I hope you brought sunglasses. Ask just about anyone what the poster car version of the Lamborghini Diablo is, and they’ll probably answer with the violently violet SE30. Bathed in magenta, this limited-run special was excess personified and fetches a pretty penny these days. However, if you can’t afford a Diablo SE30, there’s a little Bimmer for sale that might be the next best thing. This bright fuchsia BMW 318ti being auctioned on Cars & Bids isn’t just rare, there’s a solid chance it could be one-of-a-kind.
On the face of things, the BMW 318ti isn’t a particularly special car. In fact, it was BMW’s cost-cut entry-level special in the 1990s. The Bavarian marque basically took its popular E36 3 Series coupe, truncated it like AMC did the Gremlin, and then fitted a semi-trailing arm rear suspension as a cheaper alternative to the standard E36’s more sophisticated multilink setup. Under the hood of this 1998 model sits an unremarkable 1.9-liter M44 four-cylinder engine cranking out 138 horsepower and 133 lb.-ft. of torque. The collective efforts of humankind have yet to find a way to make this engine sound good without a suitcase-sized muffler smothering all the rasp. Admittedly, none of these attributes sound brilliant, but this E36 Compact has two things going for it. Firstly, all 318tis are unbelievably fun to drive, as the semi-trailing arm rear suspension imbues these cars with a tail-happy demeanor. Secondly, as I like to say, spec is everything.
Much like In-N-Out or any number of high-end fashion brands, if you pay BMW a little more money, you can unlock a secret menu. Sadly, it’s not the sort of secret menu that lets you stuff a V8 in a 2 Series, but the Individual program opens up a much wider array of paints, leathers, and veneers than typical, and the original owner of this 318ti went for an unfathomably rare shade known as Lila Metallic.
As far as official production numbers go, 32 E36 M3s, 15 E31 8 Series coupes and six E38 7 Series sedans were produced in Lila Metallic, but the numbers go fuzzy after that. I’ve been following this color for years and seen evidence of one early E46 sedan in Lila Metallic, one E39 5 Series sedan, a handful of E34 M5s, one E34 5 Series, and fewer than two dozen non-M E36 coupes, but never an E36 compact until this year, when this car popped out of the woodwork.
Oh, and did I mention that this 318ti has piping to match the exterior color? Sure, most of the interior is the same color as a hearing aid, but purple piping on the seats is a distinctive touch that you don’t see much anymore. Unfortunately, the piping on the driver’s seat is quite worn, which brings us to a downside of this vehicle. Since it’s a U.K. car, this 318ti saw salty winters, and wears evidence of year-round life on its underbody. There’s crust on the diff housing, on the floorpans where they meet the sills, and near at least one of the jacking points. It certainly doesn’t seem terminal, but it will take some love to bring this 318ti back to showroom condition.
Still, if I opened up my banking app and saw a balance of “eh, fuck it” in my car stuff account, I’d throw caution to the wind on this BMW 318ti. Lila Metallic cars pop up less frequently than sightings of Bigfoot, and this obnoxious shade of fuchsia has stolen my heart. If you happen to win the auction on this car, drop me an email. I can’t quite swing it right now, but when you want to sell, I’d gladly be first in line.
(Photo credits: Cars & Bids)
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