The E36 will always be, one of the most benchmarked, well rounded cars ever produced. It was an icon in terms of vehicle dynamics, and performance. There was one for everyone as well. From the base 316i with 98hp to handle the daily commute, to the extreme M3, with 316hp to dominate pretty much every flat surface on offer. The beauty of the E36 range, was that BMW offered many different versions, featuring a range of engines, 4 and 6 cylinder, diesel and petrol. What this did, with each variant, was create a unique expression of engineering, each a car which has formed a sub-niche within the E36 model range and indeed, the ‘3 Series’ nameplate.
The car featured in this month’s MY RIDE is one such remarkable version. This definitive E36 is a 318is, one of only two in the country, and is owned by BMW aficionado Senath Jayatilake. Senath has loved the brand since childhood, and has had ownership experience of a few other BMWs as well. After using a newer 3 Series which according to him was not entirely adequate to satiate his appetite for a ‘pure’ 3 Series experience, he came upon this particular vehicle.
The 318is is itself an elusive thing. Records are not precisely sure on whether the 318is was a coupe only, especially in the US, but in Europe there seems to have been a limited production run of 318is sedans as well. Whatever the records tell us, this car here is the genuine article.
The car had been serviced on time by the first owner, although it had fallen into a state of disuse, and this is detrimental to any machine. Senath tells us that as he saw the car he knew what needed to be done. “Pedantic” –is how Senath describes his approach towards the sharpening up of this icon. Crossing the fine line between enthusiasm and obsession, as most of us car nuts do, Senath’s vision of what he wants this car to be, and to mean to him is very clear. This is his weekend warrior. His culmination of all those childhood dreams and aspirations in order to one day have access to such a timeless engineering masterpiece. The extent of this dedication, and attention to detail is quite evident in the pictures here. This is one E36 that is as close to a time machine as they get. The upholstery and interior was redone, as well as a number of mechanical & electrical improvements that needed to be done, were executed to bring this car upto current condition. Senath says it was a challenge, but in the grand scheme of things, worth it. He has made a few changes to the car, in terms of overall appearance, to reflect his personal vision. Substituting the original wheels for an AC Schnitzer Type II homage set, the car has a very aggressive stance; short of an M3, this is probably the definitive midpoint between subtlety and intensity.
The 318i was quite a popular model, but it’s the ‘S’ that makes all the difference. Officially it stands for ‘Sport’ and BMW were good on their claim. This car features a four cylinder 1796cc M42B18 with a 138hp (140PS) and 175Nm of torque good for a 9.9s dash to 100kmph and topping out at 215kmph. Mtec suspension also was standard from factory. The characteristic longitudinal front engine, rear wheel drive layout ensures that this E36 epitomized the quintessential qualities expected from BMW, and Senath confirms this wholeheartedly. “It might not be the fastest car out there, but it has enough pace for me, and with the handling proves a very enjoyable experience”. The ‘S’ clearly also stands for ‘Special’ then.
They say you can tell a lot about a person from how he maintains his car and also what he does to it. The immaculate condition of this E36 318is was mind-blowing and is indicative of the passion and thorough dedication Senath has towards making his 318is as special as can be, injecting it with tasteful changes to reflect his vision, no doubt true to his childhood self. The paint, the interior, down to even the orange front signal lamps keep the car true to its factory state, but also elevate it to a place that, while it may seem immaculate to us, is probably close to a personal automotive paradise in Senath’s eyes.
Motor would like to thank Senath for granting us the privilege of featuring this iconic machine, and sharing his story with us, and would like to appreciate his dedication towards the meticulous upkeep of his 318is.