1998 BMW 318ti M-Sport

Like the M535i from the other day, the 318ti continued BMW’s expansion of M branding to pedestrian models. That plan included inclusion of a new down-market economy model; the 318ti Compact. The new hatchback platform brought the pricing of the small executive into the teens (just), but the only engine available – the 138 horsepower M44 1.8 liter 4-cylinder – proved just adequate motivation. Though big brother power wouldn’t come to the chassis, the Sport, Club Sport and later M-Sport packages added BMW Motorsport DNA into the E36/5. Subtle styling revisions included M3 front bumper cover, revised rocker panels and a diffusor-inspired rear cover. The Club Sport and M-Sport received special mirror covers and integrated fog lights, as well, along with the M-Sport suspension. Inside, special sport seats with Millpoint fabric (red in the case of the Club Sport), along with an M branded wheel and shift knob, helped to remind the driver that they were in the sportiest of economy BMWs. And the basic package was fairly good to begin with, in spite of the power shortfall; Car and Driver rated the 318ti Sport second in its handling competition, though it should be noted that it lost to a front-wheel drive Honda.

These 318ti M-Sports have developed a bit of a cult following as a result, offering economy car sensibility and cheap repairs with M3 looks – and, for many, a great basis for motor swaps down the line:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW 318ti M-Sport on eBay

1998 BMW 318ti M-Sport

Just the other day, Paul looked at a 1998 BMW 318ti in Oxford Green. An offbeat commuter, the condition of that car was great, but not so much was the near $7,000 price. Today I have another 318ti to look at, but this one ups the ante a bit. Again it is an original M44 car in great shape with well below average miles. The color is a little less 90s spectacular, but still looks nice in Alpine White. However, it’s the addition of the California roof and the M-Sport package which really helps this hatch stand out. Let’s take a look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW 318ti M-Sport on eBay

1997 BMW 318ti M-Sport S52

Nate has been on a run of covering some great classic Alpina models, and it’s very easy to see the appeal of the brand. Their tried and true recipe of taking the motor out of a higher-end model and swapping it into the smaller chassis might have seemed a simple task, but the execution of Alpina was always top notch and the results were undeniable. Coupled with upgraded wheels and suspension and full of lovely details, they always managed to feel like a premium product and today that appreciation is shown in high asking prices. In the same vein as the legendary Alpinas, many enthusiasts have tried to take the motor out of M models and fit them to lesser 3-series and 5-series models with varying success. But if done right, the result can be a very tidy looking and appealing package on a more friendly budget:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW 318ti S52 on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1995 BMW 318ti Club Sport Supercharged

What’s the perfect commuter car? Well, that varies by your definition of commuter, how far you need to drive and how much traffic you encounter, and what your goal is – do you want high mileage, or perhaps you want extreme comfort and isolation. But I’d like to think that a fair amount of our readership would love to have a dual purpose car. It would be something that wouldn’t be a collector-status car, but yet one that was unique and not often seen. It would combine comfort and affordability. While some would opt for automatics, I’m sure a larger percentage would choose to row-their-own boat. Fuel mileage, while gas is cheap now, would probably still be a consideration, as would maintenance. And finally, when the traffic cleared and there was a empty bit of road, most of us like to squeeze the pedal down that bit further and be rewarded by and entertaining push in the back. That’s a difficult grouping of characteristics to achieve in one package, but I’d like to suggest that this 318ti might just be the car.

The Club Sport was the answer to the question that effectively no one was asking in 1995; depending on the source, BMW sold a reported 200-300 of them in 1995 only. What the option 9530 got you was a 318ti hatchback that had been breathed upon by BMW Individual. Added were 16″ sport wheels, M3 front bumper, rocker trim and mirrors and a special rear bumper. But it was more than an appearance package, because it also received a M-tuned suspension, special steering wheel and shift knob and uniquely trimmed Millpoint M-cloth sport seats. The seller of this car has brought the performance up to M levels, though, with the addition of a PSS9 coilover suspension, double spoke M3 wheels and supercharger to the M42 inline-4:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 318ti Club Sport on eBay

Not Quite As Good As the Renault 5: 1998 BMW 318ti M52

Okay, so maybe the Renault 5 isn’t your thing. I get it, it’s not mine either. I like the ideal and audacity of the Turbo models with their mid-engined lunacy, but pricing on good examples is pretty outrageous and if the videos of them driving are to be believed, they’re not the best hatch dynamically. No, I’ve pretty much always been a Golf fan, having owned a few of them now. But I must admit I had a soft spot when the E35/5 hatch popped up for sale. To me, it combined some luxury looks with practical performance. And when I say performance, honestly there wasn’t much available. The M44 engine that was fit to the 318ti was a decent performer, but it had only 138 horsepower, and at the price point you were much better off getting a GTi VR6, which oddly was more luxury oriented than most of the 318tis and offered more performance. However, the base of the 318ti was a good idea; a smart looking, light and nimble hatchback with a manual transmission and rear drive. And, of course, being an E36 platform, it was ripe for engine transplants. Today’s example is one of the more rare M-Sport equipped models, but this one has yanked the M44 in favor of an odd choice – the M52B25:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW 318ti M52 on eBay

1997 BMW 318ti M-Sport

It seems like just yesterday I was writing up a clean 318ti M-sport. The condition was great on that particular example; miles were lower, it was all original and the color was nice. But there were several drawbacks, too – the California roof, while cool, was noted by one of our readers as a potential problem spot. Then there was the transmission; an automatic, it robbed a fair amount of the sport and fun out of the package. To top it off, there was the asking price – a staggering $13,000. As if to answer every single one of those points, another near-mint example of the rare to see M-Sport package has popped up this week; conventional sunroof, lower price and thank heavens a manual gearbox are the highlights here:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW 318ti M-Sport on eBay

1999 BMW 318ti M-Sport

BMW’s introduction of the 1 series baffled me a bit. Sure, the idea of a rear-drive hot-hatch is enticing, but then two things happened. First, BMW made the version of the hot-hatch that was actually hot very, very expensive. Then, they didn’t bring it to the U.S., instead sending the 2-door sedan version over. In 1M form it certainly wasn’t bad, but the normal 128i and 135i versions look a bit like E46s that were left in the sun a bit too long after being sandwiched in front and rear collisions. Sound harsh? It is, I know, but I can’t help but see an English bulldog every time I see one of the 1 series cruising towards me. I much prefer the looks of BMW’s second attempt at a hatchback, the 318ti. It was funky, spunky and – especially in M-sport trim – looks exactly like what I’d want in a BMW hatchback. Okay, so there wasn’t the massive performance of the M-versions of the new 1 series or 2 series here, but then there isn’t the massive price, either. For a daily driver with good economy, it’s nice to couple that with good looks in a package that is very different than the norm:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 BMW 318ti M-Sport on eBay

1995 BMW 318ti Euro S50 swap

A few weeks ago, I wrote up a tidy little 318ti M-sport that, as a package, was pretty well presented. The right sprinkling of M3 details on these little hatchbacks really dresses them up and makes them a compelling alternative to a Volkswagen GTi, for example. But that car retained the original 4-cylinder motor; great for commuting and fuel economy, not so great if you want a kick in the pants. What if you took one to the next level then, and installed a full Euro-spec S50 with double the horsepower of the original motor? You’d have an even more compelling package, especially when it’s presented in a very low mile chassis:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 318ti on eBay

Motorsport Mondays: 1997 BMW 318ti 454 Twin Turbo

There are a fair amount of people who don’t get the “stance” scene, and there are many others who don’t understand modifying a car to go to the track. There are those who don’t understand Concours shows, those who don’t understand not putting miles on a car, and an equal number who don’t understand daily driving a high-performance machine. There are diesel fans, turbo fans, V8 fans and even fans of the supercharger. There are people who love modifications and those who prefer their cars stock. For the most part, I “get” all of these camps; I don’t necessarily agree or favor any one in particular, but each has its own merits. There is one that still leaves me a bit mystified though – drag racing. I understand it takes tremendous skill to get a car dialed in; I appreciate the engineering that goes into overcoming physics. I am awed by the raw speed that these vehicles can produce – ballets of explosive violence, a concoction of sound, smells and disappearing cars. But I’ve never really understood the attraction of drag racing, though an unusual suspect can sure make me smile:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW 318ti 454 Twin Turbo on eBay

1996 BMW 318ti M-Sport

One of the great unsung heros of the E36 lineup was the compact three-door hatchback, sold in the U.S. as the 318ti. Journalists decried the E30-based rear suspension and oversteering tendency of the 318. Enthusiasts were grumpy that it only came here with the 4-cylinder. And practical folks were happy to pass up the rear-drive amusement for a cheaper and better equipped Golf. But in my mind, the proportions of the 318ti were just right – like a rear drive Corrado, this car screamed of the potential for fun and practicality in one little package. The best looking of the bunch were the M-Sport models – though the changes were only cosmetic, they made the hot hatch look great!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 BMW 318Ti M-Sport on eBay