Not Quite A Convertible: 1982 BMW 323i Baur TC1

Baur is an esteemed coachbuilder in Stuttgart, Germany who performed drop-top conversions for BMW cars. They work very closely with many German automakers, although the exact nature of their relationships is unclear. Bauer cars were even photographed in some BMW brochures, but it was not offered as an official model (as the convertible was), and was never sold in North America. However, it was sold with the authorization of BMW and was covered by their factory warranty. Bauer did help design the E30 convertible.

This is no hackjob. Bauer patented their roofless design in the early 20th century and would employ it until the '90s. It features a retractable soft top roof that peels back like a sardine can to the rear, but with key support b and c pillars intact, as well as a cross-top roll bar connecting the thickened b pillars. This was done to enjoy the open air that a convertible woyld otherwise provide, but with the structural integrity they could not. It's ingenious, quirky and tasteful.

Bauer converted 4,595 E21-chassis cars.

The seller says this vehicle was a grey market car that was specially imported by an individual and then federalized at their own expense. It's unfortunate the slim euro-bumpers didn't make it through, but it's still good to see the rest of the car unscathed. It's an otherwise typical delightfully designed E21 323i.

However, the seller says the replaced the engine with a M20 3.0-litre 6-cylinder engine from an early '90s 325i that was recovered from a rear-end wreck with only 20k miles on it. Depending on your take, this could be a good thing, as it's a larger and better engine than the stock 323i. The car's whole roof was modified after all, so a different engine is in keeping with the switcheroo theme. The seller also mentioned the original 323i engine can be included as an extra.

They also say the engine is mated to a rare "dogleg" 5-speed manual transmission, where reverse is the first gear.

The seller says the body has about 101,000 miles on it but has no rust and is clean and straight, having spent life in San Francisco before ending up in New Mexico where it is now.

BMW never made an official factory convertible for the E21, so if you dig the car but want to feel the sun and wind blow through your hair, this is a chance to snag a nicely preserved example of a rare and charming car. The owner mentions they are a BMW club member and the car was never rallied or tracked, though they say it is fun and lightweight.

Find it here in Albuquerque, New Mexico with reserve not met and a buy-it-now price of $5,000.

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