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BOOST MODE #Stunning 610 whp turbocharged E36 M3 turns up the heat. Cars are meant to be driven and it was that realisation that took this E36 M3 from mild to wild.
JUNKIE BOOST Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Patrick Lauder
Dean Yarza never intended for his E36 M3 to turn out this way. He’d always wanted one, that much he did know, and finally owning one was the fulfilment of a high school dream, even though it followed a modified E46 M3 ZCP. You might have thought that his former car would have been the keeper, the big one, because it was an E46 M3 after all, but life’s not always that straightforward. That Dean has been dreaming about owning an E36 M3 since his high school days is no surprise; this is a man who, briefly, owned a hand-me-down E21 323i as his first car and who admits to having been interested in BMWs since first being able to drive.
The Carbon black 2005 E46 M3 that he purchased in 2006 was where his BMW journey began proper, Dean having experimented with numerous vehicles prior to that. “I’ve basically modified everything I’ve owned since high school, giving in to the typical sickness the everyday car nut suffers from and I do not discriminate when it comes to the hobby,” he grins. This explains why his car ownership history includes an Acura Integra on nitrous, a couple of Saleen Mustangs and a Saleen Cobra, all of which ended up running over 500whp courtesy of aftermarket superchargers, a Ford F150 truck and even a couple of Yamaha R6 bikes. It’s a varied, colourful automotive past in which Dean has sampled all manner of modified machinery and that most certainly did not stop when the M3 entered his life. “I modified it with all the NA boltons including long tube exhaust manifolds, performance pulleys, air filter, 4.10 gearing and a performance tune. The exterior was also fitted with the full line of Vorsteiner VSL pieces – front bumper, rear deck lid and diffuser. 19” BBS LM rims and a Brembo GT brake kit were also installed,” completing what sounds like a thoroughly sexy and sorted M3. So why the switch from 46 to 36?
“After parting with my E46 M3, I yearned for another M and, more importantly, something to give me purpose, spending hours on forums researching and purchasing parts. At the time, it was the perfect platform to satisfy the need to handle, perform, and modify while being fairly painless to attain,” explains Dean though, in truth, the E36 did almost put the brakes on his modding addiction but, as we all know, you just can’t fight it…
“As many E36 owners know, it’s a bit tough to find them in a non-abused state in today’s market,” he says, and he’s not wrong. “After failing to find one to my liking for a few months, I put out a wanted add online and, amazingly, received a response for what was almost exactly what I was looking for. Prior to my search, I’d curbed my expectations, accepting the fact that these cars are close to 20 years old and I wasn’t going to find a gem. My initial want was just for a clean-titled, decent paint/interior M3 knowing that 90-110k miles would be the norm. What appeared in response to my add was a single-owner, excellent condition M3 with only around 33,000 miles, completely stock, still with the break-in instructions applied to the windscreen, as well as the original window sticker still in the glove compartment. It was far too pristine but in no way would be passed up.” That sounds like a once in a lifetime find to us and it would have been very silly of Dean to turn down the opportunity to own such an immaculate car, but it was the car’s virgin state and lack of miles that presented Dean with a bit of a quandary. “Prior to finding one with such low mileage, my plans were night and day from what the car is now,” he says.
“I initially only wanted something I could drive every day and everywhere, occasionally having weekend duty for spirited driving in the hills. To do this, I planned nothing more than a capable coilover set and a nice wheel and tyre combo. In a way, I just wanted a cool car I could really beat on and not care too much about,” but obviously that couldn’t happen now and a different approach to the whole ownership and modding outlook had to be taken. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, Dean wasn’t even sure whether modifying was the right thing to do. “As I did not plan to find such a low mileage/collector type of car, it was a tough decision to modify,” he says, before adding “ but eventually the bug got the better of me,” and so things began to happen.
Suspension and wheels came first, as per his original plans; “Knowing that I did not participate in high performance driving/autocross events, I was looking for something simple in terms of handling and comfort,” Dean explains. “The Bilstein PSS9 kit fits this bill as it is a basic coilover setup which is not too aggressive while offering, in my opinion, one of the most comfortable rides for a coilover while still improving handling capability. Along with this, I’ve also chosen a set of Dinan front and rear strut braces and a BMW X-brace, which is found as standard on the M3 LTW.” Handling benefits aside, the adjustable ride height of the PSS9s means that Dean has been able to dial-in his perfect stance and the drop he’s gone for is serious; those front arches are a hair’s breadth above the rubber while at the rear he’s got the tyres tucked just past the edges of the lips and the result is spectacular.
As far as his wheel choice is concerned, for many BBS fans it’s the holy grail for both modern and classic BMWs alike and a wheel he has a lot of love for. “It was only fitting that for a classic M3 I’d want to stick with classic wheels. My favourite wheels for the BMW have always been BBS LMs, I feel you can put these on any car and drastically improve the look, especially European applications. I owned a set on my E46 M3 and had nothing but positive experiences with them in regards to looks, performance and strength. You get what you pay for with wheels and in my eyes, they are half of the car. I did consider other wheels but this was very short-lived, I was set on LMs for my build. It turned out to be very difficult to find a set, though, as 18s were much harder to come by than the typical 19” and above. Luck still was not on my side which forced me to become a little more creative and experiment with a set taken from a Honda S2000. This presented a bit of a challenge as the offset and PCD were different but after some research I found a local wheel customisation shop which was able to adjust bolt pattern as well as offset to get them to fit correctly.”
It’s safe to say it was worth the effort as the LMs look so good on the E36, as they do on just about any BM, and here they’re finished off with a BBS stud conversion kit and those iconic red centre caps.
That’s all well and good, but the real reason we’re here is for what’s under the bonnet and it took a bit of a personal revelation for Dean to make the huge leap from mild NA mods to off-the-scale, full-on forced induction fury. “I found deals on the basic bolt-ons such as a Dinan CAI and Dinan exhaust and the car stayed in this state for quite sometime as I did not want to overly modify it, risking an adverse affect to the car’s value considering its mileage.
Eventually, realising that cars are meant to be driven and I would not be satisfied until I had it the way I wanted, I decided to open the floodgates and enjoy it while I have it,” he says and this is definitely the right philosophy. “After the basic bolt-ons, the turbo research began brewing and opened up a whole new world. For one whole year, I began researching and stockpiling the turbo components needed for my build, beginning with the actual turbo, a Garrett GT35R and SPA T3 manifold, fuel components, Cut-Ring head gasket, and Zeitronix data logging gauges and equipment, the essentials I needed to get started. After a year acquiring these components – and then some – it was all installed in one shop sitting, taking a few months to complete.
“The car was taken to David Tran at 4B Auto in Santa Clara, CA; David is known to have built some of the fastest turbo E36s around with upwards of 1000hp, so I knew I was in good hands with this build,” says Dean. “The motor was disassembled, having to remove the head for resurfacing, while upgrading the head studs with an ARP2000 10mm stud kit. From there, the stock head gasket was also upgraded to an 87mm Cut- Ring head gasket. When the head returned from resurfacing, the SPA T3 turbo manifold was mounted while the Vanos was also rebuilt and the head was finally ready to install. Once the engine was reassembled, various changes were made including upgraded fuel components such as a Rally Road high-flow billet fuel rail, 115lb high impedance injectors, and an Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator. The intake manifold was also swapped for an M50 model for better flow. Impressive to say, the engine was able to fire up at first attempt with no hiccups. David’s engine work was one of the smoother processes throughout.”
High praise indeed and there’s nothing better than a true turn-key conversion that just works, especially after such a huge amount of work. A quick glance at the engine spec is all you need to know that this is a serious performance project but all that research and time spent on it was absolutely worth it.
It enabled Dean to pick the best components and the ones best suited to helping him achieve his end goal, and all that work has yielded some astonishing numbers. Peak power now stands at 610whp, which is around 700hp at the crank however you like to do your calculations, and is backed up by 571lb ft of wheel torque, both serious numbers and definitely plenty to be getting on with.
Obviously, as well as the suspension upgrades that were carried out before Dean let loose, the chassis and transmission have received further modifications to be able to cope with that huge increase in output over stock. First of all, there’s a big brake kit in the shape of Brembo’s GT kit and before we even get onto the specs those red calipers are just killer and work perfectly alongside the red detailing on the LMs and against the white bodywork.
They do, of course, deliver on the braking front too, but then you’d expect nothing less with four-pot calipers and 355mm discs stationed up front and only a fractionally smaller pairing located at the rear. As far as the transmission is concerned, Dean has bolstered the ZF five-speed manual gearbox with a selection of UUC components, including a twin-disc flywheel/clutch combo, steel clutch line, and short shifter, all of which combine to allow it to far better cope with all that power and torque.
What we really love about Dean’s E36 M3, and we love everything about it, is the fact that, really, there’s no way for you to know just how much power is lurking beneath that pristine white bodywork. Obviously it’s not a stock car, but he’s kept all of the styling within the spectrum of normality and as a result there’s little to suggest that this might be nothing more than a lightly breathed-on older M3. “My intention for the exterior was something not too aggressive; basically maintain the stock look and body panels yet add some touches to give a slightly more aggressive look,” and we’d say it’s mission accomplished. Euro lights have been sourced from ECS Tuning and fitted all-round, along with a set of ZKW HID projector headlights; a Max Velocity RS front lip sits beneath the front bumper for a hint of extra aggression, while at the rear there’s a Mateo Motorsports diffuser and a sexy UUC adjustable carbon spoiler. The interior has been kept largely standard, bar the addition of numerous gauges and a few minor tweaks that enhance what was already there. The Vader front seats, finished in Mulberry-colour leather, have been left alone and Dean has added some M3-logo’d mats, a customwrapped Euro three-spoke steering wheel and MT Shift Boots alcantara gear lever and handbrake gaiters to complete the look.
Four years of ownership are what it’s taken to bring the E36 to this level and while it has clearly been worth the effort, there has been a lot of it involved in getting the car to where it is. As Dean himself says “I currently have no plans for a next car, other than possibly a modern 5 Series daily driver. At this point, I may have exhausted all energy to even think about starting yet another project,” and that’s something we can all relate to it, that feeling of near-exhaustion when you’ve “finished” a project, or at least got it to the next stage of its evolution. Of course, this M3 has not finished evolving, not in the slightest. “A contingency plan is actually already in place,” says Dean.
“Simultaneously with the turbo install, I have also been working on a fully-built spare motor capable of 1000hp, which was also completed about the time the turbo install was competed. Also on hand is a full drivetrain upgrade, which includes a Euro six-speed 420 Getrag transmission, DSS six-bolt 1000hp driveshaft, upgraded rear axles, and a large case 210mm limited slip differential from a 1990 BMW 750iL.
The only future decision to be made now is which turbo and manifold configuration to fit. With the upgraded turbo and motor, the car should be able to generate and handle even more power with ease. If any mishaps were to occur, these components are ready, that is if impatience does not get to me first and I proactively go ahead with the swap.”
That’s a very sensible approach to take with a completely unhinged project, and we whole-heartedly approve. Dean’s E36 is pure performance: there’s no frivolity here, it’s full-on, focussed and furious with it, and we love it.
“After the basic bolt-ons, the turbo research began brewing and opened up a whole new world. For one whole year, I began researching and stockpiling the turbo components needed for my build”
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW / Turbo #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3-Turbo / #BMW-M3-Turbo-E36 / #Garrett / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E36 / BMW
ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 / #S52 / #BMW-S52 , Cut-Ring 87mm head gasket (stock compression), #ARP2000 head studs, #Garrett-GT3528R dual ball-bearing turbo, #SPA-T3-turbo manifold, 610x305x76mm front-mount intercooler, #Tial 50mm blow-off valve, Tial 44mm MVR wastegate, M50 intake manifold, #Mishimoto coolant overflow, Mishimoto performance aluminium radiator, #Steward high-performance water pump, RK Tunes E85 turbo tune and MAF, 115lb high impedance injectors, Rally Road high-flow billet fuel rail, Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator, Vibrant intake filter, custom fabricated 3” stainless steel down pipe and exhaust system, #Vibrant turbo muffler, #Radium-Engineering oil catch can, #Radium-Engineering 12 micron fuel filter, Racetronix Fuel Pump wiring harness, Walbro 485lph fuel pump
POWER AND TORQUE 610whp, 571 lb ft wtq
TRANSMISSION Five-speed #ZF manual gearbox, UUC twin-disc flywheel/clutch kit, #UUC steel clutch line, Rally Road clutch pivot pin, #UUC-EVO3 short shifter with double shear selector rod, #Vorshlag polyurethane transmission mounts
CHASSIS 8.5x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) #BBS-LM wheels with 235/40 (front) Hankook Ventus V12 Evo2 and 255/35 (rear) Toyo Proxes R888 tyres, BBS red centre caps, #BBS stud kit, #Bilstein-PSS9 coilovers, Vorshlag polyurethane engine mounts, #Dinan front and rear strut braces, #BMW OEM X-brace, #Brembo GT BBK with 355x32mm two-piece discs and four-piston calipers (front) and 328x28mm two-piece discs and two-piston calipers (rear), #Hawk HPS brake pads (front and rear)
EXTERIOR Alpine white, ZKW HID projector headlights, ECS tuning European front clear corners, side markers and rear lights, Max Velocity RS front lip, Mateo Motorsports rear diffuser, UUC three-way adjustable carbon fibre spoiler
INTERIOR Custom wrapped European three-spoke steering wheel, MT shift boots Alcantara gear lever and handbrake gaiters, Rally Road steering column dual gauge pod, LeatherZ centre gauge pod, Turbosmart Eboost2 boost controller/gauge, #Zeitronix ZR-2 wideband AFR, ECA-2 ethanol content analyser, ZR-2 boost and ZR-2 fuel pressure gauges
Hard-pipe-mounted Tial blow-off vlave.
Turbo is hidden away, only the air filter is visible in the engine bay.
Interior home to various gauges plus Alcantara gear and hand brake gaiters.
Gorgeous 18” BBS LMs and #Brembo-BBK .
Up front, HID projector headlights with angel eyes.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationE30 WHISPERER
Turbo E30s don’t come much sleepier than this seriously subtle two-door, packing a 2.6 M20 under the bonnet. After fiddling with a few E30s some blokes feel justified in calling themselves ‘Mr E30’. Paul Issepon is not one of those guys. He is the ‘E30 Whisperer’. Words and photos: Ben Dillon.
“Is it ‘da dada da da da’, or more like ‘dada da da dada?’” Paul Issepon asks, stone-faced and serious as he counts out the beats of two different mechanical cadences, each eerily mimicking a rough running M20 as he tries, telepathically, to diagnose what is wrong with my E30, which is 20 miles away in my garage. I want to laugh but I’ve never heard anyone so accurately verbalise a lumpy BMW six-pot before, so I fail to pick which aural signature my own broken-arse M20 is pumping out. But so entrancing is Paul’s Bavarian chant that I know if I could identify the pattern, he’d be able to pinpoint the problem immediately as he is, most definitely, an #BMW-E30 whisperer.
Shrugging away both my awe and ignorance Paul moves onto other subjects – all E30-shaped, a passion which has consumed him since the car was released in 1983. Seeking the man out at his hilltop hermitage in Brisbane, Australia reveals the depth of his love for BMW’s most iconic three-box. No less than ten complete and running E30s are stashed away in various corners of his yard and garage with a further unspecified number earning a living as parts cars for anyone in need of E30 bits. From the family 325i Saloon to a 325i Convertible, a clutch of coupés and other chrome and plastic bumper iterations ranging in flavours from 318i to #BMW-325i (but no 320i variants, “all the thirst of a #BMW-325i-E30 with the power of a 318i, they suck,” Paul says), Paul has an E30 for every season and every day of the week. But it’s the contents of a shabby wooden garage that looks ready to collapse that we have come to see.
“You want to see something special?” Paul says as we walk past a near immaculate 318iS undergoing Paul’s perfectionist scrutineering. Opening a creaking wooden doors reveals an E30 which is obviously something exceptional from the moment outside light falls across it. “This is my baby,” Paul murmurs. A first glance reveals an M Tech 2 bodykit hugging the familiar shape of an Anthracite E30 with Hockenheim-style 16-inch rims lounging in an aggressive stance that indicates some serious ability through the twisties. Looking further under the car sees a big diameter bi-modal exhaust system and finned diff showing that this car has the fireworks to match the finesse. But it’s the ‘2.6’ badge on the rump that causes the most furrowed brows. “The engine was built by Ludwig Finauer, a BMW race engine guy, using a 325i block and (885) head but with a 323i crank,” Paul explains. “So that makes it a 2.6-litre engine, that’s why it’s got the badge”.
Ludwig Finauer was more than just your average spanner twirler, though, he was the mechanical mastermind behind the BMW factory team in the Australian Touring Car Championships (ATCC) during the 1980s when the team ran E24 635CSi and later E30 M3 cars against the home-grown V8 Ford and Holden crews. Headed by ex-Formula One legend Frank Gardner, the team had top-drawer local and imported talent for various races including 1967 Formula One champ Denny Hulme and even Finauer himself steering an M3 for a few rounds in #1987 including a drive in Australia’s biggest race, the Bathurst 1000.
But fast E30s for the road were Finauer’s thing with star BMW team driver Kevin Bartlett commissioning one for his personal transport. Finauer promptly raided the race team’s parts bin with the result being a chrome-bumper Atlantisblau coupé with a Lysholm screw-type supercharger strapped on to the Finauer signature 325i/323i combo with body and drivetrain options cherrypicked from BMW M division in Germany.
Bartlett now had a serious street weapon not all that different from his weekend drive. The car eventually found its way into private hands, going through a succession of owners until 2003 when a friend of Paul’s, Allan Forbes, stumbled across an advert for the car. “I’ve always loved E30s, they are a great car; fun, quick, they handle really well.
They’re a good looking car, too, so when I saw it advertised for AU$8000 (£3300) I had to have it,” Allan says. Allan drove the car for about a year before writing it off in an accident. He then bought the wreck back from the insurance company to harvest all the special interior bits for his next E30 and sold what was left of the wreck to Paul who took the Finauer-built driveline and slotted it into a one-owner E30 #M-Tech 2 body which evolved into the car you see on these pages. Paul’s inspiration behind the project was to turn his dream of the ultimate M20- powered E30 into a driveable reality, and by engineering solutions and doing all of the work himself, have complete ownership of the transformation. The body and drivetrain were stripped down, with every part of the car rebuilt and/or modified to suit Paul’s aim of E30-godliness with attention lavished everywhere and as much focus on performance as on looks and usability.
The Finauer engine was pulled apart, inspected, given a refresh with new bearings and gaskets while balanced standard pistons and rods were kept as they could easily handle the addition of 15psi of boost that Paul was planning. The induction side features a custom heat-shielded inlet to an M20B20 inlet manifold which is a curious choice but one which Paul stands by for helping the T05/03 hybrid Garrett turbo to spool quickly. This along with water/methanol injection and a front mounted intercooler helps to keep inlet temps down while general engine cooling is supported by a custom radiator and an oil cooler and catch-can setup. Custom extractors feed the turbo and expel gases on the hot side of the engine with a Turbosmart wastegate to vent boost when needed. The back end of the 2.5-inch twin system features a bi-modal exhaust valve operated by a solenoid at 3psi, helping the car remain somewhat stealthy in suburbia.
Those with a keen eye might notice the distributor in the block, much like a Series 1 E30. “The bottom of the distributor is M20 #BMW and the top is Series 6 RX-7 because the triggering and the home signal for the Haltech love to be in the same spot,” Paul explains. “Everyone loves the RX-7 distributor so I thought I’d marry one onto an M20 shaft.” This combined with a single coil-pack feeds sparks via the cam-driven distributor while a Walbro 255 in-tank pump and rising rate regulator start the fire inside the 2.6-litre Finauer six. “It’s easily a 12- second (quarter-mile) car, maybe even 11s,” Paul says. “It’s got an LSD diff, sticky tyres and good suspension so instead of spinning the wheels it just goes forward fast.”
Handling and stopping performance weren’t overlooked either with BC Racing coilovers and Mazda Series 6 RX-7 slotted and dimpled discs squeezed by Brembo fourpiston calipers up front with a slotted disc, single-piston setup on the rear.
Inside and out styling cues are varied with genuine M Tech, Alpina and Hartge components sitting in a comfortable mélange of E30-ness. The M Tech 2 bodykit, spoiler and leather sport seats combine with the Alpina steering wheel and vent gauge inside to make a cosy habitat for the driver while Hartge strut braces front and rear tighten up handling. Under the bonnet the rocker cover is a Hartge item with the logo machined off and replaced with that of BM Conversions – Ludwig Finauer’s now defunct Sydney-based BMW hot-rod shop, Finauer himself having long since retired to a coastal village somewhere south of Sydney.
The result of Paul’s hard work is not the most outlandish E30, or the fastest, but it is one of the most complete performance cars in the E30 community Down Under and we think he’s more than surpassed his aim to build the ultimate E30 combining all the merits of the original design but adding ‘more of everything’.
The final twist is that after enjoying the car for a couple of years since completing the build, Paul has now sold the car to Allan – in a way returning the driveline at least to the person he got it from. After our photoshoot finishes Paul offers to ‘swap back’ the 326i for his very worked E31 840i. Allan declines with a smile and as Paul and I watch the 326i disappear into the distance I’m sure I hear the E30 Whisperer sigh. Nothing twangs the heartstrings harder than someone else driving ‘your’ #BMW-E30 .
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.6-litre straight-six #M20B26 / #M20 , 325i head and block, 323i crank, #Garrett-T05/03 / #Garrett turbocharger, water/methanol injection, #Haltech-Platinum 1000 ECU, 325i oil cooler, #Bosch yellow injectors, #Getrag-260 / #Getrag gearbox, lightened flywheel, performance clutch, 3.73 LSD diff with E30 M3 finned cover.
CHASSIS: 8x16” (front and rear) wheels with 215/45 (front and rear) #Kumho KU36 semi-slicks, #BC-Racing coilovers, #Hartge strut braces, Mazda RX-7 #Brembo fourpiston calipers and slotted and dimpled rotors (front), slotted rotors single-piston calipers (rear), #Hawk pads, braided lines.
EXTERIOR: #M-Tech 2 bodykit.
INTERIOR: BMW sports leather seats, Alpina steering wheel, #Alpina vent gauge, Boost air-fuel and intercooler temperature gauges.
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