Everyone has a dream car. Maybe a few dream cars, all on an equal pedestal. Either way, we had a select few cars that we would love to own and build to our exact dream specification. 

For myself, the dream was an E36 Coupe. A seemingly common car that is also cheap to buy - or at least was at the time. 

I bought hellrot red beast back in April 2021, on a whim, after I saw it for sale for £1500 on Facebook marketplace. The deal was done within a day and the car was delivered as part of the deal. As per usual, the car was a little rustier than expected, but I believe if you are still under the mindset that people sell their car without rose tinted glasses, then it's time for you to learn. I was happy with the purchase and at the end of the day, all E36's in the UK are rusty and bodged in some way or another. 

The BMW was dailied for 8 weeks and then... BANG. In Bristol city centre one day, it just stopped working. Now, I believe it was an electrical fault as it had the craziest wiring job done, but as the enthusiast that I am, I decided to use this as an excuse to rip it all apart. 

So that's what happened. Bit by bit it was torn into pieces. Now, this process dragged on as it was the side project of all side projects. Quite literally, 1 whole year before it was sent off for a full stripping. I managed to get the engine out on a weekend, but then things got too busy so it sat outside for best part of a year. 

After getting most of the summer over and done with, I decided it was time to get a move on with the project as my MX5 was complete and finished (well mostly). I lacked the time myself but had a few trusty contacts who could do the dirty jobs that needed doing the most. This mainly consisted of getting it solid and remove all of the rust.

The E36 was collected and stripped down to it's bare bones. This needed to be done if we were doing a proper restoration. Although it revealed even more rust, it did mean we would be fully confident that the car was solid as a rock before anything went back together. Darren (the fabricator), chopped away and replaced with fresh metal until the chassis was rock solid. 

Now we skip forward a few boring steps, but the welding was complete. A fantastic job was done and with a thicker gauge steel to ensure that the abuse that would come in the long distant future would be withstood. After Darren, it then headed off to Axer Fabrications, who built the roll cage. It was a full cage with gussets, which overall strengthened the shell, looked great and allowed for the pillarless conversion that we were doing. 

At this point, 90% of the fabrication was done - all that was left would be engine bay dressing up, but this would be something I'd tackle myself as I do find smoothing a bay rather satisfying. The E36 was then collected and taken for full sandblasting. I could either DA the entire shell, or send it for blasting and have it done to a great standard and have a perfect underside to paint. So this is what I did. 

Once we got the car back, we went in with the red oxide. Although the shell had been primered, we needed to give it as many coats as possible to ensure that it would be as protected as can be. We went in with a quality red oxide and a brush and went to town. 

This was surprisingly quick to do and only took about 2hrs. The only thing left to do was the rear wheel arches, but these also needed to be tubbed. I wanted to tackle this myself as a learning process but wasn't particularly looking forward to it. 

It was more so a game of measure multiple times and cut once. Then it was just a case of creating new shapes to fit the gaps, tack in then weld fully. As you can see from the bottom image, this was the final product. 

After both sides were done, it was then a case of Buzzweld War product on the entire underside. For a full kit, you're looking at around £200 which includes enough WAR coating to coat the entire underside with a thick layer. I'm a massive advocate for their products as they're actually just really good. Not like waxoyl or something that stays tacky or oily - WAR is like a really really good stonechip. It's applied with either a brush or a Schutz gun, which is what I used. As you can see, the underside looks amazing. We chose a custom mix grey so we can have a very clean look on the underside for years to come. 


Now that the underside was fully ticked off, we can then proceed to work on the bay and interior. These were my two main areas that I wanted to put heavy focus on; reason being that on the Miata that I had built, the engine bay and interior were standard bar a few mods. This time I wanted them clean. 

Shaved bays mainly are a thing of the past these days, but as a whole it's a Honda thing. Shaved, Wire tuck, smoothed bay, whatever you wanna call it, a shaved bay is a cool thing - but it takes forever. You can look to spend 40hrs on a bay shave. So if you do it yourself, you can look to save a lot of money, but be prepared to spend many weekends and late evenings. 

The welding itself takes a long time, as not only do you need to weld up all the holes but you also need to seam weld everything. This is so that when you filler over the edges, you won't get cracking.

Now the E36 bay isn't the prettiest. It has a gaping hole that's covered by a big plate. This has to be there for access if you're keeping the car stock. But for me, aesthetics over everything! So it had to go, as well as the heater matrix and all other things relating to comfort. 

The ECU box/slot and the wiring box had to go too. I could find anyone who had gone to the full extent of plating over, so it is always nice to be a first. As you can see from the photos, this is how it went.

Once the welding was done, it was onto the filler work. This is another long stage, but where you can see the welding work you have done in full glory.

Wait for Pt.2! 

September 18, 2023 — Isaac Brain