In 36 hours, this BMW E36 went from a $200 junkyard special to a fully functional drift car, going sideways on track. Yes it has a bullet hole from a drive by shooting. Here’s how it all happened.

Eric Rivera is no stranger to BMWs. Every time I see him he has some new ‘90s Bavarian with him. Last time we bumped into each other at Raceway Park, Englishtown New Jersey he had a ratty but running E34 5 Series wagon. At East Coast Bash this past weekend, I saw him rolling through the pits in this high-riding E36 3 Series.

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Eric explained that he’d gotten the thing for $200 and a couple hundred in traded parts. Specifically, Eric traded away two transmissions and an M50 engine for the guy to run in his ChumpCar. This E36 Eric bought was a parts car itself, and looking through the very junkyard-spec interior I believed it.

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I later found out that the car had a bullet hole in the fender from a drive-by shooting.

Amazingly, all the car needed was a new battery to get running, but it was not free of problems. There’s good reason this car got sold for a song.

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“I got super lucky,” Eric told me. “The car already had a new starter, alternator, stage one eBay clutch, and an LSD. All I needed to do was make it run, slap a suspension and seat in it, and make it past tech.” He added further, “which, given how sketchy the car was, was more work than I could manage by myself in 24 hours.”

The car did indeed have some sketchiness to it, particularly in the wiring. Eric told me something about a mismatched harness to the engine, which led to some gremlins including the car not turning on if it got shut off.

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Jump starts were needed.

Eric never had time to fit some coilovers he had on the car, but he did get the thing to pass tech (he needed a battery tie down and not much else). So the day after the car rolled into his shop, he was taking it out on track.

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Sure, as a four-cylinder 318is so it didn’t have any power, but with the diff in the back and at 45 PSI on 225/55s he was able to get the thing sideways.

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I watched him get dialed in, and after a few runs he was linking corners out on Englishtown’s tight back track.

So for less than a thousand bucks, he got a car and got it up to drift-able spec, just because he wanted to run at East Coast Bash and he figured he could.

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“Would I ever do it again?” Eric posted on Facebook after the event, summing up his past 36 sleepless hours hammering the car together. “Probably not. But god damn I’m stoked that I did.”

Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove

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Contact the author at raphael@jalopnik.com.