There’s nothing like an OG BMW M3 E30 running on a modern M3 engine

The first-generation BMW M3 E30 is arguably one of the most sought-after BMWs in the world today. But even its collectible status hasn’t stopped tuners from engaging in a little aftermarket debauchery. The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah recently took the wheel of one such project. It’s an M3 E30, but underneath that hood lies a twin-turbo S55 straight-six engine that’s normally found under the new M3. This isn’t A BMW M3 E30 with less than 300 horsepower on tap, folks. This particular M3 E30 packs as much as 550 horsepower, which is almost three times as powerful as the E30’s stock S14 engine. It also comes with a fully restored interior, aftermarket AP racing brakes, a six-speed manual transmission, and a set of three-way adjustable remote reservoir coilovers. But, yeah, let’s talk about that twin-turbocharged S55 engine underneath the hood. That’s attention-grabbing in its own right, and as you can imagine, Farah wastes little time professing his undying love for the tuned M3 E30. Chances are, we’d feel the same way if we had a go at it, too.

The BMW M3 E30 - Why is it so special?

It’s completely understandable for a veteran auto journalist like Matt Farah to get excited about car builds, especially if the car in question is a BMW E30 M3 with a modern S55 engine strapped into it. This particular unit is all sorts of special, in part because it was built by a team of college students as part of a charity fundraiser organized by honestassembly.com. As far as builds go, this one ranks right up there with some of the most pleasantly surprising ones we’ve seen.

Matt Farah Drives an S55-Powered E30 BMW M3 and We're Jealous
- image 855662

It’s not just about the engine swap that makes this creation come together. It’s also the completely restored interior that includes fancy red leather seats and true-to-its era equipment, a six-speed manual transmission, and a gauge cluster that’s probably the only none-era piece of equipment in the cabin. The cluster comes from a modern M3, which ended up ironic since the speedometer seems to have some issues. The students also installed a set of three-way adjustable remote reservoir coilovers and a set of AP Racing brakes to bring the build together.

via GIPHY

None of those, though, are considered the main attraction of this E30 M3. That distinction rests on the shoulders of the S55 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six engine. The engine doesn’t necessarily produce the same 425-horsepower output as the ones found in the modern M3 and M4. Instead, the engine’s been tuned to produce three different states of power, beginning with a Stage 1, 300-horsepower output that still produces roughly 50 percent more power than the E30 M3’s old powertrain unit.

Farah starts his drive with this amount of power in the M3 and properly observes how faster the car is on the open road. The drive didn’t come with some issues. The E30 M3, for example, had no power steering so it was a chore to drive on the open road. To his credit, Farah roughhoused his way to an enjoyable drive and when it came time to switch gears and uncork the inline-six’s Stage 2 500-horsepower setup, the E30 M3 finally let loose, exhibiting the kind of power and performance you don’t get to see and experience in an old E30 M3 with its stock engine in place.

BMW M3 E30 Stock Specs

Engine 2.3-liter (140.4 cu in), inline-four
Power 215 hp
Torque 170 lb-ft (230 Nm)
Top speed 241 km/h
0-60 mph 6.4 s
0-100 km/h 6.7 s
Curb weight 1,200 kg (2,646 pounds)

Final Thoughts

Farah makes a point to say that, in some instances, this E30 M3 feels a little too powerful for its own good. Part of that can be attributed to the amount of power it’s capable of dishing out — the Stage 3 550-horsepower output borders on scary — but despite all of its knocks, Farah was complimentary on the overall build that went into turning this 30-year old M3 into a modern performance fiend. It’s probably not the best tuned E30 M3 we’ve seen, but it remains impressive in many ways, enough, at least, for Farah to enjoy his time behind the wheel. If we got the opportunity to do the same, we’d probably feel the same way, too.

Further reading

2020 BMW M3
- image 806285

Read our full speculative review on the 2020 BMW M3.

2015 BMW M3 High Resolution Exterior
- image 554313

Read our full review on the 2017 BMW M3.

2019 BMW 3 Series
- image 798247

Read our full review on the 2019 BMW 3 Series.

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: