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Posted on 03 May 2016 by
By the time the E21 3 Series debuted in 1975, the 911 was already well on its way to grail status with fans the world over. The E21 replaced the beloved 2002 model in the BMW family, and understandably stumbled a bit in the beginning, as it had some big shoes to fill. The ’78 320i Group 5 solidified the E21′s legacy in motorsport by going undefeated in all 7 World Championship races in the 2.0-liter class that year, but smashing success in the consumer market proved elusive despite a solid coupe and convertible offering.
All that would change with the introduction of the E30 body style in 1982, which eventually spawned a four door sedan, a wagon, and some crazy flared out car called the M3. E30 3 Series have skyrocketed in value over the past 5 years, and currently give Mercedes-Benz W123s stiff competition for the title of “Official European Car Of The 1980s“.
Following the E30, BMW softened the 3 Series up a bit with the E36 generation, and subsequently sold a whole lot more of its entry level model than ever before. By the time the E36 was replaced with the E46 generation in 1998, the 3 Series was the luxury sport sedan, with Mercedes opting to move upmarket, and Audi only just getting the quality of the A4 where it needed to be in order to be in the conversation.
2002 was fittingly a record setting year for 3 Series sales, with 561,249 deliveries around the globe. The E46 M3 was a critical darling, as were the stout, but non “M” 330i ZHP, and 330ci ZHP cars. BMW enthusiasts will tell you that this was the generation that truly captured lightning in a bottle, and was the last to stay faithful to the original ethos of the model as the following generation added turbocharging, and *gasp* a V8 to the line. While they’re not wrong, they are missing the point, one that is easily driven home by this video from Donut Media.
After watching this minute and a half video, it’s hard not to feel some sort of kinship to the 3 Series, because it has always has, and barring some very, very poor decision making by BMW, always will be there. This is a well-deserved salute to an icon, and I can’t wait to see what they choose to profile next.