HID­DEN THRILLER

BOOSTED BMW E30

NZ Performance Car - - Con­tents - WORDS: JADEN MARTIN PHO­TOS: ADAM CROY

If we were to take away one thing from Euro­pean automakers over the past cen­tury, it’s this: the Ger­mans know how to build cars. Es­pe­cially when it comes to those wear­ing the iconic triple stripes of BMW. How­ever, not all of the range has been revered for pi­o­neer­ing per­for­mance, and re­al­ity tells us that even fewer fall within the lit­tle slice of mod­i­fied pie that we op­er­ate in.

Thank­fully, for all of us, there are still a few hold-outs that have reached cult-clas­sic sta­tus and con­tinue to be mod­i­fied ex­ten­sively — even with val­ues sky­rock­et­ing. The pick of the bunch, with­out a doubt, re­mains the BMW E30 — the ov­erengi­neered, lightweight coupe that went from be­ing seen as the pin­na­cle of yup­pie sta­tus sym­bols back in the ’80s to a dirtcheap basher, be­fore ris­ing back up to be con­sid­ered one of the most cel­e­brated prac­ti­cal per­for­mance cars of all time.

Dur­ing that lull pe­riod, though, those who dared to pull down the M20B25 heart found in­side the 325i model, quickly learned that, while pro­duc­ing im­pres­sive power for its time, there’s al­ways been more left on the ta­ble wait­ing to be scooped up. All it needed was a spe­cific ad­di­tion — one of the forced-in­duc­tion kind. And if you’ve ever needed con­vinc­ing that the E30 should have come straight out of the fac­tory with a snail hang­ing off the side, here’s the pièce de ré­sis­tance to get you there.

In its orig­i­nal form, Scott Mul­laly’s 1988 BMW 325i was just an­other for­got­ten ex­am­ple from the golden era of fac­tory awe­some­ness — and he man­aged to get in just be­fore that lo­cal price boom. It was fit­ted with the mod­est 2.5-litre fuel-eater, and fea­tured a sports-sus­pen­sion up­grade along with a few taste­ful ex­te­rior tweaks. It was quickly put to work on a daily ba­sis. “I drove it for a year, fix­ing a few is­sues as you nor­mally do with an old car, un­til, even­tu­ally, it be­came a bit un­der­whelm­ing, and then I thought the bot­tom end [had] let go,” says Scott.

The Volk CV Pros that the E30 wears aren’t of­ten found in such a nice state — Scott’s are a re­sult of a labour of love, restor­ing them and adding cus­tom 3D-printed cen­tre caps

This is known as the dan­ger zone. Why? Be­cause any­thing be­comes pos­si­ble in your mind. Stro­ker bot­tom end, forged good­ies, rowdy cams, or even an all-out en­gine swap. Thoughts like these flooded Scott’s head to form a raft of gnarly con­cepts that could have eas­ily eaten up any form of house de­posit at one click of the mouse. Thank­fully for his wal­let, the bot­tom end was fine, be­sides a small amount of metal in the sump that could never be traced. He reined those wal­let-killing ideas back in, and would in­stead piece to­gether a sim­ple-yet-effective street-sleeper that would see a suit­ably sized Gar­rett strapped onto the mo­tor.

Said de­ci­sion was made in the least likely of ‘good de­ci­sion’– mak­ing sit­u­a­tions, how­ever, af­ter sink­ing a gen­er­ous amount of Mex­i­can drop that sparked an im­promptu live auc­tion for a friend’s un­wanted Gar­rett GT3582R. It may have been the brew or an un­con­scious part of Scott’s brain that made the call, but, ei­ther way, he walked away snail in hand. It made for a sober­ing mo­ment the fol­low­ing day, when Scott re­al­ized what he had signed up for. In­stead of bail­ing out, he em­ployed the help of good mate David Miller to re­build the M20B25. It was treated to fresh fac­tory parts and a thicker Cometic MLS head gas­ket to bring the com­pres­sion ra­tio down from 8.8:1 to 8.5:1, along with the usual ACL bear­ings and ARP fas­ten­ers, all in an­tic­i­pa­tion of that boost.

The pair fit­ted the head with 278/250-de­gree re­ground cams, Bim­merHeads heavy-duty rocker arms, and heavy-duty valve springs, while the man­i­fold on which that Gar­rett sits is a Rapid Spool In­dus­tries stain­less unit sourced out of the states. Fuel is de­liv­ered by way of a DeatschWerks DW65c fuel pump and Siemens Deka 630cc in­jec­tors, and, on the ig­ni­tion side of the equa­tion, the M20B25 has been con­verted to wasted-spark Mit­subishi GTO coils. David also got busy fab­ri­cat­ing a three-inch stain­less ex­haust sys­tem with Mag­naFlow muf­fler and twin three­inch outlets, be­fore be­ing tasked with the fi­nal en­gine as­sem­bly. But, com­ing this far only to sink such a pack­age back into a fac­tory en­gine bay would have been a crime — well, that’s how it was seen in the eyes of Scott’s flat­mate, Daniel Smith (B18CR Civic EG, NZPer­for­mance Car Is­sue No. 238). Daniel leaned on Scott to ‘tidy’ the bay — this would even­tu­ally evolve into many, many hours of sanding, weld­ing, and emp­ty­ing God knows how many tins of bog for that per­fect smooth fin­ish, be­fore it was all given a fresh lick of Di­a­mond Schwartz metal­lic paint and the cov­ers hit with a layer of Mar­rakesh Brown by Daniel.

Un­der­neath, the fac­tory-op­tion sports sus­pen­sion was promptly binned and fit­ted with BC Gold coilovers in­stead, while the less-than-im­pres­sive fac­tory front brakes met the same fate in favour of Mazda FC RX-7 four-pot calipers paired with VW Cor­rado 280mm ro­tors, TRW street pads and braided lines, and a BMW

Built to serve as an un­der­cover street slayer, Scott does take it out on track for some fun ev­ery now and again — he de­scribes this as be­ing “pretty damn scary” when it’s let loose

“Yeah, I’d like to thank Corona Ex­tra, you know, for help­ing the team make great de­ci­sions like buy­ing a turbo that I didn’t re­ally want but def­i­nitely needed” Scott tells us that the car in its cur­rent state was al­most never to be, when a hold up in the build saw him pur­chase an E21 to plug the gap, which he found more fun to drive … that was un­til the E30 first hit boost, then ev­ery­thing else was for­got­ten

E32 25mm mas­ter cylin­der fit­ted for more re­sponse. The bot­tle caps still so com­monly found on this breed were swapped out for 17x8.5- (+8) and 17x9-inch (+15) Volk CV Pro three-piece wheels shod in 215/40 and 235/40 Pet­las Velox Sport rub­ber. An E46 330i steer­ing rack re­places the na­tive ex­am­ple for a quicker ra­tio. To the naked eye, most of the aes­thetic cues in­di­cate an un­touched ex­am­ple — the only things of note be­ing the afore­men­tioned wheel combo and the ad­di­tion of an M-tech 1 boot spoiler and IS front lip with cus­tom front split­ter. Like­wise, on the in­side, the 30-yearold leather­work re­mains, with the fac­tory wheel switched out for a Nardi wood­grain and a series of gauges held in place by 3D-printed pan­els.

Rev­el­ling in its sim­plic­ity, this E30 takes the best of both worlds and com­bines them into the per­fect streeter. More than drive­able off boost, and more than scary when hit­ting 16psi — a com­bi­na­tion that pro­duced 282kW and 531Nm af­ter be­ing tuned by Lin at CDM Tau­ranga. “It’s the first car I’ve built, and I def­i­nitely learned a heap over the process,” says Scott. “For a more-or-less fac­tory mo­tor, I’m pretty stoked with how well it goes. I mean, it’s faster than my mate Jar­rod’s GT-R” he says, laugh­ing. “And it felt good to prove a few peo­ple wrong.”

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