History is littered with unique cars that came about due to funky loopholes in laws. As different countries often have different automotive laws, there were countless instances throughout history when automakers had to get creative to workaround differences in regulations. One such car is the Italian-market E30-generation BMW 320is, which is often nicknamed the “Italian M3”.
Back in the ’80s, if you wanted a non-E30 3 Series, you wanted one of the six-cylinder models, such as the beloved 325is. However, the Italian government slapped heavy taxes on engines above 2.0 liters at the time. So BMW created a car that could offer customers something unique and fun without having to break the bank on taxes and fees. It did so buy de-stroking a 2.3 liter S14 E30 M3 engine down to 2.0 liters and stuffing it into the regular E30 3 Series.
So while the Italian-market E30 BMW 320is doesn’t have an exact M3 engine, it’s extremely close. Essentially, it’s the same engine with a different stroke. So it still screams past 7,000 rpm and makes a glorious noise doing it. It still has the free-revving, motorsport-derived feel to it and, in the case of the 320is, is still connected to a five-speed dog-leg manual gearbox.
In this new video from EAG (Enthusiast Auto Group), we get to see that extremely rare car and listen to its magnificent engine. The car in this video is actually up for sale, at around $48,000, and has been imported from Italy to the US. So it’s extraordinarily rare here in the ‘States. In fact, if you pull up to a Cars and Coffee in this black E30 BMW 320is, you’ll make every E30 M3 look common.
The best part about the 320is, specifically this 320is? It’s a sedan. While it came as either a sedan or a coupe, it’s the sedan you want. Its four-door body style sets it even further apart from the E30 M3 and gives it more practicality while essentially providing the same performance and much of the same noise. If you’re looking for something special and unique, this E30 BMW 320is — the Italian M3 — could do the trick.