At the end of the seventies, the BMW E21 was the preferred car of many enthusiasts. The version that topped the list was the BMW 323i, the car with which the Bavarians crowned the work of the E1978 generation from 21. We drove with a new example, delivered in the Netherlands, from the private collection of Gerard Kramer, and enjoyed it to the fullest.
This BMW, painted in Polaris Silber, has been on the retina for a long time, and during a beautiful Saturday it was finally there. The example of the Kramer family is a jewel of a car, completely original, economical in the options and equipped with almost all documentation. In addition, it dates from its first year of construction, 1978. And the BMW 323i is immediately recognizable. Forget the logos, look at the car diagonally from behind and two protruding exhaust pipes smile at you. They tell you that a ride with the wannahave from that series is waiting for you. This raises expectations and we can already tell you: these will be fully met.
Typical BMW interior
The interior is typical BMW from those years. It's sporty business, as if nothing should distract from what really matters: driving. Before you do that, it is important to delve into the structure of the controls, but you will get there. The seat is great, but it sinks quite deep into the interior and clamps your hands to determine the correct position on the fine steering wheel, which is bent towards you, as it were. The right position in the BMW 323i is quickly found, especially after the backrest moves back a little. And then the party can begin.
Beautiful development of torque and power
This BMW 323i leaves an unimaginable amount of goosebumps on the arms. The silky smooth six-cylinder M20B23 engine (2316 cc, Bosch K-Jetronic) reveals balance, a beautiful and nicely spread out torque, a ragrin Reihen-Sechs sound and still a lot of potential to quickly exceed 100 kilometers per hour. In the latter case, you don't even have to work very hard to reach that speed, because the engine reacts balanced but powerfully to a gradual downward movement of the accelerator pedal. The power development (143 DIN hp) goes very well together with the strong entering torque. That only reaches its peak of 190 Nm at 4500 rpm, but a value of 125 Nm at 1500 rpm leaves nothing to be desired in terms of clarity. The finely overlapping four-speed gearbox can handle it all with ease, although a five-speed gearbox would certainly not have looked out of place in this formidable BMW, which was also available with a three-speed automatic transmission.
Comfortable chassis, certainly 'straight ahead'
A glory of a power source, which appears balanced and powerful and fits very well with that blessed chassis. It bounces in and out wonderfully comfortably. And it dampens well unnoticed. That part is also top notch, but be careful: the BMW 323i doesn't like corners at the sharpest of cuts. The chance of a breakout is not for the cat thanks to the considerable power on the rear wheels at high speeds. We know that. We don't even try, also because we have the car on loan. We do take a few nice corners at a slightly higher speed. The BMW keeps its course, but subconsciously you feel a light warning coming from the rear.
Sought after masterpiece
This is a wonderful touring car, which shows its qualities unequivocally, especially on the Langstrecke, you can feel that immediately. And what you also feel is the combination of steering, clutching, shifting and deceleration. Not a penny of pain, plenty of communication and that for a compact executive from 1978. It says everything about how BMW used to be able to let its cars roll off the production line. And the ride with the BMW 323i from the private collection of the Kramer family makes it clear why this was the car you had to have if you were fully in the speed of the nations. He made careers. And placed others in the shadows. What a masterpiece. What an impressively good car this Bavarian is. Still.
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Photos: Bart Spijker
Thanks to: Jannie, Gerard and Anne Kramer