Shed Of The Week: BMW 318iS


What do you look for in a classified ad for an old BMW?

Less than 100,000 miles? Five greens on the service indicator? Full service history? A good metallic colour? Leather upholstery? Manual gearbox?

Well now this looks rather smart, doesn't it?
Well now this looks rather smart, doesn't it?
This week's E36 3 Series Coupe ticks all those boxes and adds an extra one - it's a 318iS.

We'll get onto that in a minute, but first let's admire the comely shape of the E36 Coupe. It remains an attractive car even now. Ironically, the 318iS to have - if investment is your goal at any rate - would be the 318iS saloon. That was only on sale for one month, in 1998. But the Coupe looks best.

Right, back to the iS bit. Normally of course the sight of '318' on a BMW ad will have any self-respecting PHer turning up their schnozz in disgust. But the iS bit is important. That means it's the 16-valve version of the quietly effective but basically bland small four that droned many a sales rep up and down the motorways of 1990s Britain.

Those extra valves hoisted 318 power up by nearly 25hp to 138hp and gave the Three the top end that was never really there on the 8-valver. You do need to chase peak power somewhat on the iS, as it's not reached until 6,000rpm, just 500rpm short of the redline. Fortunately, revving the mammaries off it is not a pre-requisite for enjoyable iS driving, because you also got more torque in the iS, and lower in the rev range, thanks to its DISA variable-length intake manifold. So it's not a case of peaky not-so-blinder. Indeed, the key advantage of the 1.9 M44 over the forged-crank M42 was its extra driveability.

'iS' means 16 valves and heady height of 140hp
'iS' means 16 valves and heady height of 140hp
Intake mods will release more iS power than exhaust mods, so we're talking air filter, throttle bodies, and a chip. A cat-back exhaust will sound better, but it's a fair bit of financial pain for not that much gain.

As a post-'94 Three, this car's cams will be driven by a chain rather than a belt. What can happen to these M44 engines though is sudden head gasket failure. If the gasket hasn't been changed yet then it's not a bad plan. Plus it's a good excuse to shove in a pair of Schrick cams.

What else can wee on your iS chips? Well, the cam cover gasket can seep oil, and this model didn't escape the plastic-impeller water pumps that plagued so many BMWs. Check as many pipes as you can for perishing or splits. Idle control valves get gunged up, causing lumpy running. Clutch pedals squeak, diff bolts loosen, and front lower control arm bushes dry up, leading to steering wobble and uneven tyre wear. Power steering reservoirs can leak. Track rod ends wear - but you probably knew that. The front windows don't work on this car. That could be something as simple as a relay.

You'll note from the ad that this car has had a new Final Stage Resistor (FSU) fitted. This is such a common BMW fault that the FSU has even been given a nickname: the hedgehog. If the lads include the pic, you'll understand why. This gizmo controls the air-con blower, or not, as the case may be. If your hedgehog is on the fritz, the fan will begin to operate in an alarmingly random fashion.

Look great; not all that supportive though
Look great; not all that supportive though
The only sure fix is replacement which, a bit like a real hedgehog if you sat on it, is a right pain in the Harris thanks to its rotten location. So, good news that it's all been done here.

While we're in this area, anyone who's ridden in an E36 with leather seats will know they're not really as cool in practice as they look in a picture. Try a bit of hoonage along a bendy road and the outsides of your knees will be black and blue from all the bracing against the trans tunnel and the door.

But they do look great, and especially so here. The pics provided with the ad are the sort that a proud owner would take of his (or her) car. Why, he (or she) has even gone to the trouble of cleaning it! Whatever next.

Here's the ad.

1997 R-reg E36 BMW 318is Two Door Coupe in silver/green Moreagrün metallic (288) with the higher output M44 designated engine. Manual 5 Speed Gearbox. 5 Seats - Full Black Leather in great condition. Full Service History. A clean and unmolested example. Previous owner fitted 'angel eyes' style headlight surrounds which were thankfully not connected. Headlights are unaffected and work as they should. Mileage is approx 99,300. 5 Months MOT remaining. Front electric windows not currently working. CD Stereo with Aux out. Original car mats.
Full sized spare wheel. Integrated rear sun blind. Air conditioning. Dual zone climate control. Recent Battery. New Final Stage Resistor (FSU) unit fitted. Very keenly priced at £975. Advertised elsewhere. Based in Cardiff - CF24.

 

 

 

 


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Comments (115) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Jimmy Recard 21 Apr 2017

    I'd give that a try if I was looking for a car right now. Looks good to me.

    They were a very nice looking car way back when

  • ambuletz 21 Apr 2017

    Looks like a nice tidy car. The miss-matching indicators need sorting ASAP, dunno how the owner slept at night.

  • clonmult 21 Apr 2017

    Jimmy Recard said:
    I'd give that a try if I was looking for a car right now. Looks good to me.

    They were a very nice looking car way back when
    Still are a good looking car - always thought that the E36 was the best looking 3 series and for me they're a way better design than anything currently offered by BMW - everything they do is just too darned fussy.

    I owned a very late model E36 318iS (99 model), brilliant drive, smooth engine, seriously good fun on the twisties. Indecently practical on occasion (folding rear seats!) too. Seriously miss that car ....

  • Jimmy Recard 21 Apr 2017

    clonmult said:
    Still are a good looking car - always thought that the E36 was the best looking 3 series and for me they're a way better design than anything currently offered by BMW - everything they do is just too darned fussy.

    I owned a very late model E36 318iS (99 model), brilliant drive, smooth engine, seriously good fun on the twisties. Indecently practical on occasion (folding rear seats!) too. Seriously miss that car ....
    I agree! It's just that compared to most of the crap that was around in the mid 90s, they looked quite amazing.

    Half seemed to be 318s with steelies and wheeltrims and the other half 328s with all the options

  • g3org3y 21 Apr 2017

    Looks like a clean car and the kind of advert I like to see (i.e. no 'bruv speak' and decent photos). Good shed imo. smile

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