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NO RESERVE! 1997 BMW 323i

No Reserve!


﹒Only 28k miles from new with service history
﹒Excellent condition inside and out
﹒Recently serviced with full MOT

The Background

First introduced in 1990, the third iteration of BMW’s core-seller 3 series range, known by its internal model designation E36, was a significant departure from its predecessors being considerably larger, heavier and with more technology. It was met with some resistance from the existing fan base but proved a hit with the public at large, growing sales significantly. Available in saloon, coupe, estate (Touring) and later hatchback (Compact) formats, all aside from the Compact used multi-link rear suspension which helped to tame some of the more wayward handling characteristics of earlier versions. This all round greater usability pushed the compact executive model further into the mainstream and set the core template for the model that is still on sale today.

As with the outgoing E30 model, the highlight of the engines on offer were the petrol straight sixes, the 320i and 325i, in the E36 both based on the then-new M50 design. In 1993 variable valve timing (VANOS in BMW speak) was introduced and then from 1995, BMW introduced a new M52 engine in three sizes: 2, 2.5 and 2.8 litres. Now initially, the petrol and diesel engines were named strictly in accordance with their capacity and fueling so a 320i had a 2 litre engine fuel injected petrol engine and the 325td was a turbodiesel displacing 2.5 litres. In order to slot the additional engine size into the range, BMW reintroduced an old name plate from the eighties, 323i, to denote the 2.5 litre version. This caused some controversy amongst enthusiasts and commentators but BMW were unapologetic and have never looked back, sticking with the same approach ever since (both for the alignment of names with engine capacities, and for being unapologetic, some would say).

The 2494cc 323i was good for 170bhp and 140 mph and was offered with manual and automatic boxes, both with 5 gears. It won praise for its characteristic creamy six cylinder rasp, driver-focused interior and sporty drive. 

The E36 was ultimately succeeded by the (again) larger and heavier E46 model in late 1997 which continued the maturing process for the 3 series.

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The History

Still bearing the local dealer’s sticker in the rear window, this car has been in the Wilmslow area from new. Its second owner was a businesswoman who spent much of her time out of the country and consequently her car spent most of its time in dry storage, as the mileage and condition will attest. 

It has been serviced based on the on-board computer recommendations, all at the supplying dealer up to 2009. The third owner moved it on quickly to the current seller who has completed a recent service and will supply a fresh MOT.

The car is completely original save for some paint on the nearside front arch which is believed to be in order to address a corrosion issue highlighted as an advisory on the 2016 MOT.

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The Paperwork

Accompanying the car is the original set of manuals contained in the genuine BMW leather folder. The service records have been stamped by the supplying dealer, including the pre-delivery inspection.

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The Interior

The condition of the interior can genuinely be described as immaculate. Aside from the Sony replacement stereo (the original Pioneer unit is also with the car), there’s little to distinguish its appearance from how it would have looked when new. The grey velour upholstery shows no signs of wear or ageing with no rips or tears and the steering wheel, dashboard, centre console and armrest are unmarked. The dashboard displays are all fully functional with no missing pixels. The rear seats appear to be unused as the net pockets on the back of the front seats show no signs of contact or use.

All of the buttons and switches are fully functional, including the original BMW alarm system. The bootlid-mounted toolkit appears untouched as does the spare wheel and warning triangle. Even the glovebox rechargeable torch is still in place. Both keys are included, each with their own alarm fob, and a torch in the master key.

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The Exterior 

Here is a car whose condition is reflective of a great deal of time spent indoors. When left in the sun, the indicators and brake lights on an E36 tend to fade but here they look as good as new. The bodywork is in great shape, save for a few small dings on the bonnet, no doubt as a result of being in a domestic garage. As noted in the history, the car has had some paint on the offside front wing but it’s only really noticeable if you know that it’s been done. There are also some scratches on the offside rear arch and the rear bumper rubbing strip shows some marks. The leading edge of the bonnet shows a few stone chips. The underside is very solid, including the exhaust. All four wheels are original and show some kerbing and minor marks but all have good tread depth on the tyres. With a small amount of work it could be in concours condition.

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The Mechanicals 

Sporting a fresh valet, the engine bay looks like it did the day it rolled out of the factory. The car is beautiful to drive, with the auto box changing very smoothly and also responding as expected in its sport, snow and economy modes. It pulls well with the expected straight six growl and there are no untoward noises from the suspension. The engine has the great advantage of not having a timing belt – it’s chain driven, and should be good for the life of the engine, of which there should be plenty remaining, given its very limited mileage to date.

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The Appeal

Many BMWs of this vintage have been through a ‘banger’ phase, where the value put them in reach of those who could not necessarily afford to maintain them. Numerous models have been sacrificed to aspiring drifters and less than careful owners. Thankfully, during this period, this example was locked away while the market recognised its value as a modern classic. E36’s in original condition are now increasingly rare and are rising in value and this one this is one of the finest examples of an E36 that you will see today.

It’s clearly led a pampered life, which is great news for the next owner. While it could make an interesting daily driver, to a marque enthusiast this also presents an opportunity to acquire a prime example of one of BMW’s core models with a six cylinder motor before prices go the way of the earlier E30 models as they surely will in time. Yes, they were sold in greater numbers, but they are also suffering significant attrition. But whether pressed into regular service or not, this should prove a very satisfying car to own and if price trends continue in their current direction, depreciation won’t factor heavily in the ownership costs.

So whether you’re looking for an interesting modern classic to daily or a BMW fan with an eye on preserving some of its heritage, this could be the car for you. Understated in appearance but capable of providing proper driving thrills on the open road, it should be good for many more years of enjoyment.

** Please note the pictures in this listing have been provided to us by the seller **

Notice to bidders

Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.

As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the sellers discretion.

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1997
  • Make BMW
  • Model 323i
  • Colour Silver
  • Odometer 28,522 Miles
  • Engine size 2494
  • Location Lancashire
Bidding history
37 bids
  • ma•••• £3,700 24/01/21
  • ka•••• £3,600 24/01/21
  • Cl•••• £3,500 24/01/21
  • Cl•••• £3,400 23/01/21
  • pa•••• £3,300 23/01/21
  • pa•••• £3,200 23/01/21
  • Cl•••• £3,100 23/01/21
  • pa•••• £3,000 21/01/21
  • Ir•••• £2,900 21/01/21
  • Ir•••• £2,800 21/01/21

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