- Post is under moderation(NOT) GROWING UP Beautiful blue bagged E92 320d
Deciding it’s time to grow up and stop modifying a car is easy, but actually doing it is much harder… Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Simon Ward
There comes a time, we suppose, in all our lives when we will start thinking that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop modifying cars and start putting money away, sensibly, for the inevitable arrival of The Future and spending what spare money we have left on more grown-up interests, such as old whisky and expensive wax jackets or hand-crafted ethnic fair trade furniture. Perhaps that’s already happened, perhaps you’re sipping an 18-year-old single malt while wearing an expensive jacket, sitting on a chair made from Sheesham hardwood. What’s Sheesham? Exactly…
Or perhaps it’s already crossed your mind while you were out shopping for your new car, or when you decided to spend three months’ wages on a new set of wheels, but you’ve not managed to commit yet. You can’t quit the grip of modding and you keep telling yourself that you’ll start being sensible any day now, but there’s just time for one last big score…
That’s where Will Drayson found himself about four years ago, but we’ll let him tell his tale: “I’ve dreamed of owning a BMW since I first passed my test – something has always drawn me towards them. This was my first BMW; at the time I had just been promoted and began working in Sheffield. I had a modified Mk4 Golf and wanted something a bit smarter. I tried to be sensible and choose something with good economy as I was commuting about 300 miles a week. I went for the E92 320d as I loved how it looked and knew the running costs wouldn’t be an issue. It seemed like the perfect car for me.
“I travelled to Leicester to get it. I’ve always been a bit OCD with my cars and paintwork and I’d spoken to the seller on the phone and told him that if it wasn’t perfect then not to waste my time, but if it was as good as he’d said I’d pay the full asking price. True to his word it was immaculate and when I pulled up to view it, before I even started the engine, I knew I wanted it. I was so happy when I bought it, I’ll never forget that day.
“I originally told myself it was time to grow up, save money and take a break from the modifying scene… and then within four days had already painted the wheels a dark anthracite and ordered some coilovers. I couldn’t help myself – to me, modifying my cars is an expression of who I am. I don’t think it’ll ever be anything I can leave alone.”
Will is most definitely a serial modifier and looking back through his case history it’s clear that nothing short of an intervention will be able to kerb his habit. After leaving school and starting work as a joiner, he modified his Astra work van. This was followed by a modified and financially crippling SEAT Leon Cupra R and then the slightly more sensible Golf GT TDi. This leads us neatly on to the 320d, the car that would not be modified, except is now probably more modified than all of the others put together. If we were mean, we’d go for a slow hand clap, but we’re sympathetic so we’ll opt for a consoling pat on the back instead. Not that Will needs consoling because his decision to go to town on his E92 means he’s ended up with a spectacular machine that turns heads wherever it goes.
The reason for all that attention is simple: it looks absolutely spectacular. Will’s done a first rate job on the styling but what really sets it all off is that custom paint; it’s a gloriously bold blue, solid and striking and completely custom, conjured up by the mind of Will himself. We happen to know the ingredients that went into this unique blend but if we told you, we’d have to kill you, and then Will would probably come and kill us, so we won’t. All we can tell you is that it was created in a bit of a mad scientist moment of mixing, a Willy Wonka-esque colour mixing adventure with Will having no earthly way of knowing in which direction he was going, and when the smoke had cleared and it was all over, he’d conjured up his perfect shade of blue.
But a blue E92 alone isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd. It needed to be sprayed over a body that’s deserving of all that love and attention: “I wanted quite an aggressive look while avoiding the M3 bumper/replica route,” he explains. “With it being a 320d the last thing I wanted was to ‘pretend’ it was an M3.” He’s certainly done a grand job of making his E92 look suitably aggressive without following the crowd. Will has smoothed the front bumper, removed the headlight washer jets, smoothed the bonnet, added NEM angel eyes with tinted internals along with tinted rear lights and then he’s gone to town on the carbon. There are carbon kidney grilles, front splitter, mirror covers that he skinned himself, Ericsson bootlid and a rear diffuser, which has been embellished with a pair of 335i tailpipes.
Naturally, all that visual drama needed the right wheels and this too was an area where Will was keen not to blend in with everyone else and he wasn’t afraid of going off-piste in order to give his E92 a unique look: “The first set of wheels I put on were some Bentley Continental 19s,” he says. “I’d seen them a lot in the VAG scene and wanted to break the mould with the BMW scene. I’ve always liked how the VAG scene is about thinking outside-the-box, while on all the BMW forums everyone was just buying CSL replicas and it was bland in honesty. All modified Threes looked similar. I wanted to take a different route. Everyone told me it wouldn’t work and would look terrible but I hit up G23 Engineering for some adapters and put the Bentley wheels on and people’s minds were soon changed!
“The car looked great – I miss that look to be fair. I ran them for a couple of years until I fancied a change and that’s when I spotted these concave Rotiform BLQs for sale with the exact same width and offsets as the Bentley wheels. They would be a straight fit onto my existing adaptors without any extra work so I thought it was a no brainer really!” Indeed, no brain was required for this decision as the BLQ is a great looking wheel, the concave profile really suiting the E92 styling and the black centres are the perfect match for the carbon elements scattered across the exterior.
The perfect wheels need the perfect suspension setup and while Will’s first efforts were static, air was always an inevitability. “Originally I bought some D2 coilovers but they lasted about a year until they collapsed and went to an oily grave,” he says. “I then went with BC Racing coilovers, which were brilliant. I’d wanted air during that time but couldn’t afford it. I ran the BCs for about a year until I finally caved and went with the new #Air-Lift 3H kit. A friend of mine, Vick Nagi, mentioned I could be a guinea pig for the new kit through his company, Lowpro, so I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a kit as a test vehicle before the official release!” The 3H has been treated to a sexy floating boot install, comprising a single tank and twin compressors, complete with lighting and finished in satin grey to match his wheel lips.
With the 320d having been purchased for its economy, Will has decided to leave the engine alone, bar the addition of a K&N panel filter and covering the air intake panel in carbon himself. “Even when I got to the point that I decided it was a show car and no longer a daily commuter I didn’t think it was worth spending money trying to squeeze more power from the engine. I’ve considered a 335i engine swap but it’s never really interested me; I love driving the car as it is and I’ve got nothing to prove, I don’t need 400 horses to enjoy it!” he smiles and that might be the most sensible thing we’ve heard him say all day!
The engine might be stock, but the interior most definitely is not and Will’s made it a very nice place to spend time in.
Gone are the stock M Sport front seats and in their place have been fitted a very sexy pair of leather-wrapped Recaro CS seats. “I’d seen an orange M3 on the internet with the BMW M Performance seats; they looked amazing and I was instantly hunting the web and eBay for a set,” grins Will. “They were like hens teeth to get hold of and at crazy prices whenever I found any. In the end I found a guy who stripped out Lotuses and made them into track cars who had taken a brand-new set of CSs out of an Exige. I bit his hand off when he mentioned selling them! I dismantled the original runners on the M Sport seats and fabricated some adaptors to put them onto the base of the CSs. I fitted the seats myself in about ten hours, doing the wiring and runners etc which I didn’t think was bad seeing I’m pretty much self-taught with vehicles!” With a pair of gorgeous leather seats up front the cloth rear bench really wouldn’t do, so this has now been trimmed in black leather to match. The trims have been painted in Land Rover Lago grey while after the shoot Will replaced the M Sport steering wheel with a flat-bottomed one complete with carbon trim panel. Finally, the audio has been uprated with a set of Focal speaker, tweeters and under-seat subs.
While it may not have ended up being quite as sensible as Will might have initially wanted, his E92 remains a grown up car that’s the perfect blend of diesel frugality and jaw-dropping show car looks meaning he is both having his cake and eating it, which is about as much as you could ever ask for. Any future plans for the E92 that may have been brewing have currently been put on hold as Will has just bought a house, arguably the most sensible and grown up thing you can purchase, but that’s no big deal because at the moment he says he’s really happy with how the car looks and we’re with him on that one.
“I love driving the car as it is. I don’t need 400 horses to enjoy it”
“Before I’d even started the engine, I knew I wanted it. I was so happy”
TECHNICAL DATA FILE Air-ride #BMW-E92 / #BMW-320d / #BMW-320d-E92 / #BMW-320d-Air-Ride / #BMW-320d-Air-Ride-E92 / #BMW-E92-Air-Ride / #Rotiform-BLQ / #Rotiform / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E92
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel #N47D20 / #BMW-N47 / #N47 , #K&N panel filter, carbon air intake cover, 335i tailpipes, six-speed manual gearbox
CHASSIS 9x19” ET41 (front and rear) three-piece forged super concave #Rotiform BLQs with gloss black faces and satin gunmetal lips on G23 adapters with 215/35 (front and rear) tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance-3H air-ride with performance struts, chassis modified for greater front end drop, grooved discs and pads (front and rear)
EXTERIOR Full respray in custom mixed bright blue, smoothed front bumper with washer jets removed, smoothed bonnet with #BMW roundel removed, carbon fibre kidney grilles, #Ericsson bootlid, diffuser, splitter and wing mirror covers, #NEM-angel-eye headlights with blacked-out internals, tinted rear lights
INTERIOR #Recaro-CS seats, flat bottom steering wheel with carbon fibre trim added after the shoot, internal trims painted in Land Rover Lago grey, rear seats retrimmed in black leather, Focal speakers, tweeters and under-seat subs, full floating boot install with single tank, twin Viair compressors, lighting and satin grey tank
THANKS Adi Camm and Dave Shaw at A&D Autos for all your help and support over many years and allowing me to spend hundreds of hours generally getting in the way at your unit! Vick Nagi at Lowpro for all his encouragement and helping me achieve my goals. Phil James at The Install Company for the wicked install and hard work on getting that front end drop so low. My mum and dad for supporting me throughout all of this and letting me dismantle cars on the drive at 1am on multiple occasions! All my close friends for the constant wind-ups about my car – it spurred me on to do better
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