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Barely Legal

joeycrosetti June 10, 2016 Reviews No Comments on Barely Legal

Anyone in the car hobby has that one car that started it all for them. Perhaps it was a car they owned, or one they saw parked on the street. Any way you slice it, these cars are what spark a passion for many people. In my personal driving career, my friend Will Atkinson and his dad Bruce had purchased a 1986 BMW 325 Eta as a fun starter car once Will received his license. This was the car that ultimately got me into the world of e30s. Nine years later, here is what the shoe box Bimmer has grown into:

 

To understand the build of the “E” as it is affectionately known, one must know that Will and Bruce had built up their other e30 first. That car is a 1989 325i which received the classic 24 valve swap. This car would take a couple years to massage into a reliably fun daily driver. By 2014 however, the projects were slowing down on the garage front, so it meant the reliable Eta was next on the chopping block to do something a little wilder. Given that Will and Bruce like to keep things in the family, the only reasonable solution was to do a BMW V8, an M60B40 out of the e32 740 & e34 540 to be precise.

In order to get the M60 to cooperate with the e30 chassis meant a few custom bits had to be integrated into the project. Due to clearances, the car has no brake booster. Instead it uses a Wilwood manual brake conversion. The oil pan has been chopped and sectioned in order to clear the e30 front subframe. The rest of the running gear however is a Lego bin of various BMW parts.

With nearly 300 horses and 300 Ft-Lbs of torque on tap, the brakes and suspension needed some serious changes to cope with the all aluminum mill. The car was 5-lug converted for use of bigger brakes, and a set of Ground Control coilovers and Recaro SE seats were installed to make sure the e30 and its occupants stay planted upon takeoff.

How does it drive? Well, think of a 540 with a loud exhaust and stiff suspension, then take about 800 lbs off the scale. So yes, it’s zippy to say the least. The car is by all accounts a Bavarian muscle car. It has gobs of torque down low for the hole-shot, but can still keep up with the best of Europe as the revs swiftly move towards 7,000. A 3.15 LSD ensures that the tire trails are kept uniform along the pavement. The clutch and brake pedals take a bit of getting used to, but are fairly easy to operate once you become accustomed to the increased pedal effort. The shift linkage is tight, but not too notchy, making for good street manners. Factor in a lowered suspension and the ubiquitous e36 steering rack conversion, and you have the best attributes of the e30 combined with the magic ingredient the e30 didn’t get from the factory…power!

For those familiar with an S52 swapped e30, you’ll know that the power is delivered in a smooth linear fashion as the revs build up. The M60 car is much more violent with how its power is produced because of all the torque on tap. Initially the car was a bit frightening to drive because of the short wheel base and limited amount of rubber out back, but as time goes on, it becomes more and more confidence inspiring. Probably not what most people would think by adding another 50 horse on top of the already potent s52 car.

What makes this swap a particularly slick setup is that it is 100% California smog legal. While the M60 swap is becoming more and more prevalent, one that passes California emissions testing is like finding a unicorn that also does community service out of its own goodwill. The car is a far cry from the silky smooth ride of the original 6-cylinder lump that it left the factory with, but with well over double the original power output…who cares.

Seeing this car come into its own has been a fantastic spectacle. For years it was always the “extra” car, while the other e30 was being put together. Now it’s the Eta’s turn to be in the spotlight. As Will and Bruce had mentioned before, the car is a modernized version of a 60’s hot rod. The original Lapisblau paint isn’t the prettiest, and the M60 V8 is a cheap motor to purchase with a solid numbers to start with. It follows the classic formula of a small light car with as big of a motor that can be shoved in the engine bay. With a conspicuously loud idle, any stop next to this car will tell you that this e30 is far from the garden variety. As we like to joke, it’s all “stock BMW parts.”

JC

1986 BMW 325 SPECS

  • M60B40 from 740i with modified Garagistic V8 motor swap arms
  • MZ3 S54 Radiator
  • Custom Sectioned Oil Pan
  • E34 530i ZF 5 speed trans
  • TTV Custom Flywheel for use with Clutch Masters e36 M3 Sport Clutch
  • e36 M3 5 speed 4-Bolt Driveshaft
  • Z3M 3.15 LSD
  • Modified Stock M60 headers with Custom Exhaust
  • Wilwood/Garagistic Manual Brake Conversion & Pedal Assembly
  • Ground Control Koni Coilovers with 550#F/750#R Eibach Racing Springs
  • BimmerWorld Spec e30 Sway Bar kit
  • E30 M3 Rear 5-lug Trailing Arms/Brakes
  • Custom E36 front 5-Lug hub sleeve conversion for stock e30 strut assembly with non-M e36 brakes
  • E36 steering rack
  • 17×8 e34 M5 M-System Wheels with 215/40/17 Yokohama S. Drive tires
  • Recaro SE seats
  • E60 545 shifter with DTM style shift linkage
  • Flocked Dashboard
  • Euro Dash Clock

 

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