- Post is under moderationCLEAN LIVING
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 / #BMW-E36 / #BMW-323i-Touring / #BMW-323i-Touring-E36 / #BMW-323i-E36 / #BMW-323iA-Touring-E36 / #BMW-323iA / #BMW-323iA-E36 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E36 /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M52B25 / #M52 / #BMW-M52 , #DaveF induction kit, 328i manifold-back exhaust, five-speed auto gearbox #ZF5HP / #ZF
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 with #Air-Lift-V2 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
INTERIOR #Recaro-CS 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 skillsStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationRELUCTANT HERO Stripped-out, hardcore Rocket Bunny E36
This Rocket Bunny E36 has it all – the looks, the poise, the power, the high-end motorsport parts. Must be the product of a full-on E36 obsessive, right? Er, no, not really… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photots: Sebas Mol.
“I didn’t really like E36s much until recently,” says Selo Bilgic, in perhaps the most unexpected and unsettling opener we’ve heard in a while. Think about it – how do you go from not liking a certain car to building one of the coolest examples out there? It defies logic. Ah, but then much of Selo’s thought processes seem to follow this serpentine path. “I only got into BMWs in 2014,” he shrugs. “My first car was a Mk3 Golf GTI, and before this car I’ve always driven VWs and Audis.” For the sake of scene-setting, you’ll have to bear with us for a moment as we sidle over to the corner of the office occupied by sister-title Performance VW magazine to see what’s what.
“Yup,” drawls PVW man David Kennedy, adjusting his snapback with a flourish, “this guy had a Mk4 R32 on Porsche centre-locks, a Mk5 R32 with R8 carbon-ceramics and more Porsche centre-locks, an S4-ified A4 Avant, a Mk3 VR6, and a bagged ’78 Passat.” Well, that’s cleared that up. Selo’s a guy who likes a lot of VAG. So what changed his mind?
“My parents bought a brand-new E39 back in 2003, and I loved that car,” Selo admits, the mask falling as the Bavarian truth begins to escape from its Wolfsburg shackles. “The lines of it were so simple and clean, I guess that was ultimately my inspiration to start a BMW project one day.” Aha. The pieces of the jigsaw begin to shuffle themselves into place. But an E39 is not an E36. There must have been some other persuading factor?
“Not really,” he smirks, enigmatically. “Like I say, I never liked the E36, but somehow over the years they started to win me over, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to build a custom one.” We can all be glad that this fractured decisionmaking process, however faltering, was allowed to run its course, as Selo’s experience in modding Dubs has certainly stood him in good stead this time around. It also helps that he works for H&R Suspension, and finds himself surrounded by and working on hot lowered cars all the time; his various Golf projects all ran custom H&R setups, and this E36 follows the pattern. But we’ll get to that later…
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s no great and protracted story about scouring the globe for the perfect 3 Series. “I had the idea, and a couple of weeks later I bought the car,” Selo says, with admirable nonchalance. “My friend Dima wanted to build an E36 stance project, but he lost motivation and sold me the car.”
Okay, so perhaps we’re framing this all a little unfairly. Selo is not an indifferent sort of guy; in fact, as his history of modifying clearly demonstrates, he goes all-in with everything he does. The results here speak for themselves – this isn’t a case of simply bolting on some off-the-shelf parts and rolling up to a few low-rent show ’n’shines; no, this is a detailed and fastidious effort that’s resulted in a sort of caricature of a 1990s Touring Car. It’s magnificent to behold.
“The plan came about by chance in early 2015 while I was sharing a hookah with my friend Göksu,” he explains. “It was a picture of a Rocket Bunny E36 that got me thinking; owned by Brian Henderson from Rotiform, I’d first seen that car at Wörthersee in 2013 and I decided that I wanted to build a race car with that body kit.”
So that’s exactly what happened. With the donor acquired from Dima, Selo set about tearing the thing down to first principles like some kind of furious Tasmanian Devil, bits of trim flying all over the workshop as he single-mindedly reduced the E36 to a bare shell. And from that point, it was time to perfect the base – after all, there’s no point starting a race car project with a frilly shell.
Every iota of imperfect metal was hunted down and either straightened or strengthened – or, if need be, cut out entirely and replaced. So with a freshly renewed starting point, it could all be sprayed in a shimmering, dazzling coat of purest white. The Rocket Bunny kit for the E36 comprises a number of pieces, with the most obvious being the vastly protruding arches. The fact that Selo’s slathered his car in racer livery actually reduces their imposing impact at first glance, as you expect a Touring Car to have bullish width, but it’s in viewing the car in profile that you realise just how much surface area these arch extensions cover.
They’re not the only part of the body kit, of course; bridging them fore and aft are a pair of broad side skirts, while there’s also a front splitter and ducktail spoiler. The latter, however, isn’t present here, as you’ve probably noticed. “I decided to go with an M3 GT wing instead,” Selo reasons. “I just love the elevated look of the Class 2 spoiler.” Fair enough. You’ll notice as well that the bumpers have been replaced with M3 items, as their aggression sits more neatly with the comically fat Rocket Bunny addenda.
This theme, understandably for a trackoriented project, blows through to the interior with gusto. “A Rocket Bunny E36 can’t be comfortable,” he says, matter-of-factly. “It must have the spirit of a race car, which is why it’s got the Cobra race seats, plumbed-in extinguisher and the full Pleie Sport roll-cage.” And ‘the spirit of a race car’ very much informed the choice of wheels too: “At first I wanted to fit a set of BBS E88 Motorsport wheels – in fact, I have a set of staggered 18s,” says Selo. “But I just love the OZ Challenge HLTs, they’re so light and the car really looks like a badass racer with the these.” What he’s modestly neglecting to mention here is that the rims in question were actually sourced from a Porsche GT2 race car, which is a pretty cool boast.
“Under the body kit, everything is adapted for the big wheels,” he grins. Yeah, we’re not surprised. Just look at the rears, they’ve got 295-section tyres! And we love the massive BMW M Performance six-pots peeping out from behind the fronts. Very cheeky.
A car with such racy focus must have a fairly fiery motor under the bonnet, then? “Yeah, kinda,” he smiles. “It’s a 2.5-litre with the M50 intake upgrade, which has been remapped, plus I’ve lightened the flywheel. But I’ve got big plans for this very soon, as that motor was only for shakedown in the 2016 season. For 2017, the car’s going to have a turbocharged M50 with around 800hp.” Crikey. This guy really doesn’t mess about, does he?
One area that we have to talk about, for obvious reasons, is the suspension. You don’t work at H&R without picking up a few tricks for your own projects, after all. “The car’s running custom H&R race suspension,” he says, entirely out of pride and clearly not just toeing the company line. “It’s got adjustable aluminium shocks at the front with 50mm-diameter springs; same at the rear but with coilover shocks.” And the infinite adjustability is exactly what you need in a race car project. “My daily driver is an F30 BMW with H&R Deep suspension, which is amazing for how I use that car, but this track setup up really takes it up a level. This is my fun car.”
You can see what’s happened here, can’t you? Selo’s been indoctrinated. This isn’t just an E36 to get out of his system before he dives back into VWs; he’s having so much fun with it that he’s paired it with an F30, just to ensure a creamy 3 Series hit every single day. And after eight months of serious effort on the Rocket Bunny racer, the results are shouting for themselves. “Its first show was the Essen Motor Show,” he casually throws out there, like it’s the most normal thing in the world. “I hope they liked it…”
We can assume that they probably did. And the rumblings from this corner of Westfalia, and the promise of a new livery for 2017 – along with that colossal power hike and, yes, perhaps those BBS E88s – suggest that this car will be winning over new fans for some time to come. It’s not bad for someone who didn’t really like E36s, is it?
DATA FILE Rocket-Bunny / #BMW-E36 / #BMW / #BMW-E36-Rocket-Bunny / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E36
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M52B25 / #BMW-M52 / #M52 / , M50 intake, remapped, lightened flywheel, five-speed manual gearbox
CHASSIS 11x18” (front) and 12x18” (rear) #OZ / #OZ-Challenge-HLT wheels from Porsche 911 GT2 with 265/35 (f) and 295/30 (r) tyres, #BMW-M-Performance six-pot calipers (front), E36 M3 brakes (rear), #H&R custom race suspension with 50mm-diameter springs with adjustable aluminium shocks (front), adjustable coilovers with 50mm-diameter springs (rear)
EXTERIOR Restored shell, bare-shell respray, Rocket Bunny kit, M3 bumpers, M3 GT rear spoiler
INTERIOR Stripped, Pleie Sport roll-cage, plumbed-in extinguisher system, Cobra Imola race seats, OMP deep-dish steering wheel, carbon fibre doorcardsStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationThe E36 Compact has a bit of an unfortunate reputation in certain quarters but Dávid Haas’ example is here to prove that potential is everywhere, and these offbeat hatchbacks can be turned into proper little jaw-droppers… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Krisztian Bolgar.
2.8-swapped E36 Compact
There’s a popular saying that you may have heard: ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ The kind of mawkish sentiment that seems to make some sort of sense when you see it on a cheesy pink fridge magnet or in somebody’s Twitter bio, but it is, in fact, a pretty dumb statement. If you find yourself with free lemons, just sell them. That’s 100% profit. If you’re going to turn them into lemonade, you’re committing yourself to all manner of time, effort, the expense of ingredients and equipment… the saying should really go: ‘When life gives you lemons, brilliant, free lemons.’ Why overcomplicate things?
Now, as us car people know, the term ‘lemon’ has a darker meaning. It’s a scathing word applied to cars that are, well, not quite up to par; cars that sometimes feature noteworthy flaws (like the Ford Pinto having those bolts near the fuel tank that means the thing catches fire if it’s rearended), or that have a secret cut-and-shut past, or sometimes simply aren’t considered to be as good as they could have been. And in the eyes of some, the E36 Compact falls into this latter category. The first generation Compact, designated E36/5, was identical to a regular E36 from the front bumper back to the A pillars, but the truncated tail hid the suspension setup from the older E30. This allowed for a lower boot floor and undermounted spare wheel and thus maximised the utility of the hatchback, though many saw it as a compromise.
But screw that. There’s enough negativity in this world, let’s spin the Compact’s reputation around, shall we? And we’ll let Hungary’s Dávid Haas lead the charge. He’s probably the man for the job – just look at his Compact! The thing’s so aggressive you have to tip-toe up to it in case it nips your hand. Angry, scary thing. “I bought the car to be a daily driver in 2012,” he explains. “It was in quite bad condition but it came with the factory MSport option, which made it attractive.”
This trim level comprised M-tweaked suspension, foglights, alloys, sports seats, and a few other trinkets to elevate it above the lesser base models. This car as bought came equipped with an M52B25 – the spiciest option that the E36/5 came with; North American readers will probably only be familiar with four-cylinder Compacts, but the European market 323ti served up 170hp from a straight-six, which makes it easier to swap in bigger engines… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Where did Dávid go from here, with his ratty but brimming-with-potential motor?
“It didn’t take much time to decide on the first few mods,” he grins. “I run a small BMW shop here called Han’s Garage, so I had the means at my disposal to make the changes I wanted. This began with hiding the original tired silver paint under a white wrap, and fitting a set of 9.5x16” Hayashi Racing wheels, along with fully adjustable coilovers.” A strong start, but the game was only just beginning to hot up…
It’s worth noting that Han’s Garage, while Dávid describes it as ‘a small BMW shop’, walks pretty tall in the Hungarian tuning scene. Before this car, he enjoyed much internet celebrity thanks to his E30 cabriolet, E36 coupé, another E30, and a bagged E36 Touring, each one sporting a variety of unexpected home-grown tricks. Any possibility of this Compact retaining a semblance of factory originality was really dead in the water.
“After a couple of months of use, I decided to make a few further changes as I wasn’t happy with the setup,” Dávid explains, ever the perfectionist. “I replaced the wheels with a set of 10x18” rims from Japan Racing, although the sizing threw up some immediate fitment problems.” He’s used the word ‘problems’, but this is a guy who really only sees challenges as a path to further excellence.
The sleeves were rolled up, the tongue was poking out of the corner of the mouth, he was in deep: “I fitted a set of 3D camber plates,” Dávid continues, “along with BMW E46 control arms and eccentric bushes to solve the problem, but even all of this couldn’t help me avoid widening the arches… in the end, however, everything was perfect. But I made a wrong move and sold the car in order to turn to a whole new project.”
Wait, what?! We were just getting into the story Dávid! You’re such a tease… “Yeah, I totally regretted it,” he ponders, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “After about six months I really had the urge to finish what I had started – I’d been having a lot of ideas for the car after I’d sold it. Thankfully the buyer was a friend of mine though, and I managed to convince him to sell it back to me! He’d barely touched the car throughout his time owning it too, so I was able to pick up pretty much where I left off.”
This buyback move took a lot of Dávid’s friends by surprise. With his strong legacy of building desirable and unique BMWs, why was he wasting his time monkeying about with such a lemon? There are plenty of other ’90s BMWs out there in need of salvation, why take the retrograde step of going back to this Compact again?
“They were wrong, I guess,” he laughs. “I knew the potential was in there, I just had to let the car do the talking. The first job was to begin the transformation to Army Compact: I painted it flat military green with the help of my friend 819Lacika. Then I ordered a set of zero offset JR11 wheels from #Japan-Racing – 9.5x18” up front, 10x18” out back.” Blimey. And he thought he had fitment issues before! This is real go-big-or-go-home stuff.
“At this point, I just knew it had to go lower,” Dávid smirks, with the malevolent air exuded by all full-bore modifying addicts. “The TA coilovers were good but they had their limits, so I shortened the bodies and made the shocks stiffer.” This had the desired effect of ensuring that the car has very little in the way of suspension travel at all, which is just what was required. Look at the wheel-to-arch interface, you’ll understand why.
From this point on, Dávid was keen to really up the game of the aesthetics, and his next move was to acquire an adjustable front splitter from the super-obscure E36 M3 GT homologation model. Trust us, these things make hen’s teeth seem rapaciously abundant in comparison. And to complement this, he added a set of MHW tail-lights, projector headlights and, just for the sheer modern screw-you-ness of it all, some quick release bumper mounts. Because motorsport, yeah?
“Christmas was coming by this point, and I decided to pause the project for a while,” Dávid recalls. “But my girlfriend thought differently! She put a Wilwood hydraulic handbrake lever under the tree, which of course made me very happy! And that spurred me on to carry out further interior mods – along with the army camo trim, I bolted in a set of E46 front seats, junked the rears along with lots of other superfluous stuff back there, and fitted an OMP steering wheel.” Proceedings are largely dominated by that towering hydro ’brake though, and no bad thing.
Oh yes – and we should probably return to the idea of power, shouldn’t we? Remember how we were talking about the opportunities created by BMW’s decision to shoehorn an M52B25 into the 323ti? Well, that was just the sort of thing Dávid was keen to capitalise upon.
“I swapped in an M52B28,” he beams. And he’s right to do so – this is the 2.8-litre motor you’d find in the likes of the 328i and various others, and it’s a lot of displacement for a little hatchback.
He hasn’t left it stock, either; well, would you expect anything less? “It’s running an OEM BMW Motorsport ECU,” he explains, “along with the usual M50 intake manifold swap, a BMC filter and a full custom exhaust. It’s probably running about 220-230hp now.” And that’s a fairly staggering amount for a 1990s hot hatch. It’s evident that this car was always intended to be as much about ‘go’ as ‘show’.
What Dávid’s done here, in essence, is to go against the flow and actively seek out one of life’s lemons. And while he may have taken our advice (not always recommended…) and sold the lemon, he quickly pulled it back and decided to make it into something fresh. Not just lemonade, but a full three course meal of lemon sole canapés, oriental lemon cashew chicken, lemon drizzle cake, and a shot of limoncello to round things off. This is his riposte to the lemon-haters, and it’s finger-lickin’ good.
Interior has been given the same army treatment as the exterior and also features E46 front seats and hydraulic handbrake.
“I knew the potential was in there, I just had to let the car do the talking”
TECHNICAL DATA FILE 2.8 / #BMW-E36-Compact / #BMW-328i-Compact / #BMW-328i-Compact-E36 / #BMW-328i-E36 / #BMW-E36 / #Japan-Racing-JR-11 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Compact / #BMW-3-Series-Compact-E36 /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.8-litre straight-six #M52B28 / #M52 / #BMW-M52 , OEM #BMW-Motorsport ECU, M50 intake manifold, #BMC air filter, custom exhaust system with carbon rear box, power estimated at 220-230hp, five-speed manual gearbox
CHASSIS 9.5x18” (front) and 10x18” (rear) #ET0-Japan-Racing-JR11 wheels with 215/35 (front) and 225/35 (rear) tyres, 3D camber plates, E46 control arms, eccentric bushes, custom-shortened TA coilovers, #Wilwood hydraulic handbrake
EXTERIOR Flat military green, adjustable E36 M3 GT splitter, MHW tail-lights, quick release bumper mounts, projector headlights
INTERIOR Camo trim, OMP steering wheel, E46 front seats, rear seats removed 2.8 E36 CompactStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationJAMES’ #BMW-E36 / #BMW-328i / #BMW-328i-E36 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 /
There has been a long hiatus since the last update due to completing my engineering master’s degree! However some progress has been made to my 328i. The main priority was to sort out the gear selection issues and the original clutch. After some detailed investigation, the stiffness in the linkage and the reluctance to engage gears was traced to within the gearbox, so a good used replacement was sourced. It was surprising really as the five-speed #ZF ’box used in the 328i and 3.0 M3 is known to be incredibly strong, but thankfully a replacement was less than £150. At the same time the clutch was replaced, with the old one certainly looking like it would not be good for many more gear changes!
Another issue that appeared was a rather loud ticking sound from the #M52 lump. It sounded to many trained ears (and even my own!) that the exhaust manifold was leaking, either from a crack or the gasket. However when I tested it with the incredibly scientific ‘piece of tissue near the manifold’ test, there was no movement whatsoever, indicating that gasses were not escaping at all! A rethink was required so I took it down to Rob at Autobahn. After giving the engine a flush and replacing it with fresh high quality oil, the sound had disappeared! It seems most likely that it was a blocked hydraulic lifter, a common occurrence on M52 engines.
So what is on the to-do list now? Well, really the underside needs stripping, as the factory underseal is starting to come away in places and although the whole underside is very solid, the rear edges of the sills are starting to look a little crusty, so it seems sensible to treat this before it becomes serious. Also having spent a lot of time and money on maintenance, it would be nice to fit some thicker ARBs to complement the coilovers and x-brace as well as uprated ARB bushes as these are looking tired as well.
THANKS AND CONTACT Autobahn Servicing / www.autobahnservicing.co.uk / 0121 585 9146Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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An awesome E46 323i four-door packing a #BBK , carbon goodies and #Schnitzer styling galore. At a loss how to modify your four-door E46? Let Alan Lam and #AC-Schnitzer show you how. Words: Iain Curry. Photos: Matt Barnes.
There are some BMWs that effortlessly ooze class. These are the cars that when cruising past, you stare longingly at, not because they’re intrusively loud or garishly decorated, but because they’ve been beautifully and thoughtfully modified. Money’s been thrown in all the right places, and the owner has insisted on the best to make his ride become even more of a rewarding driving machine and easier on the eye.
With BMW’s current 3 Series, most choose the Coupé variant as the base for modifying work. And who can blame them? The two-door is indeed a design marvel in terms of beauty and desirability, so it’s an ideal starting block. Those with the saloon version are presented with more of a modifying challenge. It’s by no means an ugly car, but a little more thought has to go into how to bring the best out of the practical four-door. Looking at Alan Lam’s ’00 323i, we think he’s pretty much cracked it.
The native New Yorker is by all accounts one of the most enthusiastic BMW modifiers we’ve ever met – you’d be lucky to find anyone more knowledgeable and helpful about what it takes to make these cars a pleasure to look at and drive. So it’s no surprise to discover the sheer amount of work put into turning his Orient blue 323i into the feature car we have here today.
Alan’s love affair with the marque goes back to his high school days, where the E36 M3 was his dream car. “It was only after BMW released the pictures of the new E46 I knew I had to get one, though,” he told us. “My first BMW was therefore delivered in December ’99, and it was used as my daily driver to school and work, so modifications were kept at a minimum and nothing major was planned.”
And how many times have we heard that? It seems Alan started customising the little things, beginning with OEM clear lights all round, and realised there was no way of stopping. The bug had bitten. Before long a Supersprint exhaust and ECIS cold air intake found their way onto the car, and the results were addictive.
“The E46 was too quiet,” Alan said, “especially driving a manual. You want to hear the engine to let you know when to shift. The exhaust and cold air intake made a dramatic difference in the car’s performance and fun factor, and I found myself blipping the throttle downshifting just to hear the lovely sound the engine now made. I even had the front and rear resonators removed to make it even louder and deeper, and it now sounds just like a stock E36 M3.”
As you can tell from the photos, however, these mods were just the beginning. Alan discovered Dtmpower.net, Bimmervibe.com and E46fanatics.com on the Internet, and these forums opened up a whole new world of potential tuning ideas. “I found myself browsing on it all day and night learning more about what I could do to the car,” the 26-year-old IS administrator said. Inevitably he met up with like-minded enthusiasts, and knew he wanted more from his car. A lot more.
Having an overall gameplan is an absolute necessity if you’re modifying to attain a certain look. It’s best to gain inspiration from others, see what there is on the market you think works best, and add your own personal touches. Alan can’t be faulted for his choice of AC Schnitzer styling; a brand, he tells us, he chose due to its racing heritage and reputation as the most widely respected BMW tuner in the world. We’re not about to disagree.
“I wanted my car to be a Schnitzer car,” he said. “First thing was ordering a full Schnitzer body kit along with a set of 18” rims. I didn’t like the rear spoilers offered by Schnitzer so I decided to go with a Racing Dynamics one instead.” Also at this time, Eibach springs and BogeSachs BMW sport shocks tightened everything up, while a modern styling touch in the shape of xenon front lights courtesy of bekkers.com found their way on. With Hamann eyebrows and shadow grilles added as well, Alan had reached the end of the second stage of modifying. Once again he was satisfied with the car’s look, so you’d have thought he’d have stopped here. No way.
Styling is one thing, but finding more power really is best for putting a smile on your face. “There were virtually no turbo kits available,” said Alan, “nor any reliable supercharger kits making any decent power at the time. Instead, Rogue Engineering had connections with an excellent BMW technician who was able to do some motor work for me. I got hold of Schrick cams, Jim Conforti Shark Injector software and ended up swapping my ECIS intake in favour of a beautiful Gruppe M carbon fibre unit.” Good choice.
Soon after, Alan was collecting a first place trophy in the Mild category at Bimmerfest East, and was recruited by TWCompetition. Things were looking up, and so were the planned mods to his 323i. These final mods are basically the look the car sports in the photos, and the sheer amount and quality of work is commendable. Nineteen-inch HRE wheels were custom made by Peter Lee at wheelexperts.com, while the suspension was swapped for H&R coilovers set at maximum drop for the rear and about 90% at the front. That’s seriously low. Riding that close to the tarmac has obvious drawbacks, so, in Alan’s own words, “to help scan the crappy New York roads rolling on big 19s, I swapped the standard halogen foglights for 5300K xenons.”
Nestled behind those beautiful custom wheels are some serious anchors, 320mm up front courtesy of Brembo, with a Rogue Engineering/Porsche 329mm hybrid setup at the rear. Alan assures us at the time this was done, no other E46 had both front and rear big brakes. Ever the groundbreaker, with the front bumper sporting an Schnitzer add-on becoming more common, Alan changed his for an OEM E46 M3 bumper. With this being almost 2” wider than the 323i item on each side, Ultimate Collision had a hell of a task making it fit, but have certainly excelled themselves with the finish. The addition of a new Schnitzer carbon fibre splitter completes the very tasty new look. Soon after, Schnitzer was called upon again to provide an M3 racing spoiler, a truly unique look for a saloon car.
Then there’s the final hurrah. If you put a carbon fibre bonnet on the wrong car it’s an expensive mistake, but on Alan’s modified E46 323i it’s a revelation. It blends in nicely with the Orient paint, and completes what is a stunning four-door.
Standing back to admire it, the final look is a thing of beauty. The custom front bumper, the large but tasteful rear wing, the huge brakes primed for action behind the flawless, polished alloys. It may be a four door, but how many coupés look this desirable? Alan tells us he knows of no other saloon in the US with this look, but we’re hoping many will take inspiration from him to create something even half as nice as his stunning 323i.
GruppeM carbon fibre air intake – every #BMW should have one!
DATA FILE #BMW-E46 / #BMW-323i / #BMW-323i-E46 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #M52TUB25 / #BMW-M52 / #M52B25 / #M52 / #BMW
ENGINE: 2.5-litre six-cylinder with #Schrick performance 248° cams, #Rogue-Engineering underdrive pulleys, #Gruppe-M carbon fibre air intake, #Jim-Conforti engine software, #Supersprint 76mm cat-back exhaust with both resonators removed, Imola red valve covers
CHASSIS: 8.5x19” #HRE-448R three-piece forged alloys shod in Toyo T1-S 235/35 tyres. H&R fully adjustable coilover suspension system, #H&R Trak Plus 5mm spacers, #Racing-Dynamics anti-roll bars, #Turner-Motorsports rear shock mounts, silver M3 front strut brace. #Brembo 320mm big brake kit (front), #Rogue-Engineering /Porsche 329mm big brake kit (rear), #Hawk-HPS racing pads, #Goodridge stainless steel brake lines, #ATE Super Blue brake fluid. Rogue Engineering short-shifter, weighted selector rod and tranny mounts. Redline synthetic fluids
EXTERIOR: Euro-spec OEM M3 bumper custom fitted onto a saloon chassis, #AC-Schnitzer carbon fibre M3 front spoiler, aluminium stabiliser struts, rear apron, roof spoiler, sport mirrors, racing wing and badges, Fiber Images carbon fibre bonnet. Hamann shadow grilles, Hamann eyebrows, #M-Tech side skirts, Nova 4 professional strobe kit, custom fitted facelift ’02 BMW rear lights, Euro-spec clear side repeaters, xenon 5200K foglight kit, xenon 5200K ellipsoid headlights.
INTERIOR: M3 leather sport seats custom fitted into saloon, two-tone leather treatment, Sparco Clubman threepoint safety harnesses, AC Schnitzer full pedal set and floor mats. Aluminium interior trim and gear shift, NR Auto aluminium gauges, Isotta chrome gear shift surround
ICE: Alpine 7965 CD head unit, CHA 1214 12-disc changer, SPR 176A 6.5” components, SPR 172A 6.5” coaxial. Rockford Fosgate 400 four-channel amp, 360 two-channel amp, 1.0 Farad capacitor. Allumapro BP10 subwoofer enclosure
THANKS: TWCompetition, Peter at wheelexperts.com, Samir at Rennsport.com, Tom Chang at Bimmerfesteast.com, Ooro and Drea at Bimmervibe.com, Jimmy at Pfactor.com, Mark and Ben at Rogueengineering.com, Barry at Race Technologies, Dtmpower.net, E46fanatics.com, Cave Crew, Michael Cajayon, Rich Pinto at Rtechnic, my girlfriend Mabel, friends and family
Above: Rogue Engineering/Porsche 329mm big brake kit for the rears! Up front are Brembo 320mm. Left: Plenty of lovely carbon fibre.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationTHE 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.
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 patienceStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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PERFECT EXAMPLE #BMW-E36 / #BMW-328i / #BMW-328i-E36 / #BMW-328Ci / #BMW-328Ci-E36 / #BMW-E36-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe /
This full-on E36 328i combines aggressive styling with serious turbocharged performance. Many have tried, and many have failed. The quest for the perfect modified #BMW is an arduous one, but our US contributor thinks he may just have found it. Words & Photos: Eric Eikenberry.
In the days of yore, men of differing opinions used to gather in remote locations to shout vociferously at one another, clash shield upon shield, sword upon sword, all in the name of settling the score. In today’s infinitely more modern arenas, the shields and swords have been discarded in favour of wings and air dams, ICE and carbon fibre. The battle cry is far different too. ‘JDM’ or ‘DTM’. Where do your allegiances lie? If you’ve picked up this magazine, that choice is pretty clear. As such, we present to you your champion, Ryan Castro’s #1997 E36 328i. All hail your king!
At a recent JDM-DTM shootout held in California, Ryan not only laid to rest the JDM dragon, he also captured an overall show trophy for Best Modified. With his comprehensive and well thought out modifications, not only is this ride an incredible showpiece, it packs the punch necessary to decimate its rivals on the strip or track.
Ryan has a dream job that allows him a great deal of leeway in his choice of transportation. Sure, it’s not as grand as what us motoring journalists do for a living – testing cars for you, our readers – but still it’s the tops. Ryan is one-third owner of DP Engineering (www.dpengineering.cc). This means he gets to play with forged wheels all day long – just like the wheels you see here on this car.
These gorgeous 8.5x19” and 10x19” two-piece, fully-forged R06VS beauties are produced by DP Engineering, and are wearing 235/35 and 275/35 Falken Azenis rubber. The black anodised centres are polished to a high gloss. Since he prefers the deep-dish look, the fronts feature a 3” lip, while the rears sprout a staggering 5” shelf.
Tucked away inside are front and rear Brembos, silver-painted and the size of dinner plates. 15” cross-drilled front rotors ride on floating pins, while 11.6” rear rotors are gripped by two-pot, lightweight calipers; fronts by four-pot F50 units. Looking a bit further under the car reveals a KW Variant II coilover suspension setup and Racing Dynamics roll-bars. These six-way adjustable suspenders, with ride comfort adjustment, ensure that Ryan gets the look he wants without the need to keep his chiropractor’s number on speed-dial.
Helping him achieve that look is the überrare (here in the US) Esquiss’ Rafale Widebody kit with carbon fibre inserts. Very subtle E30 M3-style flares are combined seamlessly with wild arches to cover the massive wheel/tyre combo. Over the top of that Ryan laid the BMW Chrome Shadow concept paint. This trick paint is composed of a base layer which is black, while the top layer is ultra-smooth silver. In full sunlight, the finish is like a pewter-coloured mirror.
At night, it becomes a dark grey. “I wanted the car to have a clean, classic look that would always be in fashion,” he explained. “Kind of like an Armani suit, it will always look good.”
But what would any good suit be without the additional accessories to top it off? Browsing through the supplied spec sheet, we wondered if it would be easier to just list the items Ryan didn’t modify! The emblems have all been shaved and there are carbon fibre mirrors, side skirt inserts, front splitter and rear wing. There’s a custom roof spoiler, bonnet vents, E46 headlight eyebrows and an aviation-style fuel filler cap. A set of Kool Kustoms E46 M3 painted mouldings and M-Tech side mouldings complete the look, while Euro Clear’s custom smoked clear marker lights fill the corners. On top of all of this, there are no windscreen wipers! Clearly, this is a testament to the car’s enviable Southern California residence.
Ducking one’s head inside provides a plethora of extravagant eye candy in every direction. We particularly liked the Blitz DC turbo, oil pressure, and temperature gauges mounted directly to the windshield and cabled to a Blitz Live Unit controller. Just like on the outside of the car, if you can find an original part here, we’ll give you a big pat on the back.
Like the rest of the interior, the front Cobra Sidewinder fully adjustable seats have been retrimmed in grey and black with red trim by Kreative Interiors. Wedge Engineering seat rails ensure a safe place to park one’s bum while Sabelt three-point safety harnesses keep you there during even the most hair-brained manoeuvres.
A custom chrome, four-point roll-cage helps to stiffen the already rigid BMW coupé’s chassis. Carbon fibre again abounds, noticeable in the dash, gauge surrounds, gauge rings, airbag lid, centre console, door inserts and rear panels. Not to be outdone, aluminium puts on a good show as the BMW gear knob, UUC pedals and left footrest, UUC handbrake handle, and custom diamond-plate Legend 5 floor mats are all made of the polished metal. Ryan’s hands grip a Momo Champion steering wheel during the rare occasions he actually gets to drive this stunning ride to the local McDonald’s.
Where a rear seat once resided, there’s a chromed Nitrous Oxide bottle and two 12” Massive Audio subs. Naturally, they’re mounted in a carbon fibre enclosure. In fact, there’s so much of the stuff in this one car we’re afraid Ryan’s driven the price of the world’s supply to a new peak!
The centre console is home to a 7” NESA screen, and there are even Game Port plug-ins for Ryan’s favourite video games. A Pioneer DEH-840MP DVD/VCD/MP3 head unit drives the tunes to the three 600W Massive Amps amplifiers and the Diamond HEX 500 S components.
Hidden somewhere are two Optima Blue Top batteries and two 1.5-farad Massive capacitors. Ryan’s also installed a High Tech RV Isolator to keep the current clean and noise-free. In the boot, his carbon fibre (yes, still more) amp rack is topped by custom Plexiglass amp surrounds lit by glowing blue neon.
Of course, all of this show gear would barely be enough to turn heads here in the States if there was no power backing it up. A wise man would think twice before picking on this car in a drag race. A polished Turbonetics 60-1 T3/T4 Turbocharger boosts the 328’s engine into orbit, placing 430hp on the tarmac at the rear wheels.
Carbon fibre and polished aluminium again rule supreme, providing a wicked silver/black appearance throughout the compartment. The fully custom Stage 2 turbo setup utilises an Aquamist water/alcohol injection system, a Blitz SBC-iD sequential boost controller, along with an HKS Super-Sequential blow-off valve and a Turbonetics Deltagate external wastegate to keep the hyped-up airflow under tight control.
The Nitrous Express Stage 2 kit purges the intercooler while a high flow fuel pump, boostsensitive fuel pressure regulator and RC Engineering 35lb injectors feed the beast.
Billetwerks black anodised engine caps keep all fluids in their intended locations. The DME is reprogrammed and there’s a Euro mass airflow meter, and yet, surprisingly, the car remains emissions-legal as far as expelling gases is concerned.
Speaking of exhaust, Ryan had a custom 3” piping system constructed with a custom race muffler and Borla carbon fibre tips. It seems that he has a CF fetish (Nothing to be ashamed of ~ Ed): Vortiel CF engine cover and fuel rail cover, CF fusebox cover, and a CF radiator cover ensure that the entire compartment is appropriately dressed. Sun Auto supplied its Hyper Ground and Hyper Voltage systems, keeping the current flow more than adequate. Ryan is even planning a Standalone ECU upgrade in just the next few days.
The car’s original five-speed transmission (one of the few non-modified items on the car) is in fact surrounded by helpful bits. A UUC short-shifter keeps the gears on target while Delrin bushing hold it securely in place. Redline synthetic lube swishes around inside, keeping the gears happy under the abuse dished out by the motor. The rear differential has been upgraded to a limited-slip item with 3.15:1 ring and pinion. A UUC aluminium 8.5lb racing flywheel and a 1993-95 M5 clutch ensure that horsepower isn’t needlessly wasted.
In the end, is it indeed a rolling Armani suit? Let’s crunch the facts and see. Classic pre-Bangle Germanic good looks? Check. Tasteful accessories integrated flawlessly into the package? Check. Outrageously good-looking black shoes? Check. An ICE system so intense it could host movie premieres? Check. Rocket-ship acceleration and ‘hand of God’ braking? Check. Yep, it’s the real deal. If Armani made clothing for Robocop, this is probably what it would look like, and that has Ryan’s JDM competition running scared.
“not only is this ride an incredible showpiece, it packs the punch to decimate its rivals on the strip or track”
DATA FILE / #Turbonetics / #Turbonetics-60-1-T3 / #Turbonetics-Deltagate / #Apexi-GTR / #M52B28 / #BMW-M52 / #M52 / #M52-Turbonetics / #DP-Engineering /
ENGINE: 2.8-litre six-cylinder with polished #Turbonetics 60-1 T3/T4 turbocharger, Turbonetics Deltagate external wastegate, #HKS super sequential blow-off valve, HKS Type I turbo timer, #Blitz SBC-iD sequential boost controller, polished AA intake elbow, custom turbo manifold, chromed downpipe and intercooler piping, polished #Apexi GTR intercooler, Turbonetics custom end tanks, #RC-Engineering 35lb injectors, custom #K&N turbo intake. Custom Aquamist water-alcohol injection kit, #Nitrous-Express-Stage-2 kit for custom intercooler purge, NX bottle warmer. NGK race plugs, high flow fuel pump, boost sensitive fuel pressure regulator, HKS air/fuel ratio control, Vortiel carbon engine cover and fuel rail cover, carbon fusebox and radiator cover, Euro mass airflow meter, BMP oil filter cooling fins, reprogrammed DME, custom race exhaust with carbon fibre #Borla tips, 3” racing exhaust piping, Billetwerks black anodised engine caps, Sun Auto hyper ground system and hyper voltage system. Standard five-speed manual with UUC short-shifter, Delrin bushings, Redline fluids. Upgraded LSD to 3.15, UUC aluminium 8.5lb lightweight flywheel, E34 M5 clutch, custom tranny mounts
PERFORMANCE: 430bhp at the rear wheels
CHASSIS: 8.5x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) #DP-Engineering-R06VS alloys with 3” lip (front) and 5” lip (rear) shod in 235/35 and 275/30 Falken Azenis tyres respectively. #KW-Variant-II coilovers with ride comfort adjustment and six-way height adjustment, Racing Dynamics sway bars and strut tower bar. 15” #Brembo four-pot brakes (front) and 11.5” two-pot brakes (rear) with silver calipers all-round, cross-drilled rotors, stainless steel brake lines, Brembo pads, racing DOT 5 brake fluid
EXTERIOR: Full Esquiss’ Rafale Widebody kit with carbon fibre pieces painted in Chrome Shadow #BMW concept paint, carbon fibre mirrors, side skirt inserts, front splitter, roof spoiler and bonnet vents. Fibreglass inner wheel wells, E46-style headlight eyebrows, de-badged, aviation-style fuel filler cap, Kool Kustoms E46 M3-style painted mouldings, M-Tech side mouldings, de-wipered. Euro front clear lights and side repeaters, custom smoked rear lights, 4300K HID low beams, custom H7 foglights, angel eyes with fibre-optic lighting, Showoff Krypton bulbs, H1 high beams
INTERIOR: Full Kreative Interiors interior retrim in grey/black with red trim, two Cobra Sidewinder fully adjustable seats, Wedge Engineering seat rails, #MOMO Champion steering wheel, custom four-point roll-cage, Sabelt three-point safety harnesses. Carbon fibre dash, gauge surround, airbag lid, centre console, door inserts and rear panels, silver gauges, chrome gauge rings, custom painted centre console, BMW OEM aluminium gear knob, UUC pedals, clutch stop and handbrake handle, Legend 5 aluminium chequerplating floor mats, Blitz DC turbo, pressure and temperature gauges, Blitz live unit
ICE: 7” Nesa monitor, Pioneer DEH840MP, DVD/VCD/MP3 player, pair of Massive Audio 12” subs, 3x600W Massive amps, Diamond mid-bass, Diamond HEX 500S components, pair of Massive farad capacitors, pair of Optima Blue-Top batteries, High Tech RV isolator, game port plug-ins, custom carbon fibre box enclosure and amp rack, custom Plexiglass amp surrounds, blue neon lighting, Accessories 12V transformer, sandblasted ‘Kinetix’ sign-board
“I wanted the car to have a classic look that would always be in fashion; like an Armani suit, it will always look good”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- 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.
- Post is under moderationBUILT FROM THE BLUE
Starting from scratch, Mark Brown has completely transformed his E21 with an M52-swap, a Laguna Seca blue respray, and perfect stance.
Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Steve Hall From its perfect Laguna Seca paintwork to its M52 swap, this E21 is classic perfection with a modern twist. Glorious stanced and caged E21 with M52 swap.
Take a good long look at this car, not just because it’s awesome, but take a look at it and try to form a picture of the owner. Whatever mental image you may have conjured up, we guarantee you it’s wrong. You see, the owner of this car, Mark Brown, is older than you might expect. He’s a criminal justice worker. He walks with a limp and he uses a walking stick. Society might expect Mark Brown to be driving around in a Volvo or a Kia, in mauve perhaps, but Mark Brown would, very politely, tell society where to stick its Korean blandmobile. That’s because Mark Brown loves cars. In particular, he loves modifying cars. He’s been doing just that for a very long time and we reckon Mark Brown might be a little bit of a secret hooligan. We like him already, and that’s before we even get onto the matter of his stunning E21, which shares garage space with a 2002 and a track-orientated E30 M3. We told you he loves cars…
“I’ve been interested in BMWs since buying my first one in 1987,” begins Mark. “It was a ropey mint green 1502. I loved the look of it. Then I started going to my local track (Brands Hatch) to watch testing. I was there when Vic Lee was doing a press day and that’s when I got to see my first M3 race car up close. As I couldn’t afford one, I bought a 3 Series I could afford, an E21. It was £250! It was faster than my mate’s Triumph Dolomite 1850 and I really loved the way it drove. It just felt ‘right’. A few months later I bought an earlier, round taillight car in white and I still have the same model 29 years later. Now when I drive it, though, it’s like a time machine and I feel just as I did back then.”
Mark’s clearly got a long-standing passion for BMWs but looking at just how much work has gone into this E21 we wonder when the modifying bug first bit? “Even my first ever car was modified. It’s just what you do, isn’t it?” he laughs. He’s absolutely right. “I’ve never wanted to drive the same thing as everyone else. I want my car to reflect me. I want a car that I can’t help but look back at as I walk away from it. I don’t build cars for other people’s reactions, although that’s a nice thing to happen, I build them for myself.” And there it is, he’s nailed it, the reason why I’m writing this, why you’re reading this, and why we willingly spend thousands on modifying our cars: it’s simply because it’s what we like doing!
This is actually Mark’s third E21, replacing an orange #BMW-323i which sadly caught fire. But perhaps if that hadn’t happened he wouldn’t have ended up building this car. “I’d owned the orange 323i a few years and tried out all sorts of mods,” Mark continued, “so it ended up being a kind of trial run. I tried some proper dodgy mods, such as German look numberplates, but this time I tried to be more restrained. Well kind of…
“The base car I bought was one of the cleanest E21s I have ever seen in the UK. It had a minuscule amount of corrosion and, being a non-sunroof car, even the sills were mint. When it came to the mods, I knew I wanted a car that could be driven every day and looked cool. I knew 99% of the mods I wanted done and so it was relatively straightforward process.
“I spoke at great length with Mick Rodgers at Pristine Bodyworks, as he has owned an E21 for years. He also looked after my other cars and is one of the best bodywork people out there. The quality of his work is incredible really. It took over two years to build this car but when you see it in the metal, it’s easy to understand why.”
Pristine’s paint expertise clearly shows in the finish on this E21. Mark opted for vibrant Laguna Seca blue from the E46, which is a bold choice, but on the smallerbodied classic Three it looks awesome and suits the car perfectly.
Of course, such a strong body colour really needs the right wheels and Mark’s choice of design and colour is absolutely on point. “I bought the wheels ages ago,” he explains. “I wanted Cromodoras but had to settle for Rota’s version, the BM8. They look awesome though. When I told Mick I wanted them a dark gold colour he wasn’t convinced. I was actually inspired by Magnus Walker’s blue 911 and the bronze gold finish is perfect against the Laguna Seca blue paint. The arches have been pretty extensively modified to accommodate the wheels but it’s one of those mods you’ll only see if you park next to an OE car. Overall we figured that less is more, so there’s nothing obviously not stock apart from the wheels and the stance. The amount of camber was also crucial.”
He’s right about those arches, as only those with an encyclopaedic knowledge of E21 bodywork would be able to say that the flared arches are anything but stock. The fitment is spot-on, too, those chunky 8x15” Rotas just poking past the arch lips and the Marangoni Sport tyres they’ve been wrapped in just sneak past the edges of the arches.
Whatever angle you view the car from it just looks so squat and purposeful, and Mark’s choice of suspension is a key player here. “The suspension was a combination of Leda and Gaz, who refurb’d everything to ‘as new’. The freshly-painted shell was so nice that only new parts were going to be up-to-scratch! I decided against adjustable top mounts and the like as this was always going to be a road car. I think too many people fit parts like that for bragging rights, whereas their cars would be so much nicer to drive if they just held back a bit,” says Mark, sensibly.
The main suspension work is done by a custom Leda and Gaz coilover setup, bolstered by a pair of front and rear strut braces for a little bit of additional stiffness.
We wager it’s a riot to drive, especially with the additional chassis mods that Mark has carried out. “The quick-rack was developed by a company in the Midlands. I hassled them for months and eventually they had the tooling made. If you have an E21 do yourself a favour and buy a quick rack,” Mark advises. “The OE steering is way too slow at four turns lock-to-lock; no wonder people couldn’t catch the oversteer! This quick-rack takes just 2.5 turns and it’s awesome! The big brake kit came from WMS, who actually copied a Cosworth setup Mick had adapted. A remote servo meant we lost all that convoluted RHD linkage and the huge OE servo and mount.”
That was handy as for his next trick Mark decided to carry out an #M52B28-swap , opting for a shaved bay. The less clutter the better. “The engine has been fitted with a modified E36 six-branch exhaust manifold and a 323 twin silencer system,” says Mark.
“Joe Geach at ARM BMW and Motorsport in Cornwall sorted the ECU and there’s 220hp+ going through the E12 LSD conversion and twin billet mounts. There’s an uprated clutch, a short-shifter, and a Storm billet gear knob. The alloy rad is custom from AH Fabrications. The guys there couldn’t have been more helpful. It’s quality kit, too.”
The M52 looks fantastic, nestling snuggly in the E21’s compact engine bay. If you didn’t know better, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a factory job. The bay itself is outrageously clean, just acres of beautiful blue bodywork unsullied by unsightly cables, brackets and whatever else.
Considering how much work and attention-to-detail has been lavished on the exterior, chassis and engine, we would be very surprised if the interior was lackluster.
Fortunately there are no unwelcome surprises here. While it has been purposefully kept subtle there’s still a lot of cool additions. A pair of leather and Alcantara-trimmed Recaros have been fitted up front on custom runners, along with custom black carpets. They look fantastic and quite period in their design. These have been mated to a pair of Safety Devices fourpoint harnesses. The rear bench has been deleted, with a colour-coded half-cage now mounted in its place, and the aforementioned rear strut brace is tied into the cage and dual billet diff mounts. Mark has also fitted a very smart Momo Prototipo steering wheel, an exceedingly sexy Storm V2 billet gear knob, and a trio of Stack gauges mounted above the ventilation controls displaying oil and water temperatures and voltage readings. Finally, the audio has been upgraded and is headed up by a Nakamichi head unit… although we get the feeling it doesn’t see much use. “The engine sounds way better,” grins Mark. We don’t doubt him for a moment.
A huge amount of work has gone into this car over the past two years but it’s far from finished. “My plans are for Jenvey ITBs and DTA Pro 90 engine management,” Mark reveals. “Jenvey does a fantastic kit that it developed specifically for the M50 engines. The quality is about as good as it gets and it will mean that I can then delete the plastic inlet manifold. I also have an alloy coil pack cover, so the engine back will look oldschool again. I did think about a turbo but, for me, performance BMWs are about normally aspirated, high-revving engines. The ITBs also sound glorious. The only other plan, then, is to drive it,” he laughs.
It’s time to ask Mark the classic theoretical question: if his budget had been unlimited, was there anything he would have done differently? “Money no object, I wouldn’t change a thing,” he replies without hesitation. “I’m not rich and you don’t need to be to build something special. If I was rich, though, I’d have an M1 on the drive and I’d modify that…” We now hope that Mark will win the lottery because that’s something we’d love to see! As for the E21, well it’s really rather magnificent, isn’t it? Mark has achieved exactly what he wanted to with this build and at no point has he gone off the rails and thrown any ridiculous mods at it. For a lowered, stanced, bright blue E21 on bronze wheels, it’s about as subtle a build as you could imagine, and about as awesome a car as you could dream up.
This E21’s stance is perfect from every angle. I don’t build cars for other people’s reactions, I build them for myself. M52 swap looks so good it could pass for a factory job; shaved bay is crazy clean.
DATA FILE BMW #M52-swapped / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-E21-M52 / #Pristine-Bodyworks / #BMW / #AH-Fabrication /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.8-litre straight-six #M52B28 / #M52 / #BMW-M52 conversion by Pristine Bodyworks, uprated engine mounts, shaved bay and deleted all unused brackets etc, AH Fabrication alloy radiator and Kenlowe fan, custom ARM BMW alloy big-wing sump, Cat Cams performance camshaft, big-bore throttle body, #ARM BMW remap, E36 sixbranch manifold and 50mm 323i twin silencer system. BMW M20 five-speed gearbox and uprated clutch, Big Bavarian Beauties lightened flywheel, Z3 short-shift kit
CHASSIS 8x15” (front and rear) #Rota-BM8 alloys painted in bronze finish with 205/50 (front) and 215/50 (rear) Marangoni Sport tyres, LEDA and Gaz custom coilover suspension, front and rear strut braces with rear tied into cage and dual billet diff mounts, high ratio steering rack, #WMS big brake conversion with billet four pot calipers and Hawk pads, remote servo conversion and custom pedal linkage by Pristine Bodyworks
EXTERIOR Full bare metal respray in Laguna Seca blue by Pristine Bodyworks, wheel arches reworked
INTERIOR Recaro front seats on custom runners, custom black carpets, rear seat delete, colour-coded half cage, Safety Devices four-point harnesses, #Momo-Prototipo steering wheel, #Storm-V2 billet gear knob, Nakamichi ICE, Stack dash mounted gauges for oil, water and volts
THANKS Special thanks to Pristine Bodyworks for putting up with me and for doing work of such a high standard. Kyle Clinton for manufacturing one of the best mods you can do to an E21. Jenvey for the excellent ITB kit. Joe Geach at ARM BMW and Motorsport in Cornwall who helped with the finishing touches, ECU map, dyno runs, geo setup and general help and advice, Rally Prep, #DTA-Engine-Management AH Fabrications, #Zero-Exhausts
Rota BM8 15s have been finished in a custom bronze gold colour, which looks fantastic against the Laguna Seca bodywork.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.