1977 BMW 320i in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile 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.

1977 BMW 320i in California junkyard, decklid badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAs 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.

1977 BMW 320i in California junkyard,engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsEuropeans 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.

1977 BMW 320i in California junkyard, rust - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFor 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.

1977 BMW 320i in California junkyard, VDO clock - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI would have pulled the cool-looking rectangular VDO clock for my collection, but I have a good one already.

1977 BMW 320i in California junkyard, rear drum brake - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1977 BMW 320i in California junkyard, bumper sticker - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsHere’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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