Tag Archives: Vader

Santorini Blues – Barry Smith’s 1998 BMW E36 328i

Words & Photos by Henry Phull


Having featured a selection of stunning examples already, the BMW E36 is undoubtedly one of our favourite cars here at Slam Sanctuary. However, you could argue that they’ve somewhat over-populated the modified car scene as of late, but we’re continuing to sift through them and still finding notable builds that we feel are worth highlighting – if they’re done right, they are still one of the best looking BMWs, ever. Today, the spotlight is on Barry Smith’s E36, which has been re-built from the ground up. Thinking about it, it’d be hard to find a cleaner example in the UK that looks like it’s just been delivered from the factory – well, at least one that features a few improvements over OEM. Notably, a healthy drop on Air Lift Performance bags and a set of 18″ 3SDM forged wheels. But don’t worry, this isn’t just another “air and wheels” build… Barry’s car has undergone some extensive refreshing, including a full respray in the gorgeous BMW ‘Santorini Blue’.



Aged 45, Barry has had his fair share of projects over the years. “I’ve always had a massive interest in cars, mainly subtly modified cars, and I particularly enjoyed attending GTI international – especially when it was based at Crowthorne” he explains. As we’ve seen with a lot of newcomers to the BMW marque, Barry has only recently made the switch from Volkswagen, having owned 2 Mk2 Jetta GTI’s, 2 Mk3 Golf GTI’s, a Mk4 Golf V5, a Mk1 Golf with G40 swap, and a Mk2 Golf with an Audi S3 engine swap! He’s even owned a Porsche 964 which he now regrets letting go, big time, as their values have shot up in recent years.



With a BMW E90 as his daily driver, Barry became more interested in BMWs and the way they drove. In March 2016 he fancied a new project car… “I was originally looking for an older model… an E28 or E21, but I got frustrated waiting to source a good one” he explains. Around the same time that he was on the hunt for a car, an E36 popped up for sale which had been kept by the same previous owner for the past 18 years – a solid car which hadn’t been messed around with. For a project car, this is exactly the right sort of base to start with.



The car in question was a 1998 328i auto, finished in Montreal Blue and generally in great shape. Plus, it had Sport bumpers and sideskirts spec’d from the factory, which made it an even more attractive purchase. Naturally a deal was done on the E36 and Barry took delivery. His first port of call was to spruce up the mechanical side of things, which meant a trip to his friend Colin at Kustom Kolors, where the team added an M50 inlet manifold (the easiest way to get more power from a 328i lump). Plus, an uprated throttle body, Active Autowerke Cold Air induction system and an Eisenmann race-diameter 70mm exhaust & de-cat were installed for a fruitier sound. The dated OEM brakes were also upgraded to Stoptech units for extra stopping power.



Barry knew that he wanted the car to sit as low as possible from the get-go, but still needed the car to maintain drivability. After years of running static cars, he opted to go for air suspension, allowing him the best of both worlds. Luckily Kustom Kolors were willing to take control of the air installation, too. With so much happening to the car already, Colin persuaded Barry to go even further with it and get the whole car resprayed in the eye-catching Santorini Blue, a rare BMW Individual colour – whilst replacing every single window rubber and body moulding at the same time. During the car’s time at Kustom Kolors, they also had a chance to roll the front and rear arches to fit a set of 18″ wheels that Barry had planned for it.



Kustom Kolors also had the rear quarter seams welded to the rear panel and got on with smoothing a lot of the bodywork – including welding up the boot and bonnet badges, removing the boot lock and original M-tech spoiler. They even remade the rear number plate plinth, so it has no visible lock and removed the side repeaters too. They then installed a carbon fibre splitter to make the front end a bit meaner, along with black kidney grills and a US number plate plinth/delete. You’ll also notice the distinctive pair of AC Schnitzer aftermarket wing mirrors.



With the bodywork sorted and new paint applied, it was time to decide on wheels. Barry opted for a set of brand new 3SDM Forged 3.19 FR Series, 18×8.5 up front and 18×9 rears, which he thought were unusual and different to what is out there on other E36’s – they really do set the car off from other examples. The wheels were paired with 215/35 front and 225/35 rear tyres, for some subtle stretch.



Next, and most importantly, it was time to get the E36 closer to the ground. Air Lift Performance bags/struts were used all round, along with AccuAir SwitchSpeed management to control everything. A large colour-coded 5 litre air tank is situated in the boot, along with two VIAIR 444c Black Edition compressors. The rest of the management system is hidden away out of view. Colin also fabricated some custom air lines which run through the sills and front chassis legs, with custom braided leader hoses to the bags. Barry decided it would be a good chance to upgrade the factory audio whilst the air install took place, so it was replaced with an Alpine head unit, MB Quart components and a Pioneer hidden sub.



With the outside of the car now looking incredible, Barry wanted to go that extra mile and finish off the car with a full interior re-trim, as well as installing a set of M3 Vader front seats – probably the best OEM+ option for the E36. The contrasting nappa grey leather works wonderfully with the Santorini Blue paint. Finally, Barry added a Momo Jet steering wheel for an improved driving feel.


In September 2016, after around four months build time, the car was finally “finished”. That being the tail-end of show season, Barry has only been able to take it to a couple of events (Westside Treffen and Ultimate Stance – where it won in the Top 20), so he can’t wait for this year’s show circuit to kick off. But as we all know, a car is never fully “complete” – there are still plans to upgrade the AccuAir SwitchSpeed to the auto-levelling E-Level management, and smooth the engine bay. This is definitely an E36 to keep your eye on – not that it’s hard to miss!




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More info on Barry Smith:

@santorinie36 on Instagram


More info on Kustom Kolors:

@kustom_kolors on Instagram

Kustom Kolors website


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



Tallis Godfrey’s E36 M3 Evo Cab

Words & Photos by Henry Phull


As a lover of the OEM+ style, Tallis Godfrey’s estoril blue BMW E36 M3 Evo cabriolet was one of my stand out cars of last year, having spotted it at a selection of shows. This is yet another example of how simplicity is usually a favourable approach to a build. I never had the chance to meet Tallis at any of the events until recently at the ‘Bacon, Eggs & BMWs’ meet, where we finally arranged to photograph the car. As the weather was so good that day he agreed to let me shoot it then and there, after finding a nice spot within the Fairoaks Airport grounds.



Okay I’m aware, its a cabriolet.. but we decided to keep the roof on for the majority of the shoot. There’s something about the E36 hard top.. they look exquisite. Possibly nicer than a coupe, but thats just my opinion. Feel free to judge yourself, or let the photographs choose for you.




The M3 sits on a classic choice of wheel, the 17″ ‘Style 5’ / BBS RC090 with polished barrels, complimented by Audi platinum silver centres with custom estoril blue nuts to match the car’s paintwork, a fantastic job by Dips at The Custom Cars. The staggered 8j & 9j set are running 205/40/17 tyres up front and 215/40/17 with additional 5mm spacers on the rear.



It certainly made a change to see an E36 without the headlights full of condensation! Tallis has installed a full plasma white 5.5k HID kit, with added CCFL angel eyes to accompany brand new OEM lenses. They look mint, and make the car look like new.



Suspension wise, the M3 features Eibach Pro Street coilovers, fully wound down, and a Stance-Solutions Static+ kit which fits directly to the top of the coilovers – an interesting alternative to a full air ride setup. The rear suspension remains completely static, where as the front is assisted by the Static+ kit, charged with air to raise the ride height up to 50mm if required. Ideal for tackling annoying obstacles.



Tallis has currently set up the rear camber arms to -3.3, but has had them up to -5.5 in the past.



This is one of the cleanest E36 M3s you will ever see in the UK. Everything on it has been done to absolute perfection.



The inside of the car has had just as much love and care spent on it as the outside has. Notice the extended leather dashboard and centre console, all colour coded. Plenty of ICE is also to be found, with an H&K upgraded 11 speaker system, Alpine head unit with DVD, Sat Nav, Freeview and iPod connectivity.



Being a BMW ‘Individual’ model, the M3 came with colour coded leather sports seats from the factory. Tallis however went the extra mile and custom fitted a pair of Vader headrests, an essential mod for any E36. The OEM steering wheel was retrimmed by Royal Steering Wheels which features extra thick padding, oem grain and perforated leather, blue and red ‘M’ stitching and matching blue inserts to compliment the Individual colour combination.



Behind the steering wheel there are retrofitted Mercedes AMG paddles customised to fit using a slip ring from an E39, all working to control the factory SMG gearbox.



The air install includes a twin head pump in the boot which is controlled by a single two way switch, seen on the top left switch surround above the gear selector. Compression fittings rather than a push fit were chosen for a nice sound when raising and lowering, using a 6mm nylon line with a 12 o/c solenoid to dump the air. All of this is discreetly hidden away.




Being the Evo model, it has the later 3.2 S50 straight six engine and is almost entirely untouched, bar a Gruppe M induction kit and an Autologic remap. The bay is finished off with a custom polished strut brace. The exhaust is also completely stock as Tallis loves the look and sound of it as it is.




Every panel, bumper strip and accessory is like new. It just goes to show that by tackling all the minimal parts on a car, it can really bring it back to life and have people wondering what it is that makes this car look better than most other E36 M3s.. because lets face it, this car is mostly OEM. Most non die-hard BMW fans won’t realise how much effort has actually gone in to making it look as stunning as it does, but they will stop in the street and look. Its a real head turner. For Tallis, thats a job well done.



Of course we had to take the hard top off for a cheeky shot. I wouldn’t mind rolling around in the summer like this, so very stylish.



Tallis has really stepped up the OEM+ game with his pride and joy. Be sure to check it out at shows this year, where it will probably be rocking a new set of Porsche splits for the new season. I’m looking forward to seeing the new look.