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    OUR CARS MARK B’S E30 M3

    / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-S14 / #resto-mod /

    As I write this, last week was the first Retro Rides Gathering at Goodwood and a date I had marked in my diary a good few months back. The chaps at Retro Rides always put on a good show, with their August events at Shelsey Walsh being just about my favourite of the year. Goodwood was a first, though, and with a combination of static show and track action it was also going to be popular. There was also bound to be a good selection of classic BMWs, with many having a resto-mod flavour.

    Personally though, I was looking forward to getting my E30 M3 out on track and enjoying all the hard work done over the past year or so. Living in Cornwall is lovely but the only real downside is everywhere being so far away. I could have camped at Goodwood but opted to use Airbnb and find myself a place to stay close by instead. Before leaving, though, I figured I would get local valeters iShine to come work their magic and get the M3 looking its best. Much as I love my car, detailing just isn’t my thing! I also did a thorough spanner and fluid check to make certain all was as it should be, before loading my suitcase and crash helmet, then heading off towards Goodwood. In fact, it was Chichester I was staying at and the journey up couldn’t have been better. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the M3 was in its element on the twisting A roads of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. Being so warm, as I headed through the New Forest I opened the windows and enjoyed the induction noise, with pops and bangs from the exhaust on overrun. It had to rank as one of the best journeys I’ve done in the M3. I arrived at the #B&B in good time and was up early on Saturday, getting petrol en route to the circuit, with the sun still shining.

    Goodwood is a fantastic circuit. It’s fast and flowing, with some double-apex right-handers that really suit the E30 M3. The warm ambient temperature also meant the Nankang AR-1 tyres were at their best and I was looking forward to putting them through their paces. I knew they were good from using them on the street but that simply doesn’t compare to lapping a circuit. On a track day I would have dropped cold air pressures to around 20 psi but this was a sprint format that consisted of a standing start from the pit lane and two flying laps. There was also a second chicane that had been added to the back straight, in an effort to slow things down a little. There were morning and afternoon sessions, with 40 cars in each that were divided into groups of five. Cars were released one at a time, with about 15 seconds between them, so as to spread the cars out on track. Overtaking was also forbidden. The track action was always going to be about fun rather than competition with such an eclectic group of cars anyway. I had a Studebaker ahead of me and a ’60s Ford Galaxy behind, so you see what I mean.

    My first two laps were more about remembering the corners than pushing the limits of the car. Even so, it wasn’t long before I found myself riding the rear of the Studebaker. I backed off, enjoyed the views and once the gap had grown again, nailed the accelerator, enjoying the sound of the S14 revving up toward its redline. I know I’m biased but it sounded glorious. In the past I have always tried to short-shift the gears and get the M3 settled into the corners, carrying as much speed as I can.

    I must say I was incredibly happy with the performance of the #Nankang-AR-1 tyres. The levels of grip were excellent right from the off and they were certainly consistent. My first introduction to Nankang was of a cheap tyre most often used by drifters and, if honest, there was a bit of a stigma attached to the name. It is pretty clear that Nankang have done some serious development and, as a control tyre for the #M3 cup, the general consensus was it’s a very good tyre indeed. It will be interesting to see how well they last, when compared to the likes of the Toyo R888R, but their performance is certainly next level. Yes, they’re not exactly ideal in wet weather but they were never meant to be. It’s hard to see how you could get a better track day tyre for the money, though. The only negative being there isn’t quite the choice in sizes I would like, but hopefully that may change in the future? Anyway, big thanks to Ben Lawson at Nankang UK.

    The M3 runs KW Competition suspension and it felt so planted, really giving me the confidence to carry so much speed through the corners. My previous experience had been with my old #BMW-325i-Coupe-E30 race car but the M3 is in a whole other league. As I passed the chequered flag I was able to scroll through the various readings on the Stack dash display and everything was well within the limits so we rolled around to the paddock and awaited our next laps.

    Whilst sat in the paddock we shuffled our group of five cars around, with the M3 going first as it was the fastest. Now I could really push on without catching slower traffic, although I was also mindful of this being fun and not competitive. As we had a few minutes I was able to take a look at some of the other cars and especially the other BMWs. How about a 1970 1600-2? I love ’02s anyway, but this one belonged to James of JFi Classics in Brecon. James and I have been friends for a few years now and he has put together some terrific cars. This ’02 has a real sting in the tail, with a supercharged #M42 under the bonnet. The registration plate FLY is pretty apt and the whine of the supercharger is phenomenal. There was also another E30 M3, but rather than being powered by an S14 it has what was the first #LS1-V8 conversion. Power is around 450hp so it was always going to be quick. My personal favourite is a car I have known since I first discovered BMWs 30 plus years ago! It’s a 2002 Touring but with M30 3.5 power and triple Weber carbs. It has to be said, this is just about my perfect ’02 specification and a credit to Ian Elliott who has built and developed it over many years.

    As time came around for my next laps, James from JFi’s son jumped in as a passenger, having never ridden in an E30 M3 before. Obviously with such a valuable cargo I wasn’t going to go 10/10ths but after the first lap we were both enjoying the performance of the M3 and all those clichés that have been written for the past 30+ years. The second lap was certainly my quickest of the day, carrying more speed through Woodcote and braking hard for the right, left of Chicane as we entered the pit straight and crossed the finishing line. It was as we passed that line the dash warning light flashed and the Stack display showed ‘Low Oil Pressure!’ accompanied by the unmistakable sound of bearing knocking. I immediately killed the engine and coasted to a halt. My weekend had just taken a nosedive.

    The next half hour was mainly spent staring in disbelief. I had done everything I could to guard against this scenario yet here I was, looking at yet another incredibly expensive engine rebuild. What I just couldn’t understand, though, was why? The reason I had installed the digital dash display from Stack Ltd, was that it allowed me to keep a close eye on exactly what goes on with the engine. The custom rad, larger oil cooler and baffled sump were also fitted to allow the S14 to be used as it was designed to be, on track. I’ve been almost obsessive in keeping watch over fluid levels and temperatures yet here I was with another engine failure. As you can imagine, my enthusiasm for the rest of the weekend took quite a knock so I opted to get the M3 transported back home so that ARM could get the engine out and back to the builder.


    A could of days later Joe at ARM took off the sump and it was soon clear that cylinder number one’s big end shell had spun. Added to that, the rest of the bearings look to have worn prematurely and you’d never believe this was an engine that had run for just 300 hours. What we couldn’t see though, was a reason to explain the failure and without that I couldn’t rebuild and gamble that it could happen again.

    The next couple of days saw me calling and emailing anyone with experience of using BMWs S14 in competition. They all agreed that I appeared to have taken pretty much every precaution and both the ECU and Stack memories confirmed that there were no excessive coolant or oil temperatures, the engine had never been over-revved and the only thing that was shown was a momentary (and pretty catastrophic) loss of oil pressure. It was then that I mentioned that the crank had been subjected to a +0.75 regrind and it is this that seems most likely to have been behind the failure, due to its removing the nitriding that gives the crank strength. In fact a few people have since told me that they just wouldn’t regrind an S14 crankshaft at all, let alone as much as +0.75 and that I need a new crankshaft before I rebuild my engine once again. I also need to replace at least one of the Arrow con rods as the end cap has blued from the heat generated by the spun shell. Thankfully Russ, at JC Racing in Thirsk, has come to the rescue. So there we go. As it stands today (and things may well change between now and your reading this) I have a pretty expensive parts list to fill. I had no idea that the S14 crank couldn’t be reground but as they say, every day is a school day and this was an expensive lesson!

    BIG THANKS TO Joe at ARM BMW, Kirby at C3 BMW Russ at JC Racing, James at JFi Classics Nigel at Moseley Motorsport I also owe a huge amount to my long-suffering partner Claire. I think it’s fair to say she hates the M3 and would rather I sold it and took up knitting instead

    Nankang AR-1s impressed on track. The M3 was treated to a detailing session. Compbrake #BBK great on track. #BMW-E30-LS1 #V8-swapped-BMW-M3-E30 was also on track.
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    AMERICAN HUSTLE / #BMW / #2015 /
    What may look like a nicely-modded but unassuming E30 hides a potent 5.7-litre #V8 secret…

    This E30 may be low and exceedingly sexy, but it’s what’s lurking under the bonnet that will blow your socks off… Words: Elizabeth de Latour /// Photos: Patrick Lauder

    You’re probably looking at this E30 and thinking that it looks good because, let’s be honest, it does. The colour is nice, it suits the E30 shape and, yes, it’s on air, but what isn’t these days right? Air is cool, you might be thinking, and it’s clean and subtly done – just a really nicely modded E30 that anyone would be happy to own. And then you spot that bonnet-up engine shot: ‘Cor… Corvette? Whaa…?’

    Now maybe you’re confused and have a disapproving look on your face. Suddenly you’re probably feeling some conflicting emotions because maybe you’re just not down with Yank motors in German cars. We can understand that – engine swaps are cool, everyone loves an engine swap when it comes from within the BMW family, but venture outside that circle of safety and, well, things get a bit fuzzy around the edges. But here at #Drive-My we’re definitely down with this sort of engine swappery. Owner Rich Hardesty-DeMenge is a brave man for stuffing that vast ’Vette V8 into his E30 (affectionately called Evette) not only because it’s a massive undertaking both in terms of sheer effort and finances, but also because brave is the man who sullies the classic purity of the E30. We admire his commitment to worshipping at the V8 altar.

    Usefully, the 26 year-old is in “the engineering field”, so he’s a bit handy with his hands, and that means he was wellsuited to tackling this crazy swap with a little help from his brother, Brendon. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, because when a man decides he wants to put an American V8 in his E30, you want to get to know that man a bit better…

    “I’ve liked BMWs since I was a child playing with model cars, before I was even dreaming of what kind of car I would eventually drive,” says Rich. “I have always found BMWs to be one of the best looking cars on the road, and I really enjoy the feeling I get when driving mine. When I was 19 I wanted a BMW and ended up buying a 2005 325i, though I figured out later I should have done more research into exactly what kind of BMW I wanted as it turned out to be a SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) model so I was stuck doing only suspension and visual modifications.”


    He did attempt to get more power out of it, but it didn’t exactly go to plan: “I got screwed out of a $7000 deal on a supercharger kit that a company sold me, guaranteeing it could tune the M56 SULEV to run the kit. Of course when all was said and paid for I installed the kit, but the company couldn’t tune the computer after all, at least not without having the car. As I was in California and the company was in Florida, I took the kit off, tried to return it. It wouldn’t accept it, so I ended up selling the kit for around a $3000 loss and started hunting for an E30 instead.

    “My plan was to build a turbo M20 from the start. Power was all I cared about at the time. I actually bought a spare M20 and started building it before I had even found the car,” and seeing as Rich had modified every car he’d previously owned, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. “I bought the E30 in Milpitas, CA, maybe 20 minutes away from the dealership that originally sold it. It had a cracked head, the brakes were shot, it was an automatic, had no interior, and the person I bought it from had begun parting it out. It was in pretty sad shape, but the body was rust-free and straight, and that was all I cared about. It ended up with a built M20 stroker with a Holset HX35 turbo running 18psi that I put together myself before deciding on the engine swap…”

    As a side note, while it may say Corvette on the rocker covers, the 5.7-litre (5665cc and about 346Ci if you want to keep things American) all-alloy LS1 V8 that fills the E30’s engine bay to brimming point was actually extracted from a 2002 Camaro Z28. This engine was used in the C5 Corvette, albeit in a slightly higher state of tune (350hp plays 305-325 depending on flavour of Camaro), though according to everyone and their Chevy-driving dog those figures are conservative to protect the Corvette’s status and in actual fact all the engines made about the same power at around the 350hp mark. Considering most people carrying out V8 swaps on E30s opt for the 4.0-litre M60, with its 286hp and 295lb ft of torque and find that more than enough thank you very much, an additional 40hp on paper and 50lb ft make for a silly fast car that gets to enjoy the massive spread of torque that comes with a huge capacity engine. Naturally, that wasn’t enough for Rich, so he added a few go-faster bits under the bonnet including a Texas Speed 228r cam, LS6 intake, having the head ported and polished and upgrading the valvetrain. These engines respond well to bolt-ons so we’d be guessing it’s got to be knocking on the door of 400hp now, which is just a bit silly really.


    “The biggest issues my brother and I ran into was fabrication,” explains Rich. “as we did the entire swap on a set of jack stands over three years ago. There were no ‘swap kits’ available back then that allow you to simply drop the drivetrain in like there are today. We had to make our own motor, trans, hydroboost and second differential mount, along with fabricating the entire exhaust by hand, which is a dual 2.5” system that goes into a single 4” oval exhaust that runs back to a Magnaflow muffler.”


    Considering that an LS-swap is still not exactly easy now, the fact that Rich and his brother did all this by themselves when things were even harder is very impressive. Of course all that go would be no good if Rich’s E30 couldn’t put it down effectively so the chassis has been thoroughly overhauled. Purists among you may question why he opted for air-ride over coilovers with such a serious engine lurking under the bonnet because, you know, bags don’t handle (#sarcasm). “I ran Ground Control coilovers for a while,” he says “but I knew I eventually wanted to put air-ride on the car. Having a bagged ride had been a dream since elementary school, and the days of reading Mini Truckin’ and Truckin’ magazine. So I did just that, I bought a DIY kit that required a fair bit of customisation, and my brother helped me fabricate everything. Overall, I have to say I really like the way it handles and rides with bags, even over coilovers,” so deal with that, bag haters.


    Beyond that there’s the practicality that comes part and parcel of an air-ride setup plus the fact that, aired out with BBS RSs tucked up inside its arches, this E30 looks just plain badass.


    “Wheels were a really tough choice,” muses Rich, “but I have always liked the mesh style with a polished lip, and the BBS RSs fit the bill quite nicely, I originally had a 16” set on Evette, which were stolen, so I ordered the current set that you see on the car and, as luck would have it, I found and managed to get back the stolen set of 16s within a couple days of receiving the new 17” set, leaving me with an extra set of RSs for my other E30.”

    The final touch is a set of uprated brakes, because you can’t be driving around in an E30 with almost 400hp on the standard setup. Tucked away behind those BBSs you’ll find a set of Wilwoods front and back running 310mm discs all-round with six-pot front calipers and four-pots at the rear, delivering just as much stop as the engine does go.

    Styling-wise things have been left pretty much standard and in our opinion this was most definitely the right thing to do because the E30 is such a perfect piece of design it would seem wrong to mess with it. “I find E30s to be a genuinely good looking car from factory minus a good drop and nice set of wheels, so I decided to keep it stock, although I did install a rear valence from a late model to help balance the car out,” Rich tells us.

    The interior, too, has been left untouched, but why start messing around in there when you’ve got Sport seats and an M Tech I wheel? “I ended up finding a well-used but good condition full black interior after I bought the car,” he says, “which I cleaned up and installed. I do have a full red interior I would like to install, but it needs to be reupholstered first.” The only item that is alien is that baseball-sized gear knob attached to the six-speed Tremec T56 gearbox beneath.


    While Evette might look finished to you and I, Rich has more plans in the pipeline, and they’re not just a new bumper or set of wheels… “I’m going to end up throwing a large single turbo on the passenger side of the engine bay at around 8psi,” he says casually and nonchalantly, like a man describing what he plans to order for lunch. “Plus the new interior eventually and another paint job – this car will never really be done,” which is of course how pretty much most of us feel about our project cars. For now, though, Rich and his brother have built something a little bit special, a seriously good-looking E30 with the sort of intoxicating power and thunderous soundtrack that will make you want to put a V8 in everything, and we certainly wouldn’t blame you for that…


    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E30-LS1 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW / #LS1

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION 2002 5.7-litre #LS1-V8 / #GM-LS1 / #GM / #LS1 , #TSP-228r cam, ported and polished heads, LS6 intake, #Tremec-T56 / #Tremec six-speed manual gearbox.

    CHASSIS 9x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #BBS-RS wheels with 205/35 (front) and 215/35 (rear) tyres, custom #DIY #Air-Lift Performance air suspension, #Wilwood #BBK with 310mm discs (front and rear) and six-pot calipers (front) and four-pot calipers (rear).

    EXTERIOR Late model rear valence welded on, iS side skirts.

    INTERIOR Black leather Sport seats, #M-Tech I steering wheel.

    “Overall, I have to say I like the way it handles and rides with bags, even over coilovers”

    “I’ve always found BMWs to be one of the best looking cars on the road, and I enjoy the feeling I get when driving mine”
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