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World Wide Pandemonium: Rocket Bunny BMW E36

If you’ve been keeping tabs on older Bimmers lately, you know the prices on E30 M chassis have skyrocketed — so much, in fact, if you didn’t pick one up at least a few years ago, your chances of copping a clean one is next to nil, especially if you're looking for a bargain. E46 M3s are still holding their value well, having slipped down a little below $20K for those with high mileage, but the one enthusiasts should be paying more close attention to should be the E36…and for good reason. Very soon.

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Search for this particular model online and you can still find one at a sub-$10K price tag, albeit a little beat up but hardly a big deal if you’re willing to take on the task of some sort of restoration — or better yet, give it a full body makeover with one of the most in-demand body kits in the world.

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For Norihito Watanabe, owner of an E36 M3 for the past 13 years (one that’s strictly left in storage these days), he couldn’t bear the thought of cutting into the original body panels, no matter if he was gifted with a prototype Pandem kit. Instead, he sourced a near-perfect 318is instead, and if you weren’t paying close enough attention, you probably would’ve mistook it for an M3 anyway.

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With close connections to the man himself, Kei Miura, Norihito brought his E36 down to the southern region of Japan where TRA Kyoto HQ is located for 3D scanning of the body; six months later, the Pandem kit was finished and installed. Since anything under the Rocket Bunny family is meant to go wide and ultra low, Norihito slammed the car on ST Suspension XTA adjustable coilovers.

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It’s not the most comfortable ride, harsh, but man, it looks dope. So dope and low, in fact, that while we were cruising around, we managed to come across a driveway that was a little too steep, and in the process of getting out of it, ripped half the front lip spoiler right off. Such is the price to pay for the low life. Filling the widened wheel wells is another Miura design: Enkei 6666 gold mesh wheels that have been wrapped with Nitto NT05 rubber.

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Engine mods are light, but the custom AutoBahnSport Ebisu exhaust is a sweet choice. As we cruised Osaka’s Loop 5 highway system, the sounds reminded me of the older kanjo-style Hondas raspy notes, but with a much deeper tone. Norihito is perfectly comfortable behind the wheel of an E36:

“This car is western Japan’s Euro Cup N1 class champion. I used to race one, and its steering feeling and handing is very good. It might be old but the driving is very pure and fun, almost like a German Toyota 86.”

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If Norihito’s E36 is inspiration enough to lead you to build a project of your own, we suggest hitting Craigslist quick. It won’t be long until enthusiasts figure out that it’s the last true bargain out of the older 3-series family, regardless if it's an M3 or not.


1996 BMW 318is

OWNER Norihito Watanabe
HOMETOWN Sapporo, Japan
ENGINE aFe air intake; NGK Power Cable sparkplug wires; AutoBahnSport Ebisu custom exhaust; ECU remap
SUSPENSION & CHASSIS ST Suspension XTA coilovers
BRAKES Seidoya N1 500R brake pads
WHEELS 17x9.5”/17x10.5” Enkei 6666 wheels
TIRES Nitto NT05 235/40R17 and 255/40R17 tires
EXTERIOR Pandem wide body kit; OIRAM LED lights
INTERIOR Sparco steering wheel; Recaro seats; Willans 4-point harnesses; HKS Circuit Attack Counter meter

Check the photo gallery below for more exclusive photos of the Pancross/Pandem BMW E36.

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