Where do you stand on the topic of car purity?
Is a car only ‘correct’ if it’s a numbers-matching, unfettled example as it left the showroom floor? Does a tubular chassis with some fibreglass bodywork still count as the car it’s supposed to resemble? This is Speedhunters after all, so I presume that I’m writing to an open-minded crowd who enjoy a modified car. But, where do you stand on a replica, or tribute?
‘s 1992 BMW is not an M3, having started life as a 318i, then covering only 1,500 miles before being taken off the road and used by a college for educational purposes. But I’ll be referring to it as an M3 for the rest of the article, for multiple reasons.
This isn’t Harjun’s first E30, though. “My first car was a red 316i, which I got when I was 17 years old. My dad had one back in the day, and I’ve always loved the shape,” he explained.
“But it wasn’t long before I wanted more power, so I dropped in an M42 engine from a 318is. Then I started doing track days and wanted more power again, so I replaced the M42 with a 2.8L six-cylinder M52, which I did a lot of track days with. By the time I was at uni, I was doing track days every couple of months, and the 316i had an E46 M3 S54 engine in it, which I would later supercharge for 550bhp,” says Harjun.
Then one day out of the blue, a completely rust-free E30 318i shell appeared for sale with a full M3 exterior conversion having already been completed using genuine BMW M3 body panels. The previous owner simply lost interest in the project over the course of the transformation and decided to move it on for a very reasonable price.
Harjun snapped it up, and in the mysterious way the world works, somebody then proceeded to hound him to sell the supercharged 316i he already owned. “I ploughed the money from the sale of the 316i into this new shell to get it finished, but this time it would have to be a four-cylinder engine, not a six.”
Although he loved it, no matter what Harjun tried with the previous car, even with 550bhp it simply didn’t feel fast enough for him. A six-cylinder was simply too heavy in an E30 shell.
Cue a Honda K24 engine with a Garrett G30-770 turbo attached to the side of it. Mapped to 550bhp with an 8,500rpm rev limit and an incredibly linear power curve, I can assure you that from the passenger seat at least, this E30 feels very fast.
The fuelling requirements are met by the ATL/Nuke Performance competition fuel cell unit with integrated swirl tank and fuel pumps in the boot.
Cooling is taken care of by an E36 M3 radiator, Setrab oil cooler and a 600x300mm intercooler with 3-inch piping. The exhaust system is fully custom from the turbo to the tips.
A suite of Ecumaster goodies control the E30’s solid-state electrical system, including the ECU itself, digital dashboard, GPS system and power management unit. “The PMU allows me to keep stock controls, like the wiper and indicators stalks, headlight and electrics. I wanted the car to still feel like an E30,” said Harjun.
This extends to creature comforts beyond electrical, with actual door cards and carpets to elevate the cabin beyond that of a stripped-out track car.
Sure, you’re sat in a pair of Recaro SPG bucket seats with TAKATA Racing harnesses, but there is also a pair of LED lights mounted to the roll cage to illuminate the cockpit and the boot. Peek past the cage and you’ll see the new roof’s carbon fibre weave.
The M3’s real party piece, however, is the driveline and suspension. “I’ve owned an F80 [M3] since around the time of the supercharged E30, and I absolutely love the rear end feel on track. So I decided to stick the whole rear end into the ‘M3′,” Harjun explained.
Yes, the rear subframe, aluminium uprights, suspension arms and multi-link geometry are all directly taken from a 2014+ F80 generation BMW M3. A Drexler limited-slip differential is nestled in the subframe, driven through a 5-speed E36 M3 transmission. The AST coilovers and subframe pick-up points are tied into the roll cage, while the rear inner arches have been tubbed to accommodate a wider and taller wheel and tyre setup at a low ride height.
Don’t think the front has escaped any sort of special treatment either, as the BMW nerd in me is delighted to report that Harjun has fitted genuine Group A touring car magnesium uprights as well as adjustable billet aluminium front arms from MRT. Quantum coilovers complement the AST rears, fitted in raised suspension turrets and with separate reservoirs at both ends of the car and spring rates of 14kg/mm and 12kg/mm front to back.
BTCC-spec 6-piston AP Racing callipers sit over 368x35mm front discs, while the rear has actually been downsized from the OEM F80 setup to Porsche 4-piston Brembo callipers with 294mm discs. A Tilton non-servo pedal box connected to an MK60 ABS control unit ensures reliable braking with strong pedal feel.
Visually, Harjun’s M3 carries a lot more presence than a normal E30 M3, though it’s not noticeable to the untrained eye. The reason being, the M3 box arches weren’t wide enough to contain the F80 rear end – even with the tubbed inner arches – so an ever wider set has been fitted front and rear adding 140mm to the car’s width. These complement the carbon fibre wing and Gurney flap.
7twenty wheels in 18×9.5 and 18×10-inch fitments fill the arches, but will only do so until a set of 5×120 RAYS Volk Racing TE37s in the right size and offset for the pumped bodywork come up for sale. Harjun switches between semi-slick, slick and wet tyres depending on the weather and intended use.
What Harjun has created here is his own take on the perfect E30. A smattering of the best OEM parts from various eras, combined with other parts that far surpass what an E30 M3 ever was. And don’t forget the.
To finish, let’s circle back to my opener, and I’ll answer my own question. It would take an exceptional machine for me to put my prejudices aside and embrace a ‘homage’ with open arms.
This is that exceptional machine.