Fear the low thing in Las Vegas
Defining car culture – The 6.0-litre, wide-body BMW E30 that didn’t just break SEMA, but the internet too
It’s the nest of gleaming vipers that does it. Wandering the halls of SEMA it’s easy to become overwhelmed, because the overall standard of quality among the hundreds upon hundreds of fresh project builds is just so ridiculously high; you’ll spy something that would easily scoop Car-of-the-Show at Players or Ultimate Stance, then Midge will go scampering off to the next hall because he’s spied something even better, before Jules drags everyone back as he’s found a car that’s properly next-level. It’s hard to take it all in. But the engine bay of this E30, that’s something which stopped us all in our tracks. Just look at those shimmering silver pipes, writhing and undulating like a clutch of malevolent serpents. The fact that this custom 8-into-1 system makes the small-block Chevy LS3 howl like a 1980s F1 car makes it doubly jaw-dropping. Oh yeah, there’s a V8 in there. And a custom widebody kit from Insta-legend design hero The Kyza. And…
“The crowning glory is that bespoke RFR exhaust setup, its serpentine pipework making sounds that could summon the devil himself”
OK, hold up. We’d better rewind back to the start of the story before we get ourselves all carried away again.
You see, perhaps the most endearing element of this tale is that, high-end show hero that it is, the car was once an $800 beater bought for thrashing on the daily commute. Ross Gredys is the man with his name on the paperwork, and he bought this E30 eight years ago, long before his company Rebellion Forge Racing (RFR) became the powerhouse it is today. This custom shop was the name on everybody’s lips at SEMA 2019, but back in the day this car was simply a cheap runaround 325is E30, pleasantly rust-free but needing a head gasket.
“For a long time the E30 was really a test subject for new things we wanted to try,” Ross explains – the other character in that ‘we’ being Kyle Ray, his partner-in-crime at RFR. “We stood back and looked at it, and decided it really had everything we wanted in a build so we set out to finish it! We both like engine swaps, and we like big power in little chassis, so it just fit the bill. We’re very happy with the results! The sounds and power this thing produces are nothing but smiles from ear to ear.”
He’s not kidding. And there was a certain inevitability to all this, as Ross and Kyle are old-school modders from way back. They’ve been around cars all their lives, and have done everything from custom exhausts for customers to full-on Porsche Cup race car builds. “I have a heavy background in welding, fabrication and design,” says Ross, “while Kyle has extensive knowledge and experience in body, paint and electricals. It’s allowed us to be very well-rounded, and accomplish anything we set out to do.”
With this stellar skillset between them, plus the decision made to turn the E30 test-bed into a full-on build, the RFR fellas knew just what they wanted to achieve. “Like I say, I initially bought the car as a cheap commuter for work,” says Ross. “With the blown head gasket, I set out on the forums to see what it took for the repair… and after seeing all the aftermarket stuff on the chassis I was hooked! I went out and bought another commuter the next day, and ripped the E30 apart. It’s been an off-and-on project over the years, working around businesses and school, and we had initially been building it as a full track car. However, since my time is limited, I wanted something we could drive on the street as well – so we toned down the ’cage and installed the roll-bar you see here. Every other aspect of the car is fully track-prepped.”
The result is a weaponised circuit beast that’s legal to take down to Walmart or through the Maccy D’s drivethru. A key inspiration for the build was the sound of Tanner Foust’s LS-swapped drift Passat, which is as good a reason as any to dump a hardcore bent-eight between those hungry inner wings. “We started building this setup last fall,” Ross continues. “It ended up creating a lot of hurdles! We had to push the entire engine and drivetrain back eight inches, and that required a new fi rewall, transmission tunnel, new seat locations, shifter, steering, and the list goes on. All worth it though!” The engine itself is a pretty angry beast, the 6.0-litre LS3 running LS6 cathedral-port heads and a custom mid-rise intake manifold with 92mm FAST throttle body, along with TSP Stage 3 cams. It’s all overseen by Haltech Elite 2500 management, and while the setup is yet to be fully fi nalised on the dyno, the guys estimate power to be somewhere in the region of 500bhp and 500lb/ ft. Impressively – and slightly surprisingly – it’s running through a 6-speed manual ’box from a Nissan 350Z, and of course the crowning glory is that bespoke RFR exhaust setup, its serpentine pipework making sounds that could summon the devil himself.
“We got into the SEMA build pretty late, leaving only five months for the car to be finished,” Ross goes on. “And that was starting from raw metal! But we knew the direction we were going in. Back in 2018, Live To Offend released their prototype bodykit for the E30, and I immediately reached out to Kyza and Eric and asked what the future plans were. The kit we have on our car is much wider than the original; it adds roughly 8-inch of track width in the back and around 6.5-inch up front. Everything under the kit was done correctly as well – the factory arches were cut and welded shut and sealed, and the moulding recesses were filled, welded and smoothed. The carbon roof was moulded from a factory slick top, we cut the original roof off our car leaving roughly a 2-inch parameter to adhere to. Phase two of the exterior will happen over the coming winter in preparation for the track… that will consist of functional aero with a larger splitter and canards out front, and a large chassis-mounted wing out back.”
The bespoke Live To Offend makeover creates some pretty massive arches to fill, and with SEMA in the crosshairs Ross and Kyle knew that they had to get the E30 rolling on something special. And boy, did they deliver. The concept here was for RFR to collaborate with Rotiform and Rosko Racing to create something unique and unparalleled. Rosko were brought in to help design and create a custom centre-lock setup, as the RFR guys were adamant that they wanted to retain the period racer vibe with the hex nuts, but update the design and use a reverse-thread centre retaining nut. Once that was perfected, Rotiform were charged with the task of taking a set of staggered WGR-M wheels and mating them to the Rosko/RFR centre-locks. The upshot is a setup of 10×18-inch rims up front, with 12-inch of girth across the rear wheels slathered in fat 315-section Toyo R888-Rs. It’s a brutal aesthetic. And when you look behind the wheels, you find yet more custom work going on throughout the chassis…
“The suspension consists of Fortune Auto 2-way Dreadnought coilovers,” says Ross, “using their air-cup system in the front to help with clearance. The front control arm assembly was designed and built by MRT, while the back tubular trailing arms were designed and built in-house by us. We also raised the rear shock towers 3-inch to allow the car to sit lower without impeding suspension travel.”
When it comes to braking, those track-ready cheques are once more cashed by something pretty damn serious. Again, it’s something developed in-house, a setup that RFR make available to customers; it consists of the Brembo calipers from a Porsche Cayenne, 6-pots at the front and 4-pots at the rear, working with C6 Corvette Z06 and E36 M3 discs respectively. Given the global visibility of SEMA, this setup really allows RFR to demonstrate their shop capabilities; the custom caliper brackets were designed in the shop (and machined by those good friends over at Rosko Racing), and the proprietary custom theme continues to the interior.
“We partnered with Sabelt, and have their Titan seats, Enduro harnesses and flat-bottom steering wheel in the car,” Ross elaborates. “The roll-bar was built by us, and due to the firewall being pushed back we’re using a Woodward column and quick-release. We wanted to keep the stock dash, although it’s been completely stripped; it’s also modular in that all the ECU, power distribution, coils, air box and wiring harness are connected to the firewall itself. Just four bolts and the entire dash comes out for ease of serviceability!”
The more we learn about this astounding BMW, the more it becomes apparent that this is about far more than shock-and-awe. Yes, the Live To Offend bodykit is something that’s been eagerly anticipated on the scene, and its custom application here has more than lived up to the hype. But it takes more than a fresh body and an unusual set of wheels to scoop trophies at SEMA. This is a holistic and fastidiously crafted project, building on both the skills and the dreams that these guys have been nurturing for decades. Without a hint of hyperbole, we can say that this is one of the finest modified cars in the world. “The reactions at SEMA were insane,” Ross beams. “We still can’t believe it. We put everything into this car, but we had no idea how much people would enjoy it! That really makes us happy. Based on this response, we’re super excited to bring something bigger and better next year.” So there you have it. What happens in Vegas most definitely doesn’t stay in Vegas.
SHOUT OUT TO THE SPONSORS!
This world-class E30 build is the brainchild of Ross and Kyle at Rebellion Forge Racing, but it’s very much a team effort with a whole cast of characters lending a hand behind the scenes. Ross is keen to give the major players a shout-out: “Haltech provided EVERYTHING to run the car! Amazing company to work with. Thanks to Rotiform for the wheels which are baller, and Toyo for our R888-R tyres. Rosko Racing with help in machine design and machining, and Fortune Auto building us a complete custom set of coils to fit our crazy application. Condor Speed Shop provided us with so many E30 specific pieces like the windows, bushings, door handles, shift boot and so on – super-rad company to work with too. DEI helped us with all our sound and heat management- and it’s AWESOME. The car is SO loud but you’d have no idea from the inside of the car. Sabelt, with all our interior safety equipment, Tilton with our drivetrain needs and pedal assembly, and finally Improved Racing with our AN fitting and hose needs.”
TECH SPEC: BMW E30
STYLING: Custom Live To Offend widebody kit, carbon fibre roof, custom rear diffuser
TUNING: 6.0-litre small-block Chevrolet LS3, LS6 cathedral-port heads, custom mid-rise intake manifold with 92mm FAST throttle body, TSP Stage 3 cams, Haltech Elite 2500 management, custom RFR 8-into-1 headers, Davies Craig remote-pump cooling system, AN fittings and hoses throughout by Improved Racing, Nissan 350Z CD009 6-speed manual gearbox, Tilton lightweight flywheel, Tilton 7.25in triple-plate clutch, Tilton hydraulic throwout bearing
POWER: 500bhp/500lb.ft (est.)
CHASSIS: 10x18in (front) and 12x18in (rear) custom Rotiform WGR-M / RFR wheels with Rosko Racing centre-locks, 275/35 (f) and 315/30 (r) Toyo R888-R tyres, Fortune Auto Dreadnought PRO 2-way coilovers with air-cup system, MRT front control arm assembly, custom RFR rear tubular trailing arms, rear shock towers raised 3in, RFR big brake kit comprising Porsche Cayenne calipers (6-pot front, 4-pot rear) with C6 Corvette Z06 discs (f) and E36 M3 discs (r)
INTERIOR: Sabelt Titan seats, Enduro harnesses, flat-bottom steering wheel with quick-release on Woodward column, custom rollbar, stock dash gutted and customized
THANKS: “Obviously all our sponsors were amazing! And a special thanks to Meguiar’s. The booth location was phenomenal, their team was outstanding to work with. They just made the experience that much better. A big thanks to all our buddies at home who jumped in with extra hands during assembly. It was a total madhouse but they made it possible. Kyza and Eric allowed me to finish a car the way I envisioned it in my head, so we’re truly grateful for their partnership. And a very special thanks to Amanda and Sam, our significant others – they put up with A LOT over the last five months, but we truly appreciate their support and understanding of our passion for cars.”
A 6.0-litre small-block Chevrolet gives the BMW the go to accompany the show. Yes, they are custom made centre-locks. Fortune Auto Dreadnought PRO 2-waycoilovers. BELOW Condor Speed Shop polycarbonate window BELOW Custom fabricated door handles
Name: Ross Gredys (Owner of the car and founder of RFR)
Occupation: Everything steel! I own a large steel fabrication business that focuses on commercial and manufacturing fabrication alongside RFR
First car: 1985 Camaro IROC Favourite car: Yikes. Tough question, I suppose a Porsche 935 would make me pretty happy
Favourite modification on your car: Exhaust for sure. So many other cool things, but that just makes the car. The sound really captures the attitude
Favourite show or event: SEMA didn’t disappoint, especially for the first time being there Track day or show and shine: Track day, always. The car may look pretty but it was built to drive Lessons learned from this project: Always add about 50-percent to your budget! We got it done, but it always cost more to build in a crunch. We’ll be starting on our next build in January so that’ll help
What’s next: You’ll just have to wait and find out. All I can say is we’ll be sticking with Euro…