Jun 28, 2019 update to the BMW 318is project car

Project BMW 318is: Figuring Seats Out

We have learned—or perhaps more accurately relearned—a lot about E30 seats with this project. We say relearned, as it has been a decade since we have messed with these great cars. It’s amazing what can slip you mind with time.

Our VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) told us that our car was originally equipped with Code 269, anthracite, cloth interior.

Most 318is came with vinyl interiors. From what we could learn, none were equipped with the more common leather interiors of the 325is and M3.

In the original BMW press kit for the 1991 318is, leather interior is not listed as an option for this model. Could you imagine a BMW without leather in 2019?

While we were delighted ours was cloth-equipped, we had never actually seen a 318is with cloth ‘Sport’ seats. But the VIN number does not lie.

When we purchased our car, it was equipped with the original back seat and ‘Comfort’ front seats which were the standard seats in most E30 BMWs. Sport seats only came in sports models.

We originally assumed that the comfort front seats were original since they were nearly the same color, or so we thought, as the anthracite rear seat. As it turns out, they were close, but were not anthracite, but silver (code 270).

An excellent E30 fabric chart can be found here.

If you are unsure of what color you are looking at, check the underside of the back seat. You should find the fabric code on a tag. The German word for upholstery is ‘Polster’, so close enough.

The next clue that we got that the front seats were incorrect is that they had no handles on the seat upright—used to lift the seat forward—to get into the back seat.

Our car, then, had sedan seats up front.

There are also some differences in E30 BMW back seats as well. A coupe bottom seat has a much more squared off edge to it, while a sedan has a rounded edge, to allow passengers to get in an out easier. It appears head rests were an option on rear seats, as were arm rests, although neither seem to have been available on the less expensive and less well optioned 318is.

Another thing we learned is that Sport seats are some ten pounds heavier than Comfort seats. Yes, we actually weighed a set of Sport seats, and they weigh about 44 pounds when covered in leather.

While info on the differences between early and late E30 seats are somewhat sketchy, it is obvious that the heavy, smelly, rather uncomfortable horse hair seats gave way to lighter, more comfortable foam-cushioned seats some time during the model year range. The late 1991 318is certainly had the foam seats.

During one experiment in our learning process, we took a set of anthracite cloth seat covers that we bought off eBay—in Latvia of all places—and tried throwing them into our washing machine before installation.This rather simple mistake absolutely destroyed the already old and fragile seat cover and made it unusable. Thankfully, it was for a Comfort seat and not a Sport. Lesson learned.

We now knew what we had. While we love the anthracite cloth, we will need some coupe sport seats. From there we will have to try and match the anthracite fabric as best as we can or figure out another option.

We test fitted both sport and comfort seats and decided the additional comfort, originality and lumbar support was worth the approximate ten pound per seat weight penalty of the Sport seats.

Here we borrowed a Sport seat and found out what they really weigh. Notice how much more bolster support there is on the Sport seat compared to the incorrect Comfort sedan seats that came in our car.

In this picture you can tell the color difference between the Silver and Anthracite cloth. And yes, this is the seat cover we ran through the washing machine and demolished.

You should find a tag like this underneath your rear seat. 'Polster' translates to cushion or upholstery in German and our seats are #0269, which is Anthracite cloth.

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Comments
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z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
6/28/19 3:14 p.m.

"In the original BMW press kit for the 1991 318is, leather interior is not listed as an option for this model. Could you imagine a BMW without leather in 2019?"

 

In reply to Tim Suddard :

Tim, many new lower-end BMWs come with "leatherette" seats. 

Which is just vinyl with a new, fancy name. 

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Digital Editor
6/28/19 3:17 p.m.
z31maniac said:

"In the original BMW press kit for the 1991 318is, leather interior is not listed as an option for this model. Could you imagine a BMW without leather in 2019?"

 

In reply to Tim Suddard :

Tim, many new lower-end BMWs come with "leatherette" seats. 

Which is just vinyl with a new, fancy name. 

I think the intent behind the comment has more to do with coming with cloth or the like. BMW's leatherette or Mercedes-Benz's MB-Tex notwithstanding. 

GeoS
GeoS None
6/30/19 2:51 a.m.

I have a 1987 German market M3. It came with an anthrazit spec'd interior. The seat covers and panel inserts are a cloth houndstooth pattern. Front seats are the sport seats with the pull handles. The rear ones have a "bucket" style indent for 2 passengers with headrests. 

Looks like there a wide variety of interior versions based on trims, markets, etc. Did not know about the horse hair. Mine are foam (April 87 build). 

I like the cloth interior. A bit different from all the fully optioned North American cars. It matches well with the manual windows and sunroof. Try and find that on a modern M car. :)

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
6/30/19 7:17 a.m.

The new 3 Series this week has leather as a $1450 option. Thanks for all the feeback!

sfisher71
sfisher71 New Reader
10/3/19 2:16 p.m.

So my new-to-me 318is has sport seats in anthracite. The only damage is (naturally) to the, er, distal bolster on the driver's side of the seatback, where it's come open. 

For the drive home from Montana, I just slipped a black T-shirt over the seatback. It's neither optimal nor permanent, but if the foam starts to deteriorate it will at least keep the crumbs off my clothes while we work up a permanent solution.

...I've actually been toying with the idea of sheepskins, in a dark-ish grey, custom fitted for the Sport seats. Very period-correct, I seem to recall, though I suppose I should get aviator sunglasses and a Members Only jacket to complete the Goodwood look. So, maybe not.

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