BMW 316 - (1978)

The BMW E21 was the original BMW 3-Series automobile, produced from 1975 to 1983. It replaced the BMW 2002 and was succeeded by the BMW E30. Worldwide sales of the E21 topped 1.36 million, although the car was not particularly popular in the lucrative United States market.

For the driving enthusiast the pick of the crop was most certainly the 323i, a car widely credited with being the first executive-sporting car. Previously, the British motor industry had come close to cracking the formula, producing cars such as Rover's P5 (too soft for a sports car) and Triumph's Dolomite (too raw as an executive). Had they moved their designs in just the right direction they could still be producing cars today. As it stands the combination of strong build quality, straight six power and, perhaps most importantly, rear-wheel drive, proved just the ticket for thrusting young executives needing the right combination of image and involvement until they could afford a 911.


Under the direction of a new 51% percent shareholder, Herbert Quandt, BMW decided upon a replacement for their ageing 2002 (a car very reminiscent of the Dolomite, and a classic in its own right). It would serve as the entry level model in a four-pronged attack on Mercedes-Benz also consisting of the larger 5, 6, and 7-series BMWs. It became known as the now ubiquitous 3-series, and the 323i would be it's halo car. Without it, there was the distinct possibility of BMW moving from its core mission of building ultimate driving machines and in doing so alienating an existing customer base long enamoured with the charms of the smaller 2002.

Handling was not the issue for the 3 series. With independent suspension all-round, four-wheel disc brakes and superbly communicative steering this was a modern chassis in the best of teutonic tradition. What enthusiasts called out for was more power. A modern engine that had to meet the demands of a new era of traffic jams, emissions legislation and oil crises, while still providing a real incentive to just go out and drive the thing. In looking for a designer, they could scarcely have done better than to employ the services of Paul Rosche. Rosche, a BMW engineer from 1957 through to his retirement in 1999, already had such iconic engines as the 286hp 6 cylinder of the M1 and the 2litre motor of the 2002 turbo (famously, one of the most politically incorrect cars of all time) to his name. Rosche settled upon a 2.3litre straight six, the largest capacity engine that would fit in the compact engine bay, the first cylinder nestling almost beneath the dashboard. While the power it produced was more than adequate (143bhp and 145lb ft of torque) for the 1100kg car, it was the delivery that made the engine such a fantastic companion to work with. Turbine smooth and with a rich swell of torque that kept you entertained until the real fireworks began at 3600rpm, the engine delighted in being rung right out to its seemingly conservative 6500rpm redline. With a now classic BMW straight-six soundtrack, this was the engine that 

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