- Post is under moderationDAPPER SUPER-SMOOTH E21 HIDES AN M50 BITE RETRO RIDE: #BMW E21
To anyone who’s not a fanatical BMW expert this super-clean E21 may seem a little ‘nearstandard’ for #Drive-My … all we can say is look closer, much closer. You’ll be surprised.
This E21 may be one of the coolest looking cars on the UK show scene, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see it’s much more than just a pretty BMW. WORDS: Tom Willcox. PHOTOGRAPHY: Chris Wallbank.
DRIVER: PRAKASH THANKY
So, you’ve seen more than a couple of trophies with this one then?
“Yeah. But for me it’s not about the awards. It’s about how they drive. It’s all very well looking pretty, but I still have to use it.”
You must surprise a few people with that modern M50 lump though?
“Definitely. It has more than enough power now, which people certainly don’t expect, But the air ride is also great. It makes it drive so nicely.”
And we’re guessing it’s far more practical than your usual in-the-weeds-style static drop?
“As soon as it was installed it felt like a whole new car. And you don’t have to worry about driving down certain roads. So what more can you ask for?”
You’ve no doubt spotted some killer show cars proudly rocking the Dapper decal on their flanks in recent years. But did you know that getting your hands on such an accessory is a strictly invite-only affair?
Created a few years ago by Rodolfo Lamaestra, the Dapper Fam was initially nothing but a group of stanced car lovers in the States. But pictures of the group’s awesome rides soon spread like wildfire across social media, leaving the world dying to know more about the Dapper brand and how they could get involved.
Rodolfo now hand-picks cars from across the globe to represent his extended car family, and Prakash Thanky here is the proud owner of one of the UK’s fi nest offerings to the club. This old-skool E21 BMW has more than a few tricks up its sleeve…
The finely judged details scattered around this incredible build are enough to tell you this isn’t Prakash’s first BMW. In fact, aside from a couple of embarrassing car decisions made early on, his car history is almost entirely made up of Bavaria’s most famous motors. While these were mainly ’90s, performance-orientated static show-stoppers in their own right, Prakash had a brainwave a few years ago, to create something slightly more retro.
“The car was bought from eBay for £500,” says Prakash, beginning the story. “The owner had sadly passed away, so the car had been sitting around for over eight years, and was on very low mileage.” This blank canvas was an example of one of the first generation 3 Series BMW produced, and boasted a not-so- monstrous 2.0-litre straight six lump and three-speed auto ’box.
The neglected steed was taken back to the Letchworth car garage Prakash owns. It was promptly stripped back to the bare shell to address some minimal signs of rust which had started to rear their ugly heads. “I knew exactly the look I wanted to go for before buying the car,” says Prakash. “It was always going to be that smooth combination of Euro/Cali and OEM+ styles, which look great on these cars.”
The shell was soon treated a full re-spray in the original and deliciously simple Polaris Silver paint scheme.
With the shiny motor now back in one piece, the next job was to address the elephant in the room – the standard ride height. Going for a static drop had treated Prakash well for most of his other car builds. So initially a home-made set of coilovers was created and ran with various BBS wheel combinations, as Prakash got used to the old-skool two-door.
“I wasn’t happy with the auto gearbox,” Prakash admits. “My mate Ben told me there was an M50 engine with a manual gearbox for sale, so I bought it and installed it.” This 2.5- litre straight six was pulled from a mid-’90s E34-shaped BMW 525i, so remained in the car’s bloodline whilst promising a whole lot more driving fun shoehorned into Prakash’s little car. With a full engine and transmission swap casually undertaken, the car drove like a dream, according to our proud owner here. But there were still a lot of issues to address.
“I tried some more BBS wheels on the car, but it was sitting too high and the wheels I’d chosen were too small,” says Prakash. “This is when I opted for air suspension. I’ve never had it on a car before, but after the install I instantly fell in love with the car again.”
Prakash used this new-found motivation to fuel his current wheel choice – these awesome Carline CM2s with custom-staggered dishes and gold hardware. The heavily polished works of art look nothing short of perfect when Prakash drops the car to its lowest setting. Looking at his wheel history though, be prepared for them to change at a moment’s notice. This is one man who likes doesn’t need much excuse to swap boots.
So, modern engine swap complete and the nigh-on perfect stance nailed. Where next? Well the inside of this E21 keeps the pulse racing with some inspired, unique features. The uprated E24 6 Series front Recaro seats and the E28 centre handbrake console fi t so well in here you’d have to be a proper BMW nerd to notice they weren’t standard. The OEM+ theme is certainly strong with this one!
It’s not hard to see why there’s so much love around at the moment for this E21. We can see exactly why it was initiated in the Dapper family, and why it wins trophies at pretty much every show it attends. But there’s clearly more to it for Prakash because under the surface, we find mods like that engine swap which so many show cars would happily do without. The looks are vital to this build but perhaps what’s most important is the complete package. This E21 not only looks better than when it left the factory all these years ago, it also drives like it should here in the 21st Century. As a result, it has to be one of the most complete retro builds on the entire show scene. And that’s not an easy trick to pull off.
TECH SPEC: #BMW-E21 / #BMW-320-E21 / #BMW-E21-M50 / #BMW
TUNING ENGINE 2.5-litre BMW- #M50B25 / #BMW-M50 / #M50 straight-six engine conversion from an E34 525i, custom modified sump, custom exhaust manifold, custom 3in #FlowDynamics stainless steel exhaust system, five-speed manual gearbox conversion from an E21 323i, organic sprung sports paddle clutch, BMW Z3 short shift, 323i propshaft.
CHASSIS 9.5x16in (front) and 10.5x16in (rear), fully re-built polished #Carline-CM2 three-piece wheels with gold hardware, 195/40/16 (front) and 215/40/16 (rear) tyres stretched by Specialist Tyres, custom centre caps, custom #Air-Lift-V2 / #Air-Lift air suspension system with performance shocks, BMW 323i brake callipers with EBC Red Stuff pads and up-rated Goodridge braided brake lines.
EXTERIOR New rear arches welded in, new inner and outer sills welded in, single headlight conversion from an E21 316, custom front clear indicators and tinted rear indicators, smoothed rear aerial hole, smoothed rear model badge, despoilered and smoothed, original Auto Plas rear window louvres, colour-coded body panels, modified front subframe, custom vinyl stripes and Dapper decals.
INTERIOR E24 6 Series front Recaro seats, E28 centre handbrake console, Alpina gearknob, #Alpina wooden steering wheel, OEM #Becker-BMW-Bavaria cassette player unit powered by hidden iO Play2 wireless kit, up-rated Hertz speakers.
THANKS My mum and dad for putting up with me, my brother Jay Thanky and my friend Ben Dewen for helping me on the long weekends and late nights, Owen Spencer for getting me into BMWs and a big shoutout to the UK Dapper family for helping me and supporting me in making the car into what it is today
THE BIRTH OF A LEGEND
Many have argued over the last decade or so that the 3 Series is the industry benchmark, the car by which all other saloons will be judged. Now whether you agree with that sentiment or not, there’s no denying the E21 is important, because it was the very first generation, not to mention the precursor to the 1982 E30 model that brought us the legendary M3 badge. Launched in 1975 with a choice of 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 carb-fed 4-pots, the larger 6-cylinder engines didn’t come along for another two years and even then they weren’t exactly powerhouses. Confusingly they also gave the 316 a 1.8-litre engine in 1980, and introduced an economy 74bhp 315 model, with a 1.6-litre engine in 1981. The latter was a not-so-timely response to the 1979 oil crisis.
Anyway, to differentiate between the 2-litre (and later the 2-litreplus) models, BMW gave the 320 dual headlights. This makes this BMW an even bigger sleeper, because Prakash has chosen to convert the front end to the smoother single headlight spec from a 316. One more reason you’d never expect to see a fettled M50 under the bonnet, especially if you really know your Beemers.
A custom Air Lift V2 system keeps this car firmly in the weeds!
The 2.5-litre, 6-pot M20 gives this E21 a lot more poke than BMW intended in the 1980s.
”Getting your hands on such an accessory is a strictly invite-only affair”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationSWEET AS
A mighty fine 2.1-swapped E21 hailing from New Zealand. Foregoing full-on flair for subtle style with a breathed-on M10 under the bonnet, this E21 from the other side of the world is a mighty fine machine. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Richard Opie.
New Zealand is most definitely a nation of car enthusiasts though, like their neighbours across the water, its inhabitants tend to lean towards utes, Japanese imports and V8 muscle. But the reach of BMW knows no bounds and its appeal no limits, which means there are plenty of BMW enthusiasts on the other side of the world and plenty of BMWs to get excited about, like this hot rod of an E21, for example.
Sparkle Horgan is the happy owner of this particular car. Unlike many of his fellow countrymen, going by Sparkle’s motoring past it looks like he’s never really strayed away from BMWs, having fallen for the marque at the tender age of 16. He began collecting issues of PBMW when he was 18 and dreamt of getting a car featured. It’s been a bit of a wait for him but hopefully a worthwhile one. “My uncle worked at #BMW in the early ’80s and suggested one as my first car. It was an E21 318i and over the following years I’ve owned six more of Bavaria’s finest offerings – all of them from the gloriously boxy 1980s.
“After that I always wanted another E21, particularly a single headlight version after seeing one in a magazine when I was a teenager. I used to see my current 315 driving round in my home city, and often tried to flag it down to pass on my number in case the owner ever wanted to sell.
Unfortunately for the original owner (who imported it from Germany in the early ’80s), it was crashed, and written off by his insurance company. Shoot forward to me trawling Trade Me (NZ’s version of eBay) for old BMWs and, lo and behold, there was the very same E21 I’d chased… although it was in quite a sorry state sitting at a scrap yard! Luckily I have the most supportive wife in the world; we had just returned from our honeymoon by a matter of days but we cobbled together the relatively small purchase price from a bank account that was still recovering from paying for a wedding and honeymoon and a couple of days later I drove it straight home from the wrecker’s yard (fortunately only cosmetic damage), and parked it in my shed for a couple of years.”
There it sat until one fateful day when Sparkle’s daily at the time, a 1976 Datsun 620, failed a ‘warrant’ (a NZ road-worthiness test) for what Sparkle describes as “a list as long as my arm!” Due to this it made sense to get the E21 on the road and use as a daily instead. “It was probably cheaper to get it on the road than to fix my Datsun’s rust,” says Sparkle, “but things definitely snowballed!” He drove it pretty much standard for a few months in 2013 but then decided to get a set of custom Fortune 500 coilovers on (by Barry from Manon Racing Products).
“I was dead set on having a set of widened steels for my first wheels and, originally, had a set of stock 14” E30 steels destined for it,” I thought they’d be a perfect diameter for the car. I was particularly set on having eight-inch-wide wheels at all corners, but I couldn’t find any suitable tyres readily available in New Zealand that would give me a beefy sidewall without looking like balloons or without too much stretch. I finally decided on 15s as I liked the smooth centre of the Mini steels that didn’t have brake clearance grooves, and there was plenty of tyre options that would give me the look I was after for the steels. I settled for a set of 205/50 Falken ZE912s as they were rated for eight inches and therefore also legal to run.”
Sparkle’s decision to go with steels was definitely a good one as they give the car a completely different, much more purposeful look and the bronze/beige/silver finish looks really smart, while the way it sits thanks to those coilovers is absolutely awesome. The wheels tuck perfectly under the E21’s arches. In fact, aside from the wheels, that’s as far as Sparkle’s taken the visual aspect of the car, preferring factory-looking cars lowered on nice wheels. “It’s a simple and clean look that never goes out of style. I probably wouldn’t turn down a set of window louvres or a motorsport rear rubber spoiler, though,” he adds, but with the E21 being such a simple, attractive shape, it’s nice to see it in its purest form. The interior has had a little more work carried out and looks like an exceedingly nice place to be, with a smattering of interesting additions, none of which look out of place or spoil the look and feel of the cabin. “I’ve tried to go for a ‘weekend racer’ type look for the interior,” explains Sparkle. “One New Zealand-made, ’80s era Autosport, fixed-back racing seat for the driver, a Momo Prototipo wheel (given to me by my wife for my 30th birthday), a couple of VDO gauges, and a tacho on the A-pillar; there’s no way I could get rid of the hilarious, giant standard clock in the dash – it’s always a conversation starter!” Indeed, having started out life as a humble 315 meant that this E21 never received a rev counter, BMW clearly feeling that owners of the lower-powered models would be more interested in knowing what time it is rather than whereabouts they might be in relation to the redline. We love the steering wheel and that beautiful wooden gear knob and the period-correct seat, too.
Of course, as nice to look at or sit in as this E21 might be, it would all count for nothing if it wasn’t any fun to drive, and that’s where the engine swap comes in. “The car didn’t see a huge amount of changes for a number of years until I picked up a twolitre M10 out of a wrecked E21 about two years ago,” Sparkle tells us.
We stripped it down to check the condition, although we did consider just chucking it in as is. I’m glad we did strip it as it was in fairly poor condition, even though had been rebuilt in the past. The original plan was just a standard freshen-up with a bit of porting, maybe adding a mild cam and the downdraft Weber that I ran on my standard 1600. This isn’t what happened.
After trawling eBay, I came across a cheap set of ‘piano top’ pistons to suit a 2002 M10 for a cheap price. This would’ve bumped the compression up slightly from the awfully low standard of 8:1. Unfortunately, when they got here we realised that they wouldn’t work due to the E21’s valves mirroring the 2002 head, so they would have smacked right into the ‘piano’. There was no way I was going back down to standard compression ratio so, after spending countless hours discussing it with Ian from Eurotech we decided to do it properly and do it once. I promptly emailed Steve from Top End Performance in Hollywood, California and started putting together a wish-list after I bought and sold a couple cars to put a bit more money towards the build. After countless emails, phone calls, and waiting for the exchange rate to be acceptable, I hit the ‘go’ button, and a huge amount of parts left Hollywood on their way to Palmerston North, New Zealand.
“Ian from Eurotech Services put countless hours into making the head and inlet manifold match up perfectly with the smooth ports and flow into the created hemi combustion chambers. Ian also assembled the engine and placed it in the bay after the lads and I took the trusty standard 1600 out and scrubbed the bay clean. The back trumpet on the Weber unfortunately had clearance issues with the standard brake booster, so the choice was made to bin the booster, and run the brakes unboosted for now.
“At this time, Rodney and Ari from Roskilda Autos spent a great amount of time finishing off bits. One night, after some fish and chips and a couple of beers we had a great night setting up the initial tune. The best power run of the night pulled out just over 150hp at the wheels – pretty much exactly 190hp at the crank! The first drive was an exciting, happy and scary time. My wife and I went for a decent strop down some back roads out of town and there was a fair few excited giggles! Two months later we went back to Rodney’s garage for the second tune and another feed of fish and chips. We didn’t get much more in regards to top power figures but got a healthy 11-14hp increase across most of the mid-range. The result is an incredibly torquey mid-range, and a punchy engine that pulls hard from down low and starts running out of steam just under 6500rpm… the perfect road-going M10!” he grins.
The end result is a seriously feisty E21 with a very healthy engine and more than enough power to keep Sparkle happy. “The new engine has turned this quiet 315 into a rip snorter; it’s easily my favourite modification,” he says with a smile. “My plans now are to drive the balls off it, fit some slightly beefier brakes, an electric fan and I need to put the 7x14” BBS Mahle fivestuds on some non-dodgy-looking adaptors!” Well done Sparkle, it’s an immensely fun build that you can’t help but love. Sweet as…
The result is a punchy engine that pulls hard from down low… the perfect road-going M10!
M10 now up to 2.1-litres and fed by twin 45mm Webers, making a healthy 154whp.
DATA FILE #BMW-E21 / #BMW-321 / #BMW-321-E21 / #BMW / #BMW-320-E21 /
ENGINE Four cylinder #M10 / #BMW-M10 / #M10B21 bored to 2.1-litres, #JE-Pistons , #Total-Seal gapless rings, 11:1 compression ratio, twin 45mm DCOE Webers mounted on port-matched Redline manifold, Eurotech ported head with hemi combustion chambers, T.E.P 294 cam and rocker arm locks, Cometic steel head gasket, #ARP head bolts, winged and baffled sump, TEP exhaust manifolds, 2.5” custom exhaust, 123Ignition tuneable distributor. Standard four-speed E21 gearbox. 154whp
CHASSIS 8x15” ET0 (front and rear) modified new shape Mini steels painted in bronze-silver with 205/50 (front and rear) Falken ZE912 tyres, Fortune Auto 500 Series coilovers
INTERIOR 1980s’ New Zealand-made ‘Autosport’ fixed back bucket seat, Momo Prototipo steering wheel, Vee Three tacho, VDO oil pressure and water temp gauges, wooden gear knob turned from NZ rimu and pine woods
THANKS My wonderful, understanding and supportive wife Jo, Ian at Eurotech Services for putting countless hours into the car and building an engine to an impeccable standard, Rodney and Ari from Roskila Auto for tuning and the late nights, Graeme and the team at B&H Engine Services, Steve Neilsen from Top End Performance USA, Cam, Blake, Jim, P Dubs, Jim, Waggy, Jim, Graeme, Jim, and all the team from Jimmy Motorsport for their lubrication support network and engine related antics, Richy for his highly talented photography, Geoff the Pom, Graham and Julie for all the spare bits and engine base, Greg Mather at Midnight Upholstery, Mike from Manawatu Woodworkers Guild, and Craig from Windsor Industries for the rad gear knob, all of the many people at Club ’33, Sparkle Tees NZ, Oldschool.co.nzStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.