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Thread: What makes you keep the E21

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    My Cars

    What makes you keep the E21

    Last night I went through the random E21 pics thread.

    I asked myself what about the E21 has me still going.

    My answer: It's the European Hachiroku(AE86/Toyota Corolla 1986) before it became popular(Inital D) that to me is not just another old car.

    There is a sea of better & faster cars out in the world, but nothing can replace an E21 to me. Not when I go for weekend drives. Not when other car enthusiasts hand me the keys to drive thier sport car. I just can't change the fact that I smile when I get into my E21.

    I have had my share of David vs. Goliath moments with the E21. Not even in my dreams I thought that an E21 could drive in such a manner. Reality can be stranger than fiction on a tight canyon road in the middle of nowhere.

    Five E21's and 15 years later, I'm not stopping anytime soon.


    The driver who finds thier way by moonlight dawns before the rest of the world.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    My Cars
    Something about the way it drives. I don't know if I can put my finger on it, but even when it was slower than molasses, I couldn't let it go. It's spent most of it's life apart or not running, and I've thought of selling it.

    But then it runs, I drive it, and that magic happens.

    It feels like there's forever something that's not quite right, keeps it from running for periods long enough to drive it more than wrench it, and I hope to get it to the point where it's mostly driving it, but, we'll see.

    20 years in to it, the temperamental witch still has me hooked. Maddening yet thrilling.

    Hoping to get it to this months auto-x. The car is on the mend, the wife is on the mend, Lord willing. If it does well enough, I might start building a little warmer 2.0 motor for it, but, I'm getting way ahead of myself. I'd like to get most of an auto-x season on it, just enjoy it for a bit.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Mill Creekish WA
    My Cars
    97 M3/4/5 81 E21 72 Bav
    I get to store it at my moms so it doesn't take up any space. I wish I had enough garage height to fit a 4 post lift, then I'd have it at home.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    San Jose, California
    My Cars
    E21 320i, E30 325i
    Well said Cruz. I think for me it is nostalgia and when I get in my E21 to drive it is just a better experience. I also get a huge smile on my face.

    I've thought about my E21 story before but never written it all down. My dad had an E21 in the driveway that he bought off his neighbor years before I can remember. When I was old enough to start driving that E21 became my first car. But I didn't know what E21 was at the time, it was just my BMW 320i. My dad was a mechanic but not "BMW guy" so it was just random chance that he had that extra car at that time when I was at the right age to start driving. It could have been any other car make or model but this is what I got lucky with.

    At first I hated my E21, it was always having issues starting, couldn't get it running right, slow, and breaking down. I could not wait to save up enough money to buy something newer and more reliable. In the meantime I would always Google for how to fix the current issue and ended up on this forum, and it helped that this place was a lot more active 15 years ago. The more I worked on the car with my dad and we fixed all the mechanical issues to make it more reliable was fun and a lot of learning. Then I took it the extra step and started modifying. Recaro seats. Lowered springs / shocks, and then fixing the rear camber with adjustable plates. 80mm AFM. Relocate the battery to trunk. This was around the Cash4Clunkers years and the junkyards were full of E21s.

    Then in 2011 I went to my first SoCal Vintage BMW show and met a lot of people from here in real life. That is what made it feel like a community. I remember that was the year that Jimbo organized taking a picture with all the E21s along the back wall. Here is a pic from that:
    IMG_0182.jpg IMG_0187.jpg IMG_0176.jpg

    I moved away from home for work almost 10 years ago, but keep the E21 at my dad's place. So whenever I go visit that is the car I drive around my hometown and the nostalgia always comes back. It also runs and drives a lot better than before.
    '81 E21 320i / '90 E30 325i / '̶9̶2̶ ̶E̶3̶4̶ ̶5̶2̶5̶i̶t (sold) / '15 Toyota XW30 / '̶̶8̶0̶ ̶E̶2̶1̶ ̶3̶2̶0̶i̶A̶ (sold)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    My Cars
    1981 BMW 320I
    Amarino, great pictures from 2011. I thought we had a good crowd this year, but a lot more back then.
    My e21 is really about nostalgia for me, I bought my first e21 off the BMW used car lot in 1984 with less than 10,000 miles. I wasn't a fan of the e30's when they came out so I settled for a slightly used e21. I drove it everywhere, ski trips, the desert, the beach, up and down the coast of California. We took it on our honeymoon to Tahoe, Napa, and San Francisco.
    I sold it when the kid came along it had about 120,000 miles and had an electrical problem so it wasn't real reliable and you couldn't Google solutions or reach out to to a forum for help. Mechanics charged premium prices and they milked the BMW crowd for what they were worth.
    I always regretted selling that car, thirty years later I found myself with time and a few extra bucks and found a pretty rust free version of my first e21. I've really enjoyed getting it cleaned up and running well. I appreciate all the help from the forum, I have found everyone's input and the FAQ's to be invaluable Still more to do but its great fun to drive, probably will keep it forever.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Mercer Island, WA
    My Cars
    88 325iC,'11ML350,'84RX7
    I have had 8 of them over the years and am without at the moment. Reading this thread isnít helpful! Haha. We all obviously enjoy these great little cars

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Sacramento, California
    My Cars
    1980 BMW 320i E21 M10B18


    Its like a good habit you keep doing it.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2020
    My Cars
    82í 323i

    What makes you keep the E21

    Some of you guysí stories are amazing. Full of nostalgia and memories from your younger years. Iím 38, and I have had my e21 for 4 years now. Unlike many of you, my dad never had one nor I grew up desiring bmws in general. For me, itís always been the idea of always having to tinker with something to make it better. I worry some times when my build is ďfinishedĒ but then I remembered that thereís always a next project in mind. I enjoy the car when itís running but most importantly i enjoy it with my youngest son. Heís 8, so lots of Ice cream runs, go to the park, car meets and random places that this car takes us. For me, itís all about the memories I am creating. Sure, I could sell it and get something else and also build memories but itís hard to do so when you have out so much love and effort into something. If I ever sell it, I feel like I would be selling some of those memories along with the car.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Ceaston85; 04-07-2024 at 11:17 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    My Cars
    1980 E21 M10
    My history of BMWs started as a young child visiting Yugoslavia with my parents in the early 70's. Sitting in the backseat of this gorgeous BMW, all I remember is that huge wooden steering wheel with the BMW logo in the middle of it. A decade later it was my turn to drive one...

    Back in 1986, I became the second owner of an absolute mint condition 1980 E21. When I first got it, it was my daily driver but as it aged beautifully, it turned into a classic. For that reason, I started winter storing it during the last 25 years. As the vehicle embarks on its 44 th year, I can comfortably state the vehicle still maintains its mint condition status. It's taken me to college, work and to the sunset of my career.

    Mechanically the vehicle is stock but at the beginning of my ownership I added 13 inch gold MSW rims, Zender side skirts and front spoiler, Hella rear spoiler and Kamei side rear skirts. To tie the Kamei side rear skirts to the back, my Dad crafted a small metal rear end skirt. With all these components nicely painted, everything tied so nicely together and I will forever be grateful to Dad for making it happen. When I lost my Dad a few years ago, there was no doubt which vehicle was going to transport his ashes to his final resting spot.

    So aside from sentimental reasons, there is zero reason to unload it. It has been the car of my life. I still enjoy driving it (and talking to it). He's been great to me and I have been great to him. I plan to keep it indefinitely and if it outlasts me, it's going to my nephew.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2018
    LA, CA
    My Cars
    1982 BMW 320is
    My intro to BMW’s started back in the late 70’s when my older brother bought home a ‘73 2002. I became a big fan of the early years that when I first noticed the 320i (E21), it became my dream car in junior high. Thinking back on all the cool goodies that I saw in the magazines, 15” BBS and Epsilon wheels, Kamei and Zender aerodynamics and those Recaro seats, very nostalgic. No to mention the H&B and Alpina stuff - whew. To me that was the golden era of customization. The E21 was the BMW of my generation as the 2002 was for the earlier folks. After many years I finally decided to get that adolescent dream car I promised myself.

    Fast-forward to the last 6 years, it’s been a true journey. Hunting down NLA obscure parts and figuring out how to repair something not on the repair manual sometimes has been a pain point. But fixing the car that I brought home looking tired, barely running and stopping has also been a real treat and somewhat therapeutic. There is a certain charm when driving and working on these cars, a bit of the 2002 but a bit more refined (in my opinion). It’s not a fast car but it allows me to drive spirited and have a blast with no power steering and everything manual.

    Another keen aspect is the E21 community. I have been fortunate to meet some of the forum members and exchange stories of their cars. Not to mention, the incredible support from all the online contributors of this forum with their questions, suggestions and answers. I could not have come this far without everyone’s help.
    So as stated earlier, keeping my E21 is a journey that keeps me learning and having an enjoyable time.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Austin, TX
    My Cars
    1978 323i
    I'm into it for lots of reasons...

    I like that the car is rare but many people never notice it.

    I like that there's very few truly hard-to-find parts, and even those things are manageable with a little patience (like power flag mirrors!). Some things (very few, but like a starter) are even available in-stock at local parts places.

    That the parts prices are generally affordable. The great community online. Excellent availability of "how-to" information. The lack of electronics.

    Biggest downers for me are when things get messed up after I already have fixed them (re: hail damage), or new issues that crop up after spending tons of time fixing something else (re: ticking sound in the replacement transmission after I had it checked out by a "pro").

    One of the things I enjoy the most is fixing things that have been wrong ever since I've owned the car (going on 7 years now). And meeting other local E21 owners. I met my best friend on this site after he posted looking for help with his 320is. He doesn't have the car anymore, but the friendship has lasted!


    IMG_5327 (Medium).JPG

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Omaha NE
    My Cars
    1983 BMW 320i
    I bought mine E21 for my 18 year son at the time because he didn’t like the 2001 New Beetle diesel he was driving and my 17 year daughter like it. My overall plan was to not give up my diesel Jetta to my daughter. Son gets the E21, daughter gets Bug and I keep the Jetta.

    The day after I bought the E21 and my son had driven it the night before and he said he made a mistake and asked if he could have his Bug back and ask if we could go back to the guy we bought it from. Yes it needed work on a lot of things and I probably should have fixed them before letting him drive it the night after the purchase but in the end I lost my Jetta to my daughter and the E21 became my car to drive.

    That was in 2012 and now it’s my go to car when the roads are dry vs my 1998 Silverado that I use as my daily driver. I also have a 1991 Alfa Romeo Spider that’s highly modified that I really like but it’s a chore to start since it does not have a cold start circuit and I have to set there with my foot on the throttle till it’s at 100 F on the temp gauge to get an idle speed of 850-900 rpm’s

    Once you get a E21 running right they are rock solid, just jump in and go. I have an a/f monitor and it just amazes me how rock solid mine runs in around 14.7, floor it over 3,500 rpm’s and instantly drops to the high 12’s low 13’s, light and nimble and just a joy to drive!

    No need to go fast, heck today’s mini vans would blow the doors off of it off the line.
    Last edited by msiert; 04-18-2024 at 09:42 PM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Michigan, USA
    My Cars
    E21, 04 STI, LS6 Sonoma
    What makes me keep mine?

    Maybe it's the lack of a radio and just hearing the engine hum along on a summer cruise...maybe it's the refined suspension and tire setup I've perfected to my driving style for autocross and track days along with the characteristics of my drivetrain configuration.

    Most of all though, it's the one-ness with the car and the road I feel when I sit down into the clapped out Momo corse seat and muscle the manual steering...a feeling that hasn't changed in the 15 years I've had the seat and a small steering wheel in the car. The longer I own it the more I adore the nostalgia of taking a chance on something that barely drove home and I bought for $450 in college.

    Holds its own on the track too!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2024
    My Cars
    It was in the Company of a Beautiful Soul named Jose! That moment solidified my love for e21's. I was in a bad bad way and He helped me more than I could say....
    Totally going to name my e21 in his honor!
    Last edited by DeusLoVult; 04-30-2024 at 04:31 PM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    My Cars
    E21, F22, G01
    This thread is many good stories. I've heard and read from different people that these little cars are just a joy to drive, even with the lack of horsepower. I've had my E21 for a couple of years now and it's not road worthy yet, but I am working on it as time and money allow. I wish I had a story to relate like those who've posted here, but mine is only beginning. Every time I stop and look at it in the garage, the tired Recaros, the 3-spoke wheel, the 5-spd and the old car smell, call to me. I want to drive it SO badly.
    E21, F22, G01

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    My Cars
    cts, e21, w124
    got one to daily and save a little on gas then realize i had a really special build for korman and when BMW was a BMW, its a great car still

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