Published on February 13th, 2017 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Why is the BMW E21 Forgotten?

The 1977-’83 E21 3 Series played an important role in BMW’s history by bridging the gap between the legendary 2002 which we all want to own and the very popular E30 series.

The problem is the E21 3 Series has lived in the shadows of the very desirable BMW 2002 and it was the the 2002 that saved BMW from financial ruin at the time. The E21 did not sparkle with car buyers and to make matters worse, the E21 arrived during the darkest era of the modern automobile where the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 sparked a sudden demand for improved fuel economy from small cars.

Mechanically, the E21 largely followed the 2002, using the proven M10 inline-four engine in three displacements: the 1,573cc (316), 1,766cc (318) and 1,990cc (320), all with single Solex carburetors. These were soon supplemented by the Bosch fuel-injected 320i, which remained the top-performing E21 for several years.

The E21 3 Series tipped the scales at roughly 2,400 lbs which was some 200 lbs heavier than the 2002 and this reduced its sprinted appeal on the open road.

BMW’s solution came with soone and a 6-cylinder M20 engine from the E12 BMW 5-Series was installed.

The 1,990cc engine delivered a silky-smooth power and then when the fuel-injected 2,315cc engine in the 323i arrived it mirrored the performance of the 2002tii with it 143hp and 140lb-ft of torque, allowing the 323i driver to reach q00km/h from standstill in roughly 9-seconds and achieve a top speed of nearly 200km/h.

Now you might look at the E21 BMW 323i with renewed interest before its price start inching upwards.

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