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BMW 3 Series Generation E21

The BMW E21 is the first generation of the BMW 3 Series compact luxury vehicle and was produced from June 1975 to 1983. It was initially available as a 2-door sedan, to replace the 02 Series. At launch, all models used carburetted 4-cylinder engines, however fuel injected models were introduced in late 1975 and 6-cylinder engines were added in 1977. A cabriolet body style - manufactured by Baur - was available from 1978 to 1981. The E21 was replaced by the E30 3 Series in 1982.

Under the direction of its majority (51%) shareholder, Herbert Quandt, BMW decided upon a replacement for their aging 02 Series. Paul Bracq, Director of Design at BMW from 1970 to 1974, is credited with setting the design direction of the E21. In July 1975, BMW’s Board of Management introduced the 3 Series to the public at the Munich Olympic Stadium.

The frontal view of the new car was dominated by the BMW trademark kidney grille standing out clearly from the radiator cover. The styling of the new car bore a resemblance to the BMW E12 5 Series.

The wedge shape of the two-door model was distinctive, extending all the way to the unusually high rear end. In response to criticism of the tail design, a black plastic trim panel between the tail lights was added. Like many other BMW models, the C-pillar of the E21 features a Hofmeister kink.

The cockpit design of the E21 marked the introduction of a new design concept, with the center console and central dashboard area angled towards the driver. This feature has become part of BMW’s interior design philosophy for many years. As a sign of passive safety, all edges and control elements within the interior were rounded off and padded.

BMW 3 Series E21 Specs
 
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