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The only E30 320is in the US, The Italian M3 four-door with only 66,000 miles

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  • The only E30 320is in the US, The Italian M3 four-door with only 66,000 miles

    1988 BMW 320is: The only "Italian M3" in the United States
    66,000 miles
    excellent condition
    just completed $7000 service at La Jolla Independent, bringing it up to absolutely no issues wife standards.

    Please feel free to call with any questions: 415.272.0262

    Below is my review of the car.

    Collectors circle the E30 M3 like beak-licking Falcons soaring above a plump, white rabbit. They have become an essential element of any well-rounded collection. The M3 is butch and brash and moans one of the sexiest words in the world: homologation. But it is not the best E30 to drive. All those sexy augmentations weigh the car down, like silicone DDs giving a woman back problems. That plump white Rabbit has a Delphin Grey sister that shares the same S14 engine as the M3 but weighs an astonishing 242 pounds less. Her formal name is 320is, which shamefully fails to acknowledge the legitimacy of her M-ness. So she prefers to travel under her nickname, the "Italian M3," like Maria Shriver referring to herself as a Kennedy in order to get the corner table. And after traveling with her through Europe, and driving up the California coast, I prefer the vivacity and athleticism of the 320is to the more superficial charms of her famous big sister, the M3.

    There once was a King named Faisal, who ruled a sea of sand atop a sea of oil. In 1973 he funded a pincer attack on Israel during Yom Kippur. It was a blitzkrieg success for three days, but then Israel, with the help of the West, counterattacked to victory. The king, furious in his humiliation, put both hands around our pipeline and chocked the economy--until we were thumbing open 12 percent mortgage bills while waiting in alternate-day gas lines. The United States responded with an economical 55 mph speed limit. The Italians and Portuguese applied a shirk ray of taxation on engines larger than 2 liters, in an attempt to get them in symmetry with their oil supply.

    BMW had a problem. Luigis were walking into Milanese BMW dealerships with $45,000 looking for an M3 but stormed out yelling, "nessuno mi lufungulo'" after hearing that they would have to pay an additional $9000 in tax because it was .3 liters over the limit.

    Most of the time, when Eurocrats spew mercantilist goo, it gums up the works. But every once in a while, the strange distortive effects of regulation shart a hope diamond, or a four-door S14 that weighs 242 pounds less than an M3.

    BMW went to Paul Rosche, who designed all the early Motorsport engines and asked him to de-stroke his S14 engine from the M3 to down to 2 liters. Rosche shortened the crank (72.6 vs 84), lengthened the rods, and fitted headers from a rally car, which resulted in an engine that only makes 3 horsepower less than the 2.3 (192 vs 195) and 15 fewer ft/lb of torque (155 vs 170). They connected it to a shorter differential (3.46 vs 3.25), so it would accelerate harder, and only offered it with a dogleg, close-ratio gearbox, to better keep it in it's rev range. It was fitted with individual throttle plates, machined intake and exhaust ports, and a crankshaft with eight counterweights.

    You know when you are driving a special engine. It is not about horsepower; turbos have that. It's not about torque; ask any truck. A special engine channels its magic from the god of Charisma, like an MGM contract movie star. They don't walk into the room any faster than anyone else, but you could watch them do it over and over again. Every time I start the 320is, I smile. It's like waking up a randy lover who slept the night. You are greeted with enthusiasm.

    The Italian M3 is the most eager car I have ever driven. It's like a puppy dog at the beach who keeps charging into the surf to retrieve a ball. You throw it into sharper and sharper corners until you think it will give up, but it just slides on through them with the ball clenched sloppily in it's mouth.

    Off the line, the smooth clutch engages a light flywheel; the shifter tugs backward, like the head of a Arabian pulled by a sharp bit. Everything has frisson: the steering, throttle, shifter and seat. It's a car on cocaine at Studio 54.

    The genius move was dropping the S14 it into the lightest E30 chassis they could find.

    The US M3 was 2865 pounds and the 320is was only 2623 pounds. So the 320is weighs an astonishing 242 pounds less. This means that the 320is has 7.3 percent better power to weight and only suffers only a de minimis 0.4 percent drop in torque to weight. This weight difference is about the same as between a Porsche 964 and 964RS, making the 320is the most Rennsport version of the E30.

    When the German car magazine Auto Motor Und Sport tested the 320is against the M3 they wrote, "The bigger engine actually has less power in the lower rpm range. A fourth gear run from 40 to 100 kph took the M3 13.6 seconds but the 320is only took 12.8." They said the 2 liter engine revved more smoothly and finished the article by writing, "Less is indeed more."

    The 320is is not just more powerful. Removing 242 pounds of weight doesn't just improve the power, it improves every dynamic ability. The Italian M3 handles and stops better than an M3. This is even more important to the character of the Italian M3 than it's superior power. The car changes direction as if you were blowing on a feather. That lightweight, hand-built S-14 is humping the firewall, leaving a huge gap to the front of the car, almost like somebody made a mistake. This moves the center of mass inward, like an ice skater pulling in their extremities to accelerate the spin into a blur.

    Or as Auto Motor Und Sport wrote, "The 320is reacts to the slightest steering action more willing than the M3, appears to be handling better, but also demands more attention from its driver than the good-natured and understeering M3."

    BMW World Magazine tested the 320is against an EVO2 M3 and came away saying, "It's the 320is I'd take home."

    I got into early M cars about 12 years ago when I got my wife an E28 M5 and myself an E30 M3, and would like to think of myself as a knowledgeable BMW enthusiast. But I had no idea that the 320is existed until late last year when a deer took out my wife's Mercedes 190e 2.3-16. I had to replace her car but there was no way I would find another Cosworth as good as hers and the US versions were a little anemic anyway. So I looked through the M Registry and found something even cooler, a four-door M3.

    I bought the car from a Milanese auto journalist, and drove it 13 hours to the port in Germany, including nine hours on the Autobaun, accelerating the 320is to its 144 mph limit as often as possible. After a trip across the Atlantic, months of separation and a $7000 bill from it's new mechanic, I drove it up the California coast to our house in Marin, where it enjoys the distinction of being the only 320is in the United States. Nobody knows what it is. It's the ultimate four-door, family stealth car. If you prefer to Peacock in a Lamborghini, it's not your car. But if you are the kind of guy who wears a white gold Submariner and de-badges his cars, you have found Nirvana.

    Bimmer Magazine tested the 320is in 2009 and wrote," Like the E30 M3 sold in the US, the Italian 320is is highly strung. But unlike the M3, however, it hides its demeanor beneath an elegant and restrained exterior. Don't be fooled by appearances: driving the 320is is like an affair fueled by passion and adrenaline. I want it, and badly!"

    There were 18,843 E30 M3s produced. But only 1205 320is four-doors, and 2540 coupes.

    I spoke with Alex Palevsky, who curates the M Registry, and he said, "I don't know of any other 320is in the United States. I think it is a car for a very specific person; someone who understands that this is a special and unique car and the car doesn't have to shout about it. It's a car for someone who wants a total sleeper."

    As I drove the car up the coast, its dexterity gave me confidence to the push the 80s limits. You rip through the tightly spaced gears, shifting at redline, felling a surge of energy course through your body all out of proportion to the acceleration. You press the firm brake pedal into the meat of its range and the car decelerates as hard at it accelerates. And then, it laterally accelerates into a corner. You drive the 15 inch front rubber to its lightly chirping limit and adjust your line with the accelerator. Oversteer is available with either lift off or excessive throttle, but there is an organic reversion to neutrality, so you are pointed down the straight on exit.

    All this takes place in a cockpit that was designed at the pinnacle of German quality. The Euro-terior is superior. Cloth sport seats grip you better. Black window winders hang like earrings from the Anthracite cloth door cards. Even though the car is 26 years old, it is squeak free. The plastics are handsomely textured. The instruments are paradigms of clarity, and offer the S-14 specific, oil temperature gauge to let you know when the engine is properly warmed. The glovebox is without any pneumatic struts and isn't three inches thick. But it probably weighs a fraction of the one in a modern 3 series. An onboard computer expresses itself in large red digits, like an early digital watch. There is room for two adults or three kids in the back, unless you fold down the rear armrest to pass your skis through. The M-Tech 1 steering wheel is gracefully shaped and endowed with an extraordinary amount of feel.

    The factory M-Tech 2 body kit offers front and rear spoilers, side-skirts, and door moldings, which contribute to a look that is halfway between the austerity of a base E30 and the flamboyance of an M3. It looks special but in a reserved way, like a hand stitched lapel, or working buttons on the cuff of a Saville Row suit.

    Pavlevsky later told me that, "You got so lucky; 97 percent of the four-doors were base. No sport seats, a four-spoke plastic steering wheel. And the M-Tech 2 body kit is incredibly rare on a four-door, even though yours was added later, it is very had to find. Your's is a freak."

    And that is what the Italian M3 feels like, a super-freak at a Berlusconi Bunga-Bunga party who willingly takes on five passengers, squeals around corners, and likes being whipped to redline.

    For more photos and PDFs of the articles please go to:

    The car is sold with EPA and Customs paperwork, as well as a Italian DMV paperwork transferring title to me. I haven't registered it in the United States.

    It will be expensive to register in California, since it will require a new catalyst and US M3 DME as well as a $2600 test, and passing the exacting smog requirements are not guaranteed. But if you want to go this route I can assist you in doing so. But it would safer to buy the 320is in a state with laxer smog requirements. No guarantees in this regard.

    Even though I have spent a lot of money making the car as perfect as possible for my wife at one of the best BMW shops in the world, La Jolla Independent, it is a 26 year-old-car and comes with no warranty, and is sold as is. Please get a PPI from an independent BMW mechanic in Marin. I recommend Bill Arnold BMW, who has maintained my last three early M cars.

    Please feel free to call me with any questions: 415.272.0262

    The Nitty Gritty:

    1988 BMW 320is: one of 1205 four-doors

    66,000 miles

    Diamond Schwartz on Anthracite Cloth

    rare M-Tech 2 body kit

    Sport Seats

    M-Tech 1 steering wheel

    On board computer


    After purchasing the car in Italy I had La Jolla Independent perform the following work:

    Major service using VAC stage 0 tuning kit, which includes new wires, cap and rotor.

    Installation of US fuel filler, and full evaporative system to a charcoal canister in the trunk.

    Installation of a 02 sensor in the rally headers, wired to the DME, so it will activate a catalyst if one is installed.

    Installation of treehouse rubber control arm bushings, which greatly improved the front end feel.

    Remove and replace intake manifold gaskets, idle control valve hoses.

    Remove and replace clutch kit (pressure plate, clutch disc, throw out bearing) clutch arm pivot pin & spring, pilot bearing. Replace shift linkage bushings & shims. Remove and replace driveshaft center bearing.

    Remove and replace reference sensors ( speed & cyl. ID).

    Remove and replace battery.

    Remove and replace engine fan clutch, fan, & fan shroud.

    Please see the attached service records for a full breakdown. After I decided to sell the car, I put the original DME back into the car.

    For more photos and PDFs of articles please go to my car review blog:
    Last edited by robofc; 03-18-2014, 02:03 PM.

  • #2
    So this is posted in the classifieds, but written as an article about the car.
    Is this car for sale or are you just writing about the car?
    If for sale, price?
    jimmy p.
    87 E30 M3 Prodrive British Touring Car
    88 E30 M3 Zinnoberot - Street
    88 E30 M3 Lachsilber - Race (#98 SCCA SPU)
    92 E30 M Technic Cabrio - S14 POWERED!
    98 318Ti M44, Base - Morea Green
    04 Ford F350 - V10


    • #3
      Its on Ebay right now. It also happens to be not far from me. $35Kobo.

      '69 Datsun 2000 Roadster vintage race car (Street driven on a regular basis :taz
      '59 Alfa Romeo 101 Sprint (HUGE project :uhoh
      '88 M3


      • #4
        Sorry about the confusion. It is for sale for $35,000 in Marin, CA. Please feel free to call me with any questions. 415.272.0262




        • #5
          Quite lovely, but how can you have 2 or 3 so well crafted for sale adverts with no money shots of the engine or drive train?!

          81 Ur Quattro
          87 911 M491 Cab
          89 M3
          89 944 T

          What can I say,
          I love wide fenders!


          • #6
            Re: E30 M3
            But it is not the best E30 to drive. All those sexy augmentations weigh the car down, like silicone DDs giving a woman back problems.
            320is is the 'most Rennsport version of the E30'
            I find these claims dubious at best. I realize you're trying to sell a rare car, but I thought a reality check was in order here. On the street, a lighter chassis with an S14 is fun (ie M2 conversions) but on a track or at speed the M3 is the better car (brakes, front suspension geometry, aero, extra displacement). GLWS
            Last edited by blyguy; 03-17-2014, 11:57 AM.


            • #7
              Hi, I've had an e30m3 and EVO2 and the 320is is a better handling car, because it weighs 242 pounds less. The suspension improvements on an m3 are minimal and don't come close to offsetting the added weight. On tract the aero might be an advantage. But on the road, the 320is is more nibble and brakes just as well, given it has 325i brakes and hundreds of pounds less mass to convert to heat.


              • #8
                If your going to try to sell a car on this site full of E30M3 enthusiasts I would recommend a bit more candor. Your very long explanation of why your single car is better than our M3's is very negative in my eyes. I happen to agree with blyguy 110%, BUT if your trying to sell a car or anything else you should have a fair amount of pictures indicating the condition and actual state of the actual car...... Articles are great, but we have tons of those here. You want the dough, show me why it deserves it!

                1988 Diamantschwarz

                "The original M3 is utterly brilliant in ways the people at M have either forgotten about or choose to ignore."


                • #9
                  Candor? It's the only language I speak. I love M3s . I have and continue to own several. I love the looks and the way they drive. But I like the way the 320is drives better. What it comes down to is what is more important to you as a driver, flares or 242 pounds of weight. Sometimes I want a car that makes me turn around in the parking lot and stare. Sometimes I want an s14 four door, that corners even better. After driving the 2 liter, 2.3 and 2.5, I'd want either the 2 or 2.5. The 2 revs deliciously and the 2.5 pulls magnificently. It's not either or, it's about choice and collectibility. I thought I would have to get an e36 to find a 4 door m3, but I was wrong. It's the 320is. I am only selling it to buy an even more special m3 I recently discovered.


                  • #10
                    You are also wrong about it being the only one in the US. I know for a fact there is one in the Miami, FL area. Gentleman brought it in after being stationed in Camp Darby in the early 90's. He's not much of a car enthusiast but won't sell it either.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by robofc View Post

                      The US M3 was 2865 pounds and the 320is was only 2623 pounds. So the 320is weighs an astonishing 242 pounds less. This means that the 320is has 7.3 percent better power to weight and only suffers only a de minimis 0.4 percent drop in torque to weight. This weight difference is about the same as between a Porsche 964 and 964RS, making the 320is the most Rennsport version of the E30.
                      I'm curious where you're getting your information regarding the weight of the M3. My info (Walton, 3 Series Enthusiasts Companion) states that the Euro M3 weighed 2640lbs and the US version weighed 2735lbs (with differences related to the addition of air conditioning, electric windows, catalyst exhaust, etc. for the US version). Only pointing this out because you seem to be placing a huge emphasis on the "astonishing" difference in weight between the US M3 and 320is (we see that there's negligible difference between the weight of the Euro M3 and the 320is). Also, if your 320is has been altered to meet the US emissions requirements, it is probably heavier than the number you quoted.

                      Also, while I appreciate the uniqueness of the 320is, you seem to be downplaying all of the, purpose driven, exterior modifications that distinguish the M3 from the standard E30 (e.g., wider track, raised rear trunk lid and functional spoiler, enlarged (slightly tilted) rear window, bonded front and rear window, etc. All contributing to a lower drag coefficient.). These modifications were made to improve the M3's performance on a track but are not mentioned in your comparison of the 320is to the M3.

                      I should add that I applaud your enthusiasm for your car but we all appreciate our cars and many (probably most) of us would respectfully disagree with your assertion that the 320is is better.

                      Last edited by ///M3 Terr; 03-19-2014, 12:01 AM.


                      • #12
                        still it's a very nice car. And 4 doors is great for travel with the family.
                        saying that, the price is the same as an M3 so it may be a bit too expensive

                        good luck with the sale and tx for all the info on the 320is


                        • #13
                          Hi. Car has been sold. Thanks