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1987 E30 BMW 325is 5-Speed Very Original Time Capsule

1987 BMW 3-Series 2 Door

Condition: Used
Make: BMW
Model: 3-Series
SubModel: is (sport)
Type: Coupe
Trim: 2 Door
Year: 1987
Mileage: 140,404
VIN: WBAAA1302h2322753
Color: Red
Engine: 2.5L Inline 6 cyl
Cylinders: 6
Fuel: Gasoline
Transmission: Manual
Drive type: RWD
Interior color: Tan
Safety: Anti-Lock Brakes
Vehicle Title: Clear
Item location: West Newton, Massachusetts, United States
Air Conditioning, Cruise Control, Power Locks, Power Windows
Cassette Player, Leather Seats, Sunroof

Description for BMW 3-Series 1987

1987 BMW E30 325is 5-SpeedVery Original, Not Cut Up, Stanced, or Boy-RaceredNearly Rust Free (one very small rust area at the lower front corner of the left front fender)Pretty Shiny Zinnoberrot PaintReconditionedPearl BeigeLeather Sport Seats140k MilesRuns Great106 Photos -- You Will Know What You Are Buying
It's-a Vahry Nahce
Hi. My name is Rob Siegel. For 30 years, I've written the column "The Hack Mechanic" for BMW CCA Roundel Magazine. That doesn't mean I know more than you do, but it does mean you can trust me to tell you everything I know about this car.


This 1987 BMW E30 325is is very original, it has not been cut up or boy-racered, the Zinnoberrot paint is pretty and shiny, the Pearl Beige interior is in excellent condition, the car is very nearly rust free (it's got one very small rust area the the lower front corner of the left front fender, well-photographed below), and mechanically there is nothing obviously wrong with it. It runs great. It is not a perfect concours-quality car, but it is in very good to excellent condition, and it gets smiles, waves, and thumbs up wherever it is driven. You should buy it. E30 guys will think you're a genius. Women will dig you. If you're a woman, E30 guys will dig you. Actually, all guys will dig you. Actually, all guys already dig you.

I'll stop now.


I bought the car in September 2014 from a professional mechanic in Rutland VT. He said that it was his wife’s car, that they were the second owners, that they’d owned it for 17 years, and that were selling it because she wasn’t driving it and garage space had become dear. When I saw it advertised, I called and asked the seller about rust, and he said it had none. I said “come on, don’t kid a kidder.” He said “really. I’m a pro. I just had it up on the lift. I’ll put it up so you can look at it yourself.” He also said the interior was very good, with no rips in the seats and no dash cracks. I ran a CarFax on it and it came up clean. I ran BMW VIN decoder on it and it verified it as a 325is, showing the limited slip, M Sports suspension, high-bolstered sport seats, three-spoke M steering wheel, BBS basketweave wheels, and "is"-specific front and rear spoiler. So I immediately drove up to Rutland to look at it. When I got there, true to the seller’s word, the car was on a lift, I inspected the undercarriage, and I could not find a rust hole anywhere on it (more on this below). And, as promised, the interior had a crack-free dash and rip-free seats, though the driver's seat did have a few cracks that had worn all the way through. I bought it on the spot. I’ve addressed a few minor mechanical issues and freshened up the seats, but I’ve put less than 400 miles on the car since buying it, and most of that has been shuttling it between storage spaces.

An Intact Time Capsule E30 325is

Everyone knows E30 M3s have gone nuts, price-wise. The "is" is the next best thing. And this car really does appear to be an unmolested time-capsule 1987 325is with its “is” bits intact; the “is” specific air dam, brake ducts, oil cooler, and rear spoiler are all there. When I bought it, one brake duct was missing. They’re rare as hen’s teeth. I found one in middle America on Craigslist, and had to throw money at the seller to get him to ship it to me. I assume from the fact that the car is showing a fair amount of space above the tires and below the wheel arches that its suspension is original and it has not been “stanced,” but I haven’t pulled apart the front struts to check. The car still has the original BMW Premium Sound system installed, and it works, though it has some light intermittent popping. The car even has the original BMW mudflaps on it.

It’s been pointed out to me that the rear spoiler on the car is black, whereas it should be keyed to the body color. I’m not sure what to make of that. Other people have said that the paint on the spoiler tends to crack with age and look bad. It’s possible the paint on the spoiler failed, and someone replaced it with an unpainted one. I planned to repaint the spoiler to remove any questions, but haven’t gotten around to it.

Paint and Body

The Zinnoberrot paint is pretty and shiny. Before the photographs were taken, I simply washed the car. It could use a more thorough exterior cleaning and would look even better. The gold pinstriping is fully intact. There are only a handful of very minor nicks and scratches. I believe the paint to be original, but I am not a body guy and can’t be 100% certain. There is a little bit of overspray on some sections under the front of the car like the oil cooler. Since the Carfax is clean and the VIN tags on the body panels match the VIN of the car, perhaps the air dam was repaired or replaced at one point and repainted in place, but that’s just a guess.

Rust-wise, for the 2 1/2 years I owned it, I could not find a rust hole anywhere on the car. All I saw was a very tiny amount of surface rust on the front corners of the right and left rocker panels (they're actually the lower portions of the front fenders that are aligned with the rocker panels) where the sunroof drains come through, and one small area on the front left rocker panel where a small section of the gravel guard on the seam of the rocker panel is puckering (which is so much more interesting and less value-loaded a word than "blistering"). I have poked in the puckered area with a small awl and hit solid metal; the awl did not go through.

Upon reading the car for sale, I checked these areas more carefully, and I now see that the very front lower corner of the left front fender has a small area where the rust is a little more than just surface rust. Fortunately it is very small and very localized. These spots are all pictured and described in detail in the photographs below. Obviously, I wish this wasn't there, but if this is the only area on the body that I need to call attention to, it's really very good.

In addition to the body, there is some amount of corrosion on the ungalvanized metal components on the underside of the car (springs, trailing arms, differential, hose clamps, etc), as there is with any real-world car. There are a also a few nicks and scrapes on the exposed aluminum section of the rear bumper.


When I bought the car, although the driver’s seat had no exposed foam, the bolsters were cracking and the cracks had worn through, creating small holes in two places. Since then, the front seats were rejuvenated by replacing the bolsters on the driver’s seat and dyeing both seats and headrests back to the original Pearl Beige color. They look spectacular, though the Pearl Beige is very slightly lighter than the seat backs, the rear seat, and the door pulls, which have darkened slightly with age.

The dashboard has no cracks but does have one section where the vinyl is bulging, as shown below.

The headliner and door cards are both excellent. The door cards have not been cut for speakers.

Recent Repairs

When I got the car, I lightly sorted it out. I changed all the fluids, using Redline products in the transmission and differential. I prophylactically replaced the timing belt and water pump last winter. They were fine. I did them anyway. I replaced the Motronic cap and rotor at the same time. After I began driving the car, I found that the clutch pedal would lose pressure. I replaced the clutch slave, and the problem has not returned. I also replaced a torn boot on the steering rack.

I rejuvenated the air conditioning, replacing the dead compressor with a good used one, removing the evaporator and replacing the expansion valve with a new one, flushing out the evaporator, the condenser, and all lines and hoses, installing a new receiver-dryer, and recharging with R12. It appeared to be leak-free and blew cold when I ran it last summer. I believe that it still is, but it’s winter and it’s difficult to tell.

There were some issues with the power window switches that I fixed. The gauge face plate was cracked; I replaced it with an uncracked one. I prettied up the car slightly by replacing the faded Roundels on the hood, trunk, and wheels.

Mechanical Condition

Basically, it's all there, it all works, all the lights, power windows and sunroof, even the stereo. It starts right up, idles fine, drives straight, and pulls hard. It's clear from the photos that there hasn't been any suspension work in a long time, but that's part of the originality. At least it isn't loaded up with urethane and squeaking. The underside of the engine is not eat-off-it clean by any means, and there is dirt accumulation at the bottom of the transmission (as there is with every vintage BMW I've ever owned), but the car does not leave fluid beneath it.

The title shows 140,045 miles when I bought the car. I’ve put maybe 350 miles on it, and that’s mainly been shuffling the car between the several storage spaces I have. Although I am not portraying this car as fully sorted (I have not, for example, prophylactically replaced the radiator, fuel pump, alternator, etc), I would have no qualms about jumping in the car and driving it anywhere. It's a joy to drive. I hate to sell it, but I have too many cars, and it's time.

Needs and Quirks

Not much. As I mentioned above, the rubber boot around the left ball joint is starting to split.When you tap the brake pedal, whether standing still or driving,, the oil light in the service panel in front of the sunroof goes on. The blower fan chirps just a little bit at certain speeds until it's been run for a while. The BMW Premium Sound system works, though it has a little bit of intermittent popping, the power antenna makes some noise at the beginning and end of its extent, the radio light stays on even with the key off, and the radio code needs to be re-entered after the ignition key has been cycled. And, honestly, who's going to tell you these things but me? That's it. That's everything I'm aware of.

Purchase, Shipping, etc

The car is registered and insured. I have a clear Massachusetts title in my name. It is currently at my house in West Newton, MA. Inspection and test drives are welcome.

Purchase either by bank check, money order, or cash at the time of pick up. Please realize, though, that the surest way to piss me off in this world is to try and bargain me down after the sale. The car is very well photographed and described in the auction. I assure you that if you try this, I will send you home empty-handed.

There are, of course, no guarantees, but I see no reason the car couldn't be driven home. If you prefer to have it shipped, I will of course be available to meet the transport. I live on a small street that big carriers can't get down, but I've had no problem meeting them around the block.


I've posted two videos, one of a walk-around of the car, and another of a short drive. eBay is sometimes funny with links to videos, so if they don't work, search youtube for "Rob Siegel 1987 BMW 325is."

Note that these videos were shot before I rejuvenated the sport seats. Although I've edited out the close-ups of the unrepaired driver's seat, you may still see short glances of it.

Walk-around video of car

In-car video of short drive

Detailed Pics

As with the videos, the exterior pics were shot before the seats were rejuvenated and re-installed, so there might be short glances of the old seats. After the seats were re-installed, the weather turned bad in Boston, so the shots of the redone seats in the car were taken in my garage.

There is descriptive text interspersed between some of the pics, so don't scroll too quickly.

Here are shots of the interior, particularly the rejuvenated sport seats. The cracked leather bolsters on the driver's seat were replaced, and both the driver and passenger seats and their headrests were dyed back to the original Pearl Beige color.

This shot shows the bulge in the dash caused by localized delamination of the vinyl. You can't really see it well here, but it shows up very well in the video of the walk-around of the car.

The carpets are in very good to excellent condition.

The trunk is very original and complete, and clean except for the stain on the right side of the floor panel:

Here are photos of the engine compartment and of the VIN tags on the body panels. The first shot is documentation that the timing belt and water pump were replaced.

Rocker panels and undersides of doors:

This is the "puckered" spot in the gravel guard at the seam of the left rocker. As I said, I have poked it and all I feel is solid metal. I think a grinder would clean it up, but that's just an opinion.

These photos show the very minor surface rust at the sunroof drain at the front corner of the right rocker panel. The close-up and the flash makes it look worse than it is. It's almost nothing.

Below are photos of the rust at the sunroof drain at the front corner of the left rocker panel. This is the only spot of any real concern I have found on the car. The very front corner has an area that's more than just trivial surface rust. To orient you, there are two oval drain holes that are supposed to be there, and, to the left of them, a notch that isn't supposed to be there. The rust around the two oval drain holes is minor surface rust. the close-up and the flash makes it look worse than it is.

This is a slightly more forward-positioned shot of the same location, the very front corner, from underneath. One of the drain holes on the right, and to the left of it, you can see how there is a small notch eaten into the very front lower corner. The total end-to-end length of this is about 3/4", about the diameter of a penny. You can also see the area of surface rust on the fender corner and edge above the notch. Obviously I would prefer that this wasn't there, and I could call the car "rust free," but I hope you admit that, if this is the worst rust on the car, it's incredibly good. If I were going to keep the car, I'd just snip off the protruding edge of the notch, grind the rust at the corner, treat it with rust inhibitor, and keep the car dry, but the course of action is best left to the next owner.

This is shot from underneath the car, photographing this same location from the back. The panel behind the corner with the rust appears to have only some minor surface rust.

These are the brake ducts and the "is"-specific oil cooler.

These are shots of the remarkably clean undercarriage.

This is the bottom of the engine, the transmission, and the running gear under the car. You can see where I replaced a boot on the steering rack. The dirt on the transmission body and bell housing both appear to be historical. That is, it's greasy and dirty but it doesn't seem to be actively wet and oily. I have driven the car several times the 50 miles back and forth to one of the storage areas. I think that, if there were, for example, a rear main seal leak, it would be actively wet, and it's not.

These are shots of the bushings on the car. Note that the brand-new nut on the right tie rod is there because I had to unbolt the tie rod to replace the boot on the steering rack.

Lastly, these are the screen shots of the VIN decoder, verifying that the car has the "is" options.