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1990 BMW 318iS

  • Location: Hornchurch
  • Odometer Reading: 101000
  • Chassis Number: WBAAF92010EE46049
  • Engine: 1796
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Color: Red
  • Interior: Grey Check Cloth



The BMW E30 has found its place as a hugely desirable modern classic among enthusiasts for whom the combination of a rear-wheel-drive chassis, utterly neutral handling, and old-school Germanic engineering is irresistible.

Designed as an alternative to contemporary rivals such as the VW Golf GTI for the discerning executive, the two-door BMW 318iS is, once you’ve discounted the M3, one of the most sought-after E30s of them all. Essentially a 325iS with a four-cylinder engine and the M3’s suspension, the uber-rare 318iS fairly fizzes along thanks to its rev-happy 16V engine. The four-pot might only produce 134bhp and 127lb/ft of torque but as it only has to haul along 1125kgs the performance is way more sporting than you might imagine thanks to an impressive power-to-weight ratio of 123bhp/tonne. And, as a bonus, some say its handling is even better than that of the BMW 325i thanks to the lighter, four-cylinder engine under the bonnet.

It looks the part too, thanks to de-chromed exterior trim, front and rear spoilers, sports front seats, and M-Tech leather steering wheel and gear knob.

The Vehicle

Delivered to its first owner on the 1st August 1990 by Halliwell Jones Ltd of Southport, this lovely example has had just five former keepers. Its condition is a glowing testament to the fact that it has clearly been treasured over the years by a series of appreciative owners.

Currently owned by a serial BMW enthusiast, it has been recently serviced and lightly fettled to sort out the kind of niggles that are inherent in any nigh-on thirty-year-old car. As a result, it is fighting fit and looking magnificent. Offered in time for the summer season, all the new owner needs to do is to fuel it up and drive it long and hard over the next few months.

On the Outside

The Brilliantrot Red coachwork benefits from a recent respray and is looking utterly fabulous; few colours suit the E30 3-Series better, and this example glistens as it shows off the neat Luthe styling. The panel shutlines are as crisp as the styling, and feature consistent, even gaps throughout.

If we are being picky, the original equipment 15-inch BBS alloy wheels could do with being lightly refurbished to bring them up to the same standard as the rest of the car. The tyres all have good tread and the O/E front and rear spoilers are correct and present.

On the Inside

The anthracite sports interior is in fabulous, unworn condition with the seats being in remarkably good condition with only the gentlest of patinas to the bolsters.

The door cards are in good condition and are wonderful in their simplicity, taking us back to a gentler, simpler time when BMW still stood for engineering excellence and was renowned for the beauty of its three-box saloons. BMW X6 owners will be appalled by the austerity of the vehicle’s design, which is probably all the affirmation you need to place a bid on this iconic car…

The owner tells us that everything works as it should, including the electrically operated tilt’n’slide sunroof, which is free of leaks and still seals tightly. A modern, aftermarket Blaupunkt head-unit has been fitted and the car retains its period Fischer C Box cassette storage box between the front seats, complete with a Tony Christie cassette therein.

The dashboard does have a number of splits; this is a common problem on the model and caused by exposure to the sun. We don’t think it detracts from the overall ambience of the vehicle but a perfectionist would want to spend a weekend replacing it, as they might the M-Tech gear knob, which does show some wear.


Recently serviced, the M42, 16-valve engine starts on the button and delivers its power across the full rev range, really coming alive above 4,000 rpm. The owner tells us that the gearchange and steering are both every bit as good as we’ve all come to expect from the E30, both serving as a reminder that one of the many joys of driving a rear-wheel-drive chassis is the purity that comes from this traditional driveline layout.

The lowered and stiffened suspension is essentially to M3-specification, so the 318iS handles beautifully, remaining neutral under even the most ham-fisted provocation, while the experienced and sympathetic driver will discover the sort of on-the-limit handling that drivers of contemporary front-wheel-drive hot-hatchbacks can only dream of.

Alongside a recent service, the vendor has replaced the front and rear brake discs and pads with high-quality Brembo components and sorted out the handbrake mechanism.

The owner has said that the biting point of the clutch is a little high, leading him to suspect that adjustment, or even replacement, might feature in the car’s future. However, the drivetrain’s layout means that this is a much easier job than on many of its contemporaries and so we wouldn’t be deterred as a result but bear it in mind when bidding.

Otherwise, we are advised that the car is running beautifully and has just passed another MOT with no advisories.

History Highlights

The car comes with a full 12-month MOT and the MOT history supports the car’s mileage. The car will be supplied with the original sales brochure plus various period road-test articles.

Sadly, the car’s service history is missing. The seller tells us that the chap he bought the car from was trying to source it from a previous owner, so it may still be available, albeit after a bit of detective work! However, this cannot be relied upon and so your bids should be set in accordance with the car’s current condition.

Please visit the ‘Gallery’ section of this listing to see the invoices and old MOT certificates that are available as well as over 80 photos of the car.

What We Think

Built only in 1991, the BMW 318iS is an ultra-rare, and highly affordable cult alternative to the iconic – and hugely expensive – M3. Reliable and dependable, it is one of the most usable modern classics you can buy today.

This example had a retail price of £17,509 back in 1990, which is equivalent to around £42,500 today. This makes our guide price of £6,500 something of a bargain and substantially lower than the five-figure sums we are starting to see these remarkable cars advertised for, and remember our reserves are always lower.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this car can be seen in Essex; to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Thames Valley Car Storage for storing your car, AnyVan for transporting it, and Footman James for classic car insurance.

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