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Recommendations on an E-30 purchase

Discussion in 'E30 (1984-1993)' started by welcha, Apr 21, 2008.

    welcha guest

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    Hi! Just joined. I am looking at an '86 325e/ 5 spd w/ 180k. Any 'gotchas' I should be looking for? They are asking $1800. Appropriate price point? How long can these engines go? Ease of getting some additional power w/o too huge a $ hit, while keeping or increasing fuel economy? What MPG are people getting with this? My wife has an '03 Mini S, with CAI, Cat-back exhaust, reduced S/C pulley and beefier rear sway bar. Still getting over 31 mpg, and the car has been transformed. I am not expecting the kind of go-kart performance we are getting from that, just a good, solid, fun performer that I can improve on myself...

    Thanks, Alan
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    az3579

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    Check for rust. There are common spots for rust on these vehicles. I'm not sure of all of them, but I know there's usually some rust around where the license plate lights are. I remember looking at a 325e I was interested in buying a while before I bought the one I have and remember seeing a hole due to rust right under the rear right-side carpet. I was able to push the carpet up from the bottom of the car!

    These engines will go forever if they've been maintained. The last service records I had from my car from the previous owner was 6 months before I bought it from him and the odotmeter was still stopped then. It stopped at 252,072. Since I've bought it from him, I've driven it for over a year and a half. I've replaced the instrument cluster with one that has a working odometer and have measured that I've gone about 4,000 miles since early March (had a few long trips), so I calculate I do about 20,000 miles a year. That would mean I've got well over 280,000 on the clock, not counting the mileage the car had by the previous owner since the odometer stopped. I've seen plenty of 325e's with well over 250,000 miles.

    I have a heavy foot, so I average about 18 miles per gallon with mixed city and highway driving (mostly city). I think my car has higher than average fuel consumption because other 325e drivers seem to be getting 30 mpg easily while I have a really hard time getting anything over 21 mpg average on the highway. If I'm on a flat road doing 75mph, then I'll be doing 30 mpg as per the fuel economy gauge, but because of changing conditions I only end up getting about 21 mpg. If you do mostly highway driving, you'll probably end up getting at least 260 miles to a tank.
    My fuel consumption is probably due to the fact that it's chipped: +~20 HP/20 ft-lb torque.
    I bought the chip off of eBay so it's probably not optimized, but in first and second gear, the thing runs like a scalded dog, so the performance increase is noticeable for minimal dollar (spent about $40 on it).

    welcha guest

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    Sounds good. I am in NC. Do you feel that here in the South East I would be seeing the rust issues you talk about? Also, how big is the fuel tank if 260 miles on a tank?I gues that would be at your consumption rate. What rearend ratio? Does the price seem right?
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    az3579

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    I have a 2.93 ratio on my car. At 75, it revs about 2500!

    I don't know what kind of area you live in so I can't attest to the rust factor.

    The fuel tank is a 14.5 gallons. If the light comes on and I have to fill up, it would probably fill about 12 gallons into the tank. Of course I'm working off of memory here, so I can't be sure, but I usually don't put more than 12 gallons into the tank before it stops (I always fill up very soon after the light comes on). I have 260 miles down when the light comes on, so if I was to play out my luck, I might get about 40 or so more miles out of the tank before my fuel pump punches me in the face.


    As for price... well, the previous owner of mine thought there was a transmission problem when all it was was a 5-minute welding job. The shift linkage was broken and the shifter was 'free floating'. Because of the previous owner's lack of knowledge on the subject, I bought the car for a measly $450!


    Some of these will go for over $1500 with lower mileage than 180,000. What is the condition of the car? For me, for $1800, I would say the car better be immaculate inside and out, have minimal rust and interior wear, and the owner better damn well have maintenance records for it. Essentially, for $1800, you should be better a car that would be rated 8/10 points; it might have some visual defects such as an occasional ding or scratch on the exterior, but should run very well. If it's a manual, make sure the clutch is in good shape because a clutch job is a major one.

    When I bought mine, I checked the suspension as well by doing a very quick and dirty bounce test by pushing the car down and letting it bounce back up a few times.


    Be sure to check the electronics in the car. Does the odometer work? The On Board Computer? Radio? Does the radio mast retract when the radio is off? Do you have to push hard on the window switches for the windows to go down/up (if there are electric windows)? Do the electric windows work at all? Sunroof crank up to snuff (if a manual crank) or if electric, does the sunroof work properly? How are the gaskets at the windows (mine has a leak somewhere and the rear carpet is almost always wet - this can cause rust)? Tachometer, speedometer, temperature gauge, fuel gauge work properly? Service indicator lights? Check control panel (middle, where the sunroof crank/button would be up top)? Seats - do they recline and move forward/backward properly? Condition of the seats? Rear seats look OK (they don't fold or anything so just check condition)? Air conditioning work and recirculation, heat? Do the vents stay up when you adjust them or do you have to put a card in the side for it to stay up (this is a common problem and all of my vents need a card to hold them up in desired position)? Does the glovebox latch hold it properly? Any cracks in the dash and if so, how severe?

    As for the mechanicals, I'm not too good with those so I can't really recommend things to ask. I do know that if you buy the car, change the timing belt immediately because most owners do not know when they replaced it last! Change the oil as well.

    cj morgan guest

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    i wouldn't recommend buying anything with an "e" at the end. the eta engines were not very quick.
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    az3579

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    By the looks of it, him inquiring about gas mileage and logevity probably means he's interested in traits the eta caters to.


    Besides, I can pull a left-hand turn at a traffic light quicker than you can say "holy crap" with all that low-range torque... chip it and you'll be happy. It may not be as quick in a straight line, but I certainly held my own against an E30 M3 at Lime Rock. :)

    jmalter guest

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    The camshaft drive-belt should be replaced ev'ry 60k miles, you'll want to see service docs on that, as well as evidence of regular service & oil-changes.
    Mine is runnin' strong & all 6 cyls test within-spec for compression.
    An aftermarket chip for the fuel-injection system can do wonders - mine came from Dinan. It added ~25 horsepower & increased the rev-limit 500rpm to 5250. *BUT* fuel-economy decreased, & it requires 91-octane gas.
    W/ the chip & a 3.54:1 rear-end ratio, I got 12mpg on the track. Lately, a bit less than 19mpg city. This might easily be called an 'anti-eta' setup.
    Dayyum, & aren't Minis fun?
    I've found the E30 motor (except for early water-pump probs) & drivetrain to be worry-free. The stock motor-mounts aren't stiff enough & should be replaced w/ 'big six' mounts. Synthetic transmission fluid will eliminate a lot of cold-start graunchiness.

    Given that these cars don't have a lot of horses, the most fun is in improving the suspension over time. Since us e-motor guys are (relatively) powerless, our only hope is to use the brakes less, & carry more speed into & through the turns! For me, this became a decade-long process of (re-)learning to drive a car which (after a modification) possessed vastly different handling limits than what I'd been used to. Some of the $s & time I put in didn't work out well, & I had to re-do some mods or upgrade things that got broken 'cos they couldn't stand the strain. But during the process, I found that upgrading my driver-skills was more important than improving my car's abilities.

    Eventually, I discovered a setup that optimized high-speed turn-in ability. By this time, I'd got a lot of aftermarket parts in the suspension & was totally into camber/toe-in settings (I recommend Alpina front-upper-strut bushings & Dinan rear lower-control-arm eccentrics, but that's just me), but I'd also driven enough track-miles to gauge their effect, & could use much of that capacity on the street. The saying goes that, "the journey is half the fun," well, I certainly had a surfeit of fun running track-miles, so anything left-over for now is just a welcome bonus.

    The E30 structure was an excellent test-bed, w/ many options for tires/wheels/anti-roll bars/stress bars/bushings/mounts & related hardware. But just as important as the $s thrown at the modifications, was the $s I spent at driver-schools learning the new characteristics of my setup. IMO every dollar I spent on new parts wasn't worth the same as the dollars I spent on the track, where one can actually ask the car (& its driver) to do things they might otherwise not be expected to, in the spirit of new inquiry.

    Some other things you might expect from this car - I've had some electrical probs - solenoids (relays) located in the under-hood fusebox can fail, due to their age. Also, the OEM radio & buttons on the 'on-board computer' can fail, again b/c of age. The hardest one to diagnose & repair was the on-board computer's anti-theft-system relay, which must be energized in order for the fuel-pump to run.

    The condition of the clutch is a factor of how much it's been abused. I learned to double-clutch early, to the point where I do it automatically on every downshift. Mebbe this has added to my clutch's life (although the learning process certainly did not), anyway, I'm still running the original clutch, w/ no signs of wear, despite years of (ab)use.

    IMO, the motor & drive-train of the E30 eta-motor are indeed bullet-proof. I've driven mine v. hard (86k miles, including 5k on various tracks) & also smacked it fair' well several times (some of those water-pump replacements were req'd by having to remove embedded bits of radiator). But the motor itself has never failed its duty!

    z3pilot99 guest

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    Wow! Don't mean to flame you but I think there must be either a fuel leak or something really wrong with your car. My freinds 1989 325is is chipped will get 26-27 on the highway. My non chipped 1991 325ix will get 24 on the highway with all my extra drag of AWD. I have eard good things about the increase of performance with the "e" when chipped though.

    Iagree that they will run forever. I have 317k on my 325ix.
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    az3579

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    This is an old thread...



    ... but since that post, I have adjusted my driving style and am now getting about 25mpg avg. It's not possible to get more where I live with my car because it's very hilly and the highways are almost never straight. The second you hit a very slight imperfection in the road, the mpg drops big time, so unless the road is straight all the way, over 25 ain't gonna happen.

    william owen guest

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    On an '86 325e your mechanic should be able to do a pretty decent visual inspection of the timing belt. That's a must. Price seems high unless the records reflect quality maintenance history.

    Vicksburg guest

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    My 1988 325ic is getting about 24.7 mpg with mixed driving....FYI

    LoliKoka guest

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    30+ mpg

    New member here - looking through the threads. I drove my 1987 325 off the lot new, and have driven it almost every day since - except when I was overseas with the military. I routinely get 27.5 in a mix of city and highway driving, and between 31 and 32 on the highway at about 70 mph. I have tried to keep it well maintained, and haven't done any mods to it. It's a great car.

    william owen guest

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    Congratulations. I had my 325IC out today in Columbus, OH. It was about 60 degrees. Looking forward to a lot of use...very soon. I haven't really paid much attention to the mileage recently. It should come in a bit above 25. Have a wonderful time!

    Bill
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    granthr

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    60 degrees!!! I can't wait for spring to get the M3 out of moth balls!!! :D

    Just for comparison, my E30 M3 will get over 30mpg on the highway if you keep it slow. I was only able to do this once when my brother was following me in a VW bus and he was not able to go over 60 mph. Usually at 75 mph I will get about 27 mpg. Still not bad for a street legal race car! On back country roads and city it drops to low 20s mpg.
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    az3579

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    That there proves that there is no point to owning an eta. :mad:
    I get the same or slightly worse mpg. I average 25 city/hwy, which is fine, but only about 27 highway at the same speed. So, let's do the math here; 121 stock hp vs your M3's 190+? And you get the same mileage? How is that fair??? *cry*
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    granthr

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    I guess it is not fair, but the M3 does have a 2.3 liter four pot. You have a couple more cylinders and 500cc. But you really should get 30mpg on the highway, I am not doubting your mpg, I just wonder if your motor is not running 100%.

    When I first got my 318i it was drinking fuel (for a 318i), mid 20s mpg on the highway. I was also having an idle fluctuation issue too. I tried finding a vacuum leak to no avail. When I pulled the plugs it was obvious the car was running rich. So I had Joel Confer BMW of State College look at it (they are great BTW, don't over charge and are great to work with). They diagnosed my problem as a bad throttle position switch. My mpg went right up to just above 30 on the highway and I no longer had an idle issue.
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    mooseheadm5

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    Try towing a trailer with the M3. I have towed 2 TONS with the 325e in stock form. The M3 EFI is also a gen ahead of the eta stuff. The i gets better economy with the same diff because of this as well.
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    granthr

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    Yea, I don't think I would try that! I think the eta motor is great. All that torque low down. Just like a diesel, great for towing! :D I just think Botond's is not running at the top of it's game. But his chip might be causing the decrease in mpg.
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    az3579

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    This engine better damned well be running tip top because no maintenance item was spared. EVERYTHING has been done to it since I've owned it: spark plugs, wires, distributor cap/rotor, all belts including timing belt, water pump, oxygen sensor, radiator, coolant expansion tank cap, all hoses, ICV, ICM, and oil changes as frequently as they should have been done. Shocks, springs, struts, strut mounts, brakes, rotors... need I go on?

    I don't tow a damned thing with this. I'm tired of not having the power when I need it.
    Oh frickin' well.
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    mooseheadm5

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    Nope, his figures are about what I used to get. Updating to the 327i got me 30-32mpg on the interstate at a steady 75 with a thrashing getting both on and off the interstate twice a day 75 miles each way. In town figures were up as well.

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