Guest contributor: Kyle Snarr on the Baby Bimmer

In 1993, BMW introduced a new member of the E36 3-Series family, a baby brother named the 318ti. It was the first hatchback in the family since the gorgeous, sporty, and extremely rare 2002ti Touring. But other than the shared ti suffix, the 318ti had few traits in common with its predecessor. It wasn’t that quick, and by most folks standards, it wasn’t much of a looker. Nevertheless, it was still a BMW.

However, thanks to some tenacious tuners and intrepid enthusiasts, there are several examples of this car on the road that have pushed the model from the diminutive hatchback space into genuine pocket rocket territory. It definitely helped that BMW Motorsport released an M-Technic body kit for the 318ti, which provided M3-like ground effects.

It wasn’t long until ambitious owners began dropping E36 M3 straight-six engines into the 318ti chassis to create a venerable micro performance car. This modified little beast came to be known in Bimmerphile circles as the “332ti.”

Back in 1999, the Michelin One Lap of America was completely stormed by what appeared to be a humble little 1995 Alpine White 318ti. Sporting a laundry list of mods, it housed an S52B32 3.2L inline-six engine and a five-speed transmission, both from the aforementioned E36 M3.

It promptly went on to sweep its category— in fact, the only cars to best the Baby Bimmer in the overall results were a Lamborghini Diablo and an insane Mosler Raptor.

So don’t count out this Baby Bimmer which, in the best hot rod tradition, carries on the time-honored practice of dropping a bigger engine into a little shell. And here’s hoping that another BMW hatchback will someday find its way to US shores in the not too distant future. 

Kyle Snarr is the Director of New Business at Struck, a digital creative agency, and blogs as Kyality on music, movies, TV, cars, and design. This is his first guest contribution.

~ by velofinds on December 2, 2011.

5 Responses to “Guest contributor: Kyle Snarr on the Baby Bimmer”

  1. The 332ti promotes “the sleeper” concept and we find the same ideology in the form of “debadging” your 3 Series in today’s models. Of course the opposite was true of the 2002 Turbo which even had the word Turbo in reverse mirror image script on the front air dam, screaming “Get out my way – now!”

  2. i’ll note that the S52 mod is also quite popular with the E30 crowd. with a curb weight of approx. 2600 lbs (for an E30 318is, as an example) versus the E36 318ti’s curb weight of approx. 2700 lbs, the S52’d E30 makes for an even more rip-snorting ride. in fact, given that the two cars share the same rear semi-trailing arm suspension (as opposed to the multilink rear suspension found in all other E36s), you might even call them brothers from another mother 😉

  3. Don’t know if you have them in NA but here you can find 323ti ! It stands in my bimmer Top5 for sure

  4. came across this fascinating clip of an e46 compact:

    kind of an ugly car though.

  5. […] course, hot rodding the Baby Bimmer is nothing new; in fact, one of our own even wrote about it here. […]

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