Congrats planunfurling: I hope that it checks out good for you.
I just picked up a 1997 328i last week. 112k kms (70k miles)
Carfax report checked out good. Other than that, I didn't have alot of the car's history, unfortunately. I only had the first few years. I just got back from the BMW dealership today. They did an all over checkup, and it turned out very good. I also got a little more of the car's history; the car has been maintained up until the summer of 2002 [by BMW dealerships.]
I got lucky with a great car without knowing much of it's history. Between Carfax and BMW dealerships, you should be able to tell wether or not it's been in a major accident; or written off at any point in it's life.
As far as the timing chain goes, I haven't heard of it being an issue, but I don't really know. With respect to the common problems of plastic control arm bushings and water pump impellors, [according to what I've read here] I got lucky on that too, as my car was manufactured in 7/97 [post-plastic.]
1997 was a prime year for BMWs, imo.
Good luck! You will love it!
Me now -->