Project Tango lives!
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