BMW 318i Touring (E30) | Shed of the Week

BMW 318i Touring (E30) | Shed of the Week

Friday 10th January

BMW 318i Touring (E30) | Shed of the Week

Finding a good E30 Touring is hard work. Finding one for Shed money is all but impossible...



When particular Sheds are being talked about on Petrolicious, you know that this is the time for you to start paying attention.

Okay, so that last sentence may be stretching the truth somewhat. You won't find our E30 Touring shed anywhere on that online haven for lovable motors, but you will find generic E30 content on Petrolicious because the gen-two 3 Seriesβ€˜s 1982-1994 years represent a rightly well-loved period on the BMW timeline.

Although the E30 debuted as a two-door saloon in 1982, it was another five years before the estate came along, and it did so with a very odd backstory. It’s not certain that BMW had a 3 Series estate in mind at all until a BMW employee who hated not being able to take his family on holiday in a regular 3 Series saloon started hacking around with a written-off Three in, of all places, his shed. The management liked the fruits of his labours so much, they signed it off for production. The E30 Touring could therefore be the last example of a mainstream car design being knocked up by one bloke in a shed. He obviously got it right too because Touring E30s generally fetch about 50 per cent more on the used market than their four-door siblings.

What makes our own humble Shed especially interesting is the fact that it does qualify as a Shed. As most of you know, cars only get chosen for this feature if (a) they cost Β£1,500 or less and (b) they have a current MOT certificate. Everyday E30s will sometimes fulfil one of those two criteria, but outside of the super-expensive sports models they will only rarely tick both boxes at the same time. That’s because they’re old and very rot-prone, a toxic combo that has brought most of the non-specialist models to a grisly end.


The wonder of our 1989 318 in white is that corrosion hasn't been mentioned as either a fail or an advisory on any MOT reports since 2006, when it had 114,000 miles on the clock. Fourteen years later, nine of them in the current owner’s care, the mileage has reached 185,000, which is no small amount, but the critical point is that the body still appears to be sound.

That apparent solidity makes it a very interesting candidate for a driveline transplant, something the next custodian might want to consider anyway given that this is the lowest-powered 1.8 version of the Bosch Motronic-injected, Steyr-built M40 single-cam four hooked up to a power-sapping four-speed automatic. The Touring was hardly a gulliver at 1,200kg, but with just 113 or so horsepower on tap the 318i’s 0-60 time was in the 13 second bracket, the top speed was just 115mph and the town fuel figure was around 25mpg.

Not exactly a roadburner, then, but at least the 318i was faster than the 86hp diesel option you could get in some markets, and you can always tell doubters that your M40 motor formed the basis for the epic turbo F1 motors of the 1980s. These Tourings were more about civility than searing performance. With a lot more refinement than the preceding E21 Threes, they brought classy second-car practicality to a moneyed clientele that had previously had to choose between Astras and Escorts. The driving position is still one of the best ever and the rear-wheel drive balance was beautifully judged.

The present London-based owner tells us that he bought the 318i as a project, but that he found the car to be too useable in its existing condition to disturb the status quo. Shed likes this type of honesty in a car seller. Photographs of the interior have been deemed unsuitable for public viewing, which is a pity, but using his spidey senses Shed will lay money on the seat bolsters being scruffy at the very least. Ebay and scrappers are your friends, but be warned that some trim parts are getting scarce. Dashes in particular are super-rare.


Engine-wise, the M40’s timing is by belt, and that needs to be replaced every 30,000 miles/three years. Skipped oil changes may impact adversely on camshaft wear, but the good thing about pre-1991 M40s is that top-end work is relatively easy. Keep the coolant under surveillance and if you want your auto box to last, look after its oil. If the wiper isn't doing intermittent wiping, it will very likely need a new motor.Β 

Now, although we said there was no MOT-based indication of structural problems, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is none. These E30s are well known for crumbling. Get a profile picture of one and draw a horizontal line on it at floor level. That entire lower section of the car from the boot floor to the front subframe mounts and suspension turrets is vulnerable, taking in the front wings and arches, the inner wing tops in the engine bay, the metal areas at the base of the windscreen, the cabin footwells, seatbelt mounts, sills, jacking points, door bottoms and sunshine roof (which this car has). Inner rear arch housings rot on later E30s with plastic bumpers (which this car has). Front struts go in the spring cups, but replacement dampers aren't expensive. Rear coils break, as do trailing arms. Steering racks leak, and so do fuel tanks.

The owner admits to some very typical rust at the base of the back window, so you know that the grim reaper has already made a start on his dirty work. Your job is to β€˜catch it’, as Mrs Shed shouted after Shed’s moggy Tibbles had blithely curled one out on the parlour floor at an inopportune moment. Not that there ever is an opportune moment for that sort of thing to happen, of course, but if there was ever an opportune moment to invest in E30 futures this might be it.


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Author
Discussion

Billy_Whizzzz

Original Poster:

1,222 posts

92 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
Most beautiful BMW ever. And worst colour. But lovely anyway and ripe for a heart transplant.

can't remember

868 posts

77 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
E30s are a bit of a passion for me. That is as base a spec as you can get without diving into the gutless horror of the 316i. It doesn't look particularly well looked after either.

I am only guessing, judging off a couple of photos, but I reckon that of you gave the rear arches, front valance, sills or windscreen surround a prod you'd end up with a handful of rust.

However decent ones are going for good money. So if you are planing on rebuilding it and doing an engine swap crack on as it would be another one saved from the scrapyard.

T1berious

1,228 posts

104 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
S54 transplant? Would make this the ultimate Q Car!

g3org3y

14,405 posts

140 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
I was actually looking at this car in the classifieds last night. My wife then 'reminded' me I didn't need any more 'projects'. biggrinrolleyes

Does look a little tired, but not unexpected at around 30 years old and 185k. Rust rust rust...that's what kills E30s.

alorotom

7,365 posts

136 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
I love the e30 but not in estate guise, I had a baur for a while but would love a cab - sadly well out of shed budget!

josh00mac

204 posts

57 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
We are going to see a flood of modern classics being disposed of this year in London as we get to ULEZ

Mat-vhi1h

14 posts

45 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
I’ve recently picked up a very nice Lexus LS400 from a seller in London for this very reason.

Veeayt

2,907 posts

154 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
I was expecting the first post to be 'it's already sold'. Strange. Lovely car, even without the heart transplant

mrpenks

232 posts

104 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
That’s nice. I also like the fact this is pre M Badged everything.

helix402

5,210 posts

131 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
The F1 engine was based on the M10.

only1ian

588 posts

143 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
I had a E30 325i saloon with an autobox and it was a 3 speed! Is the 4 speed auto correct?

sgtBerbatov

1,789 posts

30 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
josh00mac said:
We are going to see a flood of modern classics being disposed of this year in London as we get to ULEZ
You say that like its a bad thing!

Turbobanana

1,631 posts

150 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
Normally I'm all in favour of "older" Sheds but I'm struggling to find much to love in this tired looking, poorly presented example. Love the back story though, a man in a real shed...

Hub

4,474 posts

147 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
Love an E30, but it will feel slow these days. Not sure why it isn't suitable for a project - I'd have thought it would be ideal!

I'm surprised the rear plate isn't an MOT fail!

psymonr

131 posts

130 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
Now THIS is a shed, very very cool

Water Fairy

2,987 posts

104 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
Like most I love a nice E30 having had a 320i saloon back in 1994 a yoof.

I wouldn't give tuppence for this one though.

Given the prices of half decent E30s these days think I'd prefer an E46 as a daily.

J4CKO

28,975 posts

149 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
5 years ago, just another doggy old 3 series, but now this is probably one of the last chances to own that body style, even if it is a touring, for sensible money.

If its not rotten its crying out to get some kind of budget "restomod" treatment as frankly, wheezy old four cylinder and dopey old school four speed auto isnt anyones idea of fun, but so many options to replace it with something half decent.

I know someone whose husband chopped her older, manual 320i touring in for a new 316i Auto that looked a bit like this one but with all the funky body kit and BBS alloys, all factory as I guess it was run out time before the E36, it lasted a week as it was so utterly painful, looked the part but was comically gutless and I suspect this may be similar.

Doesnt need anything ridiculous under the bonnet, a 3.0 six from an E46 with a manual box coupled with decent suspension and brake upgrades, some bodywork and retrimmed interior could be very nice.

Didnt expect to see one of these as a shed again.

can't remember

868 posts

77 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
Hub said:
Love an E30, but it will feel slow these days. Not sure why it isn't suitable for a project - I'd have thought it would be ideal!

I'm surprised the rear plate isn't an MOT fail!
It probably will be suitable for a project but you have to go into an E30 project with your eyes wide open. Sorting the body is the only sensible place to start and, as has been mentioned, these things rust like you wouldn't believe. Secondly if you want to put it back to original you will most likely end up refreshing the engine and drive train whilst the car's in bits in your garage. The under pinnings are next as they will be tired and E30 always benefit from some new springs and shocks. This is a 30 years old car and I'll bet most of it's original. Most importantly though this is a 1.8 auto and will be like nothing you have driven in the last twenty years (unless you have been very unlucky). If you want to do an engine swap for something tasty all the drive train and underpinnings are basically going in the skip.

JakeT

2,785 posts

69 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
This is ripe for a 2.8 M52. Old school feeling engine, and they're bloody rapid in these. A mate has one that I've been eyeing up for a while now. His started life as a 1.8 white touring too... scratchchin

Veeayt

2,907 posts

154 months

Friday 10th January
quotequote all
JakeT said:
This is ripe for a 2.8 M52.
M52 is an engineering compromise, with a single benefit of aluminium. M50 is much sturdier/clever.