- Post is under moderationJPS E30 M3
The story behind this fully restored motor racing icon. A Very Special Player One of Australia’s most famous BMW race cars, the JPS E30 M3, under the spotlight. Banged up, shipped across the Tasman Sea twice and, until two years ago, a bit worse for wear, this JPS stunner is now back to its former glory Words and photography: Chris Nicholls.
BMW race cars have been lucky enough to wear some of the iconic competition liveries over the years. Whether it’s the various Art Cars, the Jägermeister colours, the Warsteiner and Fina liveries or just the M stripes by themselves, Bavaria’s best racers have always looked the business. However, while we in the northern hemisphere have been spoilt for choice with these beauties, we have missed out on one truly iconic racing design that only ever competed on BMWs down under – the JPS livery.
Obviously most famous for its stint on Lotus F1 machines, the JPS colours have been applied to many other cars over the years, but F1 Lotuses aside, only the Australian JPS E21 320i Turbos, 635CSis and E30 M3s, which ran from 1981-’1987, used the livery officially in any four-wheeled racing capacity. And my, doesn’t it look good on this M3? The deep, jet black paint is perfectly offset by the gold pin striping that runs along the car’s flanks, accentuating those blistered arches, while the other sponsors’ logos and of course, the laurel wreath JPS crest itself all add to that golden lustre. Oh, and let’s not forget those sexy matching gold Australian Simmons centre-lock wheels, either.
This particular example is an ex-factory Team JPS BMW car from 1987 – the last year the Frank Gardner-run team that built the machine existed – and was relatively recently restored to nearimmaculate condition (hence the shine) by the current owner Peter Jones and the team at Ecurie Bowden, whose M1 and Schnitzer 635CSi we’ve featured in past months as well. We say nearimmaculate as Peter has deliberately kept some of the patina via a faded and chipped bonnet roundel and cracked right-rear light lens, as well as damage to the driver’s footwell; the result of a nasty shunt at the 1989 Bathurst 1000 when it was racing as part of the John Sax Racing Team from New Zealand. Other than that, though, the car is as straight and clean as you could possibly want, and walking around the car to shoot it, it was impossible not to be blown away by the paint’s lustre (even inside the car) and the sense of mechanical solidity. BMW master mechanic Jason Matthews and paint and panel man Phil Milburn, as well as all the other Ecurie Bowden crew members, should be rightly proud of their work.
Of course, such a high-level restoration doesn’t take place overnight, and from the time Peter purchased the car in 2014 until it was ‘finished’, a full 15 months had passed, and even now, he’s is still tweaking and fettling the car – particularly the rebuilt engine – as it doesn’t quite achieve what he wants on track yet. However, that’s all part of racing, irrespective of the car and its level of restoration, and even in its current state, the project has definitely been worth it. So what prompted Peter to buy this car in the first place? Well, it turns out this isn’t his first Group A M3, having owned a Benson & Hedges racer back in the mid-’90s that he purchased from Frank Gardner himself (Gardner was a long-time family friend), and it was his love for that machine, and the hole in his heart it left when he sold it, that prompted him to seek out a replacement.
“I’ve been involved in motorsport since the ‘80s. The highest level I ever did was the CAMS Gold Star [Australia’s top open-wheeler class]. I raced that in Formula 2, only as a bit of an also-ran, and I’ve also raced Formula Fords and Sports Sedans and Historic cars over the years. From about 1997 to 2012 I basically had a bit of a hiatus due to family and the demands of business and then got back into it in 2012, running around in a Formula Ford. I still enjoyed it and have always missed the E30 M3 that I owned and spoke to [Ecurie Bowden boss] Chris Bowden about it and kept him on the look-out for me.”
And look-out Chris did, but in the end, it actually turned out that another contact, BMW and JPS nut Stewart Garmey (whose E28 M5 we featured in October 2014), knew the right people and gave Peter a nudge in the direction of this car’s previous owner, David Towe.
“Stuart warned me that I’d either love it or hate it, but that it’s a great car,” says Peter. “When I looked at it, I realised it had suffered in its life, but you can’t replace history, and that’s what it has.” Indeed, it has a lot of history, and not just of the type that causes battle scars. Built in 1987, it was one of the first two Group A E30s Team JPS BMW brought over from Europe after phasing out its 635CSis (one of which you’ll also see in a future issue). Initially, both cars actually ran 325i suspension, such was the European demand for parts, but by midway through the season, each car got the legs it deserved. And despite being designed for flowing European circuits and down on power compared to some rivals, the E30’s innate talents, and those of drivers Jim Richards and Tony Longhurst, meant the team quickly got results. This ex-Longhurst car, for example, managed a best of third at round three of the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) even before it got proper M3 suspension, but for some reason it got sold before the end of the year and could prove its worth with proper footwork. If you want to see what the potential was, though, just look at Jim Richards taking his M3 to the ATCC title in the car’s first year.
When this particular machine was offloaded, it got sent to the aforementioned John Sax Racing Team, with Sax and fellow Kiwi Graham Lorimer behind the wheel until midway through the 1990 season. They took it to a best of eighth at the ’87 Castrol 500 at Sandown, as well as a 10th at the Wellington round of the inaugural World Touring Car Championship that year, but sadly, the car’s biggest headlines came when it speared off at Forest Elbow at the ’89 Bathurst 1000, stoving in much of the front-right side. The team did repair the damage (albeit not to a high standard, as we’ll see later) and it soldiered on until Kiwi Racing purchased it midway through the 1990 season. Having not had much luck with the car bar a second in class at the ’91 Nissan Mobil 500 at Pukekohe, Kiwi racing then sold the E30 to Auckland Ferrari specialist Allan Cattle in late ’93, who proved any issues may not have been with the beast itself by promptly winning his class, along with co-driver Brett Taylor, at the Wellington Nissan Mobil 500 and taking second in class at a shorter 300km race at Pukekohe.
Finally, this now well-travelled M3 went to another two Kiwi owners, Trevor Bills and Kevin Underwood, before heading back home to Australia and new owner James Searley in 1999. There it sat in James’ collection for four years until noted Sydney BMW nut David Towe got hold of it and immediately started racing the car again, first at the 2003 Winton Historic meeting, then at numerous classic and historic events around the country. Notably, David converted the car back to its JPS livery (because why wouldn’t you?) and even managed to take away the Murray Carter Cup at the 2009 Phillip Island Classic in it. Indeed, such was the love affair that he only gave it up to switch to a later-built 1987 JPS M3 in 2011.
However, not able to part with it entirely, David held onto the machine until 2014, when current owner Peter Jones came into the picture.
Now, as we hinted at, the car wasn’t perfect when Peter got it. The John Sax team had repaired the Bathurst damage, but removing the right-hand quarter panel showed the chassis rail underneath was still further back than the left, so stretching and rebuilding was needed. And while David had done his best at the time, there were also cracks in the rear arms and the front callipers (among other parts) were way past their use-by date. Knowing personally that Frank Gardner wouldn’t have accepted anything other than perfection were he still alive, Peter thus decided to go for a bare-metal resto to bring it back to its best. And thanks to the talents of the Ecurie Bowden crew, it’s now as gorgeous as you can imagine.
“It’s just magic when you walk around it and underneath it. The job’s been done very well,” says Peter. “All the chassis’s perfect now and when we put it on the scales, we measured where it should be, dropped it down and it just plumbed up beautifully on the corner weights.” And as you’d expect, even with the fettling still needed, it goes pretty well, too.
“It’s a very lovely car to drive – a very fast car… It’s a heavier car by 20kg [than the Evos], but the earlier cars, because they run the 17-inch wheels not the 18s, can drop the nose a little bit lower, so what they lose in some respects they pick up in others. And I think it sits well on the road. The 2.3 motor’s still a powerful little engine, and whilst a good 2.5 should beat a 2.3 every day, you’re not going to be that far behind.”
Once the car’s engine has been brought back to its full Group A peak, it should be even quicker, too. And yes, in case you were wondering, all this testing means that despite the superb condition it’s in now, this JPS beauty will see the race track as often as possible in the future, with Peter planning to enjoy it at every historic meet in Australia he can get to. Of course, he doesn’t relish the idea of getting it banged up again, but says that “once I get one stone chip on it, it won’t hurt so much”.
“Because it’s not the original paint on the car from day one, you’re not disturbing or risking something that hasn’t already been repainted or repaired, unlike the Sierra I’ve got [a Group A RS500] which is the original paint that Rudy Eggenberger used and it’s never had a mark on it. That’s a car you don’t want to put in harm’s way. Whereas, I don’t want to hurt this car either, but if in two years I have to give it a bit of a respray to make it pretty again, we’re not ruining history in doing that.”
In a world of collectors that never use their cars as intended, that’s refreshing to hear. Long may this black beauty continue to run.
TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-Group-A-JPS / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3 / #Group-A-JPS / #BMW-M3-E30 / #Group-A-JPS / #BMW-M3-Group-A-JPS / #BMW-M3-Group-A-JPS-E30 / #BMW-M3-JPS-E30 / #BMW-S14 / #S14 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW /
ENGINE: 2332cc DOHC S14 in-line four, cast iron block, 16-valve alloy head, 12:1 compression ratio, forged crankshaft and con rods, forged alloy pistons, #Bosch electronic fuel injection, #Bosch-044 fuel pump, 40-litre #ATL fuel cell with in-tank swirl-pot, 300hp @ 8400rpm, 199lb ft @ 7000rpm
GEARBOX: #Getrag five-speed manual gearbox, sintered metal clutch, LSD with 75 percent locking ratio
CHASSIS: Unitary steel with welded-in roll-cage, 52mm #JLS-Motorsport air jacks (front), 62mm AP Racing air jacks (rear)
SUSPENSION: McPherson struts with original Group A #Bilstein dampers (overhauled and re-valved by MCA Suspension), MCA custom main springs, #Eibach helper springs, anti-roll bars (front), semi-trailing arms with original Group A Bilstein dampers (overhauled and re-valved by MCA Suspension), MCA custom main springs, Eibach helper springs, anti-roll bars (rear)
BRAKES: AP Racing four-piston callipers with #AP-Racing 330x32mm two-piece slotted rotors and #Ferodo DS3000 pads (front), Lockheed four-piston callipers with AP Racing 300x20mm two-piece slotted rotors and #Ferodo-DS3000 pads (rear)
WHEELS AND TYRES: 8x17-inch (front) and 9x17-inch (rear) #Simmons three-piece centre-lock mesh wheels with 225/625-17 (front) and 240/620-17 (rear) Pirelli or Michelin slicks
INTERIOR: Custom-embroidered #Racetech-RT9009HR seat with orange Racetech HANS-compatible belts
Despite the superb condition it’s in now, this #JPS beauty will see the race track as often as possible in the future.
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