Double Trouble. A pair of #BMW-E30 #M3
s over in Australia that are modified in very different ways to do very similar things. We meet two owners in Australia with a pair of modified E30 M3s for the track and road that follow very different paths to achieve similar goals… Words: Simon Holmes. Photography: Brodie Butler.
If there was ever an automotive example to best capsulate the expression ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat’ then it’s this pair of E30s. These two Australian-based cars are both genuine M3s and both are heavily modified to be hugely effective on both the road and track. But their owners Phil Peak and Scott Lockhart have taken very different approaches and their cars are as different as chalk and cheese, or black and white to use a more accurate analogy. Exterior-wise they may seem similar, aside from the polar opposite Touring Car liveries, but inside and, more importantly, under the bonnet they are very different machines.
We’ll start with Phil’s car, the Diamond black example that perhaps represents the more orthodox side of M3 tuning. Powered by a heavily breathed upon S14 engine that’s pumping out 217hp at the wheels, with the rev limit set to only 7200rpm, it certainly suits the Touring Car theme! As you might expect, Phil is no stranger to a #BMW
, particularly an E30, although he admits he was actually an avid VW enthusiast before making the transition over to BMWs. It began with an #E30 #325is
he purchased in 1997 from a friend but he admits he’s been fond of them for much longer. “I’ve always liked BMWs really,” recalls Phil. “I was in my late teens living in West Germany when the E30s were released. They had an M3 at the local dealership and I remember looking at it every time I went past thinking ‘one day…’.”
He’s since owned several rather fine E30s over the years including a convertible fitted with an S50 engine from an E36 M3. But his boyhood dream to own a genuine M3 took a little longer to fulfill as other commitments had always posed a problem and it wasn’t helped by the fact E30 M3s are rather difficult to find in Australia. So when the right chance came up at the right time to own this car he jumped at it. “I was lucky enough to know the previous owner,” tells Phil. “He had just imported the car from Japan after buying it blind at auction and after taking delivery he got a job offer he couldn’t turn down. He didn’t want to take the car with him so I knew he had to sell it before he moved. We came to an agreement on price and I bought it off him.”
Finally, the elusive E30 M3 was his, except this particular car was in what Phil describes as “fairly average condition”, having been fitted with an aftermarket front fibreglass bumper and a mismatched interior. The car had also received a poor quality blow over respray in Japan for the auction and then there was the small matter of mechanical health. “The performance was a big let down after driving the #S50
-powered convertible. Even though this only had 114,000km on the clock the engine most definitely needed a freshen up but I knew I could sort all that out,” he explains.
A mechanical fitter by trade, and not one to do things by halves, Phil developed a plan to thoroughly restore the tired M3 and rebuild it into a usable and capable all-rounder for both the road and track: “My intentions with the car have always been to bring it back to its former glory no matter how long it takes, as this car is a keeper. And I wanted to drive it on the track as I don’t believe in garage queens.”
Initially, Phil intended to address the bodywork first but after testing the water with the car at a track day he decided it would be best to sort out the mechanical side of things before anything else. “The engine was lacking a bit of power so I decided to tear the whole thing down and do a full rebuild with the aim of improving things along the way,” he says. “I set about finding all the various parts for the rebuild and once I had them I sent the block away to be rebored and the cylinder head went to VAC Motorsports in the USA for one of their Stage 3 head builds.”
The block was treated to a 2.3-litre competition spec rebuild with heavily uprated internals. Ready for the head’s return, Schrick cams and a carbon fibre DTM-style intake were put aside along with plenty of other tasty bits. The engine build actually took nearly two years to complete from start to finish due to other commitments, or “life getting in the way” as Phil puts it. In the meantime, with the engine build at least started Phil began on other areas that required his attention and the interior was next on the list.
First of all he sourced the correct front seats and then got hold of a full retrim kit from Germany, along with an M3 Sport Evo steering wheel, gear knob and footrest. “I like to have a few creature comforts. I didn’t want to gut the interior and stick a cage in as it’s not a dedicated track car, plus it’s illegal over here to drive around in a stripped-down car with a cage.”
With that covered, next came the exterior. Not wanting to deviate too far from the M3’s iconic look, Phil chose his additions carefully in the shape of an M3 Evo rear wing and matching front lip spoiler along with smoked headlights, tail-lights and indicator lenses. The look is finished off perfectly with the 8x16-inch BBS three-piece split-rims that closely mimic the original style. However, it’s the livery that makes the biggest visual impact and it was fitted in an effort to brighten up the Japanese blow over paint job, which certainly seems to have worked. “Of course, the car is the wrong colour for the original Warsteiner graphics but I thought they looked okay in reverse colours so decided to go for it,” Phil reveals. “The graphics don’t look too out of place. When I eventually get the paint done I will be happy with the black-on-black look as I think that’s the best exterior/interior colour combo but I think it will be like this for a while as I want to enjoy the car a bit before getting it painted.”
When the engine was eventually back together it was time for the first drive and thankfully it proved to be everything he had hoped for. “The first real drive after the rebuild was great,” Phil grins. “On the dyno we set the rev limit to 7200rpm to be safe and got 217hp at the wheels with it still pulling really strong at the limiter. It’s not far off my cabriolet in terms of power but so much better to drive.”
The rebuild took three whole years to complete and Phil tells us the hardest and most frustrating part was actually sourcing bits and getting them delivered, as virtually everything had to be imported. The car isn’t completely finished yet but Phil is understandably pretty happy with what he’s achieved since owning it as the M3 already puts a lot of bigger power cars in their place on track. “Over here they are all into big V8s and muscle cars and it certainly holds its own,” Phil says. “The noise from the carbon fibre intake is my favourite part – it just screams and puts a huge grin on people’s faces. The suspension needs improvement now the power is sorted but this build still has a long way to go to get the car where I want it to be. But as it’s a work in progress I’m really happy with the way things are going.” Future plans also include a revised engine map so then the rev limit can be raised to the untold reaches of 8500rpm and that should release a bit more power, too.
Speaking of more power, now seems like a fine time to introduce Scott’s Alpine white M3. Whereas Phil has gone to town on the original S14, Scott’s car is a little less conventional, having been fitted with an S50 six-cylinder that happens to be turbocharged to produce a huge 480hp at the wheels. Fair to say it’s a beast, but it’s just at home on a track as Phil’s car is and that was always the intention.
Much like Phil, Scott’s interest for BMWs also developed some years ago and it began with an E30. It started in 1995 when he was lucky enough to stumble across a rare John Player Special E30 323i Coupé at an upmarket car dealership in Perth. A very limited number of these special edition cars were built to celebrate BMW’s victories at the famous Bathurst race in Australia during the 1980s. The cars featured iconic black paintwork with gold pinstripes, Recaro seats, an LSD and gold JPS insignias on the C-pillars. Scott was still at uni at the time but it was love at first sight for him and he had to have it.
He bought the car and then lavished his time and money on the car over the next few years, spending nearly every pay check he had upgrading the engine, suspension and wheels. It rewarded him with a lifelong appreciation for the brand, though. “That car, and the shear ease with which it connected me as a driver started my obsession with BMWs and it’s been a love affair ever since,” he states.
That’s not an understatement either as he’s since gone on to own a vast array of interesting BMWs. He still owns a fine fleet, worthy of a What’s in your Garage? feature, comprising an #E60 #M5
, an #E24 #635CSi
, an #E28 #M535i
and an #E30 #323i
Coupé. “I love collectible BMWs, preferably with some sort of motorsport connection,” he says. His dream car is a #BMW-M1
but the E30 M3 is a close second, and that’s the one we’re interested in – for now, at least.
For Scott, the M3 has always been an iconic car and when it came to eventually replacing his first E30 love there was only one suitable choice, as he explains: “I never got over having to sell my E30 JPS when I left Australia in #1998
to further my career in London. While I owned that car I always wanted an M3 but couldn’t afford one. I’m lucky that my wife, Marissa, is also a huge car fan and when I told her I was considering adding another BMW to our fleet she immediately took to the shape of the E30 M3.”
However, as Phil found, finding an #BMW-M3-E30
in Australia is tricky and Scott had to use all his resources, both near and far, to locate one. “I had friends looking in the USA and the UK for me, while I spent most nights glued to my computer screen checking out VIN numbers, history and pictures,” he explains. “After about a month my wife asked, ‘why haven’t you looked locally?’ to which I replied, ‘well, honey there aren’t very many of these cars, so finding one in Perth would be a longshot.’ At that point she had already found one for sale, 20 minutes from our house, and in Alpine white no less. With only a very small handful of these cars in Australia, I was amazed, and now I listen intently when my wife talks BMWs,” he admits.
The car was not exactly what you would call a perfect standard example, though. Far from it, in fact. The original S14 motor was long gone, apparently having made its way into a 2002. In its place was the S50 conversion complete with turbo already fitted. This wasn’t an issue for Scott as it happened to suit his overall plan for the car as the #M3
was destined for heavy track use. “I wanted something that was able to produce more power than the S14 with track car reliability. S14s can create great power but they can become quite fragile on long events. The newer #BMW-M3
engine with a little boost added for a bit more of a surprise was the way to go for me,” Scott tells us.
Having competed in club level events for a few years in a modified R32 Nissan Skyline GTR, the intention was to introduce his love of BMWs into his competitive racing. But with the likes of heavily modified Mitsubishi Evos and Nissan GTRs to compete against, the more modern engine helped level the playing field in terms of power. However, there was work to do before it could start battling on track with tuned Japanese machinery as although the turbocharged S50 engine was in place it was barely running, largely due to electrical issues. There were also plenty of other problems to address. “It looked great when I purchased it but it needed time spent on it to deal with the electrical gremlins. It also needed new wiring, brakes, wheels, a livery and a decent tune,” Scott states.
On the plus side, the paintwork was in good condition having recently been resprayed to a high standard. Influenced by the Touring Cars he watched when growing up, Scott decided the Warsteiner livery would suit the car well. The 1980s Touring Carinspired theme extended into the cabin and although the car was already stripped of an interior when he got it, Scott had it blasted, cleaned and painted Touring Car-style glossy grey inside. The DTM gearshift knob will soon be joined by a full DTM dash to replace the current Stack unit, too.
The build to bring the car up to a good, working standard took nearly a year and plenty was changed in that time. The work was entrusted to Galvsport in Perth and the guys there spent many hours on the car. Scott remembers the first time he went out in it as it was actually Josh from Galvsport who first took me for a spin. “It was in the Warsteiner colours, numbers on the doors, no bonnet, race tyres, race seats and harnesses and all in peak hour traffic, it was a blast. I was stunned how quick it was from the passenger seat, and it wasn’t long before I got a chance to drive it on the track,” he enthuses.
Scott reports that the car does, in fact, handle the power very well on track and on occasion it’s also driven on the road, usually to and from events or for a spin up and down the coast. But wherever he goes it gets a great reaction. “Everyone young and old loves it and it gets a lot of attention. Nobody knows what to expect from it and not only is it rare, it is well balanced and easy to drive, it puts a smile on your face every time,” says Scott. “They say that a good track car drives terribly on the road and while my M3 certainly is no M5, it still drives very well. The power delivery is like a light switch in low gears but if you cruise in fourth or fifth it is very enjoyable to squeeze on some of that boost on the open roads.”
Future plans for the car involve improving grip further as there’s more development work to be done on the suspension setup to improve what’s there. There’s even talk of a bit more boost and Scott would like to enter the car in Targa road rallies once the suspension has been fine tuned to deal with the bumpy roads.
So there you have it. Two very different ways to effectively achieve a very similar impact. We would happily take either one.
Phil’s Black M3
ENGINE & GEARBOX: #S14
2.3-litre producing 217hp @ 7200rpm at the wheels, VAC Motorsport Stage 3 cylinder head, 1mm oversized valves, balanced and blueprinted, VAC valve springs with titanium retainers, Schrick 284 intake and 276 exhaust cams, VAC adjustable cam sprockets, 48mm throttle bodies, Volvo green injectors, carbon fibre DTM-style intake plenum, 50/50 headers mated to full stainless steel Supersprint race exhaust, Miller MAF Conversion with WAR Chip engine management, fully rebuilt /balanced bottom end by Galloways race engineering using CP 2.3 competition spec pistons (11:1 compression), OS Gieken clutch and lightweight flywheel, Dogleg gearbox 3.7:1 differential with LSD.
CHASSIS: Tein coilovers all round, AC Schnitzer front and rear anti-roll bars, polyurethane bushes throughout BRAKES: Standard M3 callipers with uprated discs and pads all-round, braided brake lines, uprated pedalbox WHEELS & TYRES: 8x16-inch BBS RS three-piece split-rims with 215/45/16 Toyo R888 tyres.
INTERIOR: Original seats retrimmed black leather, Sport Evo steering wheel, gear knob, footrest and centre armrest, Hartge centre console gauge holder with AEM data logging.
EXTERIOR: Diamond black paint, colour reversed Warsteiner livery, smoked indicators, tail-lights and crosshair headlights, carbon fibre front splitter and brake ducts, Sport Evo rear spoiler with carbon fibre wing.
THANKS: Simon Gunson at GTI Performance Centre (service @ gtipc.com.au), David at Galloway Race Engineering (08 9531 1366) and VAC Motorsports sales @ vacmotorsports. com.
Scott’s White M3
ENGINE & GEARBOX: S50 3.0-litre producing 480hp @ 7500rpm at the wheels, standard crankshaft, Carillo steel conrods, custom-made forged pistons with 7.5:1 compression ratio, custom turbocharger with Tial 50mm external wastegate, custom-made tubular exhaust manifold, standard inlet manifold with uprated injectors and billet fuel rail, PWR front mount intercooler, custom downpipe and stainless steel exhaust system, custom alloy radiator with electric fan, custom alloy breather and header tanks, Bosch 044 fuel pump, Haltech ECU, standard E36 M3 five-speed gearbox, one-piece propshaft, 4.3:1 differential with LSD.
CHASSIS: Bilstein coilovers all round, Racing Dynamics front and rear antiroll bars, Ireland Engineering adjustable camber top mounts, strut braces, OMP rollcage, #BMW-Z4
close ratio steering rack, polyurethane bushes throughout.
BRAKES: Front: StopTech four-pot callipers with 330mm discs. Rear: Standard E30 M3 discs and callipers, Pagid yellow pads all-round, braided brake lines, AP Racing pedalbox with remote reservoirs.
WHEELS & TYRES: 8x18-inch and 9x18-inch Compomotive TH18 wheels with a range of track or road tyres.
INTERIOR: OMP fixed back bucket seats, OMP steering wheel, Stack dash, M3 DTM gearknob and footrest.
EXTERIOR: Alpine White paint, E30 M3 Evo spoiler and splitter, Warsteiner livery.
THANKS: Josh Gardner & Gav Jones at Galvsport.com, Gavin Fairchild at GT-graphics.com.au, Brett Airey at ExecutiveTowing.com.au, Jim Black at Performancefriction.com.au and Barry Dixon at Compomotive. com.
“I wanted to drive it on the track as I don’t believe in garage queens”
“Not only is it rare, it is well balanced and easy to drive, too”