- Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationBook your flights to Portugal now / #BMW-M3-Convertible-E30 / #BMW-M3-Convertible / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW
RM Sotheby’s has announced a special single collection sale with all cars at no reserve. The 130-car Sáragga Collection sale on 21 Sept in Comporta, Portugal will feature an eclectic mix ranging from a Maserati Royale to several 911s and this BMW-M3-Convertible-E30 . rmsothebys.comStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationE30 M3 STAYS COOL AT 215MPH / #BMW-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-M3-E30
A tuned E30-generation #BMW-M3 has broken the ice speed record in Sweden. Buldre Racing Team recorded an average speed of 212mph at the Swedish Speedweek in Årsunda, recording a high of 215.5mph on one run.
As you might have guessed, it’s no factory-spec M3, though – under the bonnet is a #Toyota-2JZ pumping out 1300bhp. This beats the team’s previous effort in an Audi RS4, which had the safety net of four-wheel drive...Watch it at
Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationMARK B’S #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW
Well it’s been a busy month or so and I’m pleased to be able to say that all remains well with my E30 M3. In fact, a recent trip up to Silverstone for the Pistonheads Sunday Service saw me cover nigh-on 550 miles in one day.
The only real drawback with living here in Cornwall is everything else is just so bloody far away! Oh and that we don’t have a race circuit, although once my lottery millions roll in I plan to remedy that situation with a mini Nürburgring! I simply need to win the lottery first! Anyway, I had never driven Silverstone before, but the Pistonheads event had 30 minute sessions available for just £40, so I figured it was worth the trip. As well as a chance to get out on track there is usually a good mix of cars there to drool over and there was even a bit of sun forecast to make an appearance. I also knew that Sam Ratcliffe was due to be there in his stunning E46 M3 track car, which is just about my perfect specification. Added to which he can pedal a bit and who doesn’t like seeing an M3 getting used properly on track? In fact, look up DannyDC2 on YouTube and you can see both Sam and Dan driving their M3s back at Silverstone a week or so later.
Anyway, the trip up in the E30 went without incident, although it has to be said that the Nankang AR-1 tyres aren’t exactly ideal on a cold autumn morning. I did consider swapping over to my spare wheels that wear an all-weather Toyo TR1, but as the forecast was for dry and bright weather I figured it best to stay with the Nankang and just be a bit more careful driving up. Once I was within a few miles of Silverstone I soon began to spot other cars heading to the same event. I ended up in convoy with a pair of serious-looking Caterhams, a stunning blue 911 GT3 and a Clio Sport. It reminded me just how useful a roof and windscreen are as the Caterham looked a bit of a chilly and damp place to be thanks to the early morning drizzle.
Once we reached the circuit I was directed to the pit garages, while the rest of the convoy went into the main car park and joined the rest of the event. There were so many great cars there and a few rarities, such as the Renault 5 Turbo 2 and a pair of Nobles. There were several of the usual suspects that you see at track days, such as a 911 GT3 RS and the later incarnations of the M3 and M5, with a lovely track-prepared E34 M5 being a favourite of mine. The drizzle had stopped but the track was still pretty wet and there was certainly no visible dry line. Sadly one unlucky M3 owner had a pretty big off and wiped out the front of his car in a big way. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt, though, and an initial inspection suggested his M3 wasn’t beyond repair. It was still a sobering reminder of how quickly things can go wrong if you push a little too hard or get caught unaware by changing track conditions.
The time for my sessions soon rolled around and I lined up in the pit lane behind a lovely-looking Noble. The track had been drying out but there were still lots of wet patches to look out for and I knew my tyres needed a bit of heat before they’d have any real grip. There was also the added factor that my only experience of Silverstone was driving it at home on the PS4 and Project Cars, where spinning out in a Group A E30 M3 doesn’t matter. I opted to try and stay to the right (letting the faster cars past with a cursory flick of the indicators to confirm my intentions) and simply enjoy being on such a historic track and being able to really stretch the E30’s legs. One of the many things I love about the E30 M3 is just how communicative the chassis is. It’s just so easy to feel exactly what the car is doing beneath you and the feedback through the steering means that even clumsy amateurs like myself can make a reasonable job of putting a respectable lap in. The more laps I did, the drier the racing line got and the more my confidence grew. The only downside was that the KW Competition suspension I run is just a bit too firm for wet conditions. Ideally you want a bit of body roll, so the weight shifts and pushes the tyre contact patch into the tarmac, so I could have disconnected the ARB if I’d had more time, but it was still great fun all the same and reminded me just how capable the E30 M3 really is out on track. I had a couple of moments going into the faster corners where the inside rear caught the wet outer edge of the track and lost grip but it just made me more determined to go back once spring gets here next year.
The drive home (after checking the engine oil, coolant, tyre pressures etc.) was just as uneventful as the drive up. I always enjoy seeing people react to spotting a track prep’d E30 M3 go past amongst a sea of modern Euro boxes, though. The engine has been great and, even out on track, the oil and coolant temperatures stayed perfectly constant, as did the oil pressure. I’m off to Mallory Park in late November so will need to change the oil and filter before then and have Joe at ARM BMW do a spanner check. I also plan on fitting some new brake pads from Pagid and fitting a vinyl sun strip on the windscreen now that the winter sun is so much lower, as the cage stops the OE sun visors from being used. I’m also thinking of getting Apex to supply a set of their stunning dished ARC-8 alloys.
THANKS Joe @ ARM as ever Pistonheads Sunday Service Silverstone Circuit Nankang UK Apex
BMW E30 M3 felt at home around Silverstone.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationMARK B’S #BMW-E30-Coupe / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-S14
Since rebuilding the engine a few months back, I have tried to use the M3 whenever I can and it finally has the reliability it should have had. The engine performance is really strong and using the M3 in competition meant I was able to really drive it harder than regular driving allows. I kept the rev limit to just over 8000rpm for longevity and while 250hp isn’t much by modern M3 standards, combined with a shorter final drive and the low weight of a partially-stripped #BMW-E30 , you have a car that’s quicker than you might imagine. The combination of induction noise (thanks to the DTM carbon air box) and harder edged exhaust tone (from Eisenmann’s excellent Race exhaust system) only add to the experience. Whilst I always loved the look of the old ex-works race car clocks, they just didn’t allow me to keep close enough an eye on what was going on within the engine, which is why STACK suggested I run their classic analogue rev counter and LCD display. I must say, I am glad I followed their advice as having literally every parameter covered and the information available at my finger tips has meant I have total confidence in the BMW-S14 and its health. I can’t say it hasn’t been a pretty steep learning curve, especially when it comes down to learning which modifications work and which don’t, but I’m finally at a point where everything has come together. The additional cooling (thanks Rad-Tec) and tricks like remounting the oil cooler (albeit a slightly larger Mocal unit) mean the engine now runs at its optimum with power and performance being consistent no matter ambient temperature and altitude, thanks to running DTA Fast engine management. This wasn’t the case with Alpha-N, when the car could feel totally different from one day to the next. It just seemed incredibly sensitive to changes and I’m sure that wasn’t good for the engine. Thankfully that’s all in the past now.
This past week saw MOT time roll around again (where does the time go?!). Thankfully ARM take care of this for me and as I know there’s no corrosion to worry about, plus the mechanical side is about as well maintained as it’s possible to be, I really didn’t have too many concerns. Usually it’s something trivial like the headlight adjustment or a blown bulb but this time it was a straight pass with no advisories. Job done! We also did a gearbox and LSD oil change as I plan on doing a track session at Silverstone at the end of November. I’ve never driven Silverstone before, apart from in Project Cars on the PS4, so I’m really looking forward to driving such an iconic track. The video from Petrolicious is also live now and I must say thank you for the positive comments. It’s been a tough few years if I’m honest and I have some more tough times ahead, so I’m extremely grateful. Sadly this may mean my selling the E30, although I am currently trying to find an alternative solution, but please feel free to contact me should you be interested.
Mark’s awesome M3 in action
Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationMARK B’S E30 M3 #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-S14 / #resto-mod /
There are some events that simply stand head and shoulders above the rest and the Retro Rides Gathering is one of them. Despite a few location changes over the years, it continues to be the class of the field as far as I am concerned. This year saw a multitude of cars descend upon Shelsey Walsh where, set in the hills of Worcestershire, is one of the UK’s premier hill climb tracks. Established in 1905 it has seen a glorious array of cars and drivers, stopping only for the two world wars. I had been before, so knew what to expect and although this was very much a ‘for fun’ event, it doesn’t stop you trying once the light goes green.
In the days before Retro Rides I was able to get Joe Geach of ARM BMW and Motorsport to spanner check the car and change the oil. I had already backed off the KW suspension to full soft, so as to afford as much compliance as possible. It’s still very firm but allows for some roll and better grip on the slower, tighter corners. In the quick stuff the M3 still felt totally planted and gave me loads of confidence to push on. Now, I’m no natural talent and certainly haven’t missed out on a career in the BTCC or DTM, but I’ve driven a fair few race cars (including an outing in a Formula Opel Euroseries car. A genuine slicks and wings formula) and my personal best in a race-prepared E30 325i is a 59.7. Now considering I’m built for comfort and not speed, I was pretty happy with that.
I usually leave Cornwall at 3am and make my way up to Shelsey, but this time I went all posh and got myself an Air BnB in Hereford. This meant I could have a lie-in till 7am, grab a shower and enjoy some of the beautiful roads that area has to offer. I’d driven up the day before and crossed the Severn Bridge for some B road fun en route. I even managed to find a jet wash close to Shelsey and got the M3 pretty clean considering the 250+ miles I’d covered and beat the queues to boot. Driving from Hereford to Shelsey, with the sun shining, windows down and the S14 singing, is a cracking start to any Sunday, let alone one with the Gathering to follow.
One of the great things about Retro Rides is the eclectic mix of cars, with nothing newer than 1995. It really doesn’t matter what you drive so long as it’s old enough, and the atmosphere is terrific. On a personal note, I’m always made to feel so very welcome and it’s a real pleasure seeing the many familiar faces year-on-year. It’s that which keeps me going back time and again.
As those of you who read my ramblings will know, it has been a tough year or so with my M3. It seemed that every time I left Cornwall the engine would let me down, and not in a small way. Much as I love the S14, it is extremely expensive to rebuild and I’ve been chasing reliability issues for months now. The biggest problem has been with the bearings and the supply of OE quality from independent suppliers. Hopefully, it appears to have been third time lucky and the M3 is now running better than it ever it has. Even with some of the hottest ambient temperatures of 2018, power was a strong 250hp+ on ARM’s dyno, with the rev limit set at 8.5k for engine longevity. It sounds absolutely glorious, especially now there are a few miles on the Eisenmann/Supersprint exhaust system. The pops and crackles on overrun are epic and, along with the induction noise from the carbon air box, it almost sounds like a proper DTM car.
The mix of cars at Shelsey included a selection of Bavaria’s finest, including a ’60s 1600-2 with a supercharged M42 that was owned and built by James of JFi Classics in Brecon. There was also an S54-powered E28 flying up the hill and sounding glorious. Very much a home-brewed M5 and one of my personal favourites of the day.
As well as having fun on the hill at Shelsey Walsh, I have been working with Thomas Garner Films and Mumbo Vlogs, who were shooting on behalf of Petrolicious. I’m going to hazard a guess that if you’re reading this, you’ll know Petrolicious and the content they put out on YouTube. If you don’t, you’re in for a real treat. The video will be up in October so just search for ‘Petrolicious BMW E30 M3,’ sit back and enjoy. You’ll also find relevant content on Instagram at mark_e30m3 and official-mumbo.
Finally, if you’re in Cornwall around mid September, be sure to pay a visit to Watergate Bay and see what is billed as being the UK’s first closed road speed event. It takes place over the weekend of the 15/16th September 2018 and you’ll see a brace of E30 M3s being driven as they were designed to be. There are some very special cars and drivers entered so check out www.watergatebayhillclimb.co.uk for further information. Feel free to come say hello if you visit the pits too! If you can’t make it, I’ll try and bring you an in depth report after the event.
E30 looked the part at Shelsey Walsh. BMW M3 E30 will be a YouTube star very soon. M3 received plenty of attention.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationOUR CARS MARK B’S E30 M3
/ #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-S14 / #resto-mod /
As I write this, last week was the first Retro Rides Gathering at Goodwood and a date I had marked in my diary a good few months back. The chaps at Retro Rides always put on a good show, with their August events at Shelsey Walsh being just about my favourite of the year. Goodwood was a first, though, and with a combination of static show and track action it was also going to be popular. There was also bound to be a good selection of classic BMWs, with many having a resto-mod flavour.
Personally though, I was looking forward to getting my E30 M3 out on track and enjoying all the hard work done over the past year or so. Living in Cornwall is lovely but the only real downside is everywhere being so far away. I could have camped at Goodwood but opted to use Airbnb and find myself a place to stay close by instead. Before leaving, though, I figured I would get local valeters iShine to come work their magic and get the M3 looking its best. Much as I love my car, detailing just isn’t my thing! I also did a thorough spanner and fluid check to make certain all was as it should be, before loading my suitcase and crash helmet, then heading off towards Goodwood. In fact, it was Chichester I was staying at and the journey up couldn’t have been better. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the M3 was in its element on the twisting A roads of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. Being so warm, as I headed through the New Forest I opened the windows and enjoyed the induction noise, with pops and bangs from the exhaust on overrun. It had to rank as one of the best journeys I’ve done in the M3. I arrived at the #B&B in good time and was up early on Saturday, getting petrol en route to the circuit, with the sun still shining.
Goodwood is a fantastic circuit. It’s fast and flowing, with some double-apex right-handers that really suit the E30 M3. The warm ambient temperature also meant the Nankang AR-1 tyres were at their best and I was looking forward to putting them through their paces. I knew they were good from using them on the street but that simply doesn’t compare to lapping a circuit. On a track day I would have dropped cold air pressures to around 20 psi but this was a sprint format that consisted of a standing start from the pit lane and two flying laps. There was also a second chicane that had been added to the back straight, in an effort to slow things down a little. There were morning and afternoon sessions, with 40 cars in each that were divided into groups of five. Cars were released one at a time, with about 15 seconds between them, so as to spread the cars out on track. Overtaking was also forbidden. The track action was always going to be about fun rather than competition with such an eclectic group of cars anyway. I had a Studebaker ahead of me and a ’60s Ford Galaxy behind, so you see what I mean.
My first two laps were more about remembering the corners than pushing the limits of the car. Even so, it wasn’t long before I found myself riding the rear of the Studebaker. I backed off, enjoyed the views and once the gap had grown again, nailed the accelerator, enjoying the sound of the S14 revving up toward its redline. I know I’m biased but it sounded glorious. In the past I have always tried to short-shift the gears and get the M3 settled into the corners, carrying as much speed as I can.
I must say I was incredibly happy with the performance of the #Nankang-AR-1 tyres. The levels of grip were excellent right from the off and they were certainly consistent. My first introduction to Nankang was of a cheap tyre most often used by drifters and, if honest, there was a bit of a stigma attached to the name. It is pretty clear that Nankang have done some serious development and, as a control tyre for the #M3 cup, the general consensus was it’s a very good tyre indeed. It will be interesting to see how well they last, when compared to the likes of the Toyo R888R, but their performance is certainly next level. Yes, they’re not exactly ideal in wet weather but they were never meant to be. It’s hard to see how you could get a better track day tyre for the money, though. The only negative being there isn’t quite the choice in sizes I would like, but hopefully that may change in the future? Anyway, big thanks to Ben Lawson at Nankang UK.
The M3 runs KW Competition suspension and it felt so planted, really giving me the confidence to carry so much speed through the corners. My previous experience had been with my old #BMW-325i-Coupe-E30 race car but the M3 is in a whole other league. As I passed the chequered flag I was able to scroll through the various readings on the Stack dash display and everything was well within the limits so we rolled around to the paddock and awaited our next laps.
Whilst sat in the paddock we shuffled our group of five cars around, with the M3 going first as it was the fastest. Now I could really push on without catching slower traffic, although I was also mindful of this being fun and not competitive. As we had a few minutes I was able to take a look at some of the other cars and especially the other BMWs. How about a 1970 1600-2? I love ’02s anyway, but this one belonged to James of JFi Classics in Brecon. James and I have been friends for a few years now and he has put together some terrific cars. This ’02 has a real sting in the tail, with a supercharged #M42 under the bonnet. The registration plate FLY is pretty apt and the whine of the supercharger is phenomenal. There was also another E30 M3, but rather than being powered by an S14 it has what was the first #LS1-V8 conversion. Power is around 450hp so it was always going to be quick. My personal favourite is a car I have known since I first discovered BMWs 30 plus years ago! It’s a 2002 Touring but with M30 3.5 power and triple Weber carbs. It has to be said, this is just about my perfect ’02 specification and a credit to Ian Elliott who has built and developed it over many years.
As time came around for my next laps, James from JFi’s son jumped in as a passenger, having never ridden in an E30 M3 before. Obviously with such a valuable cargo I wasn’t going to go 10/10ths but after the first lap we were both enjoying the performance of the M3 and all those clichés that have been written for the past 30+ years. The second lap was certainly my quickest of the day, carrying more speed through Woodcote and braking hard for the right, left of Chicane as we entered the pit straight and crossed the finishing line. It was as we passed that line the dash warning light flashed and the Stack display showed ‘Low Oil Pressure!’ accompanied by the unmistakable sound of bearing knocking. I immediately killed the engine and coasted to a halt. My weekend had just taken a nosedive.
The next half hour was mainly spent staring in disbelief. I had done everything I could to guard against this scenario yet here I was, looking at yet another incredibly expensive engine rebuild. What I just couldn’t understand, though, was why? The reason I had installed the digital dash display from Stack Ltd, was that it allowed me to keep a close eye on exactly what goes on with the engine. The custom rad, larger oil cooler and baffled sump were also fitted to allow the S14 to be used as it was designed to be, on track. I’ve been almost obsessive in keeping watch over fluid levels and temperatures yet here I was with another engine failure. As you can imagine, my enthusiasm for the rest of the weekend took quite a knock so I opted to get the M3 transported back home so that ARM could get the engine out and back to the builder.
A could of days later Joe at ARM took off the sump and it was soon clear that cylinder number one’s big end shell had spun. Added to that, the rest of the bearings look to have worn prematurely and you’d never believe this was an engine that had run for just 300 hours. What we couldn’t see though, was a reason to explain the failure and without that I couldn’t rebuild and gamble that it could happen again.
The next couple of days saw me calling and emailing anyone with experience of using BMWs S14 in competition. They all agreed that I appeared to have taken pretty much every precaution and both the ECU and Stack memories confirmed that there were no excessive coolant or oil temperatures, the engine had never been over-revved and the only thing that was shown was a momentary (and pretty catastrophic) loss of oil pressure. It was then that I mentioned that the crank had been subjected to a +0.75 regrind and it is this that seems most likely to have been behind the failure, due to its removing the nitriding that gives the crank strength. In fact a few people have since told me that they just wouldn’t regrind an S14 crankshaft at all, let alone as much as +0.75 and that I need a new crankshaft before I rebuild my engine once again. I also need to replace at least one of the Arrow con rods as the end cap has blued from the heat generated by the spun shell. Thankfully Russ, at JC Racing in Thirsk, has come to the rescue. So there we go. As it stands today (and things may well change between now and your reading this) I have a pretty expensive parts list to fill. I had no idea that the S14 crank couldn’t be reground but as they say, every day is a school day and this was an expensive lesson!
BIG THANKS TO Joe at ARM BMW, Kirby at C3 BMW Russ at JC Racing, James at JFi Classics Nigel at Moseley Motorsport I also owe a huge amount to my long-suffering partner Claire. I think it’s fair to say she hates the M3 and would rather I sold it and took up knitting instead
Nankang AR-1s impressed on track. The M3 was treated to a detailing session. Compbrake #BBK great on track. #BMW-E30-LS1 #V8-swapped-BMW-M3-E30 was also on track.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationMARK B’S E30 M3 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-S14
Well after six months and goodness knows how much overtime, we are finally on the home straight and looking to fire up the #newly-rebuilt-S14 for the first time. Initially we had thought all that was required was a new timing chain and tensioner, although that in itself is a job that used to put people off M3 ownership, along with stories of huge servicing costs and supposedly fragile and highly-strung engines, especially when they got to the kind of mileage where top ends started rattling! Someone then had the presence of mind to fit an E36 tensioner and, suddenly, running an S14 didn’t seem like such a risky prospect.
In fact, my own M3 was fitted with the E36 tensioner but with the mileage passing the 100k mark, a rebuild was long overdue. As my car had actually been involved in a small bump, the timing chain cover was cracked and needed to be replaced. This really means the head should come off and so, whilst we did that, it made sense to take the opportunity to open out the inlet ports at the same time. While we were doing that we figured we may as well slot in some Schrick cams.
You can see where this is going, can’t you? A severe case of “While you’re in there…” followed, with CP pistons, H-section rods and the final piece of the puzzle being a swap from Alpha N to DTA Fast stand alone management. All being well, not only will the S14 now be far more responsive but it should also make considerably more power. The guys at Vink Motorsport have supplied one of their four-branch manifolds, which is a bit of a work of art and should certainly help get that extra fuel out. If you look online, you can see some stunning E30 M3s built by Ton Vink and his team.
A newly-built S14 is a bit of a jewel so the engine bay really needed to be tidied up. We also removed any brackets that weren’t needed and replaced the ageing plastic reservoirs with shiny alloy. The bay has also been given a fresh coat of brilliant red to complete what has actually been a bit of a transformation when compared to how it was when we started. As well as fitting a new clutch, a lighter flywheel seemed like a good idea and Automac came up trumps. We are also extremely grateful to the guys at C3 BMW in Kent, who supplied a newly-rebuilt Getrag 265 dogleg gearbox, which is topped off with a shifter from Samsonas.
The only thing we are still waiting on are the three-piece alloys from AGS. They’re a five-stud version of the E50 centre locks that factory race cars ran back in the day. Last we heard, the new barrels are drilled and away being polished so hopefully it won’t be too much longer till they’re back and ready to be built up. There’s also a new set of Toyo R888s sat ready for when that day finally arrives.
So, right now it’s all about mapping and the man tasked with the job is Sandy Brown. He’s mapped a few E30 M3s now, including ARM BMW’s rally car, and as I write the dyno is booked for later this week. Before that, though, the ITBs need to be synchronised and new mounts fabricated for the TPS and crank sensor. All being well though, this time next month I should be able to let you know what numbers we get and how it feels on the road.
Freshly-built S14 now fitted and being mapped.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderation/ #1990 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30
SOLD FOR £34,650
BMW E30 M3s are certainly hot property at the moment and this late model 215hp machine was originally a European car but was imported to the UK in 2005. It presented well in Diamond black with a black leather interior and while it did have some after market modifications – suspension, throttle bodies and DTM style exhaust – it did also have an extensive history file. Sadly it no longer had its original engine and while the odometer was showing 162k km it’s thought its real mileage should be in the region of 202k km – it’s believed the mileage having been adjusted when the new engine was fitted. Given these inconsistencies it wasn’t surprising that it didn’t sell for really strong money and as Anglia had it down with a pre-sale estimate of £33,000-£38,000 it looked to be about right in today’s market when it sold for £34,650 (including buyer’s premium). What was more of a surprise was when it popped up six days later on Eclipse Car Sales’ website for £60,000…Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationEvolution Not Revolution Gorgeous US E30 M3. There’s a purity to the E30 M3 that’s ensured a strong and devoted following over the years. But that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to tweak and refine them… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Jordan Unternaher.
High-end resto-modding is big business these days. We see it in all corners of the automotive world – Eagle will sell you a Jaguar E-Type, if your pockets are sufficiently deep, with better-than-new bodywork, classic looks, and thoroughly modern power, suspension and brakes. Singer will do the same for a Porsche 911, Icon offer a new-old Ford Bronco, it’s everywhere. Jensen Interceptors, Peugeot 205 GTIs, you name it.
The E30 we see here, however, is a slightly different interpretation of the timeworn resto-mod ethos. It hasn’t been stripped down to its component nuts and bolts in a hermetically sealed lab then rebuilt as a sort of retro-modern pastiche of its former self.
No, its owner, James Dallas of Ohio, has instead chosen to optimise and contemporise his iconic three-box 3 Series by following two distinct paths: firstly, to cherry pick the finest parts from the evolutionary E30 timeline, and secondly to bring all of that glorious power and tactility screaming into the 21st century. This, then, is an M3 re-imagined – a fulfilment of a cerebral vision, spirited into reality via the medium of methodical and careful planning. Like a chef who’s ever so precise about the measurements of their ingredients, this is proper less-is-more stuff.
An interesting approach, really, given how more-is-more the E30 M3 was in spirit in the first place. What’s key to remember is that time has mellowed the lines of this box-arched whippet; it’s no longer a hooligan bruiser, but a bona fide collectors’ item honed for B-road blasts and spirited forays into licence-losing velocity.
“I’ve been into BMWs forever, really,” says James. “I owe it all to my uncle Dennis for properly getting the obsession going - they are such amazing vehicles, and the drivability of the E30 is unprecedented; a true driver’s car. The first BMW I bought was actually a 1998 M3 sedan,” he continues. “It offers the best bang for your buck, hands down! Simple as that.” This practical everyday-superhero still sits on the Dallas driveway, but it’s the older upstart that’s drawing all the attention today. James had dabbled in modifying the newer car with uprated suspension, Dinan parts and basic bolt-ons, but the acquisition of this poster-boy of homologation allowed the scales to fall from his eyes as he began to view BMW ownership in a fresh light. Well, not so much ownership, not any more – call it curatorship.
“It’s the true benchmark of the M3 family,” he enthuses, “the way it connects you to the road and really makes you drive the thing is something you just can’t experience in newer cars. It’s also the one car that I’ve genuinely always wanted to own - the body lines are something we’ll never see the like of again.” He’s right; it is impressive how the reworked E30 transformed the svelte everyday saloon into something pumped-up and muscular. It’s worth remembering just how many body panels were junked from the standard car by BMW M to create this near-mythical beast.
“This M3 originally came from the East Coast – New Jersey, I think,” says James. “I actually purchased it from California – I’d say the condition was fair-to-good at that time. And yes, I definitely had a plan in mind for the car right from the start; I knew the exact wheels I wanted, the overall style…
I’ve always enjoyed the look and excitement of the old DTM cars, so that was definitely a major influence and a huge inspiration.” First things first, though – these have always been function-over-form cars, it’s just a happy coincidence that they happen to look frickin’ awesome, so James’s first job was to ensure that the oily bits were all just so. That iconic S14 engine (employing just four cylinders, chosen because it was small and light, but more than happy to make mincemeat of contemporary six-pots) was lovingly torn to bits and fully refreshed: all-new OEM parts - the thermostat, belts, plug wires, and then came the addition of cams, head studs, and a Turner chip to imbue a fresh sense of urgency. Any S14 is a good S14, but one that’s operating as-new and then a little bit more is very much a thing to aspire to. Stay in school, kids – these things can be yours… “I didn’t really run into any problems, but it was a long and tedious process to say the least,” he recalls with a grimace. “There was a lot of sourcing BMW factory parts. A lot!”
One area that will definitely stick in the craw of the purists is the suspension, as many will argue that there’s not a damn thing wrong with the stock setup. But in the spirit of resto-modding, James was keen to make sure that the handling matched the power in a thoroughly modern sense, and that’s the reason why you’ll find a set of high-end Ground Control coilovers nestling perkily beneath those lantern-jawed arches. “I felt it was the best overall choice for response and handling for the car,” he shrugs. And it’s his motor, so what he says goes.
The styling is what’s really interesting here, as it eagerly feeds that whole overarching less-is-more ethos with a keen sense of the historic timeline of the E30 M3’s evolution. You see, the timeline in a nutshell (heavily edited, as we don’t have space to chew over the full history here) is that the model arrived in early 1986 in Europe – America had to wait another year – and it immediately embarked upon a programme of constant reinvention. The M3 Evolution arrived in 1987, rocking a revised cylinder head, and then 1988’s Evolution II knocked things up a notch with all sorts of engine upgrades – compression ratio, intake, management, all sorts. It also had thinner glass, a deeper front airdam, an additional rear lip spoiler and lighter bumpers.
Befuddlingly, the Evo II is generally referred to as the M3 Evolution as BMW didn’t recognize the original M3 ‘Evo’ as sufficiently different to merit a different name.
Confused? Try the subsequent Evolution III then, which was actually the Sport Evolution – this #1989 model had further extensive engine upgrades along with adjustable front and rear spoilers, lower suspension and wider wings…
But let’s not get bogged down in history, or nitpicking, we don’t need to discuss the minutiae of the Tour de Corse, Europameister, Cecotto or Ravaglia editions here. Suffice it to say that James had read up on his history and carefully chosen the best bits from each of these evolutionary steps to turn his E30 into what he deemed to be perfect: the Evolution II front lip, the adjustable Sport Evo rear spoiler, the Evo air box, the Evo II steering wheel – subtle differences, probably only noticeable to true E30 nerds, but vital stuff nonetheless. It’s this dedication to geekery that really makes the build pop.
“It was always going to have BBS RS wheels,” says James. “Truly, I feel they are the best period-correct wheel for this vehicle, and I think they look fantastic. It fits perfectly with the old-school DTM look I was going for. I didn’t want to change anything with the interior though, as the M3 has the Cardinal carpets, which are pretty rare, so I left it factory. Just freshened it up, cleaned and re-bolstered the front seats.”
A few further modifications were carefully stirred into the mix over the course of the eighteen-month resto-mod exercise, in the form of a short-shifter and a tighter Z3 steering rack, and James’s favourite upgrade of them all is the diff: “I swapped in a 4.27 LSD, and I love it,” he smiles. “It gives you that immediate response as you come out of a turn or as soon as you hit the gas.”
And that’s the point of an E30 M3, isn’t it? Immediate response, granular feedback, the synthesis of man and machine working harmoniously as one. Sure, this example might have concours judges turning up their stuffy noses, but they’re not the ones driving it. James’s modern reinterpretation of this iconic and dreamlike car is pretty much spot-on – less-is-more, and at the same time utterly outrageous.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3 / #BBS / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-M3
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.3-litre four-cylinder #S14B23 / #S14 / #BMW-S14 , #Eisenmann exhaust system with DTM tips, #Evolution air box, #Turner chip, #Schrick cams. Five-speed manual gearbox, 4.27 LSD
CHASSIS 8x16” (front) and 8.5x16” (rear) #BBS-RS wheels with 255/40 (front and rear) BF Goodrich tyres, Ground Control coilovers, Ground Control camber plates, cross-drilled discs, Z3 steering rack
EXTERIOR Salmon silver paint, Evo II front lip, Sport Evo rear spoiler
INTERIOR Original Cardinal Red interior, Evo II steering wheel
THANKS First and foremost, my uncle Dennis. Also, Cam Peugh, Ian Simon, Robert Santen, Chris Balich, and Brian from Mworks for helping refinish the RSsStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.