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Lookin to buy an e30

Discussion in 'E30 (1984-1993)' started by missmelyssa, Jan 19, 2009.

    missmelyssa guest

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    I have a very small budget of $2k (for now).
    I like the looks of the body and its simplicity.
    This won't be a daily driver, but a weekend car.
    Not looking for something totally modded, but something that is close to stock as possible.
    Right now I'm open to either a 318 or 325. (5spd of course)

    From what I've read, the 318 isn't that popular due to the lack of ponies it has.

    So from a newbie, would you consider a 318 over a 325 or not? And why?
    (I'm ready to get schooled on this.)

    ecvchamp guest

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    I have never owned a 318 but, I like my 325I

    missmelyssa guest

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    All I ever really see are 325's on craigslist.
    So far been searching the Bay Area (ha, barely my area) and Sacramento.
    There isn't much in the Modesto, Stockton and Redding areas.

    1996 328ti guest

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    I think it would be tough to find a decent E30 for $2K that doesn't need $3K worth of work, if you can find one with no rust to start at that price at all.

    After owning what you already have, you will not be happy with a 318.
    There is no replacement for displacement.
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    mooseheadm5

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    84-85 318i is not super popular but will live forever if you take care of it. Most people don't and lots of them have been scrapped or are rolling scrap
    All 325 models ned timing belts with tensioners every 60k or else!
    84-85 325e - no abs, but lighter than later models 120is HP
    86-87 325e - fine car
    88 325e - super eta 7 more HP than previous due to 325i head and fuel injection. 1 year only bumpers, injection, intake, throttle body, balancer, etc. last year of e
    87 325i - First year of the i. Slightly different wiring harness than later cars
    88 325i - same 1 yesr only bumpers as 88 e
    89- 325i - plastic bumpers
    90(?)- 318i - M42 twin cam motor. By now, many of them have intake system leaks, failing timing chain tensioners, and failing profile gaskets (if they have not been replaced yet.)
    Buy a car with maintainence records. You should not have to spend more than $2k for a good car, but budget more for repairs, and for pete's sake, get a prepurchase inspection. Best money you will spend.
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    mooseheadm5

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    Don't know where you live, Steve, but round these parts, they don't rust. Southern and West coast cars don't rust (unless near the ocean.) Also, they are pretty cheap here as well.

    1996 328ti guest

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    Mine is a Northern VA car. Rust around the tail lights and rockers.
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    mooseheadm5

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    Then it did not come from NoVa originally. I have not seen many rusty E30s from around here. Most of the rusty ones are auction cars that come from NY. I have owned maybe 8 (can't remember) E30s from the south ($200 parts cars included) and not a one has had rusty rockers or tail lights. Ditto on the old boss' E30 stockpile (all gone now.) Usually they will rust after a collision repair, so make sure you have someone check it out that can spot that stuff.
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    Brian A

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    It'll all depend on how "plugged in" to the used car market you are and how agressive you are at chasing leads. Yeah, there are E30s people are selling for $400 but you have to be at the right place at the right time (ask AZ3579).

    After over a year of (admittedly not particularly aggressive) shopping I finally got a second E30; a 1991 318i. I had to go to $3,000 to shake it loose from a coworker. I just hadn't gottten any leads. Yeah, Kelly Blue book is only $1,500 for a 318i, but I didn't have a whole lot of choices "fall on my lap" in the preceding 15 months.

    The car I got is in beautiful shape (straight, well maintained, rustfree, dent free, great interior, LSD, very strong motor and drive train) but still with major flaws (peeling clearcoat, cracked dashboard, tinted rear window and very loose suspension). Perfect! I bought it intending on doing a major suspension upgrade. I installed new control arms, tie-rods, Dinan Stage 1 springs/shocks and Eibach swaybars which cost me $1,700 in parts alone (I did all the work myself). It now drives better than new.

    This makes for a strong argument to buy an hopped-up enthusiasts car in the first place and being willing to pay more for it. This is standard wisdom regarding restorations/upgrades. (...and, yes, I knew what I was getting myself into before I bought the 318i; it was fun fixing it up the way I wanted an E30 fixed up!). Any way you look at it, buying an E30 (even "overpaying" for it) is a much less expensive proposition than buying any new car.

    Regarding 325i vs 318i, they are two different characters. I wouldn't discredit the 318i; it has a strong following (ask GrantHR). With a chip, it makes 150 hp and weighs only 2,600 lbs. It is so stuck-to-the-ground it is amazing. Some people call the 318i the "M3 light" since the E30 M3 had 190 hp and was 2,750 lbs.

    Having said that, there is nothing like the silky smooth power of my 180 hp (after chip) 325i convertible.

    ... this is just one person's opinion.
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    az3579

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    Assuming you're talking about an M10, it just doesn't make 150hp with just a chip. Maybe with a small turbo, but not with just a chip. The M10 made about 104hp when new, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, and the M42 made about 134hp when new. A chip doesn't add all that much power; I don't think it really exceeds more than 10 realistic hp, despite the 24 that chips for E30's claim. I don't have the dyno results to prove it, but I do see people online that say the same thing, and it makes sense. My car is still 0-60 in about 9 seconds, which is about what it did without the chip. It feels more powerful, but I noticed that it just isn't.

    As for the M42... well, you'll be damned lucky to a get a decent 318is for below 2k. If you do, it's probably trash and shouldn't be touched, unless you get reeeeeeeeeally lukcy like I did. Mmmm, I love me some E30 for $400. I could easily sell this car for about 2k if I wanted to as I've gotten offers for 1.5k before I got my 15" Euro basketweaves and sport seats, though price still so low because it's got over 317k in it. These things instantly make the car look more expensive. So, with an E30, you essentially get what you pay for; I would go for the stock-looking E30's that are about 3k. Those are usually very well maintained and unmolested, which is gooood. I personally wouldn't put my money on an E30 that has aftermarket crap adorning it because that usually means the owner doesn't care enough about the car for what it is and feels that they need to spend more money on appearance and other useless BS rather than maintenance. Would you think someone who blows all their money on audio equipment would give a damn about the car's health? I don't think so.

    Also, keep in mind that when you buy an E30, you are signing an invisible contract, one that the previous owner obviously doesn't know or care about. That contract is this:
    You are entering a labor of love. You will spend money on an E30 regardless of whether or not it's maintenance. It is an addiction, nothing less. If you are not addicted, you do not belong in an E30, but chances of you not being addicted is pretty much nil.Whether or not choose to obey this contract is entirely up to you.
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    Brian A

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    (Oh man: an audit of the numbers.)

    It seems to depend on who you ask regarding the stock hp of an M42. Both of these tables show it as producing from 138 to 142 hp:
    http://www.bimmerforums.com/engine_faq/
    http://www.unixnerd.demon.co.uk/enumber.html

    In either case, I seem to have made approximately three errors in my 150 hp calculation:

    1.) A chip adds 8% or 9% percent more HP, mostly through retuning for higher octane gas (ie 87 octane vs 91 octane). For my 325i, that's about 12 hp. I had that number in my head and carelessly added it to M42's stock 138 hp to get 150 hp.

    2.) the M42 is already tuned for 91 octane, so the benefit of a chip may be less than 8% or 9% percent.

    I used to have the torque & hp curves that Dinan used to post on their website which showed the increases, but my "document management system" seems to have gaps in the audit trail.

    EDIT:
    The owners manual (1991 318i) reports power as 134 hp (100 kw) at 6,000 rpm. My estimation of 150 hp with chip is indeed way too high.
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    az3579

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    Sorry 'bout that. I was basing my comment on it being too high on the M10 motor, as that's probably what she'll be able to afford. You'll have a hard time finding a 318is (the preferable one to get if buying 4-banger) and still be within budget.
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    granthr

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    Okay I will jump I here! :D I have a 1984 318i with 75K on the clock. It is the M10 powered E30 with a whooping 101 hp. But it only weighs 2,360 lbs! Not too bad. I paid $2K for it in 05 with with only 64,000 miles on it at that time. It needed work though. Nothing major, just a little neglected over the years. It came with a BBS front spoiler and rear "is" spoiler.

    This car has been the focus of my creative juices. I also have an 88 E30 M3, but I keep that mostly stock. So, I proceeded to upgrade the 318i and have done a lot during the 4 years I have had it. Too lengthy to list here!

    I bought the 318i at the time b/c I didn't want to worry about the timing belt of the 325. But I also like four bangers. They certainly let you know they are there.

    In terms of what you want in an E30, I would say buy the best one you can afford and find. Worry more about the big things like rust, body damage, was the oil change regularly then the little things like broken trim, or lights. The little things are easy enough to fix and you might be able to do them yourself. Obviously we don't know your mechanical abilities, but generally speaking, E30s are very easy to work on, even for the novice.

    On the issue of rust. E30s that see a lot of winter driving in the Northeast will rust if not taken care, in other words if the owner doesn't wash them regularly. I have seen enough rusted out ones in junk yards.

    One final note, if you have never owned an E30 before, go test drive as many as you can before you buy. The different engines available do have different personalities. This will help you get a feel for what you might want. Also if you have a friend with a really nice one see if you can drive it. This will give you a baseline, b/c there are a lot of very worn out cars out there. Remember the newest E30 (92 cabrio) is now 17 years old!

    missmelyssa guest

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    I'm in Cali

    I'm in the SF area of California.
    I live pretty east though so I'm about 20min from Interstate 5.
    We don't have a rust issue here luckily. (not unless you're close the water and leave your car out for years)

    I have found some cars but just haven't had time to look at them due to my work schedule.
    It sucks. 9-6 and I commute an hour each way.
    Hopefully I can find a few to look at this weekend.
    My sis's boyfriend has a '91 325 coupe convertilble and has worked on his own car.
    It's perfect, but an auto. I know you can swap a 5spd in there, but I'd rather not.
    And I'm not looking for a show car, just something that runs and isn't all torn up.

    Paul,
    Thanks for the info.
    I've been trying to look for that type of info to help me differentiate between models.

    I've been seeing some classics on the road; 320i and such.
    All bodystyles are nice, but I seem to be attracted to the older models.

    missmelyssa guest

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    Thanks

    Thanks for all the info guys. It's nice to know what to look for, and what to expect.
    I just read in bimmer-mag that maintenance is not about years, but about miles.

    I'm a true novice. I have helped my hubby on cars since he works on anything with a motor. But as with any knowledge, if you don't use it you lose it. But I do want to learn in order to "bond" with whatever I find. A labour of love, yes. And that is why I'm not looking for a super clean car, or anything heavily modded. I'd like to add my personal touch, so to speak.

    Chris, I've checked out some of your pics on your ride. Nice. And I hope to join the Golden Gate Chapter in the near future.

    I should ask my sis's boyfriend if I could take his car out for a spin, although it is an auto.
    My father's wife still has I believe an '87 325i stick, (orig owner) but I know that's off limits.

    I think 4-bangers rock and am not hesitant about purchasing one. I'm open.
    I know my $2k won't buy much, but I'm also not looking for much either.
    I'll def let you guys know what I end up with.
    I'm just hoping to get one by bimmerfest so that gives me a few months to look.

    z31maniac guest

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    If any chip actually did that, I would be surprised. Even the much loved MarkD chip was recently dyno tested by a guy out in so cal on an E30 325is, it made a whopping a 2.5 more HP than stock. A JC chip tested that day made .5HP less but 2lbft more TQ.
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    Brian A

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    The dynamometer is certainly THE objective measure of component performance; you shouldn't argue with Dyno results.

    Having said that, there is something fishy about the results you cite. The physics of what a 325i chip does is fairly simple; it adjusts the timing and fuel rates so that a car tuned for 87 octane gasoline can exploit the detonation characteristics of higher performance 91 octane gasoline. Plus, it removes the "conservatism" that BMW used to build into its cars (timing, redline, etc).

    Because a dynamometer is so objective and accessible, I don't think that companies like Turner, Dinan or MarkD could bluff about their performance. It is too easy for you or me or Road & Track to "call their bluff". Their reputations depend on delivering the goods.

    I only live 50 miles from the Dinan facility. I went there last month to personally pick up a Dinan Stage 1 suspension system. They treated me the same way they treat someone getting $60,000 of upgrades to their V10 M6 (and there were several there!); not just picking up the $750 of springs and shocks for a 20 year old car that I was. I got the full tour of their facility. Their testing lab was amazing. They struck me as fanatics. They complained that the wind-tunnel fan in the dyno room could only simulate airflow up to (something like) 80 mph, when they wanted to measure the effect of intake modifications on power at higher road speeds. They were doing serious testing.

    When they say 8% to 9%, I believe them. My "pant seat dyno" sure felt the difference too.

    z31maniac guest

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    I'm well aware of what a chip does. But whatever helps you sleep at night.

    What I put in bold has absolutely nothing to do with whether a chip on an E30 actually makes the power that is claimed. I noticed much improved throttle response (which will trick the butt dyno into thinking there is more power) and midrange with my MarkD chip and injectors, but peak? Not really.

    I'll take solace in actual HARD evidence, not claims. The reason they can make those claims is because mileage, weather, the dyno, etc etc etc can call make their tune less than optimal. That's while they'll say "up to +15HP."

    You are claiming the Dinan chip is worth 8-9% on a 325. So that equates 13.44-15.12 HP at the crank over stock. Dinan is generally regarded as the worst E30 chip money can buy, that's why they usually only pull $40-50 on eBay, mine sold for $47 after I couldn't sell it on the forums.

    Go throw your car on a dyno with the stock chip vs the Dinan chip, if the Dinan chip even makes 5HP over stock, I'll pay for the dyno time.

    Sorry to derail the thread, I just get tired of reading "butt dyno" and "claims from the company selling the product" are more believable than verifiable, objective data. But then again, people have to justify the money they spent wasn't for nothing.
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    Satch SoSoCalifortified

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    Just wondering. . .

    What's a Z31?

    :confused:
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    mooseheadm5

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    It's a MANIAC!

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