Last month’s incredibly rare E36 M3 sedan was a true unicorn, but sometimes lightning strikes twice. Another exceptionally rare BMW sedan just happened to show up at my doorstep this month: a 1987 325i sedan with some very special kit.
The year 1987 was an important one in the E30-generation 3 Series timeline: It was the first year of the 325i, powered by the six-cylinder M20B25 “i” engine. It was also the first year of the 325iS, which added sporty bits like an M-Tech I steering wheel, sport seats, an aggressive front valance, a rear spoiler, and a limited-slip differential.
This was a problem if you needed four doors, since the 325iS only came as a coupe. But BMW didn’t totally neglect the four-door segment of the market; for the launch year of the 325i, many sedans were built with virtually everything in the options catalog, which resulted in the highly optioned 1987 325i sedan.
This 1987 325i sedan was delivered in Delphin Grey Metallic over black leather and originally optioned with the thirteen-button on-board computer, premium sound, rear headrests, the fold-down rear armrest, and the limited-slip differential. Outside of the enclaves of E30 nerddom, this option list might not seem that exceptional, but as an E30 nerd, I can assure you that it is! The rear headrests alone are virtually exclusive to the 1987 model year in the U.S. market.
I’ve always thought the highly-optioned 1987 325i sedans were some of the most special E30s (this is my third one, and they have all been Delphin Grey). When this one turned up at my doorstep, I couldn’t turn it down.
The thing that makes this one a true unicorn are the added bits and accessories. Starting with the outside, the large U.S. “impact” bumpers were exchanged for a set of sleek Euro bumpers. Mounted underneath was a genuine BMW M-Tech I body kit, including the larger rear spoiler—in fact, a complete M-Tech I kit is itself a unicorn piece.
There are few better E30s than an early car with chrome Euro bumpers and an M-Tech I kit. The mirror chrome of the bumpers ties perfectly into the early chrome lower trim strips and window trim—especially over Delphin Grey paint. Euro grilles and yellow “Frenchie” Hella “smiley” projector headlights with city lights finish the Euro motif, while genuine sixteen-inch AC Schnitzer wheels add to the stance. The cost of parts I just rattled off alone—if you could find them—easily totals more than some complete E30s that I have sold.
Inside, black leather sport seats and an M-Tech I steering wheel have supplemented the items missing from a 325i sedan. The front seats were recovered prior to their installation, which along with soft rear-seat leather and a crack-free dashboard, give a lush feel to the interior—uncommon for cars that have lived in our dry Colorado climate. For tactile improvements, the steering rack was replaced with an E46 ZHP steering rack and the shifter with a UUC short-shifter with a Condor shift knob. The drivetrain was left stock, but Koni Yellow shocks, paired with H&R springs, and a Strömung exhaust liven things up once you get under
I had an errand to run and immediately hopped into my new E30 for a rip. The resounding impression I got was just how nice a total package it was. Most E30s have some nuance that must be tolerated, a rattle here or an annoyance there. This one was solid, smooth, and quiet—until you didn’t want it to be. The ZHP steering rack was a vast improvement over the stock four-turn-lock-to-lock tugboat E30 steering rack, and the shifting was simply delightful: Turn in, roll on, set your apex, and smile—in an E30, it really is that simple. I’ve probably driven E30s more than any other type of car over the years, but even against that backdrop, this one was an extraordinary sedan.
After I tucked it in the hangar, the Delphin Grey was particularly glossy in the filtered light. Inspired by the moment, I posted a picture on Instagram. Shortly after that, the previous builder of the car reached out and gave me the back story. Sebastian Speier lived in New York City. Before him, the car lived in New Jersey and Maryland. That explained the suppleness of the leather and the crack-free dashboard, but the lack of corrosion was exceptional for an East Coast car. It was clear that this E30 had always been precious to its owners.
Speier located the Euro bits and M-Tech I kit in Lithuania and had them painted to match. He also added many of the other upgrades, building the E30 to augment a Porsche 930 Turbo in his collection. When the car showed up at my doorstep, we had never met, or even spoken in person, but it didn’t matter, because he had built the perfect E30 sedan.
This reminded me of why I love the E30 community. Similar to aviation, another E30 owner is just a new friend you haven’t met yet.—Alex McCulloch.
[Photos by Peter Thompson.]