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    THE LOST CITY

    A pair of nicely-modded UK E36 Tourings finished in rare Atlantis blue.

    Atlantis blue is a rare colour, so to find two E36 Tourings in the hue and both on the UK’s scene is pretty special – especially when they’ve been modified too. Words: Ben Koflach /// Photos: Gary Hawkins

    If we had to name a car that’s gained a lot of popularity on the modified scene lately it would have to be the E36 Touring. Sure, the Coupé is undoubtedly the king of the modified E36 generation, but the Touring has been finding a stronger following than ever before. The estates, for whatever reason, often seem to be better looked after, and with plenty of engine options available there’s a car out there for everyone. The reason they’ve been getting stronger on the scene, though, is perhaps partly due to these two. The Atlantis blue pair are both quite different despite their shared hue – we found out more about them and their owners, Oliver Ross and Dips Amin.

    Ollie’s #BMW-328i-SE / #BMW-328i-SE-E36

    Of the two Tourings you see before you here, Ollie’s could perhaps be described as the longtermer. He’s had it for almost six years now, and in that time he’s completely transformed it into the ultimate all-rounder.

    Being a family man and needing to use the car every day, it had to do everything well, and he’s certainly achieved that.

    When purchased, the rare Atlantis blue Touring already had some goodies fitted, namely an M Tech front bumper and rubstrips, black kidney grilles and 18” MV2 wheels from an E46. From the factory it had white indicators all-round and a full leather interior with Individual piping, so as you can imagine it looked pretty good to start with!

    As you may have guessed, Ollie had some different plans for it. In the long-term, he knew he had a couple of rust issues to tidy up, but in the meantime he set about changing the rolling stock and improving the 2.8’s soundtrack. Unfortunately Ollie’s first wheel change didn’t exactly go to plan – he managed to source some Schnitzer reps going cheap. Being one of his favourite wheel designs he snapped them up; unfortunately part of the cheapness was due to the fact that he was buying blind. See where this is going?


    Yep, you guessed it – the offset of the wheels was far too low, meaning that they were a completely unviable solution. “I was absolutely gutted!” said Ollie. “Dips PM’d me on the DRIVE-MY forum, saying that he could roll my arches – but I didn’t want that. Dips bought the wheels from me at the price I paid – this was my first dealing with Custom Cars. Most of my work is now done by them, the standard is so high that I will happily travel two hours to get work done there.”

    With the wheels gone to a good home, Ollie just got on with what he could – he had a second-hand custom exhaust sitting around, which he simply had to fit. It actually had upswept #DTM-style tailpipes and posed a few fitting problems; nothing Ollie and a good mate of his couldn’t tackle, however. A couple of the mounting bolts needed tweaking to allow fitment, while the style of the exhaust was also changed. Using an angle grinder the upswept parts of the exhaust were cut off, with the remaining pipes left in a staggered tip formation and finished off with a touch of filing. “I don’t know what brand it is,” Ollie said, “but it’s damn loud!”

    Though understandably happy with the exhaust, Ollie still had that wheel disaster in his mind. It was all about to change, though, as he ordered a set of 8.5x18” #BBS-GT -RS replicas for the Tourer. They look mighty good, as you can see, but there was a series of touches planned for the 2011 season…

    Ollie had been lucky enough to pick up a pair of M3 mirrors, a Raid steering wheel and a few other cool touches, though the main addition was Hottuning coilovers; none of the new parts, however, cost Ollie too much thanks to his various contacts and a keen eye for a deal. Indeed, the same can be said for almost every part of the build.

    A Storm gear knob was sourced soon after, meaning the Touring was treated to quite some makeover. Pressed steel plates were added, too, followed by one of our favourite details on this Touring, colour-coded BBS centre badges, which were sourced through a fellow DRIVE-MY forum member.

    Many of you will have no doubt seen the Touring at shows throughout 2011 but it was in preparation for this year that Ollie really stepped things up a notch…

    As well as a set of M3 side skirts and a rear bumper, Ollie sourced a spoiler, M3 front bumper mesh and intake trumpets. Booked into Custom Cars so that Dips could work his magic, it was also the perfect opportunity for the various small bubbles of rust and other imperfections to be eliminated. The front roundel was removed and smoothed at the same time. Inside, a JVC DVD headunit was added, as well as screens linking to it in the headrests, perfect for keeping the kids happy.

    To keep Ollie happy too, more power was needed to keep his right foot entertained, no matter which pedal it was pushing down on. For the right-hand pedal, the popular M50 manifold conversion was carried out, along with the fitment of a big bore throttle body, while finishing off the under-bonnet appearance is a US M3 engine cover and colour-coded strut brace end plates.

    A recent dyno run over at BW Chiptune suggests that it’s making a very healthy 222.8bhp. And the upgrade for the middle pedal? That’s an E46 330i front brake setup, consisting of 325mm ATE discs (up from 286mm) and beefier calipers than the standard E36 affair.

    Ollie’s final touch, and one that really makes his E36 stand out, is the gold centres on the wheels. Inspired by Robbie Langelier’s BMW E30 3-Series, he had Dips lay down those perfect golden coats, making them really stand out and contrast with the Atlantis blue to great effect.

    Subtly smoked front indicators complete the exterior, while Ollie played a clever trick for the final interior touch. He managed to strike up a deal with a mate of his who happens to be a handy seamstress. Being a cookery teacher by day, he’s pretty good with a stove to say the least, so he baked her a cake in exchange for her redoing the stitching on his gaiters in an Atlantis blue- matching thread – a very neat touch.

    The last addition in the story so far is M3 door sill trims, which are genuine parts he managed to get second-hand from an M3 saloon. “They’re £90 each from the dealers – there was no way I was paying that!” he laughed. They make a perfect addition, especially considering Ollie’s future plans.

    “I’ve wanted to put an M3 engine in for some time,” he said. “It’s become a case of not if but when. Even my kids Megan and Dylan always ask about when I’ll do the M3 conversion – they adore the Touring.”

    Being able to keep the whole family happy is no mean feat, but the fact it’s been managed with this E36, and on a budget, proves that nothing is impossible.

    Dips’ 323i

    In comparison to Ollie’s lengthy build, the time scale of Dips’ Touring is minuscule – it was turned around in just a week! That makes it no less effective mind you. As a serial parts hoarder and a man with all the skills and owner of Custom Cars, this was simply an exercise in turning a standard Tourer into something very effective indeed.

    “I’d spent the show season working on customer’s cars at my company Custom Cars and so hadn’t actually built anything for myself,” Dips told us. “When this Atlantis Touring came up it was just too good to say no – at the time Ollie’s was the only other one on the scene, so once I’d checked he didn’t mind and promised to do it differently, I went to collect it. My good friend Richard Ansari came with me to collect it from Somerset. It only cost £1000 and started as a basic 323i manual – you can’t be fussy if you want a rare colour like Atlantis.”

    With the Players show just around the corner, Dips had his work cut out, and so got straight into turning the Touring into a show-worthy stunner. “The boys down at HTS Motorsport really helped me out – I was so busy with customer cars and rims still that I just didn’t have the space. They were absolutely fundamental in bringing it all together,” Dips revealed.

    The helping hands at HTS kindly fitted the interior you see before you. Dips sourced it on eBay and Sunny at HTS had it fitted after two days of work – to say it looks better than the black cloth previously fitted would be a real understatement. A Storm gear knob, custom gaiters and an M-Tech steering wheel are the only additions other than that extended cream and champagne cow-hide – you’ll probably have noted that even the headliner was swapped.

    “To be honest most of the car was pretty plain sailing,” Dips explained. “It’s actually quite a simple car compared to some of the other projects I’ve had, but everyone seems to love it.” Part of what made it simple was the fact that all of the bodywork, and indeed the wheels, were already in Dips’ collection. But more on that later – there were quite a few steps to be taken before it was ready to be put back together. JOM coilovers were fitted, and the arches were treated to a roll so that they’d be more homely for the planned footwear. The exhaust was also swapped for a full T304 stainless item, including the manifold, which was purchased very cheaply from eBay. “It needed a bit of fabrication work from Sunny to get it fitted perfectly, but it looks and sounds really good,” Dips added. 6000k HIDs, angel eyes and Brembo brake components completed the first part of the makeover – from then on it was time to raid Dips’ hoard and get busy with the paint gun.

    Ultra-rare parts are one of Dip’s speciality, which was fortunate as, after all, he’d promised to go down a different look to Ollie’s Touring and that meant he couldn’t use M3 parts. The route he’s chosen is to use an AC Schnitzer kit, consisting of front and rear bumpers as well as mirrors. He’s after the side skirts to complete the set, but in all honesty it looks good without them.

    Of course, the new parts needed painting to match the Atlantis blue finish, which Dips carried out as well as smoothing the front and rear roundels. “The base car was really good, so we only needed to paint the bits we added, the bonnet, bootlid and lower quarters,” Dips explained. “Kos then spent two days detailing it. We were up until 2am the night before Players to get it ready!”

    The final step was the wheels; classic RH Toplines in 8.5x17” and 10x17” are pretty hard to come by, and with some fairly substantial tyre stretch they’ve been made to fit rather nicely indeed. In fact, the fronts have even been spaced out 15mm to match the boundary-pushing rear fitment.

    “I can’t keep spending money on this Touring – it owes me £5.5k so far, which isn’t too much, but I really need to get on with my other 17 projects!” Dips laughed. Don’t think this is the end of his plans for E36 Tourings, mind you – he’s also got a Sierra red 328i which will be getting some pretty spectacular treatment in the coming months.

    This one may have had a quick turnaround, but it’s fair to say it looks spectacular – whist keeping it distinctively different look to Ollie’s – Dips certainly kept his promise.

    By themselves these Tourings look stunning, but together they’re even better.

    Custom stitching and Champagne leather – a nice combination!

    DATA FILE #BMW-E36 / #BMW-E36-Touring / #BMW-325i-E36 / #BMW-325i-Touring-E36 / #BMW-325i-Touring / #BMW-325i / #BBS

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 2.5-litre straight-six #M52B25 , custom painted covers, full T307 stainless steel exhaust including headers. Standard transmission with short-shift kit

    CHASSIS: 8.5x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) RH Toplines shod in 205/40 and 235/35 Falken tyres respectively, 15mm front spacer. JOM coilovers. #Brembo discs and pads all-round

    EXTERIOR: #AC-Schnitzer front bumper, AC Schnitzer rear bumper, AC Schnitzer electric mirrors, front numberplate blank, smoked front and side indicators, smoked foglights, all-red rear lights, bonnet and bootlid debadged, M3 rubstrips (colour-coded), 6000k HIDs and angel eyes

    INTERIOR: Extended cream/champagne leather interior, black leather gaiters with custom blue stitching, dog guard, Storm gear knob, #M-Tech steering wheel

    THANKS: Custom Cars, HTS Motorsport, Jason at BW Chiptune, Kos for the detail work before every show and shoot, all the forum boys and girls for the support and all the boys for their running around

    Ollie’s aim to keep the whole family happy has been met thanks to his series of mods.

    DATA FILE #BMW-328i-E36 / #BMW-328i-Touring-E36 / #BMW-328i-Touring / #BMW-328i /

    ENGINE: 2.8-litre straight-six #M52B28 / #M52 / #BMW-M52 , #M50 manifold conversion, big-bore throttle body, debaffled airbox, US M3 engine cover, stainless steel cat-back exhaust with customized tips. Five-speed manual gearbox, short-shifter

    CHASSIS: 8.5x18” #BBS-GT-RS replica wheels with polished lips and gold centres, gold valve caps and custom centre caps, 225/40 Falken 452s. Hottuning coilovers. E46 330i front brake conversion with #ATE discs and Pagid pads, OEM rear brakes

    EXTERIOR: M3 front bumper, M3 mesh with colourcoded air trumpets, M3 splitter, M3 rear bumper, rear diffuser adapted to fit exhaust, M3 side skirts, M3 electric mirrors, M3 bumpstrips, debadged bonnet, gloss black kidney grilles, smoked front indicators

    INTERIOR: Standard black leather with Individual Atlantis blue piping, Raid steering wheel, Storm Motorwerks gear knob, custom stitching on gaiters, M3 sill covers

    THANKS: Dips and Kos and Damien at Tyreweb in Ashford, Eleanor from work and all the guys on the #Drive-My and e36coupe forums but ultimately to Lucy (wife) and Megan and Dylan (kids) for their time and patience
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