2.8-litre M20 stroker BMW 328i Coupe E30

We love the E30, as does pretty much everyone out there reading this, and we love pretty much every modded E30 we come across but some we love just that little bit more – if that’s even possible – and Pawel Adamus’ example is one such car. What makes us love this car as much as we do is at once both hard to put a finger on in absolute terms, but also easy to explain. It’s the completeness of the build that we love, the fact that Pawel has put so much work into every aspect of this project, plus the fact that it looks flawless and perfect in every way. As far as non-M3 E30s go, it doesn’t get much better than this.

That Pawel runs an E30 as a project isn’t really all that surprising when you learn that the very first BM he ever drove just so happened to be an E30; “I have been interested in BMWs since I was 14,” Pawel tells us. “My friend let my drive his E30 318iS on a closed road. It was a really crappy car, but it was enough to fall in love with driving classic BMWs. The best thing about BMWs is the driving pleasure – when you get into a BMW you feel that it is designed for the driver,” he grins. Since getting his first taste of Bavarian motoring Pawel has worked his way through a number of BMs, starting with an E34, then an E36 and an E46, but he’d never actually modded anything prior to getting his hands on this E30. “Since I got my driving licence I knew that I must have an E30, so every previous car I owned was only a daily,” he explains, which makes the end result that he’s created, turning teenage dream into reality, all the more impressive.

“I had a white E36 318iS and when this car was sold I could get this E30,” Pawel tells us. “I was looking for a two-door E30 with a six-cylinder engine in black. What convinced me to buy this particular car was that it had air conditioning – which is funny because I didn’t install that part after the rebuild,” he laughs. “I found the car 100km from where I live; it wasn’t in perfect condition but it was OK, just a normal, slightly tired E30,” he says. “I didn’t know that this car would look like this in every detail; I bought it 12 years ago when I was a student with small amount of money and huge desire to build a nice E30,” Pawel says. “When the 2.0-litre M20 engine died, I decided to start rebuilding this car seriously. But I only had a general idea for the car, which meant a stanced E30 with three-piece wheels, M Tech 2 kit and clubsport interior. I was dreaming about a modified M20 engine, but at that moment it was impossible for me.” 12 years is a long time to own a car and, as you can see, Pawel’s E30 now bears little resemblance to the slightly tired, completely stock example he picked up over a decade ago when he was still studying. It’s grown with him over the years and in that time he’s been able to turn it into his perfect E30.

Pawel started rebuilding the car eight years ago and decided that this was going to be a complete build covering all aspects of the car, with no area left unmodded and we’d say he’s done what he set out to do, and then some. Let’s begin on the outside, because this E30 is the perfect example of how well the classic 3 Series shape works with minimal mods. Pawel has taken the car’s natural good looks and just gently enhanced them to bring out its best and it looks fantastic. You will have noticed that this car is no longer black, both the original colour that Pawel was keen on and the air con that swung the purchase for him in the first place having been abandoned along the way. The Ferrari Grigio Silverstone that he’s opted for is a stunning shade that sparkles in the sun and really picks out all of the E30’s styling touches perfectly. Pawel has stayed true to his original vision of creating a stanced E30 running M Tech 2 styling and the classic kit does the perfect job of adding just the right amount of muscle to the E30’s bodywork. In addition to this he has added a set of smoked Depo headlights (minus one high beam where the cold air feed sits) and smoked front indicators, complemented by a set of MHW smoked rear lights, a pair of carbon DTM mirrors and that’s it. That’s at all it needs, adding an element of individuality to the car’s styling while at the same time allowing the clean, classic lines to absolutely shine through, aided by that dazzling grey.

Of course, there’s more to the looks than just the styling, which is where the wheels and suspension come in. “I always liked the OZ Mito IIs and when I started the project I knew that I would install these particular wheels on my car,” says Pawel and they are a superb choice. The unfussy, five-spoke design of these two-piece splits is simple and timeless and works so well with just about any BM you might care to mention, and with silver centres and polished stepped lips, these 17s suit the E30 as well as any wheels you could imagine. Pawel has got his stance spot-on, too, the E30’s arches just passing over the stretched rubber that enables the OZs to nestle snugly beneath them. Allowing the E30 to achieve that stunning stance is an ISC Suspension coilover kit, which delivers a serious drop without going too extreme as, by his own admission, Pawel enjoys driving his E30 fast and so this setup is as much about performance as it is about looks and strikes the perfect balance.

Of course, if you like to drive fast you need something meaty under your bonnet and while the original 2.0-litre M20 was an adequate power source, it was lacking in outright punch. When it died, that was something of a blessing in disguise as it enabled Pawel to get something rather more muscular into the E30’s engine bay.

“The engine is a fully-rebuilt M20B25 with a 2.8-litre stroker kit,” grins Pawel. “The crankshaft is lighter than stock and has been balanced. The head has been fitted with a new Schrick 288 camshaft with Schrick race valve springs and an adjustable cam gear from Cat Cams. My friend prepared a set of ITBs for the engine and the exhaust was made by myself and my friend Leo (who owns the 2JZ E46 from the May issue) from stainless steel. After all the engine modifications, Leo installed an Ecumaster EMU computer to manage the engine,” he says and that is one hell of a set-up. The engine looks awesome, with that gorgeous Ireland Engineering long tube six-branch exhaust manifold at one end and those six ITBs, wearing individual mesh filters, at the other. This is a proper performance motor that’s had some serious work carried out and we love the fact that Pawel has stuck with an M20 and worked on that rather than swapping in something alien to the E30. The M20 has been hooked up to a six-speed ’box – a modified six-speed manual from an E46 – not an easy task to accomplish and a rarity on an E30, with a 40% LSD out back and a CAE Ultra Shifter up top. Of course, with some serious muscle under his bonnet, Pawel was now in need of some serious brakes and this E30 is packing some suitably heavy-duty anchors squeezed in behind the Mitos. “The E30 has quite big brakes installed,” chuckles Pawel, “six-pot calipers from a Porsche Cayenne Turbo with 337mm discs up front and four-pot calipers from a Porsche 996 with 300mm discs at the back. It was really hard to install these brakes with 17” wheels – it took us six months to handle that,” he says and we’re not surprised. The brakes are absolutely massive and getting them to fit beneath mere 17s is nothing short of a miracle but at least Pawel’s not short on stopping power now.

Finally we come to the interior and you will recall that Pawel’s original vision for his stanced E30 was a clubsport cabin and one glance inside this E30 tells you that he achieved exactly what he set out to do. It’s stripped-out and suitably hardcore but it’s all been executed to an extremely high standard and looks very sexy indeed. “Since the beginning I knew that I wanted to have a full roll-cage in my car, but with clubsport smartness – I mean I wanted carpets, dashboard, leather bucket seats etc.,” explains Pawel. Gone are the original front seats and in their place he has installed a pair of Recaro Profi SPG seats trimmed in Nappa leather, because who says performance and plush can’t go hand-in- hand? The rear seats have also been given the heave-ho in order to make room for the Forge Racing roll-cage, finished in a lush shade of red, while five-point Schroth harnesses have also been added. The door pulls have been finished in Alcantara with red stitching to match the roll-cage and there’s also an Alcantara-wrapped Sparco R383 steering wheel complete with red stitching. The dashboard and centre console have been flocked and there’s a hydraulic handbrake, a bank of auxiliary gauges for oil temp, pressure and amps while the instrument cluster has been spruced-up with some red needles and chrome surrounds for the finishing touch. A lot of love has been poured into this E30, it shows everywhere you look, and this car really is the embodiment of built-not-bought. Pawel and his E30 have been through a lot together – this car has been with him from his late teens all the way through his 20s and it was still here as he hit 30. This isn’t just a car, this is a life companion: he’s got so many fond memories with this machine and had so many amazing experiences with it, which makes it all the more special, and that’s before you even get into all the mods.

We’re so used to seeing people jump from project to project that finding someone who’s owned their car – and has been building it – for a long time is always great to see. Buying this car back when he was 18, Pawel could never have imagined his middle-of-the-road E30 would ever end up as a stripped-out, 2.8-powered beast but he had a vision to work towards and the determination to make it happen. He’s far from finished, though; “I’m working on installing bigger two-piece discs, centrelock wheels and a carbon air box for the ITBs,” he says, “and if money were no object I would install the HLS system from KW on the car as it would help me to be able to drive it properly and it would still be static.” It’s no surprise to learn that he’s also planning his next project, too; “It will be an E30 of course,” he laughs, “but the plan for the next car is to build an M3 turbo replica with OEM parts. Keep your fingers crossed,” he says with a grin and that sounds like it’s going to be an incredible machine but, then again, it would have to be to top this stunning E30.

DATA FILE 2.8 M20 E30

ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.8-litre straight-six M20 stroker, fully-rebuilt, 288° Schrick camshaft, Schrick race valve springs, ported head, Cat Cams adjustable cam gear, ITB manifold, Ireland Engineering long-tube headers, BMW Expert Motorsport stainless steel exhaust, Ecumaster EMU standalone computer. Modified E46 six-speed manual gearbox, 40% locking LSD, CAE Ultra Shifter

CHASSIS 9×17” (front) and 10×17” (rear) OZ Mito II twopiece wheels with silver centres and polished stepped lips, 195/40 Nankang AS-1 (f) and 225/35 Falken FK452 (r) tyres, ISC Suspension coilovers, six-piston Porsche Cayenne Turbo Brembo calipers with 337mm discs (f), four-piston Porsche 911 Brembo calipers with 300mm discs (r)

EXTERIOR Full respray in Ferrari Grigio Silverstone, full original M Tech 2 kit, Depo smoked headlights, smoked front indicators, carbon DTM mirrors, carbon door handes, MHW rear lights

INTERIOR Forge Racing full roll-cage, Recaro Profi SPG seats in Nappa leather, five-point Schroth harnesses, Sparco R383 steering wheel, flocked dashboard and centre console, hydraulic handbrake, Wilwood brake bias valve, Alcantara door pulls with red stitching, auxiliary gauges for oil temperature, pressure and amps

THANKS I would like to thank my friends for helping me with this project – especially Leo from BMW Expert Motorsport and Karol, aka “dzidziusbmw”. All of my homies spent a lot of hours working with the car, finding parts, giving new ideas and motivating me to build it. Without them I wouldn’t have handled the project – big up for that!

“The engine is a fully-rebuilt M20B25 with a 2.8-litre stroker kit. The crankshaft is lighter than stock and has been balanced. The head has been fitted with a new Schrick 288 camshaft with Schrick race valve springs and an adjustable cam gear from Cat Cams”

“Pawel has got his stance spot-on, too, the E30’s arches just passing over the stretched rubber that enables the OZs to nestle snugly beneath them”

This E30 looks stunning from every angle. Forge Racing full roll-cage. 17” OZ Mito II splits and massive Porsche brakes all-round. Sparco R383 steering wheel. Nappa leather-trimmed CAE Ultra Shifter and hydraulic handbrake Recaro Profi SPG seats. M Tech 2 kit looks great. Carbon door handles. Carbon DTM mirrors. Smoked headlights and indicators.

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Jean-Claude Landry
Jean-Claude is the Senior Editor at eManualOnline.com, Drive-My.com and Garagespot.com, and webmaster of TheMechanicDoctor.com. He has been a certified auto mechanic for the last 15 years, working for various car dealers and specialized repair shops. He turned towards blogging about cars and EVs in the hope of helping and inspiring the next generation of automotive technicians. He also loves cats, Johnny Cash and Subarus.