1998 BMW 328i
Today, BMW has its 400hp M3 V8, Audi summons a 420hp RS4 and Mercedes boasts a 475hp C63 AMG. But do these cars have the power, looks and authority to be king of the street?
Compared to other stock cars in their class, perhaps. But paired against George Lioudis' '98 BMW 328i on the streets of New York City, it's game over.
To many people, the mature styling of the E36 produced between '91-99 gives George's Bimmer more charisma, something new cars frequently lack. In addition, George has applied a myriad of his own upgrades to reinforce the posture.
Although the project didn't start until '05, this BMW has remained in the Lioudis family since new. The 328i was original his wife's car, but he accepted ownership after he parted ways with a modified Audi S4.
From the factory, a '98 328i came equipped with a torquey 2.8 liter six-cylinder 24v. Rated at 190hp and 207 lb-ft, the M52 motor had enough muscle to overtake cars on the freeway. This was good enough for George's wife, but wasn't nearly enough for him.
During the four years of the build, the now 32 year-old developed a close relationship with Active Autowerke in Miami, FL. "I wasn't originally going to do anything to the motor, but I started reading about Active's twin-screw blower," George told us. "Off the line, you feel the power. A twin-screw gives more positive power than a turbo. It was also new on the market and different from what every other 3-Series owner had."
The twin-screw operates by pulling air through a pair of meshing screws. As the screws rotate, the airflow is pulled from the intake side to the exhaust side. In the process, it's pressurized and is forced into the combustion chambers. Active installed its Rotrex C38-71 trim-charger which gave the motor 8psi of boost. While fitting the blower, the automatic gearbox was tossed for an M3's five-speed manual.
Once all the hardware was installed, including M3 cams, headers, track pipe and exhaust, George's 328i made approximately 350hp on the dyno. It was enough power to slip past an E46 M3, but this still wasn't enough juice for George. "I really wanted more power! After driving the car in New York, I shipped it back to Active for an upgrade."
The year was now '07, and the guys at Active dismantled the blown 2.8. George had mapped a plan to use a 3.2 liter S52 motor from the E36 M3 and re-apply the twin-screw technology to it. Already rated at 240hp, the M3 motor would give more power across the rev range.
After the motor swap, the same Rotrex supercharger went back into the engine bay, along with alcohol and water injection to allow a more aggressive tune. A Zionsville cooling kit and European oil cooler conversion also found their way into the bay to prevent future heating issues.
An intercooler behind the front bumper helped keep the intake temps lower, and a stronger clutch with lightened flywheel ensured power was delivered to the rear wheels.
For that extra push, Schrick 262/256? cams gave George more top-end power and a higher rev ceiling.
Active finally installed a metal head gasket and reprogrammed the ECU for the 11psi boost pressure.
When all was said and done, the revamped 3-Series measured 491hp and 460 lb-ft still with the stock internals. According to Karl Hugh at Active, "George's car feels like a V8! It's really fast and capable of 12sec quarters!"
To optimize the new parts, George had a friend build a 3.23:1 differential with 40% locking. An Active bracket guaranteed the diff won't need an overhaul years down the line by keeping it rigidly in place.
Improving the chassis was equally important to the newfound power, so George replaced almost everything to M3 spec. The rear spindles were changed to M3 in order to accommodate the 13.6" Brembo rear brakes. The fronts were upgraded with M3 parts and a rare 15" six-piston brake kit that was briefly offered by Brembo.
Lowering the chassis was achieved with KW V3 coilovers, while H&R supplied front and rear sway bars to eliminate the sedan's body roll. Strengthening the chassis further was a BMW Motorsport X-brace and four-point rollcage dipped in black chrome. The front and rear subframes were also welded for reinforcement. In case George needed to adjust the rear camber for the track, lightweight Rogue Engineering control arms give him plenty of adjustment.
If you thought George went over the top on the engine, you've seen nothing yet. With his high expectations, he shipped the 3-Series to 190 SL Services in North Carolina for the bodywork. Specializing in restoring classic Mercedes, the same shop is rebuilding George's own 190 SL agreed to work out this unique E36 as an exception to its typical clientele.
George spent hours at the computer researching and talking to friends about the exterior. He even dummied up different designs on paper to illustrate the look he wanted. "Everybody was going widebody, but I learned from other people's mistakes. I wanted the car to look OE European and go as low as possible without rubbing," he explained.
All four corners were pulled 1.5", although the rear quarter panels were extended slightly further to look even with the fronts. Being a sedan, the rear doors had to be slightly modified as well to flow with the extensions.
While the rear quarters were under the knife, George decided to go with a different fuel cover. "The Audi TT had the nicest one, so I bought the TT quarter panel, which was cut and grafted into the BMW to look OE."
The front bumper was replaced by a factory M3 part; however, it was modified with some E46 styling. Vorsteiner sent out its E46 GTS3 carbon front lip, which was modified to the E36 bumper and molded to it.
After completing the front bumper, carbon became an obsession and the rear valance, vented hood and pillars would receive the lightweight composite.
The two most difficult carbon projects included the roof and trunk. "To most people's surprise, the roof is a one-off carbon piece. CA Automotive made it by hand. It's a tough job, because it had to be one-piece while retaining a functional sunroof, which was also made from carbon."
Once the roof was done, VIS fabricated a one-off CSL-style trunk for the four-door, since nothing was in production.
The incredible wheels were equally rare. "A friend ordered two sets of the E88 BBS Motorsport wheels for the E46 but one of his buyers backed out. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but the new wheels made a huge difference to the car and gave it a true Euro look," George said.
Ditching an old set of DPEs, George obtained the forged two-piece Motorsport wheels in 19x9" and 19x10" dimensions. And with the widebody, he was granted more traction with beefier Michelin tires.
Prior to its current look, George reupholstered the interior in dove grey leather. Then M3 parts started becoming available, such as leather door panels, Vader seats, dashboard and center console. Eventually, he had the grey transformed into vivid red on the seats and door panels. Parts that were once dark grey were replaced by black leather, such as the dash. Then the headliner was reupholstered in black suede, to give the interior an even more luxurious feel.
To complement his carbon infatuation, George carbonized the interior trim, center console, steering wheel, door handles, seat backs and added a custom engine cover.
Peer into the trunk and things get even wilder. When the engine is off, the trunk looks minimal. You'll notice two high-end McIntosh MCC301M amps, which power two 8" JL Audio W7 subs on either side. "I made the sub enclosures like a dome. I had to find curved 0.75" black plexiglass. It was molded inside the car to look as if the whole system was one-piece with rounded edges. It goes with the curves of the car."
Turning on the ignition, George showed us his video screens - three 10" monitors in the trunk lid, with a 27" LCD motorized from the shock tower mounts.
"I built the ultimate car anybody would want," concluded George. "It's built to my standards and I'll admit it's a show car, not a daily driver. But it's what I like, not what I thought car show judges would want to see."
1998 BMW 328i
Owner: George Lioudis
Location: New York, NY
Occupation: Bio-medical engineer
Engine: 3.2 liter S52 conversion with Active Autowerke stage 3 twin-screw supercharger, head gasket, alcohol/water injection, headers, track pipe and exhaust, Schrick 262/256? cams with 11.2mm valve lift, Zionsville Super Cooling kit with electric fan, OE Euro oil cooler, Defi-Link Meter BF with control unit, NX nitrous oxide with carbon bottle, carbon engine cover
Drivetrain: five-speed manual swap with Rogue Engineering mounts, finned differential cover and short-shift kit, Active Autowerke clutch, flywheel and differential support bracket, 3.23:1 LSD
Brakes: 15" front, 13.6" rear Brembo brakes
Suspension: KW V3 coilovers, Rogue Engineering rear shock mounts and adjustable rear control arm, H&R adjustable sway bars, BMW Motorsport X-brace, Z3 steering rack, four-point black-chrome rollcage, front and rear welded reinforcement kits, carbon front strut brace.
Wheels & Tires: 19x9" front, 19x10" rear BBS Motorsport E88 wheels with 265/35-19 front and 285/30-19 Michelin PS2 tires.
Exterior: widebody conversion, Audi TT fuel door, carbon roof, CSL trunk, rear diffuser, door pillars, Mashaw GTR hood and molded Vorsteiner GTS3 front spoiler, Hamann skirts, color-matched door moldings and handles, ZKW angel-eye headlights, Euro clear foglamps, X-Tech HID 6000K bulbs, clear markers, smoked corners and tail lights.
Interior: red leather Vader seats, black suede headliner with red stitching, black leather dash with red stitching, black/red leather door panels with black stitching, Defi gauges mounted on A-pillar, carbon trim, door handles, seat tray and seat backs with headrests.
Audio/Visual: Alpine DVD nav system, three 10" and one 27" LCD monitors, two JL Audio 8" W7 subs, two McIntosh MCC301M amps, E46 key conversion.
Thanks: my wife and three boys, mom, dad, Adam, Rahul and everybody at Eurowerkz, Sean at Mitsiwa AutoCustom, David Polny, Carla at BMW of Nashville, Karl and Jean at Active Autowerke, Rogue Engineering, Prapan at NVD.