I have been, for the longest, working towards building up a BMW E36 M3 Coupe into a true race car.  You’ve seen some of the work I’ve put into the white ’95 currently gutted and resting in my garage.  It was approaching the point where it needed to go off to the cage builder.  Around the same time as I was hunting for a few last minute parts, I received a heads up from Bimmerworld’s own (and owner) James Clay that there might be a caged E36 shell available in Houston.  It was built by Bimmerworld a while back, starting life as a ’94 325i.  It was intended for NASA GTS racing, most likely the GTS-2 class.  The current owner of the car had some medical issues that would prevent him from continuing with the project, and he wanted it and every associated part gone.  This sounded like just the ticket, saving me time (possibly money too) in having a fully built cage and plenty of spares ready to go.

Removing the rear subframe of my M3 and finding several damaged areas sealed the deal, and I made the trip down to Houston with my open aluminum trailer to retrieve the car and parts.  The car was truly just a shell; no engine, transmission, rear subframe, or anything required to make it a roller.  Fortunately the owner had reinstalled the front subframe, struts, rack, and uprights, so it was sitting on its front two feet.  There was no rear subframe, so we used a furniture hand truck to help move it.  Despite not having running gear, the car still wasn’t exactly light having been slap full of spare and new parts.  We managed to get everything loaded, with some help from a come-along and numerous ratchet straps.

325i loadedWith everything loaded, I set off for home, which meant traveling through the congested heart of Houston.  I was poking along I-45, less than 30 minutes from my start point, when a brief lapse in my attention ended everything before it barely started.  I had taken my eyes off the road to check that my left side was clear in order to change to the center lane when I found myself on a collision course with a concrete barrier.  At the last fraction of a second I avoided impacting the water filled drums protecting the corner of the barrier… at least with the front of the truck that is.  The side view mirror clipped the barrier, the right bedside swiped it, then the right wheels of the trailer landed home… hard.

Trailer WreckThe axles were instantly torn from the trailer, taking about 3/4’s of the decking and frame with them.  Fortunately the car remained secured to the trailer, lucky that it was being towed backwards, as the front tires surely took some of the shock.  Even more fortunate that no one was hurt in the ensuing debris cloud that sent pieces of aluminum not only into the adjacent lanes but even over the divider into the southbound side.

It ended up damaging 9 other cars, mostly cosmetic, but several wheels were busted from running over the debris.  There were also four wheels and two tires secured to the trailer, which were all scattered across the highway.  It was a disaster to say the least, you can imagine what it did to the already dense traffic (good thing it was a Sunday and not rush hour on a workday.)

All that was left of the trailer Remains of the trailer Damage to rear of Titan Car getting loaded 325i Loaded on Rollback 2 325i Loaded on Rollback 1

So after dealing with the police and the multiple folks seeking my insurance info, I left for home empty handed.  Perhaps a saving grace was that I had two full sets of race tires and wheels in the bed of the truck, including a set of BBS’s which were all unharmed.

Now I had to figure out how to get the car back to my home, with no more trailer in my possession.  While on my way home, I received a message from Dave at DDPR, asking if I was still planning to stop by the shop.  D’oh!  That’s right, I was planning to stop by his shop in Sealy on my way home to check out the Spyder.  Obviously I was a little scatter-brained following the incident, so I hadn’t let him know I wasn’t going to make it.  I shot him a reply with an attached photo of the carnage.  Dave called almost immediately to make sure I was alright, I had just pulled into my driveway.  He then offered me use of his enclosed trailer should I need it to pick up the car, what luck.  A couple days later I took him up on the offer, driving back to Houston to pick up the remains.

After haggling with the tow yard owner, and exchange of way too much money, I was finally allowed into the back of the yard to retrieve my car and trailer.  Sidenote: If at all possible, avoid doing any business with Fiesta Towing in Houston.  One of the workers had enough compassion and common sense to help me out, despite the owner’s quibbling.  I backed the trailer in, finding the car just like this:

325i in Tow Yard

Car in the tow yard Trailer backed up

I had brought a buddy along to help with the task, this was definitely a two man job.  The trailer we brought was equipped with a winch, but it would still take a little redneck ingenuity to get everything loaded.  Thankfully I had brought tools, including a cordless sawsall and impact driver.  We decided we had to separate the car from the trailer, which required cutting the remaining frame rails from the tongue.  We then zipped out the bolts holding the tongue jack, so that we could place the trailer on furniture dollies.  The winch made short work of pulling the remains inside the enclosed trailer.

Trailer pulled inside

Now for the car.  The hand-truck that was used to load the car the first time had been badly damaged during the wreck, making it useless.  This had also crushed the spare tire well, leaving us few options for placing dollies under the rear of the car.  That’s when, with another stroke of genius, we took a scrap piece of the trailer’s aluminum and laid it across two of the dollies.  We stacked some wood planks on top of that, then used this as a beam under the bottom of the car.  Using my floor jack we lowered the entire car down onto the dollies, which were then strapped to the car.

Waiting to lower car on dollies 325i resting on dollies Damage to spare tire well Empty space waiting on car

With the car’s rear end resting on the dollies, I ran a large strap around the piece of aluminum sandwiched between the car and dollies.  Then I connected the winch’s hook to the strap, from there it was just a series of pulls and adjustments.  I wasn’t able to catch any photos, as our hands were full, but you get the idea.  With the car finally in, we strapped everything down securely, and headed back home.

Finally home and unloaded.  I think I need to change my doorbell to play the theme song from Sanford and Son.

Full House


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