Digestible Collectible: 1991 BMW 318is

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
digestible collectible 1991 bmw 318is

If there isn’t some sort of church-basement support group for unrepentant car shoppers and buyers, there should be, with stale coffee and plenty of doughnuts. I know there are thousands of us nationwide, eyes bleary from constantly refreshing eBay and Craigslist searches.

Those two are gateway drugs, certainly. The layout of eBay and Craigslist easily allow one to browse their listings like an automotive Silk Road until a car catches one’s eye, whereas places like Cars.com and Autotrader are for the hardcore junkie; the one who knows somewhat specifically what machines they choose to lust over.

I guess I’m the methadone user who is also selling the good stuff on the side: Obviously, I write about these classics a few times a week, pushing the product onto screens everywhere, but I barely have enough spare funds to shop the free section of Craigslist.

There are times, however, when the urge is overwhelming, and I begin looking at objects in the house that could be sold for quick “project-car” cash. What’s the going rate on cats, by the way?

This weekend I stumbled upon some old photographs from the days when I autocrossed my Miata. The photos that caught my eye, however, had me behind the wheel of a very different car: a BMW 3-series. I’d gotten to the venue early, as I was slated to work the waivers at the gate, but my car was not healthy. The clutch decided to crap out en route. After limping to the parking lot, I started begging for a co-drive. A friend let me turn some times in his E30, and I was hooked.

That car was a six-cylinder car, which I recall was a bit nose-heavy. For all but one year in the E30’s lifespan, the four-cylinder option was gutless (save, of course, for the almighty M3), but in 1991, BMW fitted the new M42 twin-cam four, which really livened up the car with power and better balance. Sport seats and suspension made the 140-horsepower 1991 BMW 318is a viable alternative to the 325i

I’d love to get some seat time again.

So I hit up Autotrader. This one isn’t too far away from me, and it looks nearly perfect save some wrinkled vinyl on the driver’s bolster. I love the later car’s smooth plastic bumpers and air dam; so much cleaner looking than the massive early aluminum bumpers. It’s been repainted, but the work looks well done. An asking price of $7,000 isn’t that much unless you are on a writer’s income, so I have no doubt this will find a good home soon.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be setting up the folding chairs and brewing some Maxwell House. All are welcome.

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2 of 29 comments
  • Dust2glory Dust2glory on Dec 04, 2015

    Over the summer I purchased an immaculate 100% oem 103k mile 91 318is slicktop. It cost me 10k and there were two other people in line willing to pay the full asking price of 11.5k. It turned out my wife new the seller from high school and he graciously sold the car to me for a discounted price. The previous owner had recently completely refreshed the full suspension, added an LSD, and refreshed the cooling system. The interior is perfect. The car is so much fun to drive and I have no plans to modify it. 7k is not an outlandish price at all. EAG sold a 91 318is with 40k miles for $23k this year. This car is getting hard to come by in good condition.

  • Km156 Km156 on Jan 23, 2016

    As the current owner of this exact car pictured maybe I can shed a little more light on its story. I bought it for 5k on eBay and it came with the factory springs. Those were reinstalled shortly after getting it home, in addition to putting on new pads and rotors, because the racing ones it came with were downright aweful. It also acquired 4 new 15" alloy wheels that are designed like the factory originals, due to the previous owner not using a torque wrench after installing the lowering springs. (lugs came loose on the ride home and stripped the grooves on one of the original wheels). And it now has 4 matching performance tires. The only mechanical failure in the last year and a half of ownership has been the slave cylinder (probably original) and was an easy fix. Now, this car is an absolute blast to drive. It has precision handling and is unbelievable in the corners. Not looking to sell any time soon! Cheers!

  • Ravenuer The Long Island Expressway.
  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.
  • Saeed Hello, I need a series of other accessories from Lincoln. Do you have front window, front and rear lights, etc. from the 1972 and 1976 models
  • Probert Wow - so many digital renders - Ford, Stellantis. - whose next!!! They're really bringing it on....
  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.