The BMW 1 Series hatchback is near the top of my “forbidden foreign fruit” car list. For two generations now, it’s offered hatch practicality with manual gearboxes, potent four- and six-cylinder generations and glorious rear-wheel drive. What’s not to love? Problem is, it was never sold in America—but this one on Bring A Trailer is, even if you’re rolling the dice if you buy it.
The auction site is hosting this right-hand drive E87 2007 BMW 116i hatchback with 78,000 miles. It’s an import from Scotland and it currently lives in Florida.
This little hatch isn’t the fanciest 1 around. It has a small four-cylinder engine and a surprisingly spartan interior. But hey, maybe that’s a good thing. Basic specs, rear-drive and a stick shift? Sure, why not.
Actually there’s a very big reason for why not, and it’s an obvious one: how the hell is this car even here? It’s clearly not older than 25 years old, which would make it eligible for import under America’s dumb and arbitrary laws, nor is it a Show and Display car.
Its status here is one thing, but what could happen to a potential new owner is even less clear. Maybe you’ll find a way to get away with it; maybe it has a date with some angry U.S. Customs officers and a future date with the crusher.
Naturally, this situation has resulted in a shitstorm in Bring A Trailer’s often contentious comments section. So here’s the seller in his own words about how the car’s here and how you can own it:
The car was brought over in a shipping container in ONE piece by the original owner, and was landed in Arizona. He proceeded to sell it to a dealership in Arizona, who drove the car around for a while with a dealer plate (no title at this point in time, just export paperwork from Scotland). The car was sold to an individual in Florida who went out and got a title for the car. It was a bonded title which the car has had for the 3 years required to hold a bonded title, it now possesses a clean Florida title. He then sold the car to myself, I drove it around as a daily driver (hence the miles) with no issues whatsoever, and the car holds insurance with progressive (read something about not being able to get insurance).
I have registered the vehicle with BMW North America as being in the USA, they have accepted it into their system without any issues. I brought the car to my buddy’s dealership for indoor storage once I bought my M3, I told him while he has it to attempt to sell it.
I have posted this car for sale many places before, without any issues. Like I said before I have been waiting for the dust to settle, but have answered questions by a few individuals who have emailed me regarding the car. In my eyes those appear to be more serious buyers as opposed to the 100+ users have shared their personal knowledge in the comments. I would encourage someone who has had their personal car seized to come out and share their experience. What was the reasoning they seized your car? Did it have all of the proper paperwork? Did it have a legitimate title? Did it have the original VIN? There are many stories heard though the grapevine of bad situations, but there is likely minor details that got left out of the story that contributed to it being seized/crushed. Much like the media postings that have been published about my E87 (Thanks for the free advertisement!). ANY car will get crushed if you tamper with or remove the VIN number, it could be an old Ford pickup. This car however has been here over 5 years without any issues. The car does have a full 17 digit VIN, matching the export paperwork. Not a VIN swapped car, as some have speculated!
Another user speculates that since the car was brought here in a shipping container, it’s at least somewhat possible it was an unspecified part of household goods and not an “imported car,” which means it could have slipped in under the radar without being inspected. I can tell you from working on stories like this one that CBP’s inspections aren’t always as frequent or thorough as you might expect.
So there is a very good chance this car is not here legally. Let’s be honest—it’s hardly the only foreign car in the U.S. under unusual or questionable circumstances.
Officially, we don’t really know. Nor do I know what will happen to a person who tries to buy and register it here. While this is a very interesting machine, given the fact that it’s hardly some great high performance collectable BMW, I don’t really find it worth the hassle.
Hat tip to Road & Track