The adage "change is good" applies to virtually every aspect of life, whether it's a person's career, relationships, behavior or goals. Carlos Molina of El Paso, TX learned that change was good while building project cars, particularly his '00 BMW 323i.
"I've gone through at least nine different trunk installations, eight sets of wheels, six front ends and three rear bumpers," he reminisced. Carlos also mentioned he had repainted the car twice and removed several superfluous accessories through the course of his build.
His vision of engine and cosmetic tuning has evolved to the point where he's finally satisfied with his seven-year project.
Carlos' story starts when he was first stationed in Italy as a counter-intelligence captain. "My buddy and I went to a club after he bought a new 323i," he remembered. "That night, he started showing off, but wasn't driving smart. Since Italian roads are cobblestone, they don't provide enough friction for the tires, especially in wet weather. So we're going 110mph, when he tries to make a 90 turn. We rammed into a wall at over 100mph, but miraculously we both walked away unhurt. After the accident, I realized I needed a BMW. If this car was safe enough for my buddy, it's safe enough for my daughter and I."
Carlos proceeded to order his BMW in Italy and have it shipped home to El Paso. Before it was even delivered, he researched audio and video upgrades. By the time the car arrived, the first parts were ready to be fitted.
"I picked up the car, and the next day the audio system went in, including monitors, subwoofers and even a VCR, which was cutting-edge at the time!"
Carlos' project gained momentum when several companies offered their sponsorship as the import show scene blossomed. His first show was Hot Import Nights San Mateo, where he received recognition by displaying one of the few BMWs in the scene.
Although Carlos' early modifications seemed controversial, it was part of the trend in those days. "I was willing to take chances while most people played it safe using only Hamann or Schnitzer parts," he confided. "Unfortunately,
I went through a time where I had $2000 worth of neon lighting. Then one day, I just thought, 'What the hell am I doing?' So, I yanked everything out."
Then Carlos decided to revamp the exterior. "It got to the point where there wasn't much I could do to make a vast difference," he said. "I thought about doing a widebody, but others were already doing Hamann widebodies. So,I designed a widebody with auto CAD. Since I was making a drastic change, I decided to switch up the front end as well."
The front fenders were extended 4.5" on each side in metal, while the rears were widened by a whopping 6.5" on each side. With the new fenders, Carlos sourced a facelift front end from a '04 sedan. He then fitted a Strictly Foreign CLI front bumper to give the face a more aggressive look.
Previously installed Hamann side skirts remained on the flanks while the rear bumper was a Kerscher piece. Finishing off the body were shaved moldings, a Schnitzer carbon wing, RD Sport mirrors and a Sparco fuel door.
The original color was Orient blue, until Carlos repainted it a bright Lamborghini blue. "I was tired of people using the Lambo blue paint, so the next best color was white," he explained. The new paint is a House of Kolor Frost white with added blue pearl.
DB Autobody in NorCal finished the final stage of bodywork, completed after five months.
The new body and paint prompted Carlos to contact Forgeline to produce a set of three-piece polished wheels. The 19" split-five-spokes measured 10" wide in the front and 13" in the rear. A set of 255/35 front and 285/30 rear Toyo Proxes tires wrap around them.
For brakes, Carlos chose The Brake Man, a company that typically works on sprint cars and SCCA racing. He opted for a front Tornado kit with 13" rotors, four-piston calipers and braided lines to provide impeccable stopping.
The engine, drivetrain and suspension have remained consistent since Carlos initiated his project. But, the only upgrade he's made to these performance parts was in the exhaust, which coincided with the rear bumper swap. "AutoWerks had to relocate the carbon mufflers under the battery tray in the trunk," he explained. "We had to move them to the bumper area, which required an extensive amount of work." After making the necessary modifications, the newly installed quad exhaust with Eisenmann Porsche Turbo tips compliment the rear.
Other power upgrades include a Carbonio intake, Dinan throttle body, evosport headers and race pulley, RD Sport software and cams, plus a Nitrous Express kit.
The interior and stereo upgrades have also gone through a host of variations. The factory interior was beige, but now sports black panels. Blue suede was also incorporated in the headliner, dash, A- and C- pillars, door inserts and trunk. Additionally, V Racing seats were fitted with Sparco harnesses.
The most frequent upgrades have occurred in the electronics department. Carlos cycled through parts from Audiobahn, Focal and Memphis before finally sticking with a combination of Pioneer, MB Quart and Xtant. The trunk houses two 10" Hexagon subwoofers and three amps mounted in a carbon box. The trunk lid displays an Accele monitor, as does the center console. He once had multiple monitors in the headrests and trunk, but removed them to create a simpler appearance.
Finally, he decided to showcase his mods by traveling to shows from Toronto to Mexico, as well as Miami, Seattle and Los Angeles in between. As a result of his determination and efforts, he was honored at the SEMA show from '02 to '04.
Carlos ended by telling us, "I like changing things up. It feels good to transform the vehicle, especially in the show scene where people don't want to see the same car every year."
Carlos' 323i may have taken seven years to build, but all his hard work has definitely paid off in the end. Stay tuned as we uncover his next project- an E92 335i (In the Garage, et 6/07). He's planning to install an evosport turbo upgrade, nitrous kit and Konig wheels.
2000 BMW 323i
Owner: Carlos Molina
Occupation: Custom Package Consultant
Location: El Paso, TX
Engine: 2.5 liter i-6 24v with AutoWerks quad exhaust with Borla mufflers and Eisenmann Porsche Turbo tips, carbon valve and ignition covers, Carbonio intake, RD Sport software, competition cams and oil cooler, Ignition Solutions plasma direct coils, evosport headers and racing pulleys, Dinan high-flow throttle body, Pro-1 vacuum hoses, UUC aluminum oil cap, Nitrous Express GENX-2 75-shot with purge kit and pressure gauge
Drivetrain: five-speed manual transmission with BMW 330i clutch, Fidenza lightweight flywheel, UUC Evo II short shifter
Suspension: B&G Speed Sensitive coilovers, H-Sport front and rear sway bars, Powerflex control arm bushings, AutoWerks carbon strut bar
Brakes: 13" Brake Man Tornado big brake kit with four-piston calipers and braided lines
Wheels & Tires: 19x10" front and 19x13" rear Forgeline three-piece wheels with 255/35-19 front and 285/30-19 rear Toyo Proxes tires
Exterior: DB Auto Body sheet metal widebody, BMW facelift headlights, hood and front fender conversion, House of Kolor Frost white paint with blue pearl, shaved moldings, Strictly Foreign CLI front bumper, Hamann skirts, AC Schnitzer carbon wing, Kerscher rear bumper, RD Sport mirrors, Sparco fuel door, Folia Tec chrome window tint, BMW clear turn signals, side markers and tail lights, titanium headlight trim
Interior: AutoWerks alcantera suede headliner, trunk, A- and C-pillars, door inserts, shift boot, e-brake boot, carbon-style floor mats, Axis Power Racing carbon B-pillars and steering wheel, evosport carbon panels and shift surround, UUC aluminum e-brake handle, Magnum shift knob, gauge cluster and race pedals, BMW black door panels and interior plastic, V Racing cloth seats, Sparco four-point harnesses, Creative Concepts chrome and lighted door sills
Audio/Visual: Pioneer AVH-P7500DVD head unit, MB Quart QSD-216 front and QSD-215 rear speakers, two 10" Xtant Hexagon subs and three amplifiers, Accele 8" and 7" monitors, FM modulator, power inverter, video amplifier, video switcher and rearview camera, two Street Wires chrome capacitors, Xbox, PS2
Thanks: Rob Waytashek at Toyo Tire, Brian Sherman at MB Quart, Randall Mathis at NX, Rob Livingston at UUC, Mark Schleipher, David Shardt at Forgeline, Jesse Rezza at Fusion EP, Brian Fox, Ian Wendt at AutoWerks, dad, Xtant, DB Auto Body, Axis Power Racing, evosport