500whp Supercharged LS1 V8 engined BMW E36 Coupe

500whp Supercharged LS1 V8 engined BMW E36 Coupe

Say what you want about non-BMW engine swaps because the owner of this epic E36 won’t be able to hear you over the sound of his supercharged LS1 V8...

Words: Elizabeth de Latour

Photos: Patrick Lauder

The LS V8 is a legendary engine, and slipping a supercharged one beneath the bonnet of this E36 has created a musclebound machine that’s truly awesome.

German Muscle


500whp Supercharged LS1 V8 engined BMW E36 Coupe

500whp Supercharged LS1 V8 engined BMW E36 Coupe

People can be a bit funny about non-BMW engine swaps. We say people, but what we really mean are the diehard BM fans who consider putting an engine that didn’t come from Bavaria in a BMW to be a mortal sin punishable by death or by really rude online comments, whichever is deemed more unpleasant. We reckon it’s a bit narrowminded to consider BMW the be-all and end-all when it comes to performance engines. You’ve got to be willing and prepared to broaden your horizons a little bit. If, for example, you want a performance V8 under your bonnet, BMW’s in-house offerings are impressive enough, but there are other tempting options out there. Across the pond in the US, our American cousins have a near-unlimited choice of mighty V8 motors to choose from and the support network required to get them fitted and running in the blink of an eye. And if you can, then why wouldn’t you?

That’s the approach that Adam Noone (@ls1_adam) took when it came to his E36, and what he’s built himself is hands-down one of the most outright awesome third-gen Threes we’ve ever seen. Take a good long look at this build, drink in the details, and then try to tell us that it isn’t absolutely awesome on every level.

500whp Supercharged LS1 V8 engined BMW E36 Coupe

Adam clearly knows how to build a BM, and he’s been a Bavarian fan for many years now. “I’ve been interested in BMWs probably since I was 18,” he begins. “That was the first time I drove my first BMW and was instantly hooked. The thing that makes me like them so much is the platform, the square body style, and how amazing they handle with very few modifications,” he enthuses with a smile. However, being born and raised in the land of the V8, it’s unsurprising that his first car was a 1994 Chevrolet Camaro, and it’s equally unsurprising that his E36 ended up with a V8 under the bonnet.

“My first BMW was this 1997 318is. I’ve always wanted one since I first drove one, but I felt it needed a little more,” Adam says, “so I decided to swap a V8 into it and have yet to regret it,” he grins, and we’d say swapping a V8 in counts as a lot more. “I found this E36 in Los Angeles on Facebook marketplace. When I showed up to pick it up, it was in really bad condition,” Adam tells us. “The car was four different colours, the interior was all ripped, and everything needed to be replaced, but it was a start to my vision,” he says with a determined smile.

“Before buying this car, I had intentions of doing the LS swap but had to wait until the stock motor blew, and I will say it didn’t take long for that to happen, maybe three months,” Adam laughs. With the four-pot destined for the junkyard, it was time to proceed with the V8 operation, and Adam got stuck into the build properly at the same time. “First, the car was sent out for bodywork and paint, then the interior was done, and while I was doing this, I was building and assembling the motor, getting it ready,” he explains.

Now, for many people, having a 5.7-litre LS1 V8 under the bonnet of their V8 would be more than enough, with well over 300hp on tap in all versions of the motor, but for Adam, that was never going to be sufficient. You see, as well as owning two E36s (the other one is a 328is Saloon), Adam also owns his Camaro, which is a next-level build running a fully forged 6.0-litre engine with a turbo kit strapped to it, and it’s making just over 1000hp. So it goes without saying that the LS in his E36 was also going to need a little extra something.

500whp Supercharged LS1 V8 engined BMW E36 Coupe

“The motor is an LS1 with a Texas Speed BFD cam, 243 LS6 heads, Holley Performance 102mm Low Ram intake, WARR 102mm throttle body, CX Racing E36-swap-kit headers, motor mounts and transmission mounts, ICT billet brackets and valley cover, and a D-1SC ProCharger with a ProCharger Big Red blowoff valve. This all took a few months to acquire all the parts and assemble the way I wanted from looks to how it performed,” explains Adam, and it was worth all the effort. The LS1 looks menacing in the engine bay and sounds apocalyptic thanks to the free-flowing custom exhaust and DynoMax Race bullet silencers that don’t do much silencing at all. And as for performance, well, it’s certainly not short on that either. “The car made 500 wheel horsepower on 5 psi,” says Adam, which is around 580hp at the crank, but there’s a lot more to come here. “It will definitely be getting turned up soon to about 10-11 psi to make around 600 to the wheel,” he grins, and that will make this E36 even more of a monster than it already is. As Adam mentioned, while he was getting all the engine parts together, the bodywork and interior were being sorted, and this E36 now looks as different from the car it was when it first came to Adam as you can possibly imagine.

500whp Supercharged LS1 V8 engined BMW E36 Coupe

While Adam hasn’t gone overboard on the exterior styling, everything he has done has really enhanced the looks, and this E36 is simply sensational. We have to talk about the colour because while Adam had the car painted, it’s since been wrapped, and that’s what’s responsible for delivering that absolutely dazzling deep red hue. Fittingly, it’s called True Blood, and it’s a stunning shade that suits the E36 so well. When the sunlight hits it, it just pops and bursts into life with a blazing brilliance, and you just can’t take your eyes off it. If you can’t tell, we quite like it. Of course, there’s more to this E36 than just the wrap, and up front sit a pair of doubleslat black grilles, along with a carbon fibre front lip, plus a set of angel eye headlights. The flanks have been enhanced with the addition of a pair of carbon side blades, with gloss black M3 mirrors mounted above, while at the rear sit bumper canards and an unpainted carbon fibre boot lid. It all combines to give the E36 so much more presence and aggression, and it looks awesome for it. As you can see, Adam has opted for air-ride for his E36, and he’s running an Air Lift 3P setup that gets this 3 Series sitting insanely low. But as we all know, it’s wheels that really make the car, and we love what Adam’s got going on here. The wheels are stock E38 7 Series M Parallels, but he’s had the lips polished, and we love how they look now, and it makes a big difference. It makes them really stand out and they complement that bold red bodywork perfectly. And the fitment on these 18s is perfect, with the arches just slipping over the lips when Adam airs out, and it’s magnificent. Peer behind the widely-spaced spokes, and you’ll spot his BBK setup, and he’s opted for something a little unusual here. “For brakes, I did something different from everyone – I went with a six piston front and four-piston rear setup off a 2007 Corvette Z06,” Adam explains, and those massive calipers not only look sensational squeezed behind the wheels but also deliver serious stopping power, too.

Finally, we come to the interior, and it’s even more sensational than you might expect. First of all, you’ve got the DND Performance bucket seats, which integrate perfectly into the whole build with their red stitching, and they’re equipped with G-Force harnesses attached to a red rear-mounted roll-cage that replaces the rear seats. The whole dash is made from fibreglass and finished in suede with red stitching around the binnacle, and there, in place of the standard gauges, sits a Holley Performance 7” digital touchscreen instrument display, while an ARC switch panel has been mounted where the radio would normally be. The finishing touches are the DND Performance carbon steering wheel and the MKAH Motorsports lightweight suede door panels. It’s a very impressive interior, and Adam has chosen some seriously tasty equipment for the cabin, giving it an upmarket hardcore race look, and we love it.

This E36 build is truly spectacular and even avid American V8-haters will struggle to deny that. Adam has done an incredible job with this car, and he’s transformed an unloved E36 into a show-stopping muscle machine that makes the earth quake when it rumbles past. It looks sensational, it delivers epic performance, and it’s an awesome machine from top to bottom. And it’s not at all surprising to learn what Adam’s favourite part of the build is. “My favourite modification to the car definitely is the supercharger. I love the way it sounds, the whistle it makes, and the blow-off valve swooshing when I switch gears is the best sound ever, in my opinion,” he grins.

It’s taken Adam about a year and a half to get the E36 to where it is now, and he’s pretty much done, which isn’t surprising considering how much work he’s put into this build. “My future plans for the car are to just get some custom three-piece wheels, then I feel I’ll be done with the car for now,” he says, and Adam would also eventually like to add a carbon bonnet and a carbon LTW low-rise wing to finish off the exterior. But while this E36 might be pretty much finished, he’s not about to sit back and relax. “The next car I’m going build is my 328is Sedan, which will be even more of a wild build I feel, now that I have all the little kinks worked out with the current BMW build,” he grins, and we can’t wait to see what he does with that one. But for now, he’s got a supercharged LS1 E36 to enjoy, and you just know he’s having far too much fun to care what any of the haters might have to say.

The car made 500 wheel horsepower on 5 psi

Business in the front and party in the back with this slick boot build

while Adam had the car painted, it’s since been wrapped, and that’s what’s responsible for delivering that absolutely dazzling deep red hue. Fittingly, it’s called True Blood

My favourite modification to the car definitely is the supercharger. I love the way it sounds, the whistle it makes, and the blow-off valve swooshing when I switch gears is the best sound ever, in my opinion

ProCharger supercharger adds a serious helping of power to the already muscular LS1 V8

TECHNICAL DATA Supercharged LS1 V8 engined BMW E36 Coupe

  • ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 5.7-litre LS1 V8, Texas Speed BFD cam, 243 LS6 heads, Holley Performance 102mm Low Ram intake, WARR 102mm throttle body, CX Racing E36 swap kit exhaust manifolds and engine mounts, ICT billet brackets and valley cover, ProCharger D-1SC supercharger, ProCharger Big Red blow-off valve, 2.5” dual exhaust setup with off-road X-pipe and dual DynoMax Race Bullet mufflers. Six-speed manual gearbox, CX Racing gearbox mounts
  • MAX POWER: 500whp at 5 psi
  • CHASSIS: 8x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) Style 37 M Parallel wheels with polished lips, 205/35 (front) and 225/40 (rear) tyres, 2007 Corvette Z06 six-piston (front) and four-piston (rear) calipers, drilled discs
  • EXTERIOR: TeckWrap True Blood wrap, angel eye headlights, double-slat gloss black grilles, carbon fibre front splitter, black M3 mirrors, carbon fibre side blades, boot, rear canards and diffuser
  • INTERIOR: DND Performance bucket seats and carbon fibre steering wheel, MKAH Motorsports door cards and rear seat delete all wrapped in suede, fourpoint roll-cage powder coated red, full suede fibreglass dashboard, Holley Performance 7” digital touch screen, ARC switch panel
  • THANKS I’d really like to thank everyone who’s helped me: Jeff and Jesse from Purpose Built Motorsports Apparel @_purposebuilt_ on IG, also Rob from @robsperformancegarage for always helping me with this build, from troubleshooting to installing parts with me, a huge thank you to Alex from @autodesignpro for the wrap – we went back and forth with the colour and he decided on this one because it’s amazing, especially in person
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