Manual Controls: 1994 BMW 318i Convertible – SOLD!

by | Jan 2023 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Topless Thursday

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February 17, 2023, Update – We confirmed the seller of this “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

At some point, we will conclude that a simple, no-frills car is just as engaging as a vehicle with few features of comfort and convenience. And, it’s also far less of a pain in the neck to live with once it reaches a certain age, and those luxuries that were all the rage when the vehicle was new suddenly start to fail. A case in point is this clean 1994 BMW 318i convertible, which has a closely-related sibling in the form of the 325i. The 318i may be down two cylinders, but it also has some desirable “features,” like a manual convertible top that won’t fail and a fairly durable (and fuel-sipping) M42 engine known to hold up to all sorts of abuse. We spotted one example in January 2023 on Craigslist in Jupiter, Florida, for $5,500. Comparing that price against the model guide shows that the seller is asking below the going rate for a clean E36, pegged at $10,900 as of this writing.

As I mentioned above, there was certainly a time when a lowly 318i was not a car to covet. Especially in the BMW universe, where the 325i and M3 were offered in convertible form and with more features (and horsepower).  Suppose you’ve spent any time around German cars. In that case, you know that for all of their virtues, buying an older one requires either the due diligence that leads to buying the best one you can get (and thus paying a very real price) or finding one with needs that is cheap enough to justify the open checkbook maintenance it will need. If you’re willing to sacrifice some upgrades and horsepower, is there a chance you can have your cake and eat it, too? In the case of the E30 and E36 chassis cars, buying a model with the spunky M42 engine under the hood answers that question with a resounding “Yes.” However, as most car guys and gals know, our ego gets the better of us, and we can buy the needy M3 anyway.

The MotorWeek Retro Review YouTube Channel features this test drive of both the 1994 E36 318i Convertible and M3 for com

The seller’s car is one of those rare cases of a base model offering actually being looked after as if it was the more premium option. This 318i convertible has been owned by the seller for 10 years which is another rarity when it comes to the cheaper spec model. The seller has maintained this car not as a beater but as one he was truly proud of, with recent work including a respray, new exhaust, and the desirable European headlights that came standard on overseas examples of the E36. The interior doesn’t strike me as original – it has almost certainly been re-done – but it looks pretty decent, if not as clean as a factory install. The 318i rides on E36 M3 wheels and the seller has the original “bottlecap” style rollers. Some defects include a rear window on the convertible top with loose stitching and a slow leak coming from the air conditioning system. The price seems right to me for a turnkey driver and if you find an OEM hardtop, you have a year-round cruiser with likely fairly low maintenance costs.

Here’s the seller’s description:

“For Sale is a 1994 BMW 318i Convertible in White with Red & Black Interior. $5500 OBO Black MANUAL convertible top; no electric motors to go bad. The car is a 1.8 liter 4 cylinder with a 5 spd Manual Transmission. Car has approximately 115 K miles on it. Runs very well. Super fun to drive. Has BMW M3 Wheels from that era with high performance tires. I have replaced the exhaust with a Bosal Cat Back System from South Africa, giving it a racy tone without being obnoxious. I have also installed Euro Glass Headlight Housings to replace the cheap plastic ones used here in the states. Car has been repainted recently. Have a one inch thick file of all maintenance and service records for the car. I have owned it for nearly ten years. Time for something new. Has nice Pioneer Stereo and upgraded speakers. A Front Spoiler is included with the car that I had/have not installed yet. AC works in the car, but has very a slow leak. Refilled with R134 once a year. The rear window stitching has let loose and will need to be resewn. The car has a very expensive alarm system on it from a previous owner. I have two original keys for it. I also have the original tires and wheels from the car prior to installation of the M3 Wheels. The car is not perfect, but is a very nice driver and a very enjoyable ride. Please take a look at photos and see for yourself. Keep in mind that this car is 28 years old. It is not perfect, but is better than most that you will find out there. Last four photos are from when I bought the car.

Base model bliss: could you learn to love a low-spec car like this E36 318i?    


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