• MARK B’S E30 M3 #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-S14 / #resto-mod /

    There are some events that simply stand head and shoulders above the rest and the Retro Rides Gathering is one of them. Despite a few location changes over the years, it continues to be the class of the field as far as I am concerned. This year saw a multitude of cars descend upon Shelsey Walsh where, set in the hills of Worcestershire, is one of the UK’s premier hill climb tracks. Established in 1905 it has seen a glorious array of cars and drivers, stopping only for the two world wars. I had been before, so knew what to expect and although this was very much a ‘for fun’ event, it doesn’t stop you trying once the light goes green.

    In the days before Retro Rides I was able to get Joe Geach of ARM BMW and Motorsport to spanner check the car and change the oil. I had already backed off the KW suspension to full soft, so as to afford as much compliance as possible. It’s still very firm but allows for some roll and better grip on the slower, tighter corners. In the quick stuff the M3 still felt totally planted and gave me loads of confidence to push on. Now, I’m no natural talent and certainly haven’t missed out on a career in the BTCC or DTM, but I’ve driven a fair few race cars (including an outing in a Formula Opel Euroseries car. A genuine slicks and wings formula) and my personal best in a race-prepared E30 325i is a 59.7. Now considering I’m built for comfort and not speed, I was pretty happy with that.

    I usually leave Cornwall at 3am and make my way up to Shelsey, but this time I went all posh and got myself an Air BnB in Hereford. This meant I could have a lie-in till 7am, grab a shower and enjoy some of the beautiful roads that area has to offer. I’d driven up the day before and crossed the Severn Bridge for some B road fun en route. I even managed to find a jet wash close to Shelsey and got the M3 pretty clean considering the 250+ miles I’d covered and beat the queues to boot. Driving from Hereford to Shelsey, with the sun shining, windows down and the S14 singing, is a cracking start to any Sunday, let alone one with the Gathering to follow.

    One of the great things about Retro Rides is the eclectic mix of cars, with nothing newer than 1995. It really doesn’t matter what you drive so long as it’s old enough, and the atmosphere is terrific. On a personal note, I’m always made to feel so very welcome and it’s a real pleasure seeing the many familiar faces year-on-year. It’s that which keeps me going back time and again.

    As those of you who read my ramblings will know, it has been a tough year or so with my M3. It seemed that every time I left Cornwall the engine would let me down, and not in a small way. Much as I love the S14, it is extremely expensive to rebuild and I’ve been chasing reliability issues for months now. The biggest problem has been with the bearings and the supply of OE quality from independent suppliers. Hopefully, it appears to have been third time lucky and the M3 is now running better than it ever it has. Even with some of the hottest ambient temperatures of 2018, power was a strong 250hp+ on ARM’s dyno, with the rev limit set at 8.5k for engine longevity. It sounds absolutely glorious, especially now there are a few miles on the Eisenmann/Supersprint exhaust system. The pops and crackles on overrun are epic and, along with the induction noise from the carbon air box, it almost sounds like a proper DTM car.

    The mix of cars at Shelsey included a selection of Bavaria’s finest, including a ’60s 1600-2 with a supercharged M42 that was owned and built by James of JFi Classics in Brecon. There was also an S54-powered E28 flying up the hill and sounding glorious. Very much a home-brewed M5 and one of my personal favourites of the day.

    As well as having fun on the hill at Shelsey Walsh, I have been working with Thomas Garner Films and Mumbo Vlogs, who were shooting on behalf of Petrolicious. I’m going to hazard a guess that if you’re reading this, you’ll know Petrolicious and the content they put out on YouTube. If you don’t, you’re in for a real treat. The video will be up in October so just search for ‘Petrolicious BMW E30 M3,’ sit back and enjoy. You’ll also find relevant content on Instagram at mark_e30m3 and official-mumbo.

    Finally, if you’re in Cornwall around mid September, be sure to pay a visit to Watergate Bay and see what is billed as being the UK’s first closed road speed event. It takes place over the weekend of the 15/16th September 2018 and you’ll see a brace of E30 M3s being driven as they were designed to be. There are some very special cars and drivers entered so check out www.watergatebayhillclimb.co.uk for further information. Feel free to come say hello if you visit the pits too! If you can’t make it, I’ll try and bring you an in depth report after the event.

    E30 looked the part at Shelsey Walsh. BMW M3 E30 will be a YouTube star very soon. M3 received plenty of attention.