- Post is under moderationNEW JACK HUSTLER
A lot of people talk about thinking outside the box when it comes to building a car, but few actually do. Jack Smith is someone who definitely walks the walk though.
/ #Volkswagen-Golf-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Golf-1 / #Volkswagen-Golf-I / #Volkswagen / #Volkswagen-Golf / #VW-Golf / #VW-Golf-I / #VW / #Volkswagen / #Volkswagen-Rabbit / #Volkswagen-Rabbit-I / VW / #VW-Golf / #VW-Rabbit / #Tarmac / #Volkswagen-Golf-US-Spec-Mk1
“As soon as the old stock colour started coming up all my ideas about painting it Silver went out of the window”
“It would have been so much easier to import a full car myself, but with the money I already loaded into the car I thought I’d just build one”
“It’s something different and I can say that I built it, there’s a sense of pride in that... it's art to me"
Jack Smith’s Mk1 may look like a genuine #US-spec Rabbit… until you notice it’s right-hand-drive. And that’s just the start of the madness…
A lot of people talk about thinking outside the box when it comes to building a car, but few actually do it. Jack Smith is someone who steps right outside of it... Words: Tony Saggu Photos: Si Gray
To say Yorkshireman Jack Smith has eclectic tastes in automotive faire would be something of an understatement, with less than a decade on his driver’s license the twenty something Rotherham based paint sprayer has auditioned more style and makes of motors than most. “Me, I love building cars, the make and model or even the style isn’t as important as actually making the thing,” he told us. “It gets my mind working, thinking of things that not many people have done before, you know, taking something bland and making it something amazing." His latest metal massaging makeover takes the shape of a German born, English market, Americanised runabout with a petrol to diesel swap, newfangled technology and old fashioned looks... if you’re looking for predictable, keep walking.
“I actually started with a Renault 5 1.2 five door before I could drive,” laughed Jack, “My dad bought it for me so I had something to work on. That went matt black on lowering springs with some P slot wheels.” Once the 'L' plates had been discarded French fancies were replaced with a little German flair in the shape of a shiny Red 1.0 Mk3 Polo. The rims and springs added gave the car the right look until Jack introduced the coupe to a spot of unintended custom bodywork, “It ended up in the window of a local computer shop...” we’ll say no more. Sadly the lad’s luck didn’t improve much with the wrecked red Polo’s replacement, “Yeah, I had a white Mk3 1.3 Polo coupe after that, almost identical to the red one but with wider arches on the front,” he recalled. “That had a Corsa go into the side of it.” After the two crumpled coupes Jack tried his luck with a five door, another Polo, another Mk3, and tempting fate another 1.3. Thankfully the blue-hued saloon worked out well and was only given up when Jacks present project came along. “I’ve had a Golf, a Vento and even a bagged Mazda 3 along the way,” he told us, “I currently have a daily Lexus GS300 that is VIP inspired on Weds Kranze LZX and D2 air suspension with a fair bit of camber.”
Switch hitting Japanese gangster rides aside, Jack admits if he’s honest it’s the Dub life that pushes his buttons. “I think it all started from seeing people I used to ride BMX with buying and modifying them,” he recalled. “I found a German modified VW magazine while I was on holiday in Europe years ago, I couldn't understand anything in it but the cars looked pretty cool and I knew I wanted a piece of that, I started getting PVW after that and as soon as I could drive I bought myself the Polo coupe.” The latest Smith built sensation which you see here began like many makeovers with a chance encounter, “I wasn’t really looking to buy a Mk1,” explained Jack, “I had the blue Polo at the time and was pretty happy with it. My mate Ricky had bought it and done a bit of welding and other stuff so he could sell it on,” he continued. “Then it eventually just came up on a local forum that Ricky was selling it soon and at a good price. I didn’t need another car, but who doesn’t want a nice cheap Mk1? I put the Polo up for sale straight away and got on the phone to Ricky.” At seven hundred quid the antique '83 Golf was a steal, it had plenty of issues in all areas but the Yorkshireman wasn’t daunted. “It was pretty tired looking,” he told us, “and it had the typical MK1 rust problems. The paint was very faded paint and honestly it needed a good general tidy up to make it acceptable.” The car ran though, not too bad either according to Jack, the alternator was a bit dodgy but the car came with coilovers. “I had to take it for a MOT and there with a decent list of problems for me to fix,” he recalled.
A couple of hundred quid’s worth of parts and a spit and polish would have been the sensible thing to do, the resulting ratty but reasonable ride would have kept most Dub fanatics satisfied and smiling. A steady diet of Max Power, Revs, Fastcar and Redline magazines growing up had put Jack in a different frame of mind though, not to mention a couple of older cousins who had done nothing to take the edge off the custom car craving. “There wasn’t a chance of it staying standard,” laughed Jack, “ Initially I wanted to make it like every other MK1 you see at shows, it was going to be silver on polished BBS RS's, but when I actually started working on the car all that changed.” Job one, after the coilovers had been wound down to the limit and a set of Minilites from the old Polo had been bolted on, was to give the car a good clean and go over with a polishing mop to restore the righteous retro Pragus Blue. “As soon as the old stock colour started coming up all my ideas about painting it Silver went out of the window,” recalled Jack, “The blue is just perfect, it suits the car so well.” The next few months saw the car more often than not in pieces on the Jack’s driveway, the Mk1 was a sweet little motor but it was teaching young senior Smith a valuable if hard lesson... it was old, and old things break down and stop working a lot. “One of the biggest reasons the car looks and drives the way it does now is that basically everything needed to be repaired or replaced,” explained Jack, “if I was going to fix something anyway I thought I may as well make it better.”
Straightening the generally abused and rust riddled bodywork set the direction of the project and gave the car is final character. “When it came to the look I wanted It was mainly the US cars that got my attention,” revealed Jack, “The American lads were doing really low cars, with half the floors cut out and full of exotic custom suspension work. I knew I'd never go that far as it was out of my skill set, but I knew after looking at their cars that I wanted to make my car look like an American style VW.” The internet had taught our man that when it came to true US spec, there was only one direction he could go.
“The Westmoreland Rabbit,” he smiled, “Once I started thinking about it I realised I’d never seen a US spec Rabbit over here. Everyone was making MK2/3/4/5s US spec, but I couldn't understand why no one had imported or made a Mk1 over here. It would have been so much easier to import a full car myself, but with the money I already loaded into the car I thought I’d just build one.” It wasn’t long before Jack realized that giving his German built hatch the American look was going to take more than just slapping a Rabbit badge on the boot. The American built Mk1s have a look all of their own with more than a few US only exterior details and body panels. “Getting the parts was no joke,” lamented Jack, “A lot of the bits like the Hella rear lights, turn signals, side markers and the grill I got from Mexico via dodgy websites and ebay. The front panel was found on VWvortex after months messaging people who were breaking cars for parts,” he continued. “It a big piece to post over so convincing someone to do it took a while, finally someone decided to do it for me. I can’t remember his name but the bloke was a legend. He only charged me about $60 then $60 shipping as I only got the top half of the front panel to save on shipping costs.”
The all important and decidedly unique Hella Projector headlights were apparently liberated from some sort of Jeep and sourced through the Edition38 forums for a reasonable £90. “The front wings were a major headache,” recalled Jack. “The driver’s side came from #VW-Heritage over here and only cost £30 delivered, it was a brand new genuine wing. I couldn't believe my luck when I found that.” The passenger side 'fender' however wouldn’t be such an easy acquisition, “The other side I was really struggling,” he explained, “Everyone wanted $500 for shipping and I couldn't justify spending that much for one wing. It took a lot of hunting but after talking to someone on #VW-Vortex from a place called Old-Skool-VW we worked out a way to get around the postage.” Clued up VW heads will already know that the major difference between the German wing and the Pennsylvania panel is the leading edge around the US spec corner light. “He agreed to cut me a spare wing up and sent me only the front part which wraps around the turn signal,” revealed Jack. “He cut it just big enough to fit in a USPS Fixed Rate shipping box. I think this was also $60 plus $45 shipping. Once it arrived I had to figure out how I was going to graft it into a Euro wing.” A good deal of careful measuring, delicate cutting and skillful welding had the wing looking every part the perfect stock American example. While the welder was out the rear panel needed to be similarly cut and shut to house the long rear lights the Yanks like so much. Unsurprisingly Smith has strapped on a pair of Westmoreland issued bumpers fore and aft to complete his American auto adventure, the heavy girder style steel protrusions are normally the first US styling faux par to be binned by Stateside Dubbers, in favour of the slim and sexy Euro examples.
Toned down with matt black paint and pushed closer to the body with custom crafted brackets however, it seems Jack has made VW of North America’s design department’s bumper blunder a thing of stylish beauty. It’s no surprise, with our man being a painter by trade, that the reapplied Pragus Blue top coat is smooth, silky and to our eyes perfectly refinished, Jack though, ever the perfectionist, reckons he could have done better. “I’d like to go back and redo the bodywork,” he told us, “Since I've gained more experience in the trade over the years, I've got more of a eye for detail now than when I first painted it, I was only in an apprenticeship back then.”
Jack told us the original 1.1 under the bonnet was on its last legs, pumping out more oil than horsepower. “I got offered a 1.8 conversion and tried fitting that, but it would never run and no one could figure out why it wouldn't start,” he told us, “I got so annoyed and decided just to rip it all out and find a cheap engine to chuck into it. I saw a 1.6 #GTD for sale for £150, it had everything including the fuel pump and turbo.” Jack admits his experience with engine conversions is pretty limited, but dropping in the diesel was a doddle, “essentially its four mounts, a custom downpipe and about six wires,” he enthused. “Obviously there's a little more to it than that, I had to get a gearbox and some other stuff, but me and my mate Kyle could take it out in less than two hours.” Although originally the cheap oil burner was just supposed to be a temporary engine to get the car mobile, Jack told us it wasn’t long before the diesel started to grow on him, “I soon fell in love with it,” he smiled, “ turning the fuel and boost up made it really nippy and it was still stupidly economical.
The kinda reason I decided to keep it and refine it,” he continued, “I took it out a couple of years ago to clean it up and smooth the engine bay. It still makes me smile when you look in the rear view mirror and see a cloud of black smoke.”
Despite the nicely detailed diesel swap and skillfully executed body conversion, Jack reckons his favorite part of the build lays elsewhere, “It’s without a doubt the wheels,” he smiled proudly, “The Fifteen52 Tarmac348 wheels, I wanted them the day they got released but I couldn't afford them.” A good deal of overtime and skipping a few nights out with the lads, as well as selling his Fifteen52 Snowflakes had the prized rollers bought though, to up the ante a touch the boys at the legendary California style haus custom made the rims in two piece with brushed centres and polished lips for the Mk1.“The suspension is a Havair strut kit with paddle valve management,” continued Jack, “I think they were the only MK1 struts available at the time when I was wanting to get air for the car. To be fair I've had them a fair few years and it’s all still working fine, which is not bad seeing I used to use this car daily as well.”
Raising the turrets and giving the frame a little notching love helps the bags put the little Mk1 in the weeds, “The wishbone mounts and sump sit on the ground now,” he assured us. “The front struts have been drilled out to give me more negative camber and the rear suspension has some camber disks behind the stub axle to do the same at the back.” The dropped and diesel swapped hatch from oop north is certainly unique, not just in the land of dales and moors either, Jack’s built himself something very different from a familiar platform and we reckon you would be hard pressed to find a twin on either side of the Atlantic ,” he smiled, “Its art to me, creating something special out of something ordinary.” We think he nailed it.
1.6-litre Mk2 Golf GTD lump provides plenty of smiles with the 'boost and fueling would up." Looks sweet too!
Air install out back is simple but clean and nicely functional. Well, what more do you need really?
"Heeeeres Jacky!" Jack's plan to chop Si Gray up with an axe thankfully didn’t pan out. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy...
Old-skool Cobra buckets work brilliantly up front with rears trimmed to match.
ENGINE: 1.6-litre GTD from a MK2 Golf, ‘fuelling wound up, boost wound up’, Mk1 Series 1 radiator, front mount intercooler, custom solid boost pipes painted gloss black, Mk3 8v GTI rocker cover painted gloss black.
CHASSIS: 8x16” #Fifteen-52 #Tarmac-348 two-piece wheels, ET5 front and ET0 rear with 165/45/16 Nankang NS2 tyres, #Havair #air-suspension struts, paddle valve management with a five gallon tank, #Viair-380 compressor, raised turrets, camber holes extended on front struts and turrets, camber disks on the rear hubs.
EXTERIOR: Full repaint in the original Pragus Blue colour, late Westmoreland Rabbit front end conversion with #Hella Projectors, late Westmoreland Rabbit Long rear lights, Late Westmoreland Rabbit bumpers refinished in matt black, Rabbit rear side markers, GTI plastic arches, GTI A-Piller trims, #Zender three-piece spoiler, flared and cut arches, partially smoothed bay with the scuttle panel removed and hidden wiring.
INTERIOR: Renewed door cards, new carpet, 80's Cobra bucket seats with the original rear bench trimmed to match, boot build fully carpeted with tank and compressor on show with hardlines. Gloss black painted Mountney steering wheel with a chrome centre.
SHOUT: I would like to thank Cayla for putting up with my love for my cars, supporting me and helping me out with them. Big thank you to everyone at Rollhard, they helped me out massively last year, I couldn't have met a nicer bunch of people. Also a big thank you to the guys at Autoperfekt for keeping my cars clean. I would also like to thank Brad for the welding, Kyle and anyone else that's helped me along with the build process.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationFIRE 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 todayStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.