- Post is under moderationThe V8 is a dying breed, it’s an old-school engine that feels a little out of place in this ever-changing modern world but it is a treasure that must be cherished and it’s up to people like us to make sure that V8s are properly loved and cared for and never forgotten, which is why in this issue we just so happen to have a #V8 buying guide for you. We’ve picked three non-M and three M #V8-powered machines, all sexy cars that you’d love to own, covering a wide range of budgets and there’s pretty much something for everyone here, so if you’ve always fancied a V8 but have always made excuses not to buy one it’s time to stop, read our guide on, and then go shopping.
In terms of features, we’ve got an awful lot of boost for you this month – which is never a bad thing – and we kick things off with our beast of a cover car. This ’90s icon has been endowed with the power of forced induction; with a monster turbo strapped to its S52, this E36 M3 is pushing out a massive 605whp on stock internals and this square-jawed bruiser is an absolutely awesome machine. Sticking with turbos we also bring you an E28 that’s packing a turbocharged S38 under the bonnet for a stunningly subtle retro sleeper package, while the UK F80 M3 we’ve also got looks as stealthy as an M3 can but its S55 has been treated to just about every bolton under the sun and it’s making some serious power as a result. Flying the flag for superchargers is an absolutely full-on #BMW-Z3 M Coupé – we don’t see many of these quirky machines but the ones that appear in these pages are never less than absolutely epic and this one is no exception, thanks to its supercharged S54 making 740whp. Off the back of all this forced induction, we’ve slipped in a tech guide to turbos, and then we’ve got event reports, a wild #JDM-styled #BMW-3-Series-E46 M3, beautiful Santorini #BMW E36 328i, stunning bagged #E30 320i and loads more for you to enjoy.
Next month we bring you an absolutely awesome 500hp wide-body M235i and it’s all about making a big impression. All that’s left for me to say is please enjoy the May issue and, as always, I will see you next time!
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Gorgeous bagged #BMW E30 with an #S52 swap and shaved bay
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
In the same family for almost 30 years, this ridiculously clean E30 has undergone quite a transformation in that time. Some heirlooms leave a more lasting impression than others, as we discover when we meet Nick Lanno from Ohio. Words: Louise Woodhams. Photos: Patrick McCue.
It’s not often a car stays in the same family for almost 30 years, yet this 1987 325iS is the very same car that delivered Nick Lanno – the subject of our story – from hospital when he was born, and 15 years later became his first car.
That was in 2009, and Nick, now aged 22, has completely transformed the car from what it once was. He takes up the story: “My father bought the car brand-new from David Hobbs BMW in Chillicothe, Ohio, and he drove it on a daily basis right up until my teens, so it was always in the garage while we were wrenching on other vehicles together. That’s where my passion for cars started.”
Nick couldn’t help but fall in love with the E30 and as soon as he was old enough he began to research these cars. That’s when he got hooked on the blue and white roundel, as he explains: “The fact that they are truly a driver’s car is what attracted me to them the most. The heritage and history behind all these classic BMWs that people own is so interesting and they almost always carry a great story. I love every car BMW has made to this day and I will always be a BMW enthusiast.”
This was the car that took Nick to school, to soccer games, to friends’ houses, you name it – it was a huge part of his life and quite often he would while away the hours thinking how incredible it would be to own it one day. In 2000 it went into storage, and then, much to Nick’s surprise, nine years later it was taken out of storage and given to him on his 15th birthday! His childhood dream had come true.
“There was no other E30 I would rather have had than this car. It was perfect and despite having clocked up 120k, it was immaculate; all OEM parts, original paint, absolutely rust-free, and it had a full service history,” he recalls.
Needless to say it did not stay 100 per cent original for long. In fact, the first thing Nick did as soon as it was in his possession was lower it on a set of Ireland Engineering race springs. Other modifications included all red tail-lights, smoked Euro Smiley headlights and side repeaters, a later model front valance and a Zender rear valance. Shortly after that, the car then went back into storage so that over the next few years Nick could save some money and let the real transformation begin.
Once again it was the suspension that demanded Nick’s attention first: “After pouring through different forums looking at the various setups, I knew that to get the drop I really wanted I’d have to look into a custom air-ride setup.” Up front he’s installed Air Lift’s Crafter Series struts, while Air House II bags and Bilstein shocks reside out back. The rear spring perches were modified for the bags, as were the front spindles for the struts. The system is managed by Air Lift’s Autopilot V2, with plenty of presets all at the tip of Nick’s fingers in the centre console. “The setup is so convenient, making road trips as comfortable as can be, yet the car still handles fantastically in the corners. I have the best of both worlds,” he adds.
The car remained in this guise for the next three months, until one fateful day when the timing belt from the original M20B25 snapped. This prompted the next stage of the build. “I sourced a low-mileage S52B32 out of a 1999 M3 from a good friend in Cincinnati with roughly 70k on it,” Nick says. “I completely regasketed the motor from top to bottom, as well as safety wiring the oil pump nut, before fitting 21.5lb injectors, a lightened flywheel, and a 3.5” intake setup.” Together with a few friends, the swap took about a week to do. Apparently the maiden voyage with open headers put one of the biggest smiles on Nick’s face to this day. Not surprisingly it came to life as a completely different beast that day.
After two years of driving it across the States to various shows, Nick wanted to take the car to a new level – he wanted to shave, tuck and customise the engine bay. Fortunately a good friend of his owned a body shop so once Nick had pulled out the engine to take care of tidying up the wiring harness and deleting any non-essentials such as air-con and power steering, the car was sent off for six months to begin its transformation. “Everything looks so neat and beautiful under the bonnet now, but the star of the show has to be S52. It is so reliable and has plenty of power to make the car feel a blast to drive. It brings a smile to my face every time I’m behind the wheel.”
Whilst this car’s spec is a far cry from when Nick’s father bought it all those years ago, it’s still managed to retain its factory charm. And that’s because his objective throughout the build has been to keep things clean, simple and classy. The same philosophy has been applied to the cabin of the car, which is relatively stock save for the Nardi steering wheel, custom stitched M-Tech style gear knob and gaiter and Coco mats, which are all period-correct for the car. “I wanted the car to retain its original feel,” Nick says. “I’ve even kept the seats, which are fairly worn now, but it gives it character.”
Like any true project, the car has gone through various incarnations of wheels, including BBS RSs and CCWs, but Nick eventually settled for 8.5x16” (front) and 9.5x16” (rear) Schmidt TH Line wheels shod in 205/40 rubber that you see on the car now, and we have to say that they suit the stance, lines and age of the car perfectly.
This is not a car created with a blank cheque book; it is a car with tons of sentimental value to the owner and gradually improved over time with the help of friends and family. It’s been built to drive and to enjoy, it doesn’t sit in a garage or on a trailer and we love the fact that whilst Nick put his own stamp on it he’s taken a wholly sympathetic approach in his choice of modifications. Now it’s finally complete all he plans to do is simply drive it. “It has taken a lot of effort to get the car to where it is today but it was a journey which has led me to meet a lot of fantastic friends and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. The car is a big part of me and something I am most definitely proud of.”
Along with the life lessons and skills that a father teaches a son, there are also certain material things that you pass down – like a tool kit or, in Nick’s case, a dream car. In these increasingly disposable times, fewer and fewer items are worth saving and giving to your children, so we hope Nick sticks to family tradition and passes his treasured 325iS to his own son or daughter.
DATA FILE #BMW-325iS #S52 air-ride #E30 / #BMW-325iS / #BMW-325iS-S52-E30 / #BMW-325iS-S52-Air-Ride-E30 / #BMW-325iS-E30 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-E30 / #S52B32 / / #BMW-S52 / #Bimmerworld / #Getrag-260 / #BMW /
ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 / , 21.5lb injectors, 3.5” #Euro-MAF , 3.5” #Bimmerworld-Silicone intake boot, air-con and power steering delete, #M42 radiator, TMS remap, Condor Speed Shop engine mounts, custom longtube headers and 2.5” exhaust including #Vibrant race resonator; shaved, tucked and resprayed engine bay
TRANSMISSION OEM #Getrag 260 five-speed gearbox, #Sachs-HD clutch, #MWorks-Garage custom transmission crossmember, #Condor-Speed-Shop Speed Shop transmission mounts, lightweight flywheel
CHASSIS 8.5x16” (front) and 9.5x16” (rear) #Schmidt-TH-Line wheels with 205/40 (f&r) Nitto Neogen tyres, #Air-Lift universal front struts, #Air-House II rear bags, #Bilstein rear shocks, #AutoPilot V2 management including five-gallon tank and #Viair-400C compressor, drilled and slotted brake discs and Hawk pads, brake booster delete, E21 master cylinder, tucked brake lines, stainless steel braided clutch slave line
EXTERIOR Later model front valance, iS front spoiler and bootlip, smoked Euro Smiley headlights and side repeaters, all red tail-lights, #Zender rear valence, #Shadowline trim
INTERIOR Nardi Classic steering wheel, custom stitched #M-Tech-style gear knob and gaiter, Coco mats, #Dynamatted back seat and boot
THANKS All of my good friends in BHC, and those that had a hand in the build, my father and Anthony at ASC Autoworks
Front end, like the rest of the car, is incredibly clean, with a late model valence and iS front spoiler. #AutoPilot-V2 management offers eight presets and countless options; gorgeous 16” Schmidt splits suit the E30 perfectly.
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- Post is under moderationROCKET FROM THE CRYPT
An #BMW-E30 four-door rocking a #Nissan-S13 Rocket Bunny kit is not something you see every day… The combination of Nissan Rocket Bunny kit and E30 won’t appeal to everyone, but that’s not what this build is about… Words: Peter Griffiths Photos: Jason Edwards.
Well, what have we got here then? I’ll tell you what we’ve got: a big statement. It’s a big statement about the scenes that have given birth to it and, most importantly, it’s borne of a love of those same scenes. I love big statements that are borne of the right intentions, and the intentions here are nothing to do with us; it’s what the owner wanted that matters. If you are reading this and think you might have a sensitive disposition or anything of a purist, conservative set of opinions in terms of modification but remain determined to read on then all power to you, but brace yourselves. Oh yes. Brace yourselves.
Obviously, it’s an E30 Saloon. But it has two more doors than most modified E30s and that is quite significant. The four-door saloon is possibly the last of the model variants to experience the favour of the classic #BMW scene, let alone the modified scene. Even the Touring, despite being the best of the E30’s many shapes, has picked up a fanbase on the modifying scene before the four-door saloon. So many noses on the modifying scene have been turned up at the lowly four-door over the years that it makes it highly unusual to find one as the focus of a project like this. Owner Rhys Walters, though, relished the thought: “I decided to build the #E30 out of curiosity. I had a completely standard 325i sitting outside and I couldn’t sleep one night, so at about 3am I went out with nothing but the light from the torch on my phone and started looking at her, thinking what I could do to make this my dream E30.”
Rhys is no stranger to the BMW brand. “I’ve been into BMWs for as long as I’ve been into cars. It’s down to their reliability and great build quality. I can trust their engines when I’m drifting on the limiter on track. They’re special to me because of the accessible rear-wheel drive and the shape of the older models, such as the E30 and E28, is just beautiful. My first BMW was an E30 #BMW-325i . I bought it for £400 specifically to go drifting. It had nothing but one bucket seat and a harness in it. I painted it black and pink and loved every second of it.”
Returning to Rhys’s driveway: “I had a couple of small arches sitting around so I took those outside with me and started eyeing them up. I liked it but as the arches on an E30 already protrude from the body quite nicely, it wasn’t quite the change I was looking for. Due to my drift background and love of Japanese cars I instantly thought of the #Nissan-S13-Rocket-Bunny-kit . I then spent the next couple of hours researching to see if there was anywhere I could buy E30 Rocket Bunny arches from. I was soon beginning to think there was nothing available. I could only find two E30s with the kit, both in the US and both were twodoors, so it was then I decided to build this car. I wanted to build the first Rocket Bunny ‘more-door’!
“The car began its transformation at home on my drive, where I started cutting it up, slicing all the arches off and cutting the inner rear skins and footwells, all done in the rain! Once the arches and footwells were cut I could fit the wheels.”
Rhys’s choice of rims are very similar to BMW’s own M-system IIs, but he had other ideas: “I considered a lot of wheels like Rotas, XXR, BBS, and Klutch. I wanted something wide with a bit of dish but didn’t just want to buy off-the-shelf, and I stumbled upon these 10.5J 17” KW Turbos. They’re a fairly rare wheel, with only two sets in the UK and the other set are 16”, so these are the only 17s in the country.
“Next up was fitting the arches. The only arches available to me at the time were for a Nissan S13 and, needless to say, they did not fit, so I had to cut the kit and re-fibreglass where needed to get it to sit the way I wanted, this was fine until I got to the rears as I wanted the doors to open. At this point I was really regretting the four-door idea and was tempted to weld them up, but I bit the bullet and cut through the arch and began the fabrication to get the doors to open and meet at the correct curvatures. The petrol cap also had to be fabricated to fit, too.
“All the M-Technic II Aero kit was in mint condition and I know a lot of people want this kit so initially I thought I’d try and sell it to someone restoring a mint example. Unfortunately, due to the fact it was a four-door car, I didn’t get much interest. I was quietly happy about this because I was itching to put it on but it just felt wrong to cut it up. Well anyway I did. I cut it all to fit with the arches and was just so happy to have an M-Tech II Rocket Bunny. It was like Germany and Japan working together in harmony!”
Moving to his unit at work, Rhys got down to giving the project some proper attention, pulling some all-nighters in the course of a three-month build. Rhys’s interest in Jap cars manifest itself through the ducktail (taken from an E36). He also added a front aero, splitter and struts. “I’ve always wanted a touring car-inspired E30 and the extra lip on the front really suited the theme I was going for,” he told us. “The oil cooler being externally mounted is not exactly practical or safe but it’s my final homage to the ZokuSha influence”
This project is particularly ballsy because it serves as a showcase for Rhy’s business, as he tells us: “Apart from the external oil cooler, I’ve done no engine modifications whatsoever because I run a bodyshop and I only offer bodywork. I wanted people to see the car and know that I can offer all you see. I didn’t want a 500hp beast which would distract from the bodywork and possibly misrepresent what I can do at my shop.” A lot of the appeal here is that nothing would be too extreme. No matter what you asked for, there would be no judgement or watering-down of ideas by Rhys.
This car certainly does court controversy, in subtle ways too. For example, its looks black on first glance but look twice! Rhys explains: “When it came to painting the car I refused to spend any more money, so owning a bodyshop really helped. I had left over paint from several jobs so I literally just bunged it all in a tin, mixed it together, and that’s the colour you see now. Sometimes it looks black, sometimes a bit silver, and in the sunlight it even has a brown and bronze tint to it.”
The finishing touches all fell into place nicely. “A friend offered me a set of mint Sparco recliners in black I couldn’t resist,” says Rhys. “I then re-upholstered all the carpets in jet black, fitted a deep-dish wheel and after a decent wash most of the original interior cleaned up really nicely. I didn’t want to change the interior too much as I love the styling of the E30. The car is now complete and looks just as angry as I had always imagined.”
You can ask him for the full story about that skull on his bonnet, but Rhys is pretty enigmatic about it: “I couldn’t help but laugh to myself when I stood back and saw it. Modifying has got so strict recently and people are taking fewer risks with it just in case their mates don’t agree, so this was my ‘I build my cars for myself’ statement.” Rhys hasn’t wasted any time in enjoying the car and getting out there. “The first show was a local one hosted by Cruise North Wales and Petrolheads North Wales. They’ve been so supportive of the business right from the beginning that I felt it would only be fair to reveal it to them first. The reaction was insane. There was so much positivity for the car, it made it all worthwhile.”
From small respray jobs for mates under a wedding gazebo on his drive to owning a well-established custom bod shop after starting with nothing but a tiny bit of capital and a lot of hard work, Rhys has got to the point where he can point a finger at the wilfully contrary modified scene where rules govern freedom of expression, and just put all the rules in the bin. The old rules are obsolete; don’t take it too seriously and do whatever you want.
“I was just so happy to have an M-Tech II Rocket Bunny. It was like Germany and Japan working together in harmony!”
DATA FILE #BMW-325i-E30 #M20 B25
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.5-litre straight-six #M20B25 , external oil cooler, five-speed gearbox.
CHASSIS: 10.5x17” (front and rear) #KW-Turbo wheels with 215/45 (front) and 225/45 (rear) tyres, modified #Prosport coilovers (front), lowering springs and dampers from a set of coilovers (rear), strut brace.
EXTERIOR: Front splitter on strut bars, tow hook, Nissan S13 Rocket Bunny arches, E36 ducktail spoiler, Subaru Impreza side skirts, shotgun shell wheel nut covers, camo boot wrap.
INTERIOR: Deep-dish drift steering wheel, #Sparco reclining bucket seats, Sparco harnesses, jet black carpet, twin 12” Fli 2400W subs.
THANKS: David Booker at Anglesey Auto Tint for the awesome job on the windows, Slambox, Unit 13 for its continuing support, and cruise North Wales car club for always supporting me right from the beginning.
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- Post is under moderationBMW E30 M3 vs 333i vs 325iS Three of the Best #M30 #M20 #S14
We pitch the South African 333i and 325iS Evolution against an M3 for an E30 battle. Everyone loves E30s and this triumvirate must rate as three of the most desirable of the breed. The iconic M3 goes head-to-head with the South African-only 333i and 325iS Evolution Words: Johann Venter. Photography: Oliver Hirtenfelder.
So finally the day has come where we can measure up these legendary box-shaped beauties. This has to be one of the BMW showdowns of the century and who would have thought it would happen under African skies?
In the left corner we have the two contenders, the E30 333i and the #E30 325iS Evolution. The 333i is painted in Aero silver and weighs in at 1256kg. It develops 197hp (145kW) at 5500rpm and has a maximum torque of 210lb ft (285Nm) at 4300rpm. The 325iS is painted in Ice white and weighs1147kg. It develops 210hp (155kW) at 5920rpm, and has a maximum torque of 195lb ft (265Nm) at 4040rpm. In the right corner the reigning world champion, the E30 M3, is painted in Lachs silver and weighs in (from new) at 1200kg and develops 200hp (140kW) at 6750rpm and has a maximum torque of 177lb ft (238Nm) at 4750rpm.
Today is going to be a brawler; we are out in the west of the province of Gauteng approximately 40 kilometres outside of Johannesburg at the Delportan Hill in Krugersdorp which has been a popular hillclimb venue since the ‘60s. We are in ‘Cradle’ country not too far off from here are the Sterkfontein Caves – a World Heritage Site where ‘Mrs Ples’, a 2.1-millionyear- old skull, and ‘Little Foot’, an almost complete skeleton that’s three-million-years-old were found.
According to some it’s the birth place of humanity, giving rise to the name Cradle of Humankind, but enough of that, let’s get back to the job at hand. To appreciate the significance of the E30 3 Series in South Africa we need to take a step back and understand the relevance of this model in South African car culture.
The E30 with its three-box outline can trace its DNA back directly to the 2002 which was an integral part of the Neue Klasse, which followed the Bauhaus design philosophy that lasted for 40 years within BMW; with a distinguished sculpted shoulder-line, airy glass-house cabin, slender roof-lines and minimalistic cockpit. This was carried over to the E21 3 Series and is firmly rooted into the E30 3 Series. Sadly, though, the 2002 was never manufactured in South Africa and imported in rather small numbers. Worse still is the fact that the E21 was never officially imported. South Africans were therefore starved of a compact sporting BMW saloon until 1982 when the Rosslyn plant starting producing the E30 3 Series, which has resulted in an absolute cult following of the model this far south of the equator.
This immaculate Aero silver example of the 333i, with just 90,000km on the clock, happens to be the nicest of the four colours in which they were offered. The other colours included Diamond black, Henna red and Ice white. This is number 103 of the 204 that were sold in South Africa between 1985 and 1987, a total of 210 were produced including prototypes and test mules. It cost R41,300 (£16,312) when new in 1985.
This car is no stranger to BMW Car’s pages and was featured in the January 2013 edition – complied by the then deputy editor Sebastian de Latour who was fortunate enough to pilot this rarity with me in tow. This car is in fact part of a prodigious BMW collection that was also featured in BMW Car in the August 2013 edition.
Vic Doolan and Bernd Pischetsrieder (of BMW South Africa at the time) are credited for the innovation of the 333i. The original intent was to compete in Group One racing but this was never to be as Group One racing was summarily cancelled at the end of the 1985 season – remember the M1 suffered a similar fate.
The concept was pretty straightforward: find one of the biggest engines in the BMW arsenal and cram it into the smallest, lightest body. The engine came from the E23 733i, which was partially chosen for its free-revving characteristics (3.2-litre, in-line, sixcylinder, 12-valve) – producing a maximum power output of 197hp (145kW) at 5500rpm and maximum torque of 210lb ft (285Nm) at 4300rpm.
The development of the 333i was a collaboration between BMW SA, BMW Motorsport and Alpina. Just like with the E23 745i (which was also unique to South Africa, see BMW Car May 2013 edition) an extensive development and testing programme was embarked upon to ensure that the optimum cooling, gearing and noise levels were achieved.
Alpina played a crucial role in the development of the 333i providing the specially developed inlet and exhaust manifolds and plenum chamber, heavy-duty copper cored radiator and various other cast alloy bits. The Bosch L-Jetronic fuel management system was revised accordingly, all of which resulted in a substantially altered torque curve, boosting it substantially in the lower rev range. Alpina also provided the 296mm vented, grooved discs upfront, the suspension was fitted with Bilstein gas dampers with slightly stiffer springs, and it rolled on 16-inch 20-spoke Alpina alloys. The 333i was fitted with a dog-leg close-ratio Getrag ‘box and 25 per cent ZF limited-slip diff.
On the inside the most distinguishing Alpina component is the digital display pod mounted on the right central vent. It shows engine and rear diff oil temperatures, the engine oil pressure and manifold vacuum readings. The instrument cluster is also provided by Alpina with a speedo reading of up to 270km/h, with red needles normally reserved for M cars. The interior is rounded off with Sport leather seats, leather-covered Sport steering and a gear lever marked with the M tricolour stripe.
The exterior is rather attractive in that ‘80s kind of way, with integrated aero appendages which include a deep front spoiler, side skirts, a sweeping lip at the rear, and a black boot spoiler finishing it off. Owners had a choice between air-con and powersteering but could not have both as there wasn’t sufficient room under the bonnet. Telling them apart is easy: on air-conditioned cars the foglamps are absent, creating apertures that feed air to the condenser unit.
Just as South Africans were getting used to the idea of having fast compact Bavarian saloons around we were dealt a blow – the E30 M3 would not be coming our way as it was only produced in left-hand drive. That did not mean that the local motorsport scene would cease to exist. On the contrary and if #BMW-SA wanted to remain competitive it would have to develop its own track specials. So let’s try to get behind the myth that is the 325iS in order to decipher the legend.
The year 1985 saw the introduction of one of the most fiercely contested race series in South Africa, Group N for production cars. To remain competitive in 1986 BMW introduced the 325iS (Sport), more commonly known as the Shadowline among racing enthusiasts. To increase power from the standard 325i the compression ratio was upped to 9.8:1 thus increasing power output from 163hp (120kW) to 171hp (126kW). In this initial version the M Technik aero kit was definitely absent and not even an option – however, more importantly, Tony Viana won the championship that year and the following two years in his 325iS. In 1989 BMW offered the 325iS at a price of R60,080 (£13,735) with the option of the M Technik aero kit at R4095 (£936) – which included the front and rear spoiler, rear apron and side skirts.
The more significant changes to the car came in 1990 as BMW was struggling to keep up with the Opel (Vauxhall) Kadett which had also gone through various iterations in Group N racing, from Boss to BigBoss to SuperBoss. The SuperBoss was, as you can imagine, the daddy of the bunch, in essence a Kadett 200 GSi 16v uniquely designed for South African racing, pushing out 170hp (125kW). These cars were devastating track weapons especially with Mike Briggs behind the wheel and has a cult following second only to that of the E30.
The 1990 325iS sold at a price of R92,720 (£18,870) and came standard with the M Technik aero kit which is the first significant difference. The more fundamental changes happened underneath the skin with an uprated 2.7-litre engine and cylinder head, care of Alpina, increasing power output by 26hp (19kW) to 197hp (145kW) at 5800rpm reaching a maximum torque figure of 195lb ft (265Nm) at 4000rpm. With serious intentions of reducing weight the bonnet, wings and doors were made from aluminium. In order to better transfer the increased power to the road the E30 M3’s suspension was put into use, including the 15-inch cross-spoke #BBS alloys running on 205/60 15-inch VR Goodyear rubber. In this iteration locals refer to it as the Evo 1 although that was never the official name that BMW assigned to it. Officially it was still known as the 325iS but the legend had just grown another tenfold. Unfortunately this was not enough to fend off the attack by the Opel Kadett.
The final incarnation of the 325iS was introduced in 1991 with the E36 knocking at the factory door, but BMW had no choice if it were to take on its main competitor, the Opel SuperBoss. It sold for R105,100 (£20,815) in 1991 and its official designation was the BMW 325iS Evolution (more commonly known as the Evo 2 among South African motoring enthusiasts). Outwardly the car remained exactly the same except for a flexible black lip extending from the deep front spoiler. Underneath the car an aerodynamic cover was installed to improve airflow and ultimately front end grid. The aluminium bonnet, wings and door panels reverted back to steel. The ride height was lowered by 10mm with the installation of stiffer, shorter springs and a thicker rear anti-roll bar was installed to keep the tail in check.
The engine remained as the 2.7-litre unit but modifications were made to the cylinder head (supplied by Alpina together with the pistons) to increase compression ration from 9.8:1 to 10.4:1 and so inlet ports from the inlet manifold were adapted to accommodate the enlarged diameter of the inlet ports of the cylinder head. The intake manifold plenum chamber, airflow meter and throttle butterfly were uprated to that of the E28 535i and incorporated into the Motronic system to enhance the airflow. A cross-piece was installed in the larger diameter downpipe of the exhaust. All of this led to an increase in power to 211hp (155kW) at 5920rpm, with maximum torque remaining at 196lb ft (265Nm) at 4040rpm. This resulted in improved acceleration and mid-range performance, eventually culminating in a Group N championship win for Robbi Smith in his 325iS in 1993.
This factory-fresh example we see here today in Ice white belongs to Jack Kaplan a serious car enthusiast with an even more serious car collection. Most noteworthy are the eight exceptional BMWs which also includes the M3 we see here, the only 2002 Turbo on the African continent and an absolutely gorgeous Batmobile replica in Polaris metallic, to mention but four. Jack likes to put his own touch to his cars and these two examples are no exception.
This might not be to everybody’s liking, especially the purists who believe cars should be kept exactly as the automaker intended, but we appreciate the fact that Jack puts his own personal touch to each of his cars. It makes them stand out and more personalised. Jack does not stop with the aesthetics and the mechanicals; he is more hardcore than that and that is why most of his BMW fleet runs on 102 avgas jet fuel including the two you see here.
Jack acquired this 325iS from new in #1991 and used it as a company car. It’s done 96,000km and, from a cosmetics perspective, the grille has been colour-coded with slits cut into it on the left-hand side where the lights meet for additional cooling. He has also added darker indicators, racing pedals and a Nardi steering wheel. Other than that, from a cosmetics perspective the car is completely original. The mechanicals have definitely been tweaked. A Stage One performance upgrade was carried out which included gas-flowing the cylinder head and installing a 280-degree camshaft, a Unichip ECU, a K&N air filter with a modified air-box and a special sports exhaust, which pushes the compression ratio to 10.9:1.
So much has been written about the #BMW-E30 M3, with just about every motoring scribe worth their salt at some point contributing to the growing documented volumes on the M3. In my opinion the M3 is the most significant BMW model post Second World War. Yes, it does not have the halo image of the M1 (the closest BMW came to producing a supercar) but its contribution to the success of BMW is unprecedented. Unfortunately the development of the M1 was plagued with problems, which is putting it rather mildly. But where the M1 might have failed the M3 was triumphant winning virtually every form of competition it was entered into.
As so much has been written about the #BMW-M3 I thought I would just give a brief summary of the highlights of this most illustrious model. The M3 was developed from the ground up as a racer. Paul Rosche was tasked to develop a suitable engine and what he came up with is ingenious: a 2302cc four-cylinder, 16-valve, dual-overhead cam. For all intents and purposes the S14 engine is two thirds of the M88 motor (although the block is based on the cast-iron M10 engine), developed for the M1, the M635CSi and the South African-only 745i. This engine was further honed for the E28 M5 (second generation) to become the S38. BMW’s initial intention was to sell 5000 units to ensure eligibility for racing but such was the demand that it ended up manufacturing over three times this number during 1986-1990. In its first iteration it developed a maximum power output of 200hp (140kW) at 6750rpm and 177lb ft (238Nm) of torque at 4750rpm. It sold for £22,750 (R57,599) in 1985.
During its five-year production run BMW Motorsport kept on honing the performance and agility of the M3 giving rise to the Evo 1, Evo 2, Europa Meister, Cecotto and Ravaglia Editions. It was, however, most lethal in its final incarnation known as the Sport Evolution. The engine capacity had been increased to 2467cc which was achieved through an increase in bore and stroke. This necessitated larger valves and camshaft, plus special spigots to spray oil under the pistons to keep temperatures under control. Power was up to a staggering 238hp (177kW) at 7000rpm and torque remained the same at 177lb ft (238Nm) at 4750 rpm.
The M3’s war paint clearly defines its intentions (it is rather different to its regular 3 Series brethren) with flared wheel arches to accommodate wider rubber, and at the rear sits a large wing on a raised bootlid with a separate cowling over the rear window aperture, all of which help improve the aerodynamics. All of this translated into the M3 being the most successful Touring Car racer of all time, with more than 1500 individual victories and more than 50 international championship titles. These included a World Touring Car Championship, two European Touring Car Championships, two German Touring Car Championships, several other individual European titles including, Nürburgring 24 Hours, Spa 24 Hours and even a few Rally titles.
The second of Jack’s cars is this pristine Lachs silver M3. It is the first version of the M3, imported to South Africa in 1995, and Jack acquired it in 1997. This is only one of three M3s in South Africa, as mentioned previously it was never imported as it was left-hand drive only. There is also a Cecotto and a racer, which has just undergone a complete restoration; it competed in the Touring Car race series in the ‘90s. It was piloted by well-known motoring and racing enthusiast Farouk Dangor, who also competed with his 325iS in the Group N racing championship earlier on in his racing career.
So the car we see here is ultra-rare and has just 94,600km on the clock. Legislation in South Africa has changed (since about 2000) in such a way that left-hand drive cars can no longer be imported, with very few exceptions, racing cars being one of them. The first thing we notice is that Jack has fitted the rims from the E36 M3 (in certain circles he would be lynched for doing this), running on Bridgestone SO2 225/35/17 rubber. The capacity of the engine has been increased to 2493cc by changing the crankshaft and connecting rods. Further upgrades include gas-flowing the cylinder head, installing a 260-degree Schrick camshaft, a Unichip ECU, a K&N air filter with a modified air-box, and a special stainless steel sports exhaust, plus a 228mm organic spring disc clutch – pushing the compression ratio to 11.8:1.
Now all that is said and done, what is it like to actually drive them? In a word: fantastic! This is by no stretch of the imagination going to be a completely fair contest with the substantial modifications done to the 325iS and M3, not forgetting that they both run on aviation fuel.
Let’s start with the 333i, which I have spent quite a significant amount of time in. At idle it has that nice straight-six BMW bass and once on the go it has that familiar BMW big-block exhaust note. The most distinguishing factor about this car is the amount of torque that has been bestowed upon it. One gets the sensation that it has more bottom-end grunt than both the other competitors put together. It really is the hooligan among the lot and is always keen to get its tail sideways. Key in getting the most out of it is figuring out how to regulate the throttle feed; letting go while going through a bend will result in you facing the wrong way. This thing will snap your neck if you don’t give it the attention and respect it deserves.
In July 2012 I was fortunate enough to be taken on a few hot laps around Aldo Scribante Raceway in Port Elizabeth while shooting a 2002tii Alpina replica for BMW Car (see October 2012 edition). The 333i was definitely nose-heavy with the 3.2-litre lump in the front but the owner knew the twisty track like his own back yard, using the insurmountable amount of torque and making good use of the limited-slip diff to power-slide through the corners – definitely the quickest way around the track with the 333i.
Although the #BMW-333i-E30 has a close-ratio gearbox the gear throws are long which detract from the experience when pushing in the redline. As stated throttle control is paramount and once you have mastered this the chassis is actually quite compliant. The Bilsteins and stiffer strings holding things together nicely. The 333i is better suited for the open road, with the extended torque flow even from low revs making it a great continental cruiser.
The #BMW-325iS-E30 is definitely a more balanced and focused car. The Nardi steering wheel, being smaller than the standard item, gives very good feedback and much better turn-in. This car is based on the M3’s suspension so handling is superb and direction changes are ultra-sharp. The short-shift gearbox is definitely one of the highlights, making gear changes easy and precise when pushing on, in vast contrast to the 333i. Surprisingly, though, things only really start to come alive at 4000rpm, which is reached with ease. The whole experience is addictive, though, which leads to unnecessary downshifts just to achieve the giddy sensation once again. The standard exhaust on the 325iS is a real charmer, belting out plenty of delightful notes but the custom item fitted to this car is so much better, especially when one trounces the throttle and then lifts off immediately to be rewarded with a truly delightful crackle.
Everything in the M3 is turned up a couple of notches. Even when at optimum temperature the idle is erratic, a strong indication that something extraordinary is happening. The M3 picks up revs far easier and quicker than in both other cars and the redline seems much further down the line. The car displays amazing levels of grip and is extremely wellplanted on the asphalt. Turn-in is razor-sharp and even on a charge going through hairpins seem to require far less braking and instead more acceleration. But when one does need to stop, the retardation happens so instantaneously that there is a newfound appreciation for seatbelts. Gear changes are instant and make you appreciate why this car is the most successful Touring Car ever produced and, to my ears, the sound from the tailpipes puts Beethoven’s Fifth Concerto to shame.
This M3 is everything I had hoped it would be and so much more; this experience is definitely part of my motoring Nirvana.
All three of these cars were developed out of a need to race and it clearly shows. Each car has displayed its own unique characteristics and each has its own special charm. Yes, outwardly the M3 is more dramatic with its flared arches but the M Technik aero kit on the #BMW-325iS still gives it an assertive sporting look and the 333i has its own aero appendages, though slightly more subtle. On the inside all three cars feel and look very similar (and one is transported back to the ‘80s), with Sports/Recaro seats, #BMW Sports three-spoke leather steering wheels, leather gearlevers with M tricolour stripes and instrument binnacles housing speedos and rev counters the size of flying-saucers. The cabins are airy with very thin A-pillars that are virtually in the upright position and, by today’s standards, these cars seem rather rudimentary. The driving experience is so much more involved, though. These are cars you need to take by the scruff of the neck to get the most out of them. If you want a sensible choice get a 1 Series.
So which one is the winner? As a South African I am definitely biased but I have to say that the M3 on the day was definitely the best driver’s car – the one to tackle track days and sweeping back roads with. The M3, however, feels like it is all or nothing all of the time; maybe it’s just the way Jack set it up. The 333i is definitely the hooligan of the bunch and I’d say is much better suited for long distances. The 325iS is the better balanced car and much better suited for everyday use. Interestingly, editor Bob Harper did a direct comparison between the #325iS and the #Alpina C2 2.7 #M20 and gave the 325iS the nod (see BMW Car January 2008 edition).
However, despite my personal preferences, driving anyone of them is an occasion in itself will always puts a smile on your face. And as the old Louis Armstrong song goes, “when you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you”.
Special thanks to: Ron Silke.
Ultimate E30s: #BMW-333i-E30 , #BMW-325iS-Evolution-E30 and #BMW-M3-E30
E30 333i E30 325iS Evolution E30 M3
YEAR: #1986 #1991 #1989
ENGINE: Straight-six, SOHC, 12-valve #M30B33 Straight-six, SOHC, 12-valve #M20B27 Four-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve #S14B23
CAPACITY: 3210cc 2683cc 2302cc
MAX POWER: 145kW (194hp) @ 5500rpm 155kW (208hp) @ 5920rpm 140kW (200hp) @ 6750rpm
MAX TORQUE: 285Nm (210lb ft) @ 4300rpm 265Nm (195lb ft) @ 4040rpm 238Nm (177lb ft) @ 4750rpm
0-62MPH: 7.23 seconds 7.1 seconds 6.7 seconds
TOP SPEED: 231km/h (144mph) 235km/h (146mph) 235km/h (146mph)
WEIGHT: 1256kg 1340kg 1200kg
PRICE (NEW): R41,300 (£16,312) R105,100 (£20,815) R57,599 (£22,750 in 1985)
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- Post is under moderationNORSEPOWER #BMW-M3-E30 580hp turbo S14B23
Built by Norwegian fast-masters, SSP, this E30 M3 boasts a turbocharged S14 under the bonnet and 580hp. Norwegian M3 delivers 580hp of turbo #S14 madness. If you live in Scandinavia, strapping a turbo to your #BMW is very much the done thing and if that’s an E30 M3, well, that’s even better. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Eirik Aadde.
Norway. Rugged. Beautiful. Dramatic. Much like its people. Probably. I can at least be fairly certain that the 20-year-old Norwegian owner of this #BMW-M3 is at least rugged, as Truls Johansen is a fisherman on a 28-metre fish trawler. This is the sort of man for whom that hardcore Norwegian hand cream (ask your girlfriend) and Fisherman’s Friends (ask your parents) were invented for. When Truls was late in emailing me details of his car, he apologised for the delay because he was at sea. In my mind that conjured up an image of him trying to type out some replies on his iPad whilst dodging 50-foot waves and hauling in tons of fish. I’ve never met him but I think it’s safe to say that this dude is hardcore. And a hardcore guy needs a hardcore car waiting for him back on shore…
Truls has been a fan of cars for as long as he can remember and admits to spending most of his money on them. While his first car may have been a Mazda, he soon made up for this by buying a 320i with an M20B25 and a five-lug swap. A solid start, but this #E30 #BMW-M3 is a serious step-up from that, especially for someone who admits to never having been that big into engine modifications. All becomes clear when you learn that this particular car comes from Norwegian power-monger, SSP, which has built countless powerful, turbocharged BMWs over the years and more than a few PBWM feature and cover cars.
It’s easy to see why Truls chose this particular example. “This was the best example for sale at the time and probably one of the most awesome street-legal E30s in Norway,” he says. He’s not wrong! He actually bought the car from SSP in its second incarnation. When SSP built this car the first time, it looked rather different and had an S38 under the bonnet before undergoing a full restoration, getting a fresh paint job, an new interior and a different engine. The S38 is a very popular choice when it comes to turbocharging BMW engines but SSP wanted to bring the car closer to its M3 origins, so an S14 was the natural choice. And, the fact that this baby is road-legal is kind of a big deal because over in Norway getting a car like this approved for road use is no easy task.
The engine is obviously a big part of what makes this car so appealing, and it’s a seriously impressive powerplant. The internals have been suitably beefed-up to cope with all that turbocharged grunt and SSP took the S14 apart and installed custom camshafts, Eagle con rods and JE pistons, increasing bore to 95mm from 93.4mm and lowering the compression ratio from 10.5:1 to 8.8:1, along with a piano wire head gasket and a balanced bottom end. Twin Bosch 044 fuel pumps feed 1200cc injectors and there’s an MSD DIS 4+ ignition and an Autronic SMC engine management system. SSP fabricated a custom aluminium intake manifold and a stainless steel exhaust manifold that was solid enough to take the monster Turbonetics Super 60 turbo, which is fed by a K&N air filter with a custom pipe and equipped with a 42mm Tial wastegate.
A custom exhaust system begins with a 3” downpipe, which splits into a twin 2.25” stainless steel system that ends in a pair of surprisingly discreet exhaust tips, while enhanced engine cooling is provided by an uprated SSP aluminium radiator and an electric fan. The end result of all this work is a seriously impressive 580hp at a heady 1.8bar of boost, along with 516lb ft of torque, which is a hell of a lot to be getting on with in a lightweight E30 and makes for one hell of a car.
With that much power on tap, SSP ensured that the rest of the car was suitably modified to cope. The standard five-speed gearbox has been retained but a Tilton three-plate clutch has been added to cope with transferring all that grunt to the rear wheels. The standard #BMW-E30 M3 brakes were deemed up to the task of slowing this Scandinavian berserker while the chassis has been tweaked with the addition of a set of Supersprint springs and Bilstein dampers. Stance heads might be crying ‘more lows!’ but we reckon it’s sitting pretty.
Looking at the wheel front, at first glance you might be tempted to write those rims off but don’t; if you didn’t know, those are Rondell 0058s, single-piece cross-spokes that deliver serious dish, especially in the 8.5x17” and 10x17” sizes that can be seen here, and the dark gold centres look great against the car’s brooding Steel grey exterior. Of course, as is the way with these things, after we shot the car Truls decided he wanted to up his wheel game and got his hands on an incredible set of SSR Formula Mesh 17s, originally built for the FPurists E30 M3 from two-piece to three-piece, 10s up front and 11s at the rear with 3” and 4” lips respectively. Awesome.
In terms of interior and exterior styling, you’d expect SSP to deliver something special and this car doesn’t disappoint. The exterior is relatively subtle, as subtle as a bad-boy box-arch E30 M3 can ever be, at least. Up front, there’s an Evo 2 lip that gives the car an even more aggressive stance and at the rear the Evo 2 spoiler has also been fitted along with a set of Hagus mirrors, just a little bit different to E36 M3 items (and the same as you’ll spot on my E39 – great minds and all that!), a set of Hella DE headlights and MHW rears. Inside this E30 definitely delivers the wow factor, mainly thanks to those stunning seats. They are carbon fibre Porsche items and look absolutely incredible but finished in black Alcantara and with just the contrasting white stitching, a theme that runs throughout the entire retrimmed interior, they don’t look out of place or outlandish, just awesome. An M Tech II steering wheel and M Performance gear knob with M tricolour flash add the finishing touches.
You won’t be at all surprised to learn that Truls is one very happy man; being unhappy is a scientific impossibility when you own a 580hp turbocharged M3! And Truls makes sure that when he’s not being ultra-manly out on the Norwegian seas, he’s tearing up the Tarmac and making full use of every single one of those horses, for better or worse. “I was doing a burnout,” he says, “and as I went from second to third gear, the driveshaft snapped.” Oops. But hey, you can’t do good burnouts without breaking a few driveshafts, can you?
So, while we might not say that SSP’s E30 M3 is necessarily in safe hands as such, it’s certainly gone to someone who appreciates it. But when you’ve owned something as awesome as this, it begs the question what could you possibly buy next? “I’m buying a house,” says Truls. Well, yeah, that’s probably the next step up, so there you go. That means the M3 will be staying, for a long time we reckon because, as Truls says, “it’s perfect,” and we’re not going to argue with that.
“This was… probably one of the most awesome street-legal E30s in Norway”
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.3-litre fourcylinder #S14B23 , JE pistons, Eagle con rods, bore increased to 95mm, compression ratio reduced to 8.8:1, custom camshafts, piano wire head gasket, balanced bottom end, two Bosch 044 fuel pumps, 1200cc injectors, MSD DIS 4+ ignition, Autronic SMC engine management system, uprated aluminium radiator, electric fan, #K&N air filter with custom piping, SSP aluminium intake manifold, SSP stainless steel exhaust manifold, Turbonetics Super 60 turbocharger, Tial 42mm wastegate, 3” downpipe to twin 2.25” custom stainless steel exhaust, five-speed M3 gearbox, Tilton three-plate clutch. 583hp and 516lb ft of torque at 1.8bar.
CHASSIS: 8.5x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) Rondell 0058 wheels with 205/40 (front) and 215/35 (rear) tyres, Supersport springs, #Bilstein dampers, E30 M3 brakes.
EXTERIOR: Steel grey respray, Evo 2 front lip and boot spoiler, Hella DE headlights, MHW rear lights.
INTERIOR: Porsche carbon front seats, M Tech 2 steering wheel, BMW M Performance gear knob, interior retrimmed in Alcantara with white stitching.
THANKS: SSP for building the car, Morten Holm for helping me to get the car home, Keven and Stefan for helping me fix the car when I break it!
“I was doing a burnout and as I went from second to third gear, the driveshaft snapped”
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- Post is under moderationAHTUNG POLIZEI BMW E30! STRONG ARM OF THE LAW! #BMW-E30-S62
Take an E30, strip it out, put an S62 V8 in it and then paint it to look like a German police car. Works for us. 420hp V8-powered #BMW-E30 is the law. Putting V8s into E30s is becoming a rather popular swap – but this is no ordinary E30, nor is it any ordinary V8… Words: Ben Koflach. Photos: Dennis Podnebess.
Latvia is one of those countries that we, in all honesty, know very little about when it comes to modified BMWs. The occasional crazy build has emerged from there but as for the general scene, who knows?! What we can say, though, is that if Janis Dimpers’ example is anything to go by, it’s a nation worth investigating…
“BMW is all about control, power and rear-wheel drive of course,” the 32-year old scrapyard worker told us. “I bought my first BMW when I was 18 years old – it was a 1980 E21 320i. I got it cheap and I loved it.” However, it wasn’t until a later car that the modifying bug really hit. “My first proper project was another E21 – a 323i with a fully rebuilt 3.0-litre engine and repainted in deep blue. I used it for drag racing.”
It was this modifying addiction that soon led to him wanting to do a full-on, ground-up rebuild – this time based on an E30, his seventh BMW. “I found this car without an engine, living under a tree near my brother’s house four years ago. It had a very good body and was almost rust-free,” Janis explained. “That’s why it was chosen. The first job was to strip it back to a shell, sandblast it and repaint it.” With such a fantastic base, the project was already looking good but a big decision still needed to be made. What powerplant to put in it…
Working where he does, Janis was in the right place to get a good deal, which he did on an E39 M5 engine – the 400hp 4.9-litre #S62 V8. It was a good engine and just needed a new sump, which he sourced from an E39 540i. Janis also wanted to give it a few of his own touches – once the shell was ready of course.
You see, rather than just build the shell back up in a similar fashion to the one it was disassembled in, Janis wanted to do something different, so he dropped it over to Latvian rally stars, the Shimkus brothers. They built an eight-point roll-cage into the car, which is fully homologated so Janis can compete should he decide to. As you can see, it’s quite a creation and does wonders for the shell’s stiffness, as well as providing the all-important roll-over protection.
With this done, Janis could start building the car back up, beginning with the chassis. Converting to E36 Compact suspension is a popular swap that has several advantages – not only does it mean five-lug wheel fitment, there are better options for brakes too, and coilovers become a bolt-in job rather than a weld-in affair. It’s a real win-win, and that’s exactly why he opted for it. Coupled with the rear beam, trailing arms and all four hubs from the Compact, Janis has used XYZ coilovers and retrofitted E46 330i front brakes – the perfect OE upgrade. As many of the bushes as possible were also removed and in their place, Janis has fitted solid bushes and rose joints. It’s nothing if not hardcore.
The shell was also ready to have things built back up in the bodywork department. The iconic box arches of the #BMW E30 M3 tickle the fancy of just about any enthusiast and Janis is no different – he ordered up a set of fibreglass replicas to be grafted on to his E30 shell, and at the same time also purchased a fibreglass bonnet, bootlid and bumpers. The resulting weight-saving is pretty significant, and he didn’t stop there – polycarbonate windows have also been fitted to shed the kilos even further.
As you might imagine, the interior is also pretty purposeful. The only remaining original trim is the dashboard. In fact, even this has been stripped of a lot of its features; now containing only the necessary gauges and a few fuses where the glovebox used to sit. The heavy, unsupportive original seats have been replaced with Sparco buckets with QSP harnesses, and a dishy QSP steering wheel features too. In the boot you’ll find a blanked-off spare wheel well along with the fueling setup, which includes a fuel cell and a Bosch high-power fuel pump, all of which helps avoid fuel starvation under heavy cornering.
With 8.5x17 Rondell M5 Contours bolted on using wheel studs, the car was ready for that mammoth V8 to be fitted. Custom engine mounts were required, though unlike many other V8 E30 swaps Janis managed to retain the standard M5 exhaust manifolds, making things a little easier. From there back the exhaust is fully custom, while on the intake side he’s made his own filter arrangement. He’s also made his own VANOS-delete kit and finally, the whole show is run by a VEMS standalone ECU, which not only bypasses the usual problems with the security features on the standard ECU, but allows for easier mapping too. The result is a very healthy 420hp and 385lb ft of torque – enough to propel the E30 sideways at a moment’s notice.
“I paid €1000 for the body and then spent around €12,000,” Janis concluded. “I did almost all of the work myself – my boss gave me a spot in our workshop’s corner for my project. I spent all my time there after work. It was really useful as almost all the tools I needed were already there.
“The project took a lot longer than I expected though. As soon as I got one part done, it became clear that I needed to modify another! I planned to do it in a year but it took two and a half instead!” For the result, we’d say the wait has definitely been worth it. Janis has achieved exactly what he set out to do, which was to build a fun car that would be capable of doing almost any kind of event, from drifting to drag racing, and we’d say that E30 has ended up being far more than just that. Although it’s not quite enough for Janis by the sound of things, as he is now dreaming of adding a turbo into the mix for yet more horsepower.
Although it’s on the raw end of the scale, the attention to detail that’s gone into Janis’ E30 is undeniably impressive, and the results speak for themselves. As an ambassador for Latvia, we’re hard pushed to imagine there could be a better example in the modified BMW world.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 4.9-litre V8 #S62B50 , custom air filter, #VANOS removed, VEMS standalone ECU, #Bosch fuel pump. Standard E39 M5 six-speed manual gearbox.
CHASSIS: 8.5x17” Rondell M5 Contours shod in 215/50 Neuton tyres, E36 Compact rear trailing arms and front hubs, wheel stud conversion, solid bushes and rose joints, XYZ coilovers. E46 330i front brake conversion using 325mm ATE discs, standard E36 Compact rear brakes with hydraulic handbrake.
EXTERIOR: Fibreglass E30 M3 wings, fibreglass bonnet, bumpers and bootlid, polycarbonate windows and rear windscreen, full respray.
INTERIOR: Fully stripped-out with custom-made eight-point roll-cage, Sparco seats, QSP harnesses, QSP steering wheel, hydraulic handbrake lever, custom gauge setup.
PERFORMANCE: 420hp, 385lb ft of torque.
Everywhere you look on this #E30 you see custom details – it’s all been built to be good fun while being legal for motorsport events.
I found this car without an engine, living under a tree but it was almost rust-free.
It took longer than expected. I planned to do it in a year but it took me two and a half instead!
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- Post is under moderationBorn Again Hard
If you like sleepers, you’ll love this Belgian E30, which packs an S50 punch and knows a thing or two about burnouts… The early #BMW-316-E30 was a miserable model with moped-like power, but a quick E36 M3 engine swap and some chassis sorting sees this old classic re-born into a devilish sleeper. Words: Iain Curry. Photos: Kevin Raekelboom.
At first glance, it’s hardly the last word in sexy. There’s the embarrassing 316 badge on the bootlid, worrying shut lines, gold/silver paint that could happily pass for metallic beige, and a worn cloth interior featuring an abundance of brown. This is not typical PBMW fodder I hear you cry. And you’d be right, except this is exactly the sort of BMW that occasionally gets us all excited, simply because of the well-hidden secrets that lurk within. Sleeper? Oh yes.
There are the odd exterior clues suggesting this well-used #1983 E30 #BMW-316 isn’t quite as granny-spec as it first seems. There are the 17-inch BBS rims with semi-slicks for one, and they certainly sit quite snugly under the arches of this 30-year-old 3 Series classic, suggesting a reasonable amount of suspension fettling. Then there’s the front mount oil cooler and fruity-looking exhaust poking out from under the rear bumper and riding very low to the ground. Just what is this thing all about?
First of all it’s been created by one of our continental European friends, in this case a Belgian 26-year-old called Kristof Dhuyvetter, better known by his nickname ‘Stovie’. Like all good Belgians, Stovie has a soft spot for techno and house music, waffles, over-strengthened beer and modifying his BMW even though Belgian rules on such things are unnecessarily harsh. Keeping your car sleeper style in this country is certainly favourable, and Stovie has played a blinder here.
Lurking under this E30’s beigey bonnet sits a transplanted 3.0-litre straight-six from one of the earlier E36 M3s. Okay, so we all get more turned on by the likes of an E60 M5’s V10 stuffed into an E30, but this conversion is far more viable for a DIY modifier such as Stovie. And a darn sight cheaper, too. The S50B30 engine from the 1992-1995 E36 M3 can be picked up for not much coin these days, and the incredible upping in power from a standard 1983 E30 316 turns this car from an embarrassment into a veritable weapon.
From the factory, these old 1.8-litre 316 models were good for a paltry 90hp – buyers were certainly keener on the BMW badge rather than decent performance to match the rear-wheel drive layout. These early entry-level E30s were still using the old M10 four-cylinder donks, which had been in service since 1962, so if ever a car was ripe for an engine conversion it was Stovie’s.
“I bought the car about 160km from my hometown of Anzegem,” he said, “and I drove it home at full speed trying to blow up the engine. Unfortunately, I failed.” Not the usual way people treat their recently bought car, but Stovie had bought the old E30 specifically for modification. “A #BMW seemed the best choice for a conversion after I saw such potential on YouTube movies,” said the tyre centre manager who has previously modified a number of VWs and a Mercedes.
“I needed rear-wheel drive, plenty of speed and, of course, something that not everyone has,” he said. Well, a brown-interiored 1983 316 is certainly not common on our scene, but you could just smell the potential here. “I immediately got the car registered and on that first weekend I started removing the engine. After it failed to blow up, I managed to get €200 for it. I then gradually began dismantling everything I no longer needed, and moved the new engine into place on an engine hoist.”
Stovie had bought a 286hp E36 M3 six-cylinder along with the car’s five-speed manual transmission and its complete wiring harness. He managed to complete the bulk of the engine work himself, but enlisted the help of Belgian tuner and ECU remapping expert APEC to replace the engine’s troublesome Vanos system (many E36 M3 owners will sympathise with this) and do a custom ECU remap to find a few extra horses. With a custom exhaust manifold and full system plus improved breathing from a K&N pod air filter, this humble E30 316 was about to be presented with a 3.0-litre motorsport engine dyno’d at 306hp.
Stovie informs us that fitting the M3 engine proved a bit of a chore thanks to the donor motor’s sump. He said he remedied this by fitting a sump from a 7 Series, but not before going through four others until he was satisfied. He made up some home-made engine mounts, secured the cogswapper in place and tucked away the wiring harness.
But with over three times the power on tap now compared to the factory 316, taking this thing on the road with its original chassis and drivetrain would have been suicide. These old sheds had rear drum brakes for heaven’s sake. To ensure the components survived the first serious throttle flooring, Stovie fitted an E30 325i’s rear axle and custom-made his own driveshaft using parts from two E30s we never received in the UK: the awesome four-wheel drive 325iX, and the not-soawesome 324td diesel. In Stovie’s broken English we couldn’t quite get to grips with why this 325iX/324td hybrid driveshaft was created, but he assures us it is strong enough to take the power, and it has held together just fine so far.
As for cornering and stopping, the ante has been raised significantly. D2 Circuit Series coilovers give the 316 a handling capability more in-line with an E36 M3’s performance, with the car’s rigidity helped by a front-mounted strut brace. At the moment the only anchor upgrade has been a set of E30 325i rear discs, but Stovie assures us 312mm discs will find their way on to each corner in the very near future.
He needed to make sure such brakes would fit behind whatever aftermarket wheels he chose, as they’d certainly have no chance with the stock 316’s 14s. He chose 17-inch BBS CH-R rims which are a dramatic improvement for the exterior look of this body-unmodified E30, even if they do reduce the sleeper status somewhat. And if you wanted an indication of how this muscled 316 is used, just check out the rubber. Federal 595 RS-R semi-slicks wrap the BBS alloys, and Stovie tells us the grip from these boots makes it one of his favourite mods on the E30.
As previously mentioned, the body has remained completely untouched, but there is a tell-tale front-mount oil cooler that inquisitive eyes will notice and wonder what’s afoot. As for the cabin, well, that’s another wonderful throwback to the early 1980s, and although a little worn in places, the retro style of its brown cloth seats, carpets and doorcards have quite rightly not been tampered with. A local company called Lectromotive custom-built a nice gauge pod for the centre console, while adding an E30 M-Tech steering wheel and five-speed gear knob results in a slightly sportier air to the interior.
Stovie plans to continue modifying his 316, but is reluctant for it to move away from its Q-car status. “It can be very useful, looking how it does,” he said. “I’ve been stopped by the police before for driving too fast, and I said ‘but it’s just a 316 with a broken exhaust’. They believed me and let me drive on. I also like it when people say ‘for such an old bucket it is tremendously fast.’”
In the pipeline are the new brakes, a roll-cage, BBS RS wheels and perhaps a supercharger kit for the 3.0-litre as well. Stovie likes the way it drives at the moment, but wants to address the weight balance (or strip it) to cure its understeer tendencies. He mentioned the car rides very low and there is some rubbing in the wheel arches, and that the 7 Series sump he took ages to find is at risk with the coilovers wound down.
Has it all been worth it? After all it still has the outward appearance of an old 316 with a nice stance and some fancy rims. Well, Stovie did some sums and quickly calculated he’s already put €12,000 into the old #BMW-E30 not including the labour time, and that can buy a very tasty performance BMW – an E36 M3 or E46 M3 with change left over. But that’s not the point really. Would you suspect this old sleeper if you came up against it at a set of lights? With treble the power over a standard 316, Stovie, we salute you.
DATA FILE #BMW-316i #E30 #S50 engined
ENGINE: Transplanted 3.0-litre straight-six #S50B30 from E36 M3, E36 M3 wiring harness, custom exhaust manifold and full exhaust system, #K&N pod air filter, BMW 7 Series oil sump, front-mounted oil cooler, DIY engine mounts, APEC Belgium remapped ECU.
TRANSMISSION & DRIVETRAIN: E36 M3 five-speed manual, E30 325iX/E30 324td customised driveshaft, E30 325i rear axle.
CHASSIS: 7x17” (front and rear) #BBS CH-R wheels shod in 215/45 17 (front and rear) Federal 595 RS-R Racing Semi-Slick tyres, D2 Circuit Series coilover suspension kit, front mount strut brace, E30 325i rear disc brakes.
INTERIOR: Original brown cloth seats, brown doorcards, M-Tech steering wheel, M-Tech gear knob, custom gauge panel with engine gauges in centre console.
THANKS: Lectromotive Belgium for the custom gauges and dash and all electrical work, APEC for engine tuning.
D2 Circuit Series coilovers offer plenty of adjustment; S50 engine is a perfect fit.
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- Post is under moderationJOG ON. LE JOG ROAD TRIP.
We joined BMW Classic’s three- car assault on Le Jog, a dash from Land's End to John O'Groats reckoned to be Europe's toughest classic rally. It proved a gruelling experience for the #BMW-318i E30 and its driver. Words SAM DAWSON. Photography RORY GAME.
It’s five o’clock on Saturday morning and the grey, weary face in the hotel bathroom mirror is contemplating some weighty issues. I’m in Land’s End, but this time tomorrow I will wake up in Chester. Pm about to drive more than 2000 miles, but myself and navigator Rory Game have only had time for a cursory glance at the road book. And BMW, in its wisdom, has given us a car with a three-speed automatic gearbox and a clock where the rev counter should be.
‘We figured it’d be easier over longer distances,’ said BMW Group Classic spokesman Stefan Behr last night, as we checked over our 1984 #BMW-E30 318i two-door in the winter twilight alongside our 1984 team-mates - a carb-fed 316 and a potent 320i. Seriously, Stefan; we’re against the clock here, and have you seen the average British B-road? As with so many things on this rally (like why are we called Team Rocket Science’?) I'd only discover the truth much later on.
Just over an hour later we’re sitting in the queue for the start line, watching much more nimble opposition powerslide their way round the opening gravel special stage above the precipitous Land’s End cliffs. As we approach the starting flag I slide the gear selector into second-gear lockout. I’m going to have to two-pedal it round like a direct-drive go-kart and I’ll need responsiveness - the last thing I want is a jolt up into third when I’m about to brake for a hairpin.
Somehow, the technique works. The gravel track seems narrow between the stone walls, but I keep my right foot planted, then use the karting technique of simultaneously lifting off the accelerator and sharply but progressively stabbing the brake pedal just before freewheeling hard into the tighter corners, then hitting the accelerator as we pass each apex. The body rolls just before the knobbly winter tyres lose grip and the little BMW snaps sideways on the dry gravel, but it’s easy to catch with a twirl of opposite lock. I still wish it had a manual, but it seems there are sporty ways to drive a car that began life crawling through the Bremen rush hour.
As we leave the main coast road and start to thread together a series of narrow single-track lanes, a rather more alarming problem emerges. Brakes that seemed effective on gravel are locking at the slightest tap of the pedal on asphalt made damp and slippery with sap from the overhanging willow trees, but after three terrifying near misses sliding towards oncoming traffic in the space of one mile - one of which nearly forced a hapless Volvo into a ditch - we figure that there must be something wrong. Problem is, our next opportunity to consult chief mechanic Josef Rothe will be at the Porlock Hillclimb closed-road stage in 140 miles’ time. I’m just going to have to drive around the problem, and factor in very long, feathered braking distances. At least the A39 is wide and sweeping.
I’m panicking slightly as we approach Porlock. Rory has noticed a distinct scorching smell coming from the brakes. We’re about to take on one of the longest hillclimbs in Britain, and it’s only a precursor to the challenge that’ll end the day - the whole of Wales, in one night. Josef puts the front wheels on full lock, prods at the calipers, sniffs the air and nods sagely, it’s just the new pads,’ he explains, sounding much more relaxed than we’re feeling. ‘When we upgraded the dampers, we also fitted a new set of brake pads. They’re not bedded-in yet and they’re still standing a little proud. They should be okay after a few more miles.’
Pm still not feeling particularly comfortable, but at least I know the brakes won’t actually fail, and with this in mind I gun the BMW up the hill. The M10 four-cylinder gives off a steeled shriek under load, and I discover that the accelerator has a distinct two-stage action; the last inch of travel requires a firm shove but usually provokes the torque-converter into kickdown, accompanying a wonderfully aggressive tailslide as the front wheels pounce into the uphill hairpin apexes. It probably looks to spectators as though we know what we’re doing. It’s terrific fun, and by the time we make it to the top and set a course for the Gordano service park just outside Bristol, the brakes seem to be overcoming their grabby phase.
After a quickly shovelled fast-food dinner at Gordano we head off across the Severn Bridge to Ebbw Vale. The scudding orange glow of the bridge’s streetlights pick out a direction on Rory’s pace notes that send a nervous chill down my arms - Epynt. Pm going to be driving Epynt at night. In a proper competitive rally. In drizzle.
‘With a wonky alternator and brakes we can’t quite trust, we spur the 318i towards Glasgow’
For a rally fan to drive Epynt with any sense of purpose is like a pub five-a-side squad having a kickabout at Wembley Stadium. These army ranges in the Brecon Beacons, usually closed to the public because they’re used for military training, have been the amphitheatre in which rally gladiators have battled for decades; a complex of unforgiving, awkwardly angled corners, slippery catrle-grids and no fencing to prevent unfortunate cars from a tumble down muddy banks. We fill up in Brecon and turn off the A40 on to the ranges, all six forward lights blazing, wipers flailing.
Rorys pace notes take on an added edge of urgency, punctuated by ‘careful’ and ‘steady’. To Rory it’s a combination of lefts and rights, but like the best racetracks these corners have names: Deer’s Leap, Dixie’s Hairpin, McRae’s, Piccadilly Junction, Helicopter Wood. I’ve seen these views through the windscreen before - on Rally Report in the early Nineties. It prompts a mixture of nostalgic excitement and the thrill of danger that persists long after rejoining normal roads near Builth Wells, and all the way through North Wales. The memory helps to stave off the growing tiredness as we pass the English border and find the Chester hotel some time around midnight. I drove Epynt and I survived.
The start of the second day seems overly easy compared with what’s gone before. We begin on the motorway, taking us into Cheshire, then Lancashire, breaking off the M6 just north of Skelmersdale to potter round some of the flat, wide local roads.
It’s not very challenging, but then Lancashire gives way to North Yorkshire at Settle and the roads get steeper, bumpier and punctuated by potholes, water-splashes and cattle-grids. A bit of immersion actually seems to improve the brakes, making their stopping power much more progressive.
Breathtaking scenery kept spirits high all the way to the end.
However, after pulling away from the lunch stop at Leyburn, there’s an ominous, seagull-like squawking from under the bonnet. It disappears quickly, so we dismiss it as a wet pulley causing a belt at cruising speeds, and if it’s making that sound all the time, try tightening the remaining bolts to keep it in place. It’s not ideal, but it should help.’ He slaps me on the back. ‘Good luck.’
And so, with a wonky alternator on the verge of shutdown, the wrong gearbox for the job and brakes we can’t quite trust, we spur the 318i towards Glasgow - and a blizzard. Visibility is down to 100 yards at best, the outside lane of the M74 is piled high with snow, and traffic is averaging 50mph at best. Knowing the shortcomings of the brakes, 1 keep a long distance from the lorry in front, only for unthinking motorists in overly insulated modern cars to leapfrog me and plug the gap. We’re heading for Loch Lomond, but I didn’t expect the M74 to be so dangerous. I’m one emergency stop away from a potentially deadly collision.
The turn-off can't come a moment too soon. Away from the hurly-burly of the motorway, as we head into the Trossachs the traffic dwindles to nothing, and from hereon in the scenery transcends the mere picturesque and becomes breath-catchingly beautiful. The fact that we're averaging around 40mph is no real hardship with the low, silvery winter sun glinting between the pines over the surface of Loch Lomond - especially with the car slithering slightly on ice lingering in the shade.
But as we pass out of the Trossachs and into the Highlands we’re both rendered speechless by the sheer majesty of Glencoe. Rounding a square left-hander on the A82 just north of Loch Ba has the effect of drawing back a mountainous veil to reveal the enormous valley, dwarfing the sole ribbon of tarmac amid snow-capped peaks running seamlessly into the blanched sky; and still, peaty water lapping through yellow grass. As if under orders to complete the image, a golden eagle leaps from the undergrowth beside the road, a sole wingbeat launching it about 20 feet into the air.
After pulling in at Fort William for fuel, with night falling, the alternator belt starts to howl again - this time at ever-lower rpm, on every tight bend. We battle through the snow to Kyle of Lochalsh and pull over to tighten the bolts, but it doesn’t make much difference. This presents us with a dilemma - we’ve got a distance equivalent to London to Sheffield to cover, and some of the toughest sections of the rally ahead of us, including the infamous Pass of the Cattle on the Applecross peninsula. It’s all hairpin bends, relentless gradients and an abundance of snow.
The words of clerk of the course Tony Davies are echoing around my mind, ‘Priority one, two and three are uget to John O’Groats”.’ We can either follow the roadbook’s route, knowing full well it’ll cause the engine vibrations to ultimately snap the belt, potentially leaving us stranded with no way to repair it - and given the patchy mobile reception, no way to call for help either - or we plot our own, gentler route to the finish to preserve the alternator, on the understanding that if we break down we’ll be nowhere near the course sweeper car or any mechanical assistance. Either way, if that belt snaps our rally will end with a tow-truck to Edinburgh Airport.
We’ve got to finish. We choose the latter plan and part with the plotted route at Strathcarron, heading cross-country to the A9. Knowing that by diverting we’ll miss the dinner halt, we pull in to the Balconie Inn at Evanton for what must be the best haggis, neeps and tatties I’ve ever tasted. It also gives us the chance to see how bad things are under the bonnet. The alternator belt is noticeably frayed, with nearly a third of its original width gone. One last tightening of the bolts, and we head off towards the A99.
We’re vaguely aware of the moonlit scenery as the route hugs the east coast, distant oil rig flames the only evidence of life in the indigo night. Our main beams pick up names on signs that I've only heard before on the shipping forecast, and the roads are completely deserted. This at least is positive, because it means we can maintain reasonable momentum and avoid low-gear, high-rpm vibrations. Even roundabouts can be crossed at speed if the visibility’s good enough. We complete the final 70 miles in third gear only.
Finally, the ghostly whitewash of John O'Groats lies shimmering at the end of the road. We’ve made it. Knowing the alternator belt is sacrificial now, we slow to a crawl outside the only building with a light on. It’s the Seaview Hotel, where we’re staying. More importantly, the bar has hundreds of single-malt whiskies.
And with the dawn light, in a howling coastal gale, the other rallyists emerge from the road to Wick, heroically led by a 1947 Ford Popular, the oldest car on the event. It turns out we had a lucky escape - some of the stages we circumvented were cancelled due to ice, and several cars haven't made it, including a BMW M535i E28 that tragically felled one of Glencoe’s deer. We may have missed out on some of the route, but as we line up the ailing BMW alongside the other cars in the freezing morning - many battered, dented and held together with baling twine and duct tape - we can't help but share the sheer sense of achievement.
Our BMW team-mates arrive on the scene too - Josef Rothe even managed to win a ‘best rookie’ trophy - and there, at John O'Groats, the reason why we’ve been driving a car with a ‘Team Rocket Science' sunstrip is revealed as Stefan Behr finally comes clean and explains the team name to us.
‘When I told my colleagues at the #BMW M-Sport department that I was going to enter three cars in the toughest classic rally in Europe, they shrugged dismissively and said, “It’s not exactly rocket science.” I couldn't admit that until we'd actually finished it, or I’d look silly. As for the automatic gearbox, because of the 1984 cutoff for entries, we were restricted to the first few months of #E30 production, so we had to take what we could find. But we just wanted to give the E30 a fitting 30th birthday tribute.'
Somehow, getting this far now seems even more remarkable.
Thanks to: BMW Group Classic, the Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation (heroevents. eu)
TECH DATA #1984 #BMW-318i-E30
Engine #M10 1766cc in-line four-cylinder, sohc, #Bosch #L-Jetronic fuel injection
Power and torque 101bhp @ 5800rpm; 103 lb ft @ 4500rpm
Transmission three-speed #ZF automatic #ZF3HP , rear-wheel drive
Steering Rack and pinion
Front: independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar.
Rear: semi-trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar.
Brakes Servo-assisted discs front, drums rear
Weight 1125 kg (2480 lb)
Top speed: 106 mph:
0-60mph: 11,4 sec
Fuel consumption 34mpg
Cost new £7950
Value now £650-24500
EVAN MACKENZIE The Veteran
Evan Mackenzie won the very first Le Jog rally in 1993, sharing a Triumph TR4 with John Kiff. Here are his tips.
The key to it is to get a really good navigator who you get on well with, trust implicitly and never have to question,’ says Mackenzie. ‘Any driver can do fairly well if they're following instructions, but it’s the ability to deliver those instructions precisely that’s most important.
’Le Jog isn’t the most difficult rally from a driving point of view, but it is in terms of fatigue. You've got to plan to deal with it; on the first event, John and I knew we'd be tired so we booked a hotel room in advance for just one hour at a point when we’d be able to stop. That made for an odd phone call.
‘I got used to doing this kind of rallying in South Africa, on events that would last anything from three or four days up to one or two weeks. Concentration is the key.
‘The roadbooks are written with precision in mind, not to catch you out, so if you make a mistake you've only got yourself to blame; the satisfaction lies in getting it right. Every surprise is a pleasure.’
‘Le Jog isn’t the most difficult rally from a driving point of view, but it is in terms of fatigue.
Sam plans a cunning deviation from the route in order to nurse the 318 home.
With a howling alternator belt and everything crossed, it’s Scotland - but still a long way from the finish line.
An underbonnet check reveals a sheared alternator mounting bolt and a shredding belt.
Cryptic team name on sun strip was later revealed as an example of German humour.
Breathtaking scenery kept spirits high all the way to the end.
Sam starts the rally at a fair pace, but the dark clouds of fatigue and mechanical problems were already gathering.
Sam tries to look happy with his auto 318i at Land's End, alongside his team- members’ 316 and 320i.
Other Le Jog competitors display a more sporting bent at the rally’s start.
Immersion in water actually made over-zealous new brake pads more manageable.
Single-track lanes plus dodgy brakes equals several heart- stopping near-misses with oncoming traffic.
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- Post is under moderationThe Right Stuff? Plenty of people are quick to dismiss a right-hand drive #BMW-M3-E30 , so we tried one for ourselves. Internet folklore would have you believe that a right-hand drive E30 M3 isn’t a patch on the original… we sampled this example to find out the truth Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to drive all sorts of E30 M3s, from the original 200hp machine through to a multitude of special editions and culminating with the legendary 2.5-litre Sport Evolution. There have been road cars and track cars and even several rides in ex- DTM and BTCC machinery and the one thing all these machines have had in common – apart from the obvious #S14 under the bonnet – was the fact that they have all been left-hand drive. Until now, as the machine I’m currently sitting in is undoubtedly an M3, and is indisputably right-hand drive.
BMW only ever made the #E30 M3 for general consumption with the steering wheel on the left bar a couple of machines for very favoured customers, and it would seem that the general consensus of opinion is that is the way they should remain. Or so folklore would tell you. But here today we have a right-hand drive version that was up for sale at 4 Star Classics a month or so ago and once I saw the car appear on its website I got straight on the phone to arrange a drive of the car. What I was particularly keen to find out was whether converting the car from left- to right-hand drive would rob the car of its feeling of ‘rightness’.
The main gripes those ‘in the know’ or those who have bought into the rumours on the internet will tell you is that an E30 M3 that was converted to righthand drive back in the day will have a standard E30 steering rack that’s ‘slower’ than the one fitted to an left-hooker and that the exhaust manifold also has to be compromised in order to correctly route the steering column. Valid points you could argue, or those who like to put things in stronger terms; ‘the steering is rubbish and it has no power.’
The vast majority of UK M3s that were converted from left-hand drive to right-hand drive back in the late ‘80s were done by Birds in west London – it did 52 in total, many at the request of #BMW main dealers – so we decided that one of the best placed people to speak with authority on the matter was Kevin Bird.
The first point we tackled was the ‘slow standard #E30 steering rack’ and while Kevin admitted that the standard rack was slower he didn’t reckon it was all that much of a problem: “There’s no doubt that the #BMW-E30 325i’s rack is slower, but I think everyone used to focus on the fact that if you sat a 325i on the ground and turned the steering wheel from lock to lock it would be something like four turns lock-to lock whereas the M3 was only three and a half. A lot of that difference was actually because the steering rack on the M3 was limited – it had a limited stroke because there wasn’t enough turn in the wheel arches for it to go any further.” Looking at the stats for the two racks Kevin does have a pretty good point with the E30’s rack rated at 19.6:1 compared to the standard car’s 20.5:1, or to put it another way the M3’s rack was slightly less than five per cent quicker.
“The steering rack bit never bothered me, what did bother me was that the steering wheel always seemed too big. If you put a 360mm steering wheel in the car it automatically felt like it had quicker steering. There’s no doubt that it would have been nicer, and if we could have done it we would have done it, with the equivalent of an M3 rack, but there are so many other things that are germane to the driving experience that the steering is just probably five per cent of the problem,” Kevin argued.
The second item we spoke about was the manifold and again Kevin reckoned that this had also been blown out of proportion: “You have to convert the manifold to get round the steering column,” he told us. “But the standard manifold is not a particularly nice piece of kit anyway and there are people who used to say ‘oh yes, but the manifold is tuned’, well, it’s not really a tuned manifold at all – it’s a bunch of bananas, but the primary lengths are really, really short and if you have a look at one of the race car exhausts it would have been completely different from that in the first place. In fact we never changed the primary lengths when we did them and the secondary lengths may have been increased by five millimetres, but nobody is going to tell me that is going to have much of an effect on outright power.”
One interesting aspect that Kevin pointed out was that a right-hand drive car is always going to be something of a compromise if it was originally designed to be a left-hooker: “At the end of the day I would say that a left-hand drive car, any left-hand drive car, is going to be better balanced than a righthand drive machine because the weight balance is set up for the driver sitting on the left so everything is compromised when you go over to right-hand drive – everything from the brake linkages to the wiper linkages will be changed from the original design – there’s so much that is compromised.” But, and it’s a big but, if you’re going to be doing any enthusiastic driving on British A and B roads you’ll probably go faster in a right-hand drive car for the simple fact that you can see more when sitting on the right. Sure, you adapt when driving a left-hooker and in most situations it’ll be fine, but in something like an E30 that isn’t desperately powerful if you want to be doing any overtaking you need to be able to see as much as possible.
And there are some governments around the world who firmly believe that if you drive on the left then you must have a right-hand drive car, and the two main proponents of this theory are Hong Kong and Australia where, barring the odd exception, you simply cannot legally drive a left-hand drive car on the road and it’s for this reason that the majority of E30 M3s that were converted to right-hand drive have made their way over to those markets. However, despite the M3 sitting in front of us now having its steering wheel on the right this wasn’t a Birds car – it’s been converted fairly recently on the instruction of a buyer in Hong Kong. Eventually he decided not to go ahead with buying the car and 4 Star Classics took it into stock. It was initially doubtful about how well a right-hooker would sell, after all anyone who knows their onions knows that the left-hand drive ones were better, right? Much to 4 Star’s surprise the phone didn’t stop ringing with enquiries about the car, and yes, you’ve guessed it, all the potential purchasers were from Hong Kong or Australia!
Fortunately we managed to get down to 4 Star’s HQ prior to the car being shipped off to its new home overseas and at first glance the car just looks like a very tidy Diamond black M3. Look a little closer though and even though you know it’s been converted you have to do a bit of a double take when you clock the steering wheel on the right-hand side.
You might also note that the wipers have been converted to a right-hand drive setup too – there’s obviously been some attention to detail here. Firing it up for the first time before I rush off to try to beat the weather that’s increasingly threatening to ruin the day and I’m greeted to the most delightful snarl from under the bonnet that on an E30 can only mean one thing – a carbon air box. It threatens to dominate the driving experience as I’m an absolute sucker for the fantastic induction roar you get from a carbon air box and there’s a very strong temptation once I’m under way to simply speed up and slow down, flicking up and down the dog-leg five-speed gearbox to hear the engine play its tunes.
I do eventually manage to stop being so puerile and concentrate a little more on the driving experience as a whole and once we’re off the major roads and on to the lanes the M3 starts to come a little more to life under me. The conversion seems to have been carried out very effectively and there aren’t any rattles or squeaks coming from the dash, and about the only rattle is actually coming from the parcel shelf area where a rear sunblind doesn’t seem to be located perfectly. It’s a minor irritation though and simply dropping down a cog to make the S14 sing under the bonnet stops it from becoming annoying. As I ramp up the speed a little and a few corners are thrown into the mix I start to really enjoy this M3 and what is a surprise is that it’s the steering that’s the main delight as it seems to be very sharp and incisive with the M3’s nose following commands perfectly. It doesn’t take long to realise that there’s no way this is a standard E30 steering rack and then it dawns on me – there are now far faster BMW racks to choose from for an E30 M3 right-hand drive conversion than there were back when Birds was converting the cars. I reckon this has the rack from a Z3 1.9 which at around 2.7 turns lock to lock is massively more direct than the standard M3 article, and when I return the car to 4 Star it is able to confirm that yes, this car was indeed fitted with a steering rack from a Z3 when it was converted. We’ve failed to beat the rain en route to our photoshoot and while the Bridgestone rubber grips well there’s enough moisture about and enough grunt from the engine to get the chassis working nicely. While we’re not on the lock-stops around every corner it is a delightful thing to punt along rapidly, giving plenty of feedback through the steering wheel and through the seat of your pants. This particular machine has the hound’s tooth cloth and it’s much better at holding you in place when pressing on than the leather set up many cars are equipped with.
Once the pictures are in the bag we head back to 4 Star Classics and en route we cogitate on whether a right-hand drive E30 M3 actually makes sense. Obviously if you live in Hong Kong or Australia the answer’s a resounding yes. In the UK though the E30 M3 has become caught up in its own hype to a certain extent and values have gone what could be termed absolutely bonkers. Even tatty ones are advertised for crazy prices and mint low mileage Sport Evos are now being offered for six-figure sums and these cars will only be able to command this sort of money if they’re absolutely standard – swapping the steering wheel to the opposite side of the cabin would be a big no-no. But if you want to actually drive your E30 M3 then on the merits of this super Diamond black example there seems to be absolutely no reason not to bag a right-hand drive version if you can still find one.
4 Star Classics
Tel: 01420 479909
website: www. 4starclassics. com
The M3’s S14 twin-cam might not be the most torque-rich engine but it thrives on revs and with a carbon air box it sounds absolutely divine.
It’s a delightful thing to punt along rapidly, giving plenty of feedback through the seat of your pants.
BMW E30 M3
ENGINE: #S14 , four-cylinder, 16 valve, DOHC
MAX POWER: 200hp @ 6750rpm
MAX TORQUE: 177lb ft @ 4750rpm
TOP SPEED: 145mph
0-62MPH: 6.7 seconds
I’m greeted to the most delightful snarl from under the bonnet that on an E30 can only mean one thing – a carbon air box.
This M3 has been treated to a very thorough conversion and while it might look odd to have the steering wheel on the right the car drives so much better than expected.
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- Post is under moderationTHE WORKS
Not many people can say they’ve built their perfect car but Henrik Schmidt has done just that with his show-stopping, S14-swapped, air-ride, two-door E30. Henrik Schmidt knew what he wanted from this build: an absolutely spectacular E30. Mission accomplished. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Hjalmar van Hoek.
It’s fair to say that, when starting out with a project car, a lot of us will have some pretty grand plans, but the chances of all of those coming to fruition is small. Many of us dream about that blank-cheque build but there are a few for whom that dream build is a reality, and Henrik Schmidt is one such person.
Henrik’s off to a good start – he lives in Sweden, one of the world’s top ten happiest countries, and painting trucks for a living in a country that makes a heck of a lot of them means he’s not short of work. When he’s not busy spraying up a Scania, he’s enjoying his intoxicating #E30 , which amazingly is his first ever #BMW , purchased as a second car. It’s also his first ever project, which makes what he’s achieved all the more remarkable. “I bought the car because I loved the sound an M20 makes,” says Henrik. “I purchased it from a friend of mine and initially it just needed some rust taking care of but then it escalated. The bodywork was in pretty bad shape when I bought and if I was to do the same with my experience today, I would have changed the whole body.”
After taking the car for a quick spin, Henrik decided to get stuck in with his modifications, starting with the engine. He may have bought this #BMW-E30 because of his love for the #M20 straight-six, but that engine is long-gone and, in its place, sits an #S14 on velocity stacks, which we’re willing to bet makes an even more impressive noise. It is, without doubt, one of the great performance engines and one of BMW M’s best. There’s a real simplicity to it, a sort of old-fashioned charm – no plastic shrouds, no hiding the fact that it’s an engine. It’s even more prominent thanks to the fact that the bay is so incredibly clean – there are dirtier hospital wards out there. It’s about as clean an engine bay as you could hope to see and Henrik has done an amazing job of tucking and shaving it to within an inch of its life, making for an amazing centrepiece.
Obviously with an S14, the obvious suspension choice is… air-ride, right? That’s probably not the answer you were expecting, but it’s exactly what Henrik has opted for. It’s definitely a choice that will raise a few eyebrows, but seeing how awesome this E30 looks aired out, it’s easy to see why Henrik decided to go down this route. The AutoPilot V2 digital controller mounted in the cabin offers an incredible array of options when it comes to finetuning the ride height and eight presets, making it very versatile, ensuring that Henrik can switch between ride heights in an instant. The stance is spot-on and it delivers perfect tuck when it drops to the ground. There’s a lot more to the chassis than just the air-ride though and Henrik has done a lot of work beneath the surface. Up front, he’s fitted everything from the E36 M3 Evo, including the brakes, with Air Lift universal bags, while at the rear he’s opted for the #E36 Compact chassis components and Universal Sir suspension bags.
Wheel-wise, well, it’s no surprise to see a seriously modified E30 sitting on a set of #BBS RSs – they’re still one of the bestlooking wheels around and if you can afford a set, it would be very hard to resist the lure of this iconic wheel. “I thought about a lot of different wheels,” muses Henrik, “but the BBS RS is probably my favourite so these had to go on.” The 16” wheels look absolutely gorgeous, the gold centres working brilliantly with the red paintwork and the red centre caps marrying perfectly with the bodywork, while those polished lips are a feast for the eyes. BBS and E30? A match made in heaven.
Considering how much work has gone into the engine bay, the exterior is surprisingly simple, but that’s what Henrik wanted: “I like to keep things clean and simple so I decided on a sort of ‘original’ styling. I wanted the car to look like it could have left the factory this way,” he says, and the M Tech 2 kit is the perfect choice. The E30 doesn’t really need much help on the styling front, being such a classic shape, and the M Tech kit is really the perfect way to give it a little more visual oomph without spoiling those super-clean lines. And the Imola red paint is absolutely glorious, rich and deep and so very, very red – it’s the kind of colour on the kind of car that just makes you want an E30. Henrik has had a lot more work done on the inside though, fitting an #BMW-M3 interior, which has been treated to a full leather trim, carried out by his friend Simon Sjöqvist, finished in perforated black hide with contrasting red stitching and a Sparco steering wheel. It looks fantastic, the perforated leather is different in a good way, and the attention to detail is superb, making it a special place to be.
Speaking of special, we’ve not yet touched on what’s going on in the boot and we really need to because it’s probably one of the most intricate air-ride boot builds we’ve seen. For starters, the whole boot appears to have been finished in what appears to be some sort of marine decking, which is certainly different, with a sub built into an enclosure on one side and the polished air tanks mounted one on top of the other towards the back of the boot. Furthermore, when you lift the hatch, you’ll also find the amp and the twin Viar compressors. It’s certainly creative and it’s nice to see people doing different things with their boot builds, even if it’s something that might be a bit marmite. Either way it’s certainly going to get noticed and get people talking, and that’s always a good thing.
Henrik has not compromised on any aspect of this project and has, in his own words, built his dream car, adding: “I can honestly say that there is nothing I would change.” Building the dream has not been a quick or easy task and the car you see before you is the result of eight years worth of work, but it has been absolutely worth it. “The best bit of the whole build was when I got to drive the car for the first time in eight years. There isn’t much that can beat that feeling,” he grins and while he’s definitely not done with modifying, citing a turbo E30 or a split window VW camper as possible future projects, this dream build of an E30 is something he will be enjoying for a long time to come.
Boot build will certainly divide opinion with its decking theme, but a lot of work has gone into creating it.
M3 interior has been fitted and retrimmed in black leather with red stitching and matching doorcards.
DATA FILE #BMW-M3-E30
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.3-litre four-cylinder #S14B23 , #VEMS ECU, fully shaved and tucked engine bay. #Getrag 262 manual gearbox.
CHASSIS: 8x16” (front and rear) #BBS-RS wheels with polished lips and gold centres with 175/50 (front) and 195/45 (rear) #Yokohama tyres, #E36 M3 Evo chassis components and Air Lift Performance universal air ride setup (front), E36 Compact chassis components and UAS air bags (rear), Auto Pilot V2 management.
EXTERIOR: Imola red, M Tech 2 body kit, Hella smoked headlights.
INTERIOR: E30 M3 interior retrimmed in perforated black leather with red stitching with matching doorcards, Sparco steering wheel, twin air tanks in boot, twin Viair 444c compressors.
THANKS: Everyone involved in this project! I couldn’t have done it without you!
S14 has been cleaned up a treat and looks fantastic sitting in the super-clean shaved and tucked engine bay.
“The best bit of the whole build was when I got to drive the car for the first time in eight years. There isn’t much that can beat that feeling”
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