Words & Photos by Henry Phull
If you asked me to list some of the most influential classic BMWs of our generation, Becky Evans’ E21 would be right up there. Both she and this little 316 have become icons throughout the global car community (you’ll probably know her as Queen B on Instagram and her recent YouTube channel). Becky’s E21 is the absolute epitome of the classic ‘bagged BMW’ combo, and although the recipe is nothing mind-blowing, the car as a whole has become a complete trendsetter. Simply introducing a classic to the ground and adding the right wheels (notably, a set of BBS RS), effectively blew people’s minds a good four or so years ago. Now, everyone wants their classic BMW to look like hers – that must be quite the compliment. With the car going through several transformations during her ownership, Becky has finally got to a stage where she’s happy with it. Having known her for years, I’ve watched the car progress, and waited a long time to get this gorgeous E21 in front of my lens. Earlier this year that time finally came…
Prior to the E21, Becky has been interested in cars since her childhood. With both her parents being petrolheads, she spent a lot of time around motorsport and racing. Naturally, she was going to be into cars. When she passed her test, she got a Mk4 Golf 1.4, and the fascination with the modified scene grew. “People really used to go to town on body modifications. Smoothed this, smoothed that. OEM+ parts, adding in later-gen features to older generation cars.” she explains and admits that her Mk4 got a taste of the times, with US-spec bodywork and smoothed tailgate in addition to all the usual mods of the moment.
However, when the time came for something new, Becky remembered about her mum owning an E21 back when she was her age. “I wanted to recreate this image of her in my mind” she explains. Plus, she had always been fascinated by BMW’s unique style herself. Unsurprisingly, an internet search began… which led her to a Henna Rot example that hadn’t made its reserve price on eBay. “I rang the seller quickly, and asked ‘Is it really as clean as it looks?’ and she said ‘yes, I promise you!’ – so then we grabbed the trailer and made the trip down to deepest darkest Somerset – baring in mind that I lived in Coventry at the time.” Just a two-owner car, the previous (also a woman) owner had only used it around town and to go to the shops. “She was super cool though, and wanted to know that the car was going to a good home. I promised her that I had a plan for it…” Well, I think it’s safe to say that Becky kept that promise.
The E21 was clean and rust-free, only requiring a small amount of cosmetic work to make it presentable, which made it the ideal original candidate for what Becky was envisioning. “I knew I always wanted to bag it, having gone through the pain having a static car, bags were really the way to go. I always loved the BBS RS wheel, but never had a car that I could put them on. That was the initial vision.” It only took four months to get the car bagged and on wheels, making its first debut at Ultimate Dubs 2013. However, to get it to the level it’s at now took four years. “The overall quality of the build has been lifted over the years, with an amazing paint job, better engineering of the air system and the final finish on the wheels” Becky explains, which we’ll be looking at next…
In its latest guise, the E21’s air suspension system was completely redesigned by Henry at RIIVA Design, including re-engineered custom air struts (using universal bags front and rear), upgrading to Air Lift Performance 3P management and creating a new tasteful boot build featuring a body-coloured seamless tank and hard lines, trimmed to compliment the rest of the interior. As a result, the car now drives and handles better than it ever did.
On to Becky’s beloved BBS RS073’s, which were owned previously by several people within a circle of her friends, so she knew they had been looked after. “These ones are pretty special in that they came stepped from the factory, they are 30-bolt centres, as opposed to 34 which traditionally come on the 16s. So these have that smaller centre, stepped lip look that I love but are original from factory like that” she explains. The wheels are spec’d as follows: 16×8 (2″ step) fronts, 16×9 (3″ step) rears with 195/35 and 215/30 tyres.
The BBS’ were originally purchased at the same time she bought the car, when they had polished lips and powder coated centres with gold hardware – pretty much the go-to spec. More recently, the wheels have undergone complete refinishing by Elie at Voodoo who has ceramic polished everything along with matching hardware and custom quarter height hex nuts. They now compliment the car perfectly.
It was time to attack the interior. Becky wanted to keep this as original as possible, but just wasn’t a fan of the original SE-style seats, especially considering one of them was damaged. A massive fan of the Ford Escort Recaro fishnet seats, she knew they would look right at home in the E21, if they were trimmed correctly. She finally found a set of Recaro’s from an RS2000, and began hunting for some original BMW material to trim them in, with the intention of matching the original rear bench.
Becky opted for the services of Dave Goodwin (Dave The Trimmer) to undertake the re-trim. “I wanted it to be perfect, so in the end, the search took us to some guy in Italy who happened to have a roll of the 83 pergament corduroy that we needed.” After a long time waiting, the seats were finally trimmed and now look like they could have been there from the factory. The interior is finished off with a Nardi Torino wooden steering wheel, naturally.
After running the car in its original cosmetic state for a number of years, Becky finally saved enough money to get a top-level paint job to match the overall picture she had in her head. She enlisted the services of Steve Denton at Stylehaus to carry out a complete bare metal respray in the original Henna Rot red. “The finish on the car is insane, I can’t thank him enough for the job he’s done.” she remarks. Along with the immaculate paint, you’ll notice a few subtle changes, like the rear window louvre, heckblende, and the headlights which have been converted back to a single setup, creating an overall sublime package.
Aesthetically, Becky has revised the E21 to the point of perfection… truth be told, nothing else needs to be done to the outside of the car without the risk of ruining it. Unlike a lot of people, she doesn’t feel the need to go overboard by trying to win over the internet, even though she’s had the car for so long (a lot of people would get bored, right?). To Becky, it’s been about refining her dream BMW with that timeless look. Of course, like all project cars, there’s still work to be done behind the scenes… The original M10 engine remains untouched (apart from much-needed maintenance), so her next port of call is to fit a set of carbs that are currently sat in the garage, and shaving/painting the engine bay over Winter time. Until then, the car is being enjoyed whenever she gets the time!