Click above for a high-res gallery detailing the install

With over 140,00 miles on the clock, the stock suspension of our BMW 318is project car was far from ready for its upcoming track assault, and the stiffer sidewalls and stickier rubber we fitted in our first installment accentuated the tired springs and shocks. Thankfully, the popularity of the E36 chassis makes shopping for new suspension bits an easy, if slightly overwhelming, affair. The choices range from pieced together spring/shock combos to race-ready coilovers, so we decided to split the difference with one of H&R's Touring Cup Kits (31005T-1). The package includes springs and shocks that lower the front by 1.5-inches and the rear by one inch, balancing ride comfort and stiffness while allowing us to traverse speed bumps without having to worry about teetering on our oil pan.

Hit the jump to read our impressions on how the H&R kit fared during our first week of testing and you can read through the entire suspension swap in our tagged gallery below.

  • Before
  • After
  • An actual fender roller beats the taped baseball bat we used on one of our original project cars. It bolts onto the hub and allows adjustments for both length and angle. We spent a good 15-20 minutes on each side, to ensure a clean roll without any adverse affects to the paint.
  • With the front wheel off, we were able to remove the three, 18 mm lower strut bolts.
  • After a fair amount of tugging, the caliper and brake came off and were quickly zip-tied to avoid pulling on the brake and ABS lines.
  • Removed the three, 13 mm bolts holding the strut top to the tower and were able to pull the whole strut/spring combo out.
  • We can't emphasize how important it is to have the right tools for the job. The spring compressor made our lives infinitely easier, allowing us to safely compress the spring to remove it from the strut. While it's doubtful that you have one of these laying around your garage, finding a local shop to perform this risky business will save you a serious headache and the deductible for your medical insurance.
  • Adjusting the arms to hold the spring firmly in place.
  • The 22 mm bolt to remove the top hat is hidden by a dust cover. Yank that off and you can pull the hat out, along with the bumpstop. The H&R kit recommends that you reuse the stock bumpstop. Ours were slightly worse for the wear, but were still usable. If they've deteriorated to the point of crumbling in your hands, don't skimp out on replacing them.
  • Laying the bolt back on before reusing the top hat on the new H&R unit.
  • The top hat about to be placed back on the spring press.
  • Everything is lined up and ready for the new strut.
  • Putting the new strut through the bottom of the spring, held in by the press.
  • About to tighten everything down. Wait... we're forgetting something...
  • Bump-stop!
  • H&R recommends cutting 3/4s of an inch from the bump-stop to allow it to sit flush. Gardening sheers FTW!
  • Okay. Everything is where it should be and we can install the strut and top hat to the spring.
  • With the whole unit assembled we can install the three, 13 mm bolts back into the top of the strut tower.
  • With everything tight up top, fit the brake and hub to the strut.
  • It helps to have a jack around to lift the brake/hub into place. From there, you can replace the three, 18 mm bolts and torque them to spec.
  • The brake and ABS line clip should be removed from the stock strut and fitted to the threaded dowel on the H&R unit.
  • With the clip reinstalled, you can route the brake and ABS lines around, making sure there's sufficient slack and suitable clearance from the wheel and tire.
  • In order to get to the strut towers in the rear, you have to remove the majority of the carpeting in the trunk. Be patient, but firm. It will come out, but take care not to rip any of the carpeting and be sure to remove the wire that actuates the fuel filler door.
  • After ripping the back of your hands to shreds on the coarse carpeting, you'll finally find the strut tops hidden underneath the speaker boxes. The speaker boxes don't need to be removed, as long as you've got a small enough socket and some patience. Two, 13 mm bolts hold the top hat to the strut towers.
  • Remove the 18mm lower shock bolt.
  • Remove the strut.
  • While we can't entirely recommend pulling out the rear spring with a pry bar, but it works and it's even quicker when you pry from the bottom. Afterwards, you can get a monkey to put pressure on the rotor so you can install the new spring.
  • Said monkey applying force to brake caliper to slot in the spring.
  • You can pry the rubber dust cap off, assuming it didn't come out when you pulled it through the shock tower.
  • FYI, it's a PITA
  • Unscrew the 17 mm nut and transfer it over to the new strut...
  • ... along with the rest of the hardware from the old strut.
  • Piece it together.
  • Some more...
  • Complete!
  • Torque it down and then reassemble in reverse order. And you're done.


The installation took just under three hours, but with the right equipment and a minimum of smoke breaks, there's little doubt that you could be on your way to stiff bliss in two hours or less. We should also mention that we performed a mild roll of the rear fenders, since the right-rear tire would rub due to a minor dent on the back edge of the blister. The process was painless enough, but might be unnecessary on other E36s.

After getting everything torqued to spec and going for a quick jaunt around the block to allow everything to settle in, the new springs and struts were a revelation over the 16-year-old stock setup. The on-center steering feel impressed before we even left the parking lot, providing noticeably more feedback during small corrections. Turn-in felt more direct when tackling a few corners outside the shop and as the week wore on, our confidence continued to grow during a handful of late-night performance "tests."

Most of the understeer that we experienced before has been dispatched in favor of a more neutral feel that allows easier mid-corner corrections through both the steering and throttle. Trail-braking, which had little effect with the squishy stock suspension, has become a regular routine on the back roads, predictably rotating the rear and allowing the Bimmer to take a set with a minimum of drama. Overall, we're suitably impressed with the setup and are confident that the H&R kit will balance our needs both on the road and on our first track day in July.

Next on the agenda is trying to source a used 3.91 LSD and dealing with some damage caused by a minor (okay, major) on-road argument between our Bimmer and a large chunk of metal on 680 North. It hit with enough force to take a chunk out of our license plate before cracking the bumper, shredding the auxiliary fan and shroud, slicing open a couple of power-steering hoses and destroying three of the four radiator mounts. Those parts are en route as you read this and should be installed by the end of the week.

UPDATE: Due to popular demand, we've added a gallery of the damage. Click the pic below for a handful of images with captions.



Special thanks to Modacar in Livermore, CA for giving us place to wrench.

  • Before
  • After
  • An actual fender roller beats the taped baseball bat we used on one of our original project cars. It bolts onto the hub and allows adjustments for both length and angle. We spent a good 15-20 minutes on each side, to ensure a clean roll without any adverse affects to the paint.
  • With the front wheel off, we were able to remove the three, 18 mm lower strut bolts.
  • After a fair amount of tugging, the caliper and brake came off and were quickly zip-tied to avoid pulling on the brake and ABS lines.
  • Removed the three, 13 mm bolts holding the strut top to the tower and were able to pull the whole strut/spring combo out.
  • We can't emphasize how important it is to have the right tools for the job. The spring compressor made our lives infinitely easier, allowing us to safely compress the spring to remove it from the strut. While it's doubtful that you have one of these laying around your garage, finding a local shop to perform this risky business will save you a serious headache and the deductible for your medical insurance.
  • Adjusting the arms to hold the spring firmly in place.
  • The 22 mm bolt to remove the top hat is hidden by a dust cover. Yank that off and you can pull the hat out, along with the bumpstop. The H&R kit recommends that you reuse the stock bumpstop. Ours were slightly worse for the wear, but were still usable. If they've deteriorated to the point of crumbling in your hands, don't skimp out on replacing them.
  • Laying the bolt back on before reusing the top hat on the new H&R unit.
  • The top hat about to be placed back on the spring press.
  • Everything is lined up and ready for the new strut.
  • Putting the new strut through the bottom of the spring, held in by the press.
  • About to tighten everything down. Wait... we're forgetting something...
  • Bump-stop!
  • H&R recommends cutting 3/4s of an inch from the bump-stop to allow it to sit flush. Gardening sheers FTW!
  • Okay. Everything is where it should be and we can install the strut and top hat to the spring.
  • With the whole unit assembled we can install the three, 13 mm bolts back into the top of the strut tower.
  • With everything tight up top, fit the brake and hub to the strut.
  • It helps to have a jack around to lift the brake/hub into place. From there, you can replace the three, 18 mm bolts and torque them to spec.
  • The brake and ABS line clip should be removed from the stock strut and fitted to the threaded dowel on the H&R unit.
  • With the clip reinstalled, you can route the brake and ABS lines around, making sure there's sufficient slack and suitable clearance from the wheel and tire.
  • In order to get to the strut towers in the rear, you have to remove the majority of the carpeting in the trunk. Be patient, but firm. It will come out, but take care not to rip any of the carpeting and be sure to remove the wire that actuates the fuel filler door.
  • After ripping the back of your hands to shreds on the coarse carpeting, you'll finally find the strut tops hidden underneath the speaker boxes. The speaker boxes don't need to be removed, as long as you've got a small enough socket and some patience. Two, 13 mm bolts hold the top hat to the strut towers.
  • Remove the 18mm lower shock bolt.
  • Remove the strut.
  • While we can't entirely recommend pulling out the rear spring with a pry bar, but it works and it's even quicker when you pry from the bottom. Afterwards, you can get a monkey to put pressure on the rotor so you can install the new spring.
  • Said monkey applying force to brake caliper to slot in the spring.
  • You can pry the rubber dust cap off, assuming it didn't come out when you pulled it through the shock tower.
  • FYI, it's a PITA
  • Unscrew the 17 mm nut and transfer it over to the new strut...
  • ... along with the rest of the hardware from the old strut.
  • Piece it together.
  • Some more...
  • Complete!
  • Torque it down and then reassemble in reverse order. And you're done.


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