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TUNED E36 328I: FASHION FORWARD

Posted by Matt Bell on 4th October 2021

Resplendent in Porsche’s Fashion Grey, Elliot Carter’s tuned E36 328i has been precision-crafted to achieve the perfect low-slung look and this wide-arch, static coupé makes a big impression.

Feature from Performance BMW. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Chris Frosin.

Imagine the scenario: a friend approaches you and says ‘Hey, I want to buy your car and tear it to bits’. Said car is your daily driver, and you have no intention of selling. What would your answer be? In most cases, we imagine it’d be a very concise response, with the second word being ‘off’. But it seems that Elliot Carter (@y2_etc) is a more persuasive man than most; he has a clear idea of what he wants to achieve, and he’s not altogether keen on letting anything stand in his way. Having decided that he wanted an E36, with the aim to give it the sort of extreme US-scene static lows that look like the build must be on air, the plans were laid. He just needed to find the right car… and the right car was owned by a mate, who merely needed convincing. Simple as that.

“I was in the market for an E36 as I wanted a car I knew I could tear right down and build back up to the exact specification I wanted,” Elliot reasons. “This car wasn’t actually for sale, but I convinced my friend to sell it to me. I picked it up the next day and started pulling it apart! It had a few minor mods, some interior stuff as well as a set of Style 66 wheels and eBay coilovers, all of which went straight in the bin.” This forthrightness of approach is all very much in-keeping with Elliot’s modding adventures; biomass engineer by day and modifying supervillain by night, he’s been doing this stuff for a fair few years and is very much aware of which side his bread is buttered. Starting out with a Vauxhall Corsa, as so many young Brits have to do, he immediately lowered it on coilovers and fitted a set of wheels, the early peeps into modifying acting as a gateway drug to the scene. Indeed, he went all-in, and his second car – an E92 325i – actually earned itself a full feature in PBMW back in October 2018. It was running three-piece wheels, all sorts of carbon and, crucially, air-ride. Why ‘crucially’? Well, it just demonstrates that Elliot isn’t one of these die-hards who’s firmly in either the air or static camp – he’s happy to butterfly between the two, depending on which setup is more appropriate for the platform, approach and usage in question.

“I’ve been into BMWs for as long as I can remember,” he assures us. “My early projects got me into the UK modified car scene, and I met a lot of people through that who I now consider to be very close friends.” That’s perhaps our favourite thing about BMW enthusiasts, the camaraderie and togetherness make for a friendly and vibrant community. And with these connections growing, along with his skill set, Elliot had built up a precisely defined image of how the next project was going to shape up: “I built this E36 completely from the ground up,” he says, with a deserved sense of pride and satisfaction. “My other cars have been to shops to get work done – but this time, between me, my uncle and some close friends, all of the work has been carried out by us.”

The plan was mapped out right from the start, then – the suspension, the wheels, the paint, the interior, the body, everything existed on the figurative pinboard within Elliot’s head, he just needed to roll his sleeves up and make it a reality. “The car was originally Hellrot, but it had lacquer peel so I decided to give it a full repaint inside and out,” he says. “It was all stripped down and sanded back, and I chose to paint it in Porsche’s Modegrau [Fashion Grey] – I’d seen it on a 991 GT3 and immediately fallen in love with the colour. It was all resprayed by me and a few friends with next to no experience doing so, as we wanted to do everything ourselves. The colour gets a lot of compliments now, I’m really glad I chose it.”

Elliot knew he wanted to create an aggressive look – hence the addition of the towering LTW rear wing and the in-your-face Felony Form overfenders – and the real crux of the matter is the stance. A word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but it was absolutely critical for this build that the stance be spot-on: “I wanted the car to have a track look, but also be as low as physically possible,” he says. “A lot of the E36s you see in America are ridiculously low, and I was keen to recreate that in the UK.” To achieve this, the tuned E36 328i is now running Broadway Static coilovers – a supremely authentic choice, as these are hand-made in Virginia to every customer’s individual specs; Elliot’s gone for 30/32k springs to get the rock-hardness he required as well as the super-deep look. “The ride is very, very stiff,” he continues. “The car also has solid engine mounts and is Black Series poly bushed front-to-back, so the setup is extremely harsh but allows it to sit as low as it does with no catching on the arches – and most importantly, it still has full drivability. The arches have been cut out, and 30mm front and 50mm rear Felony Form overfenders fitted to allow me to run wider wheels to get the look I was going for. It also has E46 lower control arms to allow for more camber on the front, and underneath the car, the fuel filter has been relocated due to it being so low to the ground.”

The effect is remarkable, the E36 really does look like it’s aired out. The way it sits and rolls is perhaps the car’s biggest talking point. Oh, but there’s much more to talk about besides… the old saying goes that ‘wheels maketh the car’, and the rim choice here is superb: Work Meister S1s are always a quality choice, found here as 18s with serious dish and a menacing satin finish, and they counterpoint the racy paintwork beautifully. “I wanted to run three-piece wheels as they have a lot more freedom with sizes, so I could get the fitment as close as possible,” Elliot explains. “I bought the wheels from a friend, Dan at Wheel Unique, who I’ve had a few sets of wheels off and have confidence in buying them from him. I’m actually going to be changing the look of the wheels over winter, and then probably look for some more Japanese rims that I can run with an even more aggressive stance,” he adds. Blimey, the man’s unstoppable.

And you can see from the eager burnout shots that he’s keen to use his road-racer with the axis tilted more toward ‘racer’. Anyone who’s owned an M52-engined E36 will know there are a few tried-and-tested methods to get it snarling just a little bit harder, starting with the M50 inlet manifold. Elliot’s kept it simple here, adding an induction kit and a flash tune with a raised rev limiter, while the exhalation is now taken care of by a catless manifold and straight pipes. Tasty ingredients that lead up to a delectable package. “I added a larger radiator and uprated fans too, as M52s like to run hot,” he explains. See, all of this has been built to be practically usable – it may have been the over-arching aim to create a savage look, but this was never meant to be a show pony: there’s no point ticking the aesthetics box if all you’ve created is an ornament. The racer look is cool, but the holistic racer vibe is more important.

“From buying the car to finishing everything up took around two years, although it was a slow process as I only worked on the car on evenings and weekends,” says Elliot. “My favourite part of the build? Funnily enough, it’s probably the MHW clear tail lights; these were made in the ’90s and are a very rare part to have. I’ve been offered upwards of £600 for them but they suit the car too well to sell!”

With an insistence that the project be completed to the highest standards possible, the rebuild involved putting the car back together with all new parts wherever he could, and the specs of the interior are particularly noteworthy. A custom roll-cage was fabricated and welded-in, before a list was drawn up of which original parts would go back into the stripped interior (very few) and which would be upgraded (again few, but significant). The cabin now rocks Bride Low Max seats on custom rails, with harnesses, helmet nets and a bespoke fire extinguisher setup completing the track-ready formula, and they are joined by those sexy honeycomb carbon door cards along with a Wing mirror and Vertex steering wheel. Combining this finesse with the brutal aesthetic and the cleverly engineered chassis is what’s achieved the master plan that was in his head from day one. Has it all been as easy as he makes it sound? No, not by any means. But like we said, Elliot’s a persuasive guy.

Tech Spec: Tuned E36 328i

Engine & Transmission:

2.8-litre straight-six M52B28, M50 inlet manifold, induction kit, raised rev limiter, flash map, catless exhaust manifold, straight-pipe system, larger radiator and upgraded fans, solid engine mounts. OE ZF five-speed manual gearbox, AC Schnitzer short-shift

Chassis:

10×18” (front) and 10.5×18” (rear) Work Meister S1 wheels with satin black centres, gloss black stepped lips and gold hardware, 215/35 (front) and 235/35 (rear) tyres, stud kit, Broadway Static coilovers (30/32k springs), Powerflex Black Series bushes throughout, E46 lower control arms, uprated anti-roll bars, driveshaft spacers

Exterior:

Full respray in Porsche Fashion Grey (Modegrau), 30mm (front) and 50mm (rear) Felony Form overfenders, E36 M3 door mirrors, LTW rear wing,  MHW clear rear lights, FancyWide rear diffuser, AC Schnitzer roof spoiler

Interior:

Fully stripped, Bride Low Max seats, custom seat rails, Vertex steering wheel, yellow TRS harnesses, honeycomb carbon fibre door cards, helmet net, custom fire extinguisher, Wink mirror, full custom weld-in roll-cage