Tag Archives: Southampton

The Learning Curve – Ethan Sexton’s 1990 BMW E30 318is

Words & Photos by Henry Phull

 

Looking back on 2017, I think it’s fair to say that the E30 has easily been one of the most fashionable cars in the ‘stance’ scene, which is kind of weird, considering how much prices have soared. That said, buying one now would be a justified investment for the future, as values are only going to continue to rise, so maybe that’s what everyone’s doing? Or could it be down to the fact that the E30 is still one of the most enjoyable, driver-oriented, and beautiful, cars that money can buy? Probably a mixture. Well, with so many examples out in the wild, you do have to filter through them to find the real gems, which brings us to Ethan Sexton’s gorgeous 318is, one E30 that’s been on our radar for a while now. Having owned the car for almost five years, Ethan has put it through several guises during his ownership, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that I felt the car was at its best, so, naturally, I was eager to set up a shoot.

 

 

Ethan’s story is like that of most BMW owners, it was a family affair. His dad happened to own a beaten up 325i Sport for a brief period, but long enough for Ethan to fall in love with BMWs… “I’ll never forget drifting around in it and realising how fun cars could be” he exclaims. The E30 was the car that truly sparked his interest in all things automotive, and when he turned 18, Ethan bought an E46 318ci. Although he loved the car itself, he was disappointed with its lack of power for a new, heavy car. That constant want of an E30 was at the back of his mind, and after seeing lots of modified examples online, he knew he had to have one for himself. The search was on!

 

 

It’s worth mentioning that before buying the E30, Ethan had no experience with modifying cars. It was the BMW that changed everything and allowed him to learn so many new skills. “I’ve had access to a fairly big workshop for the last few winters and I’d spend pretty much every evening there with friends just messing around with each other’s cars”. So the E30 that Ethan ended up buying, was a 1990 318is, which he selected over the normal 318 due to the “is” model being a fair bit quicker and sportier looking. Unfortunately, a straight-six model was out of the question at the time because of high insurance prices. Amazingly, Ethan found his Alpine White example under an hour away from home, owned by a Volkswagen enthusiast who had only owned it for a short period.

 

 

“I literally knew nothing about cars when I bought the car” Ethan explains… “But I had seen a white E30 online, it was slightly lowered and on BBS RS’. At the time, plans to get the car looking anywhere near similar to the one I’d seen online seemed very unrealistic, but things soon spiraled out of control!”. Ethan started out by doing everything cheaply to get the car looking how he had imagined as quickly as possible, but soon came to realise that it was worth investing more money when buying parts, especially considering he never wants to sell the car.

 

 

At first, Ethan fitted some cheap JOM coilovers, but quickly became sold on the idea of air suspension. “It gives you the flexibility to use the car practically, as well as being able to have it looking exactly as you want it when aired out” Ethan explains. Plus, his girlfriend was living in Birmingham at the time, so driving up from Southampton regularly was out of the question for a very low static car, and the 318is M42 sump sits incredibly low, too. “I still find it surprising how many people expect a car on air suspension to handle extremely poorly… to me at least, I think it’s perfect for a road car. And not soft/sloppy as many people expect.”

 

 

Ethan decided to go for an Air Lift Performance setup with AutoPilot V2 management for his air suspension package. At the time, he wasn’t clued up on air ride, and had heard plenty of great reviews of Air Lift products. He opted to visit his local installer, Shakey at Studio Incar who ended up fitting a completely custom setup, as an E30-specific kit hadn’t been released at the time. Shakey had experience with E30’s, having bagged Nick Sahota’s M3 previously, the first bagged E30 M3 in the UK (Click here to check out that feature!). Shakey also created a bespoke hardline boot setup at the same time, although Ethan eventually wanted his spare wheel and boot space back. As a result, he’s reworked the installation and is now running an air tank mounted on the rear parcel shelf which looks super cool.

 

 

Getting a classic car sitting right isn’t usually just as simple as installing the bags. Ethan has fitted a new shallow sump to allow the car to air out even lower. Plus, the rear subframe was dropped to fit a CAtuned camber kit, designed to remove negative camber which the E30 chassis naturally gains once lowered. Ethan mounted the kit in the opposite way to gain more negative camber. At the same time, he fitted Revshift poly bushes on everything, along with Powerflex front lollypop bushes. The car now sits extremely well. Evidently, it was worth the extra effort!

 

 

Looking into the cockpit, “It’s always been a bit mix and match, due to me always changing my mind about things and cheap seats coming up for sale” Ethan laughs… The E30 actually started off with the standard “is” interior, then to a set of OMP retro/classic bucket seats, and finally to a pair of Recaros removed from a Rover. These grace the car currently, along with a Nardi Deep Corn wood steering wheel and matching gear knob. Ethan then sourced a new carpet to update the original retired example, and dyed it from grey to black, along with the rear bench. Being a bit of an audiophile too, he wanted to update the retro audio system, opting for Hertz component front speakers and a JL Audio subwoofer.

 

 

Believe it or not, the first wheels that Ethan purchased for the car were a set of BBS RS’ reps.. yes, REPLICA wheels. Although we’ll forgive him, as he later saw sense and fitted a set of brand new 17″ Schmidt TH-Lines which he ran for quite a while – they looked great. Now, however, things have been switched up again with a set of 16″ Carline/Dyna CM2’s. “I knew I wanted some new wheels but couldn’t decide what to go for, until my decision was finally influenced by Sean Crompton’s E36 on Carline CM6s, so when I saw that Prakash Thanky was selling his CM2s off of his E21, I just had to go for them” Ethan explains.

 

 

After roughly measuring the car, Ethan let excitement get the better of him and went to pick up the CM2s regardless of not being sure whether they’d fit. Often with second-hand wheels, they don’t. Amazingly, the rears did fit just as he’d imagined, but the front wheels did have to be rebuilt with 3″ lips, changing them from 8J’s to 9J’s, and still required 15mm spacers to get them to fit exactly as he wanted. “Fitting tyres to them was a nightmare, due to the inside design of the barrels, the usual tyre shops were unable to fit the tyre sizes I was after and I ended up driving back to Luton, where I’d bought the wheels from, to see Faz at Specialist Tyres, who had come up with a method of fitting the tyres and got them on with no issues” he recalls. The wheels are now 16×9 up front with 195/40 tyres, and 16×10 rears with 215/40 tyres. As a result of the wheel building and work to get the front end lower and having the arches rolled, Ethan now has that glorious arch-to-lip fitment he desired.

 

 

Bodywise, Ethan has replaced the bonnet and both front wings due to their poor condition. At the same time, he had the “is” bootlid spoiler removed, although he now slightly regrets doing so. Various front lips have been fitted over the years, including a Reiger-style lip, which ended up in two pieces! He’s now settled for a genuine “is” lip and side skirts. Aside from that, you’ll also notice the euro-style yellow lights which compliment the Alpine White bodywork nicely. The M42 engine remains stock (other than the shallow sump, and the addition of a K&N air filter), but he did, however, have a complete custom stainless exhaust fabricated by Powerflow in Totton for a sportier driving experience.

 

 

Having recently bought himself a remapped BMW 123d daily driver, Ethan can now keep the E30 on the driveway and tinker with it as and when he pleases, without having to worry about it every day. With no plans to get rid, I get the feeling it will be a forever ongoing project. With a car like this, there’s always something do to, and Ethan absolutely loves a challenge and admits that the car is constantly changing (there are even talks of an M50/M52 swap in the future). Props to him for keeping at it for so long, his hard work has definitely paid off and he should be proud to have built himself one of the most eye-catching E30’s in the UK. Let’s see what next year brings!

 

BONUS GALLERY

 

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More info on Ethan Sexton:

@ethansexton on Instagram

 

 

 

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Forever Static – Sean Crompton’s 1999 BMW E36 328i cabriolet

Words & Photos by Henry Phull

 

OK, I admit it… I’ve featured my fair share of E36’s on Slam Sanctuary over the years, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop any time soon. Unsurprisingly, the E36 still remains a hugely popular choice in the world of car modification, purely because it’s such a great looking car that handles and drives amazingly, too. Of course, being so common, there are all sorts of examples out in the wild right now… some good, some damn right awful. Sean’s 328i cabriolet is one of the better ones, and I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to get it in front of the lens at a proper location (I’ve photographed the car countless times at events over the past year). What intrigues most people about Sean’s E36 is that it’s static. We’re now living in a time where air suspension is commonplace, with it being more affordable and more advanced than ever. I’m guessing the question that Sean gets asked the most is “Why are you still static?”… I know his answer all too well, “Why not?”. Other than Alex Wright’s 328i coupe that we featured a couple of year’s back, in my opinion this is the only other real candidate for the best “stupidly low” static E36 in the UK. Sean has executed this perfectly.

 

 

Sean, a 25 year old CNC turner from the Southampton area, has always been a car guy, but the E36 has actually been his first experience with the BMW marque. His first car was in fact a Polo 6N2 GTI – and the VAG love followed with a Mk1 Audi TT Quattro which he lowered on coilovers and Porsche Twist alloys, although, unfortunately it later came to light that the car had been previously written off twice, so it was swiftly sold on! This meant that it was time for something new. At the time, his friend Mike had just bought an E36 which Sean had grown fond of, and after some internet searching he stumbled across the convertible. Being the top of the range 328i model with the desired 18-button OBC, dual climate control, and cruise control, Sean was super keen on car. The fact that it was finished in Techno-Violet was the icing on the cake.

 

 

“The car was local to Southampton, without much knowledge of them and looking past the rattle-canned front bumper, bent nose cone, damaged skirts and faded interior, I knew this was for me.” Sean explains… In fact he was so eager to take it home, he did so without even test driving it. “If I had done, it may have put me off as I was used to the tight gearbox of the TT.” he laughs. Sean planned to simply tidy the car up and enjoy it, but, as we all know, these things can quickly get out of hand. Straight away, some cheap coilovers were installed whilst he saved up enough money for premium HSD components.

 

 

Next, an E36 M3 Vader black leather interior popped up for sale locally, which Sean scooped up immediately. He then set about sourcing plain black leather items to replace the back bench, as the rear M3 Vader bench only fits coupes. To follow, he picked up a set of BBS RC 041/042 wheels for just £120 (although they were in a  terrible state) and spent the next few weeks sandblasting the faces, painting them white, and then working through the wet and dry grades until he could eventually polish the lips. By this time Sean had purchased the uprated HSD DualTech coilovers and was gradually getting the car lower, whilst trying different tyre sizes and rolling arches… However, as usual with low static cars, the underside was starting to take a beating.

 

 

To improve the clearance, Sean removed the X-brace and machined up his own engine raisers at work which he installed to avoid smashing the sump. He then relocated the fuel filter to get some piece of mind that it wouldn’t get torn off! Upgraded brakes in the form of E46 330i components were also fitted with new braided & copper lines, and various bushes were upgraded to poly items for a stiffer ride. As time went by, he then upgraded the HSD coilover springs to stiffer 30kg ones and added adjustable rear control arms, which both massively reduced rubbing from the back tyres. With precautions and maintenance taken care of, Sean decided to switch up the wheels again with a set of wider Borbet A’s, but they didn’t last long…

 

 

He soon saw a set of 17″ Carline CM6 3 piece wheels come up for sale on a Facebook classifieds page in decent specs of 9.5j et14 with a 3” lip (fronts) and 11j et7 4” lip (rears). “I hadn’t really seen a set before but I had to have them, so the Borbet’s went straight on ebay and I drove to Leicester to collect the Carlines.” To get them to fit the car correctly, the rears had to be reduced to a 3.5” lip, and later on the front barrel was dropped half an inch to gain some more room for camber. After some trial and error, he married the wheels to 195/40 tyres up front and 225/35 rears. It wasn’t until after the introduction of the Carlines, that Sean’s real love for stance and fitment started.

 

 

“After running the Carlines for a while I got the bug for more camber!” he chuckles, but with his HSD top mounts already maxed out, Sean started to look online for information on how to gain a few more degrees of camber on the front setup. “I found that people were fitting E46 lower arms when drifting so I got a hold of a set and some E90 inner rods…” These were sourced and installed, although it did bring his barrel far too close to the spring (which is why he dropped the front barrel sizes). Sean is currently running a healthy -9 degrees on the front and -8 at the rear, which looks incredible.

 

 

With the exterior looking spot on, it was time to go back to the interior. “One of the things I love about the E36 is all the old orange back-lighting on the clocks, headunit, climate control and OBC. So I really didn’t want to remove the OEM headunit” he explains, so he wired new speakers, subwoofer and AUX cable into the original stereo to keep the OEM+ vibe.

 

 

Sean also spent a while searching for the right steering wheel… Although he originally wanted a Nardi, he couldn’t find the combination he wanted. “I’d have ended up with perforated leather which I’m really not into or red stitching which just wouldn’t work”. Eventually he came across the Renown USA 100 which features genuine leather, white stitching and brushed spokes. He knew it would look perfect and had it shipped over from the States.

 

 

All in all, Sean has built one hell of an E36. Personally, I don’t know how he puts up with driving it this low – I’ve been in it and it scrapes on just about everything, but for Sean, that’s what it’s all about. “Air ride doesn’t seem necessary to me on this sort of car – if something breaks, second hand parts are everywhere. Maybe if I had something older that I wanted to preserve I’d consider air, but certainly not on this, it’s too much fun!”… he laughs… “Figuring out how to get the car lower or to stop the rubbing… Even just getting somewhere with the guys is all part of the experience for me.” You can’t really argue with that. So what’s next for Sean and the E36? Well he’s mentioned the idea of smoothing Felony Form over-fenders into the rear quarters and building the wheels back to 11j’s, so keep an eye out, things are about to be turned up a notch!

 

BONUS GALLERY

 

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More info on Sean Crompton:

@seancrompton_ on Instagram

 

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Less is More – Carlos Gomez’ 1997 BMW E36 323i

Words & Photos by Henry Phull

 

The E36 3-series market has recently shifted, with resale values shooting upwards (a great thing for owners, but disheartening if you’re still looking to buy one). They’re now becoming more difficult to find, with no “middle ground” cars available. You’ll either encounter the battered drift-spec examples which are far from perfect or the near-mint cars which will be selling for strong money. Hell, I remember when you could pick up a 328i Sport for less than £1500, and that was only a couple of years ago. It seems to be impossible to find a decent one at that money now! These days, it’s all about finding a good shell and building from there. Can’t find a genuine Sport? No problem.. all it takes is bumpers and an interior. Want a 328i lump? The M50 engine can be uprated relatively easily. Stuck with a 318i? Hell, you can still swap the engine cheaply enough. Anyway, finding an E36 that remains OEM+, with the correct stance of course, is a rare thing. Bring on Carlos Gomez’ coupe, the perfect example of how less is definitely more. An original Alpine White car, his E36 is finished with a set of gold-faced BBS… A match made in heaven. Still, Carlos has had to put in a lot of hard work to get the car looking as good as it does today, which is easier said than done when it’s also his daily driver.

 

 

Carlos’ affection for BMWs came to fruition back in 2007, thanks to his friend Dave who owned a couple of E30’s and an E36. Although the E30’s would usually be in the spotlight, it was the E36 that completely mesmerized him, even if it was in a complete state. From then on, Carlos knew that he had to own one. But it didn’t start with BMWs… At 28, he’s owned a few interesting cars over the years since his first car (a Renault Clio 1.9 diesel), including a Mk3 Capri 2.8 Injection, which he recalls as being a “deathtrap”. He then moved up to his first BMW, a stock E36, which of course only stayed that way for a week or so before catching the modifying bug – lowering it, installing a new exhaust and rebuilding the engine. Some time later, he was in the position to upgrade to something a bit more powerful, an E46 M3, but amazingly Carlos left this one stock as he felt the car was “perfect” as it was.

 

 

After owning the M3 for a while, unfortunately, the time came for something that was cheaper to run, so Carlos found himself in a B5 VW Passat – a bit of a downgrade from M-Power! However, this was swiftly handed over to his other half, as he had to get himself back into a BMW as soon as possible. Next on the list was an E46 330ci Clubsport which he owned for just 6 months, as he felt it was nowhere near as good as the M3 was. Eventually, he found someone to swap it with a convertible E36, which in his opinion is more of a drivers car. This was where he took his modifications to the next level and really got stuck in – before the car we’re featuring today of course.

 

 

Carlos originally found out about this E36 as it was owned by a guy named Mike, who he’d actually met years ago through BMX (another of Carlos’ passions). He arranged to go and have a look. It was an Alpine White 323i, and the first time he’d seen a white one in person… It was love at first sight. It didn’t seem to bother him that the car was actually in a right state. Firstly it was an automatic, had tired bodywork, different coloured panels, the incorrect facelift wings and the bonnet wasn’t aligned correctly. Some time passed, and Mike eventually got the car running and basically kick started the project, swapping it to a manual gearbox, adding a welded diff, lightened flywheel with 328i injectors and exhaust system. He also fitted some coilovers and installed an LTW wing along with front and rear Sport bumpers. It then made an appearance at a local Southampton meet, which is where Carlos eventually saw it on the road. Even though he was in his convertible at the time, he still wanted the white coupe more than ever.

 

 

In December 2015, Carlos’ convertible was devastatingly written off, but perhaps for the better, as Mike knew how badly he wanted the coupe and finally caved in, selling it to Carlos. Although the car had no history whatsoever and was still pretty rough around the edges, he knew it was worth building on what Mike had started. All he had to do was tidy it up, but you know how these things often get out of hand…

 

 

The first port of call was to remove the “stupid welded diff” as Carlos called it. This was certainly not going to be a drift car – it was Carlos’ only car so it would need to be driven to and from work every day in whatever sort of comfort available. He firstly went for the cheaper option of a medium case diff… but cheaper is not always the best as he consequently discovered, snapping three diff bolts in just a month. Another £90 later it was poly-bushed and worry-free.

 

 

With Mike having done most of the engine upgrades, it was already pushing a bit more power than a normal 323i (Carlos still has an M50 manifold to fit to it also). However, he couldn’t put up with the stock exhaust for long, so a custom 3″ shotgun was fabricated, which didn’t last long either due to it making the car far too antisocial. The perfect Scorpion exhaust system then finally came up online, so he made a trip to Essex to pick it up. At last, Carlos was happy with the sound and so were his neighbours!

 

 

He then turned his attention to tidying up the bodywork, firstly by fitting another set of pre-facelift front wings and even replacing the rear arches (which were then rolled, too). Along with the LTW rear wing and Sport side skirts, Carlos ended up having a lot of the car resprayed including both front doors, as the car was “more like fifty shades of Alpine White” at the time, he laughs. He’s also fitted a front BMW number plate delete plate and fog blanks, as one of the original fogs was destroyed in an encounter with a deer.

 

 

“The interior was easy” Carlos explains… “BMW know what’s up”. Another reason he fell in love with the car is due to the fact that it had a super-clean set of M3 Vaders already fitted. He did have to spend some time sorting out the speaker, clock and horn wiring, and secure the notorious E36 interior panels, though. He also found some leather door cards and a new roof lining and pillars locally, to complete the M3 Evo-inspired interior. Carlos has also installed a wooden Nardi steering wheel and gear knob which works as a nice contrast to the Alpine White paintwork, and hints that the car is just that little bit different to a regular E36.

 

 

Carlos still had a set of wheels from his previous convertible E36, a set of BBS RTs. These are an OEM 2-piece BMW wheel option, although they have been taken a step further by splitting and rebuilding them using RC090 (BMW Style 5) barrels, which are much wider than the original RT ones. “That changed the look of them completely in my opinion” he explains. The RT faces were powder-coated in ‘Arizona Sun’ (a BMW colour) and the barrels fully polished, resulting in the perfect combination for any white car. Finally, they’ve been wrapped in 195/40 tyres up front and 205/40 on the rears, allowing for that much needed extra clearance when driving low.

 

 

“Having a decent suspension setup is the key to running the car this low, and taking my time setting it up has been crucial” Carlos explains. That said, both of his chassis rails are split and have large flat edges, but this is the downside to running a static low car every day, and thanks to the notorious Southampton roads. “I’ve spent a lot of time adjusting heights, dampening, playing with different tyre sizes and adjusting the camber all round” he continues. The car sits on HSD Dual Tech coilovers, with uprated 6″ 18k front and 4″ 22k rear springs, as the original 8/9k setup was far too soft. Overall, and after constant trial and error, it took him about six months to get the car sitting how he wanted, as you see it today.

 

 

With so many people turning to air ride these days, Carlos has mixed feelings about driving his car this low on coilovers. “Looks, excitement, stress… I actually enjoy the challenge of getting from A to B (when things go to plan), and the fact that I have a valid excuse when it comes down to giving people lifts!” he laughs. “To me being static makes driving that little more exciting”, although he admits it can be a headache too, and he’s become rather fed up of doing damage to his arches and chassis rails. Could air be on the cards soon?

 

 

Other than the wheels and coilovers, the car is relatively standard, which is the best way to keep an E36 in my opinion, unless you’re going balls-out low (like Alex Wright’s E36 we featured last year). Carlos’ coupe works for him as a slammed daily driver… it’s a thing of beauty, perfected with a Bolts Bolts USDM sidelight kit, and most recently a Fancy Wide rear diffuser to make the rear end more aggressive. Along with the LTW rear wing, the car has an appropriate number of subtle mods, without taking it too far and looking silly. Nobody likes a try-hard, right?

 

 

Thanks to his E36, the car community has started to play a much bigger part in Carlos’ life than he had ever imagined it would. “I feel lucky to have met so many genuine people in these last couple of years. The car community has made me feel at home.” Originally, and still very much, a BMX guy, Carlos started to find the BMX scene that he once loved, become dull over recent years. “The car scene took me in. I don’t know if that’s down to luck or if that’s the way it has been but I’m grateful either way.” Working as a stevedore at Southampton docks, with 50-70 hour weeks, days and nights and with a family at home, Carlos doesn’t get much time to do what he loves, but when the gets any free time, he still tries to get out on his BMX or work on the car with his friends. “My car wouldn’t be where it’s at without the help of my friends. Thanks boys!” I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes the car next, but it’s always refreshing to see such a clean example being driven daily. Keep it up, Carlos!

 

More info:

@carlos_g88 on Instagram

 

 

Picking up a couple of exotics

Words & Photos by Henry Phull

 

I hadn’t planned on doing much last Saturday, but that all changed rather quickly after I received a call on Friday evening from my friend Nick Sahota (If you frequent the website, you might’ve heard of him. He owns the E30 M3 and E34 540i that we recently featured, along with a large collection of cars). “I’m picking up the Testarossa and Diablo tomorrow, do you want to come with me?”. Well, what would you have done? This did, however, mean a very early start for myself. I left mine at 6:15am, to get to Nicks in Southampton for 7am. The day started, almost catastrophically, with me aquaplaning twice along the A31 because the rain was so bad. Luckily, after doing a maximum of 50mph down the motorway, I made it in one piece to Nicks, where there were two commercial trailers waiting to be hitched up. The tow vehicles of choice were Nick’s X6M (his daily driver) and his friend Dean’s Nissan Navara pickup, with Chris and Steven piloting it. Still dark and pouring with rain, we connected the trailers and hit the road again for a 250-mile drive up to Bradford.

 

 

The weather throughout the drive was still dire, but the X6M made the journey a breeze thanks to the 4wd system, and with every optional extra ticked it was certainly the most comfortable BMW I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a passenger in. It turned out to be an ideal towing vehicle, too… Nick had to keep reminding himself that there was a trailer behind us as it was that unnoticeable. With a breakfast stop and a couple of toilet breaks, we finally made it up north to the luxurious A Kahn Design headquarters, the dealer which Nick purchased the cars from.

 

 

The Bradford branch is one of three Kahn dealerships (the other two in Leeds and London) and the main headquarters, full of some incredibly rare classic supercars including some of Kahn’s personal collection. These are the sort of cars you just don’t see, so walking upstairs into this first-floor showroom took my breath away.

 

 

After half an hour of wandering around and admiring these exotic beauties, we were led downstairs into the workshop, where Nicks new cars were waiting for him. The first car being a 1994 Lamborghini Diablo VT with just 29k on the clock. A Japanese import, the car has some questionable modifications, but fortunately, they’re mostly just badges, LED’s and old-school ICE that will be promptly removed, Nick assures me. The original Lamborghini teledial wheels were sourced too, so these will also be swapped over eventually.

 

 

The second car (because why not buy both, right?) is a Koenig Specials 1989 Ferrari Testarossa, again with a few trinkets (yes, more LEDs) that need removing, but a solid car with just 29k miles on it, like the Lambo. Nick has sourced a set of OZ Futuras to rebuild for the Testarossa which should totally transform it from the BBS wheels currently fitted.

 

 

With the cars checked over, it was time for the fun part… getting them on to the trailers. We were now super-worried that neither of the cars would fit, as they were so much wider than what we’d anticipated, especially the Lamborghini. Typically, Nick hadn’t actually measured anything prior to leaving. This made for an unforgetful experience.

 

Nick eyes-up the trailer

 

The Diablo VT patiently waiting to be loaded up

 

 

The problem we had was that the trailers Nick had brought were far from ideal. One trailer had sides and end poles that could not be removed on site, so it took numerous maneuvers to get the Testarossa onto the trailer properly. None of us really had any idea what we were doing so the whole debacle took some two and a half hours, mostly spent trying to get the Testarossa out of a sticky situation. It had become so late in the day, that we were starting to worry about it getting dark.

 

 

 

Being a Saturday afternoon, 90% of Kahn’s staff had gone home, so we were left with just one very helpful mechanic who went the extra mile to help us out. Getting the Diablo loaded was much easier, considering the other trailer had no protruding sides to get in the way, although it was still a tight fit. We finally managed it, although we’re probably on the internet elsewhere making fools of ourselves… I imagine any videos posted would be titled along the lines of “How not to load a supercar” or similar. In hindsight, it must have looked rather funny to anyone passing by.

 

 

We stopped half a mile down the road in the nearest petrol station to check whether the cars were comfortable on the trailers, and to fuel the tow vehicles for the long road home. All was good, although we took it a lot slower this time. Amazingly, Nick still didn’t even notice he was towing anything, even with a Diablo onboard. If you’re looking for a tow-car, I can’t recommend the X6M enough! By the time we hit the motorway it was already getting dark, which made for an extremely boring, and utterly stressful 5-6 hour drive home. We received plenty of thumbs up and people losing their minds once they spotted the cars though!

 

 

We made it back to Southampton with no issues and stopped to refuel one final time so that the new cars were ready to drive. Unloading the cars back home in near total darkness was also rather interesting, but after the earlier messing around, we were more confident with unloading.

 

 

Being up, close and personal with these cars was an unreal experience. These were the two cars that most of us dreamt of during our childhood. Does anyone else remember driving them on the old Need For Speed games? I never thought I’d be this close to either of them, let alone sit in them. It’s nowhere near the same as experiencing a modern-day supercar, as these two are simply iconic. Congratulations to Nick for finally adding two of his dream cars to the garage. I can’t wait to see him put his touch on them… I’m trying my best to convince him to put one of them on air, so who knows…

 

 

The next day, and with Nick being Nick, the Testarossa got some use straight away!

A Life Sentence – Ryan Powell’s 1997 Volkswagen Mk3 Golf VR6

Words & Photos by Henry Phull

 

If you’ve been frequenting Slam Sanctuary and the specific portion of the car community we tend to focus on, then you’ll know that the Volkswagen Golf has long been one of the most popular chassis choices for styling and performance modifications. However, choosing which model to go for can be challenging unless you have your heart set on one or the other. Ryan Powell opted to build himself a Mk3 which we are showcasing today. Despite being a huge fan of the Mk1 and Mk2’s, the later Mk3 had some of the newer technology that the older cars lacked – but still not completely reliant on computers. It’s the model that is classed as ‘old but new’ – the last of the classic Golfs before they became completely modernised and overrun by troublesome electronics. In a momentary lapse of reason, Ryan almost found himself buying a Corrado VR6, so clearly the engine played a strong part in Ryan’s decision to go with the Golf, which was to become a huge part of his life.

 

 

Passing his driving test at the age of twenty, Ryan’s driving debut started quite late. Think ‘Max Power’, and you’ll get an idea of how his motoring days began… the first car being a Vauxhall Corsa which was rolled within the first three weeks of ownership. It was then swiftly replaced by another Corsa which was also written off from being driven into a wall! So, two Vauxhall’s down the scrap yard in record time… Ryan soon decided it was time to upgrade to something he actually wanted and would take care of. He has always been in love with Volkswagens before he could even drive, drooling over his older cousin’s issues of Performance VW and even going to car shows and meets with him and mates. A look into insurance quotes showed that Golf’s were finally within his threshold… the search was on.

 

 

After searching for a few weeks Ryan came across the car you see today, just down the road from him in Portsmouth, although it was completely standard at the time. Unfortunately the Golf was a non Highline model, but it was finished in ‘LO41 Straight Black’ – a desirable colour, in addition to being a rot-free, low mileage VR6. Being right on his doorstep, there was no way Ryan was going to let this one go… A deal was done and his VR6 base was ready for the upcoming years worth of modifications.

 

 

Ryan has owned the Mk3 for over four and a half years now, so it’s naturally been through a few different stages and looks. Unsurprisingly he wanted to get the car on the floor as soon as possible, starting on coilovers with a set of KW V1’s then later upgrading to GAZ Custom Ultra Low’s which drove great, but with the height that Ryan ran the car at, plus the amount of travel left on the coilovers, the Golf’s arches were taking a significant beating. With constant bills for sump repairs, sub frames and arch work, a switch to air ride was on the horizon to save money (and the car) in the long run.

 

 

About a year ago, Ryan bit the bullet and forked out his hard-earned cash on a full Mk3 AirREX strut kit with Air Lift Performance V2 management, which he fitted himself on the driveway. Once he got his head around everything, he reckons the fitting part was a pretty simple task. Whilst some people would just bolt on the air and be done with it, Ryan told himself that if he was going to be on air ride he wanted the car to properly lay frame – this meant a bit more work and messing around. A few visits to Coltech Classics in Poole for some chassis notching, as well as an engine raise so that the sump sits level with the subframe, and the car now lays frame whilst fully air’d out. A little additional work can go a long way.

 

 

The first set of wheels Ryan ran on the Golf were 16″ 8j Mercedes 8-holes which he absolutely adored, but when the chance to own some genuine splits arose (located just 10 minutes from his house) he jumped at the chance… 17×8 & 17×9 BBS LM’s with ET35 all round. Although with a 5×114.3 centre bore, it meant that Ryan had to find somewhere to get some adapters made up, and opted for Adaptec Speedware in the USA – after running a set on his previous Mercedes wheels he already knew that the quality of their work was excellent. With the wheels and adapters mounted, Ryan went through a few different tyres to get to the optimal fitment, resulting in 185/35/17 up front and 195/40 at the rear which allow the car to sit just right.

 

 

Body wise, Ryan has added a few special touches to complete the car’s look. Firstly, you’ll no doubt be wondering about the front end.. Hella Quad headlights really make it unique – Ryan admits that the lights get a varied feedback – but the car was built for him and nobody else, so why should other people’s opinions matter, right? He’s managed to pull them off and distinguish his car from the crowd. Along with the headlight swap, the car rocks a Vento front bumper with a smoothed plate recess and GL splitter. At the rear you’ll notice a shortened plate recess and a tasteful Votex spoiler. To tidy up the rest of the exterior, Ryan fitted brand new wings, replaced all the door handles with colour coded items and even changed the window glass rubbers all round.

 

 

After running the car with its original paint for a few years, Ryan wanted the shell to be perfect, resulting in a full respray in the original LO41 colour to keep it OEM. Before it hit the paint booth, the wings were completely flattened to allow for maximum clearance all round. Ryan fully prepped the car himself before handing it over to the paint shop, and even had to put everything back together himself afterwards. His good friend Chris Phillips then gave the car a complete detail to make that new paintwork pop like it should.

 

 

The attention to detail Ryan has taken with the outside definitely follows throughout the interior, making this Mk3 a lovely place to be. He first swapped out the original interior for a set of leather Highline seats, but found himself sliding all over the place due to his ‘spirited driving’. These were quickly swapped out and replaced with a pair of Recaro’s. To match these, Ryan sourced a Vento rear bench and had it retrimmed in the same material, along with the gear and handbrake gators. The roof lining was then dyed black, the carpet changed to black, and the A, B and C pillars replaced with Highline items.

 

 

You wouldn’t even notice if you weren’t a dedicated Golf fanatic, but Ryan even replaced small things like grab handles with B4 examples and sun visors from a Mk3 Cabriolet. Furthermore, he installed a US spec rear centre console with cup holders and a boot switch which has been fully wired up. The rather ugly original Mk3 steering wheel was binned in favour of a Momo Team 280mm wheel – which Ryan says vastly improves the driving experience, but not the parking!

 

 

The audio set up in the car is moderately basic, with an Alpine bluetooth headunit and upgraded Hertz HSK 165XL speakers – but when you have the sound of that VR6 engine note to listen to, who needs an expensive audio set up? Of course, the tank and components for the air ride had to be installed into the boot, and after attempting it himself Ryan realised he was no carpenter. He decided the best place to take it to on the South coast was Shakey at Studio Incar, who created a basic tank install with plenty of room leftover for a usable boot.

 

 

Ryan, a massive fan of the VR6 in its stock form, opted not to do anything out of the ordinary under the hood. The engine is all about the noise in his opinion, with a dream of supercharging it in the future just to improve the sound even more – power gains seem to do nothing for him. Unfortunately on the night before Players Show and Deutsch Connection a few years ago, the head gasket gave up and the car barely made it to the shows. The engine was inevitably rebuilt, with a set of 263 cams and the addition of a K&N panel filter with a slightly modified air box. With the work done, Ryan has a worry-free and usable VR6.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, the best way to increase the VR6’s sound was to upgrade the exhaust system. After becoming fed up of the previously fitted exhaust whistling like a turbo at 4,000 RPM, Ryan had a full custom stainless steel Powerflow system installed, which sounds incredible. The custom system also meant it could be fabricated to sit closer to the floor to allow yet more clearance. Ryan likes to push the Golf to its limits, so stopping power is rather vital. The factory brakes on the VR6 aren’t anything special so Ryan changed them for a set of Skoda Octavia VRS brake callipers and carriers allowing him to run 312mm discs, along with braided Goodrich hoses and dot 5.1 brake fluid.

 

 

Ryan’s job sees him working at Southampton docks on car transport ships, so he’s constantly driving all sorts of vehicles including exotics like Aston Martin’s, McLaren’s, Rolls Royce’s, Bentley’s, etc… Yet it is the Golf that puts the biggest smile on his face. Four and a half years is a significantly long time to own a project car in comparison to most of the people we’ve previously featured, but this one has been kept fresh with an ever-evolving appearance. Despite the toned-down approach to building the car (you could say that it’s a sleeper of some sort), it still breaks necks and stops people in their tracks wherever it goes. All those years ago when Ryan was drooling over Volkswagen’s in those magazines – he’s now created something that puts everyone else in awe with his stunning example of a Mk3 that sits just perfectly.