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Bastien Bochmann's E36 323i Touring

Photography by Bastien Bochmann

It seems that for many, the cars that influenced us most as kids were the ones that received a special place in our hearts. It could have been a dream exotic or simply a family member’s car that meant a great deal to us and in some way left a large impact in our lives. For Bastien that car was a black E36 Touring. He has wanted one ever since his dad owned one when he was a kid. His father’s was a Cosmosblack 318i with clear corners and smoked MHW taillights, lowered on AP springs and sporting AC Schnitzer replicas made by Alutec. He can still distinctly remember every bit of it.

Back when it was time to search for his first car, Bastien went through a phase of wanting something Japanese. He was looking mostly at Toyota Celicas and such, but couldn’t find one in good condition for the budget he had. By chance, his dad found a nice VW Golf GT Mk3 and convinced him to look at it. He fell in love with the car at first sight and this re-kindled his love for Euros. He sold the Golf a year later after some mods and started looking for something with a bit more power… originally looking for another Golf, this time a VR6, but discovered the ones in his budget to be completely beat. For a good one, he would’ve had to pay nearly double what he had available. As his dad had just bought a E36 323ti a few months prior, he took a look at E36′s and promptly bought his first one in May 2008. A 320i sedan that he dropped on a set of AP coilovers (the very set he’s still running on his Touring today) and put on a set of Azev A wheels. In 2009, the engine started running on 5 cylinders occasionally, so after some thought, he convinced himself to sell the 320i and buy something with a bit more power and options. That is when his old dream came back and he remembered the Touring.

In November Bastien found his Touring. A Cosmosblack 323i automatic with many options and about 200,000kms on the clock. He was specifically looking for an automatic as he no longer wanted to bother with a manual for daily duties. From his sedan, he swapped over the AP coilovers and the clear corners. He already had a set of wheels waiting to go on it (which he originally bought for the sedan). They were OEM Style 32′s from a 7 series E38 in 18 x 8″/9″ staggered. He had them powder coated in light pearl grey. In the meantime, he managed to source some smoked MHW taillights and installed M-bumpers, sideskirts and mouldings. Once he got the wheels back from powder coating, they were wrapped them in 215/35/18′s. He rolled like that for the next year. When winter 2010 hit, he sold the 18′s because he felt they were getting too played out by the E36 crowd. He wanted something unique and also something that allowed him to go lower, so it was back to 17″. He managed to source a set of Rial Type A mesh wheels in 17 x 8.5″ et13 & 17 x 9.5″ et20. The plan was to polish them and run them on the Touring for 2011… that’s when disaster struck.

First, he gracefully slid into a sign pole on a patch of ice and bent the rear quarter panel of the Touring. Then, he crashed his company car and his licence was confiscated because he was suspected of being at fault. He was cleared in the trial about 6 months later. This meant 6 months without being allowed to drive. Additionally, he was also fired from work. You can only imagine how rough that half a year was for him. He took the Touring off the road and de-registered it. He very nearly was forced to sell it, which was extremely difficult for him. By now, he had built up quite the emotional attachment to this car. “It’s stupid really, but I love this thing to bits,” he said. In the end he managed to pull through so he could keep the Touring… and also started fixing it.

So it began, nearly every day he spent working on some small things. Taking place in his driveway, he fixed the body, hammered out the big dent in the quarter panel where he crashed it into the sign pole, fixed the rear bumper which also broke in the crash, replaced a front fender and both front doors due to rust, replaced the front bumper because it was cracked from hitting an animal, rebuilt the coilovers, re-did some other suspension parts, and installed excentric 3.2l M3 top hats mounted inversely for more negative camber up front to fit the 8.5″ et13 wheels nicely. He finally did a test fit with the Rials and noticed that they were rubbing against the brake caliper. It was a good thing he had scored an insane deal on a set of BBS RF’s right around the same time. They were nearly identical specs too… 17 x 8.5″ et13 (front) & 17 x 9.5″ et13 (rear). He had the wheels refinished and wrapped them in 205/40′s & 225/35′s. They fit like a glove in the front, but the rear had to be pulled quite a bit to ensure no rubbing (even under full compression). So together with his dad he pulled the rear arches. After that, he had the car resprayed in the original color—Cosmosblack. When he finally got it back, he was amazed. “This was my trusty old Touring? It looked just like I always wanted it to.” Bastien ‘completed’ (and he uses that term loosely as there’s still a lot of plans left to do) the build in late 2011. He could finally lean back and enjoy the 2012 season.

In 2012, the car gave him a bit of a headache as it left him stranded on two separate occasions because of problems with the cooling system. But apart from that, everything went flawlessly. Not even a roadtrip to a car meet in the United Kingdom offered up any difficulties. In late 2012 he finally was able to buy a daily driver (E34, which he recently replaced with an E38) and the Touring was retired to “fun car status”.

“It’s not perfect. I know that. It’s got some issues here and there (paint chips on the front fenders, heavy rock chips on the front bumper, needs a detail badly, drive shafts are squeaking at certain speeds and so on), but to me, this is close to the perfect car,” he explained. He has some new mods planned for it this year, mainly getting the interior up to spec. In the long run, he wants to swap in an S50 with a 6-speed manual transmission, but for now he doesn’t mind it the way it is. It’s still plenty quick and fun, even though it’s just an automatic 323i.