At $4,800, Could This 1997 BMW 318Ti Be A Good M-Sport?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe 318Ti represents one of BMW’s most infamous mullets—E36 upfront and E30 in back. Let’s see if this M-sport spec’d car also comes with a hair-raising price.

Have you ever watched one of those amazing How It’s Made episodes on car building? I find it fascinating to watch the ballet-like machinations of the assembly line, and the remarkable mixture of human and robotic labor required to ensure the whole thing goes together in the correct order. Hell, I even have trouble putting together one of those folded-up cardboard boxes they give you for your stuff when you get fired!

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Considering the effort that goes into not just building a car, but its design and engineering makes it seem almost sacrilege to replace those carefully chosen factory parts with aftermarket pieces just because they might be “better” or “more aesthetically pleasing.”

Still, that’s what many of us do, and that was a key factor in the consideration of last Friday’s 2007 Porsche Cayman S as that car had a number of small to moderate mods affecting its desirability. It also had a $20,000 asking price and the promise that all the original parts came along at that price, making it possible to return the car to its factory settings with little effort.

All that conspired to award the Cayman a solid 64 percent Nice Price win and some discourse in the comments over the value of just leaving it as is and enjoying the mods. Factory laborers worldwide shed a tear at the prospect.

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Speaking of prospecting, it was that practice—the panning and mining for gold—that led to California seeing massive population growth in the mid-part of the nineteenth century and its eventual statehood in 1850. People came from all over the world to the former Mexican territory to seek their fortune and eat Hangtown Fry.

Today we’re looking at another emigre, and while this 1997 BMW 318Ti M-Sport doesn’t seem to have ever called California home, its ad does note that it has spent time in both Texas and New Mexico so I say close enough!

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The E36 Compact was an odd car upon its release, although the years have been somewhat kind to its quirkiness and models like this Ti M-Sport are sought after by its adherents. What was weird about the model was the mechanisms BMW took to cut costs in order to make the car the company’s entry-level model here in the states.

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The front of the car is all E36, and shared that car’s entire front clip and engine bay. From the A-pillars aft, however, the 3-series Compact was its own beast. Inside it had a cheaper dashboard than the higher-end E36s, while outback it eschewed that model’s fancy new multi-link rear suspension for a simpler semi-trailing arm set up taken directly from the preceding E30 cars. On top of that sat a bubble butt hatchback body that did look a bit ungainly.

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This one is unique in that it’s an M-Sport edition and comes with a few pretty nice options. According to the ad, it was supposedly bought in Germany by a U.S. Air Force officer through BMW’s European Delivery program and then was shipped to the States after some initial Deutschland dabbling. The ad claims 134,000 miles and a clean title, along with a U.S. life that’s been limited to the aforementioned States.

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The car presents in Alaska Blue over a charcoal cloth and vinyl interior and looks to be in excellent shape. I always look at the little black plastic trim between the back glass and body on these to see how a Compact has been maintained. If it’s present and glued down I consider that the rest of the car has been likewise looked after. If it’s loose or worse, missing, I question whether anything else has been likewise left unattended. The trim strip on this car looks intact and in great shape.

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The interior seems perfectly serviceable and features wonderful sport seats and the factory stereo. The three-spoke sport steering wheel looks to have seen better days, but it’s not creepily grungy or anything. A retractable rear sunshade is a fancy option here that you’re unlikely to find on many other 318s.

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Under the hood lies a 142 horsepower edition of BMW’s DOHC M44 four-pot. That 1.9-litre engine is backed up by a five-speed Getrag box just as you’d want. Someone has painted the cam cover with BMW Motorsports tri-color stripes here. If that’s a little too gauche for your tastes it could easily be undone with some goo-b-gone and elbow grease.

There are two sets of wheels and tires that come with the car. A set of 16-inch alloys with all-season radials sits on the car, while four steelies with snow tires get included too since that apparently was a thing back in Germany. The M-Sport bodywork includes the M3 front valance and a lip spoiler on the hatch. These and the rocker extensions really give the car an upmarket look.

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Hopefully, the car doesn’t also come with an upmarket price. The seller is asking $4,800, and you’ll now need to decide if this particular Compact is worth that kind of cash. What do you think, could this low-end BMW command that much? Or, is that too high a price for even an M-Sport?

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You decide!

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Albuquerquerque, NM Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to FauxShizzle for the hookup!

Help me out with NPOCP. Hit me up at rob@jalopnik.com and send me a fixed-price tip. Remember to include your Kinja handle.

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.