There must be something in the water Down Under judging by this amazing turbo rotary-swapped E30. A lifetime of E30 obsession has led Ehsan Hazrati to build many insane projects. His latest project is stuffed with enough triangles to make Pythagoras weep, yet you’d never guess it from the outside. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Andrew Parliaros.
Now everybody from the 313, put your motherflippin’ hands up and follow me.” So spat Eminem in 8 Mile (kinda), allowing the previously unremarkable three-digit number a little screen time. Until this point, 313 had merely been a truncatable prime, Donald Duck’s registration number or, of course, the year in which Rome’s Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine was completed. But now, rather splendidly, we have a new function for the number 313. Even more aggressive than a riled-up Eminem, ladies and gentlemen, we present the E30 #BMW
I know, it doesn’t sound exciting when you put it like that, does it? But all is not as it seems here. True, the E30 harks back to an era when the boot badges did mostly relate to what was under the bonnet (a 318i was a 1.8, a 325i was a 2.5… you get the idea), so are we looking at an obscure variant with a 1.3-litre engine? And why would anyone want that?
Stick with the story, for your perceptions are about to be blown away in the most spectacular way possible. But first, let’s meet the man behind it. “My parents tell me that at the age of five I was drawing the round headlights and kidney grilles of the E30 BMW without really even knowing what it was,” says Ehsan Hazrati, the Sydneysider behind the steering wheel. “As I got older and got my licence, I had E30 after E30. I did all the modifications myself, from servicing to tuning, overhauling to suspension, bushings, sound systems etc. I did extensive research into E30 DTM race car suspension, brakes, and making them handle around corners at high speeds. I spent a lot of hours calculating and testing power-to-weight combinations, high RPM engines, and turbocharging power graph outputs. And a lot of trial-and-error!”
This, it’s pretty safe to say, is a man obsessed. After a long line of retro 3 Series, he finds himself today with three E30s making a nuisance of themselves on his driveway: a 900hp drag car that’s currently under construction; the family daily-driver four-door 316i that just happens to be running a 450hp Corvette LS1 V8; and the cheeky red number that’s splashed across these pages. This, for us, is the pick of the bunch – hence why it’s here – because, well, it’s just insane; not just the quality of finish and attention to detail but the fact that it’s running a Mazda rotary engine.
Aha. That cacophonous clanging is the sound of the penny dropping throughout the Drive-My readership. The 313i badge refers to the 13B rotary engine’s swept volume of 1308cc. Although, being a Wankel unit, you can’t really equate its displacement to that of a piston engine, its twin-654cc chambers aren’t even on nodding terms with a crank and- piston arrangement. But whichever way you cut it, this is a feisty manoeuvre. Ehsan’s opted for the 13B-REW variant, as found in twin-turbo form in the third generation RX-7, and it’s a bit of a cult icon.
It’s a bold play, but Ehsan has form with this sort of caper. His first three E30s may have enjoyed tweaked BMW four- and sixpots, but the fourth ended up with a 13B from a Mazda Cosmo, and it seems that this wacky experiment really flicked his switch, and he stuck with the formula. That part-built drag car we mentioned? That’s rocking rotors too. This fella just really digs triangles.
“From as long ago as I can remember, all I ever wanted was an old-school BMW,” he assures us. “I live by ‘classic not plastic’ and ‘built not bought’. The BMWs of this era represented great European design and true workmanship, and the last perfect lightweight rear-wheel drive chassis compared to the competitors – the KE Corolla, Mercedes 230E, Mazda RX-7 and so on – from that time.” You’ll note that he’s slipped a Mazda reference in there, though. Clearly a fusion was always on the cards – a greatest hits of the period, if you like. Well, it’s all subjective isn’t it?
“Yeah, I’ve always had a passion for E30s as well as for the lightweight, high-RPM feel of a turbo rotary engine,” Ehsan admits. “I had a picture in my head of what I wanted it to look and feel like; people from the E30 scene tend either to have a really clean slow-and-standard car or a roughened-up fast one. I wanted to build an all-rounder – a show-stopper that drops jaws but that could also be used as a street-legal weapon. Something I can take to the drag strip, run consistent ten-second passes on street tyres, then drive home and the next day go on an E30 club cruise to the beach, have it on display at a car show, and win trophies. This build was my total package.”
Blimey. Talk about your stereotypical Aussie confidence! There’s not a single element of that paragraph that isn’t writing a massive cheque, but thankfully Ehsan’s the sort of dude with the skills to cash it. And so it began. A project base was sourced from a guy who’d had the car slumbering in the shadows of his garage for around six years – all immaculate and original, and you’ll no doubt be impressed to learn that it’s still wearing its original factory Brilliantrot paint. The seller refused to let the car go before Ehsan promised to give the car a new lease of life, a good home and, most of all, not to crash it – after all, he’d owned it from new. Imagine what he must be thinking when he sees this feature! Good vibes, we hope.
Ehsan took it home, and immediately installed it in his garage for another dusty year-long slumber. You don’t want to rush these things, do you? Although he wasn’t dragging his heels by any means – our effervescent protagonist had been to see his friendly local engine builder.
“I did everything else on this car myself, but it was George and Rocky at PAC Performance Racing who built and ported the engine, and dyno tuned the car,” Ehsan explains. The motor is bridge-ported, and porting rotaries is something of a black art: a great way to get more power out of them is to effectively smash some holes into the intake side, although the more extreme the ports are, the more lairy and tricky the motor becomes.
Bridge-porting basically involves opening out the standard ports, then adding an additional eyebrow port above – it all gets a bit techy, but the short version is you get an amusing lumpy idle, oodles more power, and a hell of a lot of noise. Which is all good fun. “At the time of getting the engine built I was looking for around 400hp,” says Ehsan.
“It currently makes around 550rwhp at 7000rpm on 22psi, which is approximately 620hp at the engine… in a car weighing only 992kg! It’s safe-tuned at 22psi, although the engine is built for 35psi+, so there’s plenty more to come.”
The results really do speak for themselves, too. “It performed far better than expected,” Ehsan grins. “But the power band was so high, I went through axles like underwear. Obviously the factory axle broke but then it ate through a brand-new OEM 325i setup, Z3 M Coupé items, hybrid E30/E28 M5 units… then, after the Garrett GTX4088R turbo upgrade, it even chewed through custom 108mm 500hp Porsche billet axles!” The build is undoubtedly a bit of a monster, echoing those early years of trial-and-error to get it all running right, but you can see from the muscular spec box that Ehsan’s really pulled it all together neatly. And, of course, as the man himself was eager to tell us, this E30 is as much about show as go…
A very important marker for this build was to make it something of a sleeper – not totally stealthy but certainly not showing its hand too early. That mint-condition, 25-yearold paint certainly helps here, and Ehsan has had all manner of chuckles taking on Skyline GT-Rs and a kaleidoscope of Porsches who never saw it coming and didn’t see where it went. “There’s no modern paint colours here, no fibreglass body kits, no big wings screwed to the boot,” he says, with no small amount of satisfaction. “I kept it all factory – the only thing I added was a new OEM iS front apron lip, and M-Tech 1 boot spoiler. All genuine add-ons from the ’80s era!”
The wheels are an interesting choice too and no doubt gave some of you wheel nuts pause for though. They’re actually the third set of rims that the car’s enjoyed since completion; it started off on satin black Watanabes before moving onto BBS LMs with polished lips, but I think we can all agree that the 16” mesh wheels give it an appropriately period look that’s in keeping with that quasi-sleeper vibe.
This keenness for stealth carries over to the interior, too. “One of my rules is that there should be no extra gauges on top of the dash,” Ehsan asserts. “That would give the game away immediately. I replaced the trip computer with an eBoost2 gauge, and also utilised the E30 Alpina air vent digital dash idea, with an analogue boost gauge.” Stealth, as ever, is the watchword.
This is, by all measures, a phenomenal build – without a hint of hyperbole, one of the finest E30s to grace these pages in some time. And with that colossally powerful engine and pristine period exterior, what do you reckon is Ehsan’s favourite element of the project?
“Oh, it has to be my rear diff brace,” he grins. “I designed and patented it myself on a CAD programme, checking the stress tolerance points for maximum strength and so on, and it truly is a work of art. People at car shows see that and know this car means serious business; it’s not just a pretty show pony. That brace is what’s needed to consistently put six hundred horses to the ground on both street and track.” It’s impressive, but unsurprising, that his top pick would be a thing of pure function.
Ehsan’s proud to describe how the initial build of the whole car took just three months, but it was then a further 18 months of tweaking suspension heights, spring rates, diff ratios, tyre diameters, ET formula calculations, and axle and tailshaft options before it was all truly fit to get that phenomenal power down.
“What it is, basically, is a brand-new race engine in a retro shell,” he says, in a charming display of matter-of-factness. “People’s reactions at shows have been amazing – the looks on their faces when they found out what’s in there, and that it’s all street-legal. And next year – that’s when I’m going to be chasing to beat my personal best drag time. It ran a 10.86 at 120mph on the old turbo with 385rwhp on 225/50 street tyres. With the new GTX4088R and 550rwhp on 225/40 semislicks, I reckon it could run a 9.9.”
All very ambitious but you get the feeling that he’s got all of this precisely calculated. There’s no margin for error here, and that’s what the number 313 should henceforth represent. Forthrightness. Function.
Desirability. A new number-of-the-beast for the 21st century. And when you see those digits on the tail end of a shiny red E30, you’d better not dismiss it as a lesserengined also-ran – there’s hidden mischief here, and its furious anger makes Eminem look like a primary school teacher. Everybody from the 313, put your rotorflippin’ shafts up…
“I wanted to build an all-rounder – a show-stopper that drops jaws but that could also be used as a street-legal weapon”
Bridge-ported 13B rotary sports a massive #Garrett-GTX4088R
turbo and makes 550rwhp.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-313i-E30
/ Mazda rotary, bridge-ported to PAC Racing specs, race doweled and balanced rotors, #PAC-Racing
unbreakable apex/corner seals, #Power-Ported
intake and ports, custom PAC Racing 13B turbo exhaust manifold, #Garrett
GTX4088R turbo, Turbosmart 50mm ProGate wastegate, #Turbosmart
34mm dual port blow-off valve, #Turbosmart
fuel pressure regulator, 3.5” dump pipe with full 3” exhaust and Rotaflow silencers, #Haltech
PS2000 ECU and Haltech boost controller solenoid, custom fabricated engine mounts, custom dual-core PWR intercooler, PWR oil cooler, #PWR
dual-core radiator, custom alloy radiator shroud and high #CFM-Engineering
output 16” Spal fan, dual #Bosch-044
fuel pump, three litre surge tank and #Walbro
primer pump, quad #Haltech
LS1 ignition coils. 620hp at flywheel (542rwhp) at 22psi safe tune; engine built for 35psi+.
TRANSMISSION R154 Supra Turbo five-speed gearbox with aftermarket strengthened billet gearset and synchros, custom gearbox mounts, custom PAC billet bellhousing adapter, PAC RBR550 heavy-duty clutch and pressure plate, billet lightened flywheel, billet short-shifter with E30 DTM white Delrin nylon gear knob, custom Mark Williams 3” wall chromoly tailshaft with 1350-series Strange uni-joints.
CHASSIS 9x16” #BBS
mesh wheels with 215/45 (front) and 255/45 (rear) #Kumho
Ecsta tyres, custom 1000hp halfshaft axles with 120mm chromoly treated CVs and bearing cages, reinforced rear #BMW
subframe and trailing arms, custom fabricated rear diff brace mount, E28 M5 diff with #Alpina
finned diff cover, cryogenically strengthened and shot-peened crown and pinon, #OS-Giken
Superlock shimmed 28-plate tightened LSD centre (85% lock), #AKG
solid 75D subframe, trailing arms, control arm and diff mount bushing kit, Ireland Engineering heavy duty front and rear racing anti-roll bar kit with adjustable rose-joint links, custom 315mm front and rear brake kit with ADR/CAMS approved braided line throughout, OEM E32 740i brake master cylinder, modified #Z3M
power steering rack with 2.7 lock-to-lock, solid billet alloy steering shaft coupler, 5/8” Mark Williams drag racing rear wheel studs, custom #Bilstein
front coilovers and solid camber plates, heavy-duty rear Beehive King Springs, welded AKG anticamber squatting plates in rear trailing arms, Sparco 1.5” front and rear strut braces, Ultra Racing four-point lower crossmember reinforcement bar.
EXTERIOR 1990 325i two-door shell, original 25-year-old Brilliantrot paint, 318is lip spoiler, M Tech 1 boot spoiler, rolled and flared arches.
Prototipo 350mm Retrotech steering wheel, E30 M3 black leather seats, #Sparco
PRO2000 fixed driver’s seat, #Sparco
fixed race seat rails, Sparco six-point 3” harness, #Autometer #Ultra-Light
gauges, Turbosmart eBoost2 with 3x boost pre-set stages (street, track, drag racing), E46 M3 pedals, all sound/cavity deadening and heat shield removed, drilled-out circular holes behind doorcards, parcel tray, behind back seat and sunroof for weight reduction – total car weight 992kg.
THANKS George and Rocky at #PAC-Performance-Racing
, Leon Sokalski at Performance Metalcraft, Mark Callinan at British European Motor Works, and my family and girlfriend for picking me up when I broke the CV axles on the street.