Jim Amelinckx’s E30 is far more than simply a nicely painted 3 Series on shiny wheels. It’s the product of a steamy automotive love affair that’s seen the car transformed in every conceivable area… Words: Daniel Bevis Photos: Kevin Raekelboom M30 E30 335i #Big-Six-swapped
FROM BRUSSELS WITH LOVE #M30-swapped
Love is a smoke, raised with the fume of sighs.’ A line from Romeo and Juliet, in which Shakespeare isn’t trying to be lewd – at least, not overtly, although he’s always up to something, isn’t he? Instead he is encapsulating the nature of love manifested by that most deeply personal and intimate of sounds: when you emit a sigh of passion, there really is no more honest or truthful expression of your pleasure.
In the case of the low-down bruiser of an E30 you’re looking at here, that couldn’t be more true. But the smoke here isn’t merely the manifold sighs emitted by its owner and creator, Jim Amelinckx, impassioned as he is by the myriad custom alterations he’s made. No, we can throw in the crackling hydrocarbons of high-octane fuel and the whiff of scorched and atomising rubber into this heady soup of fumes – the love for this man and his car builds upon Shakespearean intimacy and takes us to a whole other place.
“It all started at the end of last year,” he says, affectionately caressing the car’s silkysmooth flanks as he flutters his besotted eyelashes. “I bought this car from a very good friend in Holland with the intention of using it as a daily driver, but that only lasted for about three weeks before suddenly that wasn’t my plan any more!”
What happened? He must have seen something in the E30 – some spark of potential, a glimmer of a hope that the bogstandard beige retro plodder could be something more, something special.
“So we began the task of painting the car, and after that… well, we did all the rest. We worked on it five days a week for six months, with a lot of friends pitching in to get this car beautiful before the summer. You see, that’s what we do here over the winter…”
You may have heard this sort of talk before in Scandinavia, this idea of hunkering down and riding out the harsh and freezing winter months by locking the garage door, sticking the kettle on, donning a set of thermal long johns and setting about the task of building an incredible car, ready for when the snow thaws and the roads are suitable for tyre-squealing mischief again.
But in fact, Jim doesn’t live in Scandinavia – he lives in Belgium. You get the idea though. And the ‘we’ he’s talking about? There’s two names you need to know: first, Brussels Finest – an online collective of real-world modified car buddies whose main aim is to hammer together badass rides and generally support each other in their hobby. And second, the amusinglytitled Racepoutin’s – the fellas who roll up their sleeves and engineer the solutions to the self-imposed problems that modifying cars brings to the table.
We’ll start with the paintwork, then. If the colour looks familiar, it’s because it’s a shade you’d normally find on a shiny new 5 Series: Mineral grey. But don’t go thinking that this car is just a straight and solid car with a nice paint job… Jim may have found himself a decent donor (albeit a beige one), but that didn’t stop him tearing into pretty much every aspect of it with the aim of increasing the love. “It’s a 1984 335i,” he grins mischievously, which should give you some idea as to what’s gone on under the bonnet. Indeed, if you’re an engine nerd and you’ve glanced over to the underbonnet pics, you’ll already have guessed what the score is: the Racepoutin’s crew have creatively buttered an #M30B35
in there. The very same engine that you’d expect to find inside an E28 M535i; the 3.4-litre straight-six (don’t let the name fool you, it has a 3428cc displacement) that kicks out a long way north of 200 horses and makes all manner of aggressive rumbling noises.
Jim’s mated it to a Getrag five-speeder to keep things appropriately racy and, of course, to keep those fumes of love evaporating into the surrounding atmosphere. These guys have imparted an amusing spin on the folkloric 335i concept, and the work really does pay dividends. But wait, there’s more! A neat paint job and a swanky drivetrain upgrade are a supercool combo but Jim and his cronies had far more planned in order to fill up those long winter days. The devil makes work for idle hands, and all that.
“The E30 is one of the best old-skool Beemers out there,” Jim beams, “so there were a lot of cool things I wanted to do. One of them was to fit a custom air-ride system…” He’s intriguingly tight-lipped on the specs here, and that’s a very race-team approach; after all, the cunning strategists behind, say, a Le Mans squad or a BTCC outfit wouldn’t go about giving away all their secrets to all and sundry. No, they play it like a sneaky game of poker. The thing’s airedout and it looks awesome. They’re the salient points here.
“Let’s talk about the brakes,” Jim enthuses, hurrying us along. He encourages us to take a look, and it all appears familiar… so what’s the source? “We upgraded it to E36 M3 brakes all-round,” he grins. Which makes sense, really – a chunky set of stoppers to haul in the extra grunt brought forth by that meatier motor. A wise and sound move.
“Ah, I’ve spent way too much on this car,” Jim laughs, opening a door to help demonstrate why. “Way too much. I’ve stopped counting it all up otherwise I’d just have to find myself another hobby! But I’m proud to say I did it myself along with the help of my friends, who provided a lot of great company on all those late nights.”
Part of the reason for the spiralling budget is staring us in the face as we peer inside. The interior treatment really is very cool, centring around a pair of gorgeously trimmed Recaro CS buckets with diamondquilted leather that cheekily harks back to the car’s original paint colour. And the rear seats? They’ve been junked entirely, in favour of a shiny polished roll-cage that further speaks to the inherent race car vibe that’s bundled up inside this subtle but gorgeously finished build.
The term ‘sleeper’ gets thrown around a lot and it’s not always appropriate. Hell, it’s not totally appropriate here – there are clues to the knowledgeable that all isn’t as it seems, from the custom widened steel arches and the über-slick Kerscher wheels to the glimpse of the cage peeking out through the rear windows – but at the same time, this is by no means an ostentatious or shouty car. At first glance it appears to simply be a wellkept example of an ’80s BMW rather than an obviously low-down, powerful hot rod. But that, of course, is all part of its charm. Whispering has far more impact than shouting in cases like this. And the sighing whispers of love? Doubly so.
“I really wouldn’t improve a thing about the way the car drives,” says Jim, happily proving that this is far more than simply a polished show car. “I’d describe it as optimal; the power, the brakes, the acceleration – no words needed, it’s just love. And I reckon the fitment of the wheels is probably my favourite element of the car; the 18” Kerschers are exactly what I imagined the car should have, and I’d never consider changing them. Why would you change a winning team?” Well, quite.
“I see a lot of guys taking pictures of the car while I’m driving it around, and people are always curious to find out what’s under the bonnet when they see me burning rubber,” he continues. “It’s the product of inspiration really, and the internet and Google are my best friend when it comes to researching new ideas.”
The best way to really describe it, though, is simply as a labour of love. There was a spark of inspiration that inspired Jim to rope in his mates and turn this E30 into something infinitely more special than merely a cheap runaround, and the result is a creation that reflects his personality as much as it does his obvious, unashamed love for the self-styled 335i. “Oh, and you should see her shimmy around Zolder,” he whispers.
See, this is more than simply the product of a group of friends cracking open a set of spanners and a case of beers – this is true love. Jim and his E30 are a Shakespearean tale of infatuation with a retro-styled but super-modern twist. The fume of sighs, and a full-on 99-RON love affair.
DATA FILE BMW #BMW-M30
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.4-litre straight-six #M30B35
five-speed manual gearbox
CHASSIS 8.5x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) #Kerscher
wheels with 215/35 (front) and 225/35 (rear) Toyo tyres, custom air-ride system with Racepoutin’s boot build, E36 M3 brake conversion (front and rear)
EXTERIOR Full respray in Mineral grey, steel arch flares (1.5cm wider than stock)
INTERIOR Custom-trimmed Recaro CS seats, roll-cage, M-Tech 1 steering wheel, 318iS red digit dials, Viair pressure gauge in clock console, custom Alcantara trim