DREAM A LITTLE DREAM
fan is living his #E30 #M3
dream and has built a stunning example of the classic icon. Many of us dream of owning an E30 M3, and with its 2.5 engine and choice upgrades, this example is a real dream come true. Words and photos: Tony Saggu.
Start a discussion about ultimate dream cars and chances are you’re likely to be reaching for an Italian dictionary before long. You may as well pull a post war German history text off the shelf at the same time, and a few volumes of classic English literature won’t go a miss either. They’ll be plenty of talk of raging bulls and prancing horses, Stuttgart will crop up, even Woking will get a look in, but if we’re honest when those lottery numbers come up Bayerische Motoren Werke probably won’t be most people’s first stop. “I’m not going to lie,” laughed La Crescenta, California car connoisseur Mariano Garcia, “I had the F40 and Countach posters up on my bedroom wall when I was kid. But even then I knew they weren’t the cars I really wanted when I grew up.” Don’t get us wrong, Mariano likes supercars as much as the next guy, but his definition of the ultimate driving machine doesn’t include stuff with pictures of farmyard animals stitched into the leather. Our man’s a BMW purist – if it doesn’t have a Roundel it’s not his ride.
“BMWs are a family tradition with us,” explained the 30-something Beemer besotted bookkeeper. “My father always had one or two around. He had a #1978
Graphite grey #E12 #530i
and later bought a #1986 #Alpine
sedan. The 325e was eventually passed down to me and I modified it mercilessly,” he laughed. The Garcia garage was always kept fully stocked over the years. “Later on, he would own a #1995
Calypso red #540i #E34
six-speed, and a tastefullymodified Sahara beige #E12
530i,” revealed Mariano. “My mother has an Individual package Mora-metallic on Kiwi interior #2001
M3, and my brother has an Imola red 330i ZHP. We also have a Polaris silver #1979 #328i
that kind of gets passed around the family. All these cars were bought new except the ZHP and the Sahara beige E12.”
Apparently parting with these cars is not high on the family’s to do list – once a BMW is bought, it’s family. “All of the cars are still in our possession except the 325e and the 1978 Graphite 530i E12 which met premature ends.” The 325e had gotten Mariano off to a good start, a valuable education on the brand and a lesson in hands-on modification. “It’s the car that really got the ball rolling in a practical sense,” he told us. “I lowered it, swapped the engine for an M50, had all smoked Hella headlights, MHW tail-lights, smoked front turn signals, added smoked side-repeaters, tint, and HIDs. I really pushed the boat out and for a kid I didn’t do too badly,” he added. “I updated it to have the plastic bumpers, Shadowline window trim, it was on rare 16” E30 fitment BBS RSs with black centres, a Supersprint exhaust system… just a laundry list of stuff.”
Having gotten his feet wet tinkering with the Alpine saloon, it wasn’t long before Mariano was in search of bigger and better challenges. “There was only one car I had my sights on,” he confessed. “I’d seen an E30 M3 once when I was a kid, the image of that car was burnt into my brain and I knew I would have to get one, one day.” Finding one of the rare boxy bad boys in acceptable condition is difficult; prizing the car out of the clutches of an almost certain enthusiast owner can prove to be near impossible. Weeks turned into months as the search got into high gear, Mariano admits his patience wasn’t all it could have been: “I just wanted to get my hands on one,” he laughed, “I’d spent my whole life waiting.”
Garcia’s uncle owned a garage in nearby Orange County, so being well plugged into the local SoCal car scene and the racing community he was roped into the quest. “He had his eyes open because I’d told him that I was in the market for one,” he recalled. “My uncle tipped me off to a customer of a wellknown Porsche tuning shop in the area who was thinking of selling his M3; I was down there like a shot. Originally I was hell-bent on an Alpine white one to go with my 325, but when I saw how the Diamond blackmetallic paint looked in the sun with specks of blue and purple… I committed one of the worst car-buying sins you can and bought the very first car I saw,” he laughed.
The car put a goodly sized dent in Mariano’s bank account, but the mildly modded 1990 M3 was reasonably clean and had plenty of potential. “It already had a 2.5- litre in it,” he revealed. “The suspension was fairly well sorted with lowered springs, uprated shocks and RD swaybars, the wheels were cool 16” WED racing rims with black centres.” On the downside the engine had been hobbled by a retrofitted “horrendous-looking” #Porsche #944
Turbo single outlet exhaust. The interior was missing its seats as the seller had nicked his previously installed buckets and tossed the rears. “The paint was okay though not to my standard, but it did have a non-cracked dash that sits in the car still to this day.”
Our man admits the car has been, and will continue to be an evolving project, with almost 15 years of ownership under his belt and no plans to sell… ever, Mariano was in no rush to dive into any overnight makeover.
“I’m not tooting my own horn but I’m privileged to say that this is the car I dreamt of owning since I was a kid. I never thought it possible that I would be the owner of a car with every single modification that I had planned. At 15, owning the car I see in the garage now was a pipe dream. I still just open the garage and stare at it thinking to myself ‘yes, this is your car, you own it’. I’m still in disbelief. I’m as in love with the car now as the day I bought it a decade-and-a-half ago.”
Not much has stayed untouched on the car over the years, although the dream car build has followed a tasteful OEM plus route rather than an extreme makeover. The exterior treatment speaks volumes about the Garcia sense of style but the seamlessly blended additions could easily be factory issue BMW Motorsport items. Plenty of custom carbon fibre is the order of the day, which should have spelt a recipe for disaster, but like we said taste can make all the difference. A custom crafted carbon composite bonnet and brake cooling ducts add motorsport flair to the sharp end, and the smoked headlights, tinted indicator lenses and an Evo 3 spoiler lip back up the look. The weave has been used to accent the appearance rather than define it, the sunroof panel, DTM mirrors and Evo 3 rear spoiler punctuate the reshot factory black paint with splashes of carbon detail. “I’ve changed the parts that I though were tacky over the years,” Mariano told us. “For a long while I had a custom black and white M roundel that people would always give me stick about. I insisted that it went with the whole black theme of the car until I don’t remember what happened, maybe it was a maturity thing, I just changed it to the original one. I have to agree it flows better with the overall look.” Evo 3 wheels have made it on and off the ‘to do’ list a lot too, reports Garcia, but the present set of rollers would seem to be impossible to improve on.
“Those wheels have an interesting story behind them. I had gone to the World Cup in Germany in 2006 to cheer on Argentina… er sorry English fans,” he chuckled. “Anyway, I have a friend over there, Mike Edler, who had a stunning custom painted pearl blue/green/purple Opel colour E30 M3 with these BBS rims on it. He said he could get them all refurbished and customised with whichever caps I wanted; flat, shortened, regular… and the cap sticker inside polished, black, gold whatever. Any hardware, whichever colour centres, just a fully custom built set of wheels to my specs. Well, like most people, in my opinion BBS RSs are the quintessential E30 or ’80s BMW rims so I decided to have at it.”
The result of the transatlantic vacation and shopping spree were a quartet of fully refurbished #BBS
RS 212 rims in 8.5x17” up front and 197, 9.5x17” out back. Slant lipped dishes, Nogaro Silver mesh with polished caps completed the ensemble. Keeping the wheels planted to the pavement is a suspension setup worthy of a track star: “It’s an M3 and I drive it like an M3,” insisted Mariano. “The coilovers are by TC Kline. If I’m not mistaken this was the first TC Kline E30 M3 kit made, I went up to its shop in Ventura to have it installed by the team themselves.” Vorschlag front camber plates assure a perfect contact patch in the bends and Racing Dynamics sway bars take care of the roll. Garcia reports that the Entwiklung Dreissig Zen front and rear strut braces stiffen up the almost 25-year-old shell a treat, and polybushes handle any suspension flex that may have gotten past the other race ready hardware.
Under that carbon composite bonnet the mix of factory items and tasteful touches continues: “It is all S14,” Mariano said. “I’ve always been a purist about swapping the engines out of these cars, but my stance has softened. With age comes wisdom and I understand why someone would choose to go that route and bank for the buck. The #S14
isn’t the easiest on the wallet to maintain, plus I get how the newer generations crave those silly horsepower numbers.”
Though one could argue the motor is stock, standard it certainly isn’t, the engine has been treated to a complete rebuild featuring a guest list of greats; this is one Motorsport 3 that can back up its looks. “Yeah it’s packed with all the good stuff,” smiled Mariano, “but my favourite underbonnet piece is the carbon air-box. It makes my inner child imagine that I’m that closer to having a real works DTM Racer. It’s a mod that I had been dreaming of doing for as long as I’ve owned the car… even before owning the car actually,” he laughed. “Under full load, the sound the car makes from the engine bay is orgasmic, especially after about 4-4.2k.” We’re guessing the Group A manifold and full big bore exhaust system don’t hurt the soundtrack either.
The factory fresh E30 M3 had a respectable cabin out-of-the-box, reviewers even threw around superlatives like “stylish” and “sporty” to describe the interior architecture, but that was a long time ago. Updating a ’90s icon without losing the soul of a classic takes more than a little skill, though thankfully Mariano has the touch. A brace of Recaro SRD-inspired buckets crowned by a subtle, but race-legal Autopower roll bar form the centrepiece of the restyled cockpit. Suede has been the covering of choice, with the velvety leather nap covering the seats, steering wheel, gear stick and brake gaiters, subtleties like the M Sport stitching throughout are easy to miss but go a long way to contribute to the classy feel of the cabin. “Details like the stitching and M Cross Amaretta Cloth Inserts really tie the whole thing together I think,” mused Mariano, “it’s a classical look.”
We pushed the owner for insights into the future of the dream car build, what tasty trinkets are we likely to see work their way on to the project? “Not a thing,” he insisted “I am completely satisfied with the looks and performance of the car. I’ve seen my contemporaries get the car to a point where everyone said it was good and keep going to the point of idiocy until they ruin the car because they don’t know when to stop. Like an aging rocker you just become a caricature of yourself,” he continued. “I think I have found that sweet spot where the car needs nothing and it is at its zenith. I think it’s at its Dark Side of the Moon pinnacle. Why not stay there? Don’t the English have a saying about ‘gilding the lily’?”
Left: Interior features gorgeous Recaro SRD-style seats with grey Alcantara, Sport Evo steering wheel and ACS pedals; exterior carbon highlights include DTM mirrors and Evo 3 rear spoiler.
ENGINE: 2.5-litre four-cylinder #S14B25
, fully rebuilt with 95.5mm bore, OEM Sport Evolution crankshaft, Turner Stage 3 cylinder head, Alpha N/Maxx engine management, carbon fibre Gruppe M air box and snorkel, custom aluminium radiator, 48mm OEM Sport Evolution throttle bodies, VAC Motorsport DTM oil pan, 11.25:1 compression ratio, Gruppe A two-piece exhaust manifold, Supersprint centre resonator, Magnaflow exhaust, M Coupé diff cover.
CHASSIS: 8.5x17” (front) BBS RS 212 and 9.5x17” (rear) BBS 197 wheels, custom ordered, fully refurbished with Nogaro silver centres and polished centre caps with 215/40 (front) and 245/35 (rear) Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres. TC Kline double-adjustable coilover suspension (500/600 spring rates), Vorschlag camber plates, Koni adjustable shocks, Racing Dynamics anti-roll bars, Entwiklung Dreissig Zen front and rear strut brace, polyurethane bushes throughout, #E36
M3 steering rack, Wilwood six-piston BBK, stainless steel braided brake lines, ATE Super Blue brake fluid.
EXTERIOR: Respray with Glasurit in original Diamond black metallic paint and clearcoat, carbon fibre DTM Mirrors (nonvented), carbon fibre sunroof, carbon fibre Evo 3 Rear Spoiler, carbon fibre Evo 3 front splitter, carbon fibre brake ducts, carbon fibre ViS bonnet, Hella Colorline DE smoked ellipsoid headlights with city lights, DDM HID conversion, smoked front indicators, Euro grilles, running lights deleted, MHW smoked tail-lights.
INTERIOR: Sport Evolution suede steering wheel, M illuminated gear knob, suede handbrake boot with M stitching, suede handbrake handle with M stitching, suede gaiter with M stitching, Sport Evolution door sills, Recaro SRD-type seats with grey Alcantara and M cross Amaretta cloth inserts, #E46
M3 grey floormats, Autopower roll bar, #AC-Schnitzer
pedals, Innovate Motorsports LC-1 wideband A/F ratio gauge, Autometer oil pressure gauge.
THANKS: I don’t want to leave anyone out. My mother and father (without him I probably wouldn’t have become such a BMW fanatic). My wife for tolerating me and all our fun trips to meets for 18+ years, my kids who have a blast when in the back of my M3, all the La Crescenta chums who, apart from the car scene, have been there for me in personal ups and downs in my life (you know who you are), Barry Robinson, the lighting of the match which was me going on this forum to find some lights in 1999 and coming out a decade and a half later with lots of lifelong friends that changed the direction of my life, DTMPower. net, r3vlimited, S14. net, Jon Shafer, my OC tUNINGwERKS and Sunday Brunch OGs, all my San Diego friends, Bimmerfest, SoCal Vintage. I really have too many people to mention throughout all these years. Thanks to any of you that I have had contact with because I got something from all of it. RACING CLUB DE AVELLANEDA vamos mi academia carajo!