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    FIRE LIGHT

    Shafique Bhimani’s E36 M3 has been on an extensive fitness programme, fusing the philosophy of BMW’s fi nest lightweights with properly capable road-and-track ability. This thing is fi t, legit, and fully lit… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.
    S54-swapped E36 M3 wide body bruiser

    The love child of a Euro-spec E46 M3 CSL and a #US-spec E36 M3 Lightweight. That was Shafique Bhimani’s over-arching vision for this Alpine white E36. Sound lofty? Ambitious? Unachievable? On paper, perhaps, but his clarity of perception has led to a unique creation that more than justifies the ‘CSL E36’ license plates.

    “I fell in love with the E36 M3 before I could even drive,” he enthuses. “It’s the car that took me into the deep end, and caused me to waste so much unproductive time learning about cars and modifying them! Something about the boxy, sharp lines that portrayed an aggressive yet elegant look - plus the fact that it punched above its weight and outperformed more powerful cars was hugely appealing. Once I learned of the E36’s DNA and how it came it to be from all of BMW’s motorsport history, I was hooked on the brand. BMW became my team, and you don’t just change teams.”

    Yes, we can fully understand that, and having got a bit of modifying practice in with a variety of other cars, Shafique felt that the time was right in 2009 to take the plunge and buy himself an E36 M3 of his very own. The example in the crosshairs had 54k on the clock and was in pristine condition… Oh, and it just so happened to have 380whp with a Vortech supercharger hanging off it. A quick once-over was all it took to get the grey cells banging together, and the lightweight concept was already forming in his mind – so shortly afterwards Shafique bought an ’07 335i as well, just to use as a daily driver so that there was no doubt as to the E36’s fate. This was going to be done properly, entirely without compromise and so, eyes open, he dove in.

    “For what these cars cost me, I could have easily purchased a heavily modified E46 M3, or even a new E92 M3 at that time,” he points out, “but I wanted to fulfil a dream I had held for so long. When time, money and opportunity presented themselves, all I wanted was a white, straight-six E36 M3.” Heart, we reckon, should always rule head. Life’s too short to let your dreams die.

    Shafique’s shopping list had been quite specific: the additional displacement of the 3.2-litre engine narrowed his search to ’96-’99 cars, and it had to be either Alpine white or Estoril blue – preferably the former, for the BMW Motorsport look. Forced induction was also preferable, whilst still being realistically streetable. This car, located in SoCal rather than his Bay Area hometown, ticked all the boxes. “It quickly became obvious, however, that I wouldn’t be able to exploit all that power on the street without risking either other people or my driving license, so I went on a track day at Sonoma Raceway and I was instantly hooked,” he recalls. “It was an eye-opening experience, and I realised the track was the safe, responsible playground for my car. I also quickly realised the car was not set up for track duty!” Coolant leaks and slipping belts convinced Shafique that his game needed tightening up, and he devoted time to wandering around the paddocks and seeing how the other gearheads approached things. And you know what he discovered? Big boost and stratospheric power levels were nobody’s main angle of attack – it was all about setup, usability, tactility, and durability. He felt very strongly that a naturally aspirated straight-six was the way to go. And what better choice than the E46 M3’s S54?

    With this seismic decision made, the E36 was shipped off to Castro Motorsport in Los Angeles to swap in the later motor, and subsequent setup was taken care of in painstaking increments by Dublin, CA-based Performance Technic. “We methodically upgraded each system of the car over the years, and today she is a fully-prepped track weapon that can be driven to and from the track with A/C and tunes blasting,” Shafique beams. “It’s my definition of an uncorrupted driving experience, front-engine/rear-drive, hydraulic steering, limited-slip diff, and a screaming straight-six.”

    So let’s take a closer look at just how this mighty spec has been achieved. This S54 produces a solid and reliable 341hp at the wheels, its stock internals being complemented by Epic Motorsport race headers and a custom Performance Technic 3.5” exhaust system, along with a Bimmerworld carbon-fibre air box. Thanks to some ones-and-zeroes tickling in the form of an RK-Tunes Alpha-N tune, power and reliability are both baked right in. It’s not scary-fast, it’s useably fast, and a lot of that swiftness is thanks to a favourable power-to- weight ratio. MCS two-way adjustable suspension and big StopTech brakes combine with a welded-in six-point half-cage with rear strut tower braces, while a rear seat delete, grippy Recaros and a tasty Renown USA steering wheel serve to create a fabulously focused office for Shafique.

    “My motto for the build has been to go fast, but look good doing it,” he says. “Function plus form. It was a team member from PTech who introduced me to the Felony Form overfender kit and, well… This is a sensitive subject for me: I love the OEM lines of a stock-body E36, they’re clean and simple, and more often than not aftermarket companies ruin what engineers spent millions to design. Over the years there have been a bunch of wide-body options, but I never loved any of them until I saw the Stanceworks feature on Oli’s yellow E36.

    After spending days staring at this kit, I was in love with the E30 M3-esque box flares in the rear, and the OEM-looking front flares. It’s exactly what I was waiting for, OEM on steroids! PTech handled the delicate task of cutting up and re-welding the factory arches to accommodate the flares and big wheels, and RJ’s Paint Shop in Pleasanton, CA did a fantastic job of paint-matching the factory Alpine White.”

    The form-and-function approach is very much in evidence from the outside, the Felony Form extensions blending in harmony with the M3 Lightweight aero addenda. The Lightweight, if you’re not familiar, was a limited-run E36 distinguishable by its tall rear spoiler, modified and lightened for motorsport purposes; the door skins were aluminium, there was no radio, carpets were thinner, speed limiter removed, revised axle ratios, forged wheels… It was as much of a legend Stateside as the iconic E46 M3 CSL was in Europe, and it’s the ethos of these two superlightweight factory-modded offerings that Shafique’s sought to emulate. This M3 now weighs 1440kg wet, and that includes the 40kg roll cage. This offers a power-to-weight ratio akin to a Lotus Elise, and remember that it still has a stereo and air con for the journey home.

    “The interior is a driver-centred style,” Shafique says. “‘Track setup’ was the priority, then adding what flair I could with the Alcantara steering wheel, armrest, and handbrake. There’s a #BMW Nav Pro head unit by Becker which offers the OEM navigation system only available in the Euro market, Bavsound speaker upgrade, and useful mods like a shift-light from MSD to help keep things in check; the car uses the factory E36 gauge cluster, the redline beginning at 6500rpm and going to 8000rpm, which has effectively become my power band - so having a light flash you in the face is very helpful during hot laps! And the CAE shifter from Hard Motorsport is epic – it transforms the shift feel to something very firm and notchy with zero slop, and the tall knob becomes especially fun on track when you are grabbing the wheel and gears back and forth.”

    It’s taken seven years for the car to get to this point, through its various stages of evolution, from schoolboy dream to hardcore track beast, and Shafique’s still making plenty of plans for it. Once you get this deep into a project, there’s just no pulling yourself out, even if you wanted to. Which, of course, he doesn’t, as he’s fully living the dream with this considered approach to road-and-track fireworks.

    With so much altered on the car, what do you suppose is his favourite element of the build so far, then? The S54 swap? Those wide three-piece Livery wheels? The unique arches, slathered in Alpine White? “No, I think the party piece is the induction roar,” Shafique smiles. “The S54 loves to rev, and combined with the carbon-fibre air box creates a deep roar that turns into a scream from 7-8k rpm, and no other engine on the planet sounds anything like it!” You see, this is a driver’s car. That’s the point of it. And when it enraptures all of the senses at once like this, you know the job’s been done right.

    DATA FILE #S54-swapped / #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3-Performance-Technic / #BMW-M3-Performance-Technic-E36 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-M3

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 / #BMW-S54 , stock internals, Bimmerworld carbonfibre air box, #Epic-Motorsports race exhaust manifolds, custom #Performance-Technic 3.5” exhaust system, #RK-Tunes #Alpha-N tune. #ZF five-speed manual gearbox rebuilt by #Bimmerworld , rebuilt OEM diff with 80% lock and 3.64 final drive, #Rogue finned diff cover

    POWER & TORQUE 341whp and 268lb ft wtq @ 8,200rpm redline (on 91RON fuel)

    EXTERIOR Alpine white, Felony Form wide-arch kit, M3 Lightweight front splitter, DTM #BMW-M3-FiberWerkz carbon fibre side skirt extensions, #Mateo-Motorsports rear diffuser, carbon fibre replica M3 Lightweight rear wing, roof vinyl-wrapped flat black, fog lamp delete

    INTERIOR #Recaro-SPG driver seat, Recaro PP passenger seat, Schroth sixpoint harnesses, Renown USA Alcantara and M-stitched steering wheel with quick-release, custom PTech rear seat delete, custom weld-in six-point half-cage painted flat black with subframe and strut tower reinforcements, sunroof cassette removed, custom black cloth headlining, MSD shift light, CAE shifter, RallyRoad.net Alcantara armrest and handbrake, custom PTech carbon-fibre shift plate

    THANKS Special thanks to Performance Technic, the team there has been so integral in bringing my build to where it is today
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    4.6 V8 1 SERIES Totally transformed 135i

    SLAKE THE INTERNET

    What started out life as an unassuming 135i is now a fire-breathing, 1M-kitted, 4.6 #V8-powered beast.

    It’s an inescapable fact of modern modifying that if your car becomes known online, everyone will have an opinion on it. But this is a good thing – use the love as inspiration, use the hate as fuel, and keep pushing forward… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.

    “People have very interesting reactions to my car, it sparks a lot of discussion,” says Marco Svizzero, the chap standing proudly beside this rather perky little 1 Series. “It’s an entirely modified bastard, and yet it still seems to appeal to the purists…”

    This is a pretty punchy way to set out your stall – after all, that quasi-mythical entity of ‘the purists’ is a notoriously hard bunch to please (although goodness knows why you’d want to try), so to shoo away the perennial spectre of internet hate by appealing to the very people you expect to annoy is something of a fortuitous crapshoot.

    Still, objectively – at least, objectively from a PBMW point of view – there’s nothing not to love about this car, given that it’s effectively an M3 stuffed inside a #BMW-1M-Coupé-E82 to create the ballistic #V8-1-Series that BMW didn’t think to experiment with. That’s a great way to get into our good books. “This was really my first big car build, and I never intended for the project to go so far,” Marco ponders with the measured consideration of somebody who’s been on a lengthy adventure and is struggling to come to terms with the notion of being home again. “It just snowballed, and once the project got some traction on the forums and partners like Revozport and Performance Technic got involved, it all went to another level.”

    This, of course, is the price of notoriety. Once news of your project starts to spread, and the myriad chattering keyboards of the internet start to throw a few opinions around, there really is only one way forward: go big. The ‘go home’ alternative just isn’t an option at this point; the world is watching, you’ve committed to something, you have to see it through. Your audience insists. You’ve got new fans now, they need to be appeased. And the haters? Oh, there’ll always be haters. They need to be figuratively smacked down with the iron fist of decisive action.

    “I chose a 135i as the base for my project as I really like the size of it,” Marco explains, “and I love how tunable the N54 engines are. It’s so easy to get reliable horsepower out of those motors with simple modifications.”

    You’ll have spotted, however, that the N54 straight-six is no longer in residence. That’s sort of the point of this car now. So what gives, why did Marco change his mind? “Well, as I was taking the car on track more and more, I started to run into heat issues,” he says, “so I decided to swap a V8 motor and M3 chassis into the car.”

    Okay. We’ll just let that sink in for a moment, shall we? It really is a masterstroke of lateral thinking, taking such a decision and following it through, and he’s earned the right to be charmingly self-effacing about it. Most people in this situation would have thought along the lines of ‘alright, we have some cooling issues, let’s look into revising the coolant system, maybe upgrade the radiator and intercooler and open up some more vents,’ but not Marco. Oh no. One suspects that he wanted to shoehorn an M3 inside his #BMW-135i-Coupe all along.

    “I wanted the instant throttle response of a naturally aspirated engine, as well as robust cooling and an 8600rpm redline,” he says matter-of-factly. Well, yeah, swapping in an E9x M3 under the skin is the obvious solution, isn’t it? It was foolish of us to even question it. Carry on, Marco…


    “The swap is so much more than just the motor,” he elaborates, as if trying to justify it to an irate spouse or suspicious bank manager. “It’s the M3 steering, the complete front and rear subframes including the suspension and axles, the diff, the brakes, and cool features like M Dynamic Mode.”

    And there, as the Bard might say, is the rub. If you were skimming through a forum post and looking at photos of Marco’s car, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the story here centred around a non-M 1 Series that had been converted to 1M aesthetics. And to a degree, you’d be right, as that is what has happened – what started as a stock 2008 135i bought from Craigslist soon ballooned into a broad and angry 1M clone, its strong look accentuated by the exemplary body addenda on sale from Revozport, its Raze series offering a lightweight bonnet, bootlid, carbon fibre roof (which neatly deletes the 135i’s sunroof), splitter, diffuser and GTS wing. But the body, as we know, is only half the story.


    The fun of building something like this, particularly something that’s so keenly observed online, is that there will always be ill-informed haters to bait. ‘It’s not a proper #BMW-1M ,’ they’ll say. ‘Why spend all that money on making a fake 1M when you could just buy a real one? Why pretend, why lie?’


    Marco takes all of this in his stride, with a wry smile and an eye perennially on the next phase of development. “No, it’s not a 1M, and it will never be one,” he says. “The only way to get a real one is to buy one. My car will not bear an M badge on the trunk!


    Besides, by crunching numbers for a partout and sale of my car and using those funds toward purchasing a 1M, I would have to add a lot of money on top for a very similar car.” But forget mathematics, that’s not why we build project cars. A car is just a big hole to throw money into, we don’t modify them because it’s sensible. No, the unspoken truth here is that Marco’s car isn’t a 1M because, well, it’s an M3. It just looks like a 1M…

    “When we started looking into donor M3s, they were still expensive here in the States so I actually ended up buying a car in the UK, which was dismantled and sent to me in pieces,” Marco recalls. “Once everything was sent over, Performance Technic began the build. The most difficult part was the wiring; Performance Technic has two BMW Master Techs – Matt Medeiros and Wing Phung – who tackled the project, and once the car was built we brought it to Mike Benvo of BPM Sport. Benvo cleaned up, coded and tuned the car – he is another very valuable partner in the entire project. His knowledge in coding is unmatched! These guys were extremely focused on making everything look and operate like a factory car, and I applaud them that they pulled it off.”


    As well as being OEM-quality in terms of all the buttons and gizmos, and thus eminently streetable, Marco was certainly having a lot of fun with his transformed 135i, with its 4.0-litre S65 under the bonnet and M3 underpinnings. Let’s not forget that this V8 isn’t a lazy rumbler like those of his domestic heritage; while Detroit thuds, Bavaria howls, and this engine is a proper screamer. “It really was just like a smaller, lighter E9x M3 – the naturally aspirated 1M I wanted to make all along,” Marco grins.

    Wait… “was”? “Yeah, I decided to go a bit over-the-top,” he laughs. “The S65 only weighs 15lb more than the N54 so the factory balance was still spot-on, but after a little while I swapped the motor out for a Dinan 4.6-litre stroker motor.” Well, you know what they say about how power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. Marco seems to be pretty happy about that.


    “It really is my perfect BMW and I couldn’t be happier,” he beams. “I enjoy the car at the track, taking it to the major BMW West Coast events, rallies, and simply staring at it in my garage! It’s a car that when people see it at events, they stop and look at it – often for a long period of time. Even with the old-skool purists; I’ve received a lot of compliments from the older, more traditional BMW crowd.” This makes sense really, as it is a pure BMW at heart: a focused driver’s machine, and with nearenough undiluted factory DNA under the skin. It just happens to be suffering a smidge of body dysmorphia, that’s all.


    Again, this can be the price of notoriety. Marco’s car has always enjoyed the internet spotlight, from its early PR tie-in with Revozport to those fledgling days on the show scene before the hungry swarm of smartphone lenses, to Performance Technic’s high-profile endeavours to make the first V8-powered E82 in the USA. Then there was its triumphant Bimmerfest showcase on the Toyo stand, the countless online profiles, the numerous show awards, the online video reviews espousing its virtues as ‘the best BMW you could possibly build at any price’, the Time Attack entries, the world-first stroked S65 conversion… this car lives in a fishbowl, its every move observed and analysed. And every barbed comment that curveballs toward it gets knocked out of the park.

    We’ll leave the final thought to Performance Technic founder Joey Gaffey: “This car is a project that we all kinda fell in love with. It’s a project we thought was probably something the engineers at BMW Motorsport thought of themselves…” And that, in essence, is the thinking behind Marco’s original idea for the madcap swap, and also why the purists love this impure creation. It’s a car that #BMW should have built. Thanks to the ingenuity of these fellas, it now actually exists, albeit as a one-off. The internet demanded results, and it got ’em. What a time to be alive.

    I enjoy the car at the track, taking it to events and simply staring at it in my garage!


    DATA FILE 4.6 #V8 #BMW-135i / #BMW-135i-E82 / #BMW-E82 / #BMW-135i-V8-E82 / #BMW-135i-V8 / #BMW-135i-S65 / #BMW-135i-Dinan / #BMW-135i-Dinan-S65 / #BMW-135i-Dinan-S65-E82 / #BMW-1-Series / #BMW-1-Series-E82 / #BMW-E82-Dinan / #BMW / #CAE-Ultra / #VAC-Motorsports /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION Dinan 4.6-litre stroker #S65 / #BMW-S65 / #S65B46 #V8 / #S65-Dinan / , #BPM-Sport custom tune with 8600rpm redline, #iND custom plenum, Dinan intake, Dinan pulley, VAC-Motorsports baffled sump, #Black-Forest engine mounts, #Akrapovic axle-back exhaust, custom X pipe, #Braille 21lb battery, CAE Ultra shifter, OEM M3 differential

    CHASSIS 10x18” (front) and 10.5x18” (rear) ET25 HRE 43 wheels with 265/35 (front) and 275/35 (rear) Toyo R888 tyres, M3 front and rear subframes including suspension and axles, #PSi-Öhlins Raceline coilovers, #Racing-Dynamics anti-roll bars, #Dinan-Monoball kit for front control arms, #Bimmerworld rear wishbones, Dinan adjustable toe arms, Turner MS transmission bushings, #Turner-MS aluminium subframe and diff bushings, Dinan carbon fibre strut braces, #Stoptech-Trophy-BBK with 380mm (front) and 355mm (rear) discs, OEM GT4 brake ducts

    EXTERIOR Full 1M body conversion, Revozport 1M Raze bonnet, boot and lip, carbon fibre roof, splitter with APR splitter supports, diffuser and GTS wing, Macht Schnell tow straps


    INTERIOR #BMW-Performance V1 steering wheel, gaiters and carbon fibre trim, #BMW-1M-E82 armrest delete, #Recaro-Profi-SPA seats, #Revozport #BMW-1M Raze doorcards with Alcantara inserts, P3 vent gauge, OEM 1M Anthracite headlining and pillars (for sunroof delete), #TC-Design harness bar, #Schroth six-point harnesses, #VAC hardware and floor mounts, Alumalite rear close-off panel


    THANKS Joey Gaffey, Matt Medeiros, Wing Phung and the rest of the team at #Performance-Technic , Charles Wan at Revozport, Mike Benvo at BPM Sport, Stan Chen at ToyoTires, Jason Overell at Targa Trophy, DTM Autobody and Sam at AutoTalent
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