VinnyGT19 New Reader
July 12, 2014 9:55 a.m.

I have a line on a "one-owner" 1991 318is. Seller is a person who parts out BMWs over message boards, and came into possession of this car from the local area (Atlanta). He describes it as having had one previous owner, and had not been driven since 2005, kept indoors since then. It's advertised as having 89k miles, original paint and interior in excellent condition, A/C apparently converted to R134a. The seller has apparently done a full fluid flush, replaced spark plugs, and replaced a faulty fuel pump, which is cited as the reason the car had been off the road since 2005. Carfax confirms that it has had one owner, and last registered in 2005. It doesn't have the optional factory LSD from what the seller says.

I am on my way to see it tomorrow. Seller has the title signed by the previous owner, but hasn't signed it himself or registered it "to keep it a one owner car." Asking price is $8k, but I think he would likely take less than that, as even he agrees "that's 24v swap kind of money."

I have been on the hunt for the "best" unmolested E30 I can find in the Atlanta area for awhile now. I am probably about 10 years late to the party in terms of finding a good cheap car as a keeper, but the E30's 80's appeal has really grown on me -- I'm trying to find a cool car from my childhood to enjoy. Miata, MR2, RX7, 240sx, early Civic/Integra/Prelude have been on the shopping list, but I love the aesthetic of the E30 above the others. The E36 would be a better buy I know, but the size/weight do not appeal to me. I haven't owned an E30 yet, but I have driven several (early 318i, two eta's, and a later M42 powered 318i), and I like the M42. Use would be as a fun daily driver that would likely get light mods (chip, lightened flywheel, Spec E30 suspension?), and maybe an autocross or two for enjoyment. My budget for car, consumables, etc is $8k right now.

What would be a fair price for such a car? Price premium on this one would be due to the low mileage and the "is" factor. Anyone know of a BMW shop that would do a pre-purchase inspection? If I don't end up with it, will pass along the info to whoever might be interested.

z31maniac
z31maniac UltimaDork
July 12, 2014 10:01 a.m.

I'd say no, just because you don't have the extra cash if something comes up with the car.

Otherwise, the 318is is very desireable and I understand why. I used to own a lightly modded one and it was fantastic car.

Slippery HalfDork
July 12, 2014 10:05 a.m.

"iS" should have the LSD. Is it a slick top?

If it has 89k miles, the body is in good shape and it has no sunroof I think the price is not bad.

A slick top 318is is a sought after car.

stuart in mn PowerDork
July 12, 2014 12:21 p.m.

While you can find them for a lot less money, prices for really nice e30s are on the rise. It does sound like the seller is allowing for some bargaining, so I'd recommend pursuing it.

Curmudgeon MegaDork
July 12, 2014 12:30 p.m.

Dunno about the price, but my younger brother had one. Nice little car but a bit underpowered. If I ever do get a Beemer it'll be an E30 318is or 325is.

dbgrubbs
dbgrubbs New Reader
July 12, 2014 3:40 p.m.
Slippery wrote: "iS" should have the LSD. Is it a slick top? If it has 89k miles, the body is in good shape and it has no sunroof I think the price is not bad. A slick top 318is is a sought after car.

LSD was optional on the 318is as were foglights

Knurled PowerDork
July 12, 2014 3:46 p.m.

That's, like, the second most desirable E30. $8k is steep but it's still roughly half of what an M3 would run...

BoxheadTim UltimaDork
July 12, 2014 6:25 p.m.

In reply to Knurled:

If you can find a decent E30 M3 for $16k I'd suggest you buy it right now.

Knurled PowerDork
July 12, 2014 6:58 p.m.

Ugh, and here I was thinking they were $15k cars. If that is the new crazy-cheap, then I'll just go ahead and cross that one off of the list of wants.

I rode in one at an autocross. Felt really nice, although the steering looked like it was really slow.

bmw88rider Reader
July 12, 2014 7:03 p.m.

Yeah, the E30 M3 is more like 25K range.

I think that the m42 was a good but uninspiring motor. If it was a 325is and clean I would be all over it for that price. For the M42 version...ehhh Not that excited. Especially since the E36 M3 is not that much more and a much much much better car.

BoxheadTim UltimaDork
July 12, 2014 9:02 p.m.
Knurled wrote: Ugh, and here I was thinking they were $15k cars.

That was a few years ago. They seem to have caught onto the aircooled Porsche price trajectory.

Mr_Clutch42 HalfDork
July 12, 2014 11:15 p.m.

That sounds like a few thousand dollars too high, because a fluid flush, fuel filter and spark plugs aren't really enough of a good reason to keep a good car parked for almost a decade. I would have a shop do a pre-purchase inspection and to do a compression test. You would also need to get new tires on it too. If he didn't flush all the fluids, you would need to if you bought the car. I better buy an E30 before prices get too high.

mr2peak HalfDork
July 13, 2014 12:24 a.m.

My old 318is M50tu car. Ported/polished lightened flywheel tons of other stuff. Getting a modified subframe and braided lines in this pic I believe. Really miss it. Do it.

However, I did pick this up for $3.8K in 2011, with the motor work and swap already finished...

ZOO UltraDork
July 13, 2014 7:14 a.m.

There is a similar thread on the Pelican Parts forum about a 6000 dollar 318is. The comments mostly suggest that it is too expensive. But I think that prices are rising for all E30s. BMW isn't making any more of them I wouldn't wait too long if it checks out.

ddavidv PowerDork
July 13, 2014 7:19 a.m.

I love E30s and race one, but I have a real hard time wrapping my head around the idea a 4 cyl E30 is worth anything close to 8 grand. If I were spending that kind of money on a 3 series BMW, I'd buy a E36 M3. Way more car for the money. But maybe that's because I drive them hard and don't worship the Sacred Roundel, so my priorities may be different.

If a 318is is really worth that kind of money, I guess the market proves me wrong.

mad_machine MegaDork
July 13, 2014 3:03 p.m.
bmw88rider wrote: Yeah, the E30 M3 is more like 25K range. I think that the m42 was a good but uninspiring motor. If it was a 325is and clean I would be all over it for that price. For the M42 version...ehhh Not that excited. Especially since the E36 M3 is not that much more and a much much much better car.

the M42 was hamstrung from the factory not to compete with the european 320 six cylinder which had 150hp.. so the M42 and M44 had to have less than that amount. Having said that, I did read where several BMW engineers have stated that the M42 and M44 both flow better than the S14. In fact, the S42 was a very powerful engine, it is a shame BMW did not follow that route for racing

stuart in mn PowerDork
July 13, 2014 3:41 p.m.
ddavidv wrote: I love E30s and race one, but I have a real hard time wrapping my head around the idea a 4 cyl E30 is worth anything close to 8 grand. If I were spending that kind of money on a 3 series BMW, I'd buy a E36 M3. Way more car for the money. But maybe that's because I drive them hard and don't worship the Sacred Roundel, so my priorities may be different. If a 318is is really worth that kind of money, I guess the market proves me wrong.

Logic goes out the window when it comes to collectible cars. The target market for this kind of car are people who wanted one when they were new but couldn't afford them; today, they make more money and the car is affordable. Plus, it's a practical classic that can be used every day if desired. Sure, there are other cars that are better performers for less money, but that's not the point.

mtn UltimaDork
July 13, 2014 7:25 p.m.

The one in my avatar is "for sale". We will probably not let it go for less than $7000--but we're not actively trying to sell it either.

We figure that it is only going up in value, and we enjoy it.

Desmond Reader
July 13, 2014 7:28 p.m.

I picked that car up not too long ago for $2,400. I thought I was overpaying, but after talking to the local enthusiast group, it sounds like I got a hell of a deal (yeah, 2400 bucks for a 24 year old car is a "hell of a deal"). Its got some minor rust on the passenger side, but otherwise its extremely clean. 130k miles and runs like a peach. Its an 89 IS.

I think the price is high, but if you can get him down to 6k, if its as clean as it sounds, I think its a good investment. These cars are only starting to appreciate. The 318is and 325is are the most desirable of the non-M E30s. Cars with fully intact dashboards and interiors, and no rust will pull in 8k all day.

Me, I'm going to fix the rust and repaint the car myself. I can probably double my investment when all is said and done. E30s make awesome daily drivers, but if you are looking for a track car, thats definitely not the whip your after. You'd want a much less pretty E30.

Oh and I dont know about the 318 engine, but the M20 in the 325is only begins to pull past 3k rpms, and it only revs to 6.5. It behaves much like a VTEC Honda, but luckily sounds worlds-apart better!

sanman Reader
July 13, 2014 9:59 p.m.

I have a hard time believing a 318is is worth that much money, but people are starting to pay for that much money cars of this era. The thing is that you want to use this as a DD. That means you need to think about future value. Even if this is the cleanest E30 out there it is not going to stay that way. This guy is asking collector money for the car. If you are going to mod the car to personal taste, look for something that needs a little work, but is still clean for half that price.

I just did what you are about to do. Except that the car was an sw20 and will not be my DD. cream puffs are going for $6-8k (for the n/a car), but I managed to snag a drive able slick top with some issues for half that price. For what you are looking for, be pt and widen your search area a little bit.

mr2peak HalfDork
July 13, 2014 10:07 p.m.

8k is a lot. That's a nice downpayment on a BRZ.

It's also 3.0-3.2L 24v swap money..

VinnyGT19 New Reader
Aug. 29, 2014 4:50 p.m.

Thanks for all the responses above. I wound up sending the car for a pre-purchase inspection, and bought it. I think I paid too much; it was not the best car I could get for $7k, but was definitely the best E30 that I found during a 6 month search, trolling Atlanta Craigslist, BMW CCA, and r3vlimited. This was a somewhat irrational buy -- part nostalgia for a sweet car from my childhood, but I plan on keeping it for a long time and enjoying it. I believe the market for these has appreciated, as nice ones are an endangered species.

E30 and E36 are still frequent suggestions for cheap fun car, although having recently shopped for one, I think that ship has sailed. Atlanta is a pretty good used car market, and having looked at a lot of them, this was the first that I saw that didn't smell like the inside of a Somali taxicab. E46's are literally everywhere. I missed out on a well kept 325is for sale in the Charlotte area, and I really couldn't find any other 325i cars worth having, the closest being a car in New Orleans, that had some rust. There were some early cars "survivors" for sale by original owner that were well loved; I just didn't want an eta.

The car cleaned up pretty nicely after wash, clay bar and wax:

The paint is really pretty good considering the age, and the "pleather" sport interior is all intact. The A/C was converted from R12 to R134a through a dealership, with documentation, which was a selling point here in GA. The person I bought it from had changed out the faulty fuel pump, which supposedly was what kept it off the road, along with oil, oil filter, plugs, a new radiator with coolant flush, new rotors/calipers/pads at all 4 corners, intake boot, and had the A/C serviced at the dealership (vacuum and refill of r134a with appropriate oil). I have had tires and alignment done, and fixed one electrical gremlin since I've had it (short in the high beam wiring on driver's side).

So this is my "extra" vehicle, with my other ride a very dependable Toyota truck, and I can work on it at leisure. Next on my list is transmission fluid, differential oil and fuel pump. What else would you all recommend in reviving this "barn find" back to the land of the living? The issues found in the PPI that haven't been addressed are the guibo (small cracks from being 23 yr old rubber) and a thermostat which is stuck open (haven't noticed - it's August in GA). Are either of those single item jobs, or should I be looking into doing lots of other stuff while I'm there?

Any suggestions on suspension upgrades that keep the stock ride height? The -is front lip and oil pan are low enough as is and I'm not into the "stance" thing. Thanks in advance.

HiTempguy UberDork
Aug. 29, 2014 6:45 p.m.

Jesus, that is purty!

$7k is a bit much (for me), but I could see myself paying $6k for that easily :)

mad_machine MegaDork
Aug. 29, 2014 8:46 p.m.

that is very pretty. I am jealous

mr2peak HalfDork
Aug. 29, 2014 8:47 p.m.

H&R Sport OE springs Bilstein HD shocks Ireland Engineering sway kit AKG Bushings

H&R Sport OE springs are very close to stock ride hight (1/2" lower?). Next up are the H&R Sports, which are lower than that, and then the Races. Bilstein HD's are the standard go-to for good reason. Ireland Engineering makes the most comprehensive sway bar kit with reinforced attachment points, you will bend stuff without the reinforcements.

If you're pulling it all apart.. Might as well do the AKG suspension bushings while you're in there. Since it's apart, this would be the right time to replace the 4 rear brake lines with braided lines, at the least do the 2 that the subframe covers. Also, in the interest of tire wear, you might want to modify the rear subframe for camber and toe adjustment seeing as it will be out of the car already, thanks to your new subframe bushings and brake lines. Seeing as you don't have an LSD, go get yourself an S4.10, this will be by far the easiest time to do it, much easier to get to those bolts with the subframe dropped. Check the CV Boots. When it all goes back together, AKG also makes some nice strut top reinforcement plates that spread the load from the strut mounting bolts, recommend front and rear… But, it all depends on how far you want to go.

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