The Cappuccino-tan E36 BMW 318is   that recently showed up in the parking lot over here at ModBargains is a true enthusiast project car – grassroots,performance on a shoestring budget. This car belongs to our own Warehouse team member Billy Barba, in charge of shipping and receiving – if you’ve bought a part from us in the past few years, odds are Billy’s the guy who sent it to you.
While the 318is isn’t a straight six powered car, the 318is has something of a reputation as a great autocross weapon, and already sporting a lot of M-inspired aesthetics, Billy wanted to sharpen the handling of the car a bit further and give it a nice drop to suit the rest of the E36 mods he’s already installed.

Being on a tighter budget, every modding dollar counts – and working here, naturally Billy has a great sense for what’s good and what’s not-so-great on the aftermarket – when he picked up his 318is he knew he intended to give the car a more aggressive stance but still keep it usable on the street, or the occasional track day. Which is why when we recently partnered with
Solo-Werks, they were the perfect fit for replacing the ancient E36 suspension, and a set of Solo-Werks Adjustable Coilovers for BMW E36 were just what the doctor ordered.

With any pre-2000 car, the fact is that unless it’s been a total garage queen the OEM suspension is probably long since shot, so just installing lowering springs really won’t deliver the improvement in handling desired. Since you’re going to need to replace both the spring and the strut to freshen your E36 suspension, a set of coilovers isn’t a bad idea.

Many of you are probably familiar with KW Suspension and the quality associated with them – and the high pricetag. Some of the engineers over there weren’t happy and felt the company was losing touch with its enthusiast roots, and so they left and set out to create their own company by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts to give the grassroots autocrosser with a shoestring budget an affordable, high quality, extremely functional coilover.

Featuring 20mm damper shafts, 1.6in-3.1in Front Lowering Range, 0.8-2.0in Rear Lowering Range, Solo-Werks Coilovers for BMW E36 allowed Billy to achieve the stance he was after without ruining his ride quality. Designed with corrosion resistance in mind, these budget coilovers can stand up to the harsher climates around the USA – though that doesn’t really matter in SoCal where snow is about as much an issue as the occurrence of random showers of toads from the sky.

And here’s the real kicker. A set of KW Clubsport coilovers will set you back more than $2600 – and that’s our SALE price. Hell, that’s probably more than this car cost – and Vogtland’s Sport Suspension kit of stock replacement springs/shocks – with no adjustability – come in at $470.99 – which is a great deal as it is – and so with that as a basis for comparison, the

Solo-Werks S1 Coilovers for E36
don’t even cross the $500 threshold, coming in at $499.99 – these are hands down, the best quality inexpensive coilovers on the market. I hesitate to call them ‘cheap’ – because cheap coilovers almost always suck and are made with the cheapest stuff, and well, quite simply, these don’t suck. They work well, and the materials are up-to-standard, unlike virtually any other coilover in this ultra-low price bracket. They’re pretty damn good – and I seriously don’t know how they manage that price – but this is what Solo-Werks is talking about when they say they’re about serving grassroots enthusiasts. As a guy who’s raced a 1987 BMW 328e at the 24 Hours of LeMons (the rather zany but really fun $500 Car Endurance Racing series) – I can really appreciate a company coming out with quality products that are actually affordable for the guy building a car to enjoy on a shoestring budget. So the Solo-Werks guys definitely get a gold star from the budget-modding guys here.

In the rear, as is the case with many adjustable coilovers, a height adjustable spring is paired with a damping adjustable shock absorber.

All in all, though a bit rough, Billy’s project E36 is definitely coming along nicely – and reminds us of where the BMW tuning scene really started with the E36 in the 90s (though some would argue the E30 started it, we’d argue the E36 is what took it mainstream) – and we look forward to seeing Billy’s next mod.

Interested in getting more out of your BMW, E30 to late model, or? We’ve got you covered, check out our selection of BMW parts here – and if you’re not sure what you need to do next to achieve your modding goals, we invite you to talk to the Mod Experts – give us a call at 714-582-3330 today to see what we can do for you.

Thanks for joining us, see you next time!

Story & Photos
Nick Gregson