- WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD #BMW-335i-E90
With WTCC-inspired styling and 530whp, this #E90 #BMW-335i is a force to be reckoned with. Justin Gomba’s E90 pays homage to the bullish aggression of the #WTCC series, then cranks the horsepower up to 11. And it’s all fully road-legal… Words: Daniel Bevis Photos: Watson Lu.
Touring Cars rock, there’s no two ways about it. Pick any era from Touring Car history and you’ll find charismatic drivers doing impressive things in cars that look like stickered-up versions of your neighbourhood’s daily drivers, probably while amusingly clattering into everybody in the vicinity in a bloodthirsty rush for the apex. Look at the inaugural #1958 season of the British Touring Car Championship, in which Jack Sears and Tommy Sopwith ended the year on equal points, so the winner was decided by a head-to-head sprint around Brands Hatch in a pair of Riley One-Point-Fives. Or last year, when Rob Austin threw his Audi up the strip at Santa Pod against a 500hp VW splittie, just for a laugh. Or the 1992 season finale, when Cleland, Hoy, Harvey and Soper all got very physical indeed, ending in acres of crumpled steel and all manner of bruised egos…
The Supertouring era of the 1990s has a certain relevance here, in fact. The 2.0-litre displacement cap meant that teams weren’t campaigning M3s like they were in the #E30 days; no, an #E36 BTCC racer would be a 318is or, later, a #320i – and not always in twodoor guise. Non-M3 more-doors gained inexorable race car kudos from this, and that ethos carries over to the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) series too. The formula is simple: take a commuter-spec car, pour a staggering amount of R&D into making it a formidable circuit racer, then shift a load of road cars off the back of it. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday, an idea as old as motor racing itself. How this manifests itself in the WTCC is cars that look from afar like the ones you’d see pootling along in the middle lane of the motorway, but up close turn out to be fearsomely wide, aggressively low, and shouty.
You can understand why a person might wish to transmute this race car chic into a daily-driven road car, can’t you? And that’s just what Justin Gomba was thinking when the green shoots of inspiration planted themselves in his brain, before ultimately sprouting, growing, and developing into the mile-wide knee-trembler you see before you. “I wanted something different, something nobody else would have,” he explains, and that’s a sentiment we hear time and time again. There’s a lot of sense in that.
Now, this may not be an M3, but the #E90 - #335i is certainly no slouch in stock form. That twin-turbo #N54 will happily kick out the thick end of 306hp all day long, which is more than enough to keep the average commuter or travelling salesman entertained. Hell, that’s as much as a #Ferrari-348 , which is a good fact to have in your arsenal for ‘mine’s-bigger-than-yours’ pub debates. But Justin had bolder aspirations, as you may well have spotted from the underbonnet shots. This is no stock #N54 . Indeed, the depth of the rabbit hole is measured by those angry hybrid snails from RB Turbo, which work in conjunction with an LTMW front-mount intercooler, Injen cold air feed, bespoke GIAC management, and a custom big-bore exhaust setup to unleash a frankly disturbing 530hp at the wheels. The stock automatic transmission is beefy enough to cope, although a fairly industrial Quaife LSD has been drafted in simply to keep the Tarmac from imploding in reverence at the sheer awesomeness of the thing.
You’ll no doubt have noticed reference to LTMW there. To regular readers, the name LT Motorwerks will be more than familiar; the El Monte, California-based outfit is well established in the game of taking hot BMWs (and other brands now) and making them hotter. What Long Tran and his team don’t know about fusing cutting-edge technology with up-to-the-minute styling trends could be Sharpied on to the back of a postage stamp. The company’s very genesis is grounded in Long’s #2006 #E90 – it’s the car that inspired him to start the business, and he’s a long-standing source of knowledge on E90post. com – so there are few places more appropriate for Justin to haul his 335i to.
In line with Justin’s aspiration to have ‘something nobody else would have’, his investigations led him to Vollkommen Design – a company which, rather helpfully, can be found in the same part of El Monte as LTMW – and the range of fibre-reinforced plastic body addenda that it has developed. Specifically, its World Touring Car Championship-style E90 kit, comprising hugely broadened bumpers, racy skirts and, most impressively, steroidally expanded wings all round. Just take a moment to appreciate the sheer girth of the thing, it really is quite incredible; sure, we’re somewhat spoiled in today’s tuner scene by the likes of Liberty Walk, Rocket Bunny and all those advocates of horizon-broadening bodystyling (both literally and cerebrally), but harnessing the functional width of a race car is an entirely separate approach. It feeds into the same fashionable arena, but its roots are planted in something that has existed in motorsport from time immemorial, stretching the body around the grippier footprint.
Oh, and since we’re talking footprint, let’s take a peek under those super-wide arches, shall we? Justin’s riding the old-skool train here with a set of timeless BBS LMs, artfully crafted by Floss Design, which neatly dovetail with the racer aesthetic. In this instance, we’re looking at 10x18s at the front, and a whopping 13” width apiece at the back axle, which is more than enough to ensure that the swollen power figures translate into effective ground-covering. But it can’t hurt to take a belt-and-braces approach, so he’s chosen to wrap a set of Toyo R888s around them – a tyre so sticky that it pretty much melts just from the force of you looking at the sparse tread pattern.
Again, it’s all about the race car vibe. And the rims look ace bursting forth from those muscular curves, don’t they? “It only took LTMW about a week to fit the whole lot,” Justin reveals, which is testament to how proficient it is at churning out kickass motors conveyer-belt-like from its Californian theatre of dreams. But it also speaks volumes for the quality of the kit. “The front fenders are one-piece, bolt-on parts that attach to the stock #BMW mountings,” he explains, “and the bumpers and skirts use the factory locations too.” Where Long’s team had their skills truly tested was in getting the rear wings right, as their fitment involves cutting back the stock wings, then attaching the Vollkommen units over the top. The finish is flawless, though, and thanks to a set of KW Clubsport coilovers (helpfully aided by Phantom air cups – a bagless air-ride system – to help get over speedhumps and suchlike), the stance is bang-on as well. Not just show low, but motorsport low.
Nothing exceeds like excess, as the old saying goes, and simply overhauling the silhouette would never be enough for a man with Justin’s magpie eye, so he’s paid a lot of attention to the details too. Both ends of the E90 have come in for a refresh; the nose wears a set of LCI headlights that have been resculpted by OSS Designs to resemble the lights found on #M4-DTM racers (arguably the most brutal and certainly the most costly Touring Car series), while the tail enjoys a CSL-alike ducktail bootlid from Duke Dynamics, flanked by more LCI jewels. Form and function meet in the interior too, as he’s sourced a set of pukka #BMW-M-Performance seats to keep his kidneys tightly hugged through the twisties, with the rear seats trimmed to match. Yes, the car still has rear seats; while it was undoubtedly tempting to junk the interior entirely and stuff it with FIA-approved monkey bars, Justin’s opted to continue the practical ethos of having four doors by ensuring that he can offer passengers a comfortable place to sit before he scares the hell out of them. And you can’t accuse him of not taking the thing to its ultimate evolution. “I have to admit I never intended to take it this far,” he says, a look of starry-eyed whimsy on his face. It’s so often the case, isn’t it? The act of modifying a BMW seldom results in half-measures or compromise. This 335i is the best that it can be. Those StopTech brakes and M3 chassis gizmos make sure of that, optimising the otherworldly power from the RB-boosted motor, and yet there’s still room for the weekly shop – what more could you want?
Arguably the coolest thing about this project is that it fulfils that little dream that always pops into your head when you’re at a race track: ‘I wonder what would happen if I peeled the stickers off that and used it on the road?’ The answer is the searing red streak that you see here, prowling menacingly through SoCal, a pit-straight refugee with a bad temper and a stableful of horses. The fact that it’s significantly more powerful than a WTCC racer is merely the cherry on a very naughty cake; couple that with the luxurious finish that LTMW have painted in broad strokes across the whole canvas, and Justin’s dream of having ‘something different’ comes alive with unrivalled flair and panache. A grand tourer and a Touring Car in one.
DATA FILE #BMW-E90 335i
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six #N54B30 , #RB hybrid turbos, #LTMW intercooler, Injen cold air intake, TiAL dump valve, GIAC management, AR Design custom downpipes and 3.5” VR Speed Factory exhaust, six-speed automatic transmission, Quaife LSD.
CHASSIS: 10x18” (front) and 13x18” (rear) BBS LM wheels with brushed bronze centres with 295/30 (front) and 335/30 (rear) Toyo R888 tyres, StopTech Trophy BBK with six-pot calipers with 355mm discs (front) and four-pot calipers with 335mm discs (rear), KW Clubsport coilover kit, Phantom rear air cups, M3 lower control arms, anti-roll bars and camber adjustment arms.
EXTERIOR: Vollkommen Design WTCC wide-body bumpers, wings, skirts and rear door extensions, CSLstyle Duke Dynamics bootlid, gloss black roof, LCI tail-lights, LCI headlights modified by OSS Designs, M3 mirrors.
INTERIOR: BMW M Performance seats, gear knob and steering wheel with LED display, Alcantara gaiters, rear seats trimmed to match.
THANKS: Long and crew at LT Motorwerks, George at KW Suspension, Darren at Vollkommen Design, James at Floss Design, Luis at OSS Designs, StopTech, Kennedy at Platinum VIP, Tiago at VRSF, #RB-turbo , Bernardo Pena, Jasper Li, James Lam, Felix and Watson Lu, and my beautiful wife Erica.