Anyone who’s into cars knows of the glorious E30. Being produced from 1982 to 1994, they’re literally becoming classics. It’s easily the most competition-winning vehicle chassis in existence to this date. A true ‘drivers car’. The value of these cars has held steady over the years, but there’s hints of the value increasing on the horizon. With that said, anyone with half a brain would snatch one up with the quickness if the price was right. Typical prices for running and driving E30s in OK condition typically range from $2,500-4,000. What would you do if a rust-free, running/driving, manual, dent-free ’89 325i popped up for just $500?…. That’s right, you’d grab it, and I did.
Word was passed to me by a friend that someone was trying to sell him an E30, with the friends intentions on using it as a parts car, for just $500. Being apparently in the right place at the right time, I was asked if I wanted it. I was told that it was in OK condition, expecting worn/faded seats, cracked windshield, a cracked dash, faded paint and numerous dents or scarred-up wheels. When I finally meet up with the seller and got to see the car in person, I instantly wanted to start laughing madly with happiness.
Covered in a fine layer of dust, I could tell it hasn’t been driven in a while. Paint was excellent with just a couple of light oxidation spots on the trunk lid. Driver side bolster was shredded, e-brake handle broken in two, steering wheel torn, oil leak from the oil pan (owner claimed), mirror housing faded. Best of all, no rust anywhere! Still a steal at $500!… if it runs.
The owner was an older gentleman and seemed straightforward and forthcoming with all the negatives about the car. He gave me the spiel about how he bought it when it was just two years old and had owned it ever since. The original motor had grenaded around 200K and he had a used one put in that had about 100k on it. He claimed the timing belt was serviced at the same time. The odometer read 273K! Yikes, but oh well. I brought a battery with me that I purchased for an E21 i’ve been tinkering with because I was told the E30’s was dead. Hooked up the battery and checked the oil, power steering fluid and coolant. Turned the key and voila! She started up and ran perfectly, save for a little valve chatter. I was sold. I gave the guy his cash and then proceeded to sign over the title. It was mine! All mine!!
I had my friend follow me back to the shop in his black E30, just in case there were any unexpected surprises. During the trip back I was starting to run through a list of things to fix first. The brakes felt a little sketchy (prob just needs bleeding). The drives seat backrest leaning slightly to the left and was a little annoying. Shifter felt sloppy (prob needs bushings). Transmission and differential were a little noisy, but felt OK. Clutch was good. Shifter boot was ripped. Man, I couldn’t wait to get back and really give it a look-over.
When we got back the first thing I did was break out the car wash supplies. After a quick, but thorough scrubbing, I was amazed. This thing is a survivor!
I just kept walking around the exterior, admiring the excellent condition the body was in. No dents, no rust. Missing a couple of chrome pieces around the window trim, but whatever, they’re cheap. I then moved to the interior and started the inspection. It needs a new steering wheel ASAP and that shifter boot has got to go. The ripped seat I can deal with for now. The factory radio says “CODE”, so i’ll have to find that somewhere.
While she sat during the inspection I happened to notice red and black spots on the shop floor.. here we go, lets take a peek underneath. Both steering rack boots are rippled open and the passenger side is leaking fluid. The bottom of the engine was covered in dirty, dried oil with what seems to confirm a leaky oil pan gasket. Popped the the hood to take a look around and didn’t notice anything in disrepair with the exception of the cruise control cable end broken and not hooked up. Oh well, time to call it a night and head home to start ordering some parts! All in all, a joyous day!