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    A rare four-wheel-drive #BMW-3-Series-E30 with just 315 miles on the clock is up for sale in Berkshire.

    The 1986 325iX was exported when New to Copenhagen, then forgotten about by the original owner, who left the car in its airtight shipping container for a number of years.

    When he died, the car was snapped up by a collector, with whom it remained until being put on the market by Super Vettura, which is asking £60,000 for the 325iX.
    More at supervettura.com

    / #1986-BMW-325iX-E30 / #BMW-325iX-E30 / #BMW-325iX / #BMW-325i-E30 / #1986 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series
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    SIDEWAYS SHOW CAR Turbo #BMW-E30-Drift-Car

    Sometimes we find a #BMW that’s had so many changes it’s hard to spot them all. Ian Walpole’s E30 drifter is one such car and he did it all in his garage at home… Words: Mike Renaut. Photos: Matt Richardson.

    Don’t think of this one as a modified E30. It’s better described as a hand-built race car with a lot of BMW parts. At first glance it looks like a stripped M3 until you realise those arches aren’t quite the same and the back end looks different too… The guys with all the answers are owner Ian Walpole and his mate John Amor who helped him greatly with the build. Between them they’ve built and raced everything from a rally Vauxhall Viva HB to a trials Land Rover. They like a bit of everything, so in 2013 decided it was time for a drift car. “I’ve been into BMWs for a while,” says Ian, “I’ve got an E46 Touring I use for MCC Reliability trials with my dad as navigator – that’s all about stopping in boxes on hills and car control. This E30 was something different again.

    “It took us three years to build,” continues Ian, “I don’t know how my wife Sasha put up with it. Just before we went travelling - around 2011 - I’d bought a #1987 #BMW-325i-Sport-M-Tech-1 purely to drive about. It sat on the driveway unused and when we returned I saw rain had got inside and it was all mouldy. After an MOT and some TLC I tried selling but it wasn’t even worth £1000 so I bought an HX40 turbo and a manifold kit for it. The kit was awful, the ports were offset in the wrong place and John and I like to do things properly, so we started to modify parts to fit and the whole build spiralled out of control.”

    Caged Laser Engineering laser-cut a plate to fit the turbo and another to fit the cylinder head. “We then cut up the cheap manifold and fabricated new flanges and pipes creating a split pulse manifold with external 60mm wastegate and a screamer pipe exiting from the offside wing,” says Ian. “Then someone offered me £700 for the Sport body kit meaning we had money to play with. We pulled the motor apart and the crank was worn, so in went a 2.8 crank from an M52 and shorter rods, we balanced it all to within 0.1 of a gram and honed the block.” As you can tell, Ian has a well-equipped workshop…

    Next the head was reworked by Simon at Orchard Performance for a broad torque band, with oversized valves and porting allowing decent horsepower from a non-aggressive Schrick camshaft. The combustion chambers were modified to improve detonation resistance under boost and optimise combustion, resulting in a fastburning compact chamber that now runs cooler than stock. That alone resulted in an engine with torque enough to get the rear wheels spinning from 2500rpm to the redline. One of the few other areas the guys didn’t do themselves was the baffled sump, “We made one,” says John, “but kept thinking it didn’t quite look right. We reasoned that big companies know what they’re doing when it comes to designing parts, and the idea of oil starvation because we’d made a design mistake was scary, so we bought an off-the-shelf baffle for the sump and welded it in.”

    Currently the car runs 6psi of boost, which means 250whp. “On the first dyno run the boost was cranked up to 12psi which produced a puff of steam from the expansion tank and a misfire,” remembers Ian. “I knew the head gasket was the weakest point but I briefly saw 350whp! We’ve now fitted a Cometic multilayer steel gasket which is thicker than the old one, lowering the compression from 9:1 to 8.5:1 and allowing us to safely run extra boost.” That nitrous bottle in the back actually connects to the chargecooler, a £1000 item bought for just £70 on eBay, “We made a spray nozzle on the lathe so 2bar of pressurised nitrous is fired into the cooler, which freezes the inner radiator veins at -136ºC. This provides constant cool air to the engine,” he says. “I didn’t like the idea of injecting nitrous straight into the engine,” explains Ian, “but used this way it’s a great method of keeping the temperature regulated. When the car’s on the dyno being tuned it’s going to have a different temperature to when it’s outside on a track in hot sunshine.

    This set up keeps it constant to the dyno temperature conditions.” Waste nitrous exits via a pressure relief valve and homebuilt spray bar over the outside of the charge cooler – again helping it keep an optimum temperature. After all that, the boys kept things simpler with the gearbox; it’s the standard 265 Getrag five-speed unit with uprated pressure plate, although the friction plate has been modified with six sintered paddles and uprated springs by Precision Clutches of Yeovil.


    When it came to the body work, there was a clear plan, as Ian explains: “Building this car was all about airflow and weight saving.” The standard bonnet slam panel was getting in the way of that airflow so out came the angle grinder and the front 10” of BMW dropped to the workshop floor to be replaced by a removable lightweight 25mm tube version. “Yeah it’s a bit frightening doing that,” admits John, “but there are two of us so we knew we could fix anything between us.” Keeping the engine cool is a radiator from a 3.0-litre Mitsubishi GTO, but even then the guys couldn’t leave it stock and have handmade an alloy cowling for the 16” fan, “We also cut off the filler neck/cap and ran a bleed hose to an alloy expansion tank.” The fuel cell in the boot was bought from a hill climb car, “It’s an ATL-style bag tank with alloy shroud and the original BMW fuel cap – one of the few original parts that survived the build,” laughs Ian. Fuel travels via a low-pressure pump into a pump feed surge tank to a modified fuel rail and 600cc injectors, then returns to the tank via an adjustable pressure regulator.

    The front spoiler and bumper came from eBay; “It was a cheap part that arrived broken in two. We salvaged it and reinforced it with 0.5” alloy tubing and fibreglass, then cut out the indicator and number plate recesses for better air flow before hanging the bumper on quarter-turn Dzus fasteners,” explains John. The new arches were inspired by a modification Ian made to an Alfa Romeo many years ago and are hand-formed from 16- and 18-gauge steel, while each of the side skirts was made from a single sheet of aluminium, likewise the rear bumper.

    “The straight bends for the side skirts were much easier than the two days of TIG welding that bumper needed,” admits Ian. As for the final colour, “The guy who painted it – Luke Harvey of Tytherington Body and Paint - suggested adding rainbow flake into the lacquer over the black base.” It looks like a normal black until sunlight hits it, then it sparkles. Almost everything else is colour coded in Ian’s favourite Kawasaki Green.

    The boot lid is steel but there’s a carbon fibre one under consideration, “With a drift car you need a certain amount of weight over the back wheels,” says Ian, “we’re still experimenting – it’s more about balance than pure weight reduction.” That’s an M3 boot spoiler but with homemade adaptor plates to fit the non-M3 boot lid. “I fear we might have to fit a huge spoiler for stability in the future though…” says Ian. The weight saving even extends to having the door internals completely gutted and making up new lightweight door latching mechanisms from 15mm billet alloy – drilled, of course, for reduced weight.

    The E30 originally had a sunroof but now even the roof panel is fibreglass - saving 18kg and lowering the centre of gravity. “The roof was £67 on eBay but turned out to be in Glasgow,” laughs John, “we went in a van and did about £200 in fuel; I drove up and fell asleep exhausted when we arrived, so they just dropped the roof in on top of me and Ian drove back. It fitted alright once we cut the steel one off but the glue you use to bond it is £50 a tube.”

    The front screen is the glass one fitted at the factory but the rest of the windows are Lexan, “I bought the door pieces ready cut but made the others myself with a jigsaw to cut the air scoops into the quarter windows,” explains Ian. There are four scoops in total: two force air over the fuel pumps and swirl pot, the other pair are powered by two 12-volt in-line boat fans blowing air through the gearbox and differential coolers – mounted between the rear lights – with the air exiting through the space where the rear number plate used to be.

    The wheels came from Ian’s 2000 750iL; rear hub adaptors were employed to go from four- to five-stud and give an 80mm wider track. The rear suspension comprises HSD Monopro shocks and springs and adjustable trailing arms, all shod with Powerflex Black series bushes. The rear beam lower supports, meanwhile, are now also stronger and longer, which leads us to the front axle. It’s comprised of E36 HSD coilovers with re-drilled strut turrets and top mounts that are adjustable for caster and camber. E36 front hubs run homebuilt hub adaptors and connect to a Z3 steering rack via E46 inner and outer tie rods with four mm rack spacers added for greater lock. The power steering rack is re-engineered by cutting slots internally, allowing free movement of the rack lubricated by a smear of grease and meaning the pipework, pump and reservoir could be removed. That change not only saves weight but also gives better feedback during drifting.
    As for the exhaust system, would it surprise you to learn Ian and John hand built that too from 3” stainless steel tubing? “I cut two 90º bends and joined them to form a T-piece, the exhaust exits just ahead of the rear wheels and as well as being designed for free flow it helps push the tyre smoke back. And there’s plenty of it,” laughs Ian, “I’ve got specialised Achilles purple smoke tyres.”

    Inside two Sparco seats make up the minimalist interior with a Momo wheel and gauges from AEM. The handmade dashboard is covered in Alcantara while all the other important control switches – fans, gearbox and diff pumps – are in a strip console across the top of the windscreen. “It looks great,” says John, “but when you’re strapped into the car we found that was the only place where Ian could still reach the switches.” Low fuel, nitrous engage and low oil pressure warning lights are also fitted. The handbrake lever is carved from a single piece of billet aluminium, as are the door handles. The roll cage has been extensively modified too; it’s lightweight 45mm chromoly seamless tube and started out as a six-point cage but now has double that - along with dash bars, more crossbars and strengthened mounting plates. Even the stock heater is now housed in a much smaller homemade alloy surround, “There’s not much of this car we haven’t touched,” admits John.

    “When I first saw it in paint I didn’t recognise it as my car,” remembers Ian, “it was stunning. We’re both really pleased with how it turned out.” Did working together ever lead to any arguments about parts choices? “I just left all the difficult decisions to Ian,” laughs John, “Yeah and all the difficult jobs too,” jokes Ian. “It was 50% planning and 50% experimenting, some pieces were a bit scary but we bounced ideas off each other.”

    Ian and John both insist this is a drift car, and was never intended to be a show car, but then Ian reveals just how many hours John has spent polishing the engine bay for our photos. “I used an entire tube of Autosol,” admits John, “we weren’t aiming to build a show car but, yes, it did get out of hand.” Thanks also go to Ian’s wife Sasha who apparently “cleans all the bits no one normally sees.”

    Surely then, and this is a sentiment echoed by almost everyone who has seen the BMW, the car is too nice to risk smacking into an Armco by drifting? “Of course it’s going to get hammered,” agrees Ian, “but it’s designed to be hardy. The body is mainly steel, the fibreglass panels can be changed in a few seconds since they’re all on Dzus fasteners and we can rebuild anything we damage on the track - I just hope Luke can match the paint again!”

    THANKS To the staff and visitors at Castle Combe Circuit (castlecombecircuit.co.uk, 01249 782417) for their assistance with this feature.


    DATA FILE Turbo Drift #BMW-E30 / #Getrag / #BMW-325i-E30 / #BMW-325i / #Holset-HX40 / #Holset / #1987 / #BMW-325i-Turbo-E30 / #BMW-325i-Turbo / #BMW-325i-Drift-Car / #Drift-Car / #BMW-325i-Drift-Car-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #Bosch / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E30

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.8-litre single-turbo straight-six M20, aciddipped #M20B25 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 block, modified baffled sump and oil windage tray for better oil return, M52B28 84mm-stroke crankshaft, #M20B20 conrods, M20B25 low-compression pistons with new rings, modified oil pick up and oil filter relocation kit, #ARP big end and main bearing bolts, #ACL-Racing Race Series crankshaft bearings, Saab 9000 turbo 3bar MAP sensor, original cylinder head gas flowed, ported and polished, 1mm-oversized valves with uprated springs, custom torque-focused inlet porting, high gas velocity exhaust ports, custom combustion chambers, improved oil return galleries, uprated rocker arms, 272 #Schrick cam, #Vernier cam pulley, titanium retainers and collets, #Holset-HX40 turbo from a Cummins diesel, bespoke split pulse exhaust manifold, 60mm external wastegate and screamer pipe exiting offside front wing, Mitsubishi GTO radiator with aluminium expansion tank, Ford V6 coil pack and Canems ECU, crank position, intake air temperature, throttle position and manifold absolute pressure sensors, ATL fuel cell, Facet low-pressure fuel lift pump, fuel surge tank, 255lpm #Bosch-044 fuel pump, modified fuel rail, 600cc injectors, adjustable fuel pressure regulator, low-friction AN-6 Teflon hoses, Aeroquip fittings

    TRANSMISSION E30 325i #Getrag-265 five-speed manual, uprated pressure plate, friction plate modified with six sintered paddles and uprated springs, rebuilt E30 limited slip differential

    CHASSIS 8x18” (front) and 9x18” (rear) #BMW-Style-32 wheels with 215/35 Yokohama Prada Spec 2 (front) and 265/35 Achilles ATR Sport Violet purple smoke tyres (rear), E36 HSD Monopro adjustable coilovers, re-drilled strut turrets and adjustable top mounts, E36 front hubs with homebuilt hub adaptors, Z3 steering rack, E46 inner and outer tie rods with 4mm rack spacers, standard subframe with HSD dampers, uprated Powerflex Black Series bushes, adjustable trailing arms and anti-roll bars, E36 #EBC-Turbo grooved 286mm discs with E36 calipers and EBC Yellowstuff pads (front), EBC Turbo Groove 258mm discs (rear), line lock and hydro handbrake with standard handbrake shoes, mechanism and lever removed

    EXTERIOR 901 Black with rainbow glitter lacquer, other details in Kawasaki Green, handmade steel wide-arch front and rear quarters, handmade side skirts, fibreglass roof panel, hand-fabricated removable lightweight 25mm tube slam panel, hand-formed aluminium inner wings, heavily modified reinforced fibreglass front bumper, flushed door locks and filler cap, Lexan windows with air ducts, Titanium exhaust guards, spare tyre well and battery box removed from boot, handmade aluminium boot floor, original number plate recess, boot hinges and bulkhead removed, new handmade ally bulkhead riveted in, Anodised green motorcycle floodlights, front and rear strobes

    INTERIOR Fully stripped out, all sound deadening removed, floor cut and tunnels for side exiting exhausts fabricated, six-point half roll-cage modified into 12-point cage with 45mm crossbars, handfabricated aluminium dashboard, modified heater box to fit behind cage, hydro handbrake and homemade mounting, Sparco seats and STR 3” harnesses, new door inners with home-fabricated lightweight harness material door pulls and latch mechanisms, carbon fibre door cards
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    / #M20-heads and #M20-headbolts / #BMW-325i-Touring / #BMW-325i-Touring-E30 / #BMW-325i-E30 / #BMW-M20 / #M20B25 / #M20 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E30 / #1988

    Back in 1995 I was working, not as a waitress in a cocktail bar, but as a salesman for a now defunct outfit called #SGT (Station Garage Taplow), a well-regarded multi-franchise garage with a distinct villagy feel – Alfa, Lotus, Morgan, Subaru and Mitsubishi – a fine mix. We also took the odd BMW in part exchange including an E28 M5 that, oddly, had to be road tested by everyone.

    One car we saw that caused some consternation was a 1988 BMW-325i-Touring that had been fitted with a new engine under warranty by BMW in 1993… when it was five years old? It turns out that a rare problem had occurred – the head of one of the 19mm cylinder head bolts had sheared off and a cam lobe had punched it clean though the waterway. BMW replaced the engine free of charge but I was reminded of this ten years ago when I bought an insanely cheap #1986 520i and found a bolt head resting in a corner of the head – talk about lucky!

    On this occasion, I bit the bullet and replaced every head bolt, one by one, with the 1989 onwards stretch bolts that #BMW had introduced. Do it in the same pattern you would use when torquing up head bolts after a gasket job and it will be fine. But there are still thousands of M20 units out there and I heard of another failed bolt recently. In other words, if you have an M20 remove the oil filler cap, check all the bolts and if you have 19mm hex headed ones – get them changed… sharpish.
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    SIZE MATTERS

    A period-styled early-’90s E30 is a very desirable thing these days. So what happens if you exaggerate all of the details just a little bit? Ernie Hofstetter is the man to ask… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Anna Taylor.

    / #BMW-E30-M50-swapped / #BMW-E30-Cab / #M50-swapped

    Exaggeration, despite what your teachers at school told you, is nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, it can be helpful in getting ahead in life to artfully embellish and subtly big up the finer points of your character and achievements, to massage the salient facts into something more colourful. Doesn’t hurt anybody, does it?

    Ernie Hofstetter is a man who appreciates the nuances of this sort of behaviour. We’re not saying he’s a show off, of course – not by any means. But he’s reached the stage in his life when he’s seen a few automotive scenes come and go, ebb and flow, and he’s been taking notes all the way through. And here, with this E30, we find his meisterwerk; the physical manifestation of his years of careful observation, made real in glorious style. He’s taken the archetypal retro #BMW convertible, made it look sort of like a spec’d-up period example, but cunningly exaggerated the details. Thanks to this carefully thoughtthrough approach, the car’s almost like a cartoon – it looks like it would have done rolling through his hometown of Howell, New Jersey back in 1991, but something’s different… it’s lower, broader, meaner, more aggressive. Those subtle small details have added up to a mighty whole.

    “Back when I was 18, I thought these E30s were the coolest thing,” Ernie remembers. “When the time came around decades later that I wanted a fun car, that model immediately came to mind. Throughout the years my cars have always been modified – one of my favourites was my 2006 Lincoln Mark LT pick-up truck – but this a bit different. I’ve always been interested in BMWs, it’s a quality European driving machine, so it was the clear choice this time.”

    Ernie happily admits that he didn’t have a distinct plan for the car when he first got hold of it, and was willing to let inspiration be his guide. The cabriolet was found for sale in Philadelphia, and was in reasonable condition – not amazing and certainly not up to Ernie’s high standard but, of course, it was never the intention to buy someone else’s project. He wanted to create something unique of his very own: “Let the modding begin,” he mischievously grins.

    The first area that was primed for exaggeration was the big oily bit under the bonnet. While M20 motors have their merits, Ernie wanted to go harder, better, faster, stronger, and the way to achieve this was to swap the thing out for the rather mightier choice of the M50. Specifically, an #M50B25 : the 2.5-litre #straight-six that you’d normally find powering an E36 325i. “The M20 was boring and ugly,” he says, somewhat mercilessly, “and the M50 is much cleaner and sleeker. Any non-essential parts were removed from the engine bay, along with any unnecessary brackets and so on, to make it all look as clean as possible; the battery was relocated to the boot to help with this too. I uprated the cooling system with a Mishimoto radiator and a Spal fan, and the exhaust system consists of ceramic-coated exhaust manifolds with heat wrap, a Borla mid-section and a Vibrant muffler – all custom, of course!

    The car also started off as an automatic, but we couldn’t have that so it’s been swapped to a manual Getrag 260 five-speed transmission, with a Z3 shifter and aluminium shift carrier.”

    A pretty comprehensive transformation, you’ll surely agree, but Ernie was just getting started. Having substantially beefed up the muscularity of the old drop-top, neatly morphing it from cruiser to bruiser, it was time to address the question of altitude.

    Now, Ernie’s seen a thing or two, as we said, so he’s observed the stance scene evolving from grass roots to comparative mainstream. However, while air-ride has been around since World War II, its presence at the forefront of custom car culture is a relatively recent thing; back when our man was a teenager, the way to get your ride hopping was to slam in some hydros. So is that what Ernie’s opted for here? Not quite… you see, that exaggeration factor has come into play again. “I’ve always had the need to go lower,” he explains (note that he uses the word ‘need’ – that’ll no doubt be familiar to a number of you. This isn’t just playing, it’s a lifestyle). “The only thing that could satisfy me with this project was air suspension. So now the car has a full Air Lift system, with 3P management, rolling sleeves up front and Slamit Industries bags in the rear with Bilstein shocks. I custom-painted the airtank in the trunk, which gives a good supply of air at all times!” Well, that’s good to hear.

    The next logical step was to put some thought into the wheels. No good slamming the thing over a set of weedy stock steels, right? So Ernie bolted on some 17” rims from iForged… but then he quickly changed his mind. The period style of the early Nineties was calling, and he found himself drawn toward the timeless charms of the BBS RS, knocking the diameter down an inch but beefing up the girth to amusing degrees: these things are 7.5” wide at the front, 8.5” out back, and the way it sits is so aggressively juicy that it almost makes your eyes water. Imagine an automotive cartoonist in the early 1990s sketching up a BBS-shod E30, slamming it to the ground with improbable lows – that’s the look Ernie’s achieved in real life. Once again, it’s a masterstroke of considered exaggeration. “Whatever happened to the car, I wanted it to be as clean as possible,” he assures us.

    “The small details count to me. So this car was a real labour of love! The bulk of it was actually built by Michael Hockman, who is a legend in the E30 community, and has now become a great friend of mine. But all the fine finishing work was done by me, with great pride, as well as some talented people: Levent from Guten Parts, Andrew from Open Road Tuning, Rich from County Line Auto Body, and of course my fantastic wife Michelle who has the patience of a saint!”

    What’s clear as Ernie talks us through the detail points of the car is that this sits somewhere on the mid-point of the scale between evolution and revolution; some of the changes he’s made are pretty extreme, and yet the whole ethos of the thing is to consider a period build and artistically amp it up for a 21st century audience. Take the treatment of the interior: “I wanted the insides to be as stock as possible, but I still wanted the modern amenities,” he says. “So that meant an AV audio receiver, iPod interface, reversing camera, satellite radio, navigation – all of the things that make it more comfortable.” And that’s exactly what we find in there, all subtly and tastefully integrated into the old-skool vibe. It certainly helps that work like this is his bread-and-butter, being a salesman of stereo and security systems for cars as well as all manner of bolt-on performance gizmos, and this E30 ’vert is a solid manifestation of his skills as well as his aspirations.

    “It took a good six months to get the car to a quality I was happy with,” Ernie explains. “But there’s always fine-tuning going on – they’re never really finished, are they?” Well, no, he’s hit the nail on the head there. We always find new things to fiddle with. And when you’ve been observing the scene for as long as Ernie has, your mind can’t help but be constantly swimming with fresh ideas and new things to try. So this E30 is bound to change in the near future – possibly unrecognisably – but in this cheery little snapshot of the here-and-now, it’s pretty much perfect. An early-Nineties style convertible, with all the details cleverly exaggerated to turn it into a thoroughly modern creation.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E30-M50 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-325i-E30 / #BMW-325i-E30-M50 / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-325i-Cabriolet / #BMW-325i-Cabriolet-E30 / #Getrag / #Viair / #BMW-E30-Air-Lift

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M50B25TU / #M50 / #BMW-M50 / #M50B25 from E36 325i, #Mishimoto radiator, Spal 16” fan, battery relocated to boot, #Raceskids skid plate, 318i harness cover, ceramic-coated headers with heat wrap, custom Y-pipe, #Borla mid-pipe and #Vibrant rear box with 2.5” piping, shaved and wire-tucked bay, #Getrag-260 five-speed conversion, custom transmission brace, Z3 shifter, aluminium shift carrier, 3.73 LSD

    CHASSIS 7.5x16” (front) and 8.5x16” (rear) ET14 #BBS-RS / #BBS , 180 slant lip (front) and 247 slant lip (rear), with 195/45 (front) and 215/40 (rear) Yokohama S-Drive tyres, full #Air-Lift suspension system with front rolling sleeves and Slamit Industries rear bags, Autopilot 3P management, dual #Viair-444C compressors

    EXTERIOR Smoked projector headlights with integrated indicators, 6k low- and 3k high-beam HID lights, Euro grilles, rear impact strip fitted to front bumper, smoked tails and corner lights, front and rear valances with Ryan G splitter

    INTERIOR #M-Tech-II suede steering wheel, suede gaiters, chrome gauge rings with Alpina tach strip and painted needles, #ZHP illuminated gear knob, #BMW pedal set including foot rest, Alpine AV receiver with navigation and reversing camera, JL Audio speakers, subwoofer and amplifier

    Gorgeous 16” #BBS RSs boast impressive width and have serious dish going on.

    Air Lift 3P #Air-ride setup lets Ernie go as low as he wants to while custom boot build shows off both air components and upgraded audio elements, which include JL Audio speakers, subwoofer and amp.

    “The small details count to me. So this car was a real labour of love!”
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    E30 325i TOURING SWEET LIKE CHOCOLATE

    This gorgeous brown E30 Touring is good enough to eat. Fed up of seeing the same old shit? Aside from a ground-scrapingly low stance, unique wheels and paint job, Custom Cars’ latest demo vehicle proves that with a few special touches and not much money you can produce a feature car. Words: Louise Woodhams. Photos: Simon Dodd.

    In my opinion, the reason why the VW scene is at the forefront of the modifying game and continually moving on to the next level, is ultimately down to two factors. Firstly, they’re not afraid to put their hands in their pockets, and when 19” Phaeton wheels and a twin-turbo W12 Bentley engine pushes the ceiling, they’re not reluctant to think outside the box either. Unfortunately, it’ll be a while until we fully hit it, but owner of this quite sublime E30 Touring, Dipesh Amin, is desperate to give the UK scene a new injection of life. No doubt most of you will already know the name, an influential member of the PBMW forum and the man behind styling specialist Custom Cars. His first creation, a turbo’d E30 M3 with 3.5 conversion, was featured in March 2005, and has since spurred a number of one-off force induced E30 Tourings, and more recently, Patrick Samuels’ E34 M5-engined E30 M3 Cabriolet.


    Built for £7000, this 325i is proof that you don’t need to remortgage your house to create a car worthy of being splashed on these very pages. Ultimately, the key ingredients to this ride are hard slammed suspension, unique wheels and an individual colour scheme, oh, and a few special styling touches to give it the edge. It’s clean as heck. Too clean perhaps, as Dips mentioned to me that on more than one occasion he has had to actually point out what he’s done to admiring onlookers, but there’s no denying that OEM+ along with a bit of imagination gets attention, even if you’re not sure what has been done.


    Unfortunately, and it’s a view that Dips very clearly shares with us, a lot of BMW owners suffer from blinkered vision. Rather than setting trends and being original, they prefer to stick with what’s safe, which frankly, is just boring. While the overall standard of Bavarian metal in the UK has been raised over the past few years, we’re still going to shows and finding row upon row of very similarly styled and tuned cars.

    Surely modifying is about pushing boundaries and making an individual statement, so okay you may borrow a few ideas here and there, but there really are no set rules or regulations, especially if you want to make a statement with your creation. And this car certainly does that!

    When you’re the owner of an independent workshop, customers’ cars take priority over your own, meaning this ’88 Touring sat unloved and untouched for three years, bought back when he first had the idea of building a retro car. Fortunately, the engine had been rebuilt by the previous owner, so all that remained was for Dips to freshen up the mechanicals; new wishbones, bushes, drop links and rod ends, among other things, were sourced and fitted. Being an automatic, internal engine upgrades or forced induction were never part of the agenda. Instead a Quikshift air filter was employed, which uses extremely fine stainless steel wire mesh to maximise air flow, along with a Powerflow exhaust system, and bringing that magical 150bhp to the party is a Dynotune nitrous oxide direct port kit. In some respects, it is considered the most complicated to install due to the required plumbing, but Dips tells me the benefits far outweigh the complexities. Not only are direct port systems nicer to look at, but because the injector nozzles are screwed into each runner of the intake manifold, you can jet per cylinder and control how much fuel and nitrous go into each for optimum power delivery (in this case up 1300bhp).

    Sadly the car wasn’t ready for the Ultimate #BMW show at Santa Pod, but they’re hoping to test it at the Flame and Thunder event later this month.

    Now it may look as though this car is on air-ride, but Dips’ Touring has been lowered the traditional way – on coilovers. The prototype three-way adjustable setup (height, damper and rebound) with remote reservoirs has been supplied by Automac and has enabled Dips to drop the front by a highly respectable 100mm and 80mm at the rear. Aiding the slam job is the original set of 16” BBS RM wheels, but to make them stand out they were sent to Germany for bigger dishes, once 6.5” in width they now measure 8” up front and 9” out back. And if that wasn’t enough, the rims were then steam cleaned, sprayed black and the face fully polished. Custom shallower centre caps were made and fitted and each bolt plated in 24-carat gold, although Dips got the shock of his life when he realised it would set him back £3 a bolt and with 32 on each corner, that amounts to quite a bit! The rims look superb however, especially against the sumptuous, rich and silky smooth brown bodywork, and the tyres are so low profile, they look like they have been painted on!

    While the motoring consumers’ preference for silver and black continues to grow, Dips decided to throw a spanner in the works with his custom Renault brown hue flecked with gold pigments. Once staple of the earth-tone ’70s, brown is now the colour synonymous with 21st century high-end luxury cars and, it seems, fitting for the beautifully proportioned E30 – now the epitome of retro cool. “If you’re going to spend 2k on a paint job, why not go for something completely different? We experimented for weeks with different shades from various manufacturers but it was worth it, this colour works so well with the rims and interior,” explained Dips.

    It’s not just the colour that aids this car visually, it’s the subtle approach Dips has taken with his careful choice of adding and deleting certain parts. One of the original reasons for buying this Touring was because of the electric glass sunroof, a rare factory option that modifiers in the States apparently pay up to £500 for, and the first we’ve ever come across. The M-Tech 2 kit already fitted was unfortunately in a bad way, so it was stripped down before being resprayed, at which time the handles and mirrors were colour-coded, the kidney grille de-chromed and smoked MHW rear lights and Hella fronts employed. This car is a real test for people who claim to know their E30s; the rear wiper, side repeaters and locks for example have been deleted, so has the notch in the petrol cap, and the bonnet and bootlid flushed. The front and rear arches have both been flared and the diffuser is custom-made from plumbers’ copper piping, a real testament to the handiwork of Dips. In a bid to continually evolve, he was even thinking of going for a bronze window tint, but with the factory tinge being slightly green it wouldn’t have worked. Being an E30 owner myself, it really made me think just what is possible with the right vision and mindset, the detailing is in abundance.


    Similarly, the interior left me feeling very ashamed of my own efforts. The roof lining was sagging, so it was retrimmed in black Alcantara along with the A, B and C pillars.

    The carpet was dyed the same colour, and to provide a contrast, the glove box, centre console, under dash tray, outer trim of the door cards, centre section of the steering wheel and even the nitrous activation switch were colonised and colour matched to the beige leather sports seats. These are perhaps the more noticeable changes, but did you spot the rear headrests that were fitted along with the 15lb nitrous bottle and unique rectangular shaped Vibe 6x9s in the boot, both sprayed to match the exterior?

    No, what about the auto shift, which Dips swapped for an E46 item and retrimmed the inner section of in brown Alcantara to match the steering wheel? Not exactly retro but a definite improvement over the old Tshape knob. In keeping with the two-tone theme, the face of the instrument cluster was smoked with additional LEDs fitted to help the dials stand out, and a black CD tuner was sourced, in this case the Sony CDX-CA900. And if you think all of that’s anal, you’ve got another thing coming.

    “No one ever modifies their rear view mirror so I thought why not use it to house the auxiliary gauges. Impractical as hell, but cool,” Dips explained. You’re telling us! Having paid £50 for an M-Tech 2 sports mirror in order to utilise the wire within the stalk for the map reading light, people thought he was mad when they heard he was going to cut it up, and then reduce the gauges to almost a quarter of their size in order to get them to fit!

    For Dips this car combines two of his most favourite aspects in a car – it looks good but you can also cane the shit out of it – it’s no cotton wool show car, that’s for sure! Having bought it for next to nothing, he’s turned what he literally describes as a shed into what is in our view, one of the best E30 Tourings to date. Perhaps more impressive is the strict budget he adhered to, and the fact it was built in his garage with the help of few friends in just three weeks, proof that almost anyone can create a car of the same level. Okay, so he’s been working with cars for the past 20 years, and he learnt mechanics working in main dealerships, but the bodywork side of things was self-taught. “E30s are limited as to what you can do with them but you have to work with what you’ve got. If you have the right ideas and the vision to see what the car will look like finished you can’t go wrong,” he explained to us. Our point exactly, and if you needed any further evidence, just look at what he’s done for customers to date. In Dips’ endless quest to keep modifying, pushing the scene forward and open up people’s eyes to just what’s possible, we’re glad to tell you there’s still a lot more to come from the Custom Cars stable.

    Direct-port nitrous oxide kit not for the faint-hearted. We’d sure like to see what it brings to the party at Santa Pod.

    Special thanks to RAC Auto Windscreens that kindly agreed to let us use its Feltham fitting centre for the shoot.

    Low enough for you? We love strict regime of colour-coding and deleting Dips has adhered to.

    “No one ever modifies their rear view mirror so I thought why not use it to house the auxiliary gauges. Impractical as hell, but cool.” You’re telling us!

    DATA FILE / #1988 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-325i-Touring-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-325i-Touring / #BMW-325i-E30 / #BMW-325i / #DynoTune / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E30 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 2.5-litre straight-six #M20 / #BMW-M20 / #M20B25 rebuilt with #M20-DynoTune direct-port nitrous oxide system jetted to 150bhp including braided fuel lines and nitrous lines, #Quikshift air filter and #Powerflow stainless steel straight-through exhaust system with twin 3” rolled pipes, four-speed EH auto switchable Sport gearbox

    CHASSIS: 8x15” (front) and 9x15” (rear) #BBS-RM / #BBS custom wheels with 24-carat gold plated bolts and custom centre caps shod in 195/45 Toyo tyres and 215/40 Dunlop tyres respectively, 15mm spacer on the rear, Automac prototype three-way adjustable coilovers (lowered 100mm up front and 80mm out back) with new wishbones, bushes, drop links and rod ends, #Brembo brake discs and #Pagid pads all round

    EXTERIOR: #M-Tech 2 body kit, custom rear diffuser, flared front and rear arches, flushed bonnet, tailgate and petrol cap, side repeaters and locks deleted, colour-coded door handles and mirrors, kidney grille de-chromed, MHW smoked rear lights and Hella fronts, full respray in custom Renault brown with gold flake

    INTERIOR: Sports beige leather seats with M logo, colour matched and colonised glove box, centre console, under dash tray, outer trim of door cards and centre section of the steering wheel, A, B and C pillars and roof lining retrimmed in black Alcantara, rear headrests fitted, E46 auto shifter with inner section retrimmed in brown Alcantara to match steering wheel, M-Tech aluminium pedals, smoked instrument cluster face with additional LEDs, smoked auxiliary gauges (oil and water temperature, and oil pressure) custom fitted to an M-Tech 2 rear view mirror, carpet dyed black, beige mats and load cover, colour-coded 15lb nitrous bottle in boot

    ICE: Sony CDX-CA900 CD tuner, Vibe SEK50 5.25” components and QB69 rectangular shaped 6x9 speakers

    THANKS: Custom Cars (07957 432167, 07956 605065) & all the boys that helped out, Automac GB Ltd (020 8440 8700)

    Have you ever seen anything like it? Auxiliary gauges fitted to the rear view mirror, just one of many custom touches.

    “We experimented for weeks with different shades from various manufacturers but it was worth it, this colour works so well with the rims and interior”
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    LOW AND BEHOLD

    We’re in a purple daze after seeing this gorgeous bagged E30.

    This ground-hugging bagged E30 has been a true labour of love. Words: John Tallodi / Photos: Denis Podmarkov

    E30s have always been popular in these pages and their retro lines have become even more desirable as time passes, with some amazing builds making the most of that effortless ’80s style. They are a great canvas for any aspiring modder and whether slammed, cut, turbo’d, track-prepared or ICE’d, you can expect to find at least one E30 nestling among these pages each month. And this month is no exception…

    Zach Dunn is not your usual 21-year-old, having been involved with BMWs from an early age. His first taste of the Blue and White Roundel was with a manual E36 325i. “My first BMW was a birthday present from my parents. I had tons of fun driving it and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift and something to start out with,” he says. Since then he has owned half a dozen BMWs, working his way through most of the back catalogue of 3 Series models, with two E30 325s (including this one), an E36 M3, an E46 328Ci, as well as a pair of classic 02s.

    Having grown-up learning everything he could from his dad (who owns a bodyshop), none of his cars escaped without receiving some sort of modification. “They generally all get modified in the same way: I do some type of suspension setup to make them a little bit lower and I always like to change the wheels to something that is more unique. I also tend to do a few exterior upgrades, like the paint, bumpers, lips, lights and other little details.” In fact, lowering BMWs has become something of a passion for Zach. He got into it when the trend caught on in his area and all his friends started lowering their cars – although all his creations all bear his own distinct style.

    Having been exposed to such a variety of machinery, Zach decided that his next project had to be an E30. He felt that the older cars had more character and that the E30 had limitless modding potential as well. Having seen so many E30s done, he just had to have a go at making one that was just right for his tastes. Cue his latest project: a choice-looking E30 two-door. With its 17” AC Schnitzer wheels and air suspension it hunkers low over its arches and looks just the right kind of menacing without resorting to massive spoilers or wide-body kits. It is a far cry from the state it was in when Zach first laid eyes on it. Sitting forlornly at a local shop that specialises in older BMWs, it was a non-runner and in a relatively sorry state, generally needing a bit of TLC in every department. “I wasn’t really worried about the shape it was in,” explains Zach, “because I knew I was going to totally transform it. The shop got it running and I picked it up a few months later.”

    Zach likes to have everything pre-planned well before the actual purchase, as he tells us: “Before I even bought the car I had everything that I wanted to do with it figured out. From the wheels, to the colour, to the suspension, I knew how I wanted the car to be, inside and out. I could see it all in my head, which really helped me throughout the whole process.”

    Having had lots of experience with lowering cars in the past using coilover setups, Zach knew that he needed to go down the air route if he wanted to go lower and still maintain the driveability of the car. After some research he settled on an Air Lift setup from Bag Riders. Up front he’s running off-the-shelf E30 struts and adjustable camber plates, while at the rear there’s a set of Air House 2 bags. In the boot there’s a simple wood-mounted install with a fivegallon tank and a single Viair compressor.

    Thanks to his knowledgeable family and friends, Zach was not alone when it came to getting his E30 to the spec he wanted. “Everything was done at my dad’s shop, Dunn’s Auto Body and Repair. My friend Jason Hower did most of the air install with the help of my uncle Jason Longenecker. I did the air tank while they got the bags, management and lines figured out.” The pristine-looking exterior was also helped along by Zach’s brother Ryan, his friend Jared, and his dad – who helped spray the car and sort out the body panels.

    Many hands make light work and the car took a total of about one month to get to a level Zach was happy with. The bodywork took about two weeks with a respray completed over a weekend. Smaller items, such as the trim and interior dyeing, took a couple of weekends and the air install was done in three days. Extra help and motivation came from Zach’s wife as well as good friend Denis Podmarkov.

    Looking at the finished product, the paint colour could have been plucked right out of BMW’s own catalogue but it is actually a Volvo colour and it suits the car’s looks down to the ground. “My favourite modification on the car was probably the paint. It was something that my dad and I could do together and it turned out exactly how I was hoping,” Zach grins. “The colour was something I hadn’t really seen before on an E30 and I was constantly asked what the paint code is, no matter where I went.”

    When it came to choosing a set of wheels, it took Zach a while to come to a decision. “I had a set of 16” CCW LM20s built for the car and I left those on for about a year,” he says. But the AC Schnitzer Type 1s are his all-time favourite wheels so when he finally managed to find a set of 17” Racing splits, his wife bought them for him and they look awesome on the E30. The wheels sit on 4x100 to 5x120 adapters and measure 7” wide up front and 10” at the rear, wrapped in 195/40 and 215/40 rubber front and rear respectively. With the car aired-out the edges of the polished lips sit absolutely flush with the arches. Other changes to the exterior include a Volvo front lip, US ellipsoid headlights, blacked-out trim and a shaved antenna. They’re all subtle mods that add up to a head-turning result.

    The interior retains its standard trim save for an M Tech 1 steering wheel, and a redyeing of the seats in a different colour to match the paintwork better. “I didn’t get to do too much with the interior. It was tan when I bought it but I didn’t like the idea of tan and purple together so I kept all the original seats but dyed them, the carpet, and the headliner black,” Zach tells us.

    As it stands, visually the car looks perfect, appealing in equal parts to both traditionalists and more extreme modders alike. However, with the eye-catching paintwork and wheels, you may be surprised to find that under the bonnet all is still as BMW intended. Zach’s primary focus was getting the car aesthetically right and as the original M20 lump and running gear were all in good nick he decided to leave them as is. There is definitely a retro charm in a wellmaintained straight-six M20 coupled to a five-speed manual ’box.

    Having planned and executed everything out in such detail, this build must have been a true labour of love. However, needing funds for new projects meant the car had to go. Having put so much of his own style into it Zach would love to buy the car back someday, though. “It taught me so much, and it will always be ‘the one that got away’,” he muses. In fact, he’s even mentally planned additional mods he’d do if he did ever get it back: “It would be nice to put an S54 engine in there. I’d also go with a full M cloth interior, upgraded seats, Smiley headlights, M Tech 2 steering wheel, MHW tail-lights, side skirts, and Euro trim/grille and bumpers.” Clearly the man has style and an appreciation for the finer points of classic Beemer modding. Here’s hoping this automotive relationship was meant to be and the low riding E30 will find its way back into Zach’s life further down the road.

    In the meantime, with a BMW shaped hole to fill in his driveway, what is Zach thinking of working on next? “I’m hoping to have an E30 M3 someday. The shape and design, the performance, the history behind them, pretty much everything about them makes me want to have one. And I have every single detail in my head about what I would do with it!” Judging from his past record there is no doubt that whatever changes he undertakes, they will surely make for a show-stopping car.

    Three-piece 17” AC Schnitzer Type 1 Racing wheels look awesome and suit the E30 perfectly.

    DATA FILE Air-ride #BMW-E30 / #BMW-325i / #BMW-325i-E30 / #AC-Schnitzer-Type-1-Racing / #AC-Schnitzer-Type-1 / #AC-Schnitzer / #BMW-325i-Air-ride / #BMW-325i-Air-ride-E30 /
    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M20B25 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 , stock five-speed manual gearbox
    CHASSIS 8x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) AC Schnitzer Type I Racing wheels with 4x100 to 5x120 adapters,195/40 (front) and 215/40 (rear) tyres, #Air-Lift-V2 Management, #Air-Lift E30 front struts, adjustable camber plates, Air House 2 rear bags
    EXTERIOR Volvo purple respray, Volvo front lip, US ellipsoid headlights, blacked-out trim, shaved antenna
    INTERIOR Black dyed interior, M Tech 1 steering wheel, 1/4” airlines, five-gallon air tank, single Viair compressor
    THANKS Gabrielle Dunn, ‘Spike’ Dunn, Lorrie Dunn, Ryan Dunn, Jason Longenecker, Jason Hower, Jared ‘Shorty’ Hower, Denis Podmarkov, Dunn’s Auto Body and P #BMW
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    BODY DROP E30 Air-ride 325i hits all time low

    BODY DROP TOP / Anyone can bag their car to get it low, but hitting the ultimate low takes dedication, as this E30 Cab ably demonstrates.

    If you’re truly dedicated to the pursuit of lows then you need to go beyond basic air-ride, as this Northern Irish E30 Cab demonstrates. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Steve McCann.

    Air-ride is a wonderful thing. It might still have its naysayers, but almost everyone else on the modified #BMW scene has welcomed it with open arms and it almost feels like there are more bagged BMs about these days than static ones. It’s practical when driving out and about, and then when you park up you simply hit a button and boom instant lows. But for some people, that’s not quite enough, and one of those people is John Peden, owner of this E30 Cab and MD of Peden Conceptz, which specialises in bodywork, air-ride and hydraulic suspension.

    “It sounds daft now but when I started the company years ago, we were building fibreglass monstrosities and putting a ‘z’ on your business name was all the rage,” he laughs. Running such a company puts John on the frontline of the air suspension (and juice) scene, so it makes sense that he’s got a few examples of his own that utilises it: “I’ve got a Porsche 964 on hydraulic suspension and as well as the E30 I’ve got an E21 316; that was my first BMW and I bought it 12 years ago specifically with the aim of fitting air suspension on it. I spotted this 325i for sale and was interested as I like older cars, plus it had a good spec, black with black leather, manual and with the factory LSD. It was advertised locally but the guy selling it was a bit dodgy – after I bought the car he did a runner on his missus and made off with her money, cars and my tax book…” Oh. Thankfully that dramatic start to his E30 ownership experience hasn’t extended any further and John wasted no time in getting stuck in with the mods.

    That the car was going to end up on airride was a given but the suspension here goes beyond your plain old, off-the-shelf airride setup. For starters, John actually built his own air suspension and we don’t mean he used universal components and adapted them to fit the E30, he started from scratch and made the kit. “I started with Bilstein monotube shocks, because they are the best in my opinion, and added Firestone bags. I made spherical top mounts and modified most components and finished it off with AutoPilot V2 management.”

    But that was just for starters, the next stage involved cutting the front end of the car apart and body dropping it. “The car is lowered 20mm over the running gear,” explains John. “It’s further than any other air kit. I took 10mm off the chassis legs, then I cut the sump in half and removed 20mm from it and shortened the oil pump in order to get more ground clearance.” The results speak for themselves because this car is low.

    At the front, it’s about as low as it can go, the forward edges of the sills sitting on the ground and you’d struggle to slip a Rizla between the air dam that sits under the front bumper and the Tarmac. The rear sits barely any higher, the Sebring exhaust’s back box given hardly any breathing space. The car looks awesome with the wheels stuffed way up into the arches. “I wanted 15” wheels because I favour the undersized look,” he explains, “and it made it more of a challenge to get them to fill the arches. I was told by a lot of people that they would be too small to be able to get the arch to touch the rim…” An inspection of the wheels clearly shows that the naysayers have been proven wrong.

    The wheels themselves are HTN Rennsport splits. They look fantastic and are a nice change from the classic cross-spokes we often see. Interestingly, John explains, the 15s actually have the same size centres as the 13” wheels, with some serious lip action going on to bring the overall diameter up by two inches. “It exaggerates how small they look, which I think really suits the classic appearance of the car,” he says and we are inclined to agree. The 195/45 Nankang Ultra Sport NS-II tyres also deliver the perfect amount of stretch to get them tucked up past the rolled arches.


    As far as styling goes, John has left everything well alone and we don’t blame him. “For the outside, I just focused on the way the wheels and tyres sat. I resprayed the car myself in 2k direct gloss black. As for the interior, I didn’t do anything with it as I like the classic appearance of it – what’s to improve in that respect?” He’s got a point. Inside, there’s an aftermarket head unit, a wooden gear knob and the AutoPilot V2 controller has been custom-mounted in the driver’s side air vent, which not only looks great but also puts it within easy reach.

    A few months of work have resulted in a lot of visual drama for this E30 and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what John loves most about his car. “It’s the suspension, because it’s just so low. The pinch weld of the sill touches the floor,” he grins. “I set out to build the lowest E30 and I really haven’t seen any lower… yet.” Best of all, despite being so crazy low, the beauty of air-ride means John is able drive his E30 daily. It’s nice to see someone building car like this and then actually using it rather than just tucking it away and only bringing it out on sunny days.

    While he’s not got any more plans for this particular car, he has got another project on the go: “I’m building the E21 I bought years ago. It’s nearly finished. It has hydraulic suspension, custom one-off Peden Conceptz wheels, a Saab 9000 engine and a Holset turbo off a digger,” he says matter-of-factly. Well, that sounds suitably mental, and as John is a clearly a man who knows his way around a modified BMW, we can’t wait to see how that one turns out.

    Body-drop involved taking 10mm off the chassis legs, 20mm off the sump and shortening the oil pump for maximum ground clearance.

    “set out to build the lowest E30 and I haven’t seen any lower…”

    DATA FILE Body-dropped #BMW-E30 / #BMW-325i-Convertible / #BMW-325i-Convertible-E30 / #BMW-E30-Convertible / #BMW-325i-Cabrio / #BMW-325i-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-325i-E30 / #BMW-325i / #AutoPilot / #Sebring /


    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M20B25 / #M20 / #BMW-M20 , #Sebring back box, shortened sump, shortened oil pump, five-speed manual gearbox
    CHASSIS 8x15” (front and rear) #HTN-Rennsport multi-piece wheels with gold centres and staggered offsets with 195/45 (front and rear) Nankang Ultra Sport NS-II tyres, custom #Bilstein air struts, #Firestone bags, custom top mounts, raised turrets, #AutoPilot-V2 management, body dropped 20mm
    EXTERIOR 2k direct gloss black respray, rolled arches
    INTERIOR #Wooden gear knob, custom mounted air-ride controller

    “wanted 15” wheels because it was more of a challenge to get them to fill the arches.”
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    FRESH AIR

    Super-clean with devilishly delicious details, this gorgeous bagged E30 makes it look so easy. This super-clean bagged E30 keeps things deliciously clean, though the devil is in the detail. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.

    We probably say this about every E30 we feature but it really is a car that requires next to no exterior addenda to make it look awesome. The older BMWs are definitely blessed with this natural elegance and irresistible appeal that means even a wellkept standard E24 or E34 will look fantastic. And, when enhanced with even just a subtle drop and the right wheels, the ‘cool’ and ‘want’ factors go through the roof! Drop it on a killer set of special wheels and, well, you’ve pretty much achieved automotive perfection right there.


    Just look at this E30. It looks absolutely awesome, a visual treat that’s hard to beat but break it down and there’s been precious little done to the exterior, minimising the risk of ruining the whole thing. It kisses the Tarmac when parked up thanks to that front splitter and the copper centres on those polished Gottis (which are tucked to perfection) add a fantastic flash of colour, but that’s it. It’s just so super-clean, so simple and so damn good you’d never get tired of ogling this piece of petrolhead porn.


    Abraham Cruz is the American modifier behind this delicious build and, amazingly, this is his first ever BMW and only his second modified car, having come from a trio of Civics. Considering he’s conjured up this magnificent E30, we can forgive him for that. “I’ve been interested in BMWs since I sold my RHD Civic in 2011, which was a full show build. What makes BMW’s special to me is that they are incredible machines, mechanically and aesthetically. They are really fun to drive as well,” he says. “I have always loved the E30 model. Everything about it is beautiful. I also wanted a car that was an ’89, like the year I was born. I found ‘Eve’ on Craigslist. The condition she was in was pretty horrible, with faded paint, a bunch of dings and dents, a cracked dash, a beat up interior etc. I saw the potential in her and that’s why I decided to purchase her. She was actually supposed to be a daily driver but that quickly changed once I sent her in for paint.”


    With a fresh coat of black paint, the E30 was looking much better than when Abraham had purchased it and, presented with what was now an exceedingly clean car, the temptation to turn it into something even more special was too strong to resist. “I decided right from the beginning that I wanted to go with a simple but classy look,” he says, and that’s a philosophy he’s remained true to throughout the three years and numerous changes the car has been through during that time. The exterior perfectly captures this ethos, with minimal effort for maximum impact. Abraham turned his attention to the E30’s styling on our side of the Pond and opted for a Euro bumper trim, Euro rear plate filler and Euro grilles.


    These additions are complemented by a set of Hella Smiley headlights and a set of #MHW smoked taillights. This smokey theme continues with some ZKW smoked repeaters and smoked foglights. The finishing touches, a flourish of OE additions, include an M Tech 1 rear spoiler, an iS front lip enhanced with a Ryan G splitter for optimum Tarmac interface, a BMW front plate filler and a set of Motorsport door handles.


    The decidedly dark exterior theme looks fabulous, though Abraham clearly figured that a flash of colour would work wonders, retaining the amber indicators in the front bumpers and then adding those wheels. These were actually purchased in tandem with a set of BBS RSs but we’ve got to say the Gottis it’s currently wearing (8x16” ET11 G1001s allround) are a breath of fresh air, especially in that lush shade of copper. The custom colour is gorgeous but only covers the faces, including the faintest sliver between the edge of the lips and the centres; the sides of the spokes have been finished in gunmetal, along with the bolts, and then the lips have been polished to perfection. It’s a heady combination and the contrast against the allblack body really makes the wheels pop.



    On the suspension front, Abraham was already an advocate of the low lifestyle but his dedication to the cause was causing frustration as the poor E30 was scraping everywhere. So, in order to keep things lovely and low whilst also making the car that little more practical he decided to head down the air-ride route – now a road very well-travelled by many BMW owners. He grabbed himself an Air Lift kit with BC damping adjustable dampers, Viair compressor and a four-gallon tank, all watched over by Air Lift V2 digital management. Of course, when it comes airride, the suspension is only half the story; just as important is how it looks when it goes in your boot. Well, pop open Abraham’s boot and you’ll find a very clean, unique build, with the single air tank proudly on display, sitting on a wood grain floor.


    Under the bonnet you will notice two things: first, it’s very clean. Second, there be wood in here. Well, not actual wood, it’s a hydro-dipped wood grain valve cover that carries on the woody theme from the boot and interior. It’s certainly not something you see everyday, that’s for sure. The reason the bay looks so clean is because Abraham has carried out a mild wire tuck, just to make it all a little more presentable beneath the bonnet and he’s also added a few neat little touches like the E46 M3 oil filler cap, E30 M3 firewall harness covers, and the crackle black intake manifold. Dig a little deeper and you’ll also discover a chipped ECU and an Ireland Engineering cat-back exhaust.

    Abraham hasn’t done much to the interior but then again this is an interior that doesn’t really need much in the way of work to get the most from it, much like the rest of the car. While some of you out there might not be fans of light leather, we’re rather partial to it and the cream hide in here is the perfect contrast to the blacker-than-black exterior, with the front seats coming from an E30 Saloon. We mentioned more wood in the interior and it takes the shape of that gorgeous Nardi steering wheel and Nardi gear knob, which has also been treated to a leather gaiter. Another leather gaiter protects the E36 leather handbrake handle, while a set of Schnitzer pedals, an analogue Euro clock and a custom E30dad cluster finishes the whole lot off. We can’t think of many places that would be nicer in which to spend some quality time than this exceedingly clean, classic interior.


    As gorgeous as Abraham’s car now is, having gone through numerous incarnations during its time with him already, it is in no way surprising to learn that he has more planned for the future. “I’m going to tackle the interior next,” he says. “I’m fitting a new custom black headliner and I have some Recaro LS seats that I’m going to get reupholstered. There’ll possibly be an interior colour change from tan to peanut butter. I’ll be swapping in an LS2 engine from a Corvette in the near future as well!” That sounds amazing; it sounds like this E30 will continue to be a breath of fresh air.


    Ari Lift air-ride kit was chosen to allow this E30 to sit low but still remain practical to own and drive.

    Lots of wood about the place on this E30, from the gorgeous Nardi steering wheel to eye-catching air-ride install and even the engine…

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Air-Ride #BMW-325i-E30 / #BMW-325i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW /

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M20B25 / #M20 / #BMW-M20 , #K&N drop-in air filter, chipped ECU, #Ireland-Engineering cat-back exhaust, Hydro-dipped wood grain valve cover, OEM E46 M3 oil cap, E30 M3 firewall harness covers, crackle black intake manifold, mild wire tuck, five-speed manual gearbox.


    CHASSIS 8x16” ET11 (front and rear) #Gotti-G1001 wheels with custom copper faces and gunmetal windows and bolts, Yokohma S drive 195/40 (front and rear) tyres, #Adaptec 4x100 to 5x120 adapters with extended studs, #Air-Lift Performance air-ride, BC damping adjustable dampers, #Air-Lift-V2 digital management, #Viair compressor and four-gallon tank, drilled and slotted Brembo discs.


    EXTERIOR Euro bumper trim, Euro rear plate filler, Euro grilles, Hella smiley headlights, #MHW smoked taillights, #ZKW smoked turn signals, smoked foglights, #BMW front plate filler, OEM #M-Tech 1 rear spoiler, OEM iS lip/Ryan G splitter, #BMW-Motorsport door handles.


    INTERIOR Saloon front seats, #ACS Gen 1 pedals, Nardi Droopy Spoke wood grain steering wheel, Boss hub, Nardi Evo wood grain gear knob, leather gear and handbrake gaiters, E36 leather handbrake handle, Euro analogue clock, custom E30dad cluster, wood grain custom boot setup.
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    LOGBOOK: #BMW-325i-E30 / #BMW-325i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW /

    An E30 325i, nothing overly special about that you might think… well it is when you drop an E36 M3 engine into one! An E30 325i, nothing overly special about that you might think… well it is when you drop an E36 M3 engine into one! Words & images: Jon Cass.

    The E30 BMW M3 has been grabbing the limelight for decades now and that’s hardly surprising given what a fantastic car it is. Even now, its rear-wheel drive biased handling, purposeful looks and outright power are a match for many of today’s sought after performance cars. And let’s not forget, it had its fair share of success in touring car racing too!


    While the lust for an M3 has never wilted, the popularity for its more mainstream brethren has grown immensely over the past decade, a tidy 316 on a decent set of rims makes a very cool and practical classic to smoke around in. Even the E30 Touring has to be one of the best looking estate cars of the last thirty years. The pick of the bunch for many however would be the 325i Sport coupe, arguably just as good looking as its M3 stablemate and packing a fair amount of punch too.


    Craig Morgan has been an E30 fan since he was thirteen and was smitten by his brother’s red 323i coupe right from the start. “I had to wait until six years ago before I had the opportunity to buy one for myself.” Craig remembers. “This is my second example and was bought in 2011.”


    Considering the newest E30 coupe was twenty years old at the time, Craig found he had a whole range of them to choose from, all on site at the same location. In fact many E30 fans will probably recall a whole fleet of them suddenly appearing on the market at once on an internet auction site and all with the same price tag. We certainly do! The reason for this was a keen collector had been cleverly buying tidy 325s and storing them away as an investment. Sadly his circumstances changed and he had to sell all but one and these all hit the market at the same time. “I was one of the first to arrive and had the whole collection to choose from,” Craig recalls. “Although he had plenty of manual 325 cars in stock, I chose this one which was an automatic at the time as the bodywork was almost perfect. Also, because it was an auto, chances are it hadn’t been thrashed.”


    Craig’s initial task was to remove the factory bodykit, which are renowned for trapping moisture and dirt to make sure the metalwork underneath was in good shape. “Luckily, as this one had been dry stored for so long, the bodywork was pretty good as was the underside,” Craig recalls. “I spent some time cleaning and under seal off the shell and replacing various worn parts such as the windscreen washer bottle, bonnet insulation and door cards.” The auto ‘box was then replaced by a 5-speed manual alternative and returned to the road for the summer of that year, still with the original 2.5 straight-six engine in place.

    “Over the winter of that year, I began looking at options to increase the power,” Craig remembers. “I had a shortlist of an LSV8, an M3 Evo or to keep the original engine and fit a turbo.” Due to its ideal combination of power and reliability, it was the M3 Evo that won in the end and Craig managed to source a suitable unit along with a 6-speed gearbox from a 1999 E36 M3 with full service history.

    Now that the original 2.5 and short lived 5-speed ‘box had been removed, this became the ideal opportunity to strip and repaint the whole engine bay. The S50 B32 straight six was treated to a Sachs clutch, lightweight flywheel and brand new Vanos before being slotted in place. The E30 has a smaller bay compared to the later E36, so the manifolds required some customisation and tricky welding to fit properly, as did the exhaust, which Craig points out was probably jointly the hardest task in the whole project. Look at them now and they’re like a work of art. You‘d think it left the factory that way, all testament to Craig’s skills and persistence.


    Various other modifications were also carried out in the conversion including a shortened and balanced propshaft, and an Ergen steering shaft connector with E36 steering rack. “Some of the smaller ancillaries had to be replaced and relocated, due to the E30’s restricted confines, such as the brake servo that’s from a Renault Clio and repositioned 50mm from where it was before,” Craig explains. To help in the cooling department, the 325’s radiator had to be replaced by the larger M3 rad along with a Nissan Skyline electric fan. Craig also fitted a 325td oil cooler to be safe too. In fact, we should point out that he carried out all of the work himself with the exception of the wiring, where his good friend and electrical expert, Dave Bolton helped out.


    As we said before, this conversion has been carried out so well it wouldn’t look out of place in a ‘90s BMW showroom, it really is that good. It drives well too as you’ve probably guessed! As we watch Craig disappear sideways and fully in control from a junction with the M3 motor on full song, the 3.7 LSD comes into full effect, as does the stiffer BMW Motorsport suspension with those 30mm lowering springs, not that he drives like that all the time! Speaking of the chassis, all the drop links and bottom ball joints have been renewed along with Brembo brake discs, Green Stuff pads make it more than capable on the road and probably the track too if Craig so wished!


    For now Craig is enjoying taking the E30 to shows and loves to see the reaction when he opens the bonnet. “There are a lot of nice E30s around, but people always like to see one that’s been done a bit differently,” Craig smiles. The 16x8 Klutch SL1 alloys grab attention and look the part too, suiting the Dolphin Grey paintwork perfectly. The interior remains standard 325 Sport as Craig likes to drive the E30 whenever he can, so it has to still be practical and comfortable.


    Confirming this project had been well thought out and executed right from the start, Craig wouldn’t change a single thing on his E30. “I’ve taken this project as far as I want to, I think sometimes you can go too far and start regretting things then,” he tells us. “This is the perfect E30 to me.” And when you consider the whole project took only nine months to complete, this has been quite an achievement. Completing a project does have its disadvantages (or perhaps advantages depending on how you look at it) as Craig is itching to begin work on another car. Which model it will be is uncertain, but chances are it may be V8 powered. Watch this space.

    SPECIFICATION

    ENGINE: BMW E36 M3 Evo Engine conversion, #S50B32 / #S50 Engine with 6-speed ‘box. Lightweight flywheel, #Sachs clutch, brand new #VANOS , customised original manifolds. Shortened and balanced propshaft, Renault Clio brake servo moved over 50mm. Ergen steering shaft connector, E46 Steering rack, 3.7 LSD . Braided clutch line. E36 M3 radiator, larger 325td oil cooler, Nissan Skyline electric fan.

    CHASSIS: BMW 325 Motorsport suspension, #Eibach 30mm lowering springs, Brembo brake discs, Green Stuff pads, bottom ball joints and drop links renewed, #Klutch SL1 16x8 wheels.

    EXTERIOR: Factory 325 Sport bodykit, Dolphin Grey paintwork.

    INTERIOR: Standard 325 Sport with grey velour seats.

    SHOUT: Dave Bolton.

    M-tech two goodies remain in place on Craig’s E30, including that distinctive but subtle rear wing.
    • Great job as for me. I'd like E3 with r6 engine. IMHO cars with big V8 are very heavy and m62 engine not so cool for small e30 body
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