Photography by Mackenzie Ebbers @mackenzie.e30
As I sat in Penny under the hot July sun, in line with 100+ cars waiting to enter the Bellevue College parking garage for Stancewars, it finally hit me. We did it. Stancewars picks their Top100 cars from hundreds of entries and my car had made it. There were cars in attendance that had twice the amount of money and time spent on them, but it didn’t matter because I had a vision for my build that had been recognized and rewarded. There are some cars that are just special, and now more people then just myself could fully appreciate this beautiful E30 I call Penny. It’s hard to believe that it has already been over 3 years since I bought Penny, but like they say time flies when you’re having fun.
After months of searching Craigslist for the right car I took a chance on a 1989 325i sedan from a small import dealer in Southampton, New Jersey (I was living on the East Coast at the time). She wasn’t my first choice, but when I saw the car in person I knew this was something very special. The car miraculously had a fresh coat of beautiful paint, the IS trunk spoiler (I would add IS side skirts and front lip later to complete the look) immaculate interior, and every single button and switch was working. There was no question I was buying this car. After the first wash/detail I think it really set in how beautiful this car was, and what a gem I had stumbled upon.
Fast forward a few months and my boyfriend Bryant and I were planning to move back to my hometown of Seattle, of course there was no question of selling Penny so we shipped her cross country on a car carrier. Moving back to Seattle brought with it quite a few more car shows, some new fun car friends, and more inspiration for my build.
In the fall of 2015 I approached the wheel builder Spinfab about building some BBS RS’s, and as luck would have it he had the exact specs and color on hand. My only request was that I wanted the hex caps and wheel hardware to be plated in 18k rose gold, and after a few color tests the perfect shade was found. I chose bubble lips, white faces, and dark blue and silver hex caps to compliment the rose gold. I was already planning on bags so the size and fitment I went for was 16x8.5" in the front and 16x9" in the back with et8 all around. Only about a month after the wheels arrived I contacted Royal Stance to see about their Black Friday Airlift Performance deals, and the opportunity was too good to pass up. Bags were new for us and we didn’t have any friends with bagged cars, but Bryant and I have always done all our own work on our cars and an Airlift install was just another thing to tackle.
Dialing in the fitment for the E30 was a little challenging. For the rear fitment we rolled and pulled the fenders slightly so it would sit fender to lip with no problems. The front was more difficult because of how low the undercarriage of the car hangs, this was solved by raising the engine 1/4th of an inch so the oil pan would clear. Next the camber has to be maxed out and 15mm spacers added to bring the fender and lip closer together, when aired out the sub frame and control arms sit on the ground but lip to fender is 90% there. Once fitment had been sorted we set about building a trunk setup. I wanted a light colored wood floor with a box like attachment to cover the battery. Since the air system was already functioning I wasn’t able to have the air tank powder coated so I opted to wrap it in white vinyl. DIY projects are always something that makes a build even more special.
After our first great show season in Seattle, I knew what I wanted the next project to be, engine bay. Penny was unfortunate enough to have one of the most ugly engine bays I’ve ever seen on an E30. The main problem was the paint on the inside of the hood, and all around the strut towers/bay, pretty much leaving us no choice but to paint it. We started by removing just about everything from the top of the engine, including the valve cover and intake manifold that I sent off for powder coating, and in the mean time we took the time to perform a lot of needed maintenance. For paint we opted to DIY once again and used Paint Scratch base coat and clear coat to paint the bay and inside of the hood. I’ve used Paint Scratch before and with any paint the key is sanding, and at the end of the day it’s a great affordable option. Since rose gold was already an accent on Penny I had the idea to have a few engine bay pieces plated, and once again with the help of Spinfab we made it happen. I am beyond happy with how the engine bay turned out, and I hope more rose gold is to come.
There is something very satisfying about having a vision and being able to bring that to life. I never thought I would be able to build this car exactly how I envisioned, but it just shows when you truly put your mind to something it can happen. I love what I’ve created, because building a car is like creating a piece of art, and I believe Penny is truly a representation of my creativity and taste.