LOW AND BEHOLD
We’re in a purple daze after seeing this gorgeous bagged E30.
This ground-hugging bagged E30 has been a true labour of love. Words: John Tallodi / Photos: Denis Podmarkov
E30s have always been popular in these pages and their retro lines have become even more desirable as time passes, with some amazing builds making the most of that effortless ’80s style. They are a great canvas for any aspiring modder and whether slammed, cut, turbo’d, track-prepared or ICE’d, you can expect to find at least one E30 nestling among these pages each month. And this month is no exception…
Zach Dunn is not your usual 21-year-old, having been involved with BMWs from an early age. His first taste of the Blue and White Roundel was with a manual E36 325i. “My first BMW was a birthday present from my parents. I had tons of fun driving it and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift and something to start out with,” he says. Since then he has owned half a dozen BMWs, working his way through most of the back catalogue of 3 Series models, with two E30 325s (including this one), an E36 M3, an E46 328Ci, as well as a pair of classic 02s.
Having grown-up learning everything he could from his dad (who owns a bodyshop), none of his cars escaped without receiving some sort of modification. “They generally all get modified in the same way: I do some type of suspension setup to make them a little bit lower and I always like to change the wheels to something that is more unique. I also tend to do a few exterior upgrades, like the paint, bumpers, lips, lights and other little details.” In fact, lowering BMWs has become something of a passion for Zach. He got into it when the trend caught on in his area and all his friends started lowering their cars – although all his creations all bear his own distinct style.
Having been exposed to such a variety of machinery, Zach decided that his next project had to be an E30. He felt that the older cars had more character and that the E30 had limitless modding potential as well. Having seen so many E30s done, he just had to have a go at making one that was just right for his tastes. Cue his latest project: a choice-looking E30 two-door. With its 17” AC Schnitzer wheels and air suspension it hunkers low over its arches and looks just the right kind of menacing without resorting to massive spoilers or wide-body kits. It is a far cry from the state it was in when Zach first laid eyes on it. Sitting forlornly at a local shop that specialises in older BMWs, it was a non-runner and in a relatively sorry state, generally needing a bit of TLC in every department. “I wasn’t really worried about the shape it was in,” explains Zach, “because I knew I was going to totally transform it. The shop got it running and I picked it up a few months later.”
Zach likes to have everything pre-planned well before the actual purchase, as he tells us: “Before I even bought the car I had everything that I wanted to do with it figured out. From the wheels, to the colour, to the suspension, I knew how I wanted the car to be, inside and out. I could see it all in my head, which really helped me throughout the whole process.”
Having had lots of experience with lowering cars in the past using coilover setups, Zach knew that he needed to go down the air route if he wanted to go lower and still maintain the driveability of the car. After some research he settled on an Air Lift setup from Bag Riders. Up front he’s running off-the-shelf E30 struts and adjustable camber plates, while at the rear there’s a set of Air House 2 bags. In the boot there’s a simple wood-mounted install with a fivegallon tank and a single Viair compressor.
Thanks to his knowledgeable family and friends, Zach was not alone when it came to getting his E30 to the spec he wanted. “Everything was done at my dad’s shop, Dunn’s Auto Body and Repair. My friend Jason Hower did most of the air install with the help of my uncle Jason Longenecker. I did the air tank while they got the bags, management and lines figured out.” The pristine-looking exterior was also helped along by Zach’s brother Ryan, his friend Jared, and his dad – who helped spray the car and sort out the body panels.
Many hands make light work and the car took a total of about one month to get to a level Zach was happy with. The bodywork took about two weeks with a respray completed over a weekend. Smaller items, such as the trim and interior dyeing, took a couple of weekends and the air install was done in three days. Extra help and motivation came from Zach’s wife as well as good friend Denis Podmarkov.
Looking at the finished product, the paint colour could have been plucked right out of BMW’s own catalogue but it is actually a Volvo colour and it suits the car’s looks down to the ground. “My favourite modification on the car was probably the paint. It was something that my dad and I could do together and it turned out exactly how I was hoping,” Zach grins. “The colour was something I hadn’t really seen before on an E30 and I was constantly asked what the paint code is, no matter where I went.”
When it came to choosing a set of wheels, it took Zach a while to come to a decision. “I had a set of 16” CCW LM20s built for the car and I left those on for about a year,” he says. But the AC Schnitzer Type 1s are his all-time favourite wheels so when he finally managed to find a set of 17” Racing splits, his wife bought them for him and they look awesome on the E30. The wheels sit on 4x100 to 5x120 adapters and measure 7” wide up front and 10” at the rear, wrapped in 195/40 and 215/40 rubber front and rear respectively. With the car aired-out the edges of the polished lips sit absolutely flush with the arches. Other changes to the exterior include a Volvo front lip, US ellipsoid headlights, blacked-out trim and a shaved antenna. They’re all subtle mods that add up to a head-turning result.
The interior retains its standard trim save for an M Tech 1 steering wheel, and a redyeing of the seats in a different colour to match the paintwork better. “I didn’t get to do too much with the interior. It was tan when I bought it but I didn’t like the idea of tan and purple together so I kept all the original seats but dyed them, the carpet, and the headliner black,” Zach tells us.
As it stands, visually the car looks perfect, appealing in equal parts to both traditionalists and more extreme modders alike. However, with the eye-catching paintwork and wheels, you may be surprised to find that under the bonnet all is still as BMW intended. Zach’s primary focus was getting the car aesthetically right and as the original M20 lump and running gear were all in good nick he decided to leave them as is. There is definitely a retro charm in a wellmaintained straight-six M20 coupled to a five-speed manual ’box.
Having planned and executed everything out in such detail, this build must have been a true labour of love. However, needing funds for new projects meant the car had to go. Having put so much of his own style into it Zach would love to buy the car back someday, though. “It taught me so much, and it will always be ‘the one that got away’,” he muses. In fact, he’s even mentally planned additional mods he’d do if he did ever get it back: “It would be nice to put an S54 engine in there. I’d also go with a full M cloth interior, upgraded seats, Smiley headlights, M Tech 2 steering wheel, MHW tail-lights, side skirts, and Euro trim/grille and bumpers.” Clearly the man has style and an appreciation for the finer points of classic Beemer modding. Here’s hoping this automotive relationship was meant to be and the low riding E30 will find its way back into Zach’s life further down the road.
In the meantime, with a BMW shaped hole to fill in his driveway, what is Zach thinking of working on next? “I’m hoping to have an E30 M3 someday. The shape and design, the performance, the history behind them, pretty much everything about them makes me want to have one. And I have every single detail in my head about what I would do with it!” Judging from his past record there is no doubt that whatever changes he undertakes, they will surely make for a show-stopping car.
Three-piece 17” AC Schnitzer Type 1 Racing wheels look awesome and suit the E30 perfectly.
DATA FILE Air-ride #BMW-E30
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M20B25
, stock five-speed manual gearbox
CHASSIS 8x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) AC Schnitzer Type I Racing wheels with 4x100 to 5x120 adapters,195/40 (front) and 215/40 (rear) tyres, #Air-Lift-V2
E30 front struts, adjustable camber plates, Air House 2 rear bags
EXTERIOR Volvo purple respray, Volvo front lip, US ellipsoid headlights, blacked-out trim, shaved antenna
INTERIOR Black dyed interior, M Tech 1 steering wheel, 1/4” airlines, five-gallon air tank, single Viair compressor
THANKS Gabrielle Dunn, ‘Spike’ Dunn, Lorrie Dunn, Ryan Dunn, Jason Longenecker, Jason Hower, Jared ‘Shorty’ Hower, Denis Podmarkov, Dunn’s Auto Body and P #BMW