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In the build: rotary-powered BMW E36

25 May 2016

The Sport Mod ranks are about to have an injection of the Euro kind with a 28×9-inch–tyred BMW E36 piloted by father-and-son duo Dave and Aaron Baldwin. The car once served as Aaron’s daily driver, but after he crashed it and the insurance company wrote it off despite the very small amount of damage, it was decided to strip it and sell the parts — until the pair decided to dive in at the deep end. 

Dave has long been a fan of drag racing, but never pursued the passion until his son also showed an interest a few years back — around the same time that the E36 shell was sitting there. As self-confessed greenhorns to the sport, they enlisted the help of some of the country’s best to help realize the dream.

Bob Tyann took charge of the chassis, and he built a chromoly roll cage to an eight-second spec, mounted the engine and trans, and set up the nine-inch ladder-bar rear end. Dave decided to go 28×9 after reading through the NZDRA rule book, as it was Sport Mod that looked to suit the team’s goal of having some fun without breaking the bank. 

Gone is the factory IRS rear, and in its place is a trusty Ford nine-inch with a rose-jointed ladder bar and QA1 adjustable shocks. Lightweight Wilwood four-pot calipers with two-piece rotors can be found at each corner. 

The comprehensive chromoly cage ties in the ladder bar as well as the top shock mounts and parachute mount. The cage features extensive triangulation throughout to reduce chassis twisting and ensure the power is transferred to the ground. 

Here you can see the small tubs that allow for the 28×9-inch tyres. The central piece of tubing is for the parachute mount. The rear has also been sealed with sheet-metal panels where the spare-wheel well once was. 

The extensive fabrication work continues in the cabin. A Wilwood floor-mounted pedal box is joined by a tubular loud pedal with a small hook to stop Aaron’s foot slipping off. The seating position of the alloy Kirkey seat has been moved as far back as possible requiring a custom steering shaft. 

A large removable tunnel was also built to house the G-Force five-speed with long shifter. 

Interestingly there is no BMW power to be found in the engine bay — instead the pair have opted for a 13B turbo. Brian Connell from Mazsport has built the FD3S-based block using one of his porting combinations. Tony Markovina has also helped out with a ton of advice, and also some parts. The modified Cosmo intake manifold and Garrett GT45 turbo once ran on Tony’s RX-3 ‘HAVTOS’ when it had a 12A, reaching a best of 8.66@158mph. 

The E36 is steamrolling towards the finish line following a short stint at Quest Fabrication, where Kyrie and Colin finished a ton of the smaller fabrication jobs ahead of the plumbing and wiring. 

The pair is under no illusion that the job will be easy, and know they’ll face a steep learning curve once they hit the track next season, but they’re looking forward to the experience with a car that is far more capable than what they originally planned to run. Once they get a handle on it, they’re confident that everything is there ready to run some solid numbers.