ACCEPTABLE IN THE EIGHTIES
This super-clean, white, S50-swapped, two-door E30 is a perfect slice of modified ’80s motoring.
William Green’s E30 harks back to a time when such cars had to be tuned a certain way, and rock a certain look. But he’s given it a modern twist, and a whole lot more horsepower… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: C3Photography.
The 1980s have a lot to answer for. Shoulder pads, Filofaxes, music with synths, Fox-body Mustangs, Grease 2 – there was a lot going on, and much of it was made of brightly coloured plastic. However, the decade wasn’t without its charms; it brought us Cheers, Appetite for Destruction, perestroika, and the charmingly infuriating Rubik’s Cube. And while the TV shows of the era seemed to represent a society eager to eulogise about the easy-going nostalgia of the 1960s – Happy Days, The Wonder Years and so on – the man on the street was firmly on the cutting edge of up-to-the-minute 1980s fantasticality, the sleeves rolled up on his pastel-hued suit, a pair of Wayfarers atop his slicked-back hair, and the keys to an icewhite E30 in his hand.
Oh yes – in the 1980s, the secondgeneration 3 Series was very much where it was at. From South London to South Central LA, there was one aesthetic that anyone who was anyone aspired to: a white E30, preferably a 325i, low-slung over big wheels, with an M-Tech II spoiler proudly adorning the bootlid. That was the real deal. Sure, Magnum P.I. had his Ferrari 308, Miami Vice was all about the Testarossas, and Michael Knight had his sentient Trans Am, but this was the real world. Real people dreamed of Beemers.
The lusted-after look of the era is pretty much as you see here, in the form of William Green’s retro-styled throwback. The exterior is so ’80s it hurts, white-on-white-on-white, with merely a whisper of clearance between those crisp glacier-like arches and the broad, chunky five-spokes beneath. All of the requisite M-Tech II accoutrements are in place. If you can ignore the crowds of excitable teenagers Instagramming the thing with their iPhones and tune out the chemtrails from all the wi-fi signals, you could almost be glimpsing into an authentic late-1980s scenescape.
Ah, but there’s a twist. All’s not as periodcorrect as you might think here – when you peel back the skin and scratch around among the pulpy flesh below, you’ll discover that William’s got one or two restomod tricks up his sleeve…
“I’ve always been a car modifier,” he says, enigmatically. “It all started with my first car, a 1986 VW Golf GTI with a supercharged G60 Corrado engine swap; BMWs came second to VWs at the time, as I then went on to own a ’92 GTI and a ’95 GTI.”
‘Yes,’ I can hear you shouting into the magazine, ‘but when do we get to the E30?!’ Alright, chill out – we’re coming to it. But before we reap the rewards of patience, we need to sow the seeds of an entirely different 3 Series.
“I came across my first E30 when I was in college,” William reminisces, an orchestral James Horner soundtrack swelling in the background. “It was a gunmetal grey 1988 325ix – two-door, five-speed – that was completely refurbished, it looked like a brand-new car. Being a broke college student, I begged my mother to get me that car; she did, and it was the best gift I ever received! I brought it back to college in the Catskill Mountains of NY and the ix really lived up to its name – the all-wheel drive system was flawless.” A handful of wellchosen modifications followed – a custom exhaust, chip tune, intake and coilovers – but nothing too extreme. This wasn’t like that first, manic, engine-swapped project, this was a super-tidy base so he was taking baby steps. The quality of the car spoke for itself really, as three years later a chap drove two thousand miles to make William an offer he couldn’t refuse. And with that chapter behind him, it’s safe to say that he’s firmly made the ideological leap from Wolfsburg to Bavaria. A 2006 530i followed, and then a 2002 M3, but it wasn’t too long before our protagonist began once again hankering for the old-skool. His retro yearning was twofold; firstly after the nostalgia of the 1980s that so many of us of a particular age are unable to escape from, but secondly due to the absolute perfection of his first E30. It was time for history to repeat itself.
Okay, people may say ‘never go back,’ but that’s a load of old toffee. ‘Once bitten, forever smitten’ – that’s more of an appropriate mantra here (ignoring the fact that it comes from an old Vauxhall advert, obviously), and William was more than ready to dive back into the rose-scented waters of E30 ownership.
“I found this ’80s baby in a high-end luxury car dealer just south of Los Angeles,” he explains, effortlessly reeling off a phrase that you could imagine on a T-shirt in H&M. “The car was being sold on consignment, and belonged to the son of the owner’s best friend. It was an unfinished project, and the exterior was probably an 8/10 – and that’s what sealed the deal on buying the car! I knew that everything still left to do was stuff I could take care of myself.”
The car was already fitted with an S50 motor – y’know, like you’d find in an E36 M3 – but it was, shall we say, well used, having chalked up over 140,000 miles. William’s initial plan was to swap it out for an S54, although having weighed up the costs and taken an objective view, he decided to persevere with the S50 and give it a refresh and rebuild. After all, they’re robust old lumps. Hell, 140k is barely run in, right?
“It needed a rebuild pretty much straight away,” he reasons. “The compression was off on two cylinders, so I went ahead and had the head rebuilt and that took care of the engine problems. I also went with the M50 manifold and the S52 exhaust manifold, custom pulleys, injectors, high-flow MAF, and 3.25 LSD. There were a lot of modifications made along the way but these were the initial mods to get the car the way I wanted it.”
The fact that the previous owner had made inroads into the project helped out a lot, as it was already wearing a fresh, periodperfect, ice-white 1980s paint job when William took delivery. He was able to augment this with the oh-so-cool M-Tech II goodies to create that retro style, and it has created what William describes as ‘a neck-breaker’.
“This car has always been a conversation starter at pretty much every car meet or gas station I go to. People love the body kit and the Magnum 17s. Most people go with BBS rims so I decided to stick with a wheel that’s different and displays all the inner workings. I recently started doing autocross too, and this build is perfect for the courses.”
You can imagine how that newergeneration M3 motor helps out when it comes to sporting endeavours, but this car is far from a laser-focused track build; indeed, the interior is something quite special. Up front are a pair of E36 M3 Vaders in black leather, with an E30 M3 bench out back trimmed to match. The E30 M3 gauge cluster was painstakingly rebuilt by an Instagram user by the handle @e30_dad, while the vacuum-of-space effect of all the blackness (the seats, the carpet, the headlining, it’s everywhere) is neatly complemented by a cunning custom audio install that, among much else, features a pair of 8” subs hidden inside the rear panels.
William, like so many feature car owners we talk to, has an obsessive and completist eye for the details, manifested here in the fresh lights, the commitment to the Stormtrooper black/white colour-coding, the OEM+ interior embellishments of disparate provenance, and the cherry picked chassis parts that comprise E36 M3 suspension and brakes, some M Coupé bits and bobs, and a super-tight Z3 steering rack.
In fact, it’s fair to say that this is more than just a car to him. “This car has also inspired me to start my own small business, www.e30head.com,” says William. “I designed an E30 centre console cupholder that was once an old BMW idea that I brought back to life. The enthusiasts love it! And yes, the S54 swap is still a plan that will get executed – I put that build on hold last time because we were having our first child and those funds needed to go to more important purchases, but the timing will be right one day.” And in the meantime, he gets to enjoy a nice thick slice of aspirational nostalgia, rolling the kind of ride that everybody looked up to back in the good ol’ days. Acceptable in the Eighties? Ah, it was more than acceptable. It was rad, def, way cool, totally tubular. And it still is.
The exterior was probably an 8/10 and that’s what sealed the deal on buying the car!
DATA FILE S50-swapped #BMW-E30
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six #S50B30US
/ , custom 3” #Magnaflow
exhaust system with high-flow cat and resonator, TMS underdrive pulleys, custom underdrive crank pulley, TMS Jim Conforti remap, new water pump, thermostat, alternator, intake, oil pump, gaskets, TPS, radiator and hoses, E30 M3 wiring harness cover, OBDII E36 exhaust manifolds, E30 Motor Werks skid plate, E36 M3 five-speed gearbox, E30 M3 propshaft, E36 M3 guibo, 3.25 LSD with M Coupé cover, M Coupe halfshafts
CHASSIS 8.5x17” (front and rear) #MVR-Magnum
wheels with 215/40 (front and rear) Falken 512 tyres, TC Kline S/A coilovers, #Vorshlag
front camber plates, #K-Mac
rear adjustable camber/toe bushings, E36 M3 front suspension and brakes, E36 M3 five-lug rear conversion including brakes, #Zimmerman
drilled discs all-round, ’96 Z3 2.7 lock-to-lock steering rack, E32 750il brake master cylinder, custom brake booster
EXTERIOR Full respray, #M-Tech
II bumpers, side skirts, lip and spoiler, replica #M-Tech
II front valance, 6000K Xenon headlights and foglights, new tail-lights, smoked front indicators, black kidney grilles, colour-coded door handles, headlight wipers
INTERIOR E30 M3 gauge cluster, E36 M3 gear knob, E32 leather handbrake handle and gaiter, E36 M3 Vader seats, E30 M3 rear seats, black door panels, M-Tech II steering wheel, black carpet, black headlining, #Alpine
CD head unit, 2x custom hidden #MTX-Thunder6000
8” subs in rear panels, Rockford Fosgate 250 two-channel amp and 600 four-channel amp, Kicker speakers
THANKS I’d like to give special thanks to my wife, Ashleigh, who inspired me to start E30Head. To Raphael with Ore Photography Group – without his excellent shots of my car, I don’t think we’d be doing this interview. Diego, the E30 Cluster Master @e30_dad, my biggest supporter from the start. Scott with Renown USA for being one of the first to support my E30 centre console cupholder design
S50-swap is so neat it looks like it could have been a factory job and it gives this E30 some serious go.
This car has always been a conversation starter at pretty much every car meet or gas station I go to.