Photography by Dan Wagener
The idea to create a successor to the BMW M1 based on the new 3 series was born in the summer of 1981. Unlike the M1 however, the M3 was to be mass produced on the assembly line. Due to Group A homologation requirements, BMW had to produce 5,000 road cars in order to compete. Form followed function through the concept with it being built specifically for road racing purposes. Although it was based on the standard 3-series the exterior of the M3 was equipped with 12 different body panels to improve aerodynamics and accommodate a wider track. The power-plant was a high-revving four-cylinder engine known as the S14. It combined the block from the M10 with a four-valve head derived from the one used on the six-cylinder M88 and S38 motors. From 1987 to 1992 the M3 dominated the touring car racing scene and had great success with the street version as well.
Let's fast forward to 2004, the year when Yani purchased his 1988 Alpinweiss M3 (06/87). It was when their prices were right around their all time low. Back then, it had the S14 engine and was completely stock. Yani had gone through his first BMW CCA drivers school in that trim and had an absolute blast with it. By his next school, he had sent the car to VAC Motorsports in Philadelphia, PA to have them install a pair of Recaro Profi SPG racing seats, the rear roll hoop, cams and perform a tune.
He had driven the car with the 2.3L for about 125-150,000 miles. It was daily driven for about 4 years until he had picked up a second car. Eventually one of the pistons on his 2.3L had cracked so a rebuild was in order. He had VAC bore out his 2.3L to a 2.5L block, with CP pistons, arrow rods, VAC titanium valves (1mm over size) and titanium springs, 292/284 cams, Stage 3 head, carbon fiber DTM intake manifold, 2pc rally header, and an oversized oil pan.
After running 50,000 miles, there was a failure at a wrist pin bushing. He was at Summit Point rounding turn 10 at the main circuit, pulling 120mph in 4th gear at 8000rpm… just as he was about to shift to 5th gear and it was done. Just before that happened he had turned to his buddy Dan who was in the passenger seat, “Man I love this car.” and gave the dash the "double tap" and it was all over. Off to VAC again.
After a lot of serious thought and some encouragement from another co-instructor Yani decided to go with an S54 engine this time. The S54 is normally found in the E46 M3 and is one of the highest horsepower per liter engines ever made. The 3.2L six-cylinder is good for 333hp with a powerband that seems infinite. Yani also added a 6 speed manual transmission, 3.64 OS Giken differential, 288/280 Shrick cams, CP Pistons, and VAC's Rods with a Vipec V88 ECU with Vanos Control and Drive-by-Wire Throttle. The additional engine modifications are now putting it at 350+hp.
With great power comes a need for great stopping ability, so the brakes were also upgraded to Brembo Gran Turismos. Due to old age and blown shocks the Ground Control coilovers were retired for a new JRZ suspension kit.
The 17" BBS LM wheels were specifically made for the E30 M3 by VAC and are wrapped with Toyo's Proxes RA1 (R-Comp) tires. It's their Racetrack & Autocross tire developed for drivers looking for street-legal circuit tires. This allows Yani to drive to the track, rip all weekend and drive home.
His car has also earned itself a very suiting name, the "White Elephant". Yani's mom was actually the one who had given it the name. She would always call it that because right after Yani bought his car he was constantly fixing and modifying it. According to folklore, the White Elephant symbolizes a rare or valuable possession with the upkeep being very expensive. It is also regarded as a sacred animal in some parts of Southeast Asia even til today, a bit like the E30 M3's reputation among the BMW community.
Yani is the care taker of a true road-racing legend, he has stuck with it through the good times and the bad. He has nourished it and loved it. Most importantly though, he has driven it. Taken it to the track, doing exactly what the E30 M3 was born to do… perform. For that we have much respect for Yani and his passion for the White Elephant.