Price: SOLD

Mileage: 215,500 Miles

Exterior color: Lachssilber (Salmon) Silver Metallic Exterior

Interior: Silver Leather Interior

This car was destined for the junkyard when a chance encounter allowed me to save it and give it a new lease on life. Here’s the story. I specialize in E30 generation BMW 3 series. A friend was pulling into the junkyard for a wiper relay when this beauty pulled up on a flatbed tow truck. As the driver was waiting at the gate my friend ran up and said “Whoooooa, hold on!” It was way too nice to be a junkyard car and worth it for the parts if it wasn’t runner. The tow truck driver said it just needed a battery (they all say that), but knew that it needed to be flatbed towed (a good sign). It was a donation car to a local non-profit. It could only be sold wholesale, my friend referred the driver to me and I had it delivered to my shop. The non-profit got more money than the junkyard would have paid, and we saved another one from the crusher.

What a save it was! The car was purchased new in 1988 from Gebhart BMW in Boulder for $38,782.20, that’s $74,375.82 in today’s money. It was traded-in in 1989 and purchased by the second owner (another Colorado resident) who kept it until he passed away after loving and cherishing the car for the next twenty-five years. E30’s are like rescue dogs (each one has a story), they find their way to me in various states of past abuse, misuse, love or care. This one was in a sad state, but showed the signs of being correctly cared for underneath the peeling paint and torn interior. Once I got it home, I sampled the fuel (it was good), checked the oil (also good), turned the engine over by hand a few times, put a battery in it and it fired right up! Next I tested the AWD system. There was no need for jack stands, as there was a nice patch of ice in the alley (this was in January mind you). A few hooning passes up and down showed it worked perfectly. I would later gleefully confirm its operation with prolonged hooning in successive snowstorms.

The IX as It Arrived, Saved from the Junkyard Gates

Mechanical Restoration

After confirming everything worked the next order of business was a complete mechanical reset, entailing inspection of all mechanical components, common E30 issues, and corrective and preventative maintenance using only BMW or BMW Supplier fluids and parts. This included replacement of:

  • Cam Seal
  • Timing Belt
  • Timing Belt Tensioner and Spring
  • Water Pump
  • Thermostat
  • Alternator Belt
  • Power Steering Belt
  • Air Conditioner Belt
  • Valve Adjustment
  • Valve Cover Gasket
  • Coolant Flush
  • Engine Oil Change
  • Engine Oil Filter Housing Gaskets
  • Engine Oil Filter
  • Spark Plugs
  • Fuel Filter
  • Fuel Filler Line
  • Fuel Tank to Engine and Return Lines
  • Air Filter
  • Transmission Fluid
  • Transfer Case Fluid
  • Front and Rear Differential Fluids
  • Lubrication of Front Driveshaft Spline

Now it purred like a kitten and my snowstorm hooning continued. There is no better snow car than an AWD BMW E30. It drives circles around the hordes of under-steering Audi’s and Subaru’s. The Bilstein HD shocks and surprisingly descent suspension and subframe bushings probably helped too. The shifter had a little slop, which I corrected with a new shifter cup. The odometer was frozen at 214,000 miles. Based on the last registration shown on the Carfax and the component wear I estimate it probably has less than 220,000 miles, but it could have 500,000. We will never know. My guess is based on two 250,000 mile E30’s I have. I pulled the cluster and fixed the odometer gears with a correct Motometer set. Then I replaced a broken window switch and seized window circuit breaker to finish the mechanics.


  • 1. Complete Mechanical Refresh Parts
  • 2. Valve Train as I Found It
  • 3. Cam Seal
  • 4. Water Pump
  • 5. Timing Belt Tensioner
  • 6. Timing Belt
  • 7. Clean Up Timing Belt Covers
  • 8. Valve Adjustment
  • 9-12. Valve Cover Polished
  • 13. Spark Plugs
  • 14. Thermostat and Belts
  • 15-16. Distributor Cap and Rotor
  • 17-18. Oil
  • 19. Coolant
  • 20-22. Cluster Repair

Exterior Restoration

The next job was the cosmetics, which were bad. This will never be a show car, but it is a lot better than some of the ratty E30’s out there. Think of it as a guilt-free winter car, better than a beater, but definitely guilt free. On the lift I found very little rust underneath, indicative of it being a Colorado car. There is one spot behind the driver side front wheel that is mostly concealed from view by the side skirt. The hood, roof, and trunk lid had peeling paint down to the metal. I meticulously sanded, prepped, primed, base coated, clear coated, and wet sanded each surface with professional grade products. I’m a better mechanic than a painter for sure, but the mediocre result of my efforts are just “distressed” enough to match the rest of the well aged paint! I refreshed the blackwork with SEM trim paint and wheels with new Roundel stickers and wheel paint. It looks better than it did, but is definitely “guilt free.”


  • 1-3. Surface Prep
  • 4-6. Paint
  • 7. New Roundels (not pictured) and Badge

Interior Restoration

The interior was worse than the exterior. I could tell it had been passed down to children and chauffeured a large scruffy dog at some point (based on the Boulder High School sticker and copious dog hair I found). The sport seats and dash had more cracks than the Grand Canyon, but everything was there except the stock radio. You will want a new head unit, so budget accordingly. 1988 was the launch year for the US spec 325ix. They all came only in coupe form with sport seats, M-tech I steering wheel, 13-button on board computer (OBC), premium sound, and the highly coveted map light mirror. I pulled the seats, vacuumed and shampooed the interior carpet. Then I conditioned the front seats (it didn’t help so I bought seat covers) and fixed the recline mechanisms. I replaced the rear seat, which had more blown out stitches than hipster pants on a fat man, with a matching grey ski pass-through seat in better condition. I replaced the shift boot and shifter along with the driver’s side door trim. The driver’s door brake had a broken tab (behind the front fender). I removed the brake, but this could be fixed by welding the tab if you want to pull the fender. Lastly, I fixed the dash by not fixing it at all. The goal for this car was to make it presentable, it would be a good candidate for a dash swap, but not by me. I ordered a custom dash cover and carefully prepped and secured it with silicone. When done correctly I’ve found this to be the most cost effective cracked dash option. The result is presentable interior that is up to par with the rest of the car. All functions work correctly, windows, heat, A/C, turn signal cancel, OBC, lights, etc. If you have a big scruffy dog, you won’t feel guilty about hauling him around in the back - as long as he’s clean!


  • 1-4. Dash Cover
  • 5-6. Disgusting Iterior Ready for Shampooing
  • 7-9. Shift Cup Replacement
  • 10. Temporary Seats and My Helper
  • 11-12. Carpet Shampooed
  • 13. Rear Seat Conditioned
  • 14-15. Front Seats Conditioned
  • 16. New Shift Knob and Boot
  • 17-18. Seat Covers

The Finished Product

As it sits, this is a good, clean 1988 325ix that almost seems grateful to have been saved (rescue dog reference). It pulls very strong, is vibration free (even at triple digit speeds), and rewards the driver with the connected, well-balanced experience that defined BMW as the ultimate driving machine. I resisted any temptation to pillage any of the ‘88 premium bits. The car needed to be saved and passed on exactly as I got it. I thoroughly enjoyed researching the history and sorting this car. I hope the guy who owned it since 1989 is looking down happy that I saved it. I’m offering it for much less than a lot of IX’s out there, but I do have quite a bit of time and money into it. It’s priced with enough room for the next owner to take the restoration further. I’d like to find an owner who will appreciate it and treat it well.