Project Tango lives!

Classic Cars (UK) - - Our Cars -

You may be won­der­ing what hap­pened to my BMW 318is, bought in the af­ter­math of last sum­mer’s eight-car M3 test af­ter tour­ing car leg­end Steve Soper rec­om­mended them. In truth, un­til re­cently it’s sat around do­ing very lit­tle. Hav­ing ze­roed the trip­me­ter upon buy­ing it, it now reads a smidge over 300 miles – and most of those were racked up on the trip home.

It wasn’t a par­tic­u­larly pleas­ant drive, ei­ther. I’d re­signed my­self to the fact that one or more steer­ing com­po­nents needed re­plac­ing on ac­count of the painful grind­ing noise emit­ted by the front off­side cor­ner ev­ery time I turned the wheel but, de­spite its gar­ish wrap, the body­work seemed sound and the en­gine strong.

How­ever, the low-fuel warn­ing light was on when I picked it up and the fuel gauge was on its bump-stop, so I tip­toed to the near­est petrol sta­tion only to find the tank ac­cepted just £10-worth be­fore spit­ting petrol over my shoes. The gauge was clearly faulty.

As I pressed on through sev­eral coun­ties’ worth of gath­er­ing gloom, I dis­cov­ered that the dash­board light­ing was also de­fec­tive. By the time I was home, the prospec­tive recom­mis­sion­ing bill was run­ning be­yond the abil­i­ties of my men­tal cal­cu­la­tor. Still, the im­por­tant ba­sics seemed solid, it was only £650, and a me­chan­i­cally un­mo­lested 318is is a very rare thing nowa­days.

Be­yond a cou­ple of ten­ta­tive runs to work it’s sat un­used, rack­ing up more nick­names than miles. ‘Project Tango’ was an early sug­ges­tion in the of­fice, and my girl­friend hit upon ‘Monte’, not af­ter any­thing to do with Monaco but rather Del Monte on ac­count of it be­ing the colour of pro­cessed tinned fruit.

An­noy­ingly, when­ever I de­cided to book the BMW in for work, my Fiat Se­i­cento Sport­ing would throw a me­chan­i­cal wob­bler, and be­cause that’s my daily it took pri­or­ity.

How­ever, a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion en­tailed get­ting the BMW back up to scratch. In­spec­tion by mar­que spe­cial­ist TWG re­vealed a fun­da­men­tally good car with a few mi­nor is­sues in­clud­ing the source of the noise – a knack­ered sus­pen­sion balljoint, eas­ily fixed – and a need for a new fuel-tank sender unit. Haul­ing on the ap­par­ently wrenchtight­ened filler cap dur­ing an oil change, I also no­ticed how badly per­ished the aux­il­iary belts were too.

Front sus­pen­sion over­hauled, en­gine flu­ids changed and belts re­freshed, it now drives beau­ti­fully – a lot like a Porsche 944. How­ever, it’s still the colour of the 45th Pres­i­dent and I still have no idea how much fuel’s in it. And then there’s the miss­ing trim bits, the droop­ing head­lin­ing, the dead in­stru­ment back­light­ing, the fact the heater only blows freez­ing cold air, the use­less bonnet gas struts… Still, what are au­to­jum­bles and own­ers’ clubs for?

Sam’s £650 BMW gets as­sessed at TWG. The news was largely good, though there are plenty of nig­gles to deal with

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