What Brakes? – 1991 BMW 318is

While every E30 BMW M3 gets snapped up by people with DTM/BTCC or financial fantasies, and the hard-to-kill, fun-to-drive six-cylinder cars keep piling on the miles, most people overlook a lesser-known alternative – the E30 318is. And while it only gives up 26hp to the top-dog M3, you should really be comparing the car to BMW’s earlier four-cylinder sport sedans, including the E21 320is and the 2002 and 2002tii. In this light, the 318is shines – there’s more power available than in any smog-choked E21, and the power and relatively modern electronics of the M42 make it a credible alternative to the much-older 2002. And so we come to this 1991 BMW 318iS, for sale by reader Dave S., currently with no bids at $1500 in Barrington, IL.

1991 BMW 318iS left front

The story behind the car is it’s a rescue car that needs to move to an owner that can actually do something with it – much like a pet in a foster-care situation awaiting its forever home. As such, it’s got a few rough edges, and it’s unclear what final straw put it in storage in the first place. While the car does show some rust and evidence of past accident repairs, other areas like floors and spare tire well are solid. Mileage, while not exactly low at 143K, is not outrageous for a car that can usually hit 200 or 300,000 miles with careful maintenance. Perhaps the bumped front corner was the final straw, or it was how a previous owner found out the brakes needed repair.

1991 BMW 318iS left rear

Other body damage includes some missing bumper trim (Maybe Partying Will Help is the advice that is helpfully shared on the bumper), rust aft of the driver’s door, and a missing lower spoiler. The clear coat has also failed, which is not unusual for early 1990s cars, and there are a handful of interior trim parts that have failed. Under the body, the muffler is hacked together, but other than that, things look pretty clean for a 25-year-old midwestern car.

1991 BMW 318iS engine

The engine is said to run well without overheating, with all gauges working properly. It has a rough idle and stalls occasionally when cold, so you’ll probably need to do a full servicing of the electrical system and keep your multi-meter handy. The seller does have past service records, and the radiator, expansion tank and seals were all replaced before the car was stored. In any case, it looks like the first order of business will be diagnosing and fixing the brakes, then debugging the engine to get it running properly.

1991 BMW 318iS interior

Unfortunately, the interior has lost its sports seats to another car, and now has non-matching black comfort-trim seats. That said, E30 sports seats are certainly out there, and if you’re looking at making this into a regular driver, it’s definitely worth your while. The interior doesn’t look too bad, so set up a couple of automated searches while you sort out the mechanicals. What would you do with this car? Restore it, use it up as a winter beater, track it, or something else? You can reach Dave via his auction, or use the contact form to be put in touch.


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