Behind The Build | BMW E36 M3 Restoration

Here at SouthernBM we see cars in various states of condition, and in a restoration sense, every now and then a real gem lands in our laps.

Andrew Brien is the owner and director of the BMW Specialist workshop, SouthernBM. He and his experienced team see cars in various states of condition, and in a restoration sense, every now and then a real gem lands in their laps.

An almost pristine BMW E36 M3 arrived and at first glance, it looks almost factory fresh. Closer inspection, smiles Andrew, reveals a few hiccups.

E36 M3 spec cars started to hit showroom floors in 1992 and wrapped in 1999. A sharp and edgy design, they still cut a fine figure on the roads. The early models packed a 3.0L straight six and 213kW. A 1995 update saw that increase to 3.2L and 236kW.

The Brief.

This particular example had been garaged for around five years. The work required isn’t big. A mild restoration of the exterior, with just a few scuff marks and wheel scratches to clean up, some light dent fixes, and an engine check is about the extent of what is required to bring this very tidy example back to a near showroom condition.

Venturing inside, some typical points of wear are immediately noticeable. The leather seats are tired and one has a perforated bolster, needing a retrim. The driver’s foot-well carpet has well and truly seen better days, a common problem with vehicles of this age, says Andrew. 

Another common repair focus is the roof lining, with sags and tears an indicator of the age of the cars of this type. Sun damage to the rear parcel shelf too, he says, is a not uncommon repair requirement so makes for a relatively easy fix.

The Build.

The roof situation is an easy one. A quick look at the A and C pillar, and the SouthernBM team makes the call that Alcantara, a suede-like material known for looks and durability, is the perfect solution.

There’s also the new look of the seats once they’ve been re-upholstered that will bring a fresh look to the E36 M3.

The work is done, and Andrew proudly shows off the final result. It’s gone from a tidy if slightly dowdy M3, to a gleaming, almost off the factory floor shine.


The paint, a bright red, has been brought back to life, and now reflects every ray of light. The exterior door handle surrounds have been refreshed and in a matte black really complement the red.


Inside, the driver’s carpet issue has been overcome by firstly giving the area a deep clean, and then a leather-look patch has been sewn in. Not only does it look fantastic, the patch will provide some much-welcomed extra lifespan for the area for a relatively minor time and money investment.

For the seats, the team have deep-cleaned the leather and rather than replace the full seat coverings, have paid attention only to the areas that required their keen eyes. The bolstered sides now have new and firmer material with the new leather, for better support and again, a longer life.

Andrew also kneels down and points to the newly refurbished roof and pillar lining inside this E36 M3.

The jet black Alcantara stretches from front to rear window and across the rear parcel shelf. Andrew beams as he says how well it transforms the look and feel of the interior, and brings a truly special feel as the eyes swivel from one end of the cabin to the other. 

The final touches came from a cleaning of the other trim areas such as the centre console, steering wheel hub, and doors, and closed off with a treatment to restore the shine.


The bonnet is popped and Andrew highlights the work performed here, such as replacing the plenum cover for the engine, plus a general clean for the engine bay. Minimal cost, maximum return is the aim and achieved goal here.


Other exterior refurbishments were the original equipment side mouldings which were cleaned up and treated for a deep lustrous look. By using the originals, this saves money and a simple liquid or polish treatment can add plenty of visual and monetary value over a full replacement.

However, it’s perhaps the wheels that overtake the paint treatment; the gutter rash scrapes and scratches have completely disappeared, with the team meticulously preparing each wheel before the repair. They’ve also repainted the wheels in the original silver-hued colour and wrapped each corner with new Michelin rubber. 

The Results

To conclude this relatively minor update, Andrew points out that for some cars like this E36 M3, not a lot of money needs to be spent in order to bring what is a modern classic back to a condition that makes it a potentially valuable future investment.

SouthernBM are an independent and specialist oriented BMW service centre. Andrew and the team not only have the experience required to work with you on your BMW, they have the passion and the love for the brand that shows in preparation and refurbishment of vehicles such as this BMW E36 M3.
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Published Aug 13, 2020

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After 3 other BMW workshops couldn't fix the problem with my M3. SouthernBM sorted it. Excellent to deal with, great communication and customer service.

David Dean
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My first dealing with Southern BM was a pleasant one. I had some springs and shocks installed and Sean was a delight to deal with. Knowledgeable, helpful and offered solutions when not everything went to plan. I would happily recommend them.

Errol Frank
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Took my e60 there, Jimmy was an absolute pleasure to deal with, very honest, explained everything in detail, and provided some great recommendations due to my individual circumstance. Can not recommend highly enough.

Jared Flower
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First time at Southern BM today and it won't be my last. Efficient and quality service as I'd expected at a much more reasonable price than a BMW Dealer. The only downside, you'll drop your car off and will end up drooling over the m3s and m4s out front!

Bobby Turner
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Thank you once again to John, Andrew and their team. Have been bringing our cars to them for several years now and have complete trust and faith in their workmanship and honesty.

Eugene Ooi
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