- Post is under moderationThis E36 M3 R is one of the rarest of the rare, but that didn’t stop one owner beefing it up to be a full-on track terror. Words and photos: Chris Nicholls.
FULL-ON BMW-E36 / BMW-M3 R Hardcore Australian special
GYM JUNKIE UNICORN Ultra-rare E36 M3 R from Oz
Just 12 E36 M3 Rs were made available to the public back in the mid ’90s by #BMW Australia. Built, as some of you may know, to be the ultimate non-GTR E36, the cars were basically Group N racers for the road. They came with full Motorsport Group N suspension, a tweaked engine putting out 325hp (more than any E36 M3 other than the GTR), AP Racing four-piston brakes all-round, the full M3 GT bodykit, plus Super Tourer wing and extendable splitter, and almost all creature comforts, such as rear seats, air-conditioning and fog lights, removed. Developed by the legendary Paul Rosche, then M GmbH’s head of motorsport, and team members from the famous Australian Frank Gardner’s outfit, including Ralph Bellamy - former F1 engineer and one of the men responsible for inventing ground effects at Lotus - the M3 R remains to this day arguably the greatest E36 variant you can actually buy, albeit one that required a racing license when purchasing it new and one that is, unsurprisingly, also climbing in value today.
Which makes it all the more bizarre that this M3 R’s previous owner, Alan Palser, decided to tune it so much there’s basically nothing left of the original car bar the little silver build plate on the centre console. To whit, there’s the DTM Fiber Werkz widebody kit, JRZ dampers with Eibach springs, Turner front and SM Motorsport custom rear anti-roll bars, SM Motorsport custom control arms, Alcon monobloc front and AP Racing rear calipers and two-piece slotted discs, AP racing twin-plate clutch, boot-mounted Speed Master fuel cell with Bosch 044 pump and swirl pot and a range of engine mods, including a very sexy CSL-style carbon airbox, which bring the power up to around 370rwhp. In a car running Hankook slicks on its 11x18” Apex EC-7 wheels, and weighing only 1220kg thanks to being completely stripped and caged, that makes this is one rapid racer indeed. But one that isn’t really much of an M3 R anymore.
So why did Alan do it? Well, there were two main reasons. The first is an all-too familiar story. Having fallen in love with BMWs as a lad growing up in the Group A era, Alan decided he had to have one, and eventually managed to fund the purchase of his third-hand M3 R ten years ago when it had just 40,000km on the clock. However, as one does, he started to chat more and more to people in the club scene and eventually got talked into attending a few track days. And that’s when the bug bit, hard.
“At the time I bought it, I would say the plan was to have it as a road car, but having started to talk to some people in car clubs, they said, ‘Oh, you should come down and join the club and have a go on the track on a club day’. Then once I’d done that a couple of times, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I think I’m going to enjoy this’. So I once I’d done a couple of those, I started orienting the E36 more towards that and less as a car to drive on the road.”
And once Alan started, he found it hard to stop, spiralling down that route we all know of upgrading ever more bits and pieces. “Once I was on that path, it was easier to continue on it, rather than scrap it and go back to a start point again,” he says. Eventually, after entering a couple of tarmac rallies, Alan decided it was time to develop it fully and, having sent it off to BMW whiz Sam Markov at SM Motorsport in Wodonga on the Victoria/New South Wales state border, things just got even more extreme, eventually leading to a wilder state than it is in now (this engine is its second after the previous fully-built and E85-tuned beast blew prior to the sale to its current owner). As for the second reason, that was more to do with the used car market at the time. Although it might seem silly in today’s climate, despite its rarity, engineering pedigree and extremely finely-honed nature out of the box, the M3 R wasn’t actually all that valuable ten years ago. You could pick one up for less than AU$50,000 (around £25,000) and there wasn’t a sense that they would be a future collectible. Hence why Alan says “I didn’t feel like I was totally killing something that was worth a lot of money at the time.” Of course, thinking about it now, he agrees that were he to do it all again, he would have started with a basic 3 Series shell, but such is life.
Eventually, having arrived at a development crossroads, Alan was unsure whether to replace the engine with an S85 V10 or the like, or sell it to fund something like a Z4 GT3. In the end he decided to part with it, which is where current owner and Avis franchise holder (hence the stickers) Les Sears comes into the picture. A Holden man for much of his time in motorsport, one drive of an E46 back when it was new changed his life forever and after that, Les became a devoted BMW fan, building up quite an impressive collection that currently includes a stock E36 M3, three E46 M3s (one road car, one complete racer and another in the build) and an F82 435i daily. Hence why, when he found out this car was up for sale about a year and a half ago, knowing how rare it was and how much effort had gone into it, he pounced on it.
Of course there was still the matter of the blown engine to take care of before he could enjoy it at his local motorkhanas and track days, and given the previous highly-strung motor’s issues, and the fact the chassis set-up was good enough to ensure speed without huge power, Les decided to tone down the new power plant a little in order to keep it reliable. Thus, right now, it runs a completely stock 3.2-litre bottom end, and only the aforementioned carbon airbox with custom trumpets (on stock runners), K&N pod filter, ARP rod bolts, 296º Schrick cams, Vanos delete and Motec M600 ECU as mods. Despite this, thanks to Sam Markov’s nous (Les kept him on as the car’s mechanic, as unlike for Alan, Sam was local), the car puts down 367hp at the wheels, which as we said is still plenty in a circa-1200kg car, and easily enough to keep Les at the top of the time sheets at whatever event he enters. “Everywhere you take it, if it doesn’t win, it’s always second or third. It’s a quick little car. It’s very, very well balanced, and it doesn’t do it with horsepower, it does it with cornering speed,” he says.
Despite its pace and the fact it’s no longer much of an M3 R though, Les has no desire to risk such a rare car (even in its current state) in actual racing, saying “I’m a little reluctant [to race it]. I don’t mind doing the sprints in it, but once you get into a race meeting, I’d hate to damage it. I’ve got an E46 [an ex-Targa Tasmania machine, no less] which can take a bit of a hit and it’s easy to panel beat, but this thing with that body kit on it, it’s quite hard to start rebuilding that. I’ve got a new E46 being built as we speak too, and when that’s finished I’ll put this car up on blocks and leave it there and won’t race it at all”.
Now, given he’s only had the car for less than two years, such a plan might sound impossibly sad, but it’s actually part of a grander scheme to leave it in as good a condition as he can for his son, who also races. Essentially, Les says that he’ll take the M3 R out every so often just to keep it running until his son takes it over, and continue racing in the new E46 once that’s built. “It’s a new shell that we’ve got in another shed with a new cage through it and I’ve bought all the parts for it. I’ve just got to assemble it, basically,” he says. “I’ll do that the same way - it’ll have a 3.2-litre in it, but the bottom end won’t be stressed out and we’ll just get it to breathe.”
Hopefully both cars can see the use they deserve for many years to come, as although Les is now 69, he has no plans to stop racing anytime soon, and that’s the sort of thing we love to hear. If, however, he does eventually decide to give the game away, not only will he have his son to look after the cars, he’ll also still be able to enjoy them in other ways, saying that “I just get a kick of out of being in the shed and having a cup of coffee with the cars… And they’re not as noisy as the wife!”
S50B32 straight-six has been fitted with #VAC Vanos delete kit, among many other mods, and now makes 367whp.
Carbon blanking plates are most definitely at home in the stripped-out interior.
“Everywhere you take it, if it doesn’t win, it’s always second or third. It’s a quick little car”
DATA FILE / #BMW / #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3-R / #Apex / #BMW-M3-R-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #Motec-M600 / #Motec / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E36
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2 litre straight-six #S50B32 / #BMW-S50 / #S50 , #K&N pod filter, custom carbon airbox with OEM runners and custom trumpets, #Schrick 296º cams (inlet and exhaust), #VAC-Motorsports Vanos delete kit, #ARP rod bolts, #NGK spark plugs, #Bosch-440cc /min injectors, Bosch-044 fuel pump, custom swirl pot, #Speed-master fuel cell, Evosport underdrive pulley, Turner Motorsport solid engine mounts, SM Motorsport stepped headers, custom 2.5” stainless steel exhaust and silencer, #Motec-M600-ECU . Five-speed manual gearbox, #AP-Racing twin-plate 7.25” clutch, stock M3 R flywheel, #OS-Giken-LSD
CHASSIS 11x18” ET25 (front and rear) #Apex-EC-7 wheels in Anthracite with 20mm spacers (front and rear) and 280/650 - 18 Hankook slicks (front and rear), #JRZ-RS dampers with #Eibach springs, #Turner-Motorsport (front) and SM Motorsport (rear) anti-roll bars, SM Motorsport custom front suspension arms to increase track by 100mm, #SM-Motorsport custom rear trailing arms, SM Motorsport custom bearings and rod-ends, Whiteline front strut bar, Alcon monobloc four-pot calipers with 355x32mm two-piece slotted rotors and Ferodo DS1.11 pads (front), AP Racing four-pot calipers with 330x28mm two-piece slotted rotors and Ferodo DS2500 pads (rear), AP Racing fluid, SM Motorsport custom braided lines and custom pedal box
EXTERIOR DTM Fiber Werkz wide-body kit (customised by SM Motorsport), custom Topstage Composites front bumper and carbon splitter, #APR-Performance rear wing
INTERIOR Brown Davis roll-cage, short-shift kit, RPM SL S/W Comfort suede steering wheel with quick-release hub, Velo Apex-XL seat, Sparco harnesses, carbon blanking plates for centre console and gauge pod, Racepak displayStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationTRUE INDIVIDUAL
The E36 M3 GT Imola Individual is a rare beast and modified examples, like this slick machine, are rarer still. The E36 is fast becoming the appreciating #BMW classic of the moment, and you’ll struggle to find one finer than Mikey Townsend’s M3 GT Imola Individual. Words: Ben Koflach. Photos: Scott Paterson.
Things at the upper end of the E36 market have seen a sea of change in the last few years. After some time spent as perhaps the least desirable models of the 3 Series range, they’re now on the up in terms of resale values – for a good one at least. And the most desirable of all the models? The ultra-rare M3 Evolution Imola Individual.
With just 50 examples produced for the UK (and only a further 200 for the entirety of mainland Europe), the M3 GT II, often labelled the GT2, was a final hurrah for the E36. It built on the legend that had been forged with the M3 GT. However, rather than being based on the 3.0-litre M3 and being coloured British Racing green, the GT II used the 3.2-litre six-speed M3 Evo as a base and came in stunning Imola red.
M3 GT Class II front corner splitters and a rear wing to match, an interior combination of Imola red Nappa leather and anthracite Alcantara and plenty of the usual options boxes ticked as standard made the GT II special. Mikey Townsend was lucky enough to pick this one up at the beginning of last year and proceeded to put his own stamp on the ultra-rare M3.
Mikey’s far from a stranger to BMWs. As an ex-paratrooper stationed in Germany for a number of years he was lucky enough to have an E30 M3 as his first one, bought for just DM6500 – less than £3000. “If only I knew what I had back then!” laughed the 32-year-old. “I’d have put it away in storage instead of driving it like a loon everywhere.” Sure enough, by the age of 18 Mikey was an ex-E30 M3 owner, having written it off, but he was hooked on BMWs from then on. An E46 M3 followed later, with an E36 M3 Coupé and a Convertible spliced with countless non-M Three and Five series models – you name it, Mikey’s probably had one. However, his latest purchase is the most special of them all.
“My brother has an M3 GT II, number 16, which he got in 2007, and I’ve wanted one ever since he got it,” Mikey told us. “It was inevitable that I would end up with one, it was just a matter of when. Then this one popped up and was only half-an-hour from me, so I had to take a look.”
What Mikey had before him was M3 GT Imola Individual, number 48 of 50. It was an immaculate, carefully restored piece of Bavarian history which had been given a select range of modifications to boot including KW V3 coilovers and a number of small touches. Along with those it came with all of the original parts so that it could be restored to its rare original guise if required.
“I’ve been choosy as to what I do with it,” Mikey explained. “That’s why I’ve only really gone for Schnitzer styling and the best replacement parts available. Everything I’ve done is totally reversible as I’ve got all of the original parts in the garage. Everyone says: ‘you can’t modify it, it’s too rare!’ Well, tell me it doesn’t look good!”
When he bought the car it was sitting on three-piece Hartge wheels. These were not purchased as part of the deal and so the first thing Mikey did was get the standard wheels refurbished to a better-than-new condition before bolting them up to the car and rolling it home. Once the wheels were on and shod in brand-new Michelins, Mikey got the car home and didn’t hang about with his plans to get it looking the way he wanted.
“The body had already been recently resprayed and fully rust treated and Waxoyl’d underneath, so everything I got for it had to be mint. This meant new or completely refurbished parts throughout,” Mikey explained. His private plate was purchased and transferred onto the M3, while a Storm Motorwerks weighted gear knob was fitted alongside the previous owner’s addition of Amaretta Anthracite Alcantara gaiters.
Another upgrade for the interior was a selection of genuine BMW Motorsport International door sill trims and a matching carbon fibre glovebox trim. The badge on the back of the rear wing was also swapped for one that Mikey had made by Taylor Made Decals, denoting the car’s 48/50 production number.
Mikey’s next trip out in the car was to go and get a special little something for under the bonnet, as he explains: “I took her for a blast over to Luton to see Bilal and Imran at Evolve. I had been speaking to Bilal for a while about an Eventuri intake for the E36 but he said that there hadn’t been enough interest in them to warrant producing them.
However, he said to bring the car down for them to have a look at anyway. No sooner had I got there and spoken to Bilal was the car in the workshop, with the old air box being stripped off and measurements being taken for a custom kit. Dyno runs were done before and after, both with standard mapping. It was hitting 306/307hp as standard but with the Eventuri it was hitting at least 315hp on each run with much stronger and consistent torque gains!
Gaining an extra 10hp from the kit was really surprising and the sound it makes is awesome, especially on wide open throttle.”
A neat touch is that Eventuris all feature a serial number, and Mikey managed to bag number 48 to match his car. It a little plaque on the carbon heat sheild and is just one example of the painstaking detail he goes to in his pursuit of perfection.
Mikey’s next addition to the car was, again, to the engine bay in the form of a genuine AC Schnitzer carbon fibre strut brace. However, the carbon’s clear coat had aged badly and gone slightly yellow in places. Of course, that wasn’t good enough for Mikey’s GT II and so it was sent off to be carefully re-lacquered, with the engine cover being colour-coded at the same time – a neat touch.
With the M3 looking and feeling better than ever, all that was left was for Mikey to put a couple more of his own touches on the exterior. This started with a set of anthracite M3 Contour wheels – mint, of course – and some AC Schnitzer Cup 2 wing mirrors.
However, the biggest change was yet to come, as Mickey explains: “I stumbled across the current wheels by chance really. I was looking for something else but got chatting to this guy with an Estoril blue E36 M3 Evo. He sent me a few photos of it and said that he had these rims on it but wanted to go back to the originals. These wheels are my favourite. I’ve always loved them and have always said that if I could have any wheels on the E36 it would be them. He was after cash quick so I got them for £1000 with new tyres, too,” Mikey told us. “It was a case of being in the right place at the right time – literally three weeks before Gaydon BMW Festival last year, so it was all good!”
With the AC Schnitzer theme that Mikey already had running throughout his GT, those final touches were the perfect additions. However, the only worry he now had was that it was all becoming a little too ACS-themed and might detract from just how special the GT is; not the worst problem to have, you might be think, but it was easily solved by simply swapping back to the original M3 mirrors, which has worked a treat.
The final addition was an AC Schnitzer exhaust – another rare part, which makes the S50 a little more vocal and brings a welcome lift to the rear end. It was bolted up with Hack Engineering billet exhaust hangers, too. No stone has been left unturned with this M3.
“Because of the size a few people were saying that the wheels would never fit – but that’s the beauty of having the KW V3s: I could get it stanced perfectly! With a few goes it was spot-on, with no rubbing,” concluded Mikey. With a thorough polish up and some fresh AC Schnitzer graphics for them, the wheels were the perfect addition to set the car off.
Undoubtedly Mikey has more plans for the GT but you can rest assured that each and every addition will be as carefully considered as all of those so far. E36s are on the up, and with something as rare and as special as his GT Imola Individual it would be too easy to damage it with the wrong modifications. Premium parts, great taste and a respect for the rarity have culminated in one very special M3.
DATA FILE #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3-GT-Imola-Individual / #BMW-M3-GT-Imola-Individual-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3-GT / #BMW-M3-GT-E36 / #BMW / #AC-Schnitzer / #AC-Schnitzer-Type-1 / #BMW-Motorsport / #BMW-M /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S50B32 / #BMW-S50 / #S50 / , #Eventuri carbon fibre intake with build number matched to chassis number, #ARP con-rod bolts, colour-coded engine cover, AC Schnitzer exhaust, #Hack-Engineering billet exhaust mounts. Standard six-speed manual gearbox, #Rogue-Engineering gearbox mounts, braided clutch line, standard 3.23 final drive LSD
CHASSIS 8.5x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #AC-Schnitzer-Type-1-Racing three-piece wheels with 215/40 (front) and 245/35 (rear) Hankook V12 tyres, #KW-V3 coilovers, #AC-Schnitzer carbon fibre strut brace. Standard brakes with drilled and grooved discs front and rear, braided brake lines
EXTERIOR Full respray in original Individual Imola red, Class II front spoiler removed, factory Class II rear spoiler, BMW Motorsport Individual side moulding badges, custom build number plaque
INTERIOR Individual upholstery (including Imola red door inserts and seat centre sections, Amaretta Anthracite seat bolsters), Amaretta Anthracite-trimmed steering wheel with Imola stitching by Royal Steering wheels, extended Imola leather by Bespoke Leather, Storm Motorwerks gear knob, Storm Motorwerks cigarette lighter blank, AC Schnitzer alloy pedal set, AC Schnitzer door pins, BMW Motorsport International carbon fibre glovebox trim, BMW-Motorsport International door sill trims, Harman Kardon speakers
THANKS Bilal and Imran at Eventuri, Jim at Vines, Steven at Taylor Made Decals, Ben at Hack Engineering, friends and familyStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationNOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE 720hp turbo #BMW-E36 hardcore British built M3. We revisit an insane turbo E36, now pushing 720hp. Ignoring conventional routes, Steve Will has created a turbocharged E36 M3 that performs like no other… Words: Stav Neophytou. Photos: Andy Starkey.
While turbocharging in-line six #BMW engines has been the norm in Europe and the USA for decades, until recent years it’s been a rarity in the UK due to our cars being righthand drive. BMW sixes are canted towards the exhaust side, which also happens to be the driver’s side on right-hand drive cars. This means a severe lack of room for not only the turbo and manifold but getting a suitably large exhaust downpipe past the steering column is a real nightmare, too. However, despite these fitment headaches, turbocharging is finally taking off in the UK BMW scene.
A man clearly ahead of the times, though, is UK resident Steve Will. This incredible E36 M3 is his, and it’s been turbocharged for the best part of a decade now! While it’s been a long road, full of pitfalls and learning experiences, the end result is jaw-dropping.
Steve bought this car back in 2005 and turbocharging it was always on his mind since driving a turbocharged 635CSi many years previous. Despite the perceived impossibility of a RHD Turbo E36 M3 back then, it was barely two years later before it had its first incarnation as a turbocharged engine. This first setup used a cast log manifold by South African BMW expert Savspeed, a Turbonetics T70 turbo, and a fully-forged engine with a compression ratio of 9.5:1. Unfortunately, while clearly incredibly powerful, the combination of the high compression ratio, pump fuel and suspect mapping meant the engine expired due to severe detonation while still being tested and mapped at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground.
Thankfully this initial disaster was covered under the tuner’s warranty, so the engine was rebuilt with a more pump-fuel friendly 8.5:1 compression ratio.
Sophisticated Motec engine management was fitted and the car was finally dyno’d at a ballistic 670hp and 500lb ft of torque. While we really don’t need to tell you how incredibly fast a 670hp E36 is, due to the big turbo and basic log manifold it wasn’t the most efficient setup in the world. In fact, even Steve will be the first to tell you it was actually very laggy. While it hit the 350hp mark at 5500rpm the power then literally jumped up 100hp every 500rpm from then onwards, pulling hard until over 7500rpm. It was an absolute animal; insanely fast but far from controllable!
The engine stayed in the above spec for a number of years but as the car was primarily used as a drift car, both for fun and competition, outright power became less important than response and drivability. So, when the engine finally failed in 2011, plans were made for a more user-friendly engine spec. While the cast log manifold was still seen as the only option, Steve increased the compression ratio to 9:1 and fitted a smaller PT5862 turbo – Precision’s equivalent of the popular Garrett GT35R.
After some expert mapping from Greg at Protuner the way the car drove was transformed, with 350hp now coming at just 3500rpm. At the same rpm the engine was also making well over 500lb ft of tyredestroying torque. Peak torque was incredible, 650lb ft, and response was instant, too. Compared to the original larger turbo, however, peak power was down over 100hp at 560hp, and peak rpm was much lower, too, with the graph flat-lining from 5000rpm until just over 6000 when it started to drop.
There’s no doubt 560hp and 650lb ft are supercar-smashing numbers in most people’s eyes, and if Steve knew no differently he’d no doubt be over the moon with the performance but despite the amazing torque and response, his previous experience of having a huge 670hp and a screaming high rpm performance was impossible to forget. In fact, he was so used to the insanity of the old setup he called this one “boring”, which leads us to where we are today…
What Steve ideally wanted was the best of both engines: the insane power of the big turbo engine but with the torque and response of the small turbo engine. Pretty much everyone he spoke to said that was impossible. Undeterred Steve employed the services of someone who sees the word ‘impossible’ as a challenge: Thomas Zurawski of Zurawski Motorsport in Ledbury, Herefordshire.
While the engine itself was bulletproof, and it’s hard to beat a #Motec-M800 ECU, Zurawski Motorsport is an expert in custom turbo setups and could see the existing design left a lot to be desired. Not only was the cast log turbo manifold considered a poor design but the inlet plenum, intercooler, exhaust system, and air filter setup were all on the list for improvement. Tubular twin scroll turbo manifolds didn’t previously exist for RHD BMWs due to the lack of room but the Zurawski design fits perfectly. And not only does it flow far better than a restrictive log manifold but the twin-scroll design drastically improves turbo spool up, allowing a bigger turbo to be used without losing drivability.
To further aid spool and throttle response, twin WRC anti-lag valves have been fitted, allowing huge amounts of airflow to go direct from the compressor to the exhaust manifold which, along with fuel and ignition adjustments from the Motec ECU, give the engine the ability to stay at full boost even when the throttle is closed, not to mention the rapid-fire bangs and huge flames from the side exit exhaust!
The other big change to the engine is certainly the most controversial: the inlet plenum. The shape and design of it is certainly a world away from typical designs and, due to this, many naysayers claimed it would be restrictive or simply not work. The reality is, however, it’s actually a commonly-used design in turbocharged race engines, as found in WRC, RallyCross, and LeMans. The unusual design gives equal airflow to each cylinder, something that’s a big problem on turbocharged cars, especially on in-line six engines, and by allowing the cylinders to receive equal amounts of airflow improvements are seen in power, spool up, reliability, and to safe boost limits.
In addition to the manifolds, the entire turbo system – from air filter to exhaust tailpipes – was custom-made from scratch by Zurawski Motorsport for maximum flow and efficiency. It includes a huge grillemounted air filter, an enormous intercooler that necessitated the rear mounted radiator conversion, twin external wastegates, and a full custom exhaust system, with a very cleverly designed downpipe that somehow manages to snake past the dreaded RHD steering column!
Of course, the most important part of any turbo system is the turbocharger itself, which is a BorgWarner S300SX 9180 turbo, with a twin scroll T4 turbine and billet compressor. This turbo is actually bigger than the previous original laggy unit, so surely this new engine can’t be very responsive? Think again…
With the car once again in the expert hands of Greg at ProTuner, the new setup made a touch over 600hp at just 1bar boost, and 700hp at 1.5bar, 30hp more than the traditional-style turbo setup using the log manifold. While the power is impressive, what really makes it special is this time he also had an insane 730lb ft of torque, with over 500lb ft of that by just 3700rpm. Yes, it spools as fast and makes even more torque than the small turbo did but makes more power than the big laggy turbo! The currentspec engine actually makes more power and torque than the original engine right across the rev range, from 2500rpm until over 7000rpm. In fact, at 4000rpm it now has 375hp and 490lb ft more!
Buoyed on by these incredible results, the car recently returned to the dyno with 109 Octane race fuel where it made 720hp and over 800lbft at 1.4bar boost. The new fuel gave such incredible response and torque that, by the time of writing at least, Steve’s been unable to get traction at any higher boost than that. Once he finds a traction solution, though, he’s hoping for 800hp plus. Considering the current results, even over 1000hp looks to be easily achievable with only a slight increase in turbo size.
While we make no apologies for concentrating so much on Steve’s groundbreaking engine, the rest of the car is no less wild, both in looks (thanks to the M3 GTR wide bodywork and Team Dynamics motorsport wheels) and in performance (thanks to a spec that is truly world class).
On the inside there’s a comprehensive custom roll-cage that ties in to the diff mounts, a sophisticated rear mounted radiator setup that draws air through the side window ducts and exits via the rear diffuser, while underneath there’s a drift- specific front suspension design with incredible amounts of steering angle.
What’s perhaps most impressive is the thought put in to all the various parts fitted to this car. While you will no doubt have read the comprehensive spec list and recognised most of the parts’ manufacturer names, Steve has built this car more like a Works race car than a typical privatelyowned car, with the reliability and strength of all components being the primary consideration. This doesn’t just mean strong and effective parts but even things like the fuel and oil pressures are continuously logged by the ECU, which shuts down the engine if something deviates from the specified parameters.
So now the car is complete, what does Steve want to do with it? Well, despite being used for competition drifting for some time now, he’s more interested in just having fun in it without the stresses of trying to win trophies. On the rare occasions this car isn’t on masses of opposite lock, Steve’s actually very keen to take it back to where the original turbo engine expired, Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, this time to break the 200mph mark – something it should do with ease.
For a car built with nothing but Steve’s own enjoyment in mind, the progress of this build over the years, and especially the final result, is a lesson for all of us. Not only is this sort of unbelievable, best-of-all-worlds, engine performance perfectly possible (and reliable if done correctly) but putting true thought in to what you are doing, taking influence from world-class race cars rather than simply following the crowd, really pays off in the long run.
The rest of the car is no less wild, both in looks and performance.
DATA FILE Turbo #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #Motec / #BorgWarner /
ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S50B32 / #S50 / #BMW-S50 , standard crank, #Pauter steel rods, 9:1 JE forged pistons, Cometic multi-layer head gasket, ARP head and rod bolts, standard head and cams with #Vanos enabled, #Motec-M600-ECU with an E888 expander, #Zurawski-Motorsport twin scroll tubular manifold, twin Turbosmart external wastegates, #BorgWarner-S300SX-9180 twin scroll T4 turbo with uprated billet wheel, full turbo-back Zurawski Motorsport exhaust system with side skirt exit tailpipe, twin WRC-style anti-lag valves, heat wrapped turbine housing and downpipe, #Zurawski-Motorsport equal flow inlet plenum, custom boost pipes and front mount intercooler, Zurawski Motorsport grille mounted air filter, high flow fuel lines, high flow alloy fuel filter, twin #Bosch-044 fuel pumps, 25ltr ProAlloy fuel cell, uprated fuel pressure regulator, Titanium oil catch tank, switchable ECU maps for Shell V-Power and Sunoco race fuel, switchable anti-lag and launch control systems, #Mocal oil cooler, uprated engine mounts, custom rear mounted radiator system, additional electric water pump, full fire extinguisher system, interior and exterior emergency cut-off switches, Petronas 10W60 oil. 720hp and 800lb ft
TRANSMISSION #ZF five-speed gearbox, #Helix twin-plate paddle clutch, custom lightweight steel flywheel, M3 Evo rear diff with shimmed LSD plates for 70% lock, E46 M3 crownwheel and pinion, uprated gearbox mounts, #ATF Racing gearbox, diff mounts integrated into roll-cage
CHASSIS 9x17” (front) and 10x18” (rear) #Team-Dynamics 1.2 wheels with 225/45 (front) and 265/35 (rear) Pirelli PZero tyres, BC coilovers, IRP drift front suspension setup, lightweight alloy adjustable lower arms, rosejointed lower arm bushes, custom adjustable top mounts, Mocal power steering cooler, polybushes, standard M3 brakes, hydraulic handbrake, Wilwood incar brake bias adjuster
EXTERIOR #BMW-M3-GTR front bumper, front wings and rear spoiler, E46 M3 GTR-style vented bonnet, custom rear arches, custom alloy rear diffuser, roof vent, rear window ducts, #Plastics4Performance lightweight windows
INTERIOR Full custom FIA-approved multi-point cage, Motordrive bucket seats, TRS harnesses, OMP steering wheel, Stack AFR, EGT and oil pressure gauges, Autometer boost gauge, carbon doorcards, custom ducting and shrouding for the rear mounted radiator
THANKS A-Frame Engineering (www.aframeengineering.co.uk), County Alarms (www.countyalarms.co.uk), ProTuner (www.protuner.co.uk), Zurawski Motorsport (www.zurawskimotorsport.com)
Steve wanted the power of his big turbo engine but with the torque and response of his small turbo engine.
Everything about this extreme E36 M3 means business. Side-exit exhausts look and sound awesome. Custom alloy rear diffuser allows hot air to be pulled away from the boot-mounted radiator, itself fed by pipes attached to side window intakes.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationMASTERCHEF
Simple on the outside, exciting on the inside, this sexy Aegean blue E30 has been treated to a 3.2 S50-swap.
SLICK S50 E30
Awesome 3.2-litre two-door. With some seriously tasty mods and an S50 under its carbon bonnet, owner Nicholas Arnold has rustled up one cooking E30. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Matt Woods.
Could the E30 be the most engine-swapped #BMW of all time? Judging by the number of feature cars we run that have been fitted with something other than their standard engine, it’s got to be up there. While V8s are a great and popular choice, sometimes you’re just not in the mood and fancy something more traditional where the 3 Series is concerned, like a howling, high-output straight-six, and that’s exactly what we’ve got here.
Chef Nicholas Arnold is its custodian and the man behind the swap. He’s no stranger to modified cars and BMWs, having worked his way up from a Vauxhall Nova 1.2 through to a selection of Hondas, including an EG Civic that he performed a full DC2 conversion on, and on to a number of BMWs, starting with an E34 525i (as it was cheap and RWD), and including a previous E30, which met an untimely end… “I wrote it off on black ice and I just felt I had to own another one. I found this car on eBay, located in Scotland – it was in good condition and had just had a respray,” says Nicholas. There was also the small matter of it already being endowed with an M52 under the bonnet. “It had a straight-through exhaust, was on cheap Jom coilovers and had an open diff. I changed the inlet manifold and ECU before making bigger plans,” he says – those plans being the swapping in of a more potent powerplant.
“I put a S50B32 in it as the M52 wasn’t fast enough,” explains Nicholas. “I bought new AKG engine mounts, custom wiring loom, aluminium triple core radiator, Ramair air filter, got a custom-built manifold, ACL race bearings, ARP con rod bolts, M3 3.0-litre oil pump with an E34 baffle sump and a Simons race silencer with a full stainless steel system. It took me six months to put together all the parts for the build and a week’s-worth of work to put it all together. The only problems I had was the servo had to be moved across by 45mm and I had to have a brake linkage bar made up.”
They say that the waiting is the hardest part and we have no doubt that was definitely the case here as six months to go from capable M52 to 321hp of ferocious #S50B32 goodness must have felt like an age. Let’s not beat about the bush here – the E36 M3 Evo is not a slow car, so just having that rev-hungry lump in the lightweight surroundings of an E30 would result in an absolute rocket ship. But that’s not all, the transmission has also been beefed-up to suit and there’s a five-speed Getrag ’box mated to an E34 M5 Sachs clutch with a 4.5kg billet steel flywheel, E36 propshaft and an E36 2.8 LSD in an E30 medium diff case.
With some serious power on tap, Nicholas turned his attention to the chassis as it needed some upgrades to be able to cope with the massive increase in engine. “I went for a set of BC Racing coilovers as they’re mid-range and suitable for road and track, Purple Series polybushes with E30 M3 lollipop bushes, again suitable for both roadand track-use, fitted all-new drop links, H&R uprated anti-roll bars, Ultra Racing strut braces to stiffen the chassis and I also had the subframes powdercoated and the rear subframe reinforced due to the increase in power.” The car no doubt drives spectacularly and sits beautifully low. It just looks right, especially on its black 16” Rota Grid Vs, which tie in perfectly with the numerous black details across the bodywork, and make a change from the usual suspects when it comes to E30 wheel choice, as Nicholas explains: “I have the Rota Grid Vs as I like to be different. I also like the Jap, aggressive look rather than following the crowd and having Borbets or #BBS reps.” The wheels are wrapped in Toyo Proxes tyres and sit on a stud conversion, while Ferodo DS2500 pads and EBC discs sit behind the spokes.
In terms of looks, the E30 really doesn’t need much help – subtle is often best to enhance the styling and that’s definitely been the approach here. The Aegean blue paintwork looks stunning, rich and deep, and the unpainted carbon bonnet is no less gorgeous. Other exterior additions include an eyebrow, crosshair headlights and all-red tinted rear lights. The interior, on the other hand, has received a bit more attention, as Nicholas tells us. “The car started off with a plain standard non-Sport interior but I’ve always had Sport seats in my previous E30s and knew how comfy they were so wanted another set in this car.”
He spent months searching for a pair of Sport seats but, having drawn a blank, he changed tactic and bought a pair of OMP buckets instead. Of course, no sooner had he installed them in the E30 than a pair of chequered Sport seats appeared at a good price, so he snapped them up and got rid of the buckets. And, as luck would have it, a few weeks later a rear bench, complete with headrests, and in the same pattern, popped up so Nicholas jumped on it, so to speak, and in a very short space of time had put together a rather lovely Sport interior.
In addition to that he’s fitted a suederimmed #OMP steering wheel with snap-off boss, AC #Schnitzer short-shift gear knob plus a rear blind-equipped parcel shelf. It’s smart, clean, period and suits the rest of the car, with a few subtle hints to suggest that there’s more going on here than meets the eye. We are well and truly in love with Nicholas’ E30, he’s really built himself an amazing machine. From the outside it looks so right – the colour is stunning, the carbon bonnet is spectacular and it really delivers the perfect blend of subtlety and aggression, with no single element feeling over the top or out of place, and that too can be said about the engine. It sits in the bay perfectly, looking so at home, and it’s turned this E30 into an absolute weapon.
“The huge engine is my favourite mod on the E30,” smiles Nicholas, “because the car is very inconspicuous looking.” He’s going to keep it looking that way, too, when he carries on with the mods this year: “I plan to add some fatter tyres and beef up the brakes as I’m only currently running 2.5 brakes allaround with DS2500 pads and EBC discs which fade after a couple of minutes of hard driving, and supercharge it,” he says, which is really going to turn the heat up on this E30 and take it to the next level.
Gorgeous Aegean blue on the outside, sexy Sport seats on the inside.
The S50 fits perfectly in the E30 engine bay and took owner Nicholas a week of work to get it fitted and running.
The engine is my favourite modification on the E30 because the car is inconspicuous looking Nicholas Arnold.
DATA FILE #BMW-E30-S50 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW / #Rota-Grid
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S50B32 / #S50 / #BMW-S50 from E36 M3 Evo, #ACL race bearings, #ARP con rod bolts, #Ramair filter, Millers Nano Drive oil, custom manifold and steering linkage, Simons race silencer and full stainless system with single dolphin tip, custom plug and play wiring loom, #AKG engine mounts, M3 3.0-litre oil pump, E34 sump, sump baffle.
TRANSMISSION Five-speed #Getrag gearbox, #Racing-Dynamics short shift kit, E34 M5 Sachs clutch with 4.5kg billet steel flywheel, E36 prop, E36 2.8 LSD in E30 medium diff case.
CHASSIS 8x16” (front and rear) black #Rota-Grid-V wheels with 195/40 (front and rear) Toyo Proxes T1-R tyres, stud conversion, fully polybushed except Z3 diff bush, #H&R anti-roll bars, #BC-Racing coilovers, #Ultra-Racing strut braces, M3 eccentric lollipop bushes, reinforced rear subframe, E30 91mm brakes and hubs, #Ferodo-DS2500 pads, #EBC discs.
EXTERIOR Respray in Aegean blue, Lite Tuned carbon fibre bonnet, crosshair headlights, eyebrows, red tinted rear lights.
INTERIOR Chequered Sport cloth interior, OMP steering wheel with snap off boss, #AC-Schnitzer short-shift gear knob, rear blind parcel shelf.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationLOGBOOK: #BMW-325i-E30 / #BMW-325i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW /
An E30 325i, nothing overly special about that you might think… well it is when you drop an E36 M3 engine into one! An E30 325i, nothing overly special about that you might think… well it is when you drop an E36 M3 engine into one! Words & images: Jon Cass.
The E30 BMW M3 has been grabbing the limelight for decades now and that’s hardly surprising given what a fantastic car it is. Even now, its rear-wheel drive biased handling, purposeful looks and outright power are a match for many of today’s sought after performance cars. And let’s not forget, it had its fair share of success in touring car racing too!
While the lust for an M3 has never wilted, the popularity for its more mainstream brethren has grown immensely over the past decade, a tidy 316 on a decent set of rims makes a very cool and practical classic to smoke around in. Even the E30 Touring has to be one of the best looking estate cars of the last thirty years. The pick of the bunch for many however would be the 325i Sport coupe, arguably just as good looking as its M3 stablemate and packing a fair amount of punch too.
Craig Morgan has been an E30 fan since he was thirteen and was smitten by his brother’s red 323i coupe right from the start. “I had to wait until six years ago before I had the opportunity to buy one for myself.” Craig remembers. “This is my second example and was bought in 2011.”
Considering the newest E30 coupe was twenty years old at the time, Craig found he had a whole range of them to choose from, all on site at the same location. In fact many E30 fans will probably recall a whole fleet of them suddenly appearing on the market at once on an internet auction site and all with the same price tag. We certainly do! The reason for this was a keen collector had been cleverly buying tidy 325s and storing them away as an investment. Sadly his circumstances changed and he had to sell all but one and these all hit the market at the same time. “I was one of the first to arrive and had the whole collection to choose from,” Craig recalls. “Although he had plenty of manual 325 cars in stock, I chose this one which was an automatic at the time as the bodywork was almost perfect. Also, because it was an auto, chances are it hadn’t been thrashed.”
Craig’s initial task was to remove the factory bodykit, which are renowned for trapping moisture and dirt to make sure the metalwork underneath was in good shape. “Luckily, as this one had been dry stored for so long, the bodywork was pretty good as was the underside,” Craig recalls. “I spent some time cleaning and under seal off the shell and replacing various worn parts such as the windscreen washer bottle, bonnet insulation and door cards.” The auto ‘box was then replaced by a 5-speed manual alternative and returned to the road for the summer of that year, still with the original 2.5 straight-six engine in place.
“Over the winter of that year, I began looking at options to increase the power,” Craig remembers. “I had a shortlist of an LSV8, an M3 Evo or to keep the original engine and fit a turbo.” Due to its ideal combination of power and reliability, it was the M3 Evo that won in the end and Craig managed to source a suitable unit along with a 6-speed gearbox from a 1999 E36 M3 with full service history.
Now that the original 2.5 and short lived 5-speed ‘box had been removed, this became the ideal opportunity to strip and repaint the whole engine bay. The S50 B32 straight six was treated to a Sachs clutch, lightweight flywheel and brand new Vanos before being slotted in place. The E30 has a smaller bay compared to the later E36, so the manifolds required some customisation and tricky welding to fit properly, as did the exhaust, which Craig points out was probably jointly the hardest task in the whole project. Look at them now and they’re like a work of art. You‘d think it left the factory that way, all testament to Craig’s skills and persistence.
Various other modifications were also carried out in the conversion including a shortened and balanced propshaft, and an Ergen steering shaft connector with E36 steering rack. “Some of the smaller ancillaries had to be replaced and relocated, due to the E30’s restricted confines, such as the brake servo that’s from a Renault Clio and repositioned 50mm from where it was before,” Craig explains. To help in the cooling department, the 325’s radiator had to be replaced by the larger M3 rad along with a Nissan Skyline electric fan. Craig also fitted a 325td oil cooler to be safe too. In fact, we should point out that he carried out all of the work himself with the exception of the wiring, where his good friend and electrical expert, Dave Bolton helped out.
As we said before, this conversion has been carried out so well it wouldn’t look out of place in a ‘90s BMW showroom, it really is that good. It drives well too as you’ve probably guessed! As we watch Craig disappear sideways and fully in control from a junction with the M3 motor on full song, the 3.7 LSD comes into full effect, as does the stiffer BMW Motorsport suspension with those 30mm lowering springs, not that he drives like that all the time! Speaking of the chassis, all the drop links and bottom ball joints have been renewed along with Brembo brake discs, Green Stuff pads make it more than capable on the road and probably the track too if Craig so wished!
For now Craig is enjoying taking the E30 to shows and loves to see the reaction when he opens the bonnet. “There are a lot of nice E30s around, but people always like to see one that’s been done a bit differently,” Craig smiles. The 16x8 Klutch SL1 alloys grab attention and look the part too, suiting the Dolphin Grey paintwork perfectly. The interior remains standard 325 Sport as Craig likes to drive the E30 whenever he can, so it has to still be practical and comfortable.
Confirming this project had been well thought out and executed right from the start, Craig wouldn’t change a single thing on his E30. “I’ve taken this project as far as I want to, I think sometimes you can go too far and start regretting things then,” he tells us. “This is the perfect E30 to me.” And when you consider the whole project took only nine months to complete, this has been quite an achievement. Completing a project does have its disadvantages (or perhaps advantages depending on how you look at it) as Craig is itching to begin work on another car. Which model it will be is uncertain, but chances are it may be V8 powered. Watch this space.
ENGINE: BMW E36 M3 Evo Engine conversion, #S50B32 / #S50 Engine with 6-speed ‘box. Lightweight flywheel, #Sachs clutch, brand new #VANOS , customised original manifolds. Shortened and balanced propshaft, Renault Clio brake servo moved over 50mm. Ergen steering shaft connector, E46 Steering rack, 3.7 LSD . Braided clutch line. E36 M3 radiator, larger 325td oil cooler, Nissan Skyline electric fan.
CHASSIS: BMW 325 Motorsport suspension, #Eibach 30mm lowering springs, Brembo brake discs, Green Stuff pads, bottom ball joints and drop links renewed, #Klutch SL1 16x8 wheels.
EXTERIOR: Factory 325 Sport bodykit, Dolphin Grey paintwork.
INTERIOR: Standard 325 Sport with grey velour seats.
SHOUT: Dave Bolton.
M-tech two goodies remain in place on Craig’s E30, including that distinctive but subtle rear wing.
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- Post is under moderationThe Limit of Evolution
They don’t make them like this anymore: the E36 M3 Evo Imola Individual special edition. The Imola Individual edition of the E36 M3 was built under the instruction of #BMW GB to celebrate the end of production of the second generation M3 but does it offer anything over the standard Evolution? Words: Bob Harper /// Photography: Gus Gregory
There’s nothing quite like the arrival of a special edition to announce the death knell of a BMW model line. There have been many examples over the years – E39 Aegean and Champagne editions, Motorsport M635CSis, E30 Design Convertibles – and quite often it could be argued that these models are the pinnacles of the breed. Those E39s were kitted out in great colour combinations and had the kitchen sink thrown at them in terms of standard equipment and the Motorsport M635CSis now seem to be the most desirable of the breed.
The car we have here today is the E36 M3 Imola Individual edition, often incorrectly referred to as the ‘GT2’ to distinguish it from the other E36 M3 that came straight from the factory with wild spoilers and a set in stone spec, the British Racing green 3.0-litre GT model. BMW GB obviously liked the idea of producing a series of identical cars to encourage sales of the last of an M car generation as the last batch of UK-bound E34 M5s were the LE (Limited Edition) machines of which there were 50 – 35 in Orinoco green and 15 in Rosso red. Thus it perhaps shouldn’t have come as a great surprise when BMW GB announced the Imola Individual E36 M3 of which there were 50 made, all to an identical spec.
Unsurprisingly – given their name – all were painted in Imola red, an Individual paint colour, and on the inside they had Individual special upholstery, too. There were Imola red leather doorcard inserts and the centre sections of the seats were similarly upholstered. The side sections of the seats and the headrests were trimmed in Amaretta anthracite while the steering wheel and handbrake gaiter were in black leather with Imola red stitching. Externally all cars could be easily identified by their Class II M3 GT spoilers with additional front splitters at the front and the large spoiler atop the bootlid with its integrated brake light. Wheels were the same M Double spoke alloys fitted to all M3 Evo Coupés measuring 7.5x17 inches at the front and 8.5x17 inches at the rear and these were fitted with 225/45 ZR17 and 245/40 ZR17 tyres, front and rear respectively.
There’s no doubt the Imola Individual looked good, but to further entice buyers BMW GB opted for a pretty high spec on the car for good measure. All cars had airbags for the driver and front passenger as well as side airbags, an electric sunroof and electrically operated pop-out rear windows and the seats were electrically adjustable, too. To top this off there was a top-end Harmon Kardon stereo system also fitted as standard. All were six-speed manuals although the machine originally used for the brochure was, oddly, an SMG model and didn’t have side airbags or the electric seats! The price for all this kit at the tail end of 1998 was a hefty £43,995 – a high price when you consider the E46 M3 that replaced it in 2001 initially went on sale for £38,500, although admittedly that E46 price is for the basic model (if it’s possible to refer to any M3 as basic).
The Imola shared its mechanical setup with the M3 Evo and unlike the British Racing green 3.0-litre GT we mentioned earlier there were no mechanical changes. The GT was really a homologation special to allow the use of an uprated engine, a shorter final drive and revised suspension settings in order that the M3 could race more competitively. Confusingly BMW UK had ordered a batch of 50 GT Individuals for the UK market and while they looked identical to the 350 left-hand drive GTs they didn’t get any of the mechanical enhancements bar a front strut brace. But we digress. If we return to the Imola Individual we’ll find the familiar 3201cc S50 B32 straight-six under the bonnet and it develops 321hp at 7400rpm and 258lb ft at 3250rpm. Performance was superb in its day, and even now a well-driven E36 M3 is a difficult machine to keep up with. Official stats were a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds and a standing kilometre in 24.7 seconds, which is still impressive today, and to put that latter figure into context it was only beaten by 0.5 seconds by the E46 M3 and by less than 1.5 seconds by the V8-engined E92.
Over the years the E36 M3 has suffered plenty of stick from the press mainly for not being a facsimile of the E30 which, in retrospect, is a little bit of a ridiculous situation. There were complaints about the steering not having the tactility of the original but the truth is that if you jump into an E36 M3 today after having stepped out of something with electric power steering you’ll be amazed at how communicative an E36 was. That there’s loads of grip is a given and while it might not have been quite as dialled-in as the E30 there’s still so much to like about the E36 M3.
The engine is a peach and the whole driving experience is a lot rawer than we’re used to today without ever feeling particularly unrefined. This particular example was for sale at Munich Legends and bizarrely was originally owned by an older lady who had it from new. In this instance ‘one lady owner’ really was a plus point as the car was immaculate and had only covered 23k miles. When one’s presented with an opportunity to sample a time warp M3… well, it would have been rude not to have given it a drive wouldn’t it?
Simply twisting the key and hearing the S50 burst into life transports me back to my dealership days in the 1990s and what strikes me is that the E36 really did bring the game on in terms of refinement with the engine feeling like it would be less temperamental than those that came before it. As always our first task is to get the pictures in the bag so while Gus gets busy with his cameras I drink in the car’s details as we bask in unseasonal sunshine in the Ashdown Forest while I can almost feel my scalp slowly turning into a colour not that dissimilar to the car before me.
Back in the day I always thought that I’d prefer ‘my’ E36 M3 to be a stealthy machine – debadged in a sober colour and devoid of spoilers. If I’d owned one I always thought I might even put standard mirrors back on as the M Tech ones are a little bit like looking through a letterbox. Seeing this Imola car, though, with all of its additional spoilers it does now look very much in period, and I can’t quite make my mind up whether I’d be after one like this or a despoilered example if I were buying today. Personally I’m not a huge fan of red interiors so that might sway me against an Imola Individual but both Simon and Seb are suckers for a red interior proving that one man’s meat is another man’s poison!
On the road, though, there’s no doubting the M3’s provenance and I could easily cast aside my doubts on the colour of the interior if I could have one that drove as well as this. It still feels really tight in terms of structural integrity – some higher mileage cars just feel a little baggy but this one still feels factory fresh with no squeaks or rattles to speak of and this really lets you concentrate on the driving experience.
That the car still feels quick is a given but it’s easy to forget just how fantastic the straight-six sounds as the red needle whips its way around the rev counter. It’s eager to rev and, as with all Evos, you really need to visit the top end of the rev range to really exploit the engine’s potential, but even keeping to sensible numbers on the tacho it shifts very well indeed. It’s keen to follow commands from the helm, too, and the quicker steering rack and revised suspension settings that came with the Evo do make it a more focused driver’s car than the 3.0-litre machine.
The big brakes still pull it up well and despite not having any form of traction control other than your right foot it transmits its power to the road very well indeed – really boot it and it’ll play the hooligan but be more measured in your inputs and the E36 #BMW-M3 can still be a devastatingly fast and rewarding companion. It’s so much better than the reputation it garnered when new that you have to almost wonder what the road testers were smoking all those years ago to have such a downer on the car.
There’s probably no doubt that the Imola Individual’s limited edition status will ensure that it becomes one of the more desirable of the UK-spec #BMW-E36 M3s but as to the question of whether you should actively go out and buy one, well that’s probably down to each individual to decide. Ultimately the Imola isn’t actually offering any more than a normal E36 M3 Evo in terms of the driving experience but you are getting some nice toys even if they all do add weight and complexity. It should be remembered that as the years go by having additional electric components on your car might not be such a good idea as electric motors do have a habit of seizing up and going wrong if not regularly used.
However, if the looks appeal and you like the colour combination then there’s no reason not to go for an Imola Individual; if you look after it, it should appreciate in value but if your primary concern is wanting an M3 to drive then we’d recommend finding yourself a regular version as you’ll have a far better choice of cars to buy if you’re not limiting yourself to just 50 examples to choose from.
THANKS TO: #Munich-Legends Tel: 01825 740456 Web: www.munichlegends.co.uk
TECH DATA #1998 #BMW-M3-Evo-Imola-Individual-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36
ENGINE: Six-cylinder, DOHC, 24-valve / #S50B32 / #S50
MAX POWER: 321hp @ 7400rpm
MAX TORQUE: 258 lb ft @ 3250rpm
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
0-62MPH: 5.5 seconds
PRODUCED: September 1998
NUMBER MADE: 50 UK cars, 1 prototype
PRICE: £43,995 (New)
It’s easy to forget just how fantastic the straight-six sounds as the red needle whips its way around the rev counter.
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- Post is under moderationFROM THE DEPTHS #2015
In 12 short months, this E30 has been totally transformed into a snarling, S50-powered track beast. Guy Higgs’ E30 couldn’t even have been described as a car 12 months ago. Now it stands as one of the most astonishing second-gen 3 Series builds to surface for a long time. Words: Ben Koflach. Photos: Louis Ruff and Definitive Media.
Every year, come show season, there are cars making their debut that everyone already knows about! Some have even been talked about for months beforehand! Be it on forums or by word of mouth, many builds are well documented before being unveiled. Sometimes, however, something incredible just surfaces from the realms of the unknown and blows us all away, such as this E30 belonging to Guy Higgs. It appeared from nowhere this year and absolutely astounded us all.
Here at PBMW we’re sometimes accused of being quite fussy about builds (we want to bring you the cream of the crop, after all) however, we have to say when it comes to this build there’s nothing we would change; it’s perfection in our eyes. So, without further ado, let’s meet Mr Elusive, Guy Higgs, and see just how this E30 came to be…
“I used to work for a company that built and tuned race cars,” says the 33-year-old Gloucestershire local. “The company bought this car from a good friend of mine who had it as his daily driver in the form of a 320i auto. It was soon stripped and fitted with a T45 TIG welded cage and we intented to use it in the Production BMW Championship but it never made it there; instead it just sat there in the corner of the workshop for a few years. When I left the company I made a deal with the guys so I could keep the shell.
“The shell sat untouched at my home for a year or so until I said to my friend that I’d get it ready for his stag do, which was happening at the Retro Car Show at Santa Pod. Unfortunately we said that just before Christmas 2013 and the show was in June/July time 2014 so it was full steam ahead to get it done in time!
“I was fortunate enough to have done a couple of years of racing at Castle Combe in an E36 M3 which was very successful. That was a shell upwards build, so after that I knew I wanted to build an E30 race car. I’ve always had E30s in one form or another and I currently use a 318iS as a daily. This car was never going to be anything other than a racer.”
Working day-to-day as an ECU guru down at Omex, Guy’s skill set obviously covers the wiring and electronics side of any build, but his skills also range far wider, with an incredible amount of engineering and design work having gone into the build.
Guy decided he wanted to use E36 M3 Evo power but before that the shell needed a fresh lick of paint. So he set about tidying up the engine bay, removing every bracket and hole that wasn’t be required. The build may have been done to a tight deadline but there was no way that this was to be a rush job. “I couldn’t decide whether to paint it black or silver!” Guy tells us. “Due to the limited time scale I decided to paint it black.
The paint was a joint effort; myself and my cousin ‘Little Luke’ prepped the car in the workshop at home and then dragged it down to Ultimate Paint & Chip Repairs where my good friend Luke Black painted it – that was a frantic two days over Easter 2014.
“I decided to use the S50B32 as I had experience with them but I didn’t want to follow the current trend of using the E34 5 Series sump and so on. I fitted the engine in the upright position, the same as the M20, so I could keep a lot of the E30 components like the engine mounts, gearbox and prop. The best part of the decision was that I could use an old exhaust manifold I had! This conversion usually becomes difficult due to the standard S50 exhaust not fitting, so I was really happy to discover that my old manifold had the same length and diameter runners as a standard S50 item. So I bought an S50 flange and fitted it to the E30 manifolds with fillets, before Luke Black (once again) from Forge Motorsport finished it with lovely TIG weld.
“With the engine in this position I was always going to have to adapt the sump, so I chose to keep the S50B32 twin oil pick-up sump but this obviously fouled everywhere! To get around this I fitted an E36 anti-roll bar which faces forward to clear the sump and made a complicated cardboard bowl for it which, again, Luke TIG welded for me.
Luke and the guys at Forge Motorsport were a huge help with the welding and their sister company, Hose Technik, supplied custom braided brake lines and hoses throughout. I also built a custom VANOS removal kit. I’ve done a few of these in the past due to engines running cams that required the VANOS to be removed. It’s quite straightforward and allows the cams to be dialled in to my specifications. As I work for Omex Technology it was no contest as to which ECU I was going to use!”
With the engine ready to fit, Guy just needed to work out a few more details. For the intake he’s fitted some glorious Jenvey 48mm trumpets (as you can imagine, the noise is just incredible), while the engine was bolted to an E30 325i Sport gearbox with a Skeleton flywheel and JBR clutch sandwiched in the middle. He’s also gone as far as to use a non-M3 E36 radiator which has a built in expansion tank, thus meaning there was no external header tank to clutter the bay. Out back a 3.64 LSD has been fitted. With a custom engine wiring loom and plenty of tweaking, the powertrain was ready to go, meaning Guy could work on getting that engine bay finished off. To make space for the engine a Renault 5 GT Turbo brake servo has been used and Guy’s custom wiring skills took care of moving the fusebox to underneath the dashboard. The rest of the bay has been emptied of absolutely anything unnecessary, leaving a clean and functional appearance to die for.
The chassis setup centres around Gaz components; the renowned UK firm’s coilovers can be found front and rear, topped with adjustable top mounts for good measure. The aforementioned E36 anti-roll bar has been used up front with a quicker E36 steering rack under there, too. Under each corner you’ll find a rather unusual wheel setup but one that doesn’t half work. “I bought the OZ Racing wheels off a friend of mine about 15 years ago,” Guy explained. “They’re from an Escort Cosworth Monte Carlo and I had a local old boy engineer convert them from 108 to 100 PCD. They’ve been on a few E30s in the past but will be staying on this one!”
Shod in 215/40 Toyo tyres, they not only look the part but function well, too. “I’d like to build my own suspension arms and crossmembers, front and rear, with the aim of better handling and when the chassis is outperforming the engine I will have no choice but to increase power,” Guy winked. “Whether it’s a full race engine or turbocharger, it will need to happen, although I don’t want to lose that great engine sound!”
Guy then set about the interior, as he explains: “The chassis harness was taken from an early 1987 E30 which was very minimal with no electric windows. I reduced it to only what I required and re-taped it. This was connected to the engine harness which I had built at work during a few lunch hours.” The next step was to get everything refitted in the ready-caged insides, with a pair of Sparco pews, harnesses and not a lot else going in. Even the heater box has been left out to save weight and there’s certainly no hint of a radio or any sound deadening. Guy wasn’t joking when he said it was to be a pure racer!
“The most difficult part of the build was timescale,” Guy told us. “My neighbour Scott Compton was a huge help. He helped me every available hour from day one right up to the night before the stag do. We had many laughs and arguments! When I needed parts made he wouldn’t hesitate, like when I was doing the VANOS kit – he brought me machined parts on a next day turnaround.
“Scott and I worked every possible evening to get it ready for the deadline. We more or less took the shell back to the metal inside and underneath and built it up from there in not a lot of time. I don’t really have a favourite part of the car, it looks just the way I wanted it to – namely stock apart from the wheels and cage. The wheels do stand out and I’m pleased that I had the decals made. This was another last minute idea which Vivid Vinyl helped me out with. The sound of the air horns really is impressive, I guess that’s one of my favourite parts!
“The power and handling are actually quite well balanced but even now I haven’t yet mapped the ECU properly or set any of the geometry. This will be done over winter. This year it’s been running on a temporary map that I had on a friend’s E36 with a similar setup which I just tweaked a bit out on the road. I used to see about 330hp with his but this engine is a complete unknown so it could be anything! At the moment the car is still using standard brakes, too.
Believe it or not they coped with Combe reasonably well but will soon be converted to bigger items.”
There’s certainly one thing for sure – this #BMW E30 may have seemed to appear out of nowhere but it won’t be forgotten for a long time. Guy’s taste for perfectly executed simplicity has seen his E30 transformed into the ultimate track machine, which is just as at home on the show circuit as it is on the race circuit.
“This car was never going to be anything other than a racer”
DATA FILE BMW #BMW-E30 #S50B32 #BMW-325i-Sport-E30 #BMW-325i-E30 #BMW-325i
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.2-litre straight-six #S50 B32 , custom #VANOS delete, Jenvey 120x48mm air horns, equal length stainless steel exhaust manifolds, #Omex 710 Series standalone engine management, custom wiring loom, Setrab oil cooler with Hose Technik oil lines, modified S50B32 sump with twin oil pickups, E36 radiator, M20 engine mounts, JBR 140mm twinplate clutch with Skeleton flywheel, E30 #BMW-325i-Sport #Getrag gearbox, quick-shift, 3.64 final drive LSD.
CHASSIS: 8x16” (front and rear) Ford Escort Cosworth Monte Carlo OZ wheels converted to 4x100 PCD with 215/40 (front and rear) Toyo tyres, Gaz coilovers, Gaz adjustable topmounts, E36 front anti-roll bar, E36 steering rack, standard brakes with custom Hose Technik braided lines, Renault 5 GT Turbo brake servo.
EXTERIOR: Side repeaters removed, Aero bonnet catches.
INTERIOR: Fully stripped-out, TIG-welded Custom Cages roll-cage, Sparco Circuit Pro carbon fibre driver’s seat, Sparco Circuit fibreglass passenger seat, Sparco steering wheel, TRS six-point driver’s harness, Sabelt four-point passenger harness, AEM wideband gauge, all sound deadening removed, heater box removed, sunroof skin and runners removed, reduced 1987 model wiring loom with fusebox relocation to underneath dashboard.
THANKS: Scott Compton, Luke Black, Little Luke, Omex, Forge Motorsport and Hose Technik and all my friends and family who helped. Castle Combe for the use of the track for the static shoot – action photos captured at Shelsey Walsh Hillclimb.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationRetro muscle: M3-powered #BMW-E28 . Daily Express. A finely-fettled #E28 5 Series fitted with an #S50 #M3 engine and six-speed gearbox to boot. With period perfect looks there’s nothing to give the game away that this E28 happens to be packing over 320hp from an M3 engine and matching six-speed gearbox… Words: Simon Holmes. Photography: Laurens Parsons.
There’s something rather wonderful about a well-executed engine conversion, especially on an older car. The idea of transforming a conventional, run-of-the-mill model from the past into something exceptional by today’s standards demonstrates a unique sense of creativity and innovation. Of course, the real trick is tailoring the package to harmonise together and, truth be told, it can be a tricky formula to nail.
This E28 seems to tick all the right boxes though. It looks virtually standard in every way both inside and out, yet there are small, understated touches inkeeping with the original theme, such as the wheels and seats. But beneath the bodywork is where it gets really interesting. Supplying the power is a 3.2-litre S50 engine from an E36 M3 Evo, producing over 320hp, and it’s coupled to a modern six-speed gearbox. With a mix of modified M parts and upgraded underpinnings to match, the 1980s 5 Series is brought firmly up-to-date and for the owner, James Cherrington, it also makes for an ideal daily driver and family car.
James is the man behind JFI Classic Cars, a successful restoration business that specialises in BMWs. James appeared in this magazine before when we featured his 2002 back in September 2013. Although James’ beloved classic BMW was thoroughly modernised with fuel injection and uprated running gear, the stiff ride, roll-cage and lack of rear seats had made it whole lot less usable than he had intended for it to be. James soon found he couldn’t enjoy the car with his family and, not long after the feature, he decided to sell it.
This left a project car-sized hole in his life and it was James’ wife who proposed the idea of trying a different route next time around. “She suggested building a car I could take the whole family out in, “ tells James. “Something more comfortable that I could use every day but still have some fun with or even take on track if I wanted to.” The concept appealed to James but with a taste for older BMWs he wanted something a little different to the average modern-day mile-muncher. Fortunately he didn’t have to look particularly far for the project base car as the ideal candidate just happened to be waiting patiently in his barn: an E28 528i.
Being a man firmly in touch with the classic #BMW scene James had purchased the standard and original car around three years ago for no other reason than it was cheap and in very good condition. “I wasn’t looking for one, I just saw it advertised and it looked very clean. So I phoned the owner and bought it. I had it collected and delivered to me without even seeing it. It was almost a spur of the moment thing really,” tells James. The tidy Five was then, rather unceremoniously, stored in the barn for safekeeping until the right time presented itself. It spent the next year or so there but when the 2002 was sold, James knew it was time to bring the car out of hibernation.
Whilst the E28 formed a firm footing for the project, the other key ingredients were still to be determined but then James had a brainwave. He’d previously owned various other BMWs, including a fine example of an E36 M3 Evo, and although it was perhaps a little too new for his liking the car made quite an impression. “I loved the combination of that engine with that gearbox,” he recalls. “So I decided it was a good idea to put that package in the 5 Series. It also seemed like a cheap way to more power. Where else could you get over 320hp for the money?”
With a plan now gathering pace the hunt began for a suitable M3 to harvest the engine and gearbox from. After some searching for a bargain buy, James came across what seemed like the ideal donor in a cheap convertible. He promptly rushed up to see the car and, in doing so, made a grave error that actually worked out rather well for him! “The car was a quite a few miles away but I was in such a rush to see it I didn’t even think to ask if it was a manual!” he says. “When I got there I saw it was an SMG I said to the owner that I was sorry for wasting his time as it wasn’t what I was looking for.” However, keen to sell the car quickly, the owner asked James what he was prepared to offer him anyway. Although he didn’t really want the car at this point James gave a lowball figure and the seller ended up accepting. The hard top roof and remaining tax and MoT further sweetened the deal.
The last piece to the puzzle was yet another donor car, this time a cheap E34 520i, which would yield a few essentials for the conversion, such as the sump and pick-up pipe. With the cars then stripped of their appropriate parts James gave the S50 M3 engine a thorough freshen up by treating it to new gaskets, oil and water pumps and uprated con rod bolts. The SMG transmission was retained but sent off to be converted over to manual engagement, as only the clutch and gear change operation are different. “It also made sense as I knew the gearbox hadn’t had a hard life having never been over-revved or crunched,” tells James.
Bolted together and fitted with the correct sump it was then a matter of sliding the refreshed combo in the awaiting E28 shell. Unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as it sounds. “I thought it would be easier than it was. The gearbox was bigger than I realised and that proved to be a problem as I wanted to keep the transmission tunnel standard,” admits James. “So a lot of work went into mounting the engine and gearbox as low as possible to give clearance at the top the tunnel. It’s a little lower than I wanted really and the engine mounts are perhaps stiffer than I would have liked but it fits in there nicely now.”
A custom-made exhaust system was fabricated for the car and Dave at Astbury Motorworks made a great job of the wiring as James wasn’t used to that side of things, having dealt mainly in simpler 2002s! A Walbro fuel pump was fitted in the existing tank to supply the fuel and a single-mass flywheel conversion installed to improve response and reduce weight. Once the engine and gearbox were in position James turned his attention to the rest of the car. Wanting a firm but comfortable ride and careful not to follow the same route as his previous 2002, #GAZ-Gold coilovers were installed as a way to allow the ride height and comfort levels to be easily altered when required. “I couldn’t run it too low for the road but this way I could still adjust it for track use. It’s also polybushed on Powerflex Black Series track bushes. I did try the yellow ones but it was too soft and there’s surprisingly little noise or vibration from them,” James says. He also used his superior brand knowledge when it came to the rear trailing arm bushes, which are now fitted with the items from a 3.8-litre E34 M5. “These were one of very few BMWs to use spherical bearings. They don’t use any rubber and required a bit of machining to make them work as they are an interference fit but they are really good and work even for this as a road car,” James adds.
The brakes to complete the package are also from an E34 M5, both front and back, but these were subjected to a full rebuild and overhaul by James before fitting.
With the hidden underpinnings firmly in place it then came to the finishing touches elsewhere. James’s approach was very much ‘less is more’. “I didn’t want anything on display. It’s not that I particularly wanted to build a sleeper, I just like the look of these cars as they are so I left it as it was. The plus side is that people don’t tend to realise what it is,” James explains.
The wheels were one thing that had to be changed as the original metric items didn’t provide many tyre options, so James sourced these perfectly-suited 16-inch Style 5 replacements wrapped in a modern and grippy tyre. “I wanted it to look like a standard car so these were ideal. It’s hard to tell they aren’t original really and the tyres are excellent, which helps as they are only 235mm wide,” says James.
For the last few remaining parts James then bought himself yet another donor car in the shape of a tired E28 525e. The car happened to have a few hard-tofind parts that would suit the project perfectly, such as the rare large-case LSD and interior trim. “I basically bought the car just for the sports seats, which are very rare and must have been an option. They were mint and even the right colour, too! The Germanmade #VDO gauges are from a 1980s Audi. I like them as they just look right. Other than that it’s all standard inside. It was a well-spec’d car anyway with an electric sunroof, rear blinds and ABS.”
The project took about two years to finish as James only worked on the car when he could afford the time, as spare time is virtually non-existent in his line of work. He has since covered around 2000 miles in the car and drove it through the winter, proving its practicality. “The kids and wife love it and it drives like a normal car still. The only problem it had was a small electrical issue when I first got it running where the reverse switch was connected to the wrong sensor so the reverse lights came on in sixth gear! Other than that it’s been good really, but it was always going to be right as it’s been built properly,” James relates.
James reports the S50 engine works well in the shell and the performance it offers can’t be beaten as a package, especially when the other options are taken into consideration. “It looks at home in the engine bay and it was much cheaper than modifying an M50 to make the power. The S38 M5 engine was an option but it’s a little long in the tooth now and the S50 is reasonably cheap to buy and offers good value. It’s a versatile engine, too, and I like the way they drive. The car goes a lot like an E36 Evo as it’s the same sort of weight and it puts the power down really well,” he says.
But whilst the engine was a good idea James admits that the six-speed gearbox was perhaps more effort than it was worth in some ways: “Looking back, it was a lot of work for not that much gain really. If I were doing it again I’d use the five-speed to avoid the trouble it caused. I never thought about changing it though as once I was committed I wanted to finish it.” Despite James’ otherwise obvious delight with the #E28 he says it may soon be up for sale in order to make space for another family car he’s also been building up slowly on the side, this time a rather special 2002 Touring that’s nearing completion. There’s also a supercharged 2002 track car on the way and if either turn out anything like his previous cars then there’s a good chance we will be seeing more of him soon…
JFI Classic Cars
Tel: 07966 440609
Web: www. jficlassiccars. co. uk
“The car goes a lot like an E36 Evo as it’s the same sort of weight and it puts the power down really well”
Interior is virtually just as BMW intended, although sports seats were a rare find, especially as they happened to be finished in the same colour!
DATA FILE BMW E28 S50 engined
ENGINE & GEARBOX: 3.2-litre #S50B32 and six-speed gearbox from E36 M3 Evo, custom-made stainless exhaust system, Walbro fuel pump, standard radiator.
CHASSIS: GAZ Gold coilovers, adjustable top mounts, Powerflex Black Series bushes, E35 M5 rear trailing arm bushes, 3.64 large case differential with factory LSD option.
BRAKES: E34 M5 discs and callipers all round with uprated vented rear discs.
WHEELS & TYRES: 16-inch Style 5 alloy wheels with Toyo tyres.
INTERIOR: Recaro Sports seats, VDO additional gauges.
THANKS: Dave at Astbury Motorworks for the wiring.
Style 5 wheels were chosen as they look very much like the original metric items. The new wheels are wrapped in much stickier Toyo tyres and James reports it puts down the power very well.
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- Post is under moderationDROP TOP
Tallis Godfrey’s bagged Estoril #BMW E36 M3 on Speedline Alessios shows just how good this timeless M Cab can look. Haters get your hate on, there’s an #BMW-E36 M3 on air about and it’s one damn fine machine. Photos: Si Gray.
Considering how many bagged BMWs are being sent my way on a monthly basis, I’m amazed at how much hate air-ride still gets and especially the fact that haters still bang on about bags not handling. I wonder how many of those staunchly standing by that viewpoint have ever actually driven a bagged car? Ultimately, we all like different things, but we also all like the same thing: BMWs, so why can’t we all just get along? I haven’t got time for hate or haters, apart from hating on the haters, but that’s something we can all agree on.
Seemingly single-handedly contributing to the downfall of society is Tallis Godfrey, a man who has dared to put air-ride on an #BMW-E36-M3 – time to get the pitchforks out. But hold on, don’t light those torches just yet because this is one stunning #E36 #M3 .
“I’ve always been into cars,” Tallis tells me, “but I was never into BMs. That all changed when my friend, who had a Techno violet M3 at the time, gave me a lift home from a club one night and that’s when I knew I had to have one. After that sprayed a Mk4 Escort Convertible in Estoril because that’s the E36 that I wanted, so I knew the M3 I wanted had to be blue, a Cab and it had to have an M3 plate. I knew nothing of #SMG though, and only bought this one because of the interior,” he explains. “It’s a V reg and it was made on the last day of #E36-M3 production, 23 July 1999, and it was one of five built that day, the second-to-last car sold in the UK and there’s a chance it was the last RHD car made but I can’t be certain.
“It was completely stock when I bought it and I didn’t know that I was going to modify it,” he says but that changed very quickly. The first mods included a set of #Eibach springs, 19” LMs and some stereo upgrades: “The old days of the Escort came back!” laughs Tallis. “When it comes to modifying I like to do my own thing, I like to do things my way with a twist and I like to do what I can myself. Other mods have been and gone over the years and listening to criticism has made the car change and evolve over the eight years that I’ve owned it. I fitted coilovers, Style 5s and ambers and then that look took off and the car slotted in. I got bored of the Santa Pod show so I went down to Players and saw the OEM+, fitment and stance look that the VAG guys were doing and decided to do the same sort of thing with my car.
“The wheels are genuine Speedline Alessio 18” three-piece splits – these are actually off the #Aston-Martin-DB7 and while they’re the same ones that were fitted to the #Porsche-993 , this fitment is much easier to make it work on the E36. I found them on eBay and they were a bargain; I got excited when I saw them because I knew I could make them fit and I knew they would be very exclusive. The PCD is different, but close enough that I could get the wheels on with a set of wobble bolts.” The Speedlines look absolutely awesome on the #M3 – they’re gorgeous wheels whichever way you look at them – classic, iconic, rare, and the size and fitment here is absolutely on point. The clean design suits the E36 shape perfectly and the polished lips are killer.
Beneath the surface there’s a lot of work that you wouldn’t necessarily notice, and it’s what really sets this car apart. Under the bonnet, there’s a Gruppe M induction kit, very nice, but to cover up the bracket left behind by the standard air box, Tallis retrofitted cruise control. “It was hard to do with the SMG,” he explains, “it hadn’t been done before and I had to do a lot of research but I made it work. It was the same story with the paddle conversion.”
The #SMG-I doesn’t come with paddles, so you have to shift via the lever, but Tallis didn’t want that. To look at, you wouldn’t know the paddles weren’t OE, but they are actually AMG items and what you can’t see is how much work was required to make them fit, including having to cut a bit out of the steering wheel to mount them.
Then there’s the matter of the interior itself. It’s nothing if not striking and certainly makes a change from boring black. Tallis picked up the Extended leather components for just £10.50 from German eBay, which is obscene really, and you’ll notice the Vader seats, except they are not full Vaders. The car had Individual Sport seats and the bodies are different, so he had to modify the headrests in order to get them to fit the seats, but it was definitely worth it.
So, now we come to the, thorny for some, issue of suspension. “I had Eibach coilovers on the car,” says Tallis, “and they were good but running at the height I liked I couldn’t get it into my garage and I used to clip catseyes. It was low but it didn’t tuck low and as well as not sitting quite how I wanted it wasn’t practical and I could only get out of Aldershot, where I live, one way as the other routes all had speed humps. I had a Stance Solutions kit on but I’m getting old and the 600lb springs on the Eibach kit were just too hard. So I sold the coilovers, the Stance Solutions kit, the Style 5s and had some money so decided to go for air-ride. I fitted everything myself; it’s not hard – if you can fit audio components and coilovers, then it’s easy,” he says. Tallis is running an Air Lift set up with an exceedingly tidy boot install – so tidy that you wouldn’t know it was there, in fact. The whole thing has been tucked away in the spare wheel well, with a single compressor and small tank, while his #AutoPilot-V2 digital controller lives happily in his central storage bin by the armrest. Is he happy with the switch from static to bags? Just a bit. “I’m very pleased with the setup, it’s better than the coilovers. It’s much more useable, the ride is more comfortable, I can take my family in the car and it doesn’t rub, it’s practical, user-friendly and there’s more adjustability – the Eibachs were only height adjustable but here I’ve also got damping adjustment. And the handling is better as well – overall I’m really pleased.”
There’s no two ways about it, Tallis has built himself a stunning E36 M3 and it seems that most people out there concur. “It gets attention,” he says, “it gets awards, it gets recognition and it gets liked online. The problem is what can I do next? For me, the thrill is in the build and I don’t know what else I could do; I could do an engine swap or fit a supercharger maybe, I was planning to fit a BBK but spent all my money on the airride so I can’t do that now. I might end up selling it,” he says, though he doesn’t look convinced. Fast forward to now and I receive a text message from Tallis that reads: ‘You wait until you see the new look [winking smiley]’ – I had a feeling this M3 wasn’t going anywhere soon and that comes as no surprise. The car seems like an extension of him; a lot of love and work have gone into it and you’re not going to find another E36 M3 quite like this one…
ENGINE: 3.2-litre straightsix #S50B32 , genuine Gruppe M air induction kit, retro fitted OEM cruise control system, custom modified exhaust hangers and clamps and x-brace to get car lower.
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed SMG I, custom #Mercedes #AMG paddle conversion via #E39 modified multi-function slip ring.
CHASSIS: 8x18” (front) and 9x18” (rear) Speedline Alessio three-piece wheels with 215/35 (front and rear) Nankang 18 NS2 tyres, Air Lift Performance struts front and rear, AutoPilot V2 management, upgraded 3/8” airlines, hidden 2.5g brushed aluminium tank fitted into spare wheel well, Viair 380c compressor, front camber plates, rear camber arms, Powerflex polybushes throughout including anti-roll bars, custom polished front strut brace with blue leather inserts to match interior.
EXTERIOR: Short VW Sharan aerial, various new OEM badges, plastics and trims replaced where possible, heavily rolled rear arches keeping the OEM lines, custom rear full amber lights, new front Bosch headlight lenses, front headlights internally de-lensed and shrouded, plasma white 5500K HIDs, aero wipers, factory hard top.
INTERIOR: 11 speaker Harman Kardon factory option upgrade, Alpine flip-out screen, Alpine freeview digibox, Alpine sat nav system, Alpine DVD player fitted in glovebox, genuine OEM Individual factory-fitted leather interior, retro-fitted OEM extended dash leather option, coloured to match existing blue leather, modified Vader headrests to fit OEM Individual Sport seats, piano black centre console, aluminium glovebox trim to match gear-stick details, retrimmed and padded steering wheel, #BMW-Z3 M coloured thumb tabs on steering wheel, OEM fire extinguisher.
THANKS: Nicola and the kids (Emily, Jessica and Oliver), mum and dad, Paul for the late-night detailing work before the shoot, John at www.cleanandshiny. co. uk for all the Zaino over the years, Dips at Custom Cars for help with all the wheels, Leigh at LB Autos for all the mechanical work and servicing, Ben Lee for the paintwork, all the guys on the forums for their help and support and anyone else I’ve met over the years.
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- Post is under moderationLIMITLESS
Many of us dream of building a seriously big-power #BMW , but few people make that into a reality. This 1004whp E21 sleeper is a very real dream build. With 1004whp, this incredible turbocharged #E21 goes above and beyond the concept of fast… Words: Seb de Latour. Photos: Patrik Karlsson.
You might, having just read that little intro, be wondering how much power is too much power. If you’re thinking that, this feature probably isn’t for you. In fact, maybe you should just put down #Drive-My and pick up a copy of Crochet Monthly or something along those lines. The correct answer to the above question is, of course, that there is no such thing as too much power. Okay, if we’re being absolutely sensible then, yes, 1004whp might be a little tricky to deploy in the middle of a downpour or, more likely in owner Joni Simila’s home country of Sweden, in the middle of a crisp, white winter but then you can either jump in something more suitable or travel in a far more sideways fashion. More power means you can go faster and going fast is most definitely a good thing. And when you reach, and manage to break through, the 1000hp barrier, well, there are few bigger feathers for your cap. 1000hp is a magical, almost fantasy realm of power, a number so large and incomprehensible to mere mortals that attempting to understand what 1000hp could possibly be like will see your brain melting and dripping out through your ears. True fact.
For Joni, 1000whp, and just a fraction more, is something he’s most definitely managed to wrap his brain around and something he’d wanted from the off when he started this build. His interest in cars began when he was young, watching and helping his dad fix them. When he was a bit older he bought a motocross bike which he worked on. At school he took a course in car mechanics. During this time he also watched his brother play around with various modified cars. The seeds were sown and as Joni grew so did his passion for all things automotive.
His first car was a 1.6 1988 #Honda-Civic hatchback and that’s fine, because we’ve all got to start somewhere, but having sampled the particular pleasures offered by rearwheel drive in his brother’s E28 M535i, a BMW purchase was inevitable. It began with an #E30 #323i Exclusive with a #325i engine but the first big project was an E28 M535i sleeper which featured a turbo and made 715whp and 634lb ft of torque at 2bar of boost. He sold it in 2012, inspired to go bigger and better, as he explains: “When I sold my E28, I only sold it because I wanted to build a 1000whp sleeper car and it’s hard to get that sort of power from the E28’s M30 engine. After the E28 sold I bought an E36 M3 to build up. I bought it in the middle of summer and took it to some meets. However, all the other cars I saw at meets were also E36s in different styles. As a result I decided that it wasn’t a special enough car, like the E28 was, so I traded it in for an E21 with one of the owners of Pure Performance Factory (PPF).”
Joni may have known that he wanted a big project but it all got going a lot sooner than expected as, approximately one-hour into E21 ownership, the diff broke. “I towed the car home, rolled it into the garage, lifted it up and started planning,” says Joni, matter-of-factly.
With a target of 1000whp the engine had to be rebuilt to be able to generate (and deal with) that sort of power level, and that’s after you’ve chosen an engine for the task in hand. Joni opted for the S50B32 before taking the whole thing to pieces. “I dismantled and reassembled the engine with the help of my cousins and a friend did the headwork and lined up the camshafts,” he explains. The intake and exhaust channels were ported and then the cylinder head was fitted with chromoloy retainers, PPF valve springs, a copper ring head gasket, ARP bolts and all-new gaskets throughout. The block was sent off to an engine specialist and treated to CP pistons with heavy-duty pins, PPF forged H-beam rods with ARP bolts, a support girdle with ARP bolts, new bearings, a new oil pump, new water pump and gaskets before everything was balanced and checked for bearing play.
With the foundations set, Joni was now able to put together the turbo setup. As his day job is being a welder and iron worker he was able to do all of the pipework manufacture and welding himself. For the turbo, he turned to Precision Turbo and opted for a monster PT7675, which carries a horsepower rating of 1160 and features a 76mm compressor wheel and 75mm turbine wheel, along with a 46mm wastegate. This giant snail needed a home, so a suitably beefy manifold was constructed along with a custom intake and then a custom 3.5” turboback exhaust was fabricated, which then splits into two 3” pipes running to the rear bumper with a silencer on each. A PPF intercooler and 76mm blow-off valve were selected along with an Allstar aluminium radiator and Spall fan plus a 19-row oil cooler. With such a massive turbo chucking so much air into the engine, the S50 has developed a voracious appetite for fuel and needs some pretty heavy-duty hardware to ensure it gets enough of what it needs. The engine runs 1600cc Racetronix injectors, two Aeromotive A1000 fuel pumps, a custom-built 60-litre fuel cell with a 2.5-litre catch tank, VAG COM ignition coils and the whole thing is looked after by MaxxECU engine management.
The end result is 1004whp, somewhere in the region of 1200hp at the flywheel, with 780lb ft of torque, which is enough to be getting on with. That’s going to put a serious strain on the drivetrain so every component along the way has been uprated. There’s a Sachs 765 pressure plate mated to a fourpuck sintered clutch disc and an M30 flywheel; the five-speed gearbox is from an #E39 #530d and there are 128mm chromoly CV-joints with super durable driveshafts. On the suspension front there are Bilstein dampers all-round with custom-built coilovers up front along with Strongflex bushes and an #E28 #M535i rear end with camber and toe adjustment. The brakes have been upgraded but perhaps not as much as you’d expect and rather than a massive off-the-shelf BBK Joni has opted for a set of four-piston E32 750i calipers mated to E36 M3 discs and GreenStuff pads, while at the rear there’s a set of E34 540i calipers and discs, also with GreenStuff pads.
Aesthetically speaking, this is one extremely sexy E21 and you couldn’t really ask for more of a sleeper. “The plan for the exterior was pretty clear,” explains Joni on his route with the styling and colour choice.
“My cousin, who is a car painter, decided the colour, otherwise he would not paint the car! I wanted the car to have a clean, original look so the BBS front spoiler, single headlights, clear turn signal lights, slightly tinted rear lights and BMW Motorsport handles was enough.” The car was painted in a lovely Fiat metallic grey called Grigio Vinci that really suits the E21 and looks great when the light hits it and picks out the flake; plus it adds to the subtle look of the whole project. On the wheel front, Joni wanted 10x17s at the rear with a wide lip and found these staggered Keskin KT1s for sale online at a good price. Fake splits they may be but they’re good-looking wheels, having taken their inspiration from OZ Futuras, though Joni plans to get rid of these and move to a set of real split-rims at some stage.
Inside, things have been kept pretty simple. The seats are the stock items and the only real changes are the RRS steering wheel and the modified instrument cluster, with Hartge speedo and additional VDO gauges, while the dash has also been given a good flocking. A custom leather retrim is planned for the winter, says Joni.
This is an incredibly comprehensive build, more than a year’s worth of work culminating in an unfeasibly powerful E21 that many a BMW fan would aspire to. However, in retrospect there are a number of things Joni would have done differently if he could and things that he plans to change. “If money was no object I would replace the stock camshafts with some meaner ones, fit a Vanos unit and replace the stock valves with some oversized race valves,” he says. “But my plans for next season, as well as getting new wheels and a custom leather interior, are to fit some stronger driveshafts and I will probably find many other things to change along the way. Winter time here in Sweden is long.”
A lot has gone into building this #BMW-E21 but Joni’s now got exactly what he wanted and he’s over the moon with the car. 1000hp takes dedication and a whole lot of hard work but one look at this E21 will tell you that it’s worth it, and then some.
ENGINE: 3.2-litre straight-six #S50B32 , ported intake and exhaust channels, chromoly retainers, PPF valve springs, copper ring head gasket, ARP bolts, all-new gaskets, CP pistons with heavy duty pins, PPF forged H-beam rods with ARP bolts, support girdle with ARP bolts, new bearings, new oil pump, new water pump, new gaskets, everything balanced and checked for bearing play, Precision Turbo PT7675 a/r 0.96 turbocharger, Precision Turbo 46mm wastegate, custom turbo manifold, custom 3.5” downpipe and 3.5” exhaust with x2 3” rear pipes with single silencer one each side, PPF 600x300x76mm intercooler, PPF 75mm blow-off valve, custom intake, Allstar aluminium radiator, 19-row oil cooler, Spal radiator fan, MaxxECU engine management, VAG COP ignition coils, 1600cc Racetronix injectors, two Aeromotive A1000 fuel pumps, Aeromotive 13109 regulator, custom 60-litre fuel cell with built-in 2.5-litre catch tank, An8 fuel feed and An6 fuel return.
TRANSMISSION: E39 530d Getrag five-speed manual gearbox, Sachs 765 pressure plate, four-puck sintered clutch disc, BMW M30 flywheel, 128mm chromoly CV joints with super durable driveshafts.
CHASSIS: 8.5x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #Keskin KT1 wheels with 205/40 (front) and 225/45 (rear) tyres, E28 M535i rear end, modified to fit with camber and toe adjustment, Strongflex bushes front and rear, custom front coilovers, Bilstein dampers front and rear, #BMW-E32 #750i four-piston calipers with #E36 #M3 discs and GreenStuff pads (front), #BMW-E34 #540i calipers and discs with GreenStuff pads (rear).
EXTERIOR: Full respray in Fiat Grigio Vinci metallic grey, BBS front spoiler, single headlights, clear indicators, slightly tinted rear lights, BMW Motorsport door handles.
INTERIOR: Standard seats, flocked dashboard and centre console, RRS suede-rimmed steering wheel, BMW M gear knob, modified gauge panel with BMW E30 Hartge speedo and VDO oil pressure and oil temp gauges.
THANKS: Pure Performance Factory, Keijo, Toni, Mika, Henka, Jim, Robban, Promille, Lars, PPG, Weldor AB, Lackspecialisten Köping, Kolsva Vattenskärning and all of you who have helped in one way or another.
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