In love with the boxy fenders that made the BMW E30 M3 an icon on the Autobahn, former body shop owner Gilbert Dayao purchased this S50-swapped E30 M3 as an incomplete project from a friend. Seven years later, this is the finished product.
Too often, we buy into the false pretense of “built, not bought” and think it’s the one true mantra. However, a project car that you can be proud of doesn’t necessarily come from something you built from the ground up. Gilbert’s 1988 BMW E30 M3 came from a purchase from a friend of his back in 2012. The car was something his friend had just stopped building and decided to sell it. The one key thing that made the sale to Gilbert easier was the promise that the car wouldn’t be ruined and turned into a butchered mess.
As to why Gilbert wanted the E30, he said, “I always liked the characteristic look of the E30. It’s such a classic body style and there is a rich history to the car.”
It’s hard to argue with the looks of a proper wide-body M3. It’s also a well-balanced car from BMW, even today it’s revered for its finesse and character. “I also wanted to finish what my friend started; he had some great ideas and put a ton of money into it to begin with, so I just needed to order more parts for the car and complete the build,” he added.
A BMW E36 M3 steering wheel finishes off the OE-M interior parts. Ok, yes, bad pun but the seats and steering wheel come from other M-cars, so it’s OE M-car stuff.
Inside the cockpit, an Auto Power roll cage stiffens the chassis and prevents too much body flexing. However, that doesn't keep Gilbert from flexing on other fast cars on the freeway! Luckily, he and his passenger sit securely and tightly in the car, thanks to Sabelt six-point camlock harnesses and Sparco reclinable seats rewrapped with the BMW M Motorsport logo.
Engine swaps aren’t unusual for the E30, though removing the original the S14 four-cylinder from the M3 is a bit odd. However, what went in was certainly a superior BMW engine.
The aluminum block comes from a 2.8-liter Z3, but the displacement is increased to 3.0-liters with the installation of a 1997 M3 S50 crankshaft. The M3 also donated its cylinder head but it has been retrofitted to work with an OBD-I diagnostic system. Another change from the Z3 block includes a 525i M50 oil pan so it could fit nicely between the frame rails and the front subframe. It’s all secured in place by a set of Ireland Engineering Urethane Motor Mounts.
Internally, the pistons were changed out to a set of forged aluminum slugs with Total Seal rings for an 8.5:1 compression ratio. We’ll get to why that was needed in a moment. The connecting rods are a Titanium set from B. I. Jet with ARP rod bolts keeping the rod caps in place. Additionally, a pair of Schrick camshafts with a custom grind for the 264-degree duration on the intake and 256-degree duration on the exhaust were also added. This was all put together by Pete McHenry.
Controlling the spark and fuel timing is a Haltech engine management system, which was tuned by Sonny Bonito and installed inside the car's glovebox.
The engine management system is especially necessary since the build features a Vortech V2 supercharger. That charged air is sent to an M5 manifold and throttle body while an HKS blow-off valve prevents surge in the supercharger when the throttle is closed. The package is rather tight, but the engine and supercharger just fit behind the PWR custom 4-row aluminum radiator with a front mount Spal electric fan.
Pumping that used exhaust out are a pair of Turner Motorsport shorty headers with a custom exhaust system.
A flywheel from JB Racing connects the clutch plate to the Getrag 5-speed transmission from a 1996 BMW M3, which required a Beyers Motor Werks custom driveshaft to mate to the new rear-end.
The torque is sent from the Performance Gearing 3.15:1 ratio rear end to a set of Fikse FM10 rear wheels in 18x12 fitment with Pirelli P-Zero Rosso 315/30R18. Behind the rear wheels, you can catch a glimpse of the Ireland Engineering brake kit for the E30 with floating rotors.
Up front, a set of FM10s match the rear in 18x9 with 245/35R18 P-Zeros.
Stopping power comes from a big brake conversion custom built by Brembo Race Technologies for the front of the car, with the Ireland Engineering kit providing ample braking for the rear.
To help with the fitment of those wider wheels and tires, a custom fabricated sheetmetal wide body was molded to the already-widebody E30 M3, widening the rear fenders by five inches, and widening the front by three inches. The Evo M3 wing with the carbon fiber flap gives it a serious race look while allowing the adjustment of wing pitch for more downforce.
Another welcome addition by Gilbert was a factory M3 Evo front bumper and lip to match the crazy wide look of the fenders.
The camber can be set front and rear with Ground Control coilovers with Eibach ERS springs on Bilstein front struts and rear shocks.
Steering improvements for the E30's high-speed Sierra Mountain cornering prowess comes from a Zionsville Autosport E36 M3 steering rack conversion with John Mason Engineering front and rear tower braces. One of the common problems on all E30s is the front subframe, in which this E30 features a Turner Motorsport subframe reinforcement kit to solve that.
The Ireland Engineering rear subframe bushings and AKG adjustable heim joint control arms and trailing arms improve subframe squirming under cornering loads.
Back to the original thought, that, for many people, they get caught up with the idea of “built, not bought.” Sometimes though, it makes more financial sense to purchase someone’s unfinished project and make it your own through your own custom touches.
Gilbert Dayao shows that buying an unfinished project might be the best way to approach "Holy Grail" cars like the E30 M3. Using your own resources, you can turn the car into something even better than what the original owner intended it to be. It’s hard to argue with the result of this widebody 1988 BMW E30 M3 with its supercharged S50-swap. It certainly breaks a lot of necks every time Gilbert drives it.
Story by Justin Banner
Photos by Antonio Alvendia
Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to Europe, and now has sights set on restoring a classic Mercedes. Antonio was a principal photographer on the limited edition hardcover book on Singer Vehicle Design's Porsche 911 builds, entitled One More Than Ten. Future goals include returning to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and driving the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS