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The Most Figured Out I’ve Ever Been

Written by: Alex Brackett 09/09/2021

In March of this year I was sitting in my living room with my best friend Paul Ramos (@p33zy_vw on instagram), who basically bullied me into getting back into cars. It had been 3 years since I sold the E21, and my time was mostly consumed by work & fishing. I was happy, but there had always been a void. Within minutes of the two of us joking back and forth about what I should get, a Facebook Marketplace ad slid across my feed: “1991 BMW 318is, manual”.

Needless to say, within 72 hours we were at a uhaul picking up a trailer, and from there we drove 8 hours round trip deep into the heart of NYC.

I took one look at this car as we pulled up, as it sat in all its bone stock glory and said under my breath, “this is the one.”

(photo by Paul Ramos)

The seller turned out to be Tank Şimşek of McCoy’s Upholstery, the oldest (est. 1948) and most renowned custom upholstery shop in all of New York City. The whole car had received an interior update - with MK6 VW GTI front seats, matching reupholstered rear seat & door cards. To top it off, a flocked dash and suede kick panel & glovebox. Tank & I still talk pretty much every week.

Tank certainly had his way with the interior of the E30, adding subtle, little touches here and there, like this Heritage emblem on the shift knob. The red & white accents on the emblem tie directly into the pattern of the seats. This sparks joy.

As for the exterior, at some point prior to both our ownerships, the exterior, engine bay, and inside the trunk were resprayed in #310 Fjördgrau Metallic - a factory BMW color which came on the E38 era 7 series.

The bumper cover was cracked when I bought the car. I bought one off of eBay and repainted it myself with custom mixed rattle cans from O’reilly’s. Say what you want, it came out amazing.

From 2015-2018 I ran a small business out of my friends basement, designing automotive-related stickers & t-shirts. One of my main designs and pretty much the mission statement of the brand was, “Static Til Death”.

So I can understand everyone’s confusion when I finally decided to become an adult and put this thing on air.

Wheel choice was pretty straightforward. I’ve wanted a set of Epsilon Southern Ways for years, and when this refinished set of staggered 16” 5 spokes popped up on a sponsored eBay ad, fate pushed my hand. Big shoutout to Tom Clark at SINIS Built for making excellent quality reproduction Epsilon wheel caps.

I’m a big fan of supporting local business, especially when the business owners are as genuine as Joe Booth, who helped me with the overall aesthetic of the car. The smallest details can make the biggest difference. I had a vision to pretty much go all euro everything on the outside of this car. There are still a number of items on that agenda to make the car perfect. However, I contacted Perfection Plastics via email asking if it was possible to shave the rear sidemarkers on my existing USDM trim, as euro rear bumper trim is:

A. Extremely expensive

B. Nearly non-existent.

He emailed me back a few days later and said “come by the shop”. From then on, we were fast friends. His attention to detail and workmanship is incomparable. And he makes me laugh when he sends me silly memes on Instagram.

The 318is was only available in 1991 for the US market, which, aside from the M3, makes it one of the more notable & desirable models to choose from.

The naturally aspirated M42 is by no means a powerhouse, but paired with a 4.10 LSD and a few simple modifications, it is plenty quick enough for spirited back road driving. It is also noteworthy that the barebones 318is, two cylinders lighter than its straight-six relative and lacking AC, was actually the lightest E30 configuration available to the US. Yes, an even lighter chassis than the M3.

This motor was rebuilt around the same time as the respray, and currently has about 19,000 miles on it. It is one of the healthiest running E30s I have ever beheld. And the best part is, I own it.

E30s are known for their low hanging oil pans, but what most people don’t know is that the M42 pan actually hangs lower than an M20 pan. Fully aired out on 16s, the pan lays directly on the pavement. Even with the motor lifted about 18mm.

(photo by Asian McClain @justinbiemmer)

It’s all in the details - a lot of very talented hands have touched this car. And I love that each modification is somebody’s personal signature - they always say your car is an expression of your personality, but to me, this one is a rolling representation of all the talented friends I’ve made over the years.

I can reasonably only take credit for owning the car and choosing the wheels, everything else has been by the hand of the homies, which I think is very cool. I used to be a big advocate for “build your own shit”, but I have long since realized I am a major hack - best to leave it to the professionals.

(Air ride & trunk setup install with Eric Gilman - @gillybuilt and Paul Ramos - @p33zy_vw)

If you’ve read this far, it’s probably time to go to bed. Only one of us needs to invest this much time into a blog post.

But if you did read this far and felt even the slightest amount of enjoyment, I appreciate you very much ❤️

This is the most figured out I’ve ever been. Life has been pretty rough for me up until recently. I grew up fairly poor, dropped out of high school, got kicked out of the house when I was 17, lived in my car for a bit, and finally found a job working for a summer camp on Lake Winnipesaukee. The pay sucked but I was able to live there during the busy season, and I would stay with my Dad (parents got divorced soon after I left home) during the off-season. There I met my beautiful wife Frances Brackett, who to be perfectly honest, saved my fucking life. She came over from the UK on a work visa for a summer, and we fell in love pretty much instantly. We entered into a long-distance relationship when the season ended and she went home. Even then, she supported me and stuck with me through the hardest years of my life, and had a major hand in shaping me into the grown-up I am today.

Through the hard years, while Frances was still living in England, I found cars and car people a way to escape from the hardship and frustration. I never had a lot of money, but I could always find a way to keep some 80s shitbox on the road. E30s were cheap then, not so much now.

While hanging around with other car guys & girls had it’s benefits, I found myself constantly dragged into drama, and farther into poverty. I wouldn’t say it was a competitive atmosphere, but everybody wanted to have the best shit done to their cars.

It was an unhealthy lifestyle. Living paycheck to paycheck and spending nearly all I had on car parts, inventory for my silly little lifestyle brand, and fast food just to keep from going hungry.

Enough of the sob story, you get the idea. Fast forward to 2020, I landed a job as a service writer for one of the busiest dealerships in New England. That, with the combination of several years of hard-learned lessons, as well as Frances moving to the US and keeping my head on straight, cutting out all the negativity & hanging onto the good in my life, means I am finally in a place where I can enjoy my hobbies, instead of being desperate for them.

This is not a flex. This is me saying it’s okay if you struggled, or are struggling. It’s okay to take all the time you need to figure yourself out. And it’s more than okay to be damn proud of yourself once you get there. It took me 10 fucking years to climb up out of the mud. One day, you will have everything you need. Love, a few good friends you can count on, enough money to pay your bills, & the patience and dedication for whatever drives you. For me, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Setting ourselves to higher standards & remaining positive is the only way to lift the community back to where it needs to be.

Respect & admiration for anyone out there truly trying.

(photo by Asian McClain @justinbiemmer)

Special thanks to:

Paul Ramos (@p33zy_vw)

Joe Booth (@perfectionplastics)

Tank Şimşek (@seniorsix)

Eric Gilman (@gillybuilt)

Tom Clark (@sinisbuilt)

Kyle Duquette (@skudakrennsport)

Dan Pendleton (@danjpendleton)

Asiah McClain (@justinbiemmer)

Airlift Performance


Viair Corp.

McCoy’s Upholstery

O’Reilly Auto Parts - Manchester NH

Zak’s Auto - Hudson NH


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