Project STW: Realising The Vision

How often do you venture onto Google and daydream about different wheels, hard-to-get parts, or a special version of the car you own?

The ability to daydream keeps me going. It definitely also hampers progress with other tasks, but it’s good for the soul. If you own an BMW E36, chances are you’ll have spent more than a few moments looking up STW (Super Tourenwagen Cup) race cars.


There’s something about the way the wheels fill the pumped-up arches – it looks incredible. Of course, this is required out of performance necessity rather than aesthetics, but that’s often the way things work. Form follows function. Name a race car that looks less cool than its road-going counterpart…

‘But you’ve not built a race car,’ I hear you scream. And you’re absolutely right. But put the pitchfork down and remember, just because you like something, it doesn’t mean you have to copy it like-for-like. It’s possible to draw small influences and drop them into your work, to pay homage without creating a replica.

BMW’s 1998 N24-winning 320d is peak E36 for me. It represents the highest evolution of the form raced at my favourite track, and just looks so good going around the Karussell. But to drive it on the road? That would be torture for any length of time.

For this reason, my E36 remains with a full leather Vader interior, complete with electric windows, mirrors and a stereo.


It does however feature those iconic radius’d arches, the inner arches clearances, and the front upper frame rail sculpted to allow the 18×8.5-inch front wheels to still roll at full drop.

The wheels themselves are Hard Motorsport ‘STW’ centre-locks. They were made in a very short run around 2012, and there aren’t too many sets about now, let alone with all of the fitting hardware. Without finding these wheels the project would probably have taken a very different turn.

I often think that these cars ‘build themselves’. Sometimes it’s a chance part that finds you, or by images or inspiration you find along the way. So often car builds are triggered by the idea of mating a part with a car and the rest seems to follow. It’s also a constant battle to work out what is right for the project. Sometimes doing what seems like an obvious mod isn’t actually the right thing and detracts from the impact of the car.


I’ve mentioned before in Part 1 and Part 2 that this was something of a cathartic process, and keeping a sense of purity to it was a constant struggle. A lot of you will be thinking why I didn’t have Alex at Vivid Vinyl apply a livery to the fresh white wrap, or why I didn’t go for a wild colour.

The answer is simple: because this car isn’t built to appease a crowd. It’s not here to gain traction on Instagram or beat the algorithm in a rush to the explore page. Yes, I could have put bucket seats inside, a cage, and slapped a FINA livery on. I could have made it bright pink with chrome wheels too, but I didn’t. That’s not me.

Sometimes what you omit says more than what is there. I’ve done my time loading cars up like buckaroo, thinking more is more, but often it looks worse. Knowing when to stop can be a powerful thing.


I could have added fibreglass STW bumpers or a wing. But I didn’t because this is, ultimately, a road car. One that’s built to be driven on the street, down country lanes, though city centres and anywhere the journey takes me.

All too often modified cars can be restrictive. Bucket seats reduce comfort and visibility, fibreglass panels don’t share the same longevity as OEM items and, honestly, is driving around with advertising down the side of your car really that cool?


My last comment may be a tough one to swallow for those of you who decide to run liveries, but here’s a thought: we don’t all have to agree. We don’t have to have the same taste. I’m not saying I am right and you are wrong, I just accept that we are different.

After all, modified cars are all about self expression. If we were all the same the scene wouldn’t be as diverse as it is.

What started out as a simple homage to a race car spiralled into a bit of an experiment in my own head. Maybe it was the isolation of lockdown, I don’t know, but I found myself asking ‘why’ a lot more. This allowed me to question myself and work out why I wanted to do certain things to the car.

Take, for example, the absence of rear wing on the car. You’d think it would be a no-brainer to fit a slab of STW fibreglass or even a Class II high-rise wing. But why? What is the reason? Is it to conform to a ‘look’? Is it to check a box on an imaginary ruleset? Do people expect it? Perhaps it’s all of those things, but I decided that the E36’s shape is much sleeker and well proportioned without it.


One thing that I was very keen to do from the outset was to maximise the use of the Air Lift Performance suspension. My personal taste is to see a car low at all times, to drive low and park lower. Over the years I’ve seen beautifully fitted show cars jacked up on tiptoes travelling home from shows, and that’s just not my style.

I appreciate the owners do it to protect their arches and investment in the bodywork and wheels. But again, that’s a personal thing for me; you may also disagree and that’s cool too.

But in ‘saying less’ with the bodywork I felt like I had to say more with the attitude of the car. The stance is the personality of the whole thing; it’s what makes everything make sense and come together as an ‘STW’ look. Without it the car is, quite frankly, a white BMW on fancy wheels. STW is about that hunkered-down, wheel-tucking stance, and nothing should break that illusion. Especially not the drive height.


That’s why this car uses minimal camber, deeper rear tubs, and radius’d arches. By stretching and shaping the standard bodywork by hand it’s been possible to allow full articulation of the wheels in bump and retain full steering lock. Nothing has been compromised, except perhaps the proximity of the centre box to the floor.


By some strange consequence of building this car I think I’ve reminded myself that it’s OK to see people doing things to cars on the internet that I don’t like. It doesn’t have to ruin your day and not everyone has to confirm to your viewpoint.


Likewise, not everyone has to listen to your opinion either. We’re all just moving forwards through time, absorbing influences along the way, and trying to make sense of it all. The car community is fantastic. Keep creating and keep doing you, you might just make someone else smile along the way.

Ryan Stewart
Instagram: 7.nth

This story was brought to you in association with Air Lift Performance, an official Speedhunters Supplier



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Loved the post, really well written and makes excellent points. Plus the E36 looks great. I'm looking forward to building a dark metallic blue E46 coupe on air in the future.


You nailed the STW look without going overboard, well done. There is something about slammed race cars based on production cars with big wheels tucked, for me it's 90s era BTCC.


Looks great and I you're right, do it how you want. I would get rid of the rear badge and paint the kidney grills though....... ;)


This post just came to the rught time. It describes soooo good what I am just experiencing.

Since I am living near the Nürburgring and am re-designing my e36 Ringtool, there are certain voices in my mind, that I should somehow stick to the silently agreed look of an e36 Ringtool.

I was just on the search for a nice STW inspired e36, maybe something with a livery, maybe without.
White body with white wheels, maybe. Class 2 with or without high-risers...?

By reading your article and seeing your car, which looks absolutely stuninng (!), I am now back on the right track.
I will just do whatever the f* I want. It is my car and my style.


Keep in touch and show us what it ends up looking like - sounds like it'll be very cool!


Great looking car, excellent wheels and that stance ..... oef! Very well done. I like the cleanlyness of the car. No frills, just the shape of the car, which is good enough.
Seeing the STW Diesel car that inspired your build got me wondering one thing: how would it look with the black strips on the bumpers and sides of the car painted/foiled white? Would it enhance the look or not? But hey, that's just me, wondering what if.
I absolutely agree with the "It's my car and I build it as I please"-philosophy.


Love the build and the plain white and centerlock combo!
Plain white was also the "de rigueur" color scheme for the reconnaissance runs of Gr A road rallies and those cars looked amazing...

If you look for ugly racecars, may i suggest almoste any Citroën:

the SWB'd DS and SM
the Pinochio'd BX in its extremly unsuccessful GrB variant, the BX4TC




I LOVE the 4TC, but then again, I am a great fan of lots of ugly yet functional things.


I love it! It's so clean. It can be difficult to know when to stop.


Good to see project STW back at it again


I really like the minimalistic yet functional look
Pretty cool to see how it tributes racing


As I said in one of your latest IG posts: please, we need more people thinking the way you do. In the car community, and in life.
Love the car, love the concept. Cheers Ryan, and thank you for sharing all you builds with us. They're an inspiration.


The variety of opinions is what makes it entertaining out there IMO!


Sometimes what you omit says more than what is there.

The truth in that statement hurts. And while I'm on the other side of the fence (as far as aero is concerned) it's still 1,000% true. Glad to see someone else is looking to the 80's and 90's touring cars for inspiration. There are few of us left.


Oh great another stance VW on air. Just kidding. This BMW is super clean looking with that perfect minimalist look. Those wheels are on point! Great write up and pics. So glad you did not go crazy with it and can enjoy driving it.



Car looks nasty! And I mean that in a "good" way! Stance is incredible. Love the wheels. How come there are no interior picks? Or are they in the other 2 links? I'll check. Supposed to go to MPact East BMW show weekend this year. Two neighbors have E46 M3s. Both black with low mileage. One is a hardtop convertible. The other is just regular hardtop.


BMW’s 1988 N24-winning 320d is peak E36 for me.

That confused me for like 10 minutes. Then I realized you meant 1998 N24, not 1988!

Great article!


I was just testing you there.


I too follow this mantra i recently just got two ECUS piggyback systems to modify my car. the good thing about the new US law is im not building a race car im just tuning it up so it gets better millage. furthermore under US law this is a tune up device according to greddys website where it says FULL TUNE UP. :) so i fully understand the inertia behind building a vehicle and not making it into a race car.

This is a good article and a good middle finger to the times of change using a BMW diesel as base ground for this build project.



Revvy M44? Is a 1.8 with peak power at 6,000rpm and rev limiter at 6,500rpm really "revvy?"


Yes, the way it climbs through the last 1/3 of the rev range is really entertaining.


We'll have to agree to disagree here, I previously owned an M42 powered 318 and found the engine has more of an econobox nature than an entertaining revvy I4 nature compared to say a B18A1. A 4 cylinder that is out of breath after 6,000rpm just can't be considered revvy when it is the norm for sporting 4cyls to rev to 7,000rpm.


180 N⋅m (133 lb⋅ft)
at 4,300 rpm

really revvy bro enjoy holding that powerband.


Damn. This car gave me a new appreciation for the aesthetic of the e36. Normally I find the e36 ugly, but this car is beautiful.
I remember an article last year that partially was about that race car. When I saw that I was blown away by it's stance (functional and everything too). It is awesome to see this build paying tribute to that amazing and aggressive looking car.


There are a good number of different versions of the E36 STW, but the very last developments are absolutely staggering in terms of chassis prep!


Read following report to learn how a single mom was able to make $89,844/year in her spare time on her computer without selling anything..




I really like this car and the parts chosen (or not chosen), but this post seemed a bit weird and defensive? It almost come across like you'd gone full circle, in that you've built the car for you and to be so anti-Instagram or whatever, but in doing so, it seemed like you've kinda not built it for you but more to be an anti-statement. I dunno. Very nicely written article and the pics are wicked too!

Also maybe you'd like my JTCC/Super-Touring E36 homage too haha


Ergh my first post which failed to post has posted and now I look mental...


I do really love this car! I've gone slightly against what you've said but then again, I'm a sucker for a livery. I've gone for a more JTCC kinda vibe. Hopefully catch you at some shows this year, (maybe Retrorides Weekender?)


Looks excellent


Thank you very much my guy


So you’ve lowered a 3 series Beamer, revolutionary


Love it