- Post is under moderationSWEDE SPEED
With 1137hp, this turbo E30 is an absolute beast. After years of building cars renowned for being safe and steady, Sweden’s best modifiers have now gained a well-earned reputation for being fast and furious. Forget the Volvo, handy in the snow and with the shopping. With 1137bhp this E30 323i is a lot more fun, and is contributing to global warming a treat, we love it. Words: Louise Woodhams /// Photos: Anders Odeholm
POWER: Approximately 1137bhp (at the flywheel) @ 6850rpm
TORQUE: Approximately 880lb ft @ 5950rpm
TOP SPEED: 208mph
BEST QUARTER MILE: 9.78 seconds @ 153mph
KERB WEIGHT: 1340kg (including driver)
I do freelance work for various publications in Scandinavia and I have shot a few BMWs you might want to take a peek at,” read the email from a snapper based in Sweden. Admittedly I was feeling a little apprehensive - quite often a photographer's idea of a feature ear can be a little off the mark. To his credit, though, he found us the beautiful wide-body 2002 Turbo from February 2004 so there was a glimmer of hope. There’s also the fact Scandinavia is synonymous with designing and building cars with enough performance to make the finest of supercars feel slow and pointless, including the world’s fastest production car in the world, the Bugatti Veyron. So chances were it was going to be pretty wild.
When the post arrived a few days later I ripped open the envelope and sure enough one of them was an M3-bodied 323i packing a European-spec E36 M3 engine with a huge Schwitzer S400 turbo strapped to it. The end result? Approximately 1137bhp at 6850rpm (at the flywheel) and 880lb ft of torque at 5950rpm! This, ladies and gentleman is the planet's most powerful street-legal BMW, and probably one the most remarkable things a Swede has done with a car to date. The penny drops when I hear the man responsible, Daniel Liimatainen from Goteborg, runs a business that specialises in restoring and tuning cars called Linuuet Speedfactory (www.Hnimet.se), and prior to tills worked as a Peugeot mechanic.
The 27-year-olds love for the E30 blossomed in 1999 after he test-drove, and then subsequently bought, a lightly tuned 320i. Hooked on the combination of the glorious in-line six, relative low kerb weight and nimble rear wheel handling, it was apparently a lot more fun than his Audi 80. A few years later he then upgraded to this current 1984 BMW 323i E30. Having always been interested in modifying (his previous project was a yellow checker taxi - a party mobile apparently!) it was inevitable the car wouldn't slay stock for long. “A buddy of mine had a tricked-out Audi S2 and he literally blew the doors off my BMW. It made me realise that a hot cam and air filter were far from cool and a dead end. I knew forced induction was the only way to go - I wanted revenge,” he explained. First off though was an engine swap. Having parted with 8000 kroner (that’s just over £600 to you and me) for an S50B30 engine and transmission he then got to work; at this point in time however, the company wasn’t established, so amazingly the swap was carried out with the most basic of tools in a garage that stunk of manure, as it was next to a field of cows!
Daniel’s initial plan was to make 800bhp, but as is often the case, things got a little out a hand and having already bored out the engine to 3030cc he then compiled a monster shopping list of high quality, uprated internals, including a set of custom 8.0:1 JE oil cooled pistons, slightly longer than standard Carillo con-rods and 1600cc injectors to name a few. The cylinder head was, of course, ported and polished, the combustion chambers modified and then sealed with pyramid’ rings. The car's claimed 1137bhp output is primarily attributed to the modified and lightened Schwitzer S400 turbo, with two Tial 38mm external wastegates to regulate the massive boost and make the custom exhaust route more viable. To cool the giant a modified Volvo truck double cell intercooler with a 3” intake and 3.5” outlet and Volvo 940 radiator were bolted in place. The engine work took Daniel and the lads from Christer Next Level Racing six months to carry out. There were a few problems to get over, though, as he explained: ‘The exhaust manifold was a real bitch to fit, there wasn't a whole lot of space so we had to modify the floor pan. We also had a big setback with the Haltech E11 engine management system - it took a week to find the fault to stop it misfiring - and problems with the camshaft sensor, which took another week to solve. It nearly drove me crazy but the performance is better than I ever expected.” In fact, his exact words were, “it’s like being kicked hard in the arse”, later recalling a time he left a Yamaha R1 in his dust! Much to his bemusement, his friends stopped asking for passenger rides a while ago.
As well as using the car for track days and drag racing, it’s also driven on the road, Daniel having covered almost 12,500 miles in it. For the car to behave itself the power had to be harnessed. To prevent shredding the gears on power launches he employed an E36 M3 six-speed manual ’box with a 3.07 ratio mated to an E28 535i limited-slip. A more durable Tilton triple-plated clutch weighing a total of just 12 pounds helps to increase grip, whilst a custom NUKE Performance aluminium driveshaft is stronger and more reliable.
There’s no sense in making a car go if you can’t make it stop, so Daniel decided to factor in TarOx 355x28mm discs and 10-piston calipers up front and 284x22mm discs with 6-piston calipers out back. It’s all well and good being rapid in a straight line, but if you can’t sling it into corners it’s no better than an American muscle car. Other chassis upgrades include Bilstein shocks and custom IGMAB springs with E30 M3 struts and spindles and Powerflex urethane bushings to add further security within the suspension components. According to Daniel it’s like any other grocery-getter, well balanced and a pleasure to drive.
One glance over the interior tells you all you need to know about this car’s intentions. To improve the power-to-weight ratio, the rear bench, carpet, headlining and air-con were binned and while the original dashboard and door panels survived the cull, the original seats have been replaced by a pair of Sparco Pro2000 buckets with four-point Sabelt harnesses and a steel roll-cage welded in place. As well as the carbon dash display there is also a bank of Autometer metric gauges, including the speedo, rev counter, boost pressure, oil and coolant temperature and oil pressure, not to mention switches on the gear shift including launch control. The boot floor is now lined in diamond plating with a custom 30-litre fuel cell and battery.
As expected there are also a few external modifications to give the game away, the E30 M3 arches are the most obvious additions and have been extended a further 40mm to help accommodate the wider and taller than standard 8x18” (front) and 10x18” (rear) white Compomotive wheels shod in 215/35 and 265/35 Kumho tyres respectively.
Combined with the Rieger E46 M3-style bumper up front, vented bonnet and air inlet residing in the chasm where the left headlight was – the body styling not only looks the part but also serves a purpose, enhancing aerodynamics. Just for that added flair, Daniel had the car resprayed black with a satin clear coat, which in some lights looks like a matt finish. Certainly an improvement over the original metallic blue.
This car is simply as good, and as powerful, as it gets. Okay, so no one will insure you with your five years' no-claims, the fuel bill will be similar to a small plane and the plod would assign a new division just to keep stopping you around town, but who cares? It is a work of art and the very pinnacle of motor engineering - the owner should be incredibly proud of himself. Question is, where can he go from here? Despite working on it for over five years and spending over 30 grand he says the car will probably never be finished and is already talking of a bigger turbo to make it even quicker, so it seems things can only move forward. Keep your eyes peeled!
DATA FILE #BMW-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-E30-S50 / #Schwitzer-S400 / #Schwitzer / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #NUKE-Perfomance /
ENGINE: 2997cc straight-six #S50B30 / #BMW-S50 / #S50 engine from the European-spec E36 M3 bored to 3030cc with NUKE-Perfomance dry sump and Barnes 6-stage pump, custom-made 10mm main bearing girdle, Peteterson 18-litre oil tank, 8.0:1 custom JE oil cooled pistons, Total Seal gapless rings, Carlllo custom con-rods with SPS MULTIPHASE bolts, #Kilander-Racing head studs (M11,12.9), head ported and polished by Christer NLR, modified combustion chambers, ‘pyramid’ rings to seal combustion, #K&N air filter, Schwitzer-S400 turbo modified and lightened by Christer NLR, 78mm compressor housing and 74.5mm exhaust housing, custom 4” downpipe, Ummet twin exit stainless steel 3.5” exhaust system with two Tial 38mm wastegates corrected for even distribution, 31.5mm stainless steel exhaust valves, Simons full flow mufflers with twin 2.5” tailpipes, 19 Row Setrab engine oil cooler, modified stock manifold, 1600cc injectors, Weldon fuel pump (5 bar) and pressure regulator, two 10" #Perma-Cool cooling fans, 1994 Volvo 940 radiator, modified Volvo truck double cell Intercooler (130cm wide, 20cm high, 18cm deep) with 3” intake and 3.5” outlet Haltech E11 engine management system, six MSD singletower coils, 4-channel AEM cdi Ignition, Taylor 10mm HT leads, Teknik Products engine mounts
TRANSMISSION European-spec E36 M3 six-speed manual ’box with 3.07 gear ratio, Tilton triple-disc clutch, E34 M5 drive joints with custom NUKE Performance 80x5mm air-craft quality aluminum driveshaft, M20 flywheel. E28 535 limited-slip
CHASSIS 8x18" (front) and 10x18" (rear) white Compomotive wheels (ET15) shod in 215/35 and 265/35 #Kumho tyres respectively. #Bilstein front and rear shocks, custom IGMAB front and rear springs, E30 M3 struts and spindles, #Powerflex M3 urethane bushings with eccentric offset, custom-made 40x2mm strut brace. Dual circuit brake system with Tarox 355x28mm discs with aluminum centre and 10-piston calipers (front) and 284x22mm discs with 6-piston calipers, copper and braided steal brake lines
EXTERIOR E30 M3 front and rear arches (extended a further 40mm), doors, rear bumper and spoiler, custom Rieger E46 M3-style front bumper, vented bonnet, left headlight removed and replaced with air inlet, E36 M3 mirrors, Hella rear lights, full respray in black with satin dear coat
INTERIOR #Sparco-Pro2000 bucket seats with four-point Sabelt race harnesses, rear bench, carpet and headlining removed, Memo steering wheel, IGMAB gear shift and pedals, GunnarsjG Svets and Smide AB seamless steel 45x3mm roll-cage, carbon dash display, Autometer Sportcomp metric gauges, including speedo, rev counter, boost pressure, oil and coolant temperature and oil pressure, NLR AMS-1000 boost controller, switches on gear shift including launch control, line lock, 3 AMS ON (activates boost controller), and AMS CLUTCH (activates clutch switch to boost controller), 5" Tacho white shift light, M3 rear view mirror, aluminium diamond plating in boot with custom-made 30-litre fuel cell and battery
TANKS Peter at Pelemaskinteknik, Peter at GIK Turbo, Svensk Turboservice Anders at PRO, NUKE Performance, Forza, Mocomp, IGMAB, PRO motorsport and all the others that helped make my car what it is today
With more controls than the Houston control centre (maybe) and stripped of all its luxuries this 323i is not your average E30.
Huge #Schwitzer S400 turbo supplies the boost, whilst the rest of the power comes from the E36 M3 lump and uprated internals. No rubber or jubilee clips here – all motorsport-spec fittings and hoses.
M3 body styling, white Compomotive wheels and compressor housing sticking out of the bonnet, it doesn't gel any sexier than this.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationACCEPTABLE IN THE EIGHTIES
This super-clean, white, S50-swapped, two-door E30 is a perfect slice of modified ’80s motoring.
William Green’s E30 harks back to a time when such cars had to be tuned a certain way, and rock a certain look. But he’s given it a modern twist, and a whole lot more horsepower… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: C3Photography.
The 1980s have a lot to answer for. Shoulder pads, Filofaxes, music with synths, Fox-body Mustangs, Grease 2 – there was a lot going on, and much of it was made of brightly coloured plastic. However, the decade wasn’t without its charms; it brought us Cheers, Appetite for Destruction, perestroika, and the charmingly infuriating Rubik’s Cube. And while the TV shows of the era seemed to represent a society eager to eulogise about the easy-going nostalgia of the 1960s – Happy Days, The Wonder Years and so on – the man on the street was firmly on the cutting edge of up-to-the-minute 1980s fantasticality, the sleeves rolled up on his pastel-hued suit, a pair of Wayfarers atop his slicked-back hair, and the keys to an icewhite E30 in his hand.
Oh yes – in the 1980s, the secondgeneration 3 Series was very much where it was at. From South London to South Central LA, there was one aesthetic that anyone who was anyone aspired to: a white E30, preferably a 325i, low-slung over big wheels, with an M-Tech II spoiler proudly adorning the bootlid. That was the real deal. Sure, Magnum P.I. had his Ferrari 308, Miami Vice was all about the Testarossas, and Michael Knight had his sentient Trans Am, but this was the real world. Real people dreamed of Beemers.
The lusted-after look of the era is pretty much as you see here, in the form of William Green’s retro-styled throwback. The exterior is so ’80s it hurts, white-on-white-on-white, with merely a whisper of clearance between those crisp glacier-like arches and the broad, chunky five-spokes beneath. All of the requisite M-Tech II accoutrements are in place. If you can ignore the crowds of excitable teenagers Instagramming the thing with their iPhones and tune out the chemtrails from all the wi-fi signals, you could almost be glimpsing into an authentic late-1980s scenescape.
Ah, but there’s a twist. All’s not as periodcorrect as you might think here – when you peel back the skin and scratch around among the pulpy flesh below, you’ll discover that William’s got one or two restomod tricks up his sleeve…
“I’ve always been a car modifier,” he says, enigmatically. “It all started with my first car, a 1986 VW Golf GTI with a supercharged G60 Corrado engine swap; BMWs came second to VWs at the time, as I then went on to own a ’92 GTI and a ’95 GTI.”
‘Yes,’ I can hear you shouting into the magazine, ‘but when do we get to the E30?!’ Alright, chill out – we’re coming to it. But before we reap the rewards of patience, we need to sow the seeds of an entirely different 3 Series.
“I came across my first E30 when I was in college,” William reminisces, an orchestral James Horner soundtrack swelling in the background. “It was a gunmetal grey 1988 325ix – two-door, five-speed – that was completely refurbished, it looked like a brand-new car. Being a broke college student, I begged my mother to get me that car; she did, and it was the best gift I ever received! I brought it back to college in the Catskill Mountains of NY and the ix really lived up to its name – the all-wheel drive system was flawless.” A handful of wellchosen modifications followed – a custom exhaust, chip tune, intake and coilovers – but nothing too extreme. This wasn’t like that first, manic, engine-swapped project, this was a super-tidy base so he was taking baby steps. The quality of the car spoke for itself really, as three years later a chap drove two thousand miles to make William an offer he couldn’t refuse. And with that chapter behind him, it’s safe to say that he’s firmly made the ideological leap from Wolfsburg to Bavaria. A 2006 530i followed, and then a 2002 M3, but it wasn’t too long before our protagonist began once again hankering for the old-skool. His retro yearning was twofold; firstly after the nostalgia of the 1980s that so many of us of a particular age are unable to escape from, but secondly due to the absolute perfection of his first E30. It was time for history to repeat itself.
Okay, people may say ‘never go back,’ but that’s a load of old toffee. ‘Once bitten, forever smitten’ – that’s more of an appropriate mantra here (ignoring the fact that it comes from an old Vauxhall advert, obviously), and William was more than ready to dive back into the rose-scented waters of E30 ownership.
“I found this ’80s baby in a high-end luxury car dealer just south of Los Angeles,” he explains, effortlessly reeling off a phrase that you could imagine on a T-shirt in H&M. “The car was being sold on consignment, and belonged to the son of the owner’s best friend. It was an unfinished project, and the exterior was probably an 8/10 – and that’s what sealed the deal on buying the car! I knew that everything still left to do was stuff I could take care of myself.”
The car was already fitted with an S50 motor – y’know, like you’d find in an E36 M3 – but it was, shall we say, well used, having chalked up over 140,000 miles. William’s initial plan was to swap it out for an S54, although having weighed up the costs and taken an objective view, he decided to persevere with the S50 and give it a refresh and rebuild. After all, they’re robust old lumps. Hell, 140k is barely run in, right?
“It needed a rebuild pretty much straight away,” he reasons. “The compression was off on two cylinders, so I went ahead and had the head rebuilt and that took care of the engine problems. I also went with the M50 manifold and the S52 exhaust manifold, custom pulleys, injectors, high-flow MAF, and 3.25 LSD. There were a lot of modifications made along the way but these were the initial mods to get the car the way I wanted it.”
The fact that the previous owner had made inroads into the project helped out a lot, as it was already wearing a fresh, periodperfect, ice-white 1980s paint job when William took delivery. He was able to augment this with the oh-so-cool M-Tech II goodies to create that retro style, and it has created what William describes as ‘a neck-breaker’.
“This car has always been a conversation starter at pretty much every car meet or gas station I go to. People love the body kit and the Magnum 17s. Most people go with BBS rims so I decided to stick with a wheel that’s different and displays all the inner workings. I recently started doing autocross too, and this build is perfect for the courses.”
You can imagine how that newergeneration M3 motor helps out when it comes to sporting endeavours, but this car is far from a laser-focused track build; indeed, the interior is something quite special. Up front are a pair of E36 M3 Vaders in black leather, with an E30 M3 bench out back trimmed to match. The E30 M3 gauge cluster was painstakingly rebuilt by an Instagram user by the handle @e30_dad, while the vacuum-of-space effect of all the blackness (the seats, the carpet, the headlining, it’s everywhere) is neatly complemented by a cunning custom audio install that, among much else, features a pair of 8” subs hidden inside the rear panels.
William, like so many feature car owners we talk to, has an obsessive and completist eye for the details, manifested here in the fresh lights, the commitment to the Stormtrooper black/white colour-coding, the OEM+ interior embellishments of disparate provenance, and the cherry picked chassis parts that comprise E36 M3 suspension and brakes, some M Coupé bits and bobs, and a super-tight Z3 steering rack.
In fact, it’s fair to say that this is more than just a car to him. “This car has also inspired me to start my own small business, www.e30head.com,” says William. “I designed an E30 centre console cupholder that was once an old BMW idea that I brought back to life. The enthusiasts love it! And yes, the S54 swap is still a plan that will get executed – I put that build on hold last time because we were having our first child and those funds needed to go to more important purchases, but the timing will be right one day.” And in the meantime, he gets to enjoy a nice thick slice of aspirational nostalgia, rolling the kind of ride that everybody looked up to back in the good ol’ days. Acceptable in the Eighties? Ah, it was more than acceptable. It was rad, def, way cool, totally tubular. And it still is.
The exterior was probably an 8/10 and that’s what sealed the deal on buying the car!
DATA FILE S50-swapped #BMW-E30 / #BMW-E30-S50 / #BMW
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six #S50B30US / #S50B30 / #S50 / #BMW-S50 / , custom 3” #Magnaflow exhaust system with high-flow cat and resonator, TMS underdrive pulleys, custom underdrive crank pulley, TMS Jim Conforti remap, new water pump, thermostat, alternator, intake, oil pump, gaskets, TPS, radiator and hoses, E30 M3 wiring harness cover, OBDII E36 exhaust manifolds, E30 Motor Werks skid plate, E36 M3 five-speed gearbox, E30 M3 propshaft, E36 M3 guibo, 3.25 LSD with M Coupé cover, M Coupe halfshafts
CHASSIS 8.5x17” (front and rear) #MVR-Magnum wheels with 215/40 (front and rear) Falken 512 tyres, TC Kline S/A coilovers, #Vorshlag front camber plates, #K-Mac rear adjustable camber/toe bushings, E36 M3 front suspension and brakes, E36 M3 five-lug rear conversion including brakes, #Zimmerman drilled discs all-round, ’96 Z3 2.7 lock-to-lock steering rack, E32 750il brake master cylinder, custom brake booster
EXTERIOR Full respray, #M-Tech II bumpers, side skirts, lip and spoiler, replica #M-Tech II front valance, 6000K Xenon headlights and foglights, new tail-lights, smoked front indicators, black kidney grilles, colour-coded door handles, headlight wipers
INTERIOR E30 M3 gauge cluster, E36 M3 gear knob, E32 leather handbrake handle and gaiter, E36 M3 Vader seats, E30 M3 rear seats, black door panels, M-Tech II steering wheel, black carpet, black headlining, #Alpine CD head unit, 2x custom hidden #MTX-Thunder6000 8” subs in rear panels, Rockford Fosgate 250 two-channel amp and 600 four-channel amp, Kicker speakers
THANKS I’d like to give special thanks to my wife, Ashleigh, who inspired me to start E30Head. To Raphael with Ore Photography Group – without his excellent shots of my car, I don’t think we’d be doing this interview. Diego, the E30 Cluster Master @e30_dad, my biggest supporter from the start. Scott with Renown USA for being one of the first to support my E30 centre console cupholder design
S50-swap is so neat it looks like it could have been a factory job and it gives this E30 some serious go.
This car has always been a conversation starter at pretty much every car meet or gas station I go to.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationMASTERCHEF
Simple on the outside, exciting on the inside, this sexy Aegean blue E30 has been treated to a 3.2 S50-swap.
SLICK S50 E30
Awesome 3.2-litre two-door. With some seriously tasty mods and an S50 under its carbon bonnet, owner Nicholas Arnold has rustled up one cooking E30. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Matt Woods.
Could the E30 be the most engine-swapped #BMW of all time? Judging by the number of feature cars we run that have been fitted with something other than their standard engine, it’s got to be up there. While V8s are a great and popular choice, sometimes you’re just not in the mood and fancy something more traditional where the 3 Series is concerned, like a howling, high-output straight-six, and that’s exactly what we’ve got here.
Chef Nicholas Arnold is its custodian and the man behind the swap. He’s no stranger to modified cars and BMWs, having worked his way up from a Vauxhall Nova 1.2 through to a selection of Hondas, including an EG Civic that he performed a full DC2 conversion on, and on to a number of BMWs, starting with an E34 525i (as it was cheap and RWD), and including a previous E30, which met an untimely end… “I wrote it off on black ice and I just felt I had to own another one. I found this car on eBay, located in Scotland – it was in good condition and had just had a respray,” says Nicholas. There was also the small matter of it already being endowed with an M52 under the bonnet. “It had a straight-through exhaust, was on cheap Jom coilovers and had an open diff. I changed the inlet manifold and ECU before making bigger plans,” he says – those plans being the swapping in of a more potent powerplant.
“I put a S50B32 in it as the M52 wasn’t fast enough,” explains Nicholas. “I bought new AKG engine mounts, custom wiring loom, aluminium triple core radiator, Ramair air filter, got a custom-built manifold, ACL race bearings, ARP con rod bolts, M3 3.0-litre oil pump with an E34 baffle sump and a Simons race silencer with a full stainless steel system. It took me six months to put together all the parts for the build and a week’s-worth of work to put it all together. The only problems I had was the servo had to be moved across by 45mm and I had to have a brake linkage bar made up.”
They say that the waiting is the hardest part and we have no doubt that was definitely the case here as six months to go from capable M52 to 321hp of ferocious #S50B32 goodness must have felt like an age. Let’s not beat about the bush here – the E36 M3 Evo is not a slow car, so just having that rev-hungry lump in the lightweight surroundings of an E30 would result in an absolute rocket ship. But that’s not all, the transmission has also been beefed-up to suit and there’s a five-speed Getrag ’box mated to an E34 M5 Sachs clutch with a 4.5kg billet steel flywheel, E36 propshaft and an E36 2.8 LSD in an E30 medium diff case.
With some serious power on tap, Nicholas turned his attention to the chassis as it needed some upgrades to be able to cope with the massive increase in engine. “I went for a set of BC Racing coilovers as they’re mid-range and suitable for road and track, Purple Series polybushes with E30 M3 lollipop bushes, again suitable for both roadand track-use, fitted all-new drop links, H&R uprated anti-roll bars, Ultra Racing strut braces to stiffen the chassis and I also had the subframes powdercoated and the rear subframe reinforced due to the increase in power.” The car no doubt drives spectacularly and sits beautifully low. It just looks right, especially on its black 16” Rota Grid Vs, which tie in perfectly with the numerous black details across the bodywork, and make a change from the usual suspects when it comes to E30 wheel choice, as Nicholas explains: “I have the Rota Grid Vs as I like to be different. I also like the Jap, aggressive look rather than following the crowd and having Borbets or #BBS reps.” The wheels are wrapped in Toyo Proxes tyres and sit on a stud conversion, while Ferodo DS2500 pads and EBC discs sit behind the spokes.
In terms of looks, the E30 really doesn’t need much help – subtle is often best to enhance the styling and that’s definitely been the approach here. The Aegean blue paintwork looks stunning, rich and deep, and the unpainted carbon bonnet is no less gorgeous. Other exterior additions include an eyebrow, crosshair headlights and all-red tinted rear lights. The interior, on the other hand, has received a bit more attention, as Nicholas tells us. “The car started off with a plain standard non-Sport interior but I’ve always had Sport seats in my previous E30s and knew how comfy they were so wanted another set in this car.”
He spent months searching for a pair of Sport seats but, having drawn a blank, he changed tactic and bought a pair of OMP buckets instead. Of course, no sooner had he installed them in the E30 than a pair of chequered Sport seats appeared at a good price, so he snapped them up and got rid of the buckets. And, as luck would have it, a few weeks later a rear bench, complete with headrests, and in the same pattern, popped up so Nicholas jumped on it, so to speak, and in a very short space of time had put together a rather lovely Sport interior.
In addition to that he’s fitted a suederimmed #OMP steering wheel with snap-off boss, AC #Schnitzer short-shift gear knob plus a rear blind-equipped parcel shelf. It’s smart, clean, period and suits the rest of the car, with a few subtle hints to suggest that there’s more going on here than meets the eye. We are well and truly in love with Nicholas’ E30, he’s really built himself an amazing machine. From the outside it looks so right – the colour is stunning, the carbon bonnet is spectacular and it really delivers the perfect blend of subtlety and aggression, with no single element feeling over the top or out of place, and that too can be said about the engine. It sits in the bay perfectly, looking so at home, and it’s turned this E30 into an absolute weapon.
“The huge engine is my favourite mod on the E30,” smiles Nicholas, “because the car is very inconspicuous looking.” He’s going to keep it looking that way, too, when he carries on with the mods this year: “I plan to add some fatter tyres and beef up the brakes as I’m only currently running 2.5 brakes allaround with DS2500 pads and EBC discs which fade after a couple of minutes of hard driving, and supercharge it,” he says, which is really going to turn the heat up on this E30 and take it to the next level.
Gorgeous Aegean blue on the outside, sexy Sport seats on the inside.
The S50 fits perfectly in the E30 engine bay and took owner Nicholas a week of work to get it fitted and running.
The engine is my favourite modification on the E30 because the car is inconspicuous looking Nicholas Arnold.
DATA FILE #BMW-E30-S50 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW / #Rota-Grid
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S50B32 / #S50 / #BMW-S50 from E36 M3 Evo, #ACL race bearings, #ARP con rod bolts, #Ramair filter, Millers Nano Drive oil, custom manifold and steering linkage, Simons race silencer and full stainless system with single dolphin tip, custom plug and play wiring loom, #AKG engine mounts, M3 3.0-litre oil pump, E34 sump, sump baffle.
TRANSMISSION Five-speed #Getrag gearbox, #Racing-Dynamics short shift kit, E34 M5 Sachs clutch with 4.5kg billet steel flywheel, E36 prop, E36 2.8 LSD in E30 medium diff case.
CHASSIS 8x16” (front and rear) black #Rota-Grid-V wheels with 195/40 (front and rear) Toyo Proxes T1-R tyres, stud conversion, fully polybushed except Z3 diff bush, #H&R anti-roll bars, #BC-Racing coilovers, #Ultra-Racing strut braces, M3 eccentric lollipop bushes, reinforced rear subframe, E30 91mm brakes and hubs, #Ferodo-DS2500 pads, #EBC discs.
EXTERIOR Respray in Aegean blue, Lite Tuned carbon fibre bonnet, crosshair headlights, eyebrows, red tinted rear lights.
INTERIOR Chequered Sport cloth interior, OMP steering wheel with snap off boss, #AC-Schnitzer short-shift gear knob, rear blind parcel shelf.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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Building a competitive hillclimb and circuit machine is no mean feat, as this S50-powered E30 ably demonstrates. Taking the Australian race circuit and hillclimb tracks by storm, this M3-powered 1983 E30 proves age is no barrier to speed and fun. Words and photos: Iain Curry.
Old BMWs never die, they just get faster’. As bumper stickers go it’s a pretty corny one, but for a certain Australian E30 the line was so perfectly relevant owner Piers Harrex couldn’t resist adding it to his racing car’s rump. With as good as 300 horses at the rear wheels, this 32-year-old E30 has been saved from the scrapheap and turned into one of Australia’s most accomplished and feared circuit and hillclimb weapons.
It’s the latest creation from the dream factory that is Brisbane-based RX Automotive, a BMW specialist that is the go to place for any serious racing or fast road upgrades in the Sunshine State of Queensland. Piers is the current star driver of the family business, established nearly 40 years ago by his British-born father Simon Harrex, himself having enjoyed a stellar racing career Down Under. Harrex senior kept busy away from the track with a race car fabrication and preparation business, and soon discovered the benefits of specialising in BMWs; growing a passion for the marque that son Piers has inherited. Harrex junior began an apprenticeship at his dad’s workshop as soon as he finished school, but before venturing into BMWs began enhancing a Toyota Celica and then created a Group A-style SD1 Rover with a worked engine. “With the Rover being an English car, it got to the point where the interior was breaking all the time,” Piers said. Dad Simon may be of English heritage, but he knew the Germans trumped the Brits in a car’s reliability stakes, so suggested his son try a BMW – specifically an E30 model – if he wanted to start hitting the race track.
Ever since his first introduction to the E30, Piers has never budged from his belief they are superb race cars. “I’ve had six now I think, either wrecks to take parts from or racers,” he said. The most desirable from his point of view are pre-1986 E30s as this year is the cut-off point for many permitted modifications in the Improved Production racing class he’s competing in this year.
This brings us to his immaculate E30 racer, which began life in 1983 as a white 323i. It had been sitting in a car yard practically abandoned for a few years before the Harrexes handed over $250 (just over 100 quid) and trailered it away. “The driver’s window had been smashed and rubbish was being thrown into it,” Piers said. “One of my first jobs with the car was to remove a mouldy loaf of bread from the interior!”
Progress then moved apace. Piers stripped the interior entirely and took a high pressure cleaner to the shell, repaired the small amount of rust he found and had a roll-cage welded in. For a more enhanced racing look he sourced fibreglass wheel arch flares in the shape of BMW’s venerable 2002 Turbo models from 1973, cut out 70mm of the original guard and fibreglassed them in place. He then gave the rolling body to Queensland paint guru and PBMW feature car owner Julian Seeger, who applied Voodoo blue paint from Toyota’s funky Rukus model. “As a race car it needed to be a colour that was bright and stood out against all the other cars out there,” Piers explained, and the modern colour certainly adds more verve to this E30’s body.
The exterior has also been modernised with a fibreglass front bumper created using a mould of Australian Touring Car legend Tony Longhurst’s Benson and Hedgessponsored BMW E30 racer. A custom aluminium splitter was added to this, while the #1983 BMW’s chrome rear bumper – which had to remain in situ for the Improved Production series – was taped over and colour-coded for a sleeker style. Under the wider arches are Alpina 7x15” rims from the first generation E21 3 Series, which proved ideal for an old school style and meeting the size requirements stipulated by the Improved Production rules. These are shod in Yokohama A050 semi-slick tyres, which Piers said were ideal for hillclimbs as they are sticky even when cold: there are no warm up laps in hillclimbs remember.
A common upgrade well-known in E30 circles is using VW Corrado brake discs and Mazda RX-7 four-piston callipers front and twin-piston Nissan Skyline callipers rear. Piers has done just this to improve stopping power, and in a nice touch to hide the imposter brake parts, he’s added yellow BMW Motorsport stickers to the calipers. Suspension-wise the racer has opted for a Ground Control setup – using Eibach springs and Koni shocks – which Piers said is well-proven for track and hillclimb use. The serious work has really come under the bonnet. The Improved Production class allows for certain engine swaps, and Piers has done so by transplanting a 3.0-litre sixcylinder and its five-speed gearbox from an early E36 M3. This engine had detonation problems, so Piers used just its original block and head, building up the rest using brand new components.
It has been enhanced with 308/315 Schrick cams, larger VAC Motorsport stainless one-piece valves, high compression CP forged pistons and Carrillo rods, then given a carbon fibre air box and Exhaust Innovations manifold leading in to a full custom system. A Bosch 044 fuel pump helps deliver Powerplus 108+ race fuel from a boot-mounted aluminium tank and through Teflon braided hoses, with the whole setup managed by a Motec computer.
It means this 1983 one-time 150hp 323i is now good for a confirmed 298hp at the rear wheels and 384lb ft of torque. Incredible stuff for a naturally aspirated S50B30 sixcylinder, but to be expected from a racing workshop no stranger to getting the best out of these BMW M Motors. And with the old E30 weighing in at just 1010kg with Piers in the car, that’s a very handy power-to-weight ratio. The gearbox that came with the 3.0- litre E36 M3 motor – the old five-speed manual – has been retained and given an adjustable throw gearstick, while an E36 328i driveshaft and E30 M3 75% locking diff give more confidence for race weekend. It’s true racing business in the cabin, and like the rest of this car, beautifully finished. The driver has a carbon kevlar race seat – from a former V8 Supercar (the Aussie version of our touring cars) – and is held in place by a Sparco four-point harness. Piers has custom-made the dash panel and centre console to contain all the switches, lights and instruments, headlined by white Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges. Another nice touch – and wonderfully lightweight – is the woven cloth for the dash and doorcards, custom-made by specialist #Aerospec .
So, in reflection, quite the race tool. We caught up with Piers competing at one of his favourite Australian events, the infamous Noosa Hillclimb. It is just under one mile of steep gradient and 14 turns, with the course lined with concrete barriers one side and tree-lined drops the other. In other words, mistakes are always expensive. Piers said he was able to run the whole course in third gear alone once he’d got away from the start line thanks to the 4.67 ratio diff he used from an E30 M3 (this is one of ten he chooses from depending on the type of race event). Thinking about every hundredth of a second as a race driver should: “Why waste time changing gears?” he said.
Taking class honours in the 2014 Noosa Hillclimb and 15th out of 153 overall, it wasn’t a bad weekend’s work for the E30. With a happy grin Piers explained that his latest creation is a lot more animal than anything he’s made before. “Even so, it’s very neutral to the driver; I thought it would be more taily,” he said. “It still lights its wheels up, but it’s very predictable. Yet so versatile is this old E30 – helped by Piers’ expert mechanical setup – that the blue beastie can be tackling one of Australia’s race circuits almost immediately after a hillclimb. And rest assured it will be terrorising 911s on long track straights just as much as it does Subaru Imprezas in the bends.
“As a race car it needed to be a colour that was bright and stood out against all the other cars out there”
“One of my first jobs with the car was to remove a mouldy loaf of bread from the interior!”
DATA FILE #Hillclimb #BMW-E30 / #BMW-E30-Hillclimb / #BMW-E30-S50 /
ENGINE 3.0-litre straight-six #S50B30 / #S50 , 308/315 #Schrick cams, #VAC-Motorsport stainless one-piece valves, high compression CP forged pistons and #Carrillo rods, carbon fibre air box, Exhaust Innovations manifold leading into a full stainless steel exhaust system, #Bosch-044 fuel pump feeding #Powerplus 108+ race fuel from boot-mounted aluminium fuel tank, #Motec-M84 engine management system. 298whp and 384lb ft of torque.
TRANSMISSION #ZF-Type-C five-speed manual from E36 M3 3.0-litre, E36 328i driveshaft, E30 M3 75% locking diff.
CHASSIS 7x15” (front and rear) #Alpina E21 wheels with Yokohama A050 semi-slick tyres, #Ground-Control suspension using #Eibach springs and Koni shocks, VW Corrado brake discs with Mazda RX-7 four-piston callipers (front) and Nissan Skyline twin piston callipers (rear).
EXTERIOR Fibreglass front bumper created using a mould of a B&H-sponsored Australian Touring Car E30, custom aluminium front splitter, #BMW 2002 Turbo-style fibreglass wheel arch flares over the original guards after 70mm had been cut away, taped over and colour-coded chrome rear bumper, carbon fibre bonnet and bootlid with pins (replaced by standard steel items for Improved Production racing), Toyota Rukus Voodoo blue paint by Jo Seeger Smash Repairs, colour-coded kidney-grille surround, black plastic wrap over headlight lenses with custom painted chrome rings clipped on, E30 DTM mirrors.
INTERIOR Fully stripped interior with V8 Supercar carbon kevlar racing seat, #Sparco four-point harness, Momo suede steering wheel, white Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges in custom panel, adjustable throw gear stick, custom Barsted Rollcages roll-cage, Aerospec woven cloth for dash and door cards, boot-mounted aluminium fuel tank with Teflon braided hoses and ProFlow pressure gauge.
THANKS #RX-Automotive Brisbane, Jo Seeger Smash Repairs Hervey Bay, Robert Novak of Definition Motorsport for the Motec and dyno work.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.