I thought I was a racer," young Marcus Gottschalk began. "One night I saw an M5 enter the canyons in front of me, so I chased him. I kept pushing my car harder and harder to catch up. Unfortunately, I came into a turn in third gear when I should have been in second and smashed into the railing. It shot me right off a cliff, 140 feet in the air. Fortunately, I landed on all four wheels when I hit the bottom but couldn't open the doors so had to climb out of the sunroof. Miraculously, there wasn't a scratch on my body."
Equipped with only an exhaust and performance tires, Marcus underestimated his driving skills, the ability of his car and nearly lost his life. He confesses he was a nave driver in his teenage years, so after the accident he attended a race school in Germany to improve his skills and sense.
The morning after the accident, his '95 BMW 318ti was recovered from the mountain with only mild body damage. If Marcus was driving a less durable car, he may have experienced more repercussions.
He attributes his appreciation for BMWs to his family background. "I was born in the US, but all my relatives are from Germany," he explained. "My father was a BMW engineer but got a visa and moved to the US to work in BMW's California emissions lab." Having BMW in his blood, he learned the quality of driving machines like the 3-Series while growing up.
Since his father toyed with BMWs, Marcus understood the proper way to modify one. "Over there, they built cars in the old school tradition - suspension over motor," he grinned. "Everything needed TV approval, and with the cost of insurance you couldn't put much money into the motor. But my father would always bring home cars, take me to the canyons and show me how to drive."
The cliff-diving incident temporarily jarred Marcus' passion, but before long he continued his father's enthusiasm for fine German tuning. "My goal was to make the car daily drivable but look clean, like an old guy was driving it," he explained. "I also wanted to have fun and tackle some twisties whenever I could. A lot of my buddies have dedicated drag or track cars, but I have the best of both worlds."
Following the accident, Marcus delivered the damaged 318ti to JT Motorsport for a month of body repairs. The car returned with a fresh body and a new aftermarket front bumper. "I ran an E46 M3-style bumper," said Marcus. "It was a direct copy with an aggressive front splitter."
He enjoyed his newly repaired car for one week until a semi truck rear-ended him on the freeway.
Frustrated but determined to complete his project car, he decided to invest more money and make the car the best it could be.
Marcus started replacing worn parts and stiffening the suspension. "After the freeway accident I had to replace the rear bumper," he stated. "At the same time, I added Bilstein dampers and H&R springs. I continued by adding Eibach anti-roll bars and a custom X-brace. The brace extended from the c-pillars to the seatbelt bolts. After that I did strut bars. The car was dialed in pretty well and that's when it became fun to drive, but all I had in the motor was a chip and exhaust at the time."
After many miles, Marcus upgraded to adjustable Weitec coilovers. He completed the suspension with a Weicher Sport rollcage to ensure chassis stability and safety.
While Marcus' BMW excelled in the handling department, he still had the urge to upgrade its acceleration. Since modifying the motor was easier in the US than in Germany, there were more opportunities to increase power from the 140hp 1.8 liter. "I eventually wanted to supercharge the car," he explained, "but the old motor wasn't able to handle the boost so I imported a brand new M42 engine from BMW in Germany with the help of my father. It's the exact same motor that was in the car before but with stock, forged internals. I then bought and installed the supercharger kit."
The Downing Atlanta supercharger increased horsepower to 215hp. Although Marcus had a problem with the charger's casting breaking during its daily use, the company was quick to warranty the defect and get the 318ti back on its feet one day later.
To optimize the power delivery, Marcus updated the headers and piping. Replacing the stock four-two-one header was a free-flow four-into-one unit. Larger exhaust pipes were also installed, including a Borla muffler. Increasing fuel delivery are larger injectors and a new fuel pressure regulator.
The drivability was now ideal but since Marcus wanted to build a complete package, focus shifted toward aesthetics and comfort.
For a car as unique as the BMW Compact, an appropriate set of wheels were essential. "I used to have a set of polished 15" Ronal wheels back in the day," Marcus reminisced. "A lot of new BMW enthusiasts don't know them but the old school do. Last year, I switched it up to 17" BBS RS wheels from a factory 5-Series. BBS only offered these to the public in 13-16" and 18" sizes, but never sold the RS in 17" because it was made strictly for the E39 5-Series."
To make the wheels fit his E36, custom hubcentric rings were made. "They have a good offset for my car. The rear has a 5mm spacer and the front has a fatty stretch." Although it's not best for aggressive driving, the wheel and tire combination fits nicely under the wells for daily driving.
By then the M3-style bumper didn't fit Marcus' aspirations, so he refitted the E36 factory part. For a cleaner European look, he also installed a rare and discontinued Zender front lip. Subtle additions were fitted such as smoked lenses, M3 door moldings, blacked-out kidney grilles and Cup mirrors.
The interior wasn't overdone either. It was simply ditched in favor of comfortable 325i seats with center console and armrest. A Nardi steering wheel with Raid hub replaced the worn factory wheel. Raid also contributed new pedals. Helping the ergonomics was a Momo shift knob and e-brake handle. Resting on the dash is a boost gauge to monitor pressure from the supercharger. Finally, to add individuality there are skull accents in the cockpit, most notably the door pulls and cup holder.
The overall theme of comfort and function followed through to the audio upgrades. Since it was his daily driver, a Pioneer head unit and component speakers provide a satisfactory result. For added bass without sacrificing pounds, a lightweight Bazooka tube sits in the trunk.
With the car complete, Marcus is happy to drive it every day. The project has taken five years to reach this level and the car's sustained 201000 miles on the chassis and 20k on the motor.
In order to save money he continues to do odd jobs in the hope of affording legitimate road course action and race tires. He admits to staying away from the canyons now, "There was one instance when I was messing around by myself and got pulled over. The cop tried to write me up for crazy things and even tried to arrest me. The punishment included having my license revoked for a year, but I lucked out when the officer wrote down the wrong year on the ticket, making it void.
"For a long time, my friends and I ran canyons. It just started getting stupid.Too many Hondas with no mufflers were trying to rip around corners without considering other drivers. The police presence and irresponsible drivers make the canyons more unattractive every day," he reported.
Marcus was fortunate to continue driving and building his project after his mishap, but racing should be reserved for the tracks. Drive safe!
Location: Newbury Park, CA
1995 BMW 318ti
Engine: 1.8 liter 16v with Downing Atlanta supercharger, bigger injectors, four-into-one header, high-flow catalytic converter, Borla muffler, cold-air intake
Drivetrain: five-speed manual transmission, B&M short shifter
Suspension: Weitec coilovers, BMP Design front strut bar, Raid rear strut bar, Weichers Sport rollcage, custom X-brace, aluminum rear top hats, polyurethane bushings, Eibach adjustable sway bars
Wheels & Tires: 17x8" BBS RS wheels with custom hubcentric rings and 5mm rear spacers, 205/45-17 front and 215/45-17 rear Falken ZE 512 tires
Exterior: Zender front lip, smoked turn signals, side markers and tail lights, blacked-out grilles, M3 door moldings, Red Styling Cup mirrors
Interior: BMW 325i center console, armrest and seats, Nardi steering wheel with Raid hub, Momo shift knob and e-brake handle, Raid pedals and dead pedal, fiberglass door cards, boost gauge, skull accents
Audio/Visual: Pioneer head unit and component speakers, Bazooka bass tube
Thanks: Dad, JT Motorsport, Tuning Zubehor, all his friends