re all pretty easy to shoehorn a bigger engine into, for example. And I, of course, still need an E30.