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Hey, Iv'e wanted to ask a few questions about the compact California Top Edition or the Open Air Edition.
First of all, how many were made? there is little to none information about this model online.
How reliable is the roof mechanism?

A few questions for all 3 series compact owners
How is the 4 speed automatic in comparison to the manuel?
Is it easy to find parts online?

Thanks
 

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For true "California Edition" cars built in 1996 I've seen varying figures but all below 2,000. I don't know what, if anything that is based on and I've never seen statistics that specific for any other BMW so take it with a grain of salt. From 1997-1999 the Cali top was offered as a stand alone option so there are more of them than just the special edition cars had.

The auto is garbage, avoid it at all cost.
Parts availability is generally the same as with any other E36, which is to say pretty good, with the notable exception of the suspension and rear axle. This is because the ti uses normal E36 suspension up front, but the rear is the same semi trailing arm setup found in E30s. For the most part this isn't a problem, but if for example you want coil over suspension you'd need the front setup of an E36 and the rear from an E30.

Edit: 318ti.org is a forum specifically for compacts and will likely have more information available.
 
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