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:
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
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
It seems that another generation of small BMW hatchbacks – Iâ€™m looking at you, 1 series – will be passing us by here in the US market. But, not many people can blame BMW, as there were few takers for its mid 1990s experiment, the 3 series Compact. Sold here as the 318ti with the 1.9 liter four cylinder engine found in the Z3 Roadster, this car was all E36 saloon from the A-pillar forward but carried a vastly redesigned hatchback rear section with trailing arm rear suspension and simpler, one piece dashboard inside. This 318ti for sale in Pennsylvania has the rare California Roof option, which equips the 3er hatchback with a canvas folding roof, providing almost targa-like motoring pleasure.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW 318ti California Roof on eBay
The Mercedes-Benz CLA and forthcoming Audi A3 sedan are proof that Americans can be open minded to compact premium vehicles. However, dial it back a few years and you’ll come across one small BMW that was barely a blip on the sales radar screen: the 3 series Compact. Sold as the 318ti stateside, this hatchback was a mix of old and new, featuring the E36 front suspension setup while utilizing the old trailing arm setup from the E30. A simpler dashboard and unique bodywork from the A-pillar were additional features that set it apart from the rest of the E36 clan.
When introduced for 1995, these cars retailed for just under $20,000, opening the BMW experience up to a new demographic. Subsequently, given their lower priced status, there are few good examples left out there on the used market. This clean 318ti for sale in California has just over 100,000 miles and the 5-speed manual gearbox.