The popularity of the E21 has sky-rocketed in the past several years, but it wasn’t all too long ago that E21s were viewed in a different light. Stateside, E21 owners have been tight-knit, grouping together to form the “E21 Legion,” giving the otherwise seemingly forgotten chassis some strength in numbers. Across the pond, the situation wasn’t much different, with the E21’s younger brother, the E30, stealing the limelight, worldwide, for older 3-series fans. With the E30’s fame, and the 2002’s history, the father of the 3-series lineage is often lost somewhere in between.
However, it’s fair to say that lately, there’s been an impressive resurgence in the E21’s popularity. Ben Anson and his ’82 316 have, in their own way, helped the E21 to “rise again.” With what feels like a dozen prominent E21s surfacing in Europe, Ben’s certainly caught our attention as one of the best-sorted examples, and with the fanaticism surrounding his car since its unveiling, we have been all too eager to share it.
Ben’s 316 began life as any other. Signified as a base-model 1.6-liter by its single round headlamps, the car exudes the idea of starting with the bare essentials. Within just a few weeks, Ben got to work. Having built a Honda Civic on Gotti wheels prior, Ben was aware of what direction he wanted to take the car, and with that in mind, he was quick to purchase a set of Schmidt TH lines, measuring out to 16×7.5 and 16×9 front and rear, respectively. After wrapping them in 195/40s, they were fitted to his otherwise factory, silver car.
Quickly following his choice of wheels, Ben focused on the necessary suspension changes to get the car sitting as desired. A set of Air Lift Performance universal struts were put on order, and upon arrival, fitted to the car. The front strut housings were cut to the proper length, and with just two welds, the Air Lift components were installed. The rear struts were trimmed, the lower mounts were added, and with that, the suspension install was complete, and Ben’s E21 began to earn some attention. Air Lift V2 digital management was installed to bring the car up to modern standards and usability. Having started with a clean car, Ben was set on keeping the build polished throughout. In the trunk, the air tank received a perched mount, with hard lines disappearing into a wood-paneled trunk floor. A subwoofer rounds out the necessities for long-distance driving, giving Ben the ability to enjoy the long drives he endures during show season.
Wanting to change the exterior of the car to something a bit more enticing than “rental car silver,” Ben and his cousins opted to install vehicle wraps for the car. After deciding on a deep matte red, over the course of a long weekend, the boys successfully completed the wrap. With the new color brought a few new wheel options – a set of white-centered RSs graced the car momentarily, only to be followed by a set of 17″ Rotiform BLQs, which were swallowed by the tiny fenders of such a small car. However, none of the changes came with any staying power.
Finally unveiled at the Player’s Classic show just a few months ago, Ben brought forth the latest iteration of his beloved E21. After taking the car down to the bare metal, the coupe received a complete color change, this time to a classic-inspired pastel green. As the color changes in the light from vibrant and saturated, to vintage and muted, the car takes on an entirely new look. With the paintwork came the return of his TH lines, this time glossed over with a simple coat of white. The brightwork of the car – the chrome bumpers, window trim, and door moldings, help accentuate both the color and the cleanliness of the build.
What’s next to come? We’re not entirely sure. We can say, though, that we’re glad the E21 is finding owners like Ben Anson. If it hadn’t been established already, it’s clearly defined there’s hardly a better recipe for an E21. Between the unique color, perfect bodywork, and the focus on air ride and the wheel and tire package, we’re eager to see what other E21 owners will come up with.