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A Grand Monday: BMW 3-series Touring £850

Published 07 March 2016

There’s a lot of interest in the BMW 3-Series E36 at the moment, making it one of the most popular up-and-coming classics.

The difficulty, though, is finding a good one. There are two reasons for this. First, while E36s are terrific to drive and feel well engineered, the overall durability just isn’t as good as the E30 generation of 3-Series that preceded it.

Second, the sad truth is that many have ended their lives as amateur drift cars. We’ve nothing against people enjoying cars in any form, of course, but the E36’s popularity with drifters has, alas, limited their survival. Today, good, unmodified examples are surprisingly rare.

All of which makes this relatively late 318i Touring quite an attractive proposition. Finished in Arctic Silver with black leather, it looks the part, even though it doesn’t have the attraction of a six-cylinder engine. The 318’s four-pot is no ball of fire, but it’s certainly quick enough to hold its own.

BMW E36 Touring (2)

What’s more appealing about this particular example, though, is its almost entirely standard appearance. Having had just two owners from new, and with a full service history to back up its 125,000 miles, it’s a car that has all the hallmarks of having been well looked after.

In addition, a new MoT suggests it doesn’t suffer from the extensive structural corrosion that has been known to blight quite a few E36s, while a quick online check of the car’s MoT history highlighted nothing alarming in its past – certainly, the all-important structural condition has never been a concern for the MoT tester. The current test has no advisories.

We’d check the rear arches and sills carefully as the owner has openly mentioned that there are some rust bubbles present, but if this is nothing more than light surface corrosion it can be nipped in the bud. Mechanically, these are rugged and proven powerplants with no major issues, providing they’re well maintained and serviced, as this one evidently has been.

If it continues to be well looked after, this E36 will very soon become a desirable and cherished classic. As it is, it’s an interesting car that’s more than capable of delivering everyday duties, making it the perfect modern classic for families. And for £850, it’s a decent amount of premium-badged German car for the money, too.

BMW E36 Touring (3)


Corps Diplomat    on 7 March 2016

I'd forgotten they did an estate in this generation 3 Series. Sort of disappeared from our roads without anyone noticing.

anglebox    on 7 March 2016

Great cars. If they're anything like the E46 that replaced them, they'll probably be quite hard on their suspension components. Springs can crack at the bottom (so it's hard to sport) and shocks can leak. It may also need its rubber bushes replaced. If only this one was a six-pot, I'd put my hand in my pocket.

Lord Brasic    on 9 March 2016

Bit of a bargain this one and with a good mot and a service history. I'd put my money in this rather than a six pot without the mot or the history. There aren't many good ones left its usable and will only increase in value.

tobytronicstereophonic    on 22 May 2020

Well, the 'up-and-coming' part of this article was certainly prophetic. Writing this in mid-2020 you won't find an E36 Touring much below £3k unless you want a structurally corroded project. In my opinion, having recently bought one, even the 316i still offers acceptable performance. The diesel versions are best avoided as these are noisy, slow and economy only slightly better than the four-pot petrol ones.

Genuine parts are very expensive, but fuel consumption can be surprisingly good and with unleaded @ £0.99/litre, best be quick before they all are taken by the Great Drifting God in the sky. Corrosion resistance can be abysmal: take a look at how many rust-free Xsara Picassos are still plodding on: I haven't spotted an E36 for at least 12 months. As mentioned, suspension bushes and steering joints are likely to be shot too. Engines and transmission are long lasting, though. Ebay has many poorly listed parts for pennies if you're happy to spend a lot of hours cross referencing part numbers. Chinese coil-over suspension kits can be had for around £120 inc. delivery and and be fit in just a cpouple of hours. They seem OK quality-wise too especially those sold by 'Maxpeeding Rods' (sic).

So they are an expensive example of a near-classic car to run & repair however, the sheer pleasure driving one of these cars makes up for the insatiable appetite for spares and dissolving body shell. Sort of...

Edited by tobytronicstereophonic on 22/05/2020 at 14:23

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