While I may be guilty of not photographing all — or even most — of the interesting BMWs I find in the car graveyards on my appointed rounds, I’m making an effort to get the complete set of discarded 20th-century 3 Series cars. In fact, once I remember to shoot the next junked E46 I find (which will be easy, as these cars have become plentiful in the yards I frequent), we’ll have the complete junkyard history of the 3 Series from 1977 through 2006.
The first-ever 3 Series, the E21, has become something of a junkyard rarity in recent years, but I found this ’77 in Central California back in December.
As the successor to the much-beloved 02 Series BMWs, the 320i got a bit bigger and plusher, enabling BMW USA to start snarfing up sales that the spartan, cramped 2002 might have missed. I recall my childhood dentist, orthodontist, and optometrist all bought 320is soon after they became available.
Europeans had a much larger selection of engine choices in the E21, ranging from a tiny 1.5-liter four all the way up to a 2.3-liter straight-six, but all the American-market versions had either 2.0-liter (1977-1979) or 1.8-liter (1980-1983) M10s. This car has the 109-horse 2.0, which was plenty of power for a small car in Malaise Era America.
For some reason, one of this car’s owners — presumably the final one — swapped an icky, rusty, orange hood onto a much-less-icky black car. Maybe this BMW was a parts car for another, nicer 320i, and the bad hood got switched to the donor car to keep the rain off the engine.
I would have pulled the cool-looking rectangular VDO clock for my collection, but I have a good one already.
The real gone cats all had four-wheel disc brakes by 1977, but not this car. The Volvo 242 carried a couple hundred additional pounds over the 320i in 1977 (and 13 fewer horses), but had discs all around.
Here’s a genuine 1990s Socially Hazardous sticker, straight out of the Orange County home of The Vandals, slapped on the quarter window next to the Hofmeister Kink.
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