Home Grown – Cory Hutchison’s 1983 BMW E21 320iS
Home Grown – Cory Hutchison’s 1983 BMW E21 320iS
I've been rubbing it in his face quite some time now. I remember the night we met - it was a spring night in 2010, I was knee-deep in my college career, and unsurprisingly, it was during a week-night house party. My high school friends and I had been renting a 5-bedroom house, which included a massive yard, a huge sun deck, and ample space for kegs, friends, and beer pong on the hard-wood flooring. The house also had a two-car garage, where more often than not I'd find myself, including that very evening. Two guys wandered in to the driveway while a few friends of mine were gathered around a car in the garage. They introduced themselves - Cory and Rodney - fans of StanceWorks and thrilled to find more car nuts to hang with.
I was thrilled too. Throughout the years, StanceWorks has led me to meet a lot of people, but these two were different. There was something special about them, and I knew I'd be seeing them again. After an hour of talking shop, I left them with some parting words: "Hang around here long enough and I'll have you in a BMW. That's a promise."
The two were diehard Honda fans - Cory confessed just the other day that he was bound and determined to get the Mugen logo tattooed on his wrist at the time. That kind of Honda fan. And while I haven't broken him of the spell entirely, I'd say it's a good thing. Fast forward a year after we had met, and I found myself photographing and writing about a Honda I had never expected. His vivid Linden Green Accord still stands as one of the most unique cars to ever hit the homepage of StanceWorks.
But I had already fulfilled my promise. His Accord was far too low to drive every day. It seemed like any time it left the house, it came back on a flatbed or with an oil-soaked Cory behind the wheel, thanks each and every time to a broken oil pan. To make ends meet, he had to cave in and purchase something that would get him to work at least somewhat reliably. You can imagine the sense of satisfaction I felt as I helped him pull a 1986 BMW 528e out of one of his customer's yard.
Cory became more than just a friend over time. He moved in, becoming my go-to guy for late night Waffle House and 2:00am Dollar Menu runs. He was my partner in crime as we did our best to keep the traffic control officers of Murfreesboro, Tennessee on their toes. He helped keep the garage at a borderline "tolerable" mess, where we'd wrench away night after night. More important than anything, he served as a source of inspiration; not just a sounding board for wild ideas of what might be done next to a car, but a source of actual intrapersonal inspiration. Whether he knew it or not, he always pushed me to take things one step further. "Go big or go home, right?" he'd always say.
Over time, I watched as the daily-driver E28 slowly became his primary focus - eventually ol' Nelson, the nickname given to his third-gen Accord, found himself as a seemingly permanent yard fixture as the 528e received more and more attention. Wheels here, suspension there, and before I knew it, Cory had dove in entirely.
It was around that time that I moved to California, leaving Cory to hold down Fort Womack and the streets of Murfreesboro - and he certainly did so. A full build on the E28, including painting it himself, made for an impressive unveiling at Southern Worthersee. He enjoyed the car for some time, but as we're all familiar with, he began to plan for another project. He was ready for something with "more pep, a sportier feel." I knew I had pushed him a bit to get the E28... I couldn't help it. But this time around, it was all him, and I was eager to see what he was going to get.
I remember the phone call - "Mike, I bought another one." It's no E28, and he knows it, but I'll be damned, the Honda kid bought another BMW, and this time entirely on his own accord (Honda puns, couldn't help it.). When he purchased the E21, it was exactly what you'd expect from a 320iS found in Middle Tennessee. It was a crowd-favorite color - Bronzit - littered with dents and scratches, hidden rust, and an interior to match. The clearcoat was shot, the seats were torn, and cosmoline still coated everything in the engine bay, but that didn't stop Cory from seeing something with unbelievable potential.
I swear I'm not lying when I say that when he bought it, he insisted it was going to stay "close to stock." It was probably only once, on the day of purchase when he called to tell me about it, but it happened. Nonetheless, 33 days after he signed the title, he had the engine out of the car and parts strewn across the driveway. The car was about to receive the full treatment Cory is known best for.
With the engine out of the bay, Cory began cutting, grinding, and filling his way towards a semi-shaved bay. Everything unnecessary was tossed and smoothed over; the engine itself received a complete overhaul and a coat of fresh paint to match. The engine bay was painted Alpine White, a much better alternative to the drabby tan that no one seems to love. Almost immediately, Cory continued with the outside of the car, addressing the few rust issues that speckled the trunk and rear valence. After cutting, welding, smoothing, and priming, he moved to the important dings and dents that he could remove himself.
Driving around a mix-matched checkerboard of Bronzit and primer simply wouldn't do, and without hesitation, Cory pulled the car into Brennan Lewellen's glorified paint booth, where the exterior of the E21 received the same Alpine White treatment as the bay with a few special touches. Cory taped, masked, and painted his own take of the famous Motorsport colors in a series of stripes that hark to the liveries that graced BMW's finest. A rare E21 Motorsport airdam completes the look of what could have been a factory-offered scheme.
An "iS" rear spoiler hugs to the trunk line, and factory skirts saved from a junk yard help the E21 hug the ground. Euro bumpers bring the dimensions of the car down to manageable levels. Most notable is the unique rear air dam: Cory's Honda roots have returned once again, this time in the form of a cut and sectioned 1996 Accord rear bumper. After much chopping, molding, and plastic welding, the rear end hangs significantly lower than stock, yet those of us not privy to the select few options of E21 rear valences are none the wiser. For the perfect touch, it's capped off by an original 1983 Tennessee license plate, handed down by his grandfather.
Under the car, a set of Hayashi Racing Techno Rs keep things slightly different. Gold centers surrounded by polished lips keep things traditionally flavored from afar, and flow perfectly with his motorsport-esque theme. A set of homebrew coilovers help the car hug the corners, and Cory has certainly found their limit, as he pushes the car every time he drives it. The coils also help the car hug the tires for a perfect street performance style.
Not one to leave anything out, Cory took to the interior as well. The driver's seat was dismantled and skinned, and with the help of his grandmother's talents and love, the two reskinned the iS sport seat to bring the interior back to life. A Nardi wheel and shift knob are perfect accessories, and of course, a serious cleaning proved quite helpful.
The E21 is far from done, as Cory is one to tell you that few cars ever are truly complete. Yet even as it stands, there's something special about the little coupe - it has a draw that is so hard to ignore - a draw that puts a smile on your face every time. Or perhaps that's the man behind the wheel. In any case, Cory's one-of-a-kind personality is embodied in the character of his creation once again. However, he's on to the next one. Or the last one, if you look at it that way. Ol' Nelson is returning once again. It's back to the Honda.