Apples rarely fall far from the tree, or so they say, but the sentiment rings true for Alvin Louie and the Louie family. As a group of BMW-owning car enthusiasts, it came as a surprise to no one when Alvin eventually set out to build one of his own. The undertaking involved, however, was nothing short of monumental. The yield, on the other hand? One of a kind.
Alvin attributes his BMW roots to his older brother Alex. Alex purchased a '95 E34 525i in high school, and from that moment, it was all downhill for the two of them. The conservative nature of the cars, combined with an undeniable sense of style, separated the BMW marque from the rest, and now, the entire Louie family sports a roundel on their car.
Alvin's personal journey into BMW ownership had relatively similar roots: his E24 was originally intended to take him to and from school, but as anyone might guess, the purpose fell by the wayside, and a proper build became the priority. In fact, it was likely evident from the get-go, as Alvin couldn't have chosen a car less-apt to daily commuting.
A classic craigslist search brought forth an ad with no pictures and few words, but Alvin was keen on seeing the car anyway. Upon arrival, he was met with a car that had been sitting underneath a tree for six years, the last year and a half of which was spent with a a smashed-out passenger window. The car was filled with rust, the original Racing Dynamics body kit was splitting and delaminating, and the rear trunk sill had disappeared almost entirely. It's the kind of car almost any sane person would turn away from, but luckily for us, Alvin took it home. The set of Alpina Softlines underneath the car probably didn't hurt his motivation to buy it.
The car sat in Alvin's possession for almost four years before he was truly motivated to pursue such a large undertaking, and he admits it was the bodywork and rust repair that proved to be the most challenging part as he progressed. The body kit, which was worth saving, had some tremendous hurdles of its own: "The moulded side skirts had water damage behind the bodywork, causing it to warp, along with the cracked front bumper and mounting brackets. With all this damage, I cut and reglassed the side skirts myself, reglassed the front bumper, and made new mounting brackets with the help of my brother," he says.
Under the hood, the original M30B34 sits right at home, along with a Schrick 288/280 cam, a Split-Second ARC2 MAF, and Dinan software, to give the car a bump in power. An oldschool Billy Boat stainless exhaust lets the M30 breathe and reminds passers by of the unrefined nature of such an engine. Power is routed out to both wheels thanks to a Euro M5 3.73 limited-slip differential.
Inside the car, things needed a lot of attention, as being open to the elements left it worse for wear. Now, a set of Recaro SE seats paired with Schroth Rallye harnesses make up the centerpiece of the car's guts. A CAE ultra shifter follows closely behind, and an Alpina steering wheel isn't far away, making for some impressive hardware in the car's interior.
When it comes to the car's running gear, things took a try or two. Alvin used a set of Air Lift Performance front struts originally intended for a Dodge Charger, and after a few test-fits, modifications, and adjustments, the car now sits perfectly: low enough to close the wheel gap, but with enough lift to clear any steep entrance he comes across. As an added touch, he introduced extra camber between the knuckle and the strut housing, allowing him to dial the front inwards to a staggering -10º of camber, which matches the rear perfectly.
At the back of the car, the install was a bit more simplified: Air Lift Performance universal 75564 rear struts do the heavy lifting, and V2 management controls everything, fore and aft. The suspension is rounded out with a set of Dinan sway bars and AKG bump-steer correction spacers. Moving outwards, Alvin has equipped the car with E31 850ci Brembo 324mm brakes for the front, and E34 M4 300mm brakes for the rear, all plumbed through a Chase Bays brake booster elimination kit with a bias-adjuster and stainless lines.
That of course brings us to the car's piece de resistance: the Autostrada Modena wheels. Alvin had been searching for quite some time, insisting upon a complete set -- wafflex, hexes, and cotter pins -- before he'd make the purchase. A set finally surfaced on facebook, but being 17s, needed a complete rebuild to suit the car. Alvin enlisted the help of Mastermind NA to source fresh parts, and the results speak for themselves. The fronts measure out to 18x9.75, sandwich mounted, while the rears bump out to 18x11, face-mounted. To finish out the look, Alvin gave the car a JPS-inspired livery.
The finished look is a Six that rivals the best of them, with a fit and finish that leaves nothing to be desired. Alvin insists the car will never leave his hands, but promises there's more to come, next time in the form of a Kei truck. Patiently, we'll wait to see what Alvin drums up next.