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A Retrospective Review: Are 1980s Bmws Reliable?

When it comes to discussing the automotive classics of the 1980s, BMWs often occupy a prominent place in the conversation.

Known for their compelling combination of performance, style, and craftsmanship, these German-engineered vehicles continue to captivate the hearts of car enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.

But a lingering question remains: are these 1980s BMWs truly reliable?

In this article, we aim to delve into the heart of this inquiry, exploring the durability, maintenance, common issues, and overall dependability of BMW models from this fascinating era of automotive history.

Key Takeaways

  • 1980s BMW models are known for their reliability and performance capabilities but require regular maintenance and care by their owners.
  • Common issues include cooling, electrical, and suspension/steering, which should be addressed promptly to avoid costly repairs.
  • Parts for older vehicles tend to be pricier and harder to find, and labor costs for specialized mechanics can add up quickly.
  • Joining online forums and local BMW clubs can provide valuable knowledge and cost-saving tips, and setting aside a small sum each month for a ‘car fund’ is suggested to cover maintenance and repair costs.

A Brief History of 1980s BMW Models

During this 80’s era, BMW introduced several iconic vehicles that would later become the foundation for their current lineup.

The decade saw the birth of legendary models like the E30 3 Series, E28 5 Series, and E24 6 Series—each offering a unique blend of style, performance, and driving pleasure. These classic rides captured hearts and gave drivers freedom on the open road.

As you take a trip down memory lane, you’ll appreciate how these innovative cars from the ’80s shaped BMW’s identity as ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine.’

In 1982, BMW launched the beloved E30 3 Series—a compact executive car available as a sedan or coupe—that was praised for its perfect combination of sportiness and practicality. With its distinctive kidney grille and angular body lines, this model quickly became a symbol of success among young professionals who craved adventure without sacrificing sophistication.

Meanwhile, introducing other groundbreaking innovations, such as fuel injection systems and advanced suspension technology, further solidified BMW’s reputation for building dependable machines designed to perform at their best.

But it wasn’t just about adrenaline-pumping thrills; these timeless classics taught us valuable lessons in refined aesthetics. Take the elegant E24 6 Series coupe, for instance—its striking shark-nosed front end and flowing curves were nothing short of mesmerizing back then (and still are today).

And who could forget about those unforgettable drives along winding roads behind the wheel of an E28 M5? This high-performance sedan proved that family cars don’t have to be boring by delivering pulse-quickening excitement at every turn—all while keeping occupants safe and comfortable inside its well-appointed cabin.

Build Quality and Engineering

In the ’80s, build quality and engineering were top-notch, making those vehicles quite dependable. BMW’s reputation for producing high-quality vehicles with advanced technology was well-established during this era. The German automaker focused on creating cars that provided a perfect blend of performance, luxury, and reliability – which is why so many enthusiasts are drawn to these classic models today.

One aspect that sets 1980s BMWs apart from their contemporaries is their use of galvanized steel bodies, which increased resistance to corrosion and rust. This was a significant improvement over previous generations and ensured these vehicles had the potential for long-lasting durability.

The engines in 1980s BMW models were known for their reliability and performance capabilities. Many enthusiasts still rave about the legendary M30 inline-six engine in various models such as the E24 6-Series and E28 5-Series.

Another contributing factor to the longevity of these cars was their focus on simplicity in design – especially when compared to modern vehicles loaded with complex electronic systems prone to failures over time.

Lastly, BMW ensured that its engineering prowess extended beyond just powertrains by paying close attention to suspension systems and chassis development – ensuring smooth rides and excellent handling characteristics.

These iconic machines have proven themselves time and again through decades of service on roads around the world. And while they might not be completely maintenance-free (no car truly is), you can trust that with proper care and attention, your vintage Beemer will continue turning heads and delivering thrilling driving experiences for years.

Common Issues with 1980s BMWs

While 1980s BMWs are known for their durability and engineering prowess, it’s important to be aware of some common issues that may arise with these classic vehicles. As with any older car, components can wear out over time or become damaged due to neglect or misuse. However, understanding the typical problem areas associated with these cars allows you to make informed decisions when purchasing and maintaining your own vintage BMW.

Common IssueDescription
Cooling System ProblemsOverheating could arise from a variety of sources such as a defective water pump, radiator leaks, or issues with the thermostat.
Electrical IssuesThese vehicles may encounter electrical issues due to problematic wiring harnesses, dysfunctional sensors, or aged relays. Frequent electrical problems include drained batteries, jammed steering wheels, and complications with the CCC iDrive System.
Suspension and Steering ProblemsA slack handling could result from worn-out bushings, leaking power steering systems, or deteriorated ball joints. Common symptoms include unstable or inaccurate steering, hard steering, and squealing sounds when steering.

Despite these potential drawbacks, owning a 1980s BMW can be an incredibly rewarding experience if you’re willing to invest the time and effort into properly maintaining your vehicle. The key is proactively addressing any issues that arise before they become major headaches.

By staying on top of routine maintenance tasks like oil changes, tire rotations, and brake inspections – as well as taking care of any necessary repairs promptly – you’ll maximize the reliability of your classic Bimmer while enjoying all the freedom it offers on the open road.

Maintenance and Repair Costs

While it’s true that maintaining an older car can be more expensive than taking care of a modern one, there’s no need to despair. With research, smart planning, and dedication, you can enjoy your ’80s BMW without breaking the bank.

Firstly, it’s essential to understand that parts for older vehicles tend to be pricier and harder to find than those for newer models. This is especially true when it comes to rare or discontinued items. Additionally, labor costs for specialized mechanics who know their way around these classics can increase quickly.

However, by joining online forums and local BMW clubs dedicated to vintage models, you’ll gain invaluable knowledge from fellow enthusiasts who have been in your shoes before. They’ll be able to direct you towards reputable suppliers of OEM parts at fair prices. They may even share cost-saving tips like DIY repair tutorials or trusted local mechanics offering discounted rates.

When budgeting for maintenance and repairs on your classic 1980s BMW, consider setting aside a small monthly sum as part of a ‘car fund.’ This money will be a cushion against unexpected expenses that could otherwise derail your enjoyment of the vehicle.

It’s also wise to prioritize preventative maintenance: regular oil changes, fluid checks, and tire rotations – all things that help keep your car running smoothly while minimizing the likelihood of costly surprises down the road. By staying proactive in caring for your vintage ride and tapping into the wealth of resources available within the enthusiast community, you’ll be well on your way toward enjoying every mile behind its wheel – with freedom firmly within grasp.

Factors Affecting Reliability

In assessing the reliability of a 1980s BMW, it’s essential to consider factors such as mileage and age, previous ownership and maintenance history, and environmental exposure.

You’ll want to dive deep into these aspects to paint a clearer picture of the car’s overall condition and potential longevity.

Conduct thorough research while looking for accurate information about these factors to make an informed decision on your classic BMW purchase.

Mileage and age

Considering mileage and age, ’80s BMWs can still be reliable machines if they’ve been well-maintained. It’s crucial to remember that these cars have likely seen a lot of road time, so some wear and tear is expected.

However, if the previous owners took great care of their vehicles by following recommended maintenance schedules, addressing any issues as they arose, and using quality parts, you could find yourself behind the wheel of a classic ride that not only performs well but also offers you an unparalleled sense of freedom on the open road.

When searching for your perfect ’80s BMW, paying close attention to both mileage and overall condition is essential. A lower-mileage vehicle might initially seem more attractive since it has experienced less wear; however, don’t be too quick to dismiss higher-mileage examples that have been diligently cared for during their lifetime.

Remember that regular maintenance is key to preserving reliability in these older cars – something even low-mileage gems may lack if neglected over time. As you embark on your quest for automotive liberation with a classic 1980s BMW by your side, prioritize well-looked-after examples with consistent service records regardless of their actual mileage or age – they’re much more likely to reward you with thrilling drives and long-lasting dependability.

Previous ownership and maintenance history

It’s crucial to delve into a potential ’80s BMW’s previous ownership and maintenance history before making a purchase, as this can greatly impact the vehicle’s performance, longevity, and overall enjoyment. A well-maintained classic BMW can provide countless hours of driving pleasure and give you that sense of freedom you crave. However, poor maintenance or neglect by previous owners can lead to costly repairs and headaches down the road.

When researching a classic ’80s BMW, pay attention to these four key aspects of its history:

  1. Number of previous owners: Ideally, look for vehicles with fewer past owners who have taken good care of the car.
  2. Service records: Ensure that all necessary maintenance has been performed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  3. Accident history: Avoid cars with significant damage or unresolved issues from past incidents.
  4. Modifications: Be cautious of heavily modified vehicles; they may be harder to maintain or restore.

By thoroughly investigating an ’80s BMW’s background and ensuring it was properly cared for by its previous owners, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision about your purchase. This will ultimately contribute to your long-term satisfaction with your classic ride and enhance that liberating feeling every time you hit the open road.

Environmental exposure

You can’t overlook the impact of environmental exposure on a classic ’80s BMW, as harsh conditions and elements like sun, rain, and salt can take a serious toll on the vehicle’s appearance and functionality over time.

Extended exposure to sunlight may cause fading or peeling paint, while heavy rainfall can lead to rusting if water seeps into the bodywork. Those who live near coastal areas need to be extra cautious due to the corrosive nature of saltwater; it can gradually eat away at your beloved BMW’s metal components.

These factors are important considerations when determining whether an older model will be reliable.

It’s essential to be proactive in protecting your vintage BMW from these environmental threats. Regular washing and waxing keep your ride looking pristine and serve as barriers against damaging elements.

If possible, storing your car indoors or under protective coverings can significantly reduce wear from rain, snow, and UV rays – preserving its reliability for years.

Don’t let Mother Nature rob you of precious freedom behind the wheel; take care of your ’80s BMW so that you both continue cruising down life’s open roads together without worry or regret.

Modern Comparisons

Compared to today’s vehicles, ’80s BMWs may not offer the same level of reliability and advanced features; however, they still possess a timeless charm and driving experience that is hard to replicate. Modern cars are filled with technology, safety features, and creature comforts that have set new standards in the automotive industry. Yet, something about the simplicity, mechanical feel, and analog nature of ’80s BMWs can be incredibly appealing if you yearn for a more visceral driving connection.

To better illustrate the differences between 1980s BMW models and their modern counterparts, consider this table:

Feature1980s BMWModern BMW
ReliabilityModerate-Strong (depending on maintenance)Strong (with caveats due to complex electronics)
Driving ExperiencePure & AnalogRefined & Digital
Design AestheticsTimeless ClassicContemporary

As you can see from the table above, while modern BMW models boast superior safety measures and technological advancements compared to their older counterparts from the ’80s era, there is still an undeniable appeal associated with those classic designs. The simple lines and raw driving experience are increasingly rare in today’s automotive landscape.

While it’s true that these classic machines might require more care and attention than contemporary offerings—especially considering their age—they also grant you a sense of freedom as you drive them.

By maintaining your vintage vehicle properly through regular servicing by experienced mechanics who understand these iconic cars’ unique needs, you too can enjoy taking a trip back in time whenever you hit the road behind the wheel of an ‘80s-era BMW masterpiece.

Ultimately, while newer models may provide greater levels of convenience and reassurance regarding reliability or performance metrics on paper – there will always be a special place in the hearts of many for these incredible vehicles from yesteryear.

The Classic Car Market

You’ve probably noticed the growing interest in classic cars and their potential for value appreciation, drawing collectors from around the globe. As a passionate enthusiast, you understand that owning a piece of automotive history goes beyond just the numbers; it’s about preserving and enjoying these timeless machines.

Let’s dive into the classic car market to explore what factors contribute to value growth, how collector interest shapes trends, and how you can make informed decisions when considering your next investment.

Value and appreciation potential

Owning a classic 1980s BMW can be both a wise investment and an absolute joy, as these cars often increase in value over time and truly capture the spirit of driving. The combination of timeless design, engaging performance, and Bavarian engineering make these vehicles highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts alike.

As the demand for well-preserved examples grows, so does their potential appreciation. This means that not only will you have the pleasure of owning and driving one of these iconic machines, but you could also stand to profit from it in the future.

To maximize your investment potential, focus on finding models that are in excellent condition or have been meticulously restored. Look for originality – matching numbers (engine and chassis) and period-correct parts – which can significantly impact a car’s value at auction or private sale. Additionally, consider acquiring limited production variants or models with unique features that set them apart from similar vehicles on the market.

By researching and seeking out those hidden gems within the world of classic 1980s BMWs, you’ll be well-positioned to enjoy not just the freedom that comes with hitting the open road in a piece of automotive history but also potentially significant financial gains down the line.

Collector interest

As a collector, you’ll find that 1980s BMWs hold a special place in many enthusiasts and investors’ hearts. These vintage vehicles represent an era when BMW was at the forefront of automotive innovation and design, making them highly sought after by collectors today. The iconic styling and their reputation for performance and reliability make these classic cars an attractive investment opportunity for those looking to capitalize on the growing interest in automotive nostalgia.

Iconic ModelEmotional Connection
BMW E30 M3The undisputed king of 1980s sports sedans, the E30 M3 holds a unique position in the hearts of car lovers due to its racing pedigree and timeless design. Owning one is like owning a piece of motorsport history.
BMW E28 M5As the original high-performance luxury sedan, the E28 M5 pioneered a segment that’s still popular today. Its blend of power, refinement, and practicality makes it an enduring symbol of freedom behind the wheel.
BMW E24 6-SeriesWith its elegant shark-nose design and grand touring capabilities, the E24 6-Series transports drivers back to an era where long road trips were an adventure to be savored rather than just endured.

Restorations and Modifications

When restoring or modifying a classic 1980s BMW, it’s crucial to invest in quality parts and skilled mechanics to ensure its reliability and performance are up to par.

The 1980s were a golden era for BMW, with models like the E30 3-Series, E24 6-Series, and E28 M5 becoming brand icons. These cars have stood the test of time due to their solid engineering, which means that with proper care and attention, they can be brought back to life as reliable daily drivers or weekend cruisers.

One popular modification for these older BMWs is engine swaps – either upgrading to a more modern powerplant from within the BMW lineup or going all-out with an entirely different make of engine. This increases power output and brings new refinement and efficiency levels that weren’t available when these cars were first produced.

However, undertaking such projects requires careful research into compatibility issues and potential pitfalls and sourcing high-quality components from reputable suppliers. Don’t be lured by cheap imitation parts; they could lead you to frustration and disappointment.

Taking your time on restorations and modifications will reward you in the long run. There’s nothing quite like driving around in a beautifully restored or tastefully modified classic BMW, knowing that every part has been carefully chosen for maximum reliability and performance.

It allows you to experience freedom on the open road while indulging in nostalgia for simpler times. As more people become interested in preserving these automotive treasures from yesteryear, maintaining their reliability becomes paramount – so don’t cut corners when looking after your beloved 1980s BMW!

Daily Driver vs. Weekend Cruiser

You’ve got a choice: should your classic 1980s BMW be a daily driver or a weekend cruiser? There’s no right answer, depending on your preferences and circumstances. However, there are some factors you can consider when making this decision:

  1. Reliability: While 1980s BMWs are generally considered reliable, using them as daily drivers may expose them to more wear and tear than if they were only used occasionally. Weekend cruising allows you to maintain the car in top condition, reducing the risk of breakdowns and costly repairs.
  2. Practicality: As much as you love your vintage Beemer, it might not be the most practical option for daily use. Modern cars typically offer better fuel efficiency, safety features, and creature comforts that can make day-to-day driving more enjoyable and convenient.
  3. Preservation: If your primary goal is to preserve the car’s value and originality, limiting its use to weekend cruises could be the way forward. Less exposure to harsh weather conditions or potential accidents helps keep these cherished machines looking pristine.

Ultimately, balancing enjoyment and preservation is key when deciding whether your 1980s BMW should be a daily driver or weekend cruiser.

You may want to consider how attached you are to the car emotionally; if it holds significant sentimental value for you or is an investment piece meant for resale down the line, then preserving its condition might take precedence over racking up miles on joyrides.

On the other hand, if owning an iconic automobile from this era has always been one of your greatest desires – representing freedom from routine life – perhaps embracing that feeling by driving it regularly will bring you greater happiness overall.

Ultimately, listen to what your heart tells you about how best to enjoy this beautiful machine while honoring its legacy within automotive history.

Insurance and Registration Considerations

Navigating insurance and registration for your classic 1980s BMW can be tricky, but ensuring you’re fully covered and legal on the road is crucial.

Unlike modern vehicles, insuring a vintage car often requires specialized coverage tailored to the unique needs of classic car owners. While many insurance companies offer standard policies for older vehicles, you’ll want to seek an insurer specializing in classic cars to ensure you’re getting the best protection possible.

Not only will they understand the risks associated with owning a vintage ride, but they’ll also be able to advise you on any additional coverage options that may benefit your beloved Beemer.

When registering your 1980s BMW, each state has its own set of rules and regulations related to classic cars. Depending on where you live, there may be specific requirements regarding emissions testing or safety inspections for older vehicles.

As such, it’s essential to research your local laws and guidelines before hitting the open road in your retro ride. Additionally, some states offer special license plates for vintage vehicles – these not only add a touch of authenticity but could also provide benefits like reduced registration fees or exemption from certain regulations.

As you venture down memory lane in your 1980s BMW, remember that protecting your investment is just as important as enjoying the freedom it brings.

By securing proper insurance coverage and following all necessary registration procedures, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that both you and your cherished vehicle are safe from unexpected mishaps or legal issues.

So go ahead – rev up that engine and let loose on the open highway confidently because life is too short not to embrace adventure behind the wheel of a timeless classic like yours!

Community and Clubs

Now that you’ve considered the insurance and registration aspects of owning a 1980s BMW, it’s time to delve into the community and clubs centered around these iconic vehicles. Being part of a like-minded group can enrich your ownership experience by providing support, resources, and camaraderie. Plus, who doesn’t love sharing their passion for classic cars with others who appreciate their beauty and engineering?

Networking & FriendshipLocal car meets, online forums
Technical Support & AdviceClub workshops, knowledgeable members
Exclusive Events & DiscountsCar shows, track days, club merchandise

The benefits of joining a BMW club or community are vast. You’ll have access to networking opportunities with other enthusiasts who share your love for 1980s BMWs and technical support from those experienced in maintaining and repairing these classics. Additionally, being part of such a community often grants you exclusive access to events like car shows and track days where you can display your ride or put it through its paces on the racetrack.

As you continue exploring the fascinating realm of 1980s BMW ownership, remember that surrounding yourself with fellow aficionados will only enhance your experience. So go ahead – dive into this vibrant community! Attend local meet-ups or join online forums dedicated to classic BMWs; share stories about restoring that vintage gem or discuss the model best suited for long road trips under an open sky. Your journey into this nostalgic automotive era will be all the more gratifying when shared with others who seek freedom through their pursuit of timeless design and performance.

Testimonials from 1980s BMW Owners

Hearing straight from ’80s BMW owners themselves can give you a sense of what it’s like to own and drive one of these classic beauties. Many long-term owners rave about their experiences, noting how their 1980s BMWs have outlasted other cars they’ve owned, with minimal issues.

Their stories paint a picture of cruising down open roads with the wind in their hair and the unmistakable purr of an older engine beneath them. One enthusiastic owner shared his experience with his 1989 BMW E30 convertible, which he’s owned for over twenty years. He spoke of its reliability and durability, stating that even after all this time, he feels confident taking it on extended road trips without worrying about potential breakdowns.

Another owner echoed a similar sentiment for her 1987 BMW E28 sedan; she mentioned that despite racking up nearly 200k miles on the odometer, her car still runs smoothly and shows no signs of giving up anytime soon. There is something special about these vintage machines – a mix of nostalgia, quality craftsmanship, and perhaps a bit of luck – that has allowed them to stand the test of time.

The passion behind each testimonial speaks not only to the reliability of 1980s BMW models but also to the freedom they represent: freedom from excessive repairs or replacements, freedom to hit the open road without hesitation, freedom to keep driving your dream car well past its supposed expiration date. So if you’re considering adding one of these timeless vehicles to your collection or using it as your daily driver, take heart in knowing that countless others have done so before you – and enjoyed every mile along the way.

The Verdict: Are 1980s BMWs Reliable?

So, you’re wondering if these classic ’80s gems are truly dependable rides? The answer to that question is more complex than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

When it comes to reliability, 1980s BMWs have a mixed reputation. On one hand, they were built with the quality and craftsmanship that has become synonymous with the brand. Many enthusiasts swear by their durability and performance capabilities. However, like any vintage vehicle, there’s no denying that these cars come with their own quirks and potential issues that may require extra attention.

As with any older car, maintenance plays a huge role in determining the reliability of a 1980s BMW. These vehicles were designed and built during an era when cars were expected to be taken care of regularly by their owners – something we might not always prioritize today. Regular oil changes, fluid checks, and tune-ups were standard practices for keeping these machines running smoothly.

If you’re willing to commit to this level of upkeep (and maybe even develop some DIY skills along the way), you’ll likely find your classic Beemer quite dependable.

Overall, whether or not a 1980s BMW proves reliable for you will largely depend on how well it has been maintained over its lifetime and your dedication to continuing that maintenance. It’s important to remember that while these cars may have been cutting-edge at their time, they are still decades-old technology that can come with inherent challenges compared to more modern vehicles.

With proper care and attention, though, there is no reason why you can’t enjoy many miles of freedom behind the wheel of one of these iconic automobiles from yesteryear!

Tips for Buying a 1980s BMW

When searching for the perfect 1980s BMW, knowing what to look for and being aware of any red flags or warning signs is essential.

As a savvy buyer, you’ll want to consider factors like originality, service history, and potential rust issues before purchasing.

Let’s dive into some tips and tricks that’ll help you find the best classic Bimmer for your needs.

What to look for

To ensure you’re getting a reliable 1980s BMW, watch for common issues such as electrical problems, rust, and worn suspension components. As these cars are over 30 years old, it’s important to thoroughly inspect the vehicle before making a purchase.

Familiarize yourself with any trouble spots that may be specific to the model you’re interested in and examine the car from top to bottom. Some areas to focus on include:

Electrical issues

  • Check for flickering dashboard lights or malfunctioning gauges.
  • Test all power accessories such as windows, mirrors, and sunroof.
  • Inspect wiring harnesses for signs of wear or fraying.


  • Look for bubbling paint or corrosion around wheel arches, door sills, and undercarriage.
  • Pay close attention to areas where water can accumulate, like the trunk floor and spare tire well.
  • Worn suspension components:
  • Inspect shock absorbers for leaks or excessive bouncing during the test drive.
  • Listen for clunking noises when going over bumps or turning corners.
  • Check bushings and ball joints for excessive play or deterioration.

By doing your homework and knowing what to look out for when shopping for a 1980s BMW, you’ll be better prepared to find a classic ride that will give you that sense of freedom you desire.

Remember that while these vehicles may require more maintenance than newer models due to their age, finding one in good condition can reward you with timeless style, engaging driving dynamics, and unparalleled character – not to mention the admiration of fellow enthusiasts who appreciate your taste in vintage automobiles.

Red flags and warning signs

In your quest for a reliable 1980s BMW, you’ve already learned what aspects to look for in these classic machines. Now it’s time to delve into the red flags and warning signs that could indicate potential problems lurking beneath the surface. Paying attention to these details may save you from headaches down the road, and ensure you’re investing in a vehicle that truly embodies the freedom and excitement you seek.

Be wary of rust when inspecting your prospective 1980s BMW, as it can be both an eyesore and a structural concern. Check areas such as wheel arches, rocker panels, door bottoms, and undercarriage components for any rust spots or bubbling paint.

Next on the list is electrical issues; while these cars are known for their engineering prowess, they can’t escape occasional electrical gremlins. Test all switches, lights, windows, sunroofs (if applicable), and instrument clusters for proper functioning.

Don’t forget to examine service records – an irregular maintenance history or lack of documentation should raise suspicion about how well the car has been cared for during its lifetime.

Finally, watch out for leaky seals around engine gaskets or transmission components – they might indicate deeper mechanical issues that could lead to costly repairs in the future.

By being vigilant about these red flags and warning signs during your search for a 1980s BMW, you’ll be one step closer to finding a dependable ride that not only looks good but performs at its best too, granting you endless opportunities to hit the open road with confidence and exhilaration behind the wheel of your very own piece of automotive history.


In conclusion, owning a 1980s BMW can be a rewarding experience if you’re prepared for the potential maintenance and repairs. They may not be as reliable as modern cars, but their classic charm and engineering make them worth the effort.

Remember to do thorough research before purchasing one of these vintage beauties, and consider joining a community or club for support. With proper care and attention, your 1980s BMW could become a reliable companion on the open road.

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