Showdown: How Do You Take Your Four Doors? Edition

1980 BMW 528 e12 for sale1989 Ford Crown Victoria LTD for sale

Our last Showdown was long, long ago, but still in this galaxy. Based on the results there, a sister blog of Beeriverse has some potential.

Today, we’re keeping things a bit more practical. Run of the mill sedans for surprisingly cheap prices. At first, these two seem worlds apart: the Bavarian precision of the e12 528i Vs Grandpa’s Barge-y Yank Tank. But when you get down to it, both have a lot in common: roughly 400lb engines dating back to the 60s, staid styling, remarkably clean interiors for their ages, and both are a generation behind the more popular versions of their models.

1980 BMW 528 e12 for sale1980 BMW 528 e12 for sale1980 BMW 528 e12 for sale1980 BMW 528 e12 for sale

Not unlike a certain turbo terror, this find may or may not have been the result of searching for cheap would-be donor BMWs for Der Uberbird. Typically the hunt for a would-be donor fades into and “hey…that’s crazy cheap for a pretty nice Bimmer…and I totally know how to work on it or where to get parts“. You could easily replace the 170-ish horsepower 2.8L M30B28 with a snappy 220hp (more if it’s chipped) M30B35 out of a late-80s 535 or 735. (Not that I’d know anything about such a swap).

For those who haven’t recently been up to their neck in early 80s BMWs, I’ll point out that the e12 chassis is a nice mix of refinement and simplicity. Parts can be a bit trickier to find than the later e28 chassis 5-ers, but only for suspension pieces. This one has clean paint (in a shade I don’t normally like, but it works here), a recently rebuilt motor, and a remarkably well-kept interior for the price.
1980 528i – $1550 Inland Empire Craigslist
1989 Ford Crown Victoria LTD for saleUmmm, yeah. Swapping in “the good motor” to get 220hp sounds a bit silly when you’ve got five liters of Windsor-sourced power and a Summit catalog on the toilet tank. 320hp is more like it. Wanna talk about parts interchangeability? How about a platform that’s 3 years older than I am, and a small-block motor design dating to the late 50s? Besides, don’t tell me this brick of a Ford can’t be made to handle, just check out this other ’89 tearing it up on the autocross circuit. For all the high-and-mighty talk about refinement and German this or that, you could be hooning it up with 3-wide seating and a vehicular profile that still commands respect ’round most parts. Build that 5.0L, hang a T-5 or T-56 off of it, and swap in a disk-braked, limited slip 3.73:1 8.8″ rear axle out of an Explorer. Throw on a push-bar for good measure and the world is your Autobahn.


1989 Ford Crown Victoria LTD – $1850 Los Angeles Craigslist
[poll id=”28″]

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  1. LTDScott Avatar

    Man, that's tough. Being the owner of both a 1980s RWD Ford sedan, and a 1980s BMW sedan, I'm conflicted.
    The cool factor goes to the BMW, but if I want a car I can actually rely on and not worry about, gotta go blue oval.

  2. tonyola Avatar

    It all depends whether or not you like to be nickel and dimed to death. The BMW is definitely the sportier drive, but it will also require frequent and occasionally costly attention. The Ford will take drive-and-forget beater duty with much more forgiveness. I'm assuming that anyone looking at these cars is on a budget (neither is collectible), so I give the Ford the nod for lower running costs and overall sturdiness. Me? I already have my old sedan – a '94 low-mileage LeSabre.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Based on my experiences with circa-89 Ford products and circa-80 BMWs, I'd say the maintenance issue is a bit of a toss-up.
      Remember, this was a time when BMW was most concerned with developing better driver's cars, not Uber-Lux vehicles for status seekers.

    2. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Based on my experiences with circa '89 Ford products and circa '80 BMW products, maintenance would be about even.
      Remember, this is a BMW from an era when they were most focused on building great drivers, not catering to ladder climbers. Despite a few Germanic quirks, these are still pretty simple.
      Meanwhile, while the Ford's engine mechanicals and chassis are super simple, I worry about things like door handles, power windows or fuel injection bits.

      1. FreeMan Avatar

        I like the slight variations in your two replies.

        1. Tim Odell Avatar
          Tim Odell

          Dammit…I thought the first one was lost to the aether, waited like 3 hours, then did the 2nd one.
          IntenseDebate Comments…you're so pretty, but you hurt me so bad.

        2. tonyola Avatar

          He liked my comment so much he replied twice! 🙂

  3. lilwillie Avatar

    Oh I have to go with the Ford, even if I am a Bimmer guy. I had a LTD back for a few months in college. Smallest damn V8 Ford had in the LTD 255cid boat anchor that couldn't get past 80mph….God what a pile of 80's shit that car was.
    Only had it because the owner was sick of it burning, leaking and sucking oil. It also had some cancer issues. It cost me a six-pack of Old Style Light. Worst….Deal….Ever….

  4. lilwillie Avatar

    It sensed your vote….I couldn't vote either.

  5. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    Wait, five liters of Windsor-sourced power on the toilet tank? That'd be one hell of a crapper!
    On a second note, that video makes me happy. Reminds me of Banner Mountain with a 73 LTD wagon in high school, albeit with a lot more body roll, tire noise and screaming passengers…

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      and a Summit Catalog.

  6. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Log-out, log back in?
    Clear cookies?
    Beyond that, I suspect I know what the problem could be…but the fix is gonna have to wait a bit.

    1. SSurfer321 Avatar

      Yeah, I was broken. It worked from home.

  7. Sivart_R1 Avatar

    Damn you for posting the auto-x video. I was all set to vote for the BMW, but after watching the wagon, I had to vote LTD…

  8. Balestra Avatar

    Yank tank all the way for the underdog factor.

  9. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    Honestly? And this may be a bit unpopular of me, but I'd hold onto my money and save up until I could afford a Roadmaster wagon. But that's only if I absolutely needed a four door. If I didn't need it, I'd be looking in two-doorsville.

  10. P161911 Avatar

    I STILL regret not jumping on a late 1980s Grand Marquis that was parked on the side of the road for sale for $600 a couple of years ago. It was the stereotypical little old lady's car and looked to be in good shape with about 80k miles.

  11. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

    I love them both, but I gotta go with the Ford. You just can't beat a fullsize, rear-drive American sedan designed in the stone age. Great room, good power, comfortable ride and wonderfully chintzy styling.

  12. Maymar Avatar

    The left side of my brain wants to go for the BMW – it's light and nimble and not entirely inefficient. But the right side of my brain's been pulled back to when I was three and went to stay with my grandparents just so I could ride in the Big Ford Car. I will own a Panther one of these days, and as much as I'd like a P71, something incredibly clean like that would be an excellent start.

  13. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    Neither of these – I'd hold out for a wagon like the one in the video, honestly. If it was a woodgrained Country Squire, I'd leave it alone; if it had faded solid-colour paint, I'd probably lay down a few coats of flat grey, then number and name it like a battleship. A class III/IV hitch and push bar would get my point across in traffic, and I fully endorse your suggestions of rear discs and an LSD.

  14. Buickboy92 Avatar

    Crown Vic, or noting!

  15. gdvsbp Avatar

    I have never seen a better video in my life.

  16. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Although I'm a sucker for BBS Cross-spoke alloys with black centres, especially on an E12, This time I'm pining for the Crown Vic.
    Just so I can spend my time recreating the Beasty Boys Sabotage video.

  17. superbadd75 Avatar

    If the Ford were the sharp handling beast of a wagon shown in the video, then the answer would easily be Blue Oval all the way. As it is, however, there's no telling how much cash one would have to drop to make the Crown Vic go from Grandma to Grand Tourer, and the Bimmer is already there. BMW wins this one for me.

  18. muthalovin Avatar

    Dude. I just cast my vote and it tied it up, 38 BMW, 38 Ford. This is going down to the wires!
    Oh, and BMW because I could see myself driving daily on those beads.

  19. dukeisduke Avatar

    I'd take both of them. The 528i for running around town, and the LTD for long trips. Those chrome wheel lip mouldings on the BMW would have to go, though. Hell, I'd take a screwdriver with me, and take them off right there in front of the previous owner, before driving it home.

  20. omg_grip Avatar

    Hmm I voted for the Ford. But the poll gave my vote to the bmw…Still pretty much tied
    The bmw definately has a cool factor the ford doesnt. But the ford is awesome.

  21. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    52 – 47, Crown Vic in the lead!!!!
    @ 3:40pm EST