BODY- S L AMME D E30 BMW

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+NA 20 BR X -7+ R 35 TH RASH TEST LEARN THE FUN­DA­MEN­TALS OF BUILD­ING A DRIFT CAR

THIS MAY HAVE BEEN SEAN CLARK’S FIRST CAR IN HIGH SCHOOL, BUT IT’S ALL GROWN UP NOW, WITH A LEVEL OF RE­FINE­MENT FIT FOR A WHISKEY LOUNGE

As the NZPC team mem­bers stood around with our tongues out, drool­ing over Sean Clark’s BMW E30 dur­ing the photo shoot, in walked the guys from our sis­ter magazine NZ Clas­sic Car, who pro­ceeded to make tongue-in-cheek re­marks about how the sus­pen­sion must be bro­ken and ask where the hell the tyres were. Now, th­ese guys know their way around an E30, but, given that the IS front lip was lit­er­ally sit­ting on the ground while its rim lip was touch­ing the guard, we could see how those old boys would be some­what per­plexed by what they saw in front of them. This car is a state­ment made with no apolo­gies — it was en­gi­neered this way, what with its mil­lime­tre-per­fect fit­ment and ex­tremely deep candy paint, which grabs and holds your at­ten­tion long enough to take in all the cus­tom touches that can be found.

It all be­gan dur­ing Sean’s high-school days (ac­tu­ally, four years ago, to be ex­act), when he came across an E30 al­ready fit­ted with a Toy­ota 1UZ-FE 4.0-litre V8. A fan of the Ger­man ’80s icon, Sean hadn’t been look­ing for V8 power, but, when this popped up al­ready cert’d, he saw it as a good base on which to build his dream E30. It was in need of some TLC, but, be­ing a high-school stu­dent, he would have to wait un­til he got his first full-time job be­fore he could sink some coin into the project. In the mean­time, though, he was prob­a­bly only the only kid at his high school rock­ing a V8 on a daily ba­sis.

It doesn’t take a ge­nius to fig­ure out that Sean is mainly in­flu­enced by mostly Euro­pean-based E30s, which led to the first of the big mod­i­fi­ca­tions, as he told us: “All of my favourite E30s are on air. That was the first ma­jor mod­i­fi­ca­tion I did. Si­mon from Get Low im­ported and in­stalled the kit.” Get­ting the E30 down was a sim­ple bolt-in af­fair us­ing Air Lift struts with ad­justable dampers. Like most of the lat­est air-ride kits we fea­ture th­ese days, Sean opted for a com­plete height-man­age­ment sys­tem, in this case, Ac­cuAir. With three pre­set heights — low, lower, and slammed — it’s a no-brainer over the finicky switch box and sep­a­rate valve blocks of the past. Those kits were loud, high main­te­nance, and it was a bat­tle to get the height per­fect. Hav­ing the con­trol that Sean now does is a good thing when the lip of the rim ac­tu­ally sits square on the guard when fully de­flated.

It was around that time that the E30 re­ceived its first set of rims, though those BBS Rs were soon re­placed with cus­tom fif­teen52 Tar­macs, then, more re­cently, with a set of cus­tom Ro­ti­forms. To say Sean has a thing for wheels would be a gross un­der­state­ment — but his size pref­er­ence cer­tainly made it hard. “I get bored of wheels pretty easy, and wanted to go three-piece and have some­thing that would pop against the paint more,” he ex­plained. “I talked to just about every wheel com­pany out there, but the prob­lem is that no one re­ally makes three-piece 16s any more. I ended up get­ting James from 360 Link to con­vince Brian from Ro­ti­form to pro­duce th­ese.” We are un­sure what James from 360 Link said — per­haps he has a stash of ques­tion­able pho­tos of Brian, or maybe Brian thinks all Ki­wis are like Jake the Muss; ei­ther way, Ro­ti­form obliged and put to­gether this one-off set us­ing BBS lips and gold hard­ware. To fur­ther cus­tomize them once they landed in New Zealand, the boys at GT Refin­ish­ers laid down some candy and gold leaf on the cen­tre caps.

The boys were also charged with a com­plete facelift con­ver­sion last year. Now, it might be a bolt-on con­ver­sion up front, but the rear took a lit­tle more com­mit­ment, as the team had to graft in the

in the rear sheet metal from a later E30 around the boot and tail lights. This re­quired a facelift E30 to do­nate its life to the cause. The tail lights Sean chose are rare BMW Mo­tor­sport items im­ported from Ger­many, along with the Bosch smi­ley head­lights and an MTech wing. The last job at GT was the re­shap­ing of the rear guards to suit the su­per-low ride height. It was then on to de­cid­ing a colour — a job we wouldn’t wish on our worst en­emy. A four-month in­ter­nal bat­tle en­sued as Sean went back and forth with his de­ci­sion, even­tu­ally land­ing on cus­tom candy red, sprayed over a sil­ver base coat. “There are 10 coats all up I think, as I kept want­ing it darker and darker. I was ac­tu­ally out of the coun­try when he was spray­ing it so it was a lit­tle nerve-rack­ing,” he said.

But, need­less to say, Sean is hyped with how the ex­te­rior has turned out, and he has since shifted his fo­cus in­wards. First up, he went for a full in­te­rior re­trim from Mid­night Up­hol­stery. Tak­ing cues from the king of re­fine­ment, Singer, the front and rear seats were trimmed in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to those beau­ti­ful Porsches. The front seats are ac­tu­ally Re­caro fish­nets from an Isuzu Bighorn that Sean scored for $100, and the rear is a not-so-com­mon E30 vari­ant with a cen­tre arm­rest. As for the rest of the in­te­rior, it was kept all class in black — sim­ple yet ef­fec­tive. The fin­ish­ing touch, a vin­tage Momo Pro­totipo wheel.

Next on his hit list is at­tack­ing the en­gine bay. While the build has never been about all-out power or speed, and with the four litres there’s more than enough juice to dec­i­mate the fac­tory equiv­a­lent, Sean still feels there is room for re­fine­ment, and he’s cur­rently con­sid­er­ing his plan of at­tack — in­di­vid­ual throt­tle bod­ies (ITBs)? A su­per­charger? Who knows what he’ll end up with? We guess we will all have to wait and see. But, in the mean­time, there is a long hot sum­mer ahead of us, and Sean is ready to make the most of it with one push of the e-Level.

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