- Post is under moderationLOW PROFILE
With countless subtle mods, this is one smooth E36 Cab. Everyone modifies E36s but it takes dedication and a keen eye for detail to build one that’s packed with as many subtle yet significant tweaks as this one. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Matt Richardson.
The E36 really is the perfect BMW when it comes to modifying. Think about it: it’s cheap, there are plenty to choose from, and the selection of aftermarket upgrades is truly unsurpassed. If you want to build yourself a modified E36 project car, you are spoiled for choice on all fronts and you can really go to town. But, and herein lies the rub, because of all these factors, building a car that stands out from the crowd is much more of a challenge; it requires dedication to take your E36 the extra mile. Luckily for us, Tony Munn (@M2onys on Instagram) has dedication in spades which means we can share his lovely bagged E36 Cab with you…
“I’ve always been into modifying,” Tony begins. He went through numerous cars in his youth; however, the responsibilities of adulthood eventually caught up with him and a house purchase put an end to his carbuying ways. Fortunately, you can’t keep a good man down. “After a little while, I decided I wanted something nice so I saved up and bought this in 2004,” Tony continues. “It’s a 1994 E36 328i with a manual gearbox, which is exactly what I wanted, and I bought it completely standard. I drove a few M3s but the insurance was much higher and I felt the 328 drove better. The hardest part was finding a manual, it took me three months of searching.
“My plan was to just have a nice car and not do anything to it, but then came the wheels. I bought a set of 18” E46 M3 reps because they fitted but with them on the car looked a bit high, so I started looking at springs…” We all know where this is going! “In the end I decided to go for a set of Eibach coilovers instead of just some springs and then I decided to get the paint done. The car was tidy but there were a few dents and nicks and a bit of rust so I wanted to get it looking like new. Then came the decision to do some smoothing.”
Here is where we start getting into the details that set Tony’s car apart from the myriad modified E36s out there, details that you might not notice at first glance, subtle tweaks that make a big difference to the overall look of the car. Tony had the bonnet badge, washer jets, boot badge and lock, and fuel filler all smoothed. The aerial and locks have been deleted while the numberplate mounts to the front bumper via magnets, meaning it can be quickly and easily removed at shows for a super-clean front end. The whole car looks incredibly clean and smooth as a result.
“I wasn’t sure if I should colour-code the trims,” Tony says. “I had to make a decision over the phone with my painter. I said ‘yes’ and I’m glad I did,” he smiles. We agree, the smoothed elements of the body work really well with the silver trim strips around the whole car. The door handles have also been colour-coded for that finishing touch, eliminating all traces of black trim from the exterior, while the standard mirrors have been replaced with a sleeker-looking pair of AC Schnitzer items.
“I stuck with the original Arctic silver colour but with a House of Kolor lacquer,” explains Tony. “As a result it looks slightly different to factory Arctic silver.” And while some cars can look uninspiring in silver, here the colour really suits this E36 and works perfectly with Tony’s approach to modifying the car, as he explains: “When I started modifying the E36 I thought to myself ‘if BMW was modifying a car, how would it do it?’ I then applied that concept to all the styling on the car, keeping it subtle, OE but with a difference.”
With fresh paint and a raft of subtle visual tweaks, Tony needed to up his wheel game as those E46 M3 reps just weren’t going to cut it anymore. “I’d wanted a set of splitrims for ages,” he says, “and these kept coming and going on eBay. In the end I managed to get them with tyres and they’d had a full refurb.” Patience most definitely paid off here then. The wheels are OZ Futuras, ET13 8.5x17s all-round and while the fronts went on okay, the rear arches required some rolling before the wheels would fit. As you can see, Tony’s also dialled-in a fair amount of camber via the adjustable rear camber arms he’s fitted. “People always ask me how long my tyres last,” he laughs.
Arguably the biggest modification was the move from coilovers to air-ride, and that only happened last year in fact. “I bumped into a young guy with a brown Merc on air from the hangar at Players. It turned out he only lives up the road from me and he’s part of the Gütenstance Kent club, which was started up last year. I joined the club and the fact that most of the members are on air must have rubbed off on me,” he chuckles. “I decided to bite the bullet and go for it but I didn’t want to spend a fortune. I got the Air Lift bag and struts from Neil at Carbon Motive in Sittingbourne and went for an Air Zenith compressor, which is more expensive but you only need one. I built the rest myself and went for a manual system following the advice of the Gütenstance guys, as it’s cheaper and I couldn’t justify the cost of a digital setup.” The single compressor and air tank have been neatly installed in the boot by Tony, tucked out of the way and leaving plenty of usable space boot space. “I love the air-ride,” he adds, “and it drives better now than it did on coilovers.”
The analogue controls for the air-ride have been neatly and discreetly integrated into the cabin and, as with the exterior, the interior, with its unusual but extremely nice dark blue leather and accompanying upholstery, has had a lot of work done to it, even though you might not even realise it at first! The trio of air pressure gauges, with their white dials and silver bezels, sit in a carbon-wrapped panel located beneath the MID panel on the lower dash while the switches that control the front and rear suspension have been hidden away in the ashtray – a neat touch. The rather lovely brushed stainless steel gear knob (which is mounted to a Z3 short-shift kit), handbrake and window switches all come from Storm Motorwerks and Tony’s made his own hazard light switch, door lock buttons and door pins to match. There’s a snap-off Momo Race steering wheel and what you can’t see is the fact that all the interior lighting is now blue. “That was a bit of a mission. I did it a long time ago and it was a lot of work,” Tony admits. We think it was definitely worth it as it is original and co-ordinates with the seats’ blue leather.
This E36 is not all about styling, though, as under the bonnet the M52B28 has a tuning potential that would be a shame not to tap into. As a result, Tony’s custom fitted a K&N cone filter and a Supersprint de-cat pipe which connects to a Scorpion stainless steel exhaust system. He’s even got plans to fit an M50 inlet manifold and big bore throttle body to squeeze every last bit of available performance from that beefy straight-six, which sounds absolutely glorious thanks to the unrestricted exhaust system.
Talk turns to life after the E36 but this is one car that is always going to remain a part of the Munn family, as Tony explains: “I’ve had the car for 11 years now and there’s no point selling it. I mean, how much is it worth? And, more importantly, what could I possibly replace it with? The only time I offered to sell it was when I was getting married but my wife told me to stop being silly. When we had our daughter I SORN’d it for a couple of years but otherwise it’s always getting used.
“Very occasionally I wish I’d done an M3,” he muses, “but mainly because of the value. I’m not that into performance; I’m not fussed about driving fast. I’d rather be seen!”
Despite all the work that’s gone into the car, Tony’s not finished with it just yet. “This car will never be finished,” he chuckles. “After owning it for 11 years I am still playing with it. I’ve got an M3 rear bumper, but I’m not sure if that will fit with the rest of the styling as I like the smooth look. I definitely want to remove the parking sensor strip, though, along with the repeaters and I want to fill in the front bumper trim strip where the numberplate used to be. I’ve been away from the scene for years, and I want to keep doing my own thing. I built the car for myself, not for anyone else, and I want to keep the car, and keep enjoying it, for as long as I can.”
DATA FILE #Air-ride #BMW-E36 / #BMW-328i-Convertible / #BMW-328i-Convertible-E36 / #BMW-328i-E36 / #BMW-328i / #BMW-328i-E36 / #BMW / #BMW-328i-Convertible-Air-ride / #BMW-328i-Convertible-Air-ride-E36 /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.8-litre straight-six #M52B28 / #BMW-M52 / #M52 , #K&N cone filter, #Supersprint decat, Scorpion stainless steel exhaust, Z3 M quick-shift, five-speed manual gearbox
CHASSIS 8.5x17” ET13 (front and rear) #OZ-Futura / #OZ three-piece split-rims with 205/40 (front) and 225/35 (rear) tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance / #Air-Lift front struts and rear bags, custom-made manual air-ride management, adjustable rear camber arms
EXTERIOR De-badged front and rear, washer jet delete, aerial delete, fuel flap smoothed, smoothed #AC-Schnitzer mirrors, front numberplate delete, de-locked, fully colour-coded in Arctic silver and House of Kolor lacquer, rolled rear arches
INTERIOR Storm Motorwerks stainless steel gear knob, handbrake and electric window switches, custommade stainless steel hazard switch and door pins, full blue LED dash lights, snap off Momo Race steering wheel, dash mounted air-pressure gauges
THANKS My wife Claire and daughter Evie for everything, Neil at Carbon Motive for supplying the air-ride, Ben for Paint, Arron at Kent Automotive for Advice, Auto Perfection for cleaning products, all the boys at Gütenstance for keeping me motivatedStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.