Well, I test drove the car today. Luckily, this dealership is small so the only guy working was slammed and I got to check out the car pretty thoroughly in and out. He then let me take the keys and go for a spin for about an hour without him, which let me put it through its paces. As far as I can see or feel, car is in superb condition. No evidence if wreck or excessive wear. The official in-service date was in late 1999, so it just came off six year warranty, and I would bet that is why it was sold by owner. Anyway, braking was in a straight line without nose diving from 70-0, acceleration was as smooth as I could shift. Interior was clean, as was under the hood, but it could have been cleaned up before I got there. Clutch lets out quickly and feels tight, car doesn't pull in any direction at speed, all electronics appear to be operational. Tight turns in either direction produce no noise that would indicate CV problems.
I was the first person to look at this car, and I think he will have a tough time selling it given that it is in a not so ritzy section of town and it is a manual.
A few concerns:
1. Shifting into reverse seemed a little tricky. Not sure if it is just me with an unfamiliar gear pattern, or if something was wrong.
2. Shifting even if slightly moving produces a light thud from the rear of the car. All manual trannys make some noise even if you are sitting still with it turned off, but wasn't sure if it was excessive or normal.
3. I noticed a high-pitch whine on acceleration. I've read a few posts on this forum that say its normal. I wouldn't have noticed it had I been listening to the radio, but seeing as how I was trying to get a feel for the car, I had it off.
4. Gas pedal back pressure. I have driven BMWs before and it seems that everyone I drive has tight gas pedals. This made it a little difficult for me to launch this car at first since it was all or nothing on the gas. Is this normal and can it be adjusted?
5. Cannot figure out if this car has sport/winter package. I'm not really sure what to look for. The rims do not appear to be stock for that year.
Finally, I think I'm going to have it inspected at BMW, and point out the things above in particular. I think I'm going to offer the guy $15k out the door with tax title and see how he responds.
Any and all advice is appreciated. If carfax and inspection come clean, I am 99% sure I will buy it. This car is sweet, check pics below...