The holidays and Christmas are all about investing time with friends and family. When you’re in your 30s, spending some quality time with the past seems much more difficult than spending time with the latter — unless your friend is a reliable car and daily driver that’s also getting on in years, like my slow but fun-loving BMW 318ti.
Many of you are familiar with the 25-year-old red hatchback, but the little guy recently reached a (literal) milestone, and I simply had to buy a gift or two to commemorate the occasion. My 1997 BMW 318ti has 200,000 miles on it and is still powered by the original engine and transmission — a 1.9-liter inline four cylinder with 138 horsepower when new and a five-speed manual transmission.
The car is still running on the original factory clutch, which has survived instructing two of my best buddies how to drive stick. I probably shouldn’t be so eager to show friends how to drive a manual transmission in my daily driver, but the 318ti is nearly impossible to stall.
Aside from being a pleasant teacher, the 318ti has been my daily driver for over a decade. It’s put up with me for as long as I’ve put up with it. These BMW M44-powered cars have quite delicate cooling systems due to brittle plastics, and the window regulator arms bend and allow the glass to fall out of its trail if you look at them funny.
Overall, we both came out of that decade in great shape than when we started. So, instead of a pair of wool socks (an underappreciated Christmas gift), my 318ti received an M-Technic bumper and mirrors this year.
These were originally sold with the BMW M3 of the time (the E36), and the bumper was sold with the 318ti Sport. The mirrors and bumper were both present on the rare 318ti Club Sport, as was a limited slip differential. My car is a 318ti Sport, but when I bought it, it was strangely missing the bumper. Fortunately, the difficult-to-find rear M-Technic bumper was present.
BMW 318ti was an E36 and E30 parts bin car designed to attract young buyers to the company’s 3-series line. It’s been upgraded over the years with parts like an M3 bumper and mirror set, as well as a Strömung exhaust and a Blaupunkt SQR 46 head unit.And gallons upon gallons of Liqui Moly engine oil and Red Line transmission fluid.
My 318ti is far from perfect, he admits, but there’s no need to rush. The blown struts were replaced with Konis, and the worn rubber in the suspension was replaced. I’m sure I’m forgetting some other components and maintenance, it’s been a long time.