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    STILL WATERS RUN DEEP #1975 #BMW-2002-Honda 2.2-litre four-cylinder F20C VTEC

    A 2002 with a Honda S2000 swap might raise a few eyebrows but owner Will Maseredjian is having too much fun to care. You could hardly call Will Maseredjian’s 1975 #BMW-2002 a sleeper, but what’s lurking within may well surprise you. Although the ‘9500RPM’ licence plate is a bit of a clue… Words: Daniel Bevis Photos: Chris Bialy.

    When it comes to classic cars, you sometimes have to tread carefully. Restoring, maintaining and perpetuating the existence of an older motor is a noble pursuit, but if you want to irritate a marque purist, the best way is to swap out the engine for a unit from another manufacturer. The timeless threebox silhouette of the #BMW-2002 lends itself well to the racy addition of the wide turbo arches and in-your-face front airdam, but if you’re expecting to find the stock carb-fed M10 – or indeed, the unicorn-like 170hp turbocharged variant – then what’s happening under the curvaceous, fronthinged lid of this ’02 will shake up your expectations. ‘Sacrilege!’ cry some. ‘Inspired!’ counter others. Whatever your perspective, you can’t deny that what Will Maseredjian has achieved here sets a rather intimidating cat among the proverbial pigeons.

    It quickly becomes apparent that he’s no stranger to this sort of controversy (Will, that is, not the metaphorical cat): “I’ve owned a lot of cars and carrying out backyard swaps is nothing new to me,” he casually explains. “My first swap was a 1972 Mini Cooper, into which I fitted a 220hp #Honda-Type-R B18C motor – it was like a street-legal go kart! Great fun, although the Mini is front-wheel drive and I wanted to do a rear-wheel drive project, so I started looking around for something old-skool.”

    Sound reasoning, I’m sure you’ll agree. Perhaps it will help to soothe the beaded brows of the agitated purists that the approach was to find a solid car to swap a tangy motor into, rather than finding an original classic and saying ‘hey, let’s cut this up’. Not that it really matters either way. A car is merely a cluster of joined-up objects, is it not? There’s no point in being precious about these things, you only live once. The moment your name’s on the documentation, it’s yours to do with as you wish.

    “In California, any car from before 1975 doesn’t need to be smog tested,” Will continues. “So you can swap any motor in there as long as it’s street-legal. That’s why I chose to find a car from #1975 ; it’s also my birth year, so it has a personal significance.” This is warming up to be something exciting, isn’t it? Some of you will have already spotted the underbonnet shots or skipped ahead to the spec box, but let’s keep up the building sense of mystique for those who haven’t. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, we should do further digging into Will’s decision-making process. After all, ‘something rear-wheel drive’ is a broad brief, particularly if you live in California.

    “I chose the 2002 because my aunt Susie had a #1974 Tii when I was a kid, and we would drive all over town together in it,” he reminisces. “My mother would later remind me that I loved cruising in that ’02 with her. The first car I ever drove was actually my grandpa’s #1980 #BMW #320i five-speed; it was gold in colour, and he taught me how to drive stick-shift in empty parking lots. He gave that car to me when I went to college – BMWs have always been in our family and I wanted to build another one of my own, but do it a little differently.”

    It’s safe to say that Will’s intentions are pure, then. Are those concerned concoursbuffers mollified by this? Perhaps. “2002s are amazing pieces of machinery, but I wanted one with a bit more power and reliability,” he grins impishly. “Hence my decision to swap in a Honda S2000 engine in place of the 100hp #BMW-M10 engine that it originally came with. So I found this 1975 2002 on Craigslist in North Hills, CA – the 1975s are stronger body-wise than the previous roundtail bodies, and I needed as much strength as I could get since I knew I was going to swap in a high horsepower engine – and it turned out that a retired policeman owned it. He was hesitant in selling it to me because I’d told him about my plans to swap in the Honda engine. He almost cancelled the sale because he didn’t want me chopping this car up and scrapping the original motor… I actually had to tell a little white lie and say I wouldn’t swap out the engine just so that he would sell me the car!” A smidge on the devious side perhaps, but hey – a transaction is a transaction; Tesco wouldn’t refuse to sell you a bottle of diet coke if you told it you were going to drop Mentos into it instead of drinking it, would it?

    So Will found himself proudly poring over the details of a car as old as himself. It was well kept, with no cracks in the dash and no evidence of tin-worm. A perfect base for a project. “When I drove up to the guy’s house to collect it with my buddy Vito, he had no idea what to expect,” Will laughs. “Vito thought I was buying a #2002 model-year 3 Series, and when he saw it he was shocked but I was already picturing it with the Honda engine. I could see the potential.

    “As soon as I got it home, the backyard swap began, with my buddy Greg Fish,” he goes on. “We drove the car around for a few days to get the measure of it, then yanked the engine out in about an hour! I sold the M10 engine on Craigslist for $500, sourced an AP1 #Honda-S2000 motor complete with the harness and transmission, and the transformation began. We refreshed everything that we could, including all AN fittings and new stainless braided fuel lines, while the original transmission tunnel was cut out and rewelded to house the taller Honda gearbox. We fabricated custom urethane engine mounts with my dad’s bandsaw and Lincoln MIG welder.”

    He makes it all sound so simple, but with a little know-how and the help of a good friend or two, it’s basically just a big jigsaw puzzle. You simply have to remember that, like an impatient child, sometimes you have to cut up the pieces to make them fit. Now, the logic behind choosing the venerable #Honda-F20C motor is pretty sound – you get around 240hp straight out of the box, along with the hilarious just-kickedin- yo #VTEC valvetrain and a howling 9500rpm rev limit – hence the giveaway licence plate – mated to a sturdy six-speed ’box. But do you think that was enough for Will? No, he had gone completely mad with power by this point…

    “A common swap with 2002s is to fit the six-cylinder #BMW-M20 ; these generally yield around 160-180hp, but I wanted more,” he says matter-of-factly. But having fitted an obscenely revvy Japanese heart with 240-odd horses, it seemed crazy to leave it there. Before long, Will was on the blower to Mike Laskey at Laskey Racing to chew over the idea of stroking the motor, and in the blink of an eye he found himself sporting a rather more muscular 2.2-litre displacement, as you might find in later S2000s, thanks to a robust 2.2 crank, custom pistons, and a sleeved block from Benson’s Machine. The upshot of all this is a reliable 275hp at the rear wheels – an output that more than justifies the 2002 Turbo body addenda.

    Will’s left one or two clues on the exterior, most notably those JDM-esque wheels and Yamaha superbike mirrors – nothing outrageous, just little nudges that there’s a flavour of the Orient about this build. The interior is pleasingly luxurious rather than having a balls-to-the-wall racer vibe, featuring rare Recaro fishnets that Will found in Thailand, and a comprehensive retrim of carpets, headlining and doorcards courtesy of Perez Upholstery in Pasadena.

    All of that power, and luxurious appointments too? How very #BMW … “I love driving this car, I try to drive it as much as I can,” he enthuses. “The tyres are soft compound track rubber, so it doesn’t do too well in the rain (and the wipers aren’t connected either!), but I take it to all the local Supercar Sunday shows and Bob’s Big Boy Friday Night in Burbank. Being an active member of SoCal Vintage BMW, I take it out on all the local canyon runs and shows, including the annual Bimmerfest and SoCal Vintage Car Show – it’s a real headturner, and a bit of a sleeper, although any real Honda enthusiast will recognise the reference on the licence plate! It’s a superfun car, as it looks pretty stock from the outside but it’s a beast under the hood.”

    It’s a potentially polarising build, and the Honda swap isn’t going to please everyone. But with a usable slug of 21st-century horsepower, a planted footprint and a chassis to back up the grunt, it certainly pleases Will. And that is, after all, the point. It feeds into his own personal automotive history, and brings it kicking and screaming into the present day with a mix of old-skool thrills and nu-wave tricks. So how long do you think it’ll be before he fancies a little more power…?

    Black suede headlinging and doorcards on the inside, with fishnet headrest Recaros while MXL Strada digitial dash adds a modern flourish.

    ENGINE: #Honda 2.0-litre four-cylinder #F20C-VTEC , 2.2- litre stroker kit, custom CP pistons, Benson’s sleeved block, #F22C1 2.2 crankshaft, ported and polished head, BDL fuel rail and fuel pressure regulator, Bosch highpressure fuel pump, custom stainless steel braided fuel lines, AFCO radiator with twin fans, AEM programmable ECU with wide-band air/fuel meter, custom 3” exhaust with MagnaFlow resonator and custom tail, custom propshaft, six-speed Honda manual transmission.

    CHASSIS: 8x15” (front and rear) Axis OG wheels with soft compound 225/45 (front and rear) Hankook Ventus RS-3 tyres, Volvo four-pot calipers with drilled/slotted/vented discs (front), stock drums (rear), Ireland Engineering coilovers with Bilstein Sport shocks and Stage 2 Eibach springs, Ireland Engineering front and rear anti-roll bars.

    EXTERIOR: BMW Montego blue, 2002 Turbo arches and airdam, Euro-spec chrome rear bumper, custom #Yamaha R1 carbon-fibre mirrors.

    INTERIOR: Black suede headlining and doorcards, Recaro reclining buckets with fishnet headrests, Sparco harnesses, custom BMW German weave carpet, MXL Strada digital dash, full-width wink mirror, Sparco steering wheel.

    THANKS: I really want to thank my buddies Greg Fish for help with the fabbing, Chris Alvarez and Jason No for their advice and help, Mike Laskey at Laskey Racing for doing the stroker kit, Luky’s Hardware in Burbank, CA for all the hose and AN fittings and all the other stuff to get my car on the road, and my wife Ruby for putting up with another backyard project, and my family for all their encouragement and support.

    On the outside you’ll find beautiful Montego blue, #BMW-2002-Turbo arches, and custom #Yamaha-R1 carbon fibre mirrors; 15” Axis OG wheels with gold centres are the perfect choice.

    F20C Honda motor won’t please purists but owner Will seems more than happy with it. Upgrades have liberated more power, making this a seriously rapid 2002.
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    With WTCC-inspired styling and 530whp, this #E90 #BMW-335i is a force to be reckoned with. Justin Gomba’s E90 pays homage to the bullish aggression of the #WTCC series, then cranks the horsepower up to 11. And it’s all fully road-legal… Words: Daniel Bevis Photos: Watson Lu.

    Touring Cars rock, there’s no two ways about it. Pick any era from Touring Car history and you’ll find charismatic drivers doing impressive things in cars that look like stickered-up versions of your neighbourhood’s daily drivers, probably while amusingly clattering into everybody in the vicinity in a bloodthirsty rush for the apex. Look at the inaugural #1958 season of the British Touring Car Championship, in which Jack Sears and Tommy Sopwith ended the year on equal points, so the winner was decided by a head-to-head sprint around Brands Hatch in a pair of Riley One-Point-Fives. Or last year, when Rob Austin threw his Audi up the strip at Santa Pod against a 500hp VW splittie, just for a laugh. Or the 1992 season finale, when Cleland, Hoy, Harvey and Soper all got very physical indeed, ending in acres of crumpled steel and all manner of bruised egos…

    The Supertouring era of the 1990s has a certain relevance here, in fact. The 2.0-litre displacement cap meant that teams weren’t campaigning M3s like they were in the #E30 days; no, an #E36 BTCC racer would be a 318is or, later, a #320i – and not always in twodoor guise. Non-M3 more-doors gained inexorable race car kudos from this, and that ethos carries over to the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) series too. The formula is simple: take a commuter-spec car, pour a staggering amount of R&D into making it a formidable circuit racer, then shift a load of road cars off the back of it. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday, an idea as old as motor racing itself. How this manifests itself in the WTCC is cars that look from afar like the ones you’d see pootling along in the middle lane of the motorway, but up close turn out to be fearsomely wide, aggressively low, and shouty.

    You can understand why a person might wish to transmute this race car chic into a daily-driven road car, can’t you? And that’s just what Justin Gomba was thinking when the green shoots of inspiration planted themselves in his brain, before ultimately sprouting, growing, and developing into the mile-wide knee-trembler you see before you. “I wanted something different, something nobody else would have,” he explains, and that’s a sentiment we hear time and time again. There’s a lot of sense in that.

    Now, this may not be an M3, but the #E90 - #335i is certainly no slouch in stock form. That twin-turbo #N54 will happily kick out the thick end of 306hp all day long, which is more than enough to keep the average commuter or travelling salesman entertained. Hell, that’s as much as a #Ferrari-348 , which is a good fact to have in your arsenal for ‘mine’s-bigger-than-yours’ pub debates. But Justin had bolder aspirations, as you may well have spotted from the underbonnet shots. This is no stock #N54 . Indeed, the depth of the rabbit hole is measured by those angry hybrid snails from RB Turbo, which work in conjunction with an LTMW front-mount intercooler, Injen cold air feed, bespoke GIAC management, and a custom big-bore exhaust setup to unleash a frankly disturbing 530hp at the wheels. The stock automatic transmission is beefy enough to cope, although a fairly industrial Quaife LSD has been drafted in simply to keep the Tarmac from imploding in reverence at the sheer awesomeness of the thing.

    You’ll no doubt have noticed reference to LTMW there. To regular readers, the name LT Motorwerks will be more than familiar; the El Monte, California-based outfit is well established in the game of taking hot BMWs (and other brands now) and making them hotter. What Long Tran and his team don’t know about fusing cutting-edge technology with up-to-the-minute styling trends could be Sharpied on to the back of a postage stamp. The company’s very genesis is grounded in Long’s #2006 #E90 – it’s the car that inspired him to start the business, and he’s a long-standing source of knowledge on E90post. com – so there are few places more appropriate for Justin to haul his 335i to.

    In line with Justin’s aspiration to have ‘something nobody else would have’, his investigations led him to Vollkommen Design – a company which, rather helpfully, can be found in the same part of El Monte as LTMW – and the range of fibre-reinforced plastic body addenda that it has developed. Specifically, its World Touring Car Championship-style E90 kit, comprising hugely broadened bumpers, racy skirts and, most impressively, steroidally expanded wings all round. Just take a moment to appreciate the sheer girth of the thing, it really is quite incredible; sure, we’re somewhat spoiled in today’s tuner scene by the likes of Liberty Walk, Rocket Bunny and all those advocates of horizon-broadening bodystyling (both literally and cerebrally), but harnessing the functional width of a race car is an entirely separate approach. It feeds into the same fashionable arena, but its roots are planted in something that has existed in motorsport from time immemorial, stretching the body around the grippier footprint.

    Oh, and since we’re talking footprint, let’s take a peek under those super-wide arches, shall we? Justin’s riding the old-skool train here with a set of timeless BBS LMs, artfully crafted by Floss Design, which neatly dovetail with the racer aesthetic. In this instance, we’re looking at 10x18s at the front, and a whopping 13” width apiece at the back axle, which is more than enough to ensure that the swollen power figures translate into effective ground-covering. But it can’t hurt to take a belt-and-braces approach, so he’s chosen to wrap a set of Toyo R888s around them – a tyre so sticky that it pretty much melts just from the force of you looking at the sparse tread pattern.

    Again, it’s all about the race car vibe. And the rims look ace bursting forth from those muscular curves, don’t they? “It only took LTMW about a week to fit the whole lot,” Justin reveals, which is testament to how proficient it is at churning out kickass motors conveyer-belt-like from its Californian theatre of dreams. But it also speaks volumes for the quality of the kit. “The front fenders are one-piece, bolt-on parts that attach to the stock #BMW mountings,” he explains, “and the bumpers and skirts use the factory locations too.” Where Long’s team had their skills truly tested was in getting the rear wings right, as their fitment involves cutting back the stock wings, then attaching the Vollkommen units over the top. The finish is flawless, though, and thanks to a set of KW Clubsport coilovers (helpfully aided by Phantom air cups – a bagless air-ride system – to help get over speedhumps and suchlike), the stance is bang-on as well. Not just show low, but motorsport low.

    Nothing exceeds like excess, as the old saying goes, and simply overhauling the silhouette would never be enough for a man with Justin’s magpie eye, so he’s paid a lot of attention to the details too. Both ends of the E90 have come in for a refresh; the nose wears a set of LCI headlights that have been resculpted by OSS Designs to resemble the lights found on #M4-DTM racers (arguably the most brutal and certainly the most costly Touring Car series), while the tail enjoys a CSL-alike ducktail bootlid from Duke Dynamics, flanked by more LCI jewels. Form and function meet in the interior too, as he’s sourced a set of pukka #BMW-M-Performance seats to keep his kidneys tightly hugged through the twisties, with the rear seats trimmed to match. Yes, the car still has rear seats; while it was undoubtedly tempting to junk the interior entirely and stuff it with FIA-approved monkey bars, Justin’s opted to continue the practical ethos of having four doors by ensuring that he can offer passengers a comfortable place to sit before he scares the hell out of them. And you can’t accuse him of not taking the thing to its ultimate evolution. “I have to admit I never intended to take it this far,” he says, a look of starry-eyed whimsy on his face. It’s so often the case, isn’t it? The act of modifying a BMW seldom results in half-measures or compromise. This 335i is the best that it can be. Those StopTech brakes and M3 chassis gizmos make sure of that, optimising the otherworldly power from the RB-boosted motor, and yet there’s still room for the weekly shop – what more could you want?

    Arguably the coolest thing about this project is that it fulfils that little dream that always pops into your head when you’re at a race track: ‘I wonder what would happen if I peeled the stickers off that and used it on the road?’ The answer is the searing red streak that you see here, prowling menacingly through SoCal, a pit-straight refugee with a bad temper and a stableful of horses. The fact that it’s significantly more powerful than a WTCC racer is merely the cherry on a very naughty cake; couple that with the luxurious finish that LTMW have painted in broad strokes across the whole canvas, and Justin’s dream of having ‘something different’ comes alive with unrivalled flair and panache. A grand tourer and a Touring Car in one.

    DATA FILE #BMW-E90 335i

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six #N54B30 , #RB hybrid turbos, #LTMW intercooler, Injen cold air intake, TiAL dump valve, GIAC management, AR Design custom downpipes and 3.5” VR Speed Factory exhaust, six-speed automatic transmission, Quaife LSD.

    CHASSIS: 10x18” (front) and 13x18” (rear) BBS LM wheels with brushed bronze centres with 295/30 (front) and 335/30 (rear) Toyo R888 tyres, StopTech Trophy BBK with six-pot calipers with 355mm discs (front) and four-pot calipers with 335mm discs (rear), KW Clubsport coilover kit, Phantom rear air cups, M3 lower control arms, anti-roll bars and camber adjustment arms.

    EXTERIOR: Vollkommen Design WTCC wide-body bumpers, wings, skirts and rear door extensions, CSLstyle Duke Dynamics bootlid, gloss black roof, LCI tail-lights, LCI headlights modified by OSS Designs, M3 mirrors.

    INTERIOR: BMW M Performance seats, gear knob and steering wheel with LED display, Alcantara gaiters, rear seats trimmed to match.

    THANKS: Long and crew at LT Motorwerks, George at KW Suspension, Darren at Vollkommen Design, James at Floss Design, Luis at OSS Designs, StopTech, Kennedy at Platinum VIP, Tiago at VRSF, #RB-turbo , Bernardo Pena, Jasper Li, James Lam, Felix and Watson Lu, and my beautiful wife Erica.
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    After recently experiencing a low mileage W123 #230E in the December #2014 issue, the opportunity to drive a #W124 version provided a rare comparison test.

    Quality is quality, no matter how unadorned the product might appear to be, and no car surely highlights that better than a Mercedes-Benz of the 1980s, a prime example being the W124 230E seen here. Long before the term ‘poverty spec’ was invented, Mercedes-Benz offered cars that looked basically furnished, came with hardly any equipment as standard, and which hardly impressed in the performance stakes.

    They were also significantly more expensive than all comparable rivals, if indeed anything other than a BMW or Audi could be truly thought of as a rival to the three-pointed star.

    The buying public loved them. In #1989 , the year before this 230E was registered, and the peak year in that era for new car sales in the UK, #Mercedes sold just over 13,000 124-series cars (still then known, rather awkwardly, as the ‘200-300’ range). That exceeded the #190E total by some 2,000 units, and was more than, for example, the total number of #VW #Passats registered.

    Those brought up on modern cars loaded with kit and with plentiful power outputs might struggle to understand how Mercedes got away with it. But demand was so strong that customers waited months for delivery, and after a few years could sell the car on for a healthy proportion of its list price - which had not been discounted by one penny.
    Let’s look at the February #1990 price list, current when this 230E was delivered to its first and only owner. The cheapest 124 was the 200E, with its two-litre fuel injected engine, priced at £19,020. As standard, it had a five-speed manual gearbox, anti lock brakes, central locking and an electrically operated passenger door mirror (the driver’s was manual).


    But during your visit to a #Mercedes-Benz dealership to place an order, the salesman would have slid a blue booklet across the desk, showing the 38 factory extras that could be added, ranging from twin illuminated vanity mirrors at £68, to air conditioning at £2,092, and including one or two specialist items such as a tow bar and an engine sump guard.

    You could, provided you were prepared to wait for the factory to build it, order a 200E with every factory option available which, taking account of duplications, totalled 32, generating an extra £ 16,076 on the invoice - but that still wouldn’t get you a radio. Maybe a few customers did this, but in the UK it was common to see the exact opposite, a 200E with absolutely no extras, and the reason was simple. A key threshold in the company car tax regime of the day was a list price of £19,251, and the basic 200E nestled neatly under that - hence its lucky ‘user chooser’ driver paid no more benefit in kind tax than on a humble, 1.6-litre Ford Escort.

    Over the 200E, the 230E came with an electric tilting sunroof and front/rear electric windows. The owner of this car - or perhaps it was the supplying dealer - proceeded beyond the basic specification, but when ticking the options boxes was clearly budget conscious, choosing the four-speed automatic transmission, metallic paint, a leather steering wheel and gearknob, and a wooden console box for cassettes, all of which added just under £1,900. The ‘delivery charge’ of £190 plus VAT brought the price to £23,536, although the dealer supplied Blaupunkt Cambridge SQM39 radio and electric aerial would have upped that further.

    The first owner (a retired airline pilot) recently gave up driving, at which point the 230E passed into the hands of Martyn’s Car Sales in Chertsey, Surrey, where we understand proprietor Martyn Neville is prone to buying in 1970s to 90s Mercedes for resale, but then diverting them to his now considerably sized personal ‘young classic’ collection. However, the 230E - having covered a mere 28,000 miles from new - did appear to be one you could buy, priced at £7,990.


    It was one of three 124s for sale here, but stood out due to its notably well preserved condition, only a small patch of rust on the front wing preventing the description of ‘pristine’ applying. The Diamond Blue paintwork retains its lustre, and inside, the Mercedes still looks like new.

    The 124-series was launched in early #1985 and stayed in production in Germany until #1995 , after which it was supplied in CKD (‘Completely Knocked Down’) kit form for export fora short period. Saloon production totalled just over 2.2m, long wheelbase saloons and special chassis conversions, estates, coupes and cabriolets swelling this by an additional 524,700.

    Its decade long life saw two facelifts, and this 230E is middle period, from after the barely detectable 1989 update, which introduced lightly revised exterior and interior trim, and before the staged 1992/1993 revisions when engines were changed, the star was moved from the grille to the bonnet, and the bumpers colour coded. Its engine is the 124’s original 2.3-litre four-cylinder, producing 130bhp and 146lb ft torque (1989-on 200E running tax minimisers made do with a not significantly less 116bhp and 127lb ft).


    Settling into the 230E’s still fresh cloth seats and absorbing the shiny Zebrano wood veneer instantly takes me back to the last time I drove a 124 that felt as youthful as this, in 1988 and the six-cylinder 260E. This involved an excursion onto Pendine Sands in Wales (as recalled in Mercedes Enthusiast April 2006), during which the virtually brand new Mercedes press car was nearly lost to the Atlantic. But Martyn Neville didn't have to worry today because our plan was less ambitious, merely a relaxing drive to remember the way Mercedes used to do things.

    The four-cylinder M102 engine, which made its debut in 1980 in the 123-series 230E, does not truly inspire, as it never emits anything other than a gentle thrum, and does not really like to rev hard. But it is smooth enough, and from within the cabin it is very quiet - which of course is what counted most for Mercedes customers. Neither does it deliver sparkling performance, but, again, the 230E was obviously quick enough for owners who, if they had been worried about pace, would have bought a #BMW #320i or a VW Golf GH Notwithstanding the probable expectations of today's drivers, the 230E has sufficient usable performance, even if you must avidly > flex the right ankle on a long travel accelerator to extract what’s there. With either the manual or automatic transmission, the saloon achieves 62mph from a standstill in just over 11 seconds but, probably more importantly, the engine with its high-ish torque peak is suited to relaxed cruising.


    No aspect of the 230E’s handling is tactile. The recirculating ball steering messages little back to the fingertips, and the comms blackout continues into fast corners, during which the car’s natural responses are damped into submission. But yet again it is what Mercedes, no doubt correctly, reasoned customers wanted, and the W124 - which adopted the excellent multi link rear suspension of the W201 190/190E range - wants for nothing in terms of road holding and braking. It could also, with its mere 15-inch wheels and 65-series tyres, teach many tautly sprung and generously tyred current cars a thing or two about comfort.

    Another hallmark of this period of Mercedes is the cabin, so austere and plain - and for another £ 150 you could order the MB-Tex vinyl and make it even more so.

    And yet so appealing, thanks to the simple, restrained design. The springy seats, shared with other Mercedes of the era, are certainly an acquired taste, but even without the costly electric seat and steering column adjustment you can fashion the perfect driving position, thanks to separate manual height and angle adjustment controls on the side of the seat.


    The paperwork on this car is as complete as I have seen on any older Mercedes, with every receipt, MOT certificate and even tax disc present. And it proves that an executive sized saloon is not necessarily an expensive car to run; there have been no major repairs in this car’s life, and most of the services have been £300 or less, despite an official Mercedes dealer performing every one.

    The 124-series, particularly the saloon, it seems, is the latest once plentiful Mercedes to become scarce as, 18 years after its production ended, many survivors are deemed no longer useful. As one who recalls seeing it as the newcomer on motor show stands, and having enjoyed so many great moments in a 124 of one kind or another, it makes me sad. Fortunately, at least, this particular 230E, thanks to its top condition, is likely to have a life ahead of it at least as long as that which has so far elapsed.

    Paperwork reveals no major jobs undertaken.
    A warning triangle in the super clean boot.
    Paperwork reveals no major jobs undertaken.
    A warning triangle in the super clean boot.
    Seatbelts for all three rear occupants.
    Anti lock brakes standard from 09/1988.
    The M102 unit was carried over from the W123.
    One previous owner since 1990 and just 28K miles.
    Blaupunkt radio and cassette player for this youngtimer.

    Mercedes-Benz 230E W124
    ENGINE M102 2.298cc 4-cyl
    POWER 130bhp @ 5.100rpm
    TORQUE 146lb ft @ 3.500rpm
    TRANSMISSION 4-speed auto.
    RWD WEIGHT 1.360kg
    0-62MPH 11.2sec
    TOP SPEED 121mph
    YEARS PROOUCED 1985-1992

    Figures for a 1990 car as pictured; fuel consumption according to EEC urban
    Thanks to Martyn’s Car Sales for the loan of the 230E Web www.martynscarsales. co. uk Tel 07768 017781, and to Great Fosters for the location Web www.greatfosters. co. uk Tel 01784 433822
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    Not all original #Amsterdam owned E30 Cabrio #M20 engine 2.0-liter.

    #BMW #320i #E30 #BAUR Cabriolet

    #M20B20 S6 / 1.991 cc / 125 PS / 125 ft/lb (170 Nm) @ 4.000
    0 - 62 mph (100 km/h): 9,8 s
    Max: 124 mph (200 km/h)
    #DEPO front and rear optics – not original
    #BBS replica – not original
    Interior all original, but look not like new car
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    Repeat offender. Aaron Smith accurately repeats his ESS supercharged M3 winning formula to create this 680bhp #BMW E92 street weapon… Words: Andy Basoo. Photos: Steve Hall.

    You may recall that back in the August 2012 issue we featured a trio of phenomenal E9x M3s from the States. All three broke cover and featured supercharger kits along with a host of other trick touches. Now, it’s not often that I quote myself, in fact, this might actually be the first time. But, at the close of that particular article I wrote: “In the UK, we’re yet to see the modified E9x scene really take hold… but we expect to see more and more enthusiasts trying their hands to E9xs in the months and years ahead.”

    Little did I know, but at the time of writing, CA Technologies International was busy building the exact car in question for a customer. “We’ve got an E92 in that you’re going to want to look at,” CA explained on the phone. “It’s supercharged, and to the best of our knowledge, it’s the first E92 here in the UK with this particular ESS kit on it. It’ll be ready in a couple of weeks. Do you want the owner’s details?” Yes, yes we do…

    With details kindly exchanged, we were soon on the phone to owner Aaron Smith, and a date booked for this very shoot. Aaron is a 31 year-old accountant with a most interesting automotive background. We say interesting, because prior to 2008, it was non-existent! “I’ve always lived in and around London,” Aaron began. “So, I’ve never really needed a car. I’ve always used public transport. My wife drives and has got a little Mini so we’ve always been fine.”

    In 2008 though, Mr and Mrs Smith started a family and moved further out of London to do so. It was time for Aaron to start driving. “I asked a mate to help me find a car,” he continued. “He knew a lot about cars and was really into BMWs specifically. He found an E46 #320i that was in budget and I ended up buying it. It was a really good car to be fair, but it was pretty boring. It was the right size for the family but I only had it six months. I decided I wanted a faster version so was looking at 330Cis. But, then I noticed how much M3s had come down in price. Value for money wise, you get so much more for not an awful lot more money. I’m the kind of guy who sees the top spec version of whatever I’ve got and think to myself that I wish I’d gotten one of those.”

    So, Aaron’s heart soon shifted toward an E46 M3 and the search was on. Usually, when sourcing an M3 there’s a difficult decision to make: SMG or manual transmission? For Aaron though, this wasn’t a decision he’d lose sleep over. “I’ve got a bit of a bad leg, so it was always going to be an SMG version for me,” he explained.

    After a thorough search, the right car came up in the form of a Titanium silver ’51- plate example with 90k on the clock. Working in London, Aaron found himself surrounded by matt black wrapped super cars and high-end machines day in day out. He’d made his mind up before even buying the E46 that he’d do something similar with his next car. The M3 was therefore wrapped within weeks of purchase, and looked all the more aggressive for it.

    Why are we spending so much time talking about Aaron’s previous car, when what we’re really here for is to find out more about the beautifully simple E92 on these pages? Well, it’s because what Aaron did with his E46 has directly influenced the car you see in front of you. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that if it wasn’t for that very E46, I’d still be standing by my words in the aforementioned feature about the UK’s E9x M3 scene yet to really take off.

    Essentially, after seven months of ownership Aaron decided it was time to have a play. He’d gone through a very steep learning curve with regard to the worlds of car control and BMW performance. He now fancied trying his hand at tuning, and what better test bed than an E46 M3?! “I spent a lot of time reading magazines like Drive-MY #E90 Club and sifting through forums,” Aaron expressed. “I wanted a big power increase and decided that supercharging was the way to go. That’s what most owners in the US seemed to be doing. A lot of the kits though look like they’ve been cobbled together out of spare parts. The only kit I could find that looked tidy when installed was the ESS setup. Thankfully, that was the one that most of the articles I read were raving about!”

    Aaron spoke to a number of BMW specialists in the UK for further advice, and was particularly impressed with the help he received from CA Technologies International. Being well versed in the ESS range, CA became his go-to tuner for the supercharger conversion. After much discussion with the team, it was decided the VT2-500 setup was the most suitable of the four kits available. The reason for this being that with the system rated at 500bhp depending on other ancillaries fitted (although some find this figure to be a bit optimistic), it would produce significant power, but not so much as to warrant worrying about costly engine internals and reliability issues.

    CA’s advice proved to be exceptionally accurate: “I bought the M3 with 90k and sold it earlier this year with 105k on the clock, 10k of those being with the supercharger fitted. They were a good 10k miles,” he smiled. StopTech brakes all-round, H&R coilovers plus Vorsteiner and CSL styling parts also found their way on to the E46, and just as CA had predicted, the highly modified BMW performed faultlessly every time the key was turned. “You hear people complain about how expensive M3s are to run and keep on the road,” Aaron continued. “But mine was just about bullet-proof. The rear springs needed replacing before the H&Rs were fitted, but that was about it.”

    That said, with the #E46 now well over ten years old at this point, and Aaron reading a number horror stories about rear subframe and boot floor issues on older cars, he reasoned that now was the time to move on. He wanted to pre-empt any expensive repairs that may occur in the future and selling up while the going was still good seemed to make sense.

    “I bought this #E92 in April #2012 ,” Aaron declared. “I was looking at #Porsche #996 Turbos, but with the family and having enjoyed my supercharged E46 so much, this just seemed liked the natural step forward. It’s more refined and the noise of the V8 got to me straight away. I love it. I bought the DCT version because of my leg, and instantly found it to be smoother between the gears. I love the blips when shifting down too. I did miss the rawness of the SMG transmission though.”

    Aaron actually still had the E46 when he bought his latest M3, due to the agreed buyer of his old car delaying his purchase. This did, however, give Aaron the opportunity to pitch his modified 450bhp E46 against his new, but stock 420bhp E92. “I went out one night with my mate who was driving the E46,” he relayed shaking his head. “The difference in performance was unbelievable. He absolutely left me for dead and I wondered for while if I’d made the right decision. My old E46 was so fast.”

    By this point though, Aaron had already acquired a number of the parts needed to transform the somewhat reserved V8 into a similar animal. “I’d been speaking to CA about E92s for a while before buying this one,” he confessed. “Once I’d made my mind up I was getting one, I ordered the supercharger kit. It was always going to be an ESS setup because of how well it worked on the E46. All the guys in the States were still raving about the ESS kits too, and let’s face it, they look amazing strapped to the top of the V8!”

    Again, a number of kits are available, all of which make use of the same Vortech V3Si ’charger, a unit capable of producing 775bhp when fitted to an E92’s S65B40, rebuilt with uprated internals and ancillaries of course. CA again advised Aaron of his options, explaining how the VT2-650 was the biggest kit listed and could easily be reworked to produce more power, but in standard guise would provide over 650bhp, while still remaining reliable on standard internals. Just like with his E46, the latter sounded like the perfect arrangement for Aaron.

    In fact, in his eyes it was a no-brainer, so CA placed the order with ESS Tuning in the Norway. Another aspect of his previous M3 build that Aaron was particularly happy with was the front and rear StopTech brake conversions. Similar kits were therefore sourced for the E92. “The theory is that their performance is proportionate to the power of the car,” Aaron explained. “The M3 brakes are good as standard, but if you’re going to be adding over 250bhp it makes sense to improve the power of the brakes too.”

    With the main upgrades ordered, it was time to find the right base car! “I knew I wanted a white one,” he continued. “But I struggled for a while finding a white DCT one for the right price. I even contemplated buying another colour and just getting it wrapped white, but eventually this one came up in April. I wanted to get it booked in with CA pretty much straight away, especially after that night with my mate in the E46. But I couldn’t decide which exhaust to get! In the end I went for the Eisenmann system, which took three-four weeks to arrive.”

    As previously mentioned though, this provided Aaron time to get to know his latest purchase in factory format. He even took it to a ‘run what ya brung’ day at Santa Pod and set down a respectable time of 13.6s. Due to the hold up with the exhaust, it wasn’t until August that the M3 was finally booked in at CA’s affiliate workshops at Auto Enhance, and due to Aaron being on holiday, it would be there for four weeks instead of the two that CA allowed for.

    So while Aaron was away enjoying himself, CA and Auto Enhance were hard at work building the UK’s first VT2-650 E92 M3. If you have a quick glance left the Data File, you’ll see just how comprehensive the kit is. It includes every single bracket, injector, manifold, filter, hose, clamp and belt required to transform the V8. Literally everything is included, right down to pre-programmed engine management in the form of an ESS MSS60 ECU. This is perfectly calibrated to provide optimum ignition timing, it sharpens throttle response and recalibrates the VANOS system to optimise fuel delivery through the eight Bosch motorsport injectors provided. ESS is so confident of the setup’s plug and play capabilities that no dyno session is required for smooth delivery. That said, Aaron is planning a custom live mapping session with CA soon to make a few tweaks to suit his needs and driving style. “The M3 is producing 680-690bhp, but the mapping session will just give it an extra edge, hopefully more power and even more drivability,” CA told us.

    One thing that has been added to the mix though is a set of Okada plasma coils. These not only provide a much stronger spark then OEM items, but are also more consistent and reliable in terms of performance under high operating temperatures. These are attributes that are welcome in a force induced setup, where some OEM coils simply fail during extended hard use. Aaron isn’t the type of individual to be too demanding of his car, but with long European road trips, quartermiles and track sessions all being in mind, he and CA decided the Okada coils would be a sound investment.

    “I was itching to get back and pick the car up,” confessed Aaron. “CA had been emailing me photos of the progress and I couldn’t wait to get down to Essex to pick it up. Being away had meant that CA could run-in the car for me. They put 500 miles on the clock to ensure that everything was perfect. It meant that I could just jump in and drive it and not worry about anything. I ended up sitting in two and a half hours of traffic on the #M25 on the way back though. Not really what I had in mind!”

    The very next day, Aaron found himself back at Santa Pod and shaving off a second and half from his previous time with a 12.1s run. By his own admission, the car should be capable of cracking an 11.5s sprint but it had been less than 24hrs since he picked it up so he was still getting to know its behaviour and limits. He even had a twitchy moment at 90mph, which shook him up a little.

    And aside from an appearance at Gaydon for the BMW Festival, driving to our shoot location is about the only other opportunity Aaron’s had to spend some quality time behind the wheel. But, even so, it’s abundantly obvious to him that this is notably faster than his previous E46 M3, and yet it’s still beautifully refined in comparison. The family prefer the comforts of this one too.

    To be honest though, there was little chance I was going to pass up the opportunity to be behind the wheel myself when offered, so mid-way through the shoot I jumped out of my #E90 #318d and into the seat of this weapon and instantly felt at home. At normal road speeds, this behaves almost exactly like its stock counterpart. One thing I instantly noticed though is how sharp the throttle response is in comparison to the standard M3. You have to be much smoother with your right foot when applying pressure and easing off so as to avoid aggressive jerking. It took me a moment to adjust but I got there.

    It’s when attacking the road in front of you though, the pulse really gets racing. The sound of the #S65 V8 is one that I will never tire of hearing, and what I love is that none of its orchestral components are lost here, even with 680bhp of forced induction . In fact, I was expecting a lot more intrusive whines from the ESS kit, but it’s actually very reserved. Its performance however is not. Far from it in fact.

    No lag, no hesitation, just savage acceleration right up to 8300rpm. The StopTech brakes are good too: six-pots up front with 380mm discs and four-pots out back with 365mm discs. They’re not super sharp, in fact notably less so than stock, but jump on them hard into a corner and they’re very powerful. Of the brakes, Aaron said that he was particularly grateful to CA for recommending them. Aaron had been looking into more expensive kits, but the ST60 and ST40 kits on the front and rear respectively, as recommended by CA seem perfectly matched to the car’s overall pace.

    The night before our shoot, Aaron spent a few hours fitting the carbon additions you see to the exterior. All were ordered through CA and complement the factory-fit carbon roof and carbon leather interior trim perfectly. The front splitter sharpens up the nose nicely, the side grilles are classy touches and the rear diffuser works wonders at the tail end. The rear spoiler is a particularly nice touch, very similar to BMW’s official M Performance item.

    This is a special car. Aaron has a few plans for it, including changing the Eibach springs for a fully adjustable coilover setup and maybe switching to a 1M-style front bumper, but for the time being he’s more than satisfied. In fact, just a few days after photographing the car, he was setting off on the Cannonball 2000 around Europe with his brother. What a memorable few weeks it’s going to have been. He’ll have come back from holiday, picked up his new 680bhp #E92 #M3 , taken it up Santa Pod’s drag strip, attended the UK’s biggest BMW show, had the car photographed for a magazine feature and been on the Cannonball 2000. Jealous much? Us too…


    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: #S65B40 4.0-litre 32v V8, ESS VT2-650 kit with Vortech V3-Si supercharger, Vortech Maxflow Race bypass assembly, Uni-belt drive system with additional OEM quality rollers, eight high capacity Bosch Motorsport fuel injectors, tweaked MSS60 ECU software with removed top speed limiter, CNC hard anodised brackets and hardware, K&N high-flow air filter, high temperature cast plastic intake system for SC, high-capacity liquid intercooler system, cast aluminium ESS intake manifold (custom painted red plenum) with integrated lightweight velocity stacks optimised for boost, silicone hoses with clamps, heavyduty drive belt, ESS oil breather assembly designed for boost, Okada plasma coils, Eisenmann 4x83mm Le Mans rear exhaust, Challenge X-pipe with high-flow cats, standard M3 gearbox and LSD.

    CHASSIS: 8.5x19” (front) and 10.5x19” (rear) VMR V710 wheels shod in 255/35/19 and 295/30/19 Pirelli P Zero tyres respectively, StopTech ST60 front brake kit with 380mm discs and six-piston calipers, #StopTech ST40 rear brake kit 365mm discs four-piston calipers, #Eibach Pro Kit springs all-round.

    EXTERIOR: Carbon fibre front splitter, black front grilles, carbon fibre side vents, carbon fibre rear spoiler, carbon fibre rear diffuser.

    INTERIOR: Standard M3 black leather interior with carbon leather trim

    CONTACT: CA Technologies International.
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    Taxi… BMW #E90 #320i (original in past) now have #E36 M3 #S52 turbo engine! Every once in a while a BMW comes along that crosses the border of sanity. This humble E90 320i has been transformed into a 650bhp turbocharged party on wheels, and driven hard on sheet ice, we’ve come to watch it dance. Words: Iain Curry. Photos: Max Earey.

    If you’re a fan of films with decent car chases, one movie that won’t have escaped you is the #1998 French comedy Taxi. With Remy Julienne’s stunt team slogging a highly modified Peugeot 406 around the streets of Marseille, it makes you wish all taxi rides could be this good. Well, you won’t be experiencing such high-octane thrills in the back of a black London cab anytime soon, but there is one place where you can experience the taxi ride of your life. And it won’t be in anything as mundane as a #Peugeot #406 .

    The quite unbelievable car you see before you was “E90 BMW Drive-MY Club” first E90 3 Series feature car, and to be honest, if we ever get another this extreme it will be a miracle. It seems as though the E90 has only been out for five minutes, but already we see one here dressed in full #AC-Schnitzer body kit, painted the most astounding colour (with Taxi livery) and sporting a stripped interior, racing dash and four bucket seats. That would normally be enough to impress, but surely that huge front-mounted intercooler hasn’t escaped you? It can’t be…

    Oh yes it is. Okay, so it takes balls enough to start chopping up the body and interior of a brand new, rather expensive E90 320i, but messing with its incredibly advanced engine? This being a Norwegian vehicle (where forced-induction is a proven way of life), the possibility of this show car not having a turbo was simply unimaginable. So, since the basic 2.0-litre four-cylinder 150bhp lump wasn’t best suited for a stonking blower, there was only one thing for it: out with the new and in with the old.

    What? Someone’s actually bought a brand new BMW and binned the engine for an older model? Hard to believe, but perfectly true and fully justifiable. A look under this E90’s bright yellow bonnet reveals an old friend: the E36 3.0-litre six-cylinder S52 engine that we know is a hell of a lot easier to tune than BMW’s more modern engines with all their electrickery. And buried deep in the engine bay is a Turbonetics 60-1 turbocharger that gives the S52 lump enough boost to realise over 650bhp and 605lb ft of torque at 22psi. This is by no means your average taxi.

    As mentioned earlier, such a BMW could only come from Scandinavia – the spiritual home of boosting. This Taxi is owned by Gatebil, a company that organises some of the most outrageous high-powered track events and shows in the world, and also publishes a pretty nice magazine. We met up with Leif Nilsen from Gatebil, the man who had the original idea with Olz Martin Lundefaret from Autofil magazine to develop a car to thrill passengers at Gatebil shows.

    “We had to make something very special for the people at the shows,” Leif explained. “It is difficult for the crowd to get into the private cars drifting and racing around the track, and it is the most important thing for people to have a good time. We had to build a car that would give passenger rides, and it had to be something special – we needed a big engine and big lights. Also, it had to be a new car, not an #E30 or an #E39 .”

    The Norwegian boys must have had a few too many beers when they thought up the idea of using the #E90 as a project car, but when the hangover wore off, they were still convinced this was the way forward. BMW Norway didn’t see the value in the project when they were approached (spoilsports), but Leif’s local private BMW garage, Tronrud bil, soon stepped in to help things along.

    We don’t know how long the E90 #320i remained in standard guise after Gatebil bought it, but it can’t have been long. A call was made to AC #Schnitzer in Germany (who hadn’t even started offering an E90 kit at the time), to see if anything was available. Amazingly, three prototype Schnitzer kits did exist: one went to the US, one to Japan and the final one to, er, Rudskogen in Norway. We don’t know how they managed it, but they did. The ‘butchering’ now began in earnest.

    The interior was completely stripped of everything from the dashboard to the carpets, and a roll-cage with special roller coaster-style handgrips was fitted. The body, both inside and out, was then painted its rather striking yellow colour, shortly followed by the fitting of four Sparco bucket seats, flocked full race dash, boost gauge, Sparco steering wheel and other desirable accessories.

    You’ll also notice the TV monitors for the back-seat passengers. For the kids to watch movies on during long journeys? Not quite. The exterior features Blaupunkt cameras with a direct feed to the interior screens, allowing passengers to watch the action they’re experiencing from all angles. There’s also a camera fixed on the driver’s footwell allowing a privileged view of a drift master’s ballet across the three pedals. Great idea.

    The level of work in transforming the interior is unquestionably good, and the quality extends to the boot where we find a custom-made fuel tank. Hard to believe only a few months before this would have been ideal for the golf clubs.

    The interior is only eclipsed by this E90’s quite unbelievable exterior features. Having a set of very expensive roof-mounted lights is hardly your usual mod, nor is a carbon fibre roof duct that allows cool air to feed directly into the cabin during those hot and sweaty drift track sessions. The taxi livery won’t go unnoticed, and from the front, the customised Schnitzer bumper proudly shows off the mammoth intercooler. It’s a fearsome front end that effortlessly toughens up the slightly weedy standard E90 320i’s visage.

    For track work, the Gatebil Taxi runs on 18” rims, but in show guise as here it looks best on its 9.5x20” Mak chromes. The combination of such big rollers and KW Variant 2 coilovers ensures the look is a slammed one - particularly at the rear where the wheels are simply enveloped by the yellow arches. As the turbocharged E90 sat before us on its sheet ice drift pan - low slung, aggressive, eager - it was hard not to have an aching desire to give it some serious welly.

    With all that power going through the rear wheels and the icy surface offering the kind of grip levels comparable to running barefoot on baby oil, it was left to Leif to demonstrate the turbo?d E90s ice dancing.

    He fired up the boosted E36 M3 motor to unleash a pure race car burble, before a squeeze of his right foot quickly dispersed any thoughts of rear traction.

    With engine howling as the throttle was feathered, the rear snaked across the ice sheet in almost balletic fashion. Leifs car control gave away the countless hours he must have spent playing with rear-drive cars in a country covered in snow and ice for nearly half the year. It’s no wonder the Scandinavians are so impressive in the World Rally Championship.

    A peer into the engine bay and it’s a surreal vision. Expecting the typical shrouded modem #BMW engine where there’s very little to impress the eye, we were instead greeted by the 15-year-old E36 six- cylinder in its impressive naked form. There are the necessary upgrades on view typical of such turbo’d engines: custom alloy plumbing; braided lines; Turbonetics wastegate; relocated fluid bottles, while there are also the required oily bits you don’t see such as the custom cams, JE pistons and 750cc RC injectors.

    With a dyno run proving those extreme power and torque numbers, the drivetrain has also been necessarily beefed up a bit. Deeming the BMW gearbox a bit brittle for the life this E90 would be leading, a racing Tremec five-speed has been fitted, along with hardcore 7.25” triple-plated Tilton clutch, custom race driveshaft and an M5 differential.

    All the work carried out on the car, and these extreme upgrades, gives Leif plenty of faith this BMW won't be breaking anytime soon. The ice dancing was excellent for long, impressive sideways action, but it all had to be at slow speed due to the zero traction surface. To see the car really fly, it had to be on dry asphalt.

    Leif led us out on to the freeway on the outskirts of Oslo, found a suitable tunnel and floored the accelerator. With our windows down, the sound through the enclosed roadway was like Armageddon starting. A chorus of turbocharged 3.0-litre at the redline and squealing rubber assaulted the ears, Leif making the whole move even more spectacular by turning on the blinding strobe roof lights. God knows what other road users must have thought seeing this mad yellow flashing BMW flying sideways through the tunnel in their rear-view mirrors.

    Unfearful of pushing this turbo’d E90 to its limits on the roads, Leif is clearly a man who’s had the vision to help build a car with useable fun at the top of its agenda. Best of all, its entertainment factor is there to be enjoyed by others thanks to the three passenger bucket seats, and the genius idea of allowing multiangle viewing with the cameras and monitors fitted. “The car is completely made for the public,” Leif said. “It is our way of communicating to people what we are about through our BMW roller coaster ride.”

    Above all else, it is hard not to respect the modifying work carried out here. Having the balls needed to strip down a brand new, very expensive BMW saloon is impressive enough, but actually transplanting a 15-year-old turbo engine into its engine bay is taking things to a different level. Knowing such cars exist gives us faith that the future of BMW tuning is in safe hands, even if we’re unlikely to see such extreme work ever repeated on an E90. That said, there’s nothing these Scandinavians can do that would surprise us anymore.


    ENGINE: 3.0-litre 24-valve #S52 #E36 #M3 with Turbonetics 60-1 divided turbo and Turbonetics Race Gate wastegate, 300x790mm intercooler, increased displacement by 0.5mm, custom camshafts, JE pistons, EFI Euro ’96 injection, 750cc RC injectors, ARP studs, Ferrita Norway custom 3.5” exhaust system, #K&N air filter. Tremec 5-speed gearbox, 7.25” triple-plated Tilton clutch, custom race driveshaft, M5 differential.

    PERFORMANCE: 654bhp and 605 lb ft of torque running 1.5bar (22psi) boost.
    CHASSIS: 9.5x20” Mak chrome alloys shod in 285/30 Pirelli PZero Nero tyres. 18” wheels used for track work. KW Variant 2 INOX-Line coilovers, original brake discs with Ferrodo brake pads.

    EXTERIOR: AC Schnitzer prototype E90 body kit with modified front bumper for high airflow to the intercooler, de-badged bonnet, carbon roof scoop for cockpit cooling, strobes for the roof lights, headlights and behind the wheels, Gatebil Taxi stickers.

    INTERIOR: Fully stripped with Racepak dash-logger, Sparco snap-off steering wheel, four Sparco Evo racing seats, Sparco aluminium foot plates, custom roll-cage, Autometer boost gauge, Blaupunkt cameras, Blaupunkt LCD screen for each passenger with shift light, carbon door panels, carbon dash panels.

    THANKS: Tronrud bil, Anders Ringstad, Gundersen Motorsport, Motorsportprodukter, Haugland Motorsport, Norsk Bildelsenter, #Blaupunkt , Åpent Verksted, Pål Andre Fredriksen, Fredrik Tangen.

    CONTACT: gatebil. No.

    Mad roof-mounted flashing lights.
    Roof-mounted carbon fibre duct.

    A surreal sight: a 3.0-litre E36 M3 engine resides in this E90’s engine bay, and has that important Turbonetics 60-1 turbo buried in the bay. The result is an incredible 654bhp in this new 3 Series BMW.
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    CRAZY HORSES. With 850bhp running at low boost, this silver #E30 could feasibly realise 1200bhp using its Precision PT88 race turbocharger and plenty of tasty tricks. Words: Iain Curry. Photos: Max Earey.

    What is the definition of a mad genius? Albert Einstein? Vincent Van Gough? Dr Evil? Yes to all of these, but such enigmatic figures are obviously few and far between. However, there appears to be an easy way to locate equally talented individuals with a sway towards the ludicrous. Just track down anyone in Scandinavia who’s into turbocharging BMWs, as these boys are confirmed forced-induction nutters. Finding such individuals shouldn’t be too difficult. There are loads of them hidden away in these chilly lands, and to locate one, just follow the lines of rubber laid down on the roads from their crazyhorsepowered burnouts.

    Over the years we’ve had our fair share of encounters with Scandinavian BMWs nudging 1000bhp, and in VS Motor’s E34 M5 with a proven 1129bhp, we found one of the most powerful modified BMWs in the world.

    There appears to be a challenger to the crown, however. Not only does this evillooking E30 claim to have the potential to compete with VS Motor’s 1129bhp, but it also promises to remain a fully useable road car. Not possible, surely? From what we witnessed on a cold evening in Sweden a few weeks ago, anything’s possible.

    There is friendly rivalry among Scandinavian tuners to create the world’s most powerful #BMW – one look on boostjunky . com will show that no other countries can compete with the Swedes, Norwegians and Finnish for the most ridiculous horsepower numbers. This E30 is going for the big prize, and with around 850bhp at present while running only 1.3 bar of boost, owner Helge Vik and Pure Performance Factory turbo expert, Andreas Bäckström, are sure it can crack 1200bhp.

    The amount of time, money and professionalism that has gone into creating this E30 is, quite simply, phenomenal. This has ensured it is still a useable street car – ready for journeys both short and long. It’s hard to believe, but owner, Helge Vik, drove for several hours from his Norwegian home into rural Sweden just to have his car photographed with us.

    If you could see a picture of this car when it left the BMW factory in #1984 you would never believe this was the same machine. Yes, 30 years ago this was a brand new E30 320i, but since Helge bought it in pieces a few years back, it’s undergone the sort of transformation that not even celebrity plastic surgeons could dream of.

    “In Norway, buying an original E30 #M3 is too expensive,” Helge said. “So a lot of people, like me, buy a normal E30 then get all the M3 parts over from Europe and build our own M3s.” It sounds like a lot of effort, but apparently the taxes and costs of registering a car such as the M3 in Norway are ridiculous. There seems to be no qualms from the government about strapping mighty turbochargers to these cars though, so it’s not all bad news.

    Helge has built up a bit of a reputation for himself by doing engine conversions in E30s. Dropping in an E34 M5 S38 lump is his favourite transplant, so it’s no surprise to find the big 3.6-litre straight-six under this car’s engine bay. Apart from that, the 40-year-old offshore oil rig mechanic has taken what he feels are the best bits from all the M3s to create a car to his exact taste. Witness the M3 Cecotto interior, the Evo Sport red harnesses and the Evo2 front bumper for example.

    The overall exterior is about as far removed from a standard 1984 #320i as you can get. #M3-E30 arches have been fitted and tastefully extended 3.5cm each side at the rear, and 2cm each side up front. The Evo2 front bumper has been modified with subtle extra air intakes either side of the tiny licence plate, while the large K&N cone filter can be seen behind the air intake below the clear front indicators.

    Most noteworthy is the huge cut in the front bumper revealing part of the gargantuan front-mounted intercooler. While being entirely necessary, it also offers that unbeatable tough look we associate with forced-induction BMWs. The bonnet vents are also practical and aesthetically beneficial, while the headlight eyebrows simply extend the car’s tough visage. Meanwhile, the painted carbon fibre front splitter from an E30 M3 race car is a fine finishing touch.

    The flanks boast more modernlooking AC Schnitzer mirrors, while the custom vents on the rear arches “are there to look cool rather than do anything”, Helge said. Speaking of cool, how about that rear end? Attention to detail includes the E30 M3 Evo Sport racing version lightweight bootlid, while how could you miss the DTM race car M3 carbon fibre rear wing? With the smoked rear lights and modified rear bumper to allow the quad exhaust exits, you know this car means business.

    With a body this special, it’s no surprise Helge’s gone for some impressive rolling stock to complement it. Custom 18” Braid deep-dish rims suit the Lachs silver E30 perfectly, with a 10” rear footprint each side again suggesting some serious performance intent. These sit beautifully on H&R springs and Bilstein Sprint shocks – just part of an impressive chassis set up to ensure the car’s driving characteristics match the engine’s otherworldly performance.

    Behind the M Power-badged Braid wheels are the entirely necessary bigger brakes – namely MovIt 322mm (front) and 320mm (rear) discs with four-pot calipers at each corner. These painted red calipers add a dash of colour to the car’s profile, and make no mistake – these anchors get some pretty regular and hard abuse.

    A peer into the engine bay explains why. It is both a thing of beauty and of outstanding ability. If you look past the immaculate aluminium detailing, carried out by Shung Van Bui, you can’t help but pick out the Precision PT88 race turbocharger sourced from the US. It is, as you’d expect with 1250bhp capability, an absolute monster, and is beautifully plumbed in alongside the required accoutrements for the big turbo.

    The 3.6-litre M5 engine features the cylinder head from a 3.8-litre version, and it boasts special Pure Performance Factory (PPF) camshafts and connecting rods, while JE has provided the pistons. The engine’s modified water system is from an old M6 (useful because it is quite small), while the radiator and intercooler are both custommade and considerably larger than standard. As you’d expect, cooling this lump down takes some serious doing.

    There are Bosch 1600cc injectors; the intake manifold is a PPF custom item, while Accufab provide an 80mm throttle body. PPF’s beautiful home-made (and on the shelves for sale at its workshop) 75mm blow-off valve and 60mm wastegate also feature. The hoses, which will have to work hard, are Samco Sport silicone items.

    All-important for controlling this muscle and getting the best out of it is some serious engine management. Autronic’s SM4 management is used, working alongside Autronic’s 500R ignition system with MSD CDI coils.

    Andreas from PPF is one of the leading BMW turbo experts in Scandinavia, and can confidently vouch for Helge’s E30’s performance. “It is at about 850bhp at the moment running low boost,” Andreas said. “Helge likes it at about 1.3 bar normally, but we’ll have it on a dyno this winter running at 2.0 bar. There’s a whole lot more power to come from the engine, so I’m hoping it will do 1200bhp ultimately.”

    Wow. These are confident words coming from a man who turbos cars for fun, and if he says it can make 1200bhp, there’s little reason to doubt him. After all, this is a man who built and raced the fastest BMW drag car in the world at one time (a sexy E21, since you ask).

    So what does 850bhp sound like when fully fired up? Pure, seething and angry race car is the simple answer. Helge decided to demonstrate a few burnouts for us and the cameras, eventually flying off into the distance leaving a good 1/4-mile of tyre tracks. Brave from a guy that has a six-hour drive home, but shows the confidence he has to properly use his turbo’d E30. “I got a special crankshaft from BMW Motorsport,” Helge said, “which are impossible to get hold of, but I managed it.”

    We expect the crank to stay in one piece then when using the engine to its limit, but what about the gearbox? Thankfully the ’84 320i cog-swapper is long gone, replaced by a racing Tremec five-speed. “The car does 150km/h (94mph) in second gear,” Helge explained, “which is a bit too much. I’ll probably change it for a six-speed.” The differential, which also must get some punishment, is a 3.25:1 M3 item.

    The Tremec gearbox with the current setup seems to allow the potential for silly speed figures. A top speed of 400km/h (250mph) was thrown around, but I’m not so sure with the boxy dynamics of the E30. That said, these boys are drag racing experts, and they don’t think a nine-second 1/4-mile pass is beyond this car either. Hard to believe, but we’d love to see it have a try.

    Incredibly, all these performance claims are with using normal hi-octane pump fuel – unlike the likes of VS Motor’s 1129bhp M5. And speaking of the go-juice, three custom Bosch 044 fuel pumps on Helge’s E30, again coated in aluminium, are veritable works of art. Located under the car’s rear, they’re difficult to take a look at (and photograph), but well worth it for the pure quality of craftsmanship. The underside of cars should not look this good!

    This is just another example of the incredible professionalism that has gone into creating this beautiful machine with performance capabilities to drain the blood from your body. Helge’s E30 had only been finished a few days before we photographed it, so the extra ECU-fiddling and drag strip-testing should give a better indication as to where Helge’s car will stand among the most powerful BMWs Scandinavia (and therefore the world) has to offer.

    Seeing it perform – 850bhp going through the rear wheels – along a straight road with the sun going down in rural Sweden, things look hopeful for this silver beauty. Even if it can’t eclipse the 1129bhp of VS Motor’s M5 when dyno’d, it is without doubt one of the most brutally gorgeous and impressively powerful BMWs we’ve ever known.

    If you could see a picture of this car when it left the BMW factory in 1984 you would never believe it was the same machine.
    It is without doubt one of the most brutally gorgeous and impressively powerful BMWs E30 we’ve ever known.
    DTM race car E30 M3 carbon fibre rear wing Giant custom intercooler goes some way to cooling the mighty lump.


    ENGINE: 3.6-litre six-cylinder E34 M5 S38 engine with 3.8-litre M5 cylinder head using standard valves, retainers and springs. Special PPF camshafts and connecting rods, oil-cooling nozzles under JE pistons, Bosch Motorsport 1600cc injectors, 3x custom Bosch 044 fuel pumps, PPF custom intake manifold with Accufab 80mm throttle body, PPF custom stainless steel exhaust manifold. Precision PT88 race turbocharger (can deliver up to 1250bhp), PPF 60mm custom wastegate, PPF 75mm custom blow-off valve, #BMW-Motorsport crankshaft, custom water system from E24 M6, custom radiator, very large custom intercooler, Samco Sport silicone hoses. Autronic SM4 engine management system, Autronic 500R ignition system with MSD CDI coils. Tremec 5-speed racing gearbox, E30 M3 3.25:1 differential. Aluminium engine detailing, BMW Motorcycle badges on suspension mounts.

    PERFORMANCE: 850bhp at 1.3bar (low boost), possibility of 1200bhp using full boost. Claimed 250mph top speed, estimated 1/4-mile time of nine seconds CHASSIS: 8.5x18” (front) and 10x18” (rear) Braid custom wheels with M Power centre caps shod in 215/35 #Kumho Ecsta (front) and 245/35 (rear) Pirelli P Zero tyres. H&R springs, #Bilstein Sprint shocks, camber and caster adjustable, Powerflex polyurethane bushes, Weichers Sport front and rear strut braces. MovIt 322mm (front) and 320mm (rear) brake discs with MovIt four-piston calipers front and rear.

    EXTERIOR: E30 M3 Evo2 front bumper with custom air intakes either side of numberplate, custom hole to reveal intercooler, carbon fibre front splitter from race car, headlight eyebrows, E46 M3 badges on bumper, custom bonnet vents, HiD headlights and front fog lights custom-made for this car, smoked lights all round. Custom rear bumper with quad exhaust exits, DTM race car E30 M3 carbon fibre rear wing, E30 M3 Evo Sport racing version lightweight bootlid, E30 M3 arches extended 2cm at front and 3.5cm at rear, custom vents for rear arches, #AC-Schnitzer mirrors. Car sprayed Lachs silver.

    INTERIOR: E30 M3 Johnny Cecotto interior with E30 M3 Evo Sport red harnesses, BMW suede steering wheel, chrome rings for dials, Sparco Fire Warrior.

    CONTACT: Pure Performance Factory, Sweden. pure-pf . com.

    The amount of time, money and professionalism that has gone into this E30 is, quite simply, phenomenal.
    Precision PT88 race turbocharger has 1250bhp potential.
    Custom fuel pumps under car.
    BMW motorcycle badges on suspension mounts.
    Aluminium engine detailing is phenomenal.
    The engine is a thing of power and beauty.
    Giant custom intercooler goes some way to cooling the mighty lump DTM race car E30 M3 carbon fibre rear wing.
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