The second generation BMW 3 series, commonly known as the E30, is one of the most common platforms for modification. Many enthusiasts see the car as a blank canvas for a build and it is common to see insane engine swaps and turbo conversions. While searching the internet you can find someone who has swapped in nearly any BMW motor from their bread and butter inline-sixes to the more exotic V10. It’s also likely to find american V8’s and Japanese turbo-sixes filling up space in the engine bay.
Though engine swaps and turbo conversions can sometimes be an easy way to gain power, they can detract from the original character of the car. I am no purist, though I appreciate when a car is modified with restraint in order to preserve it’s natural persona. Harrison’s E30 was built using a less common approach in order to improve performance while keeping it in the family.
The car is a 1988 325e, which was the most economical model sporting a 2.7 L low-revving motor making a whopping 121 hp. The low horsepower numbers can be attributed to it’s head which limited the motor to a 4500 rpm redline and has restrictive flow to improve economy. The 325i, however, made up to 169 hp and could rev to 6500 rpm but it made less torque. The 325i produced 159 lb/ft of torque while the 325e produced 180 lb/ft thanks to it’s increased displacement. Harrison’s E30 is the best of both worlds thanks to a 325i head swap on his 325e bottom end.
The motor has also been supplemented with 272 Schrick camshafts, M50 injectors, an M20 oil cooler and a Miller Pro Street induction kit that is currently not installed thanks to a dead MAF. The car was tuned by Miller Performance and made 168 hp and 169 lb/ft of torque at the wheels, a healthy increase on the stock motor. These numbers were recorded on a Mustang dyno which read famously low. Suffice to say, Harrison’s E30 is no slouch with a stock weight just shy of 2600 lbs.
With the engine dealt with, the chassis also received various upgrades that help it’s performance without negatively effecting the ride. Bilstien Sport struts with H&R Sports springs mounted with E90 drop-hats lower the car just enough while improving handling. An E36 steering rack has also been installed to tighten up the steering. The rear diff has also been replaced with a 3.73 LSD in order to lock up the rear axel when needed. Overall nothing over the top has been done in order to retain daily driving comfort though the car is now extremely planted and I was impressed with how flat it was through the corners.
I love Harrison’s choice of wheels: period correct AC Schnitzer Type 1’s measuring 16x7 shod in sticky Yokohama S Drive rubber. The wheels just look as if they belong on the car and the stance is perfect for a functional daily driver. The wheels fill out the arches just enough while the meaty tires give it a sporty stance. This car looks at home while parked or on your favourite road.
The E30 has already become a classic for enthusiasts and Harrison’s is a breath of fresh air in the world of V8 swaps and massive turbo builds. OEM BMW parts have been used throughout in ways that improve the natural characteristics of the chassis. Harrison even replaced the interior with the plaid seats from a 318i he found in a junk yard. This car is tuned in a way that shows restraint in the right places while improving all performance aspects of the car just enough to make it exciting on a back road. On top of all the functional bits, in my opinion, it just looks right.