LS1-Powered 1991 BMW 318is is an Incredible Sleeper

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LS1-Powered 1991 BMW 318is

LS1 produces nearly three times the power of the stock BMW engine in a 2,600-pound German coupe.

While flipping through the automotive listings of Craigslist’s Los Angeles channel, we came across a 1991 BMW 318is that caught our eye and stole our hearts. This basic-looking BMW coupe has slightly bigger-than-original wheels and wide tires, but the key aspect of this 318is is what we can’t see. Under the hood of this early-90s BMW is an LS1 V8, surely making this lightweight coupe an incredible sleeper that will catch many people off guard.


This 1991 BMW 318is appears to be one of those Craigslist posts with a buyer who isn’t really all that interested in selling. There is only one picture which doesn’t show the most important aspect of the car and the details are as brief as possible.

“1991 BMW 318is
LS1 + T56 Swap
Complete Sikky Swap Kit and more
Pro Wiring harness
Work done by shop
SD plates

Looking to see if there is interest as I am prepping the car for sale.”

From that scant bit of information, we know that this small BMW coupe has an LS1 V8 engine that has been installed with a Sikky Swap Kit and a Pro Wiring harness. Unless there is a shop called “shop” in the LA area, the person who made this ad forgot to include the name of the shop. Maybe he or she was simply clarifying that they did not install the engine themselves.

In any case, the power from the LS1 is sent to the rear wheels by means of a T-56 manual transmission and there is a side of wide tires on what looks to be modern BMW wheels.

Ultimately, based on what we can see, this 1991 BMW 318is is super clean on the outside and it has a powerful American V8 that surely makes it a blast to drive in any situation.

LS1 in a 318

The 1991 BMW 318is with the original 4-cylinder engine had a curb weight of 2,600 pounds while packing 134 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. We don’t know what this LS1 came from, but we know that in stock form, your average LS1 is capable of around 350 horsepower and around 350 lb-ft of torque.  Those numbers represents a horsepower increase of roughly 160% and a torque increase of roughly 180% over stock, and while the LS1/T-56 combination surely weighs more than the stock BMW drivetrain, this car is likely well under 3,000 pounds.

Needless to say, a German-engineered coupe with 350 horsepower, 350 lb-ft of torque and a curb weight below 3,000 pounds must be mighty quick and with the LS1 taking so well to upgrades, this car could pack far more than stock Corvette power.

The only bad news is that this car has South Dakota plates, but it is being sold in Los Angeles. We would bet that this BMW 318is will not meet California emission standards, so the owner has the car registered in South Dakota, where he or she doesn’t need to worry about emission laws. This means that a buyer in California might have a hard time getting proper plates and emission clearance, but if you live in a non-emission state, this 1991 BMW 318is with LS1 power seems like an awesome daily driver.

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"Before I was old enough to walk, my dad was taking me to various types of racing events, from local drag racing to the Daytona 500," says Patrick Rall, a lifetime automotive expert, diehard Dodge fan, and respected auto journalist for over 10 years. "He owned a repair shop and had a variety of performance cars when I was young, but by the time I was 16, he was ready to build me my first drag car – a 1983 Dodge Mirada that ran low 12s. I spent 10 years traveling around the country, racing with my dad by my side. While we live in different areas of the country, my dad still drag races at 80 years old in the car that he built when I was 16 while I race other vehicles, including my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and my 1972 Dodge Demon 340.

"Although I went to college for accounting, my time in my dad’s shop growing up allowed me the knowledge to spend time working as a mechanic before getting my accounting degree, at which point I worked in the office of a dealership group. While I was working in the accounting world, I continued racing and taking pictures of cars at the track. Over time, I began showing off those pictures online and that led to my writing.

"Ten years ago, I left the accounting world to become a full-time automotive writer and I am living proof that if you love what you do, you will never “work” a day in your life," adds Rall, who has clocked in time as an auto mechanic, longtime drag racer and now automotive journalist who contributes to nearly a dozen popular auto websites dedicated to fellow enthusiasts.

"I love covering the automotive industry and everything involved with the job. I was fortunate to turn my love of the automotive world into a hobby that led to an exciting career, with my past of working as a mechanic and as an accountant in the automotive world provides me with a unique perspective of the industry.

"My experience drag racing for more than 20 years coupled with a newfound interest in road racing over the past decade allows me to push performance cars to their limit, while my role as a horse stable manager gives me vast experience towing and hauling with all of the newest trucks on the market today.

"Being based on Detroit," says Rall, "I never miss the North American International Auto Show, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Roadkill Nights, along with spending plenty of time raising hell on Detroit's Woodward Avenue with the best muscle car crowd in the world.

Rall can be contacted at [email protected]

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