Two years ago I went to a distant hardware store that was supposed to have in stock a particular item I needed for a home improvement project and in the parking lot I saw the BMW that I knew existed, somewhere, sometime, but had never seen before: The 324d. I took out my phone for the required photo shoot and – dead battery.
Ever since then I had thought a lot about that missed opportunity and I had kept looking out with little hope for what had seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. There even were moments when I thought it might have been some feverish dream of mine.
But lo and behold, last week, 2 blocks from my home no less, there it sat, in all its 86 hp naturally aspirated, self-igniting, 0-60 in 16.5 seconds, 103 mph top speed glory: a 80k mile 324d.
I approached it carefully so as not to scare it. It was all there, maybe a little dirtier, a little more used up since 2 years ago, but clearly the car I had seen before. Now how did I know it was the very same car? The license plate holder read the adress of a Polish used car dealership, just like the car that had escaped my lens 2 years prior.
With the necessary respect I came even closer and took a close up of that most elusive of E30 designation signs. Or so I thought.
I took some time to reflect on the E30 and it dawned on me: I had never seen the Italian/Portugese market tax special 320is, I had only ever seen one 323i, I had yet to see an M3 Evo and then I did some research:
There even was a Greece and Yugoslavia only 316s with a detuned version of the M10 engine with all but 75 hp, making this the weakest and possibly most elusive of E30s.
So how rare was the 324d really? Turns out, not all that rare. Out of approximately 2.34 million E30s, some 76.039 were 324d models. Now I was almost disappointed. The numbers of E30 models even rarer than the 324d come in as follows:
318is – 41k
320is – 3745
325ix – 35k
M3 – 18k
Alas, even the 324td came in at only 28k examples! And of those I had seen not exactly many, but more than I can recount over the years. It seems the fate of the lower spec models to disappear that much more quickly.
After much deliberation, the 324d remains a puzzle to me. A contemporary review from Auto Motor und Sport came to the conclusion that it wasn’t really an alternative to the gas powered E30 range so much as an enticing proposition for buyers of compact diesel powered cars in general. Or in other words: It’s not the BMW of diesels, but rather the diesel of BMWs.
Interestingly enough, the 324d just like its big brother 324td were only available in four door guise, causing Auto Motor und Sport to speculate these were aimed at the Taxi market. Now this was before my time, but I would be very eager to find out if these were actually used as cabs in 1980s Germany. Given the amount or non-amount of legroom.
In any case, I felt truly lucky on that day. These CCs seem to be on their own secret paths, disappearing and re-emerging at their own volition, making your day when you least expect it.
It may not have been that rarest of E30 that I thought this was, but you have to save some goals in life for later, right?
As it turns out, there also was an E28 version with that same engine, the 524d – of which a mere 4239 examples were produced, making this the 2nd rarest of E28s after the 2241 M5s.
And if that is still too mainstream for you, how about this one of 298 E34 518g touring ?
So what’s your favourite super-rare and/or forgotten BMW?