BRR E30 M3 – Sort of a “retro-mod” project.

First, we have to say that we just love these cars. Not only are they unique in the BMW lineup, but they are have meaning to us here at BRR. When we first started doing club racing, the car that we learned in and got our licenses in was a race prepped E30 M3. The memories of that car and that first year are burned into our memories.

So, when an E30 M3 was dropped in our laps from a customer (even that story is crazy about this car….we were doing a motor swap for a customer, and when we had finalized the complete project definition and plan, he asked if we would be open to other payment arrangements. The bill was going to be large (way over the 5 figure level). So, he wanted to know what we would take in terms of payment. We said, “what do you have in mind?” Would you take another car as a partial payment? Maybe……maybe. At that point I had images of a 1960s Studebaker in rust and ruins, and them saying that it was a classic and would be worth tons. But, that wasn’t what he had in mind at all. He said, “how about an E30 M3?” WHAT????? Say that again! A what? I thought you said an E30 M3. Yep…that’s right. OK, so now my mind dreams up an E30 M3, that has been fully track prepped, but was flipped and hit a wall, after the motor blew, and tore the right rear corner off the car and had been made in the Frankenstein mode. Yep, an E30 M3, runs great, nothing done to it, but it has a few miles on it. OK, so now I had to bite. Tell me everything about this car (my mind was now racing, dreaming of what we could do w an E30 M3….can this really be true?). And, sure enough, we got an E30 M3, and a RED one to boot.

So, that was the beginning of this project. We have done lots of track cars, race cars, and we didn’t want to explore those regions w this car. We wanted this to be just what it was, an iconic road car for daily driving, but with all the right additions and creature comforts. We didn’t want to go over the line w performance mods, but we didn’t want to leave it alone either. So, all the normal categories would get included – engine, exhaust, suspension, looks, wheels, tires, interior, new and updated (retro-mod) creature comforts and unique touches given the history of this car.

The CAR – (after most of the enhancements)


Now, you can never leave an engine alone. The E30 M3 4 cylinder motor is unlike almost all motors out there….this is a performance motor to begin with. It was meant to be driven hard, and at very high revs. It doesn’t come alive till you’re over 5k RPMs. So, we needed some enhancements that would be in line with that. There has also been a lot of work and development by many others in this area, so this is not breakthrough work, just the selection of the right parts. We could have gone crazy w a DTM Carbon Fiber intake system, but that again would not be consistent w the project, and wouldn’t really work well as a daily driver. But, we wanted to let this motor sing, so CAMS are what we did first. Not just any set, but a full set of Evo III cams, gears, lifters, dual springs, and titanium retainers.

We knew that we would be driving this thing hard on the streets, and making it scream (it just feels so right), so we also worked on the normal updates and upgrades (replace all the cooling hoses w color Sampco hoses, added a remote oil filter housing, w AN fittings and stainless steel braided lines, added an additional front mount oil cooler, changed all the power steering hoses to AN type hoses and high pressure lines, moved the ps container and made it pretty). We also cleaned and powder coated the engine valve cover and intake manifold.

Don’t get all excited about the FRAM oil filter. Whenever we first put a car back together (after the cam change), we use a cheap oil filter, and run the motor for awhile, and then put the OEM type (although the M3 obviously never had a remote oil filter, but other BMWs did) back on for street use.


The initial step was to replace the center section (cats, resonators) w new OEM, as we needed to get the car smogged in California. But, we could play w the rear section, even in this first phase. We listened to a lot of sound clips, and wanted a rich, high pitch tone that would go w the character of the car. We selected an Eisenman Race rear section. Great quality, great fitment, nice tips, and great sound. (More to come in this area).


Now, even though this was going to be a street car, our standards for suspension work go way beyond what most would consider necessary. But, we went after every piece. Front racing struts (AST), front camber plates (Vorshlag), race diameter coil springs (HyperCoil 60mm) so we could select the spring rate of our choice for street driving, front and rear sway bars (upgraded Ireland Engr units), suspension reinforcement kit and sway bar reinforcement kit (Turner), new front hubs, new front wheel bearings, new rear wheel bearings, rear racing shocks (AST), rear solid upper shock mounts (AST), and adjustable sway bar end links (Ground Control) We didn’t change any of the main suspension bushings or subframe bushings, as this again was going to be a daily driver type of car.


OK, this section will have two phases. At first, we thought it would just be awesome to run E30 M3 Euro Brembo racing brakes…and we had a chance to get our hands on a set. So, at first here, this is what we put on the car.

So, this is one of the reasons we do projects. To learn. We were just giddy about the Brembo brakes…how cool, how unique….how bad. This is one choice where the parts were not consistent w the project, and had side affects. The pads were race pads of course, so they squealed like pigs being slaughtered…..every time you touched the brakes. Then, they started to wear fast, and we needed new pads. We also thought it would be good to get a new set of rotor rings. Great idea…poor in execution. We talked w Brembo directly (since we sell all their stuff regularly), and they informed us that this caliper and rotor were no longer made…anywhere. So, dead end street. Therefore, they needed to come off. We then turned to our friends at StopTech, as we think nothing but great things about their products, and we also believe they have a great value proposition (meaning cheaper bang for the buck without sacrificing any performance gains). Off came the Brembo’s, and on with the StopTechs. We choose their street/performance pad, as they can take all the aggressive heat abuse, but don’ t squeal even under hard duress, and are very rotor friendly.


This is where the project got interesting for us as a shop. We wanted good seats. We wanted creature comfort. So, what do we use, and where can we get the benefits of both We wanted adjustable seats, as both of us would drive this car. Well, this is the advantage of being a shop. Sitting right in front of us, on one of our workbenches, was a set of near new Porsche GT3 seats….we had just pulled them out to put in the GT2 Carbon Fiber seats for another customer. We loved those Porsche seats. So, we wondered…..think there is any way we could make those work? They are fully electric, and have great support. So, off to the workbench we went to fabricate up a set of seat mount bases to see if they would indeed fit. There are the normal pieces to check out…width, height, length, and mount height. The Porsche seats use a very unique type of seat mount base. So, since we have experience with installing the race seats in our Porsche GT3s and Cup Cars, knew what they needed. Made that, test fitted to the seats to ensure proper alignment, then with the measurements in hand, fitted to the M3 to see how we would need to alter the base mounts to tie into the factory seat mounting points. Not a lot of work there actually. We then went to work on the electrical harness. We needed to find an electrical source w the right wire size that was not being used, had a full fuse system already in the car, and that was switched power. We then plumbed the new electrical harness and used the stock Porsche seat wiring harness end to mate to the seat. Put in the new seat, tested the alignment, and voila, we had Porsche electric seats in our M3. Woo HOO!


We then addressed the other normal interior upgrades. New BMW Evo M3 alcantara steering wheel. We had made custom shift boot and emergency brake covers in alcantara w red stitching to match the car. The rest of the interior was in great, near perfect condition. We wanted to retain the stock M3 door panels. The front dash had NO CRACKS (how rare is that!), and all other panels looked great. We installed a new stereo system, added the normal amplifier and speakers everywhere, and the interior and our updated creature comforts had all been added to the car, while not changing the character of the M3 at all.


Like all older cars, they need some work. This was one of the areas that we didn’t initially pay much attention to. Being a CA car, we thought the paint and body panels would all be just fine. But, when we went to wash the car the first time, and had water inside the front passenger compartment, we knew something wasn’t right. We pulled back the carpet in the right front floor panel, and found issues….like HOLES in the floor. We then traced the leak to a panel in the firewall, and YIKES, all of a sudden, we had some major body work to do. We started pealing back all areas to check the rest of the car. The carpet came fully out of the car (and got replaced in total), all seats, the dash, everything. We found several areas needing attention, and went to work. We cut out those panels, bought new panels or fabricated up new panels ourselves, and welded in the panels and seam welded them all as well. Painted and sealed all areas.Back in went the interior, and now we could work on the exterior of the car. With all the work we did, we had also found a couple of areas that needed work on the exterior.Therefore, the paint had to come into question….or just get done. We turned to our friends at Dell Auto Body (the best in our area), and had them do a complete makeover of the paint, from front to rear, and had them work on the panel alignment (example, the rear Evo decklid didn’t rotate well when we first got the car, and the seam lines were not perfectly straight). After Dell got done, we had a stunning looking car, and all body panels were mated just right.

We had gotten an Evo III rear adjustable wing, w Carbon Fiber wing, and added our own front splitter in carbon fiber to match. New wheels (APEX wheels), tinted glass, a BRR front window banner, and the piece that sets off the whole car, BMW Motorsport E30 M3 door handles done in red lettering.

Now we had a CAR! There is always more to do (as we said above, the exhaust still needs some enhancement, and we think we need a light weight flywheel).

What can we build for YOU?

BRracing – performance for FUN.