To many, Prakash’s super-retro tuned BMW E21 is one of the coolest looking cars to rock the UK show scene. But dig a little deeper and you’ll soon discover this much more than just a pretty BMW
You’ve no doubt spotted some killer show cars in recent years proudly rocking the Dapper sticker on their flanks. But did you know that getting your hands on such an accessory is a strictly invite-only affair? Created a few years ago by American car lover Rodolfo Lamaestra, the ‘Dapper Fam’ was initially nothing but a group of stanced car lovers out in the States.
But pictures of the group’s awesome rides soon spread like wildfire across social media, leaving the world dying to know more about the Dapper brand and how they could get involved. Rodolfo now hand-picks rides from across the globe to represent his extended car family, and Prakash Thanky here was the proud owner of one of the UK’s finest offerings to the club – this old-school E21 BMW with more than a few tricks up its sleeve.
The finely judged details scattered around this incredible build are enough to tell you that this is by no means Prakash’s first BMW. In fact, aside from a couple of embarrassing car decisions made early on, his car history is almost entirely made up of Munich’s finest motors. While these were mainly 90s performance-orientated static show-stoppers in their own right, Prakash had a brainwave a few years ago to create something slightly more retro.
“The car was bought from eBay for £500,” Prakash begins the story. “The owner had sadly passed away so the car had been sitting around for over eight years, and was on very low mileage.” This blank canvas was an example of one of the first generation 3 Series BMW produced, and boasted a not-so- monstrous 2.0-litre straight six lump and three-speed auto ’box.
The car was taken back to Prakash’s car garage in Letchworth, which he owns, and promptly stripped back to the bare shell to address some minimal signs of rust which had started to rear their ugly head. “I knew exactly the look I wanted to go for before buying the car,” Prakash says.
“It was always going to be that smooth combination of Euro/ Cali and OEM+ styles which look great on these cars.” The shell was also treated to a full re-spray in the original and deliciously simple Polaris Silver paint scheme to bring out the retro lines to their fullest. With the shiny motor now back in one piece, the next job on the list was to address the elephant in the room – the standard ride height.
Going for a static drop had treated Prakash well for most of his other car builds, so initially a home-made set of coilovers were created and run with various BBS wheel combinations, as Prakash got used to the old-skool two-door.
“I wasn’t happy with the auto gearbox,” Prakash admits to us. “My mate Ben soon told me there was an M50 engine with a manual gearbox for sale, so I soon bought it and went about installing it.” This 2.5-litre straight six was pulled from a mid-nineties E34-shaped BMW 525i, so remained in the car’s bloodline whilst promising a whole lot more driving fun when shoehorned into Prakash’s little car.
With a full engine and transmission swap casually undertaken, the car now drove like a dream according to our proud owner here. But there were still a lot of issues to address before he was truly happy. “I tried some more BBS wheels on the car, but it was sitting too high and the wheels I had chosen were too small.”
Prakash reveals. “This is when I opted for air suspension. I’ve never had it on a car before, but after the install I instantly fell in love with the car again. It felt like a new car and you don’t have to worry about driving down certain roads!”
Prakash used this new-found motivation to fuel his current wheel choice – these simply awesome Carline CM2s with custom staggered dishes and gold hardware. The heavily polished works of art work look nothing short of perfect when Prakash drops the car to its lowest setting. Looking at his wheel history just for this car though, be prepared for them to change at a moment’s notice – this is one man who likes to keep us on our toes!
So, modern engine swap complete and the nigh-on perfect stance nailed, where next? Heading to the inside of this E21 thankfully keeps the pulse racing more with some inspired, unique features. Touches like the up-rated E24 6-Series front Recaro seats and the E28 centre handbrake console fit so well in here you’d have to be a proper BMW nerd to notice they weren’t standard. The OEM+ theme is certainly strong with this one…
It’s not hard to see why there’s so much love around at the moment for this E21. We can see exactly why it was initiated in the Dapper family, and why it wins trophies at pretty much every show it attends. But there’s more to it for Prakash. “It’s not about the awards, it’s about the cars for me,” he modestly says.
Which probably explains why under the surface, we find mods like that engine swap which so many show cars would happily do without. “It drives so nicely and has more than enough power, which people don’t expect!” he laughs. As a result, this has to be one of the most complete cars we’ve had the pleasure of clapping our eyes on in a very long time.
￼OWNER: PRAKASH THANKY
TECH SPEC: E21 BMW
2.5-litre BMW M50B25 straight-six engine conversion from an E34 525i; custom modified sump; custom exhaust manifold; custom 3in Flow Dynamics stainless steel exhaust system.
Five-speed manual gearbox conversion from an E21 323i; organic sprung sports paddle clutch; BMW Z3 short shift; 323i propshaft.
9.5x16in (front) and 10.5x16in (rear) fully re-built polished Carline CM2 three-piece wheels with gold hardware; 195/40×16 (front) and 215/40/x6 (rear) tyres stretched by Specialist Tyres; custom centre caps; custom Air Lift V2 air suspension system
with performance shocks; BMW 323i brake callipers with EBC Red Stuff pads and up-rated Goodridge braided brake lines.
New rear arches welded in; new inner and outer sills welded in; single headlight conversion from
an E21 316; custom front clear indicators and tinted rear indicators; smoothed rear aerial hole; smoothed rear model badge; de-spoilered and smoothed; original Autoplas rear window louvres; colour coded body panels; modified front subframe; custom vinyl stripes and Dapper decals.
E24 6 Series front Recaro seats; E28 centre handbrake console; Alpina gearknob; Alpina wooden steering wheel.
OEM Becker BMW Bavaria cassette player unit powered by hidden iO Play2 wireless kit; up-rated Hertz speakers.
My Mum and Dad for putting up with me; my brother Jay and my friend Ben Dewen for helping me on the long weekends and late nights; Owen Spencer for getting me into BMWs and a big shout-out to the UK Dapper family for helping me make the car what it is today and supporting me.
Words Tom Willcox Photos Chris Wallbank