Powerhaus Epic 978whp turbo S50 E30 M3. With a turbocharged S50 under the bonnet producing over 1100hp, this stunning, daily-driven E30 M3 is nothing short of a masterpiece. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Vojislav Vujanic and Aleksandar Savin.
ULTIMATE M 978whp turbo S50-swapped E30 M3
The E30 M3 is a legend and that’s a stone-cold fact. It was an epic machine when it was first launched back in the ’80s and today it has lost none of its appeal. It’s the original M3 and remains one of the purest, most unfiltered and undiluted driving experiences it’s possible to have. Sadly, with prices having skyrocketed over the past 10 years or so, the M3 is also now out of reach for many of us and many M3s have ended up with collectors who have squirrelled them away. It is, therefore, always refreshing to come across an owner who is not only happy to drive their M3 in the way that nature intended but has also gone in on some pretty significant mods and Aleksandar Dukic’s example is one of the most outstanding and extreme M3s we’ve seen in a long time.
“BMWs have always been a part of my childhood, and that kind of set the path for me,” says Aleksandar as we settle down with the Serbian BMW lover to learn about what makes him – and his monster M3 – tick. “I learned how to drive in a (now-restored) ’1974 2002 when I was a kid, and once you get attached to a brand it’s hard to ever let go, especially with BMW, which always had the right balance of power and driving involvement and feel,” he says with a smile. “The first BMW we had in the family was the ’1974 2002, but the first one I actually bought myself was this one, the E30 M3. At the time I was growing up and became a serious petrolhead, the performance cars of the time were the M cars, and the one to have was of course the E30 M3, there simply was no alternative for me, so I had to get me one at some point,” he grins. “Unfortunately I grew up in a place where the well-maintained M3s were a very rare thing, so I decided to buy a pretty poor example and start a project with it, as all petrolheads do at some point in life, or so I’m told. It was the only one I found that actually had a chassis that hadn’t previously been wrapped around a lamppost or rusted completely through – but it was essentially the only original thing it had. But, it was enough to start with…” says Aleksandar and considering what he started out with, it makes what he’s built all the more impressive.
Now, tearing apart an original M3 in the pursuit of power is one thing but getting stuck into a car that was very far removed from being an immaculate show-piece changes things entirely and Aleksandar’s M3 was most definitely no collector’s car. “I found the car through a friend of a friend’s friend, as one does in Belgrade,” he laughs. “It was supposed to be used as a base for an M5 conversion, but the previous owner never got around to doing it properly. It had nothing but the chassis – no engine, no interior, no diff… just a bare chassis, and it was in generally very poor condition. So that’s what I bought, and built it from ground up. That was in 2005,” he adds, and the following 13 years have seen the car totally transformed in more ways then you’d care to mention.
Aleksandar’s intention from the off was to mod this M3 in a big way, not surprising when you learn that his previous projects have included a 1000whp six-cylinder drag Subaru and a 1300whp Toyota Supra, but deciding exactly what direction he wanted to take the build in was not quite so straightforward.
Aleksandar initially started out with a plan to restore it to its original showroom condition but decided this would take too much time and money to do although he acknowledges that, somewhat ironically, it would have been much cheaper than what he ended up doing… After he saw a Corvette V8-swapped E30 he decided that was what he wanted for his project and began prepping the car for the swap, before coming across a Saab 2.3 turbo-swapped E30 and deciding that actually this was what he wanted. “The car ended up with a Saab 2.3 turbo engine with approximately 550whp, welded to a modified housing of a six-speed Getrag gearbox from an E36 M3, 3.07 diff and axles from an M535i, with too many other upgrades to count. The rest of the car got a lot of attention too, with a full Custom Cages roll-cage, upgraded suspension, custom interior etc.,” he says. “Although the car got a lot of attention and it was fully-built from the ground up and no part was left untouched, I wasn’t ever fully satisfied with it and kept on tinkering with it for years, adding this and changing that… and then the kids came, I got busy with my business so the car ended up in a garage for a few years with little attention, 99% completed, with the list of things still to do on it getting ever longer,” he says. “In 2015 I finally decided to get it done and over with properly, but this time I wasn’t settling for anything but a complete monster. I ripped the engine and drivetrain out and sent the car off to Pure Performance Factory (PPF) in Sweden with a simple task: create an ultimate bulletproof daily driver with a four-digit power output. Leave nothing unchecked, no loose ends, spare no expense, and do it all in three months. I don’t think many tuners would be able or willing to fulfil the task, but PPF delivered, as usual – and then some,” he grins and the resulting machine is utterly spectacular.
“I wanted to be able to use the car as a daily driver,” he explains, “so the engine had to have tonnes of torque lowdown, with as little turbo lag as possible.
I could’ve easily gone for a much higher power output as the engine can easily take it, but I didn’t want a peaky engine with all-or-nothing power delivery – that wouldn’t have been very hard to do, and I would probably hate driving it at anything less than full throttle,” says Aleksandar.
“I had seemingly completely opposing requests for PPF: I wanted the turbo to spool low down in the rev range so that the engine is tractable with a smooth idle; it had to work with any sort or quality of fuel I happen to come across and yet it had to be an absolute monster in the upper revs. Seemingly an impossible task, but in the end I got exactly what I wanted,” he smiles. “The engine we chose for the base conversion was an S50B32, with working double-Vanos retained, and added a Precision 6466 turbo, with an AEM direct-port water/methanol injection system, all managed by MaxxECU Race engine management and traction control system. It’s flex-fuel and it can use and automatically adapt to pretty much any sort of fuel – from 95-100 RON or E85. It pushes out a minimum of 700whp on 95 RON on the low boost map, to the maximum power of 978whp and 870lb ft of torque at 2 bar of boost, on either RON 95 plus Boostane additive, or E85. At full load, it drinks up about 9-litres of E85 a minute, so my tuner, Andreas from PPF, fittingly gave it the nickname ‘The ‘Alcoholic,’ and it kind of stuck with it since then,” he laughs. That is not just a phenomenal thirst exhibited by the S50 but also an absolutely phenomenal amount of power; it’s over 1100hp at the crank, a simply astonishing figure to attempt to wrap your head around, and it’s all wrapped up in a 30-year-old car that gives no hint at just how much sheer power it is concealing. It’s all just a little bit obscene.
Of course, extracting over 1100hp from an S50 requires far more than just strapping on the largest turbocharger you can find, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best and PPF have carried out some heavy-duty mods to make sure this engine can cope with everything that is being demanded from it. “PPF designed a custom set of rods, camshafts, intake and exhaust manifolds, DP pistons with a 9:1 compression ratio, Precision wastegate, ACL Race bearings, ARP fasteners, upgraded oil and water pumps and a few other secret mods they won’t tell me about, to keep it all together and make it absolutely bulletproof,” explains Aleksandar. “Fuel delivery is handled by twin DeatschWerks DW301 fuel pumps, with a Nuke fuel rail and swirl pot and 1200cc Bosch Motorsport injectors while the transmission is a six-speed gearbox from an E60 530d with a Tilton clutch, Driveshaft Shop carbon propshaft, PPF axles and a Quaife ATB diff in a modified 210 diff casing. It took six months to build the engine and in the last 12 months that I’ve been daily driving it I haven’t had a single problem,” he says. “The engine is incredibly tractable and well-behaved, and can be driven as easily and smoothly as the standard M3. You can drive it around in traffic, on the low power map, in the rain, with TC on, with no hiccups, jerks, grinding or weird sounds from the engine or transmission – or you can switch over to the high power map and scare motorbikes with it,” he laughs.
“With traction being a serious issue, it will still pull 100-200kmh (62-148mph) in about five seconds in fourth gear… What most people are left shocked with after a drive in the car is not only the thrust (which is enormous, as is usually the case with 1000hp) but the huge torque and immediate response of the car. The torque is incredible,” he enthuses, “it can pull cleanly from 1000rpm in pretty much any gear you like – but the response is surreal: it turns from mere tick over to a monster immediately, no lag, no slack – just instant response and thrust. That’s the most impressive thing in the car, it still has the immediate throttle response of an M car – just with three times the power,” he grins.
Of course, power is nothing without control and with over 1000hp on tap you need a hell of a lot of control so the chassis has been suitably upgraded throughout. “The chassis has been completely restored, protected and fitted with a custom cro-moly cage, so it can handle the extra power without too many issues,” says Aleksandar. “The diff mounting points have been strengthened and some extra bracing has been added so the rear end stays attached to the car at full power. All the rubbers in the suspension and subframe mounts have been replaced with Powerflex Black poly bushes. The suspension is handled by a set of BC Racing adjustable coilovers, and brakes are six-pot HiSpec calipers with two-piece AP Racing 330mm discs at the front, with four-pot HiSpec calipers and 315mm discs at the rear, with a Tilton brake balance adjuster. I wanted the car to look as clean as possible, and the big ugly water injection tank didn’t really fit that picture, so I installed a 45-litre ATL Saver D-cell and an ECU PWM-controlled AEM water injection pump in the (fortified) spare wheel well in the boot, out of sight but still being very useful as a traction ballast for the rear,” he explains. As far as wheels are concerned, Aleksandar says he went through a few different designs before settling on the genuine E39 M5 Style 65 18s that the car currently wears and which, it must be said, look fantastic on the E30.
When it comes to the car’s looks, it’s clear that Aleksandar has chosen not to mess with those classic lines and, for the most part, it’s a very stealthy-looking machine. “Styling wasn’t a primary driver behind the build – I originally wanted to have it all stock, so wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” he explains. “But at some point I came across a picture of some hot rod in the US, with the prettiest candy red colour I’ve ever seen – so from that point on I knew the car would either be candy red, or nothing else. I toyed with different colours, mixing and matching every colour I could find, finally settling on my own ‘blend’ of motorcycle candy red paint. The front bumper is a victim of function; I would’ve preferred something a bit closer to standard-looking without all the gaping holes and cut-outs, but all that air had to go through somewhere,” he says and it certainly gives this E30 M3 one of the most downright aggressive front ends we’ve ever seen. The colour, meanwhile, is utterly gorgeous, rich and luscious, and the only exterior additions that Aleksandar has applied to his M3 are smoked Hella headlights, clear smoked rears and the thinnest sliver of a front splitter.
Where the exterior is almost completely untouched, the interior is another matter altogether. “Since I had no interior whatsoever and had to build one from scratch, I figured why not go all the way and make it a really nice one?” smiles Aleksandar. “Leaving the panels standard was not an option, leather was too formal, so Alcantara was the obvious choice for me. SOVA Leather, a local upholstery specialist, did the carpets, heat and sound insulation, complete interior, including roll-cage, pillars, roof, steering wheel, Recaro seats, dashboard, door panels etc. in Alcantara, with custom stitching. I also had a custom Alcantara boot lining done with a fabricated flat floor to hide the Nuke swirl pot, battery, water tank and to create some storage space at the sides.
Lastly, an Android tablet was installed on the dash so I can connect to the ECU and display different engine parameters, switch maps, turn TC or any other system on or off etc.,” he says. “There is also a Pocket PC in the glovebox running Windows 10, using the Android tablet as a display, so I can access the ECU, change or upload the maps, change parameters if needed etc. So finally I had a rounded-off daily driver with 1000hp you can really use on a daily basis,” he smiles. The interior is stunning, with incredible attention to detail and it really is the perfect way to finish off this build.
This E30 M3 is such an utterly exceptional machine in so many ways and it’s a build Aleksandar can be incredibly proud of. He’s created a huge horsepower beast but one that’s also incredibly tame and docile enough to be daily driven, which is one hell of an achievement. A huge amount of effort, time and money have gone into this project over all those years but the incredible end result is unquestionably worth it. “Apart from minor tweaks – I think it’s pretty much done, finally. So the plan is to drive it, for a change,” he smiles. Having built a car like this there really isn’t anywhere left to go. This is scaling Everest; this is setting a world record, achieving the ultimate goal that leaves nothing else to be accomplished. When that happens, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labours and they don’t come much sweeter than this amazing M3.
DATA FILE Turbo S50 BMW E30 M3
ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six S50B32, double-Vanos retained, PPF block support girdle, PPF Cooper Ring gasket, DP pistons, 9:1 compression ratio, PPF Pro H-beam con rods, PPF custom cams, Precision 6466SP ball bearing turbo, Precision 60mm wastegate and blow-off valve, PPF intake manifold, PPF exhaust manifold and EGT sensor, 4” exhaust, ARP fasteners, ACL Race bearings, upgraded oil and water pumps, Supertech valves, PPF valve spring kit, MaxxECU engine management and traction control, Setrab oil cooler, Griffin radiator, Spal electric fan, ECU-controlled AEM water/methanol direct-port injection, Nuke swirl pot and fuel rail, DeatschWerks twin DW301 fuel pumps, Bosch Motorsport 1200cc injectors running @ 3.5 bar
MAX POWER AND TORQUE 978whp @ 6900rpm & 870lb ft wtq @ 5550rpm
TRANSMISSION E60 530d six-speed manual gearbox, Tilton twin-plate clutch, cro-moly flywheel, ARP bolts, Driveshaft Shop carbon fibre propshaft, PPF axles, custom 210 diff casing, 3.07 ratio final drive, Quaife ATB
CHASSIS 8x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) Style 65 wheels with 225/40 (front) and 255/35 (rear) Toyo R888R tyres, BC Racing ER coilovers, Powerflex Black suspension bushes and gearbox and subframe mounts, VibraTechnics engine mounts, Eibach antiroll bars, six-piston HiSpec calipers with 330mm AP Racing discs and Pagid RS15 pads (front) and four-piston HiSpec calipers with 315mm E36 M3 discs and Pagid RS15 pads (rear), Tilton brake bias adjuster, front line lock
EXTERIOR Custom candy red paint, front splitter, XPEL Ultimate clear wrap, Hella smoked headlights and clear smoked rear lights
INTERIOR Recaro Speed seats in leather/Alcantara, Schroth Racing six-point harnesses, custom Alcantara interior, carpets, boot and steering wheel, Android tablet for ECU and PC connection, Kangaroo Pocket PC, Sparco automatic fire extinguisher, ATL Fuel Saver D-cell water tank, custom cromoly roll-cage, additional rear-end strengthening
THANKS Andreas A and Andreas B at PPF Sweden, SOVA Upholstery in Belgrade, Garage M in Belgrade, Mimi and the dwarfs
“It pushes out a minimum of 700whp on 95 RON on the low boost map, to the maximum power of 978whp and 870lb ft of torque at 2 bar of boost”
“I sent the car off to Pure Performance Factory (PPF) in Sweden with a simple task: create an ultimate bulletproof daily driver with a four-digit power output”
PPF exhaust manifold Massive Precision 6466SP turbo. Front bumper has been cut to aid airflow through the massive FMIC. Recaro Speed seats in leather and Alcantara. Dash-mounted tablet connects to ECU. Schroth six-point harnesses Custom cromoly roll-cage wrapped in Alcantara. Custom Alcantara door panels. Custom-trimmed Boot. Smoked Hella Headlights. Subtle front lip. 18” Style 65 wheels.