This ’91 BMW 318is Finally Has the V8 It Always Wanted
With a potent yet small 130-horsepower engine under its hood, the 1991 BMW 318is coupe was never meant to be a high-powered blunderbuss of a car. Rather, it was more of a better-handling BMW 325i at a steal of a price—quite the tantalizing prospect. Nevertheless, even diehard fans will admit they weren’t flush with power and a little on the rough side when such horses were found above 3,000 rpm. But they can’t say that about this 318is any longer. While the engine bay originally housed a diet 1.8-liter four-cylinder, that mill has since been replaced with the smooth and powerful 4.4-liter V8 from the acclaimed late-‘90s BMW 540i sedan. Horsepower has now been more than doubled (282 ponies, circa 1997), all while maintaining its original 318is “boy racer” looks. This, is what you’d call a cool car. And according to its owner, who recently offered the V8-swapped car up for sale, it took about two years to build, all told. RELATED: Check Out the Famous BMW M3 GT2 Art Car
Beneath the hood, the BMW 5-series V8 engine joins the 3-series chassis and brings with it the slick six-speed Getrag manual gearbox from the lovely 540i, now featuring an even shorter throw courtesy of a BMW Z3 shift linkage. Due to an engine computer tune, the engine is claimed to tack on an additional 15 horsepower and 15 lb.-ft. of torque, for good measure if nothing else.
The two worlds of BMW meet halfway down this car’s driveshaft though, literally. The front half is hewn from a 5-series propshaft while the rear is genuine E30 3-series, and leading into the original limited-slip differential. Track driving should be entertaining, to say the least.
The standard BWM 318is coupes were praised for their sportier M-Tech suspension components, which made them quite the track machines. This car is said to incorporate much of that gear, but now with the addition of coilover shocks and oversized Mazda RX-7 four-piston brakes.
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Inside, the interior is said to be largely original, with all of the gauges complying with the V8’s whims. You certainly wouldn’t know there’s a big V8 under the bonnet from outside or in.
Additionally, while you can find plenty of older 3-series BMWs with the hearts of more modern 3- and 5-series cars, this one is a bit of a rarity. The BMW 318is coupe was only sold in the US market for 1991, meaning this two-door is quite the uncommon find in general, much less with a big V8 under the hood.
Of course, traditionalists will cringe, but cringe away. Sometimes V8s just need to end up in little cars.
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