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I'm thinking about buying a ti. Ask all your questions about the possible purchase of a ti. Keep in mind, we are biased.

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Old 04-08-2005, 06:10 AM   #1
Bryce Ludwig
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Default Rarity of California Roof?

I have liked the 318ti on and off since it came out. I am possibly going to be buying a car in a year, and would like something RWD, practical, and that is somewhat sporting. Theoretically, a Miata would fit this definition (practical in many ways, but not in terms of interior space), as would a regular e36 3 series (spacious). I am very much a hatchback man, however, I am also a convertible man too. So how rare is a California roofed, 5 speed car? Especially if I wish to exclude red absolutely, and preferrably black as well? Did the Cali roof come only with leather, or was it available with cloth too (if so, how does the cloth hold up)?

If I were to buy a ti, it would end up being my daily driver. So reliability and servicibility are important. A friend of mine has a '94 325i sedan, and he does fluid changes, and has done brakes and common things like that. How hard is the 318ti to work on? I'm a competent DIY mechanic, and I've worked on my own vehicles plenty. That said, I don't want to end up with something like my Lancia Zagato that is the one of the hardest vehicles to work on (space and access issues) that I've ever encountered. What are parts prices for some routine consumable items (brake rotors, pads, air & oil filters, belts, etc)? What are the problem areas of this particular car? Which are easy fixes, and which are deal breakers? Also, feel free to add any other information I would need.

thanks,
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Old 04-08-2005, 11:54 AM   #2
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i'm not sure how many california packages were sold, but i know we have a fair number of people with them on these boards (including me). hopefully you live in a state where you could use it more often than i'm able to. i would have to dredge up my original window sticker to find out if leather was part of the cali package or a separate item.

the 318ti should be very similar to your friend's 325 in term of serviceability. some things are going to be a pain to access, some things will be very easy to access. your routine maintenance items are generally very easy. for the most part, they are a pleasure to work on.

common failures: read around on the boards, taking a look into each of the maintenance areas (misc, engine, suspension, etc) to get an idea of what people are having to replace. couple things off the top of my head would be window regulators (and the little plastic clips that hold the window), ball joints, and rear upper shock mounts. people also complain to some degree about bmw rubber seals (doors, hood, sunroof, trunk). keep up with maintaining those so they don't deteriorate.

i've owned mine since about ... 300 miles (purchased 10/12/96). it now has 207k. i had some issues under warranty (shifting issue going into second gear, cam position sensor, cd changer problems [i hate alpine, imho that changer is a PoS!], cali top leak), but other than that, i've had few problems. other things that i remember over the car's 9 year life ... door lock actuator, ball joints (replaced with solid metal ones), window regulator (failed after i hit a deer on that side of the car which dented somewhat the driver's side door along with shearing the mirror off), passenger side halfshaft popped out of the diff (mechanic said he has NEVER seen this on the e36's while it's fairly common on ... 2002's or some other model, i forget), and now i have a fuel smell and a water leak (possibly in the cali top) that i'm tracking down. that said, i will admit i have NOT been doing routine maintenance like i should have been. do your routine maintenance and your 318ti will be your loyal friend. i didn't and mine still was anyway. i've never been stranded anywhere due to a failure.
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current mods: bilstein sports, bavauto springs, e30 m3 LCABs, solid metal ball joints, bavauto RSMs w/reinforcements, e30 3.73 LSD & halfshafts, supersprint cat-back exhaust, turner rear sway bar reinforcements, IE poly subframe & RTABs + camber/toe kits, powdercoated e36 32x front calipers, sport mirrors, H&R 28mmF/19mmR sway bars, x-brace, auto solutions SSK w/poly bushing upgrade, BMW CD43 head unit, DICE HD Radio w/iPod integration and "stealth" HD antenna, staggered style 68s, orange electronic TPMS, leather arm rest, JT Designs metal undertray

acquired and awaiting install: heated seat kit, cali top switch relo, lumbar support kit, park distance control kit, heated washer nozzle kit, m-coupe rear subframe, trailing arms, differential, and halfshafts, m-coupe front/rear brakes with master cylinder, under hood light kit, mud flaps, rear sun blind, auto-dimming rear view mirror, tilt steering wheel retrofit, apexcone 5000K HIDs with 55W ballasts




2002 X5 4.4 Sport Package, 53.5k miles
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Old 04-08-2005, 12:16 PM   #3
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I think the California Rood Edition started in 1997 and later was just an option. That being said you could see an open air roof with leather if the previous owner ordered it that way. All BMWs are custom ordered unlike some other companies where you can get a couple different preset packages with little choice of options.
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Old 04-08-2005, 01:14 PM   #4
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steven's comment fired a synapse in my brain ... if you're going to get a cali top, try to get a later model one which has the air deflector in the front (pops up when you open the top). mine (build date of 05/1996) does NOT have this and it doesn't look like a whole lot of fun to attempt to retrofit it.
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1996 318ti, California package, 267k miles
current mods: bilstein sports, bavauto springs, e30 m3 LCABs, solid metal ball joints, bavauto RSMs w/reinforcements, e30 3.73 LSD & halfshafts, supersprint cat-back exhaust, turner rear sway bar reinforcements, IE poly subframe & RTABs + camber/toe kits, powdercoated e36 32x front calipers, sport mirrors, H&R 28mmF/19mmR sway bars, x-brace, auto solutions SSK w/poly bushing upgrade, BMW CD43 head unit, DICE HD Radio w/iPod integration and "stealth" HD antenna, staggered style 68s, orange electronic TPMS, leather arm rest, JT Designs metal undertray

acquired and awaiting install: heated seat kit, cali top switch relo, lumbar support kit, park distance control kit, heated washer nozzle kit, m-coupe rear subframe, trailing arms, differential, and halfshafts, m-coupe front/rear brakes with master cylinder, under hood light kit, mud flaps, rear sun blind, auto-dimming rear view mirror, tilt steering wheel retrofit, apexcone 5000K HIDs with 55W ballasts




2002 X5 4.4 Sport Package, 53.5k miles
Current Mods: e46 m3 steering wheel
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Old 04-08-2005, 02:42 PM   #5
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1996 was the only year of the California Package, I think ~600 were made. But after that it was just an option that you could get, like a CD changer, and add to any car. I know the 96 Cali editions all have leatherette (leather look alike stuff). There may be some Cali tops with cloth seating, but I don't remember ever seeing one.

Overall they are very reliable cars that arn't that expensive for the consumable items. BMW air filters are ~$15 and oil filters are ~$5, so its nothing outrageous.
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Old 04-08-2005, 05:20 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies. Has anyone else had problems with the California roof leaking? I have owned a couple of convertibles, a Fiat Spider and my Lancia Zagato which is my off and on project car, and I had no leakage, so leakage on a much newer car worries me a bit.

As I said, I've always liked the idea of the 318ti, and particularly with the large sunroof. I'm in the Kansas City area at present, so I would have about 6 months where it was usable, but I'm moving to Houston in a couple years so I'll have even more opportunities to enjoy the open roof.

I'm not a huge fan of leather in hot weather, for pretty obvious reasons, but I could live with it if I had to. Like I said, it's going to be about a year (maybe a bit more) before I am going to be ready to buy another car.
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Old 04-08-2005, 05:24 PM   #7
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I haven't had any problems with my top leaking, nor have I heard or any. I think since the door isn't dragging against the seals, like it does on a vert. is a major part of why it doesnt' leak.
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Old 04-08-2005, 06:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cali-ti
steven's comment fired a synapse in my brain ... if you're going to get a cali top, try to get a later model one which has the air deflector in the front (pops up when you open the top). mine (build date of 05/1996) does NOT have this and it doesn't look like a whole lot of fun to attempt to retrofit it.
My early build 1998 had the pop up wind deflector although you can retrofit previous years.
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Old 04-08-2005, 07:34 PM   #9
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I don't know about cali top production numbers but they seem to be getting more rare than when I bought mine used in 2002. And autos clearly out number manuals too. This is from the 2001 Roundel:

Introduced Stateside in January 1995 at $19,900, the 318ti Compact sold best in 1996 ($ 21,130) at 7,238 units, slipping under 4,000 U. S. sales annually in 1998. 318ti sales measured in mere hundreds (656) for 1999 at $23,870 a copy.

The "California Package" was available only in 1996 and came with sand grey cloth interior, black leather steering wheel and shifter, black cloth headliner/pillars, 15" alloys. All leather was an upgrade as were fogs and traction control I think. Mine has the grey cloth and looks like new, even the piping along the edges. Of course my car has 64K miles and tint as well so that helps. The cali roof became optional after 1996 on all Ti's.

My Ti has been the most reliable, fun, economical to own, unique car I could ask for. My only desire would be AWD in winter.
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Old 04-08-2005, 07:49 PM   #10
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since my car before my ti was a miata, i know a little about both of them. first off i LOVED my miata but really if you need to travel anywhere or carry anything with you it can be very uncomfortable. But the miata was very reliable and had few electronics that could go bad. On the other hand the 318ti has the same characteristics that the miata has but just a little less sport influenced, but with more and more convenient. Also this may sound weird but the miata was actaully a pretty good winter driver if there wasnt more than 3 inches on the ground since it is so balanced.
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Old 04-09-2005, 01:47 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 96cali
I don't know about cali top production numbers but they seem to be getting more rare than when I bought mine used in 2002. And autos clearly out number manuals too. This is from the 2001 Roundel:

Introduced Stateside in January 1995 at $19,900, the 318ti Compact sold best in 1996 ($ 21,130) at 7,238 units, slipping under 4,000 U. S. sales annually in 1998. 318ti sales measured in mere hundreds (656) for 1999 at $23,870 a copy.

The "California Package" was available only in 1996 and came with sand grey cloth interior, black leather steering wheel and shifter, black cloth headliner/pillars, 15" alloys. All leather was an upgrade as were fogs and traction control I think. Mine has the grey cloth and looks like new, even the piping along the edges. Of course my car has 64K miles and tint as well so that helps. The cali roof became optional after 1996 on all Ti's.

My Ti has been the most reliable, fun, economical to own, unique car I could ask for. My only desire would be AWD in winter.
What kind of shift knob is that in your car? It looks good.
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Old 04-09-2005, 04:14 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rendoll911
Also this may sound weird but the miata was actaully a pretty good winter driver if there wasnt more than 3 inches on the ground since it is so balanced.
My Fiat Spider was the same way, it had good tires, and the weight was well distributed. The only problem I ever had was getting up my parents' driveway, because it is a somewhat steep incline and was always sheeted in ice. I did put a little ballast in the rear and managed to get up the icy slope.
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Old 04-11-2005, 06:18 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GDB
What kind of shift knob is that in your car? It looks good.
Thanks for noticing- it was a fantastic upgrade from the stock pleather boot and worn knob. Got it from Nikis-place.com. Came from Belgium, cost about $95 with the boot. Fantastic quality. Illuminated, slightly smaller than stock, just enough to feel. Don't know if they're still around though. I added an OEM leather brake boot and handle too.
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Old 04-12-2005, 06:27 PM   #14
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btw, to potentially settle the original poster's mind about the cali top leaking ... it was raining today and i finally found the leak ... driver's side rear window (water is actually dripping from the window latch, odd. thank God it's not the top! a silver lining in the very cloudy sky i'm now dealing with.
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1996 318ti, California package, 267k miles
current mods: bilstein sports, bavauto springs, e30 m3 LCABs, solid metal ball joints, bavauto RSMs w/reinforcements, e30 3.73 LSD & halfshafts, supersprint cat-back exhaust, turner rear sway bar reinforcements, IE poly subframe & RTABs + camber/toe kits, powdercoated e36 32x front calipers, sport mirrors, H&R 28mmF/19mmR sway bars, x-brace, auto solutions SSK w/poly bushing upgrade, BMW CD43 head unit, DICE HD Radio w/iPod integration and "stealth" HD antenna, staggered style 68s, orange electronic TPMS, leather arm rest, JT Designs metal undertray

acquired and awaiting install: heated seat kit, cali top switch relo, lumbar support kit, park distance control kit, heated washer nozzle kit, m-coupe rear subframe, trailing arms, differential, and halfshafts, m-coupe front/rear brakes with master cylinder, under hood light kit, mud flaps, rear sun blind, auto-dimming rear view mirror, tilt steering wheel retrofit, apexcone 5000K HIDs with 55W ballasts




2002 X5 4.4 Sport Package, 53.5k miles
Current Mods: e46 m3 steering wheel
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Old 04-19-2005, 11:22 PM   #15
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talking about drving the ti in the snow, my ti was very surprising with the traction control. it was almost like normal driving for the most part. my car before this was a 325iX, so i couldnt honestly say how bmws are in the snow normally. my ti did great
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