When inspecting a car to write up, the “cool car!” tipping point is usually reached at the sight of a monster engine, clean exterior or modifications, or low miles on a desirable car. Today, then, is the first time when it was the interior that pushed me over the edge and really showed this car to be the total package. The seller took a clean, if mundane, 318i sedan and has made it into an unassuming but amazing car. Using Lotus as inspiration and working to “add lightness” while keeping it functional and classy, he supercharged the robust M42 1.8L to get M3 power in a lighter package.
Selected thoughts from the seller:
This is a very special, Downing Atlanta Supercharged E30. The inspiration for this car was to be as light and fun as my Lotus Elise but with more practical use and without all the attention. After the death of a dear “Car Guy Buddy” a few years ago, the search was on for a clean 91 318i sedan as I thought a bit of garage therapy was exactly what I needed. Long story short, the project was a huge success, being a very livable car on the street and a total blast when play time comes.
Again, the theme of this project was to add lightness but still keep the car luxurious and streetable. Perhaps the car we car guys WISH BMW would build today. To this degree everything I deemed dead weight (like a big heavy battery and the antique airbag system including wiring) was tossed. However, I gave a nod to creature comforts like a decent, modern audio system with bluetooth and Ipod, plus heated seats and so forth.
The starting point was perhaps the most overlooked BMW ever built. The 91 E30 318i. A great engine full of twin cam fun in a beautiful, slender body that weighs about 2600lbs, or roughly about 1000lbs less than your neighbor’s portly E90…
…Numerous parts were ordered. When I say numerous I mean thousands and thousands of dollars worth of parts. I was left with a sea of brown boxes stacked next to my Alpine White E30 and an empty wallet. Over the next months (maybe even year or two) the E30 was slowly transformed into the car BMW should build today but won’t. The majority of parts and mods is as follows.
16″ OZ wheels
3.91 Limited Slip Rear (used but works great-2 black marks)
Downing Atlanta Supercharger kit (Price one out, not cheap) I figure close to 200 HP, but not quite according to DA figures.
VDO boost, pressure and temp gauges in custom ashtray delete, trip computer delete mounting
Euro M3 steering wheel (New=$$, No Airbag so don’t crash, please don’t buy my car if you are an idiot. Airbag bulb deleted)
Euro lip spoiler
Factory Sport Seats dyed to match, installed aftermarket seat heaters. Toasty warm.
E30 M3 roof antenna. Deleted the powered boat anchor antenna.
OE BMW mud guards, factory floor mats, M knob.
Alpine CD/Ipod/bluetooth, Alpine Amp, custom 6.5 rear speakers and separate tweeters. Nothing crazy, just nice.
Suede wrapped parcel shelf
Odyssey aircraft battery with custom mount. Weighs almost nothing and works fine.
15″ alloys on slicks for track use. Only two “drivers ed” days ever. Lots of surprised faces in the pits when we rolled back in!
Front and rear stress bars
Some stuff I forgot
LOTS AND LOTS OF LABOR AND LOVE
Things it will need someday if you buy it.
The oil pan gasket has just started leaking, probably because I have not driven the car much this season. Not leaking much but will leave a mark occasionally.
There is a tweety bird living in one of the belt rollers, sometimes. It comes and goes.
You will have to fix something, someday on this 20 year old BMW. I don’t know what, but you should know how to pop a hood if you are going to buy this car. The car is very well sorted and I would not hesitate to drive it anywhere, but please be realistic. If you drive a stock Camry because you want to, this maybe isn’t the car for you.
I really dig this car. I love that it’s a 4-door, and the baby 318 at that. The seller approached it with a clear thesis in mind and executed it well. If some more OEM-looking wheels could achieve the same lightness, I’d go with that, but no matter what this car seems poised to surprise. Its modifications and capabilities might seem more fitting on a track rat E30, but the fact that the exterior and interior are show-room beautiful and clean is what makes this little Bimmer well worth the asking price of $8,990. He seems open to offers as well, so someone could come out of this with a steal of a toy.