I have a friend who had an engine fault on his 2008 E82 BMW 135i. The guys who diagnosed it couldn’t fix an untied shoelace, so they suggested a replacement. You could’ve bought a new small car for the quote they handed out. Then another friend’s W212 2012 Mercedes E-Class dropped its transmission, and that quote was enough for a year’s rent.
I’m starting to think that in the future, classic cars will be much more of a sacrificial pursuit. Not only because of potentially bigoted highways that will only let through autonomous vehicles, but also because in the future, ‘vintage’ vehicles of a certain vintage (from the 2000s onwards) just won’t be practical classics. Whenever anything goes wrong with these cars the solution from even the official manufacturer channels is just to replace everything. Nobody fixes anything these days. So the Nineties might viably be the last decade of the traditional classic car. It’s good enough for me, because the Nineties were packed with bargains.
One car that’s recently piqued my interest again is the E36 generation BMW 318is built for select markets as a bit of a poor man’s M3, featuring the trademark telltale signs of the Motorsport department such as more aggressive bumpers and side skirts, as well as bigger alloy wheels, a little rear spoiler, and sports seats.
The 1.8-litre engine revved freely and made about 140bhp which was plenty if you kept it on the boil, which you inevitably did with an E36 318is. Best of all it’s reliable with the M42 four-cylinder engine, and you can find an entire second-hand engine for around Dh2,500. So who cares if the ECU goes berserk.
A highlight in the 318is to look for is the limited-slip rear differential, so if you start searching for one (in overseas markets you can find a clean car for something like Dh20,000-Dh30,000 which is a bargain-basement entry into modern classic motoring) make sure it’s fitted with a diff and relax, safe in the knowledge that you won’t need a second loan to maintain it and that the smooth M42 will keep going for hundreds of thousands of kays. (Bonus points if you buy the right-hand drive South African edition 318i Motorsport.).