Alpine White


Sam Van Heest's E90 M3

Photography by Matt Petrie @crosshair_nightmare

It is hard to believe that the E90 M3 is rounding out the tenth year since it’s production. Yes, ten years have gone by already and it is being celebrated by ill fitting bolt-on wide body kits and flame shooting, burble tunes that bounce off the rev limiter. Sorry for the spoiler alert, but you won’t find that in here. No, instead Sam chose a cleaner approach. The phrase that comes to mind and best describes his E90 is “elements of traditional ways”. Each of these individual components are not contemporary by any means, but he carefully chose each aspect and perfected them uniquely, reintroducing excitement for the chassis a decade later.

When it comes to suspension, there are so many ways to lower the car. Despite all of the possibilities, there was only one option for Sam. The Ohlins Road and Track coil overs were selected to ensure that his ride remains smooth and capable to tackle the tri-state roads while sitting tightly over the wheels. It is no secret that BBS is synonymous with BMW. Although you need to count on your toes for E9x’s with BBS wheels, Sam still manages to keep the bar elevated. The wheels are not the standard, concave face that is more commonly seen. His are the rarer, flat face RSII’s, which gives the wheel more of a traditional RS appearance. It allows the wheels to be built wider while clearing enough room for big brakes. On the other hand, something that is rarely seen on this platform, are the velocity stacks. Even though trumpets have been married to independent throttle bodies since their conception, his 8000+ revving V8 is packing a little more than just the orchestra horn section. His design and execution with factory functions are what etch its rank in velocity stack comparison conversation, but we’ll get to that in more detail later.

The use of color is so crucial in any build and a three-color pallet requires a specific eye, but more importantly, the right taste. Although white is a neutral pallet to work with, it is Sam’s use of the red and brushed silver that solidifies the execution. Throughout the car, the coordination is so seamlessly integrated, that one can miss the cues or just simply take them for granted.

Against the Alpine White slick top, the contrasting interior is merely a glimpse away.  This car was originally equipped with black leather, but it was since fully replaced with the more desirable Fox Red leather.  To take it a step further, he completed the conversion with the fold down rear seats, which were previously affixed in the back of the cabin. Along with the color swap, he updated the navigation system to the LCI spec, which changes the screen and menu format as well as the better idrive control unit in the center console. Also occupying the center console are the F10 M5 shift knob and an AEM gauge cluster to monitor vitals. Even their silver bezels were kept in mind to tie in with the silver accented components around the interior.

The red on the outside of the car is minimalistic, but extremely effective. Red StopTech ST60 calipers hover millimeters below the brushed BBS faces. On those brushed faces, sit custom height hexes that house red BBS center caps.  When the hood is opened, his valve covers, dressed in wrinkle red, provide a vibrant base for the trumpet display.  Another item that is not normally red, nor in the S65 for that matter is the physical dipstick.  Those of you unfamiliar with the S65 and wondering why a dipstick is being written about, is because these cars only have electronic ones that read on the instrument cluster and are hardly accurate at that.  Sam’s S65 oil pan had been given the VAC treatment of baffled channels and a good ol’ fashion dipstick to pull out and wipe down. He made the swap during his upgraded rod bearing replacement.

Of course, we can’t pop the hood and only talk about the red valve covers or a silly dipstick.  Matching the brushed finish of his wheels are the 2M Autowerks machined velocity stacks for the S65’s independent throttle bodies. The sound of throttle bodies grabbing the open atmospheric air before you is glorious and intoxicating. All you want to be doing is driving the car two gears below where you should be, but simply running the machined trumpets was not Sam’s end goal.  His thought process was thorough and very definitive. On a functional side, it had to mimic the factory plenum plumbing to keep the car happy and have no irreversible modifications to make it work. While brainstorming the layout, he did not want to incorporate any covers or trays around the trumpets. “I don’t want to loose the mechanical feel of this, I want the engine to look like an engine” he said adamantly. No disagreement here. Although succinctly stated, he’s completely right. Seeing the fuel rails and linkage along side the newly introduced oil air separator AN lines or the bullet shaped oil catch is a beautiful thing.

He drew up some sketches for the cylindrical oil catch and then handed it over to his friend and local machinist, Eric of Tribal Iron Customs. Carrying out the brushed finish, the bullet shaped conversation piece also integrates the factory drain mount in the same location below the plenum. Focusing on the details, he even made a little bracket to hold the filter in place above the valve cover. Equally as impressive as it looks and sounds, is that attention to detail. He is not finished with this project either as there is still more to come.  The plan is to utilize the factory air ducts from the bumper and kidney grills by having filtered channels 3D printed to his specifications in order to feed it with as much clean air as open ITB’s can get.

Rather than removing the chrome accents around the car like the headlights and the grills, Sam kept them to compliment the polished lips of his wheels. A European inspired shaved front bumper and NLA original Challenge diffuser are just more examples of how little details go further than radical aero and body work.

Sam did not rewrite ‘the book’, he just pulled a few chapters out, added some vibrant illustration, and put them back in to show the rest of the community how it’s done.


Mike Hack's E30 Touring

Photography by Jackson Keam & Ollie Strong @hardparkedproductions

Mike Hack's fondness for the E30 platform all started when he bought a 318is coupe. He had intentions of keeping it clean and stock since his daily/track Honda Civic was deemed "un-roadworthy" by the local police due to illegal modifications. Like most of us, the mod bug bit him shortly after the purchase was made and the coupe quickly became another less than ideal daily driver. After owning the 318is for a few years, Mike was truly engulfed in the local E30 scene. He had come into the E30 scene completely ignorant of the chassis's many variations. He had no idea which modification options were out there, which companies to trust or which local shops to go to. But over the 2 years of owning the coupe, he learned a lot. He was also unaware of the wagon variant, until after buying the coupe and this intrigued him tremendously. Since Australia never received the wagon, it made the thought of owning one there even more enticing. He knew of a handful of private imports that were getting around Australia, so he knew it was possible. And so the search began.

Initially the search didn't get far, he couldn't find any for sale through the usual sources and money was a bit tight anyway. At the time he realistically had no chance of actually getting his hands on one, but he continued the search anyway. After a few months he stopped looking and life went on, then one day he was just casually wasting time searching for random cars on a car selling website/app. It was out of curiosity more than having any intent to purchase and boom a 325i E30 Touring popped up for sale in Sydney (10 hour drive interstate from him). It was not cheap, but it was in fantastic condition with low miles and had a manual transmission. It also had all the electric options, sunroof, windows, etc. and complete with a genuine M-Tech 2 bodykit. The icing on the cake was that it was in Alpine white, Mike's favorite color. A call was made and not long after he was on a plane to Sydney, driving the newly purchased touring as its first Australian owner, back to Melbourne.

Not all was as rosy as it would seem though, when it came time to get the required engineer's certificate in order to register the car for Australian roads, some poor handiwork was found. In order to legalize the car for Australian roads, side intrusion bars needed to be welded into the doors. When Mike bought the car he was told by the seller that all of the work had been done and was ready to go. Turns out the (unnamed) Sydney based shop had sikaflexed the bars in (rather than welding) and the job had to be done again from scratch. This took a big chunk of time and money from his life. Once registered and driving, modifications began almost immediately. The first set of wheels had already been ordered before the car was on the road and basic bolt-on engine mods were underway. Coilovers were swapped out from his old coupe and installed into the touring. The car stayed reasonably mild for a year (lowered, wheels, bolt on engine mods) or so while he planned on upcoming changes.

The Touring has had 4 different sets of wheels since he's owned it, starting with a set of 16" Schmidt TH lines, a brief stint on 16" Alpina wheels, a few years on a set of Compomotive TH1780, 6 months on a set of 3 piece Work Emitz and then back to the Compomotives which it is currently on. He actually repurchased the Compo’s from the guy he had originally sold them to.

Being a Honda fan/owner for the prior 10 years, Mike was very much into the whole wire-tucked engine bay look and wanted to attempt something similar on the E30. He looked around online and apparently wire-tucking E30's wasn't too common, which would help set the car apart just that little bit more. What he assumed would take 3 weeks or so, turned into a 3 month, 400+ solder nightmare job. Although in saying that, once completed, the car fired up first try with zero issues and has been without issues for the last few years.

A little more power was then desired as well as something special under the hood. Rather than taking the much more common and arguably much better money/power ratio option of an engine swap or going with a turbo upgrade, Mike decided to take the road less traveled by going with an ITB setup. Call it a hangover from his old ITB B20VTEC powered Civic race car. He hungered once again for that undeniable ITB scream. He knew that the cost/power ratio was not ideal, but since the car would be 95% street/show car, real power numbers were not a big concern. Luckily for him, there was an upcoming Australian company that was developing an ITB kit for the BMW M20 engine and he managed to get a hold of a kit before they officially hit the market. The only problem with getting it in so early is that the kit wasn’t 100% and some custom fabrication was needed to make them work. The car was dropped off to a shop for the ITB install/head rebuild/ECU install, etc. and this is when things started to take a very slow turn. Without having a real deadline or agreed finishing date, the car ended up sitting in the shop for well over a year (16 months to be exact). Multiple calls and surprise visits were necessary to put some pressure on to get the job finished. But good things come to those that wait and the result was a whole lot of fun and plenty of noise.

Unfortunately the car didn’t last long after the original install/tune and drivability went down fast, to the point of the car being completely undrivable. It stopped idling, it was running extremely rich and pumping out excessive smoke on every drive. In the end he believes it was a combination of poor ECU choice, lack of complimentary sensors/modifications and a poor tune. Regardless of what was at fault the car needed some serious attention in order to get it back on the road and running the right way. So he made the call to MSC Performance, a trusted and known tuner that he had used a lot during his Honda racing days. He didn’t have a lot of experience in BMW’s specifically, but he was a master on the dyno and was happy to take on the job. Again it wasn’t cheap as they decided to remove the original Microtech ECU and ‘upgrade’ to a ‘top of the line’ Haltech Elite 2500 unit. They also added a Wideband controller and cam sensor in order to get the whole setup working right. A month or so passed and he received the car back in perfect working form. Drivability was as good as a standard car, no idling issues anymore, no excessive smoke. The car was a dream to drive and sounded amazing. Still no powerhouse, but fast enough for plenty of fun. After driving the car in this form for about 6 months, he was keen for more. Like most car modifiers, the car is never finished and no matter what you do, there's always something else that needs to be done. He likes putting in the wrench time in the garage just as much as he likes driving the finished product.

Mike was always intrigued about bags, it was one of those mods he would see as a kid and get excited about, and as an adult that excitement never changed. He never thought he would ever actually go down that path though. But then a few things changed and his financial position changed (after no longer needing a car trailer). This combined with the constant risk of driving an "illegally" lowered car around the streets of Melbourne triggered him to give in and go down the bag route. Air bags allowed him to drive the car at a reasonable height to avoid police attention on the roads and then slam it to the ground for the next car event. (Police in Australia are extremely intolerant of modified cars driving on the road, the penalties are harsh and expensive.) So he ordered all the parts needed and began to research how to go about installing the whole thing. He's DIY’d the majority of things with cars in the last ten years, but over that time he had had zero experience working with anything to do with air ride. After a week or so in the garage the install was complete and the car was back on the road driving well once again. 

Not long after installing the bags, Mike and his partner purchased their first home due to having their first baby on the way and as you can imagine modifying cars has slowed to almost a complete halt. So at this stage and for the foreseeable future, the Touring will remain in its current form with the short term goal of just maintaining it and keeping it on the road. He has future plans to pull the motor and get the engine bay smoothed and re-painted. But that is something that will happen in the very far future, in the meantime, he is happy to just drive it as it is and attend as many events and cruises as he can.

BMW News

BMW M6 GT3 & Competition Edition


Munich (DE). BMW has set a course for the future in GT racing with the presentation of the newly developed BMW M6 GT3 at the 66th IAA Cars 2015 in Frankfurt am Main (DE). The racing version of the BMW M6 Coupe will be sent into action by numerous private teams from the 2016 season in a host of championships and renowned race events around the world as part of the BMW Sports Trophy.

BMW Motorsport has channelled its vast well of experience amassed since 2010 with the BMW M6 GT3’s successful predecessor, the BMW Z4 GT3, into the development of the new car. Indeed, the new GT3 racer boasts a raft of improvements, particularly in the areas of drivability and economy. One example is the use of a series-produced engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology, which develops higher output and an increase in torque. Moreover, with its centrally-positioned driver’s seat and long wheelbase, the BMW M6 GT3 offers a driving feeling unparalleled on the racing scene. The net price of the car is 379,000 Euros.


The BMW M6 GT3 weighs less than 1,300 kilograms, and the transaxle drive concept, sequential six-speed racing gearbox and body aerodynamics optimised in the BMW wind tunnel also highlight the imminent arrival of a full-blooded racer from BMW Motorsport in 2016. The reliability, efficiency and ease of maintenance of the BMW M6 GT3 will likewise be tuned to master the demands of endurance racing, and its longer wheelbase promises to deliver significantly improved handling characteristics compared with the BMW Z4 GT3. As well as the car itself, BMW M6 GT3 customers will also benefit from the service laid on by BMW Motorsport support engineers and a trackside supply of parts.

In May 2015, ahead of the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife circuit in Germany, BMW Motorsport customers from around the world were treated to an exclusive first glimpse of the BMW M6 GT3 – not to mention a detailed presentation of the car by drivers and engineers – at a “closed room” event at the BMW M Testcenter Nürburg. The GT racing car was subsequently introduced to fans of “the most powerful letter in the world” at the traditional M Night event on the Friday before the classic endurance race in the “Green Hell”. Customer teams in North America were able to feast their eyes on the BMW M6 GT3 for the first time at the United SportsCar Championship (USCC) in Watkins Glen (US), where the racing car was given its first public appearance on the other side of the Atlantic in late June. The BMW M6 GT3 was then revealed to teams, drivers and fans at the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour race in Belgium – the most important GT race in the world. And now, the car has appeared in BMW Motorsport racing livery for the first time at the IAA.

The BMW M6 GT3 has undergone an extensive programme of testing on a variety of circuits over the course of 2015. This has allowed the experienced BMW works drivers to amass many valuable kilometres at the wheel of the BMW M6 GT3 and to carry out important work on the baseline set-up of the new GT and endurance racing challenger. This new poster car for customer racing is now undergoing a final round of fine-tuning prior to its race debut in the coming year.

BMW M6 Competition Edition

The new BMW M6 Coupe Competition Edition to be presented by BMW M GmbH at the 66th Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) from 17 – 27 September 2015 raises the levels of individualisation of this high-performance coupe to even greater heights. The exclusive Competition Edition stands for exceptional individuality, thanks to its special paintwork colours, components made of high-tech carbon fibre, fine leathers with coordinated contrast stitching and a range of unusual details. The Competition Edition is available exclusively for the BMW M6 Coupe with the further honed Competition Package. It gives the 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology an output of 441 kW (600 hp) and maximum torque of 700 Nm (516 lb-ft), taking the BMW M6 Coupe with the optional M Driverʼs Package to a top speed of 305 km/h / 189.5 mph (fuel consumption combined: 9.9/100 km / 28.5 mpg; CO2 emissions combined: 231 g/km)*.

The Edition model comes with a choice of two exterior paintwork colours: dazzling Alpine White and luminous Austin Yellow metallic. In Alpine White, the BMW M6 Coupe Competition Edition features striking decorative bodywork stripes in the trademark BMW M colours, as will also be displayed on the new BMW M6 GT3 race version. Forming an attractive contrast to both colour options are matt-black 20-inch M light-alloy wheels in double-spoke 343 M styling with mixed tyres. Along with the BMW kidney grille, door handles and side gills in black chrome and the carbon-fibre exterior mirror caps, they accentuate the extraordinarily sporty and powerful presence of the car. The carbon-fibre M rear spoiler in conjunction with a rear diffusor made of the same material serves to optimise airflow.

In the interior, BMW Individual fine-grain Merino full leather in black with contrast stitching – available in Opal White with Alpine White paintwork and in Yellow with Austin Yellow metallic paintwork – highlights the car’s exclusive sporty ambience. “M6 Competition” lettering in metal on the door sills and in the side gill elements, along with the lettering on the cupholder lids, is a further signature feature of the Edition model. The interior trim strips, gear selector and M sports steering wheel spokes are made from fine, lightweight carbon fibre, while the steering wheel rim is lined with elegant, grippy Alcantara.

M multifunction seats for the driver and front passenger and the BMW Head-Up Display are also part of the equipment range. Guaranteeing an intense sonic experience, meanwhile, is a choice of the Harman Kardon Surround Sound System and the High-End Surround Sound System by Bang & Olufsen with 16 speakers and output of 1,200 watts.

The Competition Edition option is now available to order, starting at EUR 17,700. 
Customers who would like to have their BMW M6 kitted out with the Competition Edition option also require – in addition to the Competition Package (EUR 9,500) – 20-inch M light-alloy wheels in double-spoke 343 M styling painted in matt black and with mixed-size tyres (EUR 400), multifunction seats for the driver and front passenger (EUR 1,950) and the smoker’s package (EUR 50). They also need to decide whether they’d like to enjoy the outstanding audio experience offered by the Harman Kardon Surround Sound System (EUR 1,290) or the High-End Surround Sound System by Bang & Olufsen with 16 speakers and output of 1,200 watts (EUR 4,950).


Jason Hower's E34 M5

Photography by Dan Wagener

For as long as Jason can remember, there has been a story around his area about an older gentleman that lived in the next town over with a barn full of immaculate, rare classic BMW's. He nearly crashed his car the first time he drove by when the barn doors were open. As he slowly regained his composure and continued to drive past, he saw it... a gorgeous Alpine White E34 M5 sitting in the driveway. He was smitten. At that time he was driving his old '91 525i, that he had just fallen in love with. So seeing an E34 M5 was a hell of an experience for a young E34 enthusiast and owning one was something he could only dream of. 

Fast forward roughly 8 years… when a friend of Jason's who lived next to the classic BMW collector stopped in at his workplace. He asked if Jason wanted to come outside and see what he was driving. Reluctantly, because it was a miserably hot PA summer day, he obliged. When he walked outside, he looked over and was caught off guard. There it was again, that pristine Alpine M5 that he drove by years ago. 

Immediately, he was jealous and asked if his friend had bought it. His friend explained that it still belonged to the guy with the barn, and that he was just doing a little bit of work to it for him. His friend went on to tell Jason that the guy would like to sell it though, and that's why he was having the work done to it. At this point, Jason's making his way over to the car to get a closer look at it, finally after all of these years. As he walked up to the driver's door, he peeked in and saw that phenomenal interior that he's only ever seen in pictures online. He was sold. Jason told his friend to let the guy know that if he was serious about selling it, that he'd buy it. He didn't even ask a price. Whatever he wanted for it, Jason was going to come up with one way or another to get this car. 

A few days went by and Jason was in touch with the owner. He'll never forget how nervous he was when he first met him. The guy was a local legend, and he's just some young guy who has done some questionable things to some nice BMW's. He was even hesitant to drive the E38 to his house, because he didn't want the owner to think Jason would "ruin" the M5 like some might say he did with the 740. As he got out of the car, he saw the man standing there with a glass of scotch on the rocks; and was suddenly relieved. He was an older gentleman in his 60's or 70's, who worked as a professor at a local university. They got to talking more about the M5, and he told Jason that he's only the second owner. The original was a female professor that he worked with at the university. He then went on to tell Jason that there was a good bit of documentation for the work done to the car. So, he went inside to grab it and came back with a stack of papers about 3 inches thick. In the stack was receipts for EVERYTHING… oil changes, inspections, tire rotations, recalls performed, the original window sticker, and even the original pink slip. Jason couldn't believe what he was seeing. He was ecstatic about the deal already, so this was simply icing on the cake. 

He then proceeded to show Jason the rest of his collection. It included a Zinno E30 M3, Euro E28 M5, E24 M6, Alpina E28, Euro E28 M535is, a pair of E12 M535is, Daytona Violet E36 M3, Z4M Coupe, and 2-3 Porsche's as well. All of the cars were near flawless, inside and out. The Euro cars that most people in the states have only dreamt of seeing, and even the US spec cars had rare parts on them that were only obtainable from years of scouring the web. It was surreal. Jason still gets goosebumps thinking about being in the presence of such beautiful, rare cars, inside of that little red barn.

He was so overwhelmed by everything going on, that he almost forgot the reason he was there for; to take ownership of the M5. After being there for an hour or so and drooling over the other cars, it was time for Jason to take the M5 for a test drive. He had spent hours in the previous days reading new car reviews, enthusiast articles, any literature he could find on the E34 M5. He wanted to know exactly what he was getting into, how these cars acted and performed. The owner handed Jason the keys and it was on. He jumped in the car, put the key in the ignition and turned it over. It fired up immediately, with its beautiful lumpy idle and that distinct S38 buzz out of the exhaust.

He was beyond nervous, his foot was shaking on the firm clutch pedal as he went to put the car in gear. The gearbox had such a nice feel to it, firm throws but not notchy, very precise shifts. It was perfect. As the car got up to temp and he got acclimated, he pushed the car a bit; a partial throttle low RPM second gear pull. His jaw dropped and nearly bounced off of the steering wheel. At a stop sign with a long, clear straightaway in front of him, he slowly pulled away in first gear and mashed it. It immediately loses traction. He shifted into second and it hooked back up before roaring to redline. He shifted into third and held on for dear life. It just kept pulling and pulling, the further up in the RPM's it went, the harder it pulled. He managed to find the self control to leave off and bring it back down to the speed limit before realizing that he had the biggest shit-eating grin on his face. He didn't know it was humanly possible to fall that deeply in love with an inanimate object. The car wasn't everything he had read it to be in the days before, it was so much more. So many of the things you experience driving one of these cars is indescribable.

He convinced himself to end the test drive and head back to the house to finalize the transaction. As he pulled back up to the house, the owner was standing there in the driveway with a huge smile on his face, likely because he knew the feelings Jason just experienced behind the wheel of that car. He got out of the M, grin still glued to his face, and told him that he'll take it. No negotiation, no back and forth, whatever he wanted for it he would give because it's worth every penny. Jason handed him the check, he handed Jason the title, they shook hands and thanked each other. Not only did a business transaction take place, but a bond was made for life thanks to this E34 M5. Years later, the car that almost caused him to crash, was now his own.

Although Jason has wanted an M5 ever since he bought his first E34 back in 2007, he never found himself at a point where he was in the market for one. Just before this purchase, he was actually 100% content with his E38. He had just refinished the RH wheels a few months before and was happy with how everything came together. He planned on keeping his E38 for awhile and figured he would try to be like a normal adult and save some money... and finally do some work to his house that he wanted to do since he bought it. Everything was going great and according to plan until his friend showed up with that M5. He had no regrets though. With only 1,678 E34 M5's originally shipped to North America, he may not have come across an opportunity like this again.

I think some of Jason's previous cars are also worth sharing as they were very tastefully modded too.

A favorite of Jason's was the S52-swapped 525i with 405k miles on the chassis. It was a beast and he didn't have much money into it. It's the reason he fell in love with the E34 chassis. Including the M5, he's owned about 6 or 7 E34's. 

Of all the cars he's owned and sold, the 1987 E28 535is was the only one that he truly regretted letting go.

This brings us to his last car, one we were actually going to do a feature on but I waited too long. I was disappointed that I missed the chance since he only lives an hour away, but I was more excited once I heard news of the M5. Anyway, he said the E38 740 was a great cruiser and rode amazing even for being slammed. His girlfriend and he spent many days/night in that car with their pup in the backseat just cruising around aimlessly.

Jason had every intention of leaving the M5 completely stock, since the previous owners had done such an amazing job of preserving its original condition. He sold his E38 to recoup some of the money used for the M5 purchase and the guy who bought it didn't want the RH's with it. So Jason listed the wheels for sale on the forums. He didn't have much interest, possibly due to the extremely aggressive widths/offsets. Then, he stumbled upon a set of nearly new coilovers for sale, for a super good deal. So it was kind of a no-brainer to pick up the coils and try to fit the RH's. After some very, very light rear fender rolling and trying 3 different sized tires on the rear wheels, he was able to get everything squared away and the outcome was beyond anything that he could've imagined. It looked amazing. 

Like I noted before, he didn't have any intentions of modifying the car, but things kind of fell together with the RH's. He said he's owned too many cars that just looked cool and didn't drive for crap (rubbing, scraping, on the bumpstops, etc). Which in some odd way that only people that have experienced it for themselves can attest to, is fun in its own respect. But, he's at the point now where he not only wanted his car to look good, but to be able to enjoy driving it. And drive it the way it was built to. 

So, the RH's are only on when he just wants the car to look pretty for shows and what not. Any other time, the factory M-systems with Throwing Star covers and good tires can be found underneath of this beast. I couldn't think of a better way to own an E34 M5 myself.


Neil Prasad's E30

Photography by Neil Prasad

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a fan of cars. As a kid, I remember spending countless hours watching Top Gear, or building my embarrassing collection of die-cast cars and Hot Wheels. It all started with watching Tomorrow Never Dies and that 750iL controlled by Bond’s cell phone, from that moment I was hooked. 

My first car, a BMW E46, was bone stock but has come a long way. It’s truly a special car and it introduced me to the religion that is BMW. However, the E46 always lacked something. Something you can’t really put your finger on. It’s not something tangible, it’s not something rational, and it’s not something you can write down. You have to feel it. The feeling of the road beneath your seat, through the steering wheel. That raw driving experience.

Years into owning the E46, I met a friend who owned a well maintained old 3 series. It had some Borbet wheels, the interior was in great shape and man, that old school styling just looked great. However, I didn’t quite understand the allure until I drove it. It was instant attraction, I had to get one of my own. 

As soon as I could, I bought my first E30. On a college student budget it wasn’t anything special. It was a beaten, not cared for 1990 3 series that was screaming 'make me a project car!' And so I did. I bought that car for $400 and I never looked back. For two years I poured a lot into that E30, and it introduced me to an addictive culture, from track days to car shows. I like to think I made something special out of that car, but all good things must come to an end.

What an amazing adventure the Chalkboard E30 was. Driving out to Pasadena for Bimmerfest 2012, meeting all of the people I’d been talking with for years. The photos, the experiences and the friends will definitely remain some of the most important in my life. However, the Chalkboard was a stepping stone to something greater. 

At the time, E30's were being snatched up like crazy and clean shells were becoming harder and harder to find so I started searching. After a few months I found an all original, 10/10, bone stock '89 325i in Plano Texas. I couldn't drive down there fast enough! One day and a tank of gas later, she was mine. The foundation for my next build.

I drove the new E30 home and the next few days were a frenzy to swap parts. Over the two years I owned the Chalkboard E30, I put some neat things on it including fully shortened Ground Control coilovers, a perfect black interior, and the classic E38 Style 5 wheels. There were big plans for this car's future. A few days later, I sold the Chalkboard E30. It was a sad day, but I had to move on.

During all of this, I had to move for work and it was decided that the Alpine E30 was to stay behind. And so she sat, for a while. After a few months, I flew back and picked her up. Upon returning home, I decided that it was finally time to begin the next chapter of the project. The swap I had been piecing together parts for. 

After searching for a few weeks, I found the perfect motor. An S52B32 + ZF 320Z transmission out of a 1997 M3 w/ 126k miles, and it came with everything. I had helped friends with their 24v swaps in the past so I had a fair understanding of what was necessary to do the swap. However, this would be my first motor swap and I wanted to do it right. 

Over the course of a few weeks, chipping away at the swap after work, I did the entire swap myself, replacing every part I could think of. Hoses, fasteners, seals, sensors, you name it, I replaced it including re-pinning the 24v harness in favor of bulky wiring adapters. I took my time, attempting to make the swap as OEM as possible. It has working cruise control, A/C, Power Steering and everything else you could imagine (windshield washer, check panel, etc, etc). While a lot of people choose to shave their engine bays during 24v swaps, I wanted to retain all the functions of an original E30.

And no, she didn’t fire up on the first start. But man, when she did it was glorious. It is quite satisfying when you finally finish a project and everything works. After the swap, I started thinking “turbo! turbo!” but ultimately I decided that’s not the direction I want to go. I think I have finally found the perfect recipe. No, it doesn’t have to have ridiculous dyno numbers. No you don’t have to cut out the fenders to fit massive tires. And no, you don’t have to strip the interior to go just that little bit faster. I could, but right now she’s everything I need and then some. 

The swap was nearly a year ago. Since then I’ve just been enjoying the E30. Am I done with the car? Probably not. There is always something to replace, always something to fix. It's an E30. Future plans? Like all projects, there is always something in the pipeline. Who knows what the future holds.

I want to say thanks to Grant, Mason, Richard, and others. I couldn’t have done it without you guys.