With full M3 running-gear, trick air-suspension and that awesomely lairy bodywork, Edward Johnston’s modified BMW 3 Series Touring is one of the most unique Beemer estates on the planet…
It’s pretty easy to list some of the good points of Munich’s favourite super saloon, the iconic BMW M3. A balanced chassis that loves to go sideways, a muscular-but-subtle body and an overall suave, capable attitude are just some of the traits every example of the legendary car has held since rolling out of the factory over 30 years ago.
But motoring fans have felt there’s always been a big problem with the car since its launch. One which BMW has refused to address, even though the company has been grilled about it time and time again. Why won’t it offer an estate version?!
We’re pretty certain this was Edward Johnston’s exact thought process as he was being chucked around by his mate Tom during a hooning session in his E46 M3. At the time, Edward owned the very E36 Touring you see here, with a 2.8-litre engine and welded diff – which he tells us was taken drifting every single night for three months straight as he got the sideways thrills out of his system in style. “I’d always wanted an M3 though, and had this car to hand, so…” he says, as he explains how his plan to make something a little different was formulated. And boy, did he achieve it!
He couldn’t simply scour car sales websites in hope of finding an M3 Touring up for grabs. They don’t exist. So instead Edward took it upon himself to build a one-off based on his trusty 3 Series estate. And he didn’t exactly do it by halves. “I brought a rare Daytona Violet M3 and transferred the running gear over to my car,” he tells us, modestly. A rather controversial sacrifice, but Edward’s clear final vision was enough for him to maintain a level head. A task, by the way, he completed entirely at home with only the help of close friends to assist him.
With that legendary, colossal lump of high-revving three-litre straight-six plonked inside the bay, complete with the LSD- equipped gearbox from the donor car, you’d think Edward would be happy to leave it there as far as under-the-bonnet business was concerned.
In fact, he added a full exhaust system and carbon air box, before imagining how he could add even more to the surprise factor when he opened the hood at shows with a full tucked and shaved bay. And we think you’ll agree, the results are nothing short of savage. With that monstrous engine looking even more impressive when put on display with nothing but shiny panels framing it in all its glory.
At around the same time of the heart transplant, Edward also set himself the task of re-spraying the ride from its standard silvery-blue hue to a more show-friendly one-off cream. “I didn’t use any garages or bodyshops,” he says proudly. “Painting it was a big task, but I’ve done it three times now, so I’m getting the hang of it.” We don’t think we’ve ever met anyone so modest about creating an absolute show stormer with nothing but true grit and steely determination – and all outside their house!
More powaahh sorted, and a killer paintjob nailed (as you can probably tell, he’s since re-sprayed the car again in a cherry red, which looks equally as awesome and well-executed), it was time to get the car sitting like a proper slammed show car. Not a problem for Edward, who promptly bought, installed and set up a full Air Lift air-ride system like it was nothing more than de-weeding the garden.
The last major piece of the puzzle was what rimmage would be tucked under the estate’s arches. After going through a few sets of dished aftermarket wheels, Edward eventually went full-circle, wanting an OEM+ look that would complement the recently transferred leather M3 interior that now sat inside his ride.
Eventually, a set of custom and painfully rare 17-inch split rims were created from an original quartet of 7×15- inch 3 Series multi-spoke wheels, using staggered and dished polished barrels. With 12-inches of girth out back and just an inch less up front, these babies are often argued to be one of the finer points of Edward’s car. They’ve certainly helped him win awards left, right and centre.
With the idea of a Rocket Bunny wide-body kit to house the wheels out of the window, thanks to the fact it’s a Touring, Edward instead allowed some whopping 4-inch overfenders to do the talking on each corner, moulded seamlessly to the car’s original lines. Teamed up with a Time Attack-inspired wing and aggressive front splitter, and you really wouldn’t mess with this menacing looking motor on an A-road.
To top it all off, Edward has applied some finishing touches such as M3 mirrors, an E46 M3 Alcantara, flat-bottomed steering wheel and rare BMW Motorsport door handles into the mix to further signify he’s not messing about. “People often laugh that I’ve put M3 badges on the car,” Edward chuckles. “But then I open the bonnet and they walk away with their tails tucked between their legs!”
To say that this home-grown transformation is impressive would be of disservice to young Edward here. Because what he’s managed to achieve, learning as he went along, is nothing short of incredible. “It’s spot on now,” he says. “It has that track look and power, but is comfortable and luxurious on the inside.”
His big-booty BM may be covering all bases, but it’s not going to stay like this forever. “I’m in the process of turboing it, so will have the engine out for the sixth time.” No rest for the wicked…
OWNER: EDWARD JOHNSTON
TECH SPEC: E36 BMW TOURING
3.0-litre straight-six M3 engine; fully smoothed and tucked bay; carbon fibre air box; SS Autowerks engine raisers; full Scorpion exhaust system.
M3 5-speed manual ’box with LSD.
Custom 11x17in (front) and 12x17in (rear) split rims converted from BMW 7x15in alloys; 235/40×17 (front) and 255/40×17 (rear) Toyo R888 semi-slick tyres; full Air Lift Performance air suspension kit with 3P management; M3 brakes all-round.
Re-spray in cherry red; M Sport front and rear bumpers; 4in overfenders all-round; front and side splitters; Fancywide rear diffuser; 66-inch rear chassis-mounted wing; flush bonnet catches; F1- style rear brake light; M3 mirrors; BMW Motorsport door handles; M3 door strips.
Full M Sport tan leather interior; E46 M3 Alcantara steering wheel; carbon fibre M Sport gearknob; VIBE component speakers all-round.
Mum and Dad for putting up with me building the car late at night and making too much noise; my mates for helping with the build (Richard, Jack, George, Jacob, Josh) and of course my girlfriend Niki.
Words Tom Willcox Photo Dan Pullen