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    HARDCORE S54 E30 Thunder from Down Under

    SKIN DEEP #S54-swapped E30. Words and photos: Chris Nicholls. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and Andrew Burke’s home-built, DIY-painted E30 is exactly the reason why.

    “Why are you shooting that little thing?” says a passer-by during the shoot. I casually pop the bonnet and see his eyes widen. “Jeez, there’s some work gone into that,” he says, before firing off a few photos on his phone and walking away. This sort of thing happens several more times during the shoot and it’s easy to understand why.

    From a distance, this is just another E30 track car. The matt black paint, done as a last resort after troubles with the painter, is hardly the last word in beauty and the stock M Tech II body kit isn’t going to set anyone’s world alight either. No, things only get interesting when you get close. It’s then that you see the custom Forgeline wheels and fat, circle-track StopTechs and imperial-sized AP Racing J-hook discs (chosen because imperial gear is cheaper than metric). Next, you peek inside and notice the #Motec M800 ECU sitting on a custom carbon plate on the floor. And the oil lines for the Peterson dry sump kit running next to it. And the Motec C127 colour dash logger and Tilton pedals. It just doesn’t stop. Finally, you pop that aforementioned bonnet and see the immaculate S54 with carbon cover and CSLreplica intake nestled in-between the strut towers, surrounded by Goodridge Teflon hoses and a Peterson oil pressure primer pump. If ever there was a car to prove that sometimes, the opposite of the idiom ‘beauty is only skin deep’ applies, this is it.

    The back story of this Australian E30, as you might suspect given the engineering involved, started several years ago (six to be precise) when owner-builder Andrew Burke picked up this 325is to be a street-registered track day build. Having got tired of risking his E92 335i road car on the track, he thought back to a 1989 E30 brochure he got as a kid and decided that would be a better bet. As most builds do, things started off small. Some H&R springs and Bilstein Sport dampers, rebuilt stock brakes and bolton exhaust, a short shifter and new Recaros did the trick for six months, but one track day at the wonderfully nicknamed Haunted Hills circuit (actually Bryant Park) in his home state of Victoria, Andrew noticed puffs of blue smoke on overrun thanks to some keen-eyed photographers. “That was all the excuse I needed to go ‘Oh, this motor could potentially have some kind of small issue in the next three, six, nine, 12 years, I should probably just swap the engine out right now’” he laughs.

    Thus began a long and involved process of finding and fitting a new motor. Having decided a resto-mod approach was best, he settled on an S50 and sourced one from the UK, but all was not well. “As all UK motors are, it was covered in corrosion, all the aluminium bits were all pitted from the salt and whatever other calamities occur over there in the middle of winter, so I didn’t do a whole lot with it other than strip it down to a short block and basically sand blast all the things,” Andrew says. Having cleaned it up, he found it still good enough to use, so left it standard internally and got to work fitting it. On went an E34 sump and 12° angled double-shear shift rod to get the now-twisted stock G250 five-speed to work with the AKG DTM shifter, some custom-made exhaust manifolds from Andrew Nicholls at Meridian Motorsport and a VFT E36 DTM-style carbon air box specifically designed to fi t S50s in E30s thanks to a notch cut into the back to clear the brake booster. To ensure that it all ran, Andrew cut and re-connected the stock harness himself and fitted an Alpha N ECU chip.

    However, while he may have cleaned it up, it turned out the engine’s not-so-perfect appearance was rather more indicative of its condition than first thought and sure enough, the number five journal went at a Winton Raceway track day in true S50 style. “A $350 tow truck ride home later [Andrew not having a trailer at the time and Winton being two hours from central Melbourne] we were sitting in the garage, the old man and I, saying ‘Well, we’re going to have to fix it, I guess’”. Andrew admits that even at that point, the idea of fitting an S54 came into his head, but he wasn’t quite ready to quit on the idea of an S50-engined E30 yet, especially having done so much work to make it fit.

    Thus, he decided that, rather than throw everything away, he would build a proper race-spec S50 and see what happened. Sadly, it’s here that Andrew suffered the all-too-common “bad workshop experience.”

    After searching around for a well-regarded builder, he thought he’d found one in a former Team JPS BMW factory race engineer in New South Wales, but while the specs were suitably serious, complete with 11.6:1 Wossner pistons, Pauter I-beam rods, 296° cams, Supertec Inconel valves and the current Peterson dry-sump system (designed to avoid ever spinning a bearing again), it “never made any real power.” “Without going into too much detail, it just fell on its face above 6000rpm,” he says. Worse still, it didn’t even last that long. A mere 500km of track work later and Andrew was sitting on the side of the Winton tarmac with two holes in the block from a rod and rod bolt respectively, oil pouring out everywhere and his car partially in flames thanks to starting a grass fire underneath it. The worst part? A postmortem found the likely cause to be poor assembly.

    “As I pulled the bits off the motor so I could get it out of the chassis, I found one of the ARP rod bolts was poking through the block on the exhaust side. I didn’t see it originally as a result, but it was poking through with all of its threads still intact. So it was not like the bolt snapped – it was like it completely unscrewed itself – and I can’t imagine a bolt that’s designed to be torqued to yield, if it was properly fastened, would have come undone. End of story. So that was that, which was a bit unfortunate.”

    Unfortunate indeed, and at around AU$30,000 (£17,000) for the engine, expensive. Andrew adds that figure doesn’t even include the cost of ancillaries fitted to deal with the extra power, the current 8x17” Forgelines, the previous SL6R and SL4R Wilwood calipers and discs (since replaced by the StopTechs because Andrew bought another road/track E30 he wanted to put those on), the custom-built AST two-way adjustable coilovers (again, since replaced by custom MCS two-ways) and several other mods besides. However, Andrew wasn’t prepared to throw it all away, so after convincing his wife he “wasn’t silly,” he pulled the trigger on a mint S54 with just 18,000 miles on it out of a wrecked Californian Z4 M.

    Being so new and from California, this motor was in stunning shape. There was no dust behind the water pump or alternator pulleys and even the internals, which Andrew inspected when he pulled off the sump to fit the Moroso dry sump pan, were unvarnished.

    Given he had no money to put new internals in it, this worked out perfectly. Plus, the S54 made more power stock than his built S50 anyway, so in it went, with only a Karbonius CSL-replica air box – fitted because the StopTechs meant he no longer needed the booster – a Racing Dynamics carbon engine cover, new custom exhaust manifolds (again from Andrew from Meridian, who by then had moved on to start his own venture called Trackart) and a few other mechanical pieces like an Eisenmann exhaust needed to make it work. At the same time, Andrew realised that to actually run the thing (especially given he was keeping Vanos and drive-by-wire), he would need to upgrade his dash from a set of Stack gauges to a Motec logger to ensure the necessary input and output numbers, and after contacting Jason Ingram at Advanced Motorsport Electrics to do the concentrically-wound, DR25 heat-shrunk harness and install it, he got it tuned by Lee at Melbourne Performance Centre and brought it up to Broadford State Motorcycle Centre for a shakedown, which is where we did the shoot.

    His impressions of the car now it’s finished (bar a cage)? “I was thrilled with the way that it handled and the way that it stopped even back when it had the second S50… but I was deeply disappointed on some level that it didn’t make as much power as I was expecting. It was certainly fast enough, but it never felt brutal, I guess. Whereas the S54 is still not crazy by any means, it just feels a lot more angry. It feels significantly more powerful.” Given this first shakedown was conducted at only half-throttle, that’s a brilliant portent and suggests that when this E30 is finally unleashed, its unassuming looks, combined with all that power and handling, will mean the opposition won’t see it coming.

    “If ever there was a car to prove that sometimes, the opposite of the idiom ‘beauty is only skin deep’ applies, this is it”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #S54 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-E30-S54 / #BMW-S54 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E30 / #Bosch / #BMW-E30-S54B32

    ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 , #Karbonius CSL-replica dry carbon air box, #K&N air filter, #Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, #Bosch-044 fuel pump, #Aftermarket Industries swirl pot, #MagnaFuel dry break billet fuel filters, #NGK-Platinum plugs, Setrab 19-row oil cooler with -16 fittings, Roush Yates carbon catch can, Peterson R4 dry sump pump, #VAC-Motorsports mount kit, #C&V HTD belt drive with VAC/ATI fluid harmonic balancer, -16 feed and return oil hoses, -12 scavenge, #Peterson scavenge filters, -10 pressure feed to VAC Motorsports oil manifold, custom #Moroso dry sump oil pan, Peterson single-stage remote oil primer circuit, Peterson billet four-gallon dry sump tank with custom #CNC bracketing, dual breathers and 100 micron filter screen, Canton billet five micron oil filter on pressure stage, #C&R-Racing oil filter housing with provision for secondary oil cooler circuit in rear of car, #Wix-Racing 51222R filter, Goodridge XF 910 and Brown and Miller (BRMS) Teflon hoses, VAC-Motorsports lights, accessories and alternator pulleys, ATI damper by VAC Motorsports, AKG-Motorsport Group N engine mounts, #Racing-Dynamics dry carbon engine cover, Trackart custom equal-length exhaust manifolds and custom 2.5” exhaust, Eisenmann E36 M3 rear box, Motec-M800-ECU , #Motec SKN dual CAN knock module, Advanced Motorsport Electrics custom concentricwound wiring harness with Kevlar tracers, Raychem boots, Souriau and Autosport connectors

    TRANSMISSION #G250 five-speed manual gearbox, #AP-Racing 7.25” twin-plate clutch and lightened cro-mo flywheel from E36 M3 R, AKG DTM shifter, PPF axles, re-balanced OE driveshaft, OE diff with extra clutch packs, Z3 M housing, custom transmission mounts and subframe reinforcements


    CHASSIS 7.5x17” ET20 (front and rear) #Forgeline-SO3 wheels with 235/40 (front and rear) Nitto NT-01 tyres, VAC Motorsports 90mm studs, #Motorsport-Hardware cro-mo nuts, 3mm spacers (front), Motion Control Suspension custom two-way remote reservoir coilovers, #Eibach 60mm springs, AKG Motorsport polyurethane, #Treehouse-Racing and custom #Delrin bushes, custom Trackart T45-based cro-mo front strut brace, custom front arb and mounts, Dave Stillwell rear anti-roll bar with custom mounts and reinforcement, full Aurora rose joints, #StopTech STR43 calipers (front and rear), #AP-Racing J-hook fully-floating discs, custom Motorsport Connections Teflon braided lines, Performance Friction PFC01 pads (front and rear), custom-machined 7057 T6 rotor hats

    EXTERIOR OEM Tech II kit, custom bi-xenon headlights based on TRS projectors and 3D printed adaptors, rear lights lightly tinted with Diamond black

    INTERIOR #AKG-Motorsport Delrin shift knob, AKG Motorsport DTM shift lever and short-shift kit, Alcantara gear gaiter, #Tilton 600 Series pedals, Tilton -4 fluid tank, #Speedflow lines, Tilton billet brake bias adjuster, Tilton fluid bias and balance bar adjuster, #Motec C127 dash logger, Recaro SP-A Kevlar V8 Supercar special edition seat, VAC Motorsports billet rails, Sabelt Ultralight harnesses, Personal Grinta 330mm wheel, Lifeline Group N boss with custom spacer, custom carbon panel behind wheel for light controls, custom Trackart harness bar, custom aluminium scuff plates

    THANKS Andrew at Trackart for the exhaust, brake cooling duct, harness bar and strut bar fabrication work, Marcos at Motorsport Connections for the Speedflow bits and hoses, Jason Ingram at Advanced Motorsport Electrics for the incredible work on the harness and Lee Burley at Melbourne Performance Centre for the dyno tuning

    Carbon engine cover and replica CSL carbon air box make this S54 even sexier.

    Single Recaro SP-A Kevlar V8 Supercar special edition seat.

    “After convincing his wife he “wasn’t silly,” he pulled the trigger on a mint S54 with just 18,000 miles on it out of a wrecked Californian Z4 M”

    / #Motec-M800 ECU mounted on custom carbon plate.

    Swirl pot, pump and filters mounted in boot.
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    BLUE STEEL #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW /

    Valencia Motorsports’ beautifully built, hardcore E36 track machine packs an S38 swap. Valencia European’s E36 M3 racer fuses raw power with immaculate presentation. And that’s probably not the M Power engine you were expecting to find, is it…? Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Eric Eikenberry.


    It’s a classic idiom: ‘you can’t put a quart in a pint pot’. It means, in essence, that you can’t do the impossible; there’s a finite amount of space in a pint glass – well, there’s a pint, isn’t there? – so logically you can’t squeeze a quart in there. A quart is two pints. You’ve been greedy, your eyes are bigger than your stomach.


    This is all so much half-hearted vintage nonsense, of course – nothing is impossible in the 21st century. We’ve got hoverboards, Skype, sat nav, er, Rubik’s cubes, it’s all good. If something seems impossible, humanity has evolved to think around the problem. There are no hard tasks, simply some that take longer than others. Want a pet unicorn? Bone-graft a horn on to a pony. Yearning to fly unaided? Strap on a squirrel suit. Fancy confounding your elders and squeezing a quart into a pint pot? Pour half of it in, drink it, then pour in the other half. Easy.


    Valencia European of Santa Clarita, California, demonstrate this modern thinking rather neatly with the gleaming blue race car you see before you. The E36 M3 is the pint pot, the massive E34 M5 engine is the quart. ‘Sure, it’ll fit’ was the ethos. The team just had to have a bit of a headscratch and figure out how. No biggie. So who are these guys, and what are they up to with this outrageous baby-blue racer? “Valencia European is an auto repair and collision repair shop in Valencia,” says head honcho Sean Salvino. Well, that cleared that up. He’s a matter-of-fact sort of guy, isn’t he?


    “We specialise in BMWs,” he continues, “and the main objective for this build was to market the shop and to show how passionate we are about what we do. My business partner, Bjorn, and I share the same passion for the M line. He’s more into the older-generation engines, as he believes that they were simpler in design yet have lots to offer.” So these are fellas who’ve made a business out of a hobby that they’re passionate about, and there’s no small amount of enthusiasm for the old-skool flowing through the place. That’s good, that makes sense – we can see why they opted for the E36 M3 as a project base, it’s a model that’s rapidly becoming the connoisseur’s choice.


    “This E36 M3 was actually my track day car for about two years before we decided to build it up into a race car,” Sean explains. “Bjorn and I wanted to merge our ideas of how we thought a race car should be done! There were two cars in the shop at the time that we contemplated using for the project – this E36 and an E34 M5. But since the M3 already had a basic roll-cage and race suspension fitted, it was a step ahead. The next question was the powerplant…” Now, there aren’t any bad M3 engines; they all have their own charms, competencies, capabilities and potential.


    But the E36 generation has been a bone of contention for some enthusiasts; namely those in North America. While the European-spec M-car enjoyed the 3.0-litre, 286hp S50 motor for the first few years before swapping to the 3.2-litre, 321hp S50, the USA received rather strangled engines: initially a 240hp version of the 3.0-litre S50, then a 3.2-litre variant of the M52 developed specifically for US-market M3s – the S52, still with 240hp, albeit torquier. A good engine, but not a great one, compared with what the rest of the world was enjoying. American BMW enthusiasts tend to simmer about this a bit, Sean included: “You and I know that E36 M3s here in the States got short-changed with the S52 not having individual throttle bodies and so on,” he fumes. “So we decided that instead of using that motor, the E34’s engine was the clear choice.”


    This is where we arrive at the amusing quart-in-a-pint-pot scenario. The hand-built wonder that was the E34 came bulging with a muscular 3.6-litre straight-six, the S38, producing somewhere north of 300hp out-ofthe- box. But, of course, any physics fans among you will have spotted that the M5 is bigger than the M3. “Being that it wasn’t your typical build, it challenged us more and more,” Sean admits, although not grudgingly.


    We get the feeling that he relished the challenge, that he and his team genuinely enjoyed the work. “The main issue that we had with it was the height of the S38 – the oil pick-up was sitting right on the engine and suspension crossmember, with the intake manifold up against the hood. We attempted to move it back at first, but we agreed that it was going to adversely affect steering geometry, so we left it alone. We ended up redesigning the oil pan for it to sit lower and maintain the same engine position in the car as how the BMW engineers had designed it, while shaping the hood to allow for the extra engine height.” This is a solution that makes itself glaringly obvious from the outside, particularly when you view the car in profile – that vast power bulge in the bonnet is a none-too-subtle harbinger of the furious power that resides within. It looks rather like the bulge you’d find on an Aston Martin V8 Zagato, which is pretty good company to be in.


    It’s a fairly spicy interpretation of the venerable S38B36, too – Valencia has kitted it out with a massive custom air intake, an Ireland Engineering race-spec aluminium radiator, and the pulleys from a later 3.8-litre S38, while the spent gases are forcefully exhaled through a fancy straight-through exhaust. It really does sound the business. “After hearing it on track, people always comment on how good the car sounds,” Sean grins. “They always say it’s how a BMW should sound! I’ve also encountered people following me to the race track to see what the car was about, drawn in by the noise…”


    The fact that it has not only squeezed the vast engine in there, but made it work effectively is something that should be applauded. And equally impressive is its approach to the interior; with a dedicated track car, it’s so easy just to strip the cabin of everything superfluous and leave it at that. But Valencia’s E36 is truly a sight to behold once you’ve swung open the lightweight driver door. The roll-cage is staggeringly hardcore, the gussets and hollowed-out door skins speak of singleminded purpose, but it’s the clinical icewhiteness that truly catches the eye. They really have done this properly. Furthermore, peering back from where the passenger seat would have been, you get a glimpse into the book where the struts for that towering rear spoiler are chassismounted.


    It’s a Bimmerworld race wing with custom high-rise uprights, and it’s not exactly subtle. Neither are the arch flares, custom-fabricated in steel to wrap around those square-setup 10.5”-wide Apex ARC-8s, and it’s all hiding a thoroughly sophisticated chassis that begins with an hors d’oeuvre of Ground Control coilovers, serves up adjustable ARBs for the main course, and tops it all off with a dessert of brake upgrades, before enjoying some seamwelding over brandy and cigars.


    What’s the upshot of all this effort, then? A trophy or two, perhaps, or just some good ol’ rough-and-tumble track fun? “We took first place in the Global Time Attack Limited RWD Class at Chuckwalla Raceway in 2013,” Sean beams. “Then there was the Redline Time Attack at Willow Springs Raceway, where we again took first place in the Modified RWD Class, and won the Super Session – something we went on to repeat at the Redline event at Buttonwillow Raceway.” It seems, then, that the plan has worked.


    With either Sean or Don Pastor behind the wheel, this mighty M3 is kicking butt all over the West Coast, and doing a damn fine job of showing the spectating public what Valencia European is all about – sure, it can hammer the dents out of your 1 Series or figure out why your dash is full of warning lights, but its skill-set goes far beyond the everyday. These are a bunch of guys who know a thing or two about building race cars, and that’s a very useful reputation to have. The fact that the car is as immaculately presented as it is devastatingly effective is a sizeable cherry on a very delicious cake. Redefining what’s possible is something they take in their stride – to hell with physics, this quart of engine sits very happily in its shiny blue pint-pot.

    DATA FILE

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.6-litre straight-six #S38B36 / #S38 / #BMW-S38 , #S38B38 cam gears, #Kempower Speed sensor delete, custom harness, Ireland Engineering race aluminium radiator, electric cooling fan, custom 4” intake and #K&N filter, E34 M5 oil cooler, custom engine mounts, custom 3” straight-through exhaust, E30 M3 #Getrag-265 / #Getrag gearbox, custom transmission mounts, six-paddle racing clutch, custom propshaft, 4.27:1 LSD.

    CHASSIS: 10.5x17” (front and rear) ET25 #Apex-ARC-8 wheels with 18mm spacers (front), 275/40 (front and rear) Nitto NT01s tyres, 90mm Motorsport Hardware extended lugs, #Ground-Control race coilovers, Ground Control camber/castor plates, #Eibach 550/650 spring rates, #H&R adjustable anti roll-bars (front and rear), Ground Control race trailing-arm solid bushings, SPC rear camber arms, front lower control arms, #Delrin bushings, ABS delete, manual brake bias controller, custom steel braided brake lines, Raybestos race pads, tubular front bulkhead/radiator support, seam-welded front shock towers.

    EXTERIOR: Dzus-fastened bumpers and bootlid, Alumalite front splitters, Alumalite drive planes, custom metal wide-body flares, deleted door handles, frame-mounted Bimmerworld race wing with custom uprights, sunroof delete, custom fibreglass bonnet, Racequip tow strap.

    INTERIOR: #Sparco steering wheel, #Sparco-Pro-2000 racing seat, Crow Industries harness, Longacre rear view mirror, I/O Port window net, full gusseted roll-cage.

    This may be a stripped-out track car, but it has been finished to an exacting standard. Interior is finished in white with a full gusseted roll-cage and the bare essentials.

    S38 is a bit of a squeeze but Valencia managed to make it fit and gave it a few upgrades for good measure.
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