This V12 BMW E36 Is Frankenstein’s Compact

This BMW E36 Compact borrows a 472bhp V12 from an 850ci. A frightening recipe that could be yours
This V12 BMW E36 Is Frankenstein’s Compact

“A BMW for the price of an Escort” was the familiar refrain from car magazines when the E36 generation BMW 3 Series Compact arrived in 1994. In 316i form it cost £13,350 when it landed in the UK, which admittedly wasn’t quite Escort-priced (closest at the time was a five-door 1.8-litre Ghia Si, at just over £13k), but undercut the saloon by a good couple of grand.

That price works out at around £27k in today’s money, which you can quite easily spend on a high-end supermini. You shouldn’t, though, since we’ve found this instead: an E36 Compact for just under £15k.

To be clear, it’s not a 316i. Well, it might have been at one point, but in the intervening period, someone has made space for a 5.0-litre, M70B50 V10 from a BMW 850ci. Then they made a bit more space for a turbocharger, so this Compact now punches out a claimed 472bhp and 531lb ft of torque through an E39 M5 six-speed manual gearbox.

Credit: eBay/mancturbo
Credit: eBay/mancturbo

If you’re familiar with the original Compact you’ll remember that for packaging and cost reasons it wasn’t quite as sophisticated as the regular E36, swapping BMW’s Z-axle for a semi-trailing arm setup modified from the prior E30 generation.

Understandably, whoever installed the V12 (it wasn’t the seller, who describes it as a recent purchase) decided trailing arms might not cut it, so this one now has the rear axle from an E92 335i. It’s got poly bushes throughout, and adjustable suspension arms. Front suspension is by Wisefab, and the rear runs Gaz Gold coilovers.

Replacing an inline four for a V12 no doubt made engine bay packaging slightly tricky, so the standard hydraulic power steering has made way for that old custom-car favourite of an electric assistance motor from a Vauxhall, while the radiator’s now a Jaguar item and mounted in the back.

Credit: eBay/mancturbo
Credit: eBay/mancturbo

We’ve not even mentioned the styling yet. Taste is a personal thing but to these eyes, it looks fantastic, the wide body and the contrasting blue and fluorescent yellow details screaming the right drift car vibes without falling down the trap of looking like a slapped-together missile. Even the cage is yellow, and a welcome sight too given the power now inhabiting the Compact’s… err, compact shape.

There’s something quite appealing about the E36 Compact today. It always looked a little awkward when new, the Manx cat of the car world with its tail chopped off behind the hips. But it’s a kind of bridge between the E30 and E36 in terms of driving characteristics, and nothing if not distinctive.

All it’s ever really lacked is a bit of power – the UK never got the 323ti sold elsewhere – something that has been fixed, and then some, thanks to an enterprising individual and an old 8 Series engine…


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