Exceedingly smooth and bagged E36. Clean and smooth, this head-turning Touring is brimming with individual touches that really help it stand out from the crowd. Photos: Si Gray. Words: Elizabeth de Latour.
You know what really impresses us when we visit a show? It’s not the wild, no-holds-barred builds that get all the attention and steal all the headlines (though they are undeniably impressive), it’s actually the cars that look great but their owners have taken a much more modest route to making that happen. These builds are all about the subtle, individual touches that really make them stand out and allow their builders to put their own mark on their projects.
Take Andy Guyett’s E36 Touring, for example. There’s no wild body kit, no custom three-piece wheels, nothing outlandish, but it just looks so good and while the applied mods appear to be quite simple at first glance, there’s definitely a lot more here than meets the eye…
“I’ve always been into cars, never football,” begins Andy, “as growing up I was always around cars; my two brothers had all sorts of cool Yank stuff and while I never followed them down that road I have had all sorts of cars over the years. I started off with a white Opel Manta GTE when I was 18 followed by a Fiesta XR2 after which I decided to build something, which took the shape of a 1971 Cali-look Beetle. I ran it as a daily and it wasn’t great as it was very low and just not very well-suited to the task.”
The Beetle was followed by another couple of classic VWs before Andy decided to come over to the Bavarian way of life. “My friend bought an E30,” he explains, “and I loved it. It looked cool so I sold the Beetle I had at the time and bought myself a champagne E30 320i four-door with brown velour seats.” That might not sound like the sexiest of places to start but it ticked Andy’s boxes and started him on the road of BMW ownership which, almost six and a half years ago, led to the purchase of the 323i Touring you see before you.
“My girlfriend had a Clio at the time and after the cambelt snapped twice in two years we decided to get shot of it. The garage where I found this E36 for sale did a straight swap for the Clio and I had a good feeling about the car, it just felt right.” His gut was clearly on the money considering the Touring is still a part of the family, and while it had been purchased bone stock, the fact that Andy had modified every car he’d owned in some way meant that it was not going to remain that way for long. “I always knew what I wanted to do,” says Andy, “but I didn’t know I would go this far with it!”
The styling has been given plenty of attention and this Touring wears a blend of different parts that all combine to give it a seriously meaty look. Step one to its outstanding freshness is a full respray in its original shade of Orient blue and then comes the onslaught of Sport addenda, with genuine front and rear bumpers, side skirts and wide door trims.
The Sport additions make a big difference to the Touring’s looks just on their own, but these have been further enhanced with another layer of styling. Up front, a replica AC Schnitzer deep splitter has been added and this is matched at the rear with a replica #ACS
boot spoiler, while a set of genuine ACS mirrors with custom decals complete the Schnitzer triumvirate, and the splitter, diffuser and roof bars have all been painted in Azurite black, which changes from black to blue in the light, adding a subtle individual aspect to proceedings.
The arches have been rolled (you can see why, with the rears receiving a bit of a pull) and there’s been a lot of smoothing going on across the body. The bonnet badge has gone, as has the boot badge and the model inscription. The side repeaters have been removed and smoothed, the petrol filler flap has been smoothed and the rear wiper has been removed altogether, using the first ever Kill All Wipers kit for the E36 Touring. The end result is a car that’s smoother than a wellused bar of soap. The finishing touches are the all-red rear lenses, angel eye headlights and pre-face-lift nosecone. You may have also noticed that Andy is all about those orange highlights, with the custom decals on his mirrors carrying orange script, his stickers printed in orange, the amber front indicator lenses and the flashes of orange paint on his calipers.
That’s something he’s carried through into the interior too. In fact, there have been some big changes in here and the first thing that hits you are the Recaro CS front seats because they look awesome; big sporty seats always make a big statement and act as a centrepiece for car’s interior, which is why it’s so disappointing when high performance models don’t have them, but always exciting when someone’s gone to the effort of fitting a set in their car. Here they sit on custom subframes made by Hard Knocks Speed Shop, while the rear bench has been trimmed to match the half-leather finish of the front seats and fitted with different headrests.
The headlining and A-pillars have been finished in an Alcantara-style material and the doorcard inserts, glovebox lid and trim, centre console, driver’s knee roll and inner mirror covers have all been trimmed in black fauxsuede; it makes for an extremely luxuriousfeeling interior. That’s impressive enough on its own, but that’s not even the half of it; Andy has replaced all of the previously grey interior trim panels with black ones and that includes the entire dash itself, which makes the whole interior look infinitely smarter and he has also replaced the carpet with a black one, none of which is no small job.
The steering wheel has been retrimmed by Royal Steering Wheels, with perforated leather on the sides, Nappa leather on the top and bottom sections, M tricolour stitching and an orange centre marker. A Schmiedmann suede handbrake gaiter has been fitted and Andy has also retro-fitted the 18-button OBC and the start button from a Honda S2000. We’re not done in here yet because the lacklustre standard audio has received a serious upgrade, with an Alpine head unit hooked up to a set of orange-coned Hertz three-way components, powered by no less than two JL Audio amps along with a 12” JL sub in the boot, which is also where you’ll find the simple air install with just the single polished tank on display.
“I had HSD coilovers before the air,” says Andy as we move onto discussing his comprehensive chassis mods, “but it was going to the Players show that helped me make the decision to switch to air. I saw so many cars on air-ride, including Ed Johnston’s E36 Touring back when it was cream, and knew that was what I wanted. I ended up buying a three-month-old kit from one of Riiva Design’s cars, an Air Lift setup with V2 management and I fitted it over a long weekend with my son Tom and a friend of mine.”
The air-ride is just the tip of the iceberg, though, as the front end has been fitted with polybushed lollipops and ARB mounts with E30 front wishbones and an ECS Tuning strut brace under the bonnet. The whole rear end has been fully polybushed, with SPC Performance adjustable rear camber arms and an M3 rear anti-roll bar plus a set of Phoenix Motorsport rear damper reinforcement plates. The brakes haven’t been forgotten about either, with an E46 330Ci front setup plus an M3 servo and master cylinder and Goodridge hoses all-round.
With the wheels, Andy went through five or six sets before he settled on these 18” M Parallels: “I started off with some 17” Alpina reps, then I had BBS RKs, ACS Type 3 reps, all sorts, but I’d always liked the Paras,” he says. “They look like a strong wheel and these ones are in a staggered fitment from the E38 7 Series. I had to have the rear hubs shaved in order to be able to get them to fit under the arches.” M Parallels are the perfect example of a very clean, simple, classic design that works well on everything and looks good on everything, and in this particular staggered 18” form with diamond cut faces and lips they look absolutely stunning on this Touring.
Finally we come to the engine and, while there’s not a lot going on under the bonnet at the moment, with just a DaveF induction kit and 328i manifold-back exhaust, Andy has some big plans for that M52: “I’m really happy with the styling but now I want to make it go faster and I’m currently building an #M52B28
– I’ve actually had the engine for almost two years now,” he laughs. “The head will be gas-flowed, there will be a stainless exhaust manifold, an Alpina527 adapted M50 intake manifold, a Hark Knocks Speed Shop custom exhaust and I’ll get it remapped by Enda Ward at End Tuning.” That lot will add up to one pretty impressive lump that will definitely endow this Touring with some proper performance.
This really is a seriously nice car. It’s got a perfect blend of mods that combine to give it some real presence and plenty of individuality, all while retaining the essence of the E36 Touring. Andy’s built himself a cracking machine and the engine swap he’s got up his sleeve will be the icing on an extremely tasty cake…
DATA FILE #BMW
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M52B25
induction kit, 328i manifold-back exhaust, five-speed auto gearbox #ZF5HP
CHASSIS 8x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) #Style-37M-Parallel
wheels with diamond cut faces and lips with 215/40 (front) and 225/40 (rear) Kumho Ecsta tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance #Airride
management, front strut brace, polybushed front lollipops and #ARB
mounts, E30 front wishbones, fully polybushed rear end, #SPC-Performance
adjustable rear camber arms, M3 rear anti-roll bar, #Phoenix-Motorsport
rear damper reinforcement top plates, E46 330Ci front brakes, M3 servo/master cylinder, Goodridge braided hoses (front and rear), #BMW
hardlines (front and rear)
EXTERIOR Full respray in original Orient blue metallic, bonnet badge removed and smoothed, pre-face-lift front nosecone, angel eye headlights with shrouded HID projectors, Sport front bumper, replica #AC-Schintzer
deep front splitter, AC Schnitzer door mirrors with custom decals, side repeaters removed and smoothed, Sport side skirts, smoothed petrol flap, Sport wide door trims, Sport rear bumper, replica AC Schnitzer rear spoiler, all-red rear lenses, boot badge removed and smoothed, 323i badge removed, Kill All Wipers rear wiper delete, arches rolled all-round and rears pulled, front splitter, rear diffuser and roof bars painted in #BMW
Azurite black, LED number plate lights
front seats on custom Hard Knocks Speed Shop subframes, rear bench retrimmed/coloured to match fronts, different rear headrests, all interior panels and carpet changed from grey-to-black, headlining and A-pillars recovered in black faux-Alcantara, doorcard inserts, glovebox lid and trim, centre console, drivers knee roll and inner mirror covers trimmed in black fauxsuede, Royal Steering Wheels retrimmed Sport steering wheel with M stitching and orange centre stripe, Schmiedmann suede handbrake gaiter, Sport inner sill covers custom painted in BMW Azurite black, Honda S2000 start button, retro-fitted 18-button OBC, #Alpine-CDA-9887R
head unit, 2x JL Audio amps, Hertz threeway components, JL Audio 12” sub, LED bulbs
INTERIOR Big thanks to my son Tom Guyett, good friends Cliff Judson and Sam Hendrie for their continued help with the car and my fiancé Fiona for her patience with a stream of car parts in the front room and my constant absence! Dips at Custom Cars for his huge efforts with the paint and body mods, Richard at Ruislip Tyres for his sterling efforts getting the wheels ready (twice!) and constant tyre swapping, Ray Boultwood, Neil Chapman and all the members of BMWEnthusiasts forum for the (usually!) kind words during the build and for the camaraderie at meets and Badger Bourton of Hard Knocks Speed Shop for his outstanding fabrication skills