Steaming straight into the work on my E36, I decided to go for the aesthetics first. Why are you not surprised? At least I have a good excuse this time..
Usually, when you buy a 15 year old car, there are a plethora of jobs and a mile-long snagging list to sort out before you can really start to enjoy the thing in earnest. But, as I drove away in my apparently bargainous E36, the passenger seat groaning under the weight of its bewilderingly comprehensive service history and supporting paperwork, and the exhaust note burbling beautifully with the contentment of a happy engine, I knew that unusually, this was going to be a different story…
In my first few thousand miles with the car, I’ve realised once again what a simply brilliant bit of kit a nicely sorted E36 can be. The eagerness of the power delivery, the smoothness of that fabled six and the wonderful RWD balance and poised brilliance make this era of ‘3’ the last of the small and relatively lightweight chuckable sports saloons. Turning the traction off makes roundabouts entertaining and I’m finding that I’m driving the thing everywhere just to take advantage of its great road manners. The best bit? With the exception of the pixelated radio, it all works beautifully, and for the first time in a long time, I’m driving an old-ish, cheap car that isn’t going to need so much as a service any time in the near future. The result of this? Any spare pennies can go straight into making it look, work and go a whole lot better than Munich ever thought it could.
Although longer terms plans include a set of BILSTEIN’s brilliant B16 suspension and a whole load of other chassis tweaks, in the meantime, walking out to the car every morning was searing my eyeballs in a sea of orange. Those hideous amber light clusters and indicators were going to have to go! Even in the late ‘90s, with the rest of the world moving towards more fashionable clear and crystal units, BMW soldiered on with its insistence on the dated looking, lozenge-coloured lumps of plastic. The result was a car that started to look more elderly than its less dynamically able peers. It was sorted on later and subsequent models of course, but on mid-‘90s cars like this, to my mind anyway, ‘dispatching the tango’ can bring a seriously effective face lift and visual improvement.
Having learned the hard way on previous BMWs that scouring Ebay for the cheapest looking set is often false economy, I decided to do exactly what I did last time on my E38 and call the guys at M-Style to see what they had in store. This scores on several levels. Firstly these guys know what they’re talking about, secondly they nearly always have it in stock, and lastly, you know it’s going to be of great quality and it’s going to fit. Aftermarket rear lights are notorious on BMWs for letting water in, as the aperture is basically just one huge hole. If the seals that come with the kit don’t fit as well as the factory lights – and they seldom do – you’re going to be bailing out your boot space like a crew member on the Titanic, if you’re not careful.
The red and clear rears I got from M-Style have very substantial looking seals, and fitted perfectly. Ever the lazy journo, I got my good mate Ads (off the telly!!) to pop then on for me under the pretence that I had to work the Nikon while he did it. In my defence, I did make the tea while he was doing it though. Thanks to the quality of the new M-Style units, it was all the work of mere seconds, and everything looked much more up to date. M-Style also provide all the new amber bulbs in with the kit, and it’s all just a very simple case of ‘plug and play’ with the whole set-up working on the first flick of each switch. We didn’t even have time to move onto the second chocolate hob-nob before Ads had got it all done.
The front lamps were a very reasonable £25, the sides £18 and the rears £82.80, so we’re not talking huge amounts of cash here, and it does pay to but decent stuff the first time round. They have similar options for most years and models of Beemer, so if you’re needing to make your old bus look a little less… well, old!… give James and the M-Style chaps a call. Similarly, if you’re anywhere near the Notts/East Midlands way and want a cracking tech to look after your car, Ads is your man.