Initial Ramblings – Spring 2020: The E21 Movement


The following is an expanded article I did for the Spring 2020 edition of Ultimate Classic, the quarterly newsletter for the BMW Classic Car Club of America. For me this was just another step closer to achieving a childhood dream of getting something I wrote published in a national magazine. I do not have a journalism degree or even took any kind of classes but yet here I am, typing away at 11:16 pm before our deadline. My column in our Chapter’s newsletter has always been very fulfilling and I appreciate all of you who take the time to email me or come up to me at an event or meeting to say how much you enjoy what I write. It validates that my ramblings have some value. I have immense appreciation for those who do this for a living. Now, enough of this, onto the article.

In the car world, there are vehicles that slip under the radar for years. Cars that only the most dedicated enthusiast are aware of. Perhaps you can describe them as the neglected middle child. BMW has one of those cars, the E21. This is a forgotten gem and the sleeper of collectable BMW’s. It’s perhaps the Bimmer that has been the most overlooked model. It’s the first to carry a 3-Series badge. It is nestled between the classic and ever popular 2002 and the leader of the vintage 3 series lust factor, the E30. Yet the E21 has had little interest, until now.

For those who are unaware, this car was built from 1975 to 1983, but first available in the US in 1977. We will focus on the US versions. Built during the second gas crisis, these sports sedans were fun, nimble and efficient for the time. The first years 1977 to 1979 were 2.0L M10 overhead cam, hemi-head 4-cylinder motors equipped with Bosch KJetronic Injection and 4-Speed transmissions, or an optional 3 speed automatic. The 1980-1983 versions were powered by a 1.8L M10 4-cylinder and followed by a Getrag 5-Speed or optional automatic. The later versions were also available as an S model equipped with Recaro Seats, front air dam, rear spoiler, cross hatch wheels, and larger anti sway bars front and rear. When compared to today’s basic BMW’s, they are antiquated, but to the enthusiast, it provides a raw, direct and connected feeling to the road. With manual everything, this is a sports sedan in primitive form. I always say the E21 doesn’t do everything right, but doesn’t do anything wrong.

I have been an E21 owner for 18 years now, a 1977 320i. It was my first BMW I owned. My uncle always said his favorite BMW he had was his Alpinweiss 1983 320i. When my wife Sandy spotted ours for sale, I remembered this so I had to see it. I spoked to the seller, loaded up my trailer, withdrew cash from the bank, and headed out to buy it. I was so focused on negotiating of the deal I almost walked away from this car, all over $100. When I got into my
truck, Sandy said what happened? I told her we were at a stalemate and I wasn’t giving in. It must be my stubborn German heritage. My wife then said “Are you going to really lose the car over $100? Is it worth it?” Rationale won over my need win the battle and I grabbed the seller before he left – Always listen to the wife. In the end, we all won.

Since then I have had an additional 4 other E21’s, as well as 11 other models of BMW’s. Still, the E21, and my original 320i are my favorite. When I had first bought mine, you can purchase a nice one needing very little work for $2,000-3,000. In the last couple years, interest in the E21 has seen an increase in popularity. I’ve noticed Millennials are discovering this little gem. As a result there has been an uptick in their value. Maybe this new generation isn’t all that bad? I performed a search of previous sales on Bring a Trailer. The average selling price has been between $5,000 and $15,000 with an astounding price being achieved in June or 2019 for a clean 320i of $25,500. The ultimate E21, a drool worthy 1979 BMW Alpina B6 2.8L, sold for $80,000 on September 28, 2018. This has to be a world record sale for any street legal E21. But for those who don’t have that kind of cash in your Bitcoin account and can do some wrenching yourself, you can still find project cars out there from $1,000-3,000 depending on the needs of the vehicle.

Parts can be a little scarce depending on what you need. Tune up kits and such are readily available, but some stuff is not, like original trunk lid weather stripping. BMW Classic division was still producing a large array of E21 parts, but some have gone No-Longer-Available. Those seeking original used can search eBay or E21 groups, just have patience. I have a small stock pile of parts I acquired from a fellow CCA member as well as parts cars I’ve picked up over the years. The more popular items have already been sold but I still have interior, fuel related, and body parts available. If you need anything, feel free to contact me at my email below.

In 2002, when I bought my 320i, I knew nothing about these cars. I searched the web for information and found Bimmerforums had an E21 section. I joined, participated and absorbed as much as I could. There are a lot of helpful enthusiasts on there. Another informative site that was dedicated to these cars was This was a treasure trove of technical info and repair tips. Unfortunately that site is no longer around. I started to add a lot of that info on my own website but after changing servers, I haven’t done any work to restore these pages yet. Some of you may remember back from 2003-2007 I held E21 gatherings where owners from around the northeast would congregate, swap stories, show their cars and have a bite to eat together. It was a lot of fun but in 2008 I was getting married the same month I usually held them. Unfortunately for the E21 gang, my nuptials took priority. I’ve recently considered resurrecting the gatherings but the pandemic has put an indefinite hold it, at least for this year.

As with any obscure but devoted group of enthusiasts, clubs will form. In the mid 2000’s a group called the E21 Legion came to be. I have no idea what my membership number is but I know it was only 3 digits I think in the 200 or 500 realm. There’s probably several thousand now and I am happy to say the Legion is still going strong today. You can find them on Facebook and Instagram. The most recent and significant advancement for the original 3Series owners is the formation of a BMW CCA sanctioned
SIG (Special Interest Group) called E21 Sharknose Register run by Joel Palmer. You can also find it on Facebook and Instagram under the name e21 CCA. With the CCA sanctioned group, this solidifies the strong resurgence in the interest in E21’s and it will continue to grow. I am proud to be one of the pioneers of this chassis blazing a way to a new frontier. And to think I was going to lose all of this fun over $100?

The Movement is on.

Are you in?

JT Burkard

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Initial Ramblings – Fall 2019: The Great Change


Many of you may have noticed that I missed last quarter’s column. Usually I am running late to the last day of the deadline, or perhaps a little over it. Poor time management, busy life, forgetfulness, writers block, the excuses can go on. Our editor, Jerry, has been very patient with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t even think about the deadline or my column this last issue because I wound up doing something I said I would never do. It took up all of my time and focus. Something that went against my core values. Something that made me re-evaluate my life. What is this heinous act you ask? Have I sold my soul to the devil? Well, not that extreme but close. I sought employment at a new car dealership. [GASP] Well surely you think I went to BMW, right? No, but it was a top choice if there was a dealer hiring at the moment. What about Mini? No. Mercedes? No. Audi? No. Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Maserati, Lamborghini, Lexus, Acura, Jaguar? No. Anything luxury or sporty? No. Ok, enough with the NO (channeling Grumpy Cat here).

So where did I wind up? Ford, yup Ford… sort of. How the hell did I wind up there you ask and what do I mean by sort of? I have owned Dodge trucks for 20 years so just walking into a Ford dealership was automotive adultery. Let’s be honest though, Ford makes very good trucks. There is a reason why the F150 is the bestselling pickup for decades. But, it wasn’t the Ford product that I was looking to peddle; it was something different, more challenging, more commercial. Tow Trucks. Those glorious vehicles that transport your vehicle when it breaks down or needs to be moved from one place to another not on its own power. I am proud to say I am the Jerr- Dan Sales Consultant for All American Jerr-Dan in Old Bridge NJ. [Insert shameless plug]. This isn’t that much of a stretch for me. I have a background in towing. From 1996-2000, I worked as a towing operator. I also owned 3 tow trucks myself in the past 23 years. Plus, I have done a lot of transport work. It seemed like a good opportunity to combine my 19 years of sales experience and my tow knowledge together. I certainly didn’t want to hustle Mitsubishi Mirage’s or Chevy Trax’s.

Photo #1 – Is that a kidney grill?

The first thing that I needed to get used to was NOT being the manager. For years, I have been manager or partner in some capacity for the other dealers I worked for/with. Now I have managers, many of them, and they have managers too. And the paperwork, my God, the paperwork, so much paperwork. I think hostile corporate takeovers have fewer things to sign. Plus, everything has to be precise, not “ish” as the previous places were. Finally, the hours. 40 hour work week? What are you, part time? If you are getting out in under 50-55 hours you are lucky. And it doesn’t end when you punch out. It’s all day and night talking with customers. The moment you wake up until the moment you went to sleep. I was used to that already though.

The upside, volume. This is a busy place. Even doing the specialty wrecker and flatbed sales, it’s got the business. Plus, I get to play with all sorts of trucks, not just Fords. On any given day I would hop into a Hino, Freightliner, Peterbilt, Kenworth, Internationals, and even Rams and move them around or drive them to customers. I am the road salesman so that means I get to travel this vast state, visiting shops, towing companies, body shops, etc. It’s a lot of fun.

Now, how does this relate to BMW’s? Being that I have a 30 mile commute each way, I decided that the E21 needed to stretch its legs a couple days a week. As long as there is no snow or salt on the road, I will drive it. I have to say, 17 years we have owned this car and I still get massive amounts of enjoyment every time I drive it. Crank open the windows and sunroof, get the radio going and cruise all the way up and back enjoying life. When you think you had a rough day, nothing like cruising an older BMW to put a smile on your face.

One thing about working for a car dealership that sells Shelbys and Roush is there are a bunch car enthusiasts there. Several of them, Bimmerheads too! The couple of BMW guys that work there already scoped out the ol’ 320i in the employee parking lot. Yesterday, the one Subaru sales guy said “You are the one with the Mercedes SLK?” I said yes, that’s actually my wife’s car. We have a bunch of stuff. Then I mentioned the E21 to him. He said “I didn’t know that was yours too, we need to talk later”. He owns Audis. It’s still German so it counts. My car guy status has been solidified.

Now that I have been driving the 320i more than usual, I have discovered a few things that need to get taken care of. First, there is an exhaust leak on the head pipe coming out of the manifold. A crack has developed and it’s leaking just enough to annoy me. I crawled under to see how bad it was. I even tried to use some muffler cement as a temporary fix. It didn’t work. I started looking for an Ansa exhaust to replace it with. Years ago I wanted to do a full Ansa system but was being too cheap and decided to pass. Now when I need to do it, I can’t find them anymore. The only Ansa exhaust is basically a stock replacement like the Bosal I have on there now. The down falls of owning a 42 year old car.

The other thing is I need to get a new stereo. The Blaupunkt cassette player that was strangely mounted under the left side of the steering column in 1986 is ready for replacement. Only 2 of the 4 speakers are working and of the two remaining, one fades in and out. Plus, the little 4×6 speakers are old and blown out so the sound quality is subpar at best. Being that I do not want to hack the uncut factory stereo location, I wanted to put a hidden stereo in it.. On eBay I found the perfect solution, a 5”x3”x1” 50 watt 4 channel mini amp that works with iPods, satellite, and MP3 players. Since I rarely listen to regular radio, this was an ideal set up. Hide the unit, run a remote mini jack to plug in your device and jam out. I just have to pick out the right speakers since they all turned to dust.

None of these will be fixed by the time our Whack Your Turkey Rally happens so I will just deal with it over the winter or early spring depending on when I tuck the car away for the winter. Now, if I can only get to that E28 project I bought several years ago, I can rotate that into the daily driving duties.

So for those of you who enjoy this column every issue and were looking forward to my adventures but missed them last issue, I apologize for being so caught up in the new job, I neglected your entertainment needs. Never fear, we have gone back to our regularly scheduled editorial. Stay tuned, more BMW action after these commercial messages.

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Initial Ramblings – Summer 2017: 15 Years, 15 Cars, 10 Years of Writing


I can’t believe I have been a member of this club for 15 years now. It all started June 2002 when my wife Sandy found our 77 E21 sitting on the side of the road for sale. I initially bought the car with the intentions of buying it, driving it for the summer and selling it for a profit. Something I have done many times before. Within a few months I was in love. It was unlike any other car I have owned. I started going on enthusiast websites and learning more about the car. 6 months later, I became a BMW club member and my first meeting was our combined November/December meeting with elections and the Pinewood Derby. I felt out of place being that I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know much about BMW’s beyond the E21 I only had for half a year, but I was welcomed by everyone I met that night. Little did I know I would still be here, still driving that very same 320i, and becoming involved with the club including writing a column in this very newsletter. I no longer feel out of place.

I believe my first article was published in the July 2007 newsletter about an E21 gathering event I organized and held. It wasn’t a club sanctioned event, just something I set up with guys I knew from another site. I had various E21 owners come from all around the Northeast to attend. I am not sure how writing about it came about but that was the start of my chapter journalist career. Then two months later in September 2007 I wrote an article about Sandy and I renting a Z4 while we were in Vegas cruising around Red Rock in style. October 2007 I wrote about buying and owning an older BMW. December 2007 I wrote about our Whack Your Turkey rally experience. I was becoming a regular contributor and I liked it.

At the start of 2008 I was officially writing a monthly column, still unnamed, just various adventures and thoughts I had about the hobby and cars I’ve purchased. July 2008 I wrote about another one of our Vegas trips including visiting the ever elusive Area 51. To this day I believe that article was one that still got the most response from members and emails. September, I had written on my first Autocross experience. I can’t believe it’s been that long and I haven’t done another one since. The adrenaline rush was intense. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a $500 car. Novembers article continues the woes of my $500 318i E30 that I just autocrossed and blew the head gasket on. I think that car gave me around 6 different articles to write on. None of them good. It taught me never to buy a non-running car from a kid that has no clue about anything mechanical. But I did wind up rebuilding many aspects of the car and it provided me with a reliable daily driver and high blood pressure.

2009 I found myself rebuilding the transmission on the ol’ E21. I originally had plans on swapping out the automatic for a 5-speed manual but the slushbox stayed. A month later the 320i was used in the movie “Blue Collar Boys” after the producers came to one of our meetings looking for a special car to be in the film. That was a fun experience. Later in the year we went to the Bavarian Auto Show and Shine for their annual event. Seemingly every year I would buy another BMW and this year I wound up with a Sierra Beige ‘77 E21 that has been around the block a few times bouncing from member to member. Somehow it wound up in my lap and it was begging to be saved. It wound up being a daily driver for me for a while.

Then August 2010 I bought a black on black E38 (a 7-Series – JF) at a dealer auction and I fell in love again. It wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot, but it had good bones and it needed some help. This wound up being another resurrection project added to my plate but to this day I say it’s one of my favorite BMW’s I have owned besides my original E21. October was another Vegas article where Sandy and I rented a Mini Cooper Convertible and did our yearly migration to Area 51. Then in December two things happened that changed the course of history. I sold the Sierra Beige E21 in a moment of weakness and tried to buy it back within days of letting it go. The new owner didn’t let me. But more importantly, I finally found my identity – Initial Ramblings. This was my official column name, three years after I first starting writing for this newsletter.

For the next 7 years I have been entertaining you with my automotive adventures, strange and interesting road trips, and anything else I can think of at the very last moment that I need to get this article in on time… or grossly over the deadline. I have enjoyed each and every one of your emails that I received commenting on whatever I wrote that month. The helpful hints, the words of encouragement, the shared stories. This is what keeps me writing each month, and now quarterly. I even started a blog to add these adventures online to so I can categorize them. Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit behind on adding CCA articles to it but recently I started to put my car sales interactions there. If you need some amusement, I highly encourage you to visit. The web address is listed below. If you would like to read all of my past articles, our chapters website has them all archived. Just click on the month you want to read and enjoy.

Now beyond writing this column all these years, I’ve owned quite a few BMW’s to go with being a member. As I mentioned before, it all started with my Black 1977 320i. I still own this BMW 15 years later and I refuse to get rid of it. In total I have had 5 E21’s – two 77’s, a 78, an 81 and an 83. I also have had 3 E30’s. The 84 318i I blew up, an 88 convertible, and a Euro 1986 325i that came over from Austria in the early 2000’s. That was probably my third favorite BMW I owned. To round out the 3- series, an E36 323i Convertible came in and out of the stable in 2015. No BMW collection isn’t complete without at least one 2002. Mine was a 1975 vintage that was strangely an automatic with air conditioning, no sunroof car from Arizona. I’ve had a couple 5-series as well. A 1978 530i I got from a club member, an 86 528e project that I bought last year and hope to finally start working on soon, and a 1989 525i with a 5-speed. Last but not least the 7’s – a 1985 735i and the auction purchased 1996 740iL I owned for over 4 years and was the subject of several articles itself, including a road trip to Maine.

The past 15 years of being a member of this club have been absolutely amazing. The cars is what brings us together but it’s truly the people who are the reason why I continue to renew my membership. (Did you and Caldwell collude on articles? – JF) Here’s to another 15 years!

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Initial Ramblings – Fall 2016: Emerging from its Slumber


By JT Burkard

This has been an interesting year for me. I went into business for myself. It was a huge leap of faith but I know it was the right move. After 15 years of employment as the Director of Operations at a specialty car dealership, the owner retired and I found myself no longer there. I could have easily gone to another high-end dealership with my experience. I thought about applying to several of the nearby BMW dealerships. I also considered going to Porsche, Mercedes and Audi. Ultimately I decided this was a push to get me to do something that I have talked about for years. I took a chance and jumped in feet first and started my own vehicle marketing firm. I have to say it’s been the best decision I made in a long time. The hours are better, the casual attire policy fits me perfectly, the commute couldn’t be better, there is a self-serve restaurant within walking distance from the home office and I get to do I what I do best without anyone trying to micro manage me. Plus, I get along with the boss well! The only problem I have is with the 4 feline intern employees that need constant attention while I am working at my desk. Did you ever try to list an ad on the internet while getting pawed on the arm? It’s not conducive for productivity.

I have to say working for myself has its benefits but it also has its downfalls. The biggest one is that I wound up burying my E21 in the garage under stuff. At the beginning stages of this venture I utilized my single car garage and driveway as a detail center and repair workshop for some of the cars that I picked up to resell. The trunk of the 320i was inadvertently used as a workbench to put detailing microfiber cloths on, extra car covers were on the roof, tools, parts boxes, and other things that found their way there. I do have two covers on the car, one thicker indoor outdoor cover, then another one made of parachute type material to protect it but that was just for when I was walking past it, not to protect from bench duty. I had a towel down on the trunk as an extra buffer but still that was no excuse. The garage got completely unruly to the point where I haven’t used the car all year. Heck, I haven’t even seen the car all year!

With the Show and Shine at the Deutscher Club coming up on September 22, it was going to be the reason I had to straighten up the garage, dig the BMW out and start using it. So on the 21st I started, anywhere and everywhere. I cleared off the boxes and small items that were on the hood area, I removed everything else that was on the trunk and stored under the back of the car as well, and within a couple hours, the car was free. The following morning I had scheduled the day specifically for getting the E21 ready. Well, I wound up going to the dealer auction instead but I was able to get home in time to spend an hour or so to wash and clean up the car quickly. I was hoping to give it a nice detail, two stage compound, & wax but with my limited time I just had to wash it and spot detail. The rear quarter seemed dull. Perhaps from me sliding between the car and the shelf that’s on that side of the garage, the friction from the cover caused some minor dulling. I buffed out that quarter quickly and it removed most of the blemish. I dressed the rubber and the tires and I was ready.

The moment I got behind the wheel, everything was right. Man, I love driving this car. I felt ashamed that it sat in the garage for 10 months unused. I cruised up the Parkway with a big smile on my face and 45 minutes later, I was at the Deutscher Club. I pulled in and parked next to a beautiful 2002. It was my first drive of the year in the car and nothing more appropriate than to the German club for our BMW event.

Now that the car was out of the garage I had to focus on the next event coming up, the Circle BMW Show and Shine on October 8th. The Friday before I was able to spend the day and go over the car well, I buffed and waxed it. I vacuumed the interior, which really didn’t need much, cleaned the windows, etc. Wow, it was looking terrific! Honestly, I must have stepped back and stared at the car countless times saying “I can’t believe how nice this looks”. The weather was calling for possible rain during the afternoon of the show but I didn’t care. I was using the car for why I owned it, to enjoy it. What a great showing it was too. Lots of BMWs of all makes and models and even a Ferrari and a Porsche showed up. Since I live in northern Ocean County this was a very convenient event for me being only 20 minutes away. Plus, Circle is a great dealership and a wonderful supporter of our club. I hope they do more events like this in the future.

With that show out of the way, I was shooting for the final event I wanted to attend, the Cars and Coffee of NJ gathering in Millstone, NJ on October 16th. I really enjoy these because it’s not a traditional car show where people get trophy’s or stale music being pumped out by a DJ and people sitting behind their cars in folding chairs. Everyone is walking around to check out roughly 600 cars of every type including Hot Rods, Exotics, European, Muscle Cars, and Japanese, whatever you can imagine. It’s all there. The month before, I was parked between a VW bug and a Lamborghini; this time it was a late 80’s Mustang and a Corvette. It was nice to see several BMW club members wandering around as well.

When I left, I stopped at my sister’s house for a surprise visit. My oldest nephew who is 15 was excited I had one of my “cool cars”. I never realized but he never got to go for a ride in the E21. Well, this needed to be addressed and I said “let’s go for a ride”. He was never in a car that had manual windows or a crank sunroof, so right off the bat he was intrigued. It was a fantastic Uncle / Nephew bonding experience. We went down the roads that he knew and wound up on roads neither of us knew. It didn’t matter; eventually we would find our way back. I can tell by the smile on his face he was hooked. It was really the icing on the cake to my E21 adventure of the year. Honestly, that moment was better than any of the shows and events I attended. To me, this is the essence of owning a classic car, to bring history and the experience to a new generation.

The only thing left to do is the Whack your Turkey Rally and then it goes back into the garage, now cleaned and organized, for the winter. I’m not sure the Feline interns wouldn’t be of much help in that though.

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