You are here
Classified ad of the week: BMW E21
Isn’t the new 4-series pretty? All anabolic and futuristic and buttoney. But there is a lot of design on it. So much so that we’ve been flicking through the history books in search of something a little less complicated to relax our eyes. And we arrived at this - the very first 3-series, and the 4’s spiritual father.
Brought to the world in the seventies, a decade best visualised through a murky, beige filter, it promised young firebrands an espresso shot of anodyne petrosexuality - engine in the front, gearbox in the middle, drive at the back.
At the hands of Paul Bracq (he drew the Mercedes SL Pagoda), Wilheim Hofmeister (inventor of the eponymous Hofmeister kink - a low forward bend on the C-pillar that survives on today’s BMWs) and Claus Luthe (who later drew the peerless E30), it’d shed its 2002-shaped predecessor’s baroque design frivolities. There was little in the way of body overhang, a shark-snouted front end, some kidney grills and not a lot else, creating a strictly-business wedge of go-fast.
Inside, BMW fitted a centre console canted towards the driver’s seat, which debuted three years before in 1972 on the E12 5-series. There’s also large easy-to-read dials, and a long gear stick tucked close to the pilot’s knee.
Things are similarly simple underneath. Steering is non-assisted rack and pinion, there’s MacPherson strut suspension up front, a semi-trailing arm-type independent rear end, servo-assisted front discs, and drums at the rear.
Engine-wise, it uses the rock-solid four-cylinder BMW M10 in 1.6-litre, 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre guises, as well as 2.0-litre and 2.3-litre six-pots. Incidentally, the bottom end of the four-pot was used as a blueprint for the world championship-winning turbocharged M12 F1 engine. That said, you probably shouldn’t expect too much power from this week’s offering - it’s the entry-level 316, which means 90bhp…
But what it lacks in power it more than makes up for in corduroy brown fabric and a shade of beige ordinarily reserved for prosthetic limbs. This one looks fantastically clean, too, and it’s only covered 33,000 miles since new. Even the original tool kit and multi-spoke alloys are in place. What’s more, it costs a paltry £3250 - the price of a handful of options on the current 3-series.
Any TopGear.commers fancy a frill-free 3-series to see them through winter?