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    HARDCORE S54 E30 Thunder from Down Under

    SKIN DEEP #S54-swapped E30. Words and photos: Chris Nicholls. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and Andrew Burke’s home-built, DIY-painted E30 is exactly the reason why.

    “Why are you shooting that little thing?” says a passer-by during the shoot. I casually pop the bonnet and see his eyes widen. “Jeez, there’s some work gone into that,” he says, before firing off a few photos on his phone and walking away. This sort of thing happens several more times during the shoot and it’s easy to understand why.

    From a distance, this is just another E30 track car. The matt black paint, done as a last resort after troubles with the painter, is hardly the last word in beauty and the stock M Tech II body kit isn’t going to set anyone’s world alight either. No, things only get interesting when you get close. It’s then that you see the custom Forgeline wheels and fat, circle-track StopTechs and imperial-sized AP Racing J-hook discs (chosen because imperial gear is cheaper than metric). Next, you peek inside and notice the #Motec M800 ECU sitting on a custom carbon plate on the floor. And the oil lines for the Peterson dry sump kit running next to it. And the Motec C127 colour dash logger and Tilton pedals. It just doesn’t stop. Finally, you pop that aforementioned bonnet and see the immaculate S54 with carbon cover and CSLreplica intake nestled in-between the strut towers, surrounded by Goodridge Teflon hoses and a Peterson oil pressure primer pump. If ever there was a car to prove that sometimes, the opposite of the idiom ‘beauty is only skin deep’ applies, this is it.

    The back story of this Australian E30, as you might suspect given the engineering involved, started several years ago (six to be precise) when owner-builder Andrew Burke picked up this 325is to be a street-registered track day build. Having got tired of risking his E92 335i road car on the track, he thought back to a 1989 E30 brochure he got as a kid and decided that would be a better bet. As most builds do, things started off small. Some H&R springs and Bilstein Sport dampers, rebuilt stock brakes and bolton exhaust, a short shifter and new Recaros did the trick for six months, but one track day at the wonderfully nicknamed Haunted Hills circuit (actually Bryant Park) in his home state of Victoria, Andrew noticed puffs of blue smoke on overrun thanks to some keen-eyed photographers. “That was all the excuse I needed to go ‘Oh, this motor could potentially have some kind of small issue in the next three, six, nine, 12 years, I should probably just swap the engine out right now’” he laughs.

    Thus began a long and involved process of finding and fitting a new motor. Having decided a resto-mod approach was best, he settled on an S50 and sourced one from the UK, but all was not well. “As all UK motors are, it was covered in corrosion, all the aluminium bits were all pitted from the salt and whatever other calamities occur over there in the middle of winter, so I didn’t do a whole lot with it other than strip it down to a short block and basically sand blast all the things,” Andrew says. Having cleaned it up, he found it still good enough to use, so left it standard internally and got to work fitting it. On went an E34 sump and 12° angled double-shear shift rod to get the now-twisted stock G250 five-speed to work with the AKG DTM shifter, some custom-made exhaust manifolds from Andrew Nicholls at Meridian Motorsport and a VFT E36 DTM-style carbon air box specifically designed to fi t S50s in E30s thanks to a notch cut into the back to clear the brake booster. To ensure that it all ran, Andrew cut and re-connected the stock harness himself and fitted an Alpha N ECU chip.

    However, while he may have cleaned it up, it turned out the engine’s not-so-perfect appearance was rather more indicative of its condition than first thought and sure enough, the number five journal went at a Winton Raceway track day in true S50 style. “A $350 tow truck ride home later [Andrew not having a trailer at the time and Winton being two hours from central Melbourne] we were sitting in the garage, the old man and I, saying ‘Well, we’re going to have to fix it, I guess’”. Andrew admits that even at that point, the idea of fitting an S54 came into his head, but he wasn’t quite ready to quit on the idea of an S50-engined E30 yet, especially having done so much work to make it fit.

    Thus, he decided that, rather than throw everything away, he would build a proper race-spec S50 and see what happened. Sadly, it’s here that Andrew suffered the all-too-common “bad workshop experience.”

    After searching around for a well-regarded builder, he thought he’d found one in a former Team JPS BMW factory race engineer in New South Wales, but while the specs were suitably serious, complete with 11.6:1 Wossner pistons, Pauter I-beam rods, 296° cams, Supertec Inconel valves and the current Peterson dry-sump system (designed to avoid ever spinning a bearing again), it “never made any real power.” “Without going into too much detail, it just fell on its face above 6000rpm,” he says. Worse still, it didn’t even last that long. A mere 500km of track work later and Andrew was sitting on the side of the Winton tarmac with two holes in the block from a rod and rod bolt respectively, oil pouring out everywhere and his car partially in flames thanks to starting a grass fire underneath it. The worst part? A postmortem found the likely cause to be poor assembly.

    “As I pulled the bits off the motor so I could get it out of the chassis, I found one of the ARP rod bolts was poking through the block on the exhaust side. I didn’t see it originally as a result, but it was poking through with all of its threads still intact. So it was not like the bolt snapped – it was like it completely unscrewed itself – and I can’t imagine a bolt that’s designed to be torqued to yield, if it was properly fastened, would have come undone. End of story. So that was that, which was a bit unfortunate.”

    Unfortunate indeed, and at around AU$30,000 (£17,000) for the engine, expensive. Andrew adds that figure doesn’t even include the cost of ancillaries fitted to deal with the extra power, the current 8x17” Forgelines, the previous SL6R and SL4R Wilwood calipers and discs (since replaced by the StopTechs because Andrew bought another road/track E30 he wanted to put those on), the custom-built AST two-way adjustable coilovers (again, since replaced by custom MCS two-ways) and several other mods besides. However, Andrew wasn’t prepared to throw it all away, so after convincing his wife he “wasn’t silly,” he pulled the trigger on a mint S54 with just 18,000 miles on it out of a wrecked Californian Z4 M.

    Being so new and from California, this motor was in stunning shape. There was no dust behind the water pump or alternator pulleys and even the internals, which Andrew inspected when he pulled off the sump to fit the Moroso dry sump pan, were unvarnished.

    Given he had no money to put new internals in it, this worked out perfectly. Plus, the S54 made more power stock than his built S50 anyway, so in it went, with only a Karbonius CSL-replica air box – fitted because the StopTechs meant he no longer needed the booster – a Racing Dynamics carbon engine cover, new custom exhaust manifolds (again from Andrew from Meridian, who by then had moved on to start his own venture called Trackart) and a few other mechanical pieces like an Eisenmann exhaust needed to make it work. At the same time, Andrew realised that to actually run the thing (especially given he was keeping Vanos and drive-by-wire), he would need to upgrade his dash from a set of Stack gauges to a Motec logger to ensure the necessary input and output numbers, and after contacting Jason Ingram at Advanced Motorsport Electrics to do the concentrically-wound, DR25 heat-shrunk harness and install it, he got it tuned by Lee at Melbourne Performance Centre and brought it up to Broadford State Motorcycle Centre for a shakedown, which is where we did the shoot.

    His impressions of the car now it’s finished (bar a cage)? “I was thrilled with the way that it handled and the way that it stopped even back when it had the second S50… but I was deeply disappointed on some level that it didn’t make as much power as I was expecting. It was certainly fast enough, but it never felt brutal, I guess. Whereas the S54 is still not crazy by any means, it just feels a lot more angry. It feels significantly more powerful.” Given this first shakedown was conducted at only half-throttle, that’s a brilliant portent and suggests that when this E30 is finally unleashed, its unassuming looks, combined with all that power and handling, will mean the opposition won’t see it coming.

    “If ever there was a car to prove that sometimes, the opposite of the idiom ‘beauty is only skin deep’ applies, this is it”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #S54 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-E30-S54 / #BMW-S54 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E30 / #Bosch / #BMW-E30-S54B32

    ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 , #Karbonius CSL-replica dry carbon air box, #K&N air filter, #Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, #Bosch-044 fuel pump, #Aftermarket Industries swirl pot, #MagnaFuel dry break billet fuel filters, #NGK-Platinum plugs, Setrab 19-row oil cooler with -16 fittings, Roush Yates carbon catch can, Peterson R4 dry sump pump, #VAC-Motorsports mount kit, #C&V HTD belt drive with VAC/ATI fluid harmonic balancer, -16 feed and return oil hoses, -12 scavenge, #Peterson scavenge filters, -10 pressure feed to VAC Motorsports oil manifold, custom #Moroso dry sump oil pan, Peterson single-stage remote oil primer circuit, Peterson billet four-gallon dry sump tank with custom #CNC bracketing, dual breathers and 100 micron filter screen, Canton billet five micron oil filter on pressure stage, #C&R-Racing oil filter housing with provision for secondary oil cooler circuit in rear of car, #Wix-Racing 51222R filter, Goodridge XF 910 and Brown and Miller (BRMS) Teflon hoses, VAC-Motorsports lights, accessories and alternator pulleys, ATI damper by VAC Motorsports, AKG-Motorsport Group N engine mounts, #Racing-Dynamics dry carbon engine cover, Trackart custom equal-length exhaust manifolds and custom 2.5” exhaust, Eisenmann E36 M3 rear box, Motec-M800-ECU , #Motec SKN dual CAN knock module, Advanced Motorsport Electrics custom concentricwound wiring harness with Kevlar tracers, Raychem boots, Souriau and Autosport connectors

    TRANSMISSION #G250 five-speed manual gearbox, #AP-Racing 7.25” twin-plate clutch and lightened cro-mo flywheel from E36 M3 R, AKG DTM shifter, PPF axles, re-balanced OE driveshaft, OE diff with extra clutch packs, Z3 M housing, custom transmission mounts and subframe reinforcements


    CHASSIS 7.5x17” ET20 (front and rear) #Forgeline-SO3 wheels with 235/40 (front and rear) Nitto NT-01 tyres, VAC Motorsports 90mm studs, #Motorsport-Hardware cro-mo nuts, 3mm spacers (front), Motion Control Suspension custom two-way remote reservoir coilovers, #Eibach 60mm springs, AKG Motorsport polyurethane, #Treehouse-Racing and custom #Delrin bushes, custom Trackart T45-based cro-mo front strut brace, custom front arb and mounts, Dave Stillwell rear anti-roll bar with custom mounts and reinforcement, full Aurora rose joints, #StopTech STR43 calipers (front and rear), #AP-Racing J-hook fully-floating discs, custom Motorsport Connections Teflon braided lines, Performance Friction PFC01 pads (front and rear), custom-machined 7057 T6 rotor hats

    EXTERIOR OEM Tech II kit, custom bi-xenon headlights based on TRS projectors and 3D printed adaptors, rear lights lightly tinted with Diamond black

    INTERIOR #AKG-Motorsport Delrin shift knob, AKG Motorsport DTM shift lever and short-shift kit, Alcantara gear gaiter, #Tilton 600 Series pedals, Tilton -4 fluid tank, #Speedflow lines, Tilton billet brake bias adjuster, Tilton fluid bias and balance bar adjuster, #Motec C127 dash logger, Recaro SP-A Kevlar V8 Supercar special edition seat, VAC Motorsports billet rails, Sabelt Ultralight harnesses, Personal Grinta 330mm wheel, Lifeline Group N boss with custom spacer, custom carbon panel behind wheel for light controls, custom Trackart harness bar, custom aluminium scuff plates

    THANKS Andrew at Trackart for the exhaust, brake cooling duct, harness bar and strut bar fabrication work, Marcos at Motorsport Connections for the Speedflow bits and hoses, Jason Ingram at Advanced Motorsport Electrics for the incredible work on the harness and Lee Burley at Melbourne Performance Centre for the dyno tuning

    Carbon engine cover and replica CSL carbon air box make this S54 even sexier.

    Single Recaro SP-A Kevlar V8 Supercar special edition seat.

    “After convincing his wife he “wasn’t silly,” he pulled the trigger on a mint S54 with just 18,000 miles on it out of a wrecked Californian Z4 M”

    / #Motec-M800 ECU mounted on custom carbon plate.

    Swirl pot, pump and filters mounted in boot.
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    FIRE LIGHT

    Shafique Bhimani’s E36 M3 has been on an extensive fitness programme, fusing the philosophy of BMW’s fi nest lightweights with properly capable road-and-track ability. This thing is fi t, legit, and fully lit… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.
    S54-swapped E36 M3 wide body bruiser

    The love child of a Euro-spec E46 M3 CSL and a #US-spec E36 M3 Lightweight. That was Shafique Bhimani’s over-arching vision for this Alpine white E36. Sound lofty? Ambitious? Unachievable? On paper, perhaps, but his clarity of perception has led to a unique creation that more than justifies the ‘CSL E36’ license plates.

    “I fell in love with the E36 M3 before I could even drive,” he enthuses. “It’s the car that took me into the deep end, and caused me to waste so much unproductive time learning about cars and modifying them! Something about the boxy, sharp lines that portrayed an aggressive yet elegant look - plus the fact that it punched above its weight and outperformed more powerful cars was hugely appealing. Once I learned of the E36’s DNA and how it came it to be from all of BMW’s motorsport history, I was hooked on the brand. BMW became my team, and you don’t just change teams.”

    Yes, we can fully understand that, and having got a bit of modifying practice in with a variety of other cars, Shafique felt that the time was right in 2009 to take the plunge and buy himself an E36 M3 of his very own. The example in the crosshairs had 54k on the clock and was in pristine condition… Oh, and it just so happened to have 380whp with a Vortech supercharger hanging off it. A quick once-over was all it took to get the grey cells banging together, and the lightweight concept was already forming in his mind – so shortly afterwards Shafique bought an ’07 335i as well, just to use as a daily driver so that there was no doubt as to the E36’s fate. This was going to be done properly, entirely without compromise and so, eyes open, he dove in.

    “For what these cars cost me, I could have easily purchased a heavily modified E46 M3, or even a new E92 M3 at that time,” he points out, “but I wanted to fulfil a dream I had held for so long. When time, money and opportunity presented themselves, all I wanted was a white, straight-six E36 M3.” Heart, we reckon, should always rule head. Life’s too short to let your dreams die.

    Shafique’s shopping list had been quite specific: the additional displacement of the 3.2-litre engine narrowed his search to ’96-’99 cars, and it had to be either Alpine white or Estoril blue – preferably the former, for the BMW Motorsport look. Forced induction was also preferable, whilst still being realistically streetable. This car, located in SoCal rather than his Bay Area hometown, ticked all the boxes. “It quickly became obvious, however, that I wouldn’t be able to exploit all that power on the street without risking either other people or my driving license, so I went on a track day at Sonoma Raceway and I was instantly hooked,” he recalls. “It was an eye-opening experience, and I realised the track was the safe, responsible playground for my car. I also quickly realised the car was not set up for track duty!” Coolant leaks and slipping belts convinced Shafique that his game needed tightening up, and he devoted time to wandering around the paddocks and seeing how the other gearheads approached things. And you know what he discovered? Big boost and stratospheric power levels were nobody’s main angle of attack – it was all about setup, usability, tactility, and durability. He felt very strongly that a naturally aspirated straight-six was the way to go. And what better choice than the E46 M3’s S54?

    With this seismic decision made, the E36 was shipped off to Castro Motorsport in Los Angeles to swap in the later motor, and subsequent setup was taken care of in painstaking increments by Dublin, CA-based Performance Technic. “We methodically upgraded each system of the car over the years, and today she is a fully-prepped track weapon that can be driven to and from the track with A/C and tunes blasting,” Shafique beams. “It’s my definition of an uncorrupted driving experience, front-engine/rear-drive, hydraulic steering, limited-slip diff, and a screaming straight-six.”

    So let’s take a closer look at just how this mighty spec has been achieved. This S54 produces a solid and reliable 341hp at the wheels, its stock internals being complemented by Epic Motorsport race headers and a custom Performance Technic 3.5” exhaust system, along with a Bimmerworld carbon-fibre air box. Thanks to some ones-and-zeroes tickling in the form of an RK-Tunes Alpha-N tune, power and reliability are both baked right in. It’s not scary-fast, it’s useably fast, and a lot of that swiftness is thanks to a favourable power-to- weight ratio. MCS two-way adjustable suspension and big StopTech brakes combine with a welded-in six-point half-cage with rear strut tower braces, while a rear seat delete, grippy Recaros and a tasty Renown USA steering wheel serve to create a fabulously focused office for Shafique.

    “My motto for the build has been to go fast, but look good doing it,” he says. “Function plus form. It was a team member from PTech who introduced me to the Felony Form overfender kit and, well… This is a sensitive subject for me: I love the OEM lines of a stock-body E36, they’re clean and simple, and more often than not aftermarket companies ruin what engineers spent millions to design. Over the years there have been a bunch of wide-body options, but I never loved any of them until I saw the Stanceworks feature on Oli’s yellow E36.

    After spending days staring at this kit, I was in love with the E30 M3-esque box flares in the rear, and the OEM-looking front flares. It’s exactly what I was waiting for, OEM on steroids! PTech handled the delicate task of cutting up and re-welding the factory arches to accommodate the flares and big wheels, and RJ’s Paint Shop in Pleasanton, CA did a fantastic job of paint-matching the factory Alpine White.”

    The form-and-function approach is very much in evidence from the outside, the Felony Form extensions blending in harmony with the M3 Lightweight aero addenda. The Lightweight, if you’re not familiar, was a limited-run E36 distinguishable by its tall rear spoiler, modified and lightened for motorsport purposes; the door skins were aluminium, there was no radio, carpets were thinner, speed limiter removed, revised axle ratios, forged wheels… It was as much of a legend Stateside as the iconic E46 M3 CSL was in Europe, and it’s the ethos of these two superlightweight factory-modded offerings that Shafique’s sought to emulate. This M3 now weighs 1440kg wet, and that includes the 40kg roll cage. This offers a power-to-weight ratio akin to a Lotus Elise, and remember that it still has a stereo and air con for the journey home.

    “The interior is a driver-centred style,” Shafique says. “‘Track setup’ was the priority, then adding what flair I could with the Alcantara steering wheel, armrest, and handbrake. There’s a #BMW Nav Pro head unit by Becker which offers the OEM navigation system only available in the Euro market, Bavsound speaker upgrade, and useful mods like a shift-light from MSD to help keep things in check; the car uses the factory E36 gauge cluster, the redline beginning at 6500rpm and going to 8000rpm, which has effectively become my power band - so having a light flash you in the face is very helpful during hot laps! And the CAE shifter from Hard Motorsport is epic – it transforms the shift feel to something very firm and notchy with zero slop, and the tall knob becomes especially fun on track when you are grabbing the wheel and gears back and forth.”

    It’s taken seven years for the car to get to this point, through its various stages of evolution, from schoolboy dream to hardcore track beast, and Shafique’s still making plenty of plans for it. Once you get this deep into a project, there’s just no pulling yourself out, even if you wanted to. Which, of course, he doesn’t, as he’s fully living the dream with this considered approach to road-and-track fireworks.

    With so much altered on the car, what do you suppose is his favourite element of the build so far, then? The S54 swap? Those wide three-piece Livery wheels? The unique arches, slathered in Alpine White? “No, I think the party piece is the induction roar,” Shafique smiles. “The S54 loves to rev, and combined with the carbon-fibre air box creates a deep roar that turns into a scream from 7-8k rpm, and no other engine on the planet sounds anything like it!” You see, this is a driver’s car. That’s the point of it. And when it enraptures all of the senses at once like this, you know the job’s been done right.

    DATA FILE #S54-swapped / #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3-Performance-Technic / #BMW-M3-Performance-Technic-E36 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-M3

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 / #BMW-S54 , stock internals, Bimmerworld carbonfibre air box, #Epic-Motorsports race exhaust manifolds, custom #Performance-Technic 3.5” exhaust system, #RK-Tunes #Alpha-N tune. #ZF five-speed manual gearbox rebuilt by #Bimmerworld , rebuilt OEM diff with 80% lock and 3.64 final drive, #Rogue finned diff cover

    POWER & TORQUE 341whp and 268lb ft wtq @ 8,200rpm redline (on 91RON fuel)

    EXTERIOR Alpine white, Felony Form wide-arch kit, M3 Lightweight front splitter, DTM #BMW-M3-FiberWerkz carbon fibre side skirt extensions, #Mateo-Motorsports rear diffuser, carbon fibre replica M3 Lightweight rear wing, roof vinyl-wrapped flat black, fog lamp delete

    INTERIOR #Recaro-SPG driver seat, Recaro PP passenger seat, Schroth sixpoint harnesses, Renown USA Alcantara and M-stitched steering wheel with quick-release, custom PTech rear seat delete, custom weld-in six-point half-cage painted flat black with subframe and strut tower reinforcements, sunroof cassette removed, custom black cloth headlining, MSD shift light, CAE shifter, RallyRoad.net Alcantara armrest and handbrake, custom PTech carbon-fibre shift plate

    THANKS Special thanks to Performance Technic, the team there has been so integral in bringing my build to where it is today
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