We recently had a request to see if we’d be interested in doing some welding and mechanical work on a 1992 E36 318i saloon owned by a gentleman, who had decided to take our local main dealer up on a free health check of his car and then probably wished he hadn’t. Unsurprisingly, the list of things that the technician filming the complimentary video highlighted was quite significant. What really got my attention was the mileage, 294,000 miles. This I had to see. Now, I am an advocate of high mileage cars that have been looked after and of course BMW are legendary for their ability to travel huge mileages but lets focus for minute, that’s 294,000 miles on a four cylinder M40 engine. It is certainly the highest mileage I’ve heard of on an M40, and bearing in mind that the Americans did not have the 4 cylinder engine, could this be the highest mileage E36 318i on the road?
As it turns out, the owner had bought the car brand new in Germany in 1992. As a member of the armed forces he was entitled to tax relief and so purchased the car directly from the factory for £12,000. He has subsequently used it as daily transport for 27 years commuting up and down the M4 and proudly achieving starship mileage with by the sounds of it almost zero drama: no major engine work, and running almost entirely on original major components, quite an effort for one man.
On seeing the car in the flesh, it was obvious almost immediately that the work required to sustain this E36 was going to far outstrip the value of the car. The owner and I had been in conversation about doing some work on his E36 over the summer for some time beforehand, exchanging emails on a semi regular basis. The summer overhaul we had been concocting had been brought into sharp focus, when, while his local garage had been tasked with changing a rear wheel bearing, they found what can only be described as a massive hole in the structural area above the rear axle carrier. They then told him that the car he’d driven over 100 miles the day before was unsafe to drive, and by all accounts they weren’t too keen on repairing what they had found.
I took our fabricator with me to view the car and a brief assessment revealed a gloomy forecast: the sills were bad, the floors were bad, the front wings were bad, the rear wheel arches were bad and that was just for starters. A week or so later we had it in the workshop and Pete was able to reveal the true size of the project. It was an impossible phone call to make, in which I had to tell the owner that the bill would most likely amount to roughly ten times the value of his beloved stalwart E36. I went with, “You should probably come down and have a look for yourself.”
I love the story of one man owning something from new and having driven it that far and wanting to continue to do so, but I really wasn’t convinced that he would want to go for it despite his enthusiasm and sense of humour about the whole thing. When he said he needed to discuss it with his wife, I did not think there was a lot of hope for the plucky 36. As it turned out, he simply had to agree a budget for the bathroom she would get in exchange as a sort of hush money deal, and to my very great but happy surprise, we now find ourselves embarking on the most comprehensive restoration of an E36 we have done to date.
It’s a remarkable story, the progress of which I will keep updated here in detail. I am determined to help keep the price down and the budget under control as much as possible. It is a restoration that has captured the interest of the whole team, and I am sure that we will have a lot of fun with it, which I will share both here and on our Instagram page which is classic_bahnstormers where we post daily pictures and videos of what we are working on.