rear subframe issues were more related to the 92's. all of the bushings might be shot. Tierods worn out, etc. Main things are cooling components, check for hoses that look like they could crack. Radiator hoses, and the expansion tank have broken for a decent amount of e36 owners.
member and partial creator of pimpin the auto club
additional tip. check the shakes and shimmy's. when you drive the car and when braking, the steering shakes. "gearbox cut-back" its when and automatic gearbox, change from 1st-2nd gear. you will feel a slight jolt. its all common on old e36.
Subframe issues can be up to 95. In 95 they had much better subframe supports. 92 have strut mounted sway bar tabs for better handleing but slightly worse ride quality. The subframe re-enforcements can be welded onto earlier models without damamge. After 96, the only real downside is that you have to shark instead of chip, but if you don't plan on serious engine upgrades, it is not big deal.
Subframe issues are very rare (mainly in cars that have been tracked) but are potentially a problem w/ ALL e36 cars, not just up to 92 or 95. Heck, this is also listed as a potential problem w/ e46 cars as well.....but i would shelve this in the back of your mind due to it's rarity.
What's more important when shopping for an e36:
1. Any car that comes w/ maintenance records is a plus....i would place a HUGE premium on finding a car w/ records v.s. one that doesn't. Your probably not gonna find a car w/ 75Kmi, so one w/ records will let ya know what's been done (and what hasn't), allowing you to put together a "to do" list.
2. If you plan to mod, look for a pre-'96 car. These are OBDI cars and will allow you to chip instead of shark. Depending on what other mods you add, you have more versatility w/ chips than sharking. Also, the intake on the M50 engines is vastly superior, and will serve as a better platform for other mods.
3. The single biggest pitfall w/ these (or virtually any other BMW for that matter) is the coolant system. If you buy a car w/ more than 100K and don't have proof of a water pump, thermostat and thermostat housing change....plan to drop the change to do so. No major expenditure, your looking at $60 for a waterpump and $40 for a thermostat, both which are easy enough to change yourself, if not your local autohaus will do it for roughly $150. Huge insurance, as both parts are known to fail randomly after 60K. Lastly, if you really wanna care for your new e36, if it has more than 100K, i'd recomend changing out the radiator...if you wanna a nice upgrade and permanent fix, buy an alluminum one.
4. i would highly recomend a manual transmission, as they are much more fun , and the auto's are prone to slipage and the need to be rebuilt as the miles clime. I've known original clutches in these cars to go 175K, and even then, replacement is cheaper than a auto tranny rebuild.
That's really about it, eveything else is just a matter of opinion. Hope that helps.
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