N54B30-engined 460bhp 2010 BMW 335i Touring E91
Touring isn’t the most obvious model to modify into a track car, but with some serious hardware, an eight minute Nürburgring lap time and a top speed of 180mph, the results for this one speak for themselves.
Words: Graham Leigh
Photography: Jason Dodd
808(E)STATE E90 335i TOURING
Engineers love a challenge and Maidstone-based 29-year-old Matt Binstead is no exception. “The E91 is a big car, let’s not deny that. It isn’t a lightweight M car with aluminium body panels. I take real pride in having managed to build a wagon that is glued to the track”. He should be justly proud of this awesome build but the origins of ‘why a Touring?’ are fairly sensible as you’ll see as his story unfolds…
As with most Brits of his age, Matt’s automotive journey started with the ubiquitous Ford Fiesta shortly after passing his test. As the need for speed crept in and insurance premiums eased, increasingly faster Fords appeared on his driveway. An impressive blue oval resume that includes a Mk5 Ford Fiesta Zetec S, Ford Puma and Fiesta ST150 was enjoyed. The icing on that particular cake was a serious Fiesta ST180 that was modified heavily for the Time Attack racing championship.
“I knew I would be going back to the Nürburgring soon, I thought, ‘let’s build a Nürburgring 335i Touring’...”
“This was one of my modified car highlights. I bought it fresh from the showroom and then spent four years building and racing it across nearly every track in the UK. We had a fully forged 1.6 engine, hybrid turbo, custom intercooler and intake set up, WRC-spec roll cage, bespoke brake calliper and floating disc set up, and corner weighted and balanced suspension. Being an automotive engineer, it was second nature that we investigated every component of the car to try and save weight and improve performance or reliability. With everything we changed we always made sure it performed reliably as you can’t win if you do not finish! It paid off as we won the Time Attack Championship Clubman Class in 2018”.
S Chassis Nissans and a Clio 182 also feature in Matt’s car history but his biggest loves are definitely Fords and BMWs. His first taste of Bavarian metal came in the form of an E46 323Ci. This was the fastest BMW that the then 21-year-old could afford to insure and his first foray into the world of rear-wheel drive. The admiration for the brand actually started much earlier. Matt remembers being six- year-old watching Piers Brosnan as 007 in Die Another Day, controling his E38 750IL from his mobile phone and then driving the beautiful Z8 in the World is not Enough a couple of years later. Some impressive BMWs followed for Matt, including an E36 compact with a 2.8 M52 engine swap and a Swartz black E36 328i Sport track car. The latter he purchased just six weeks before his second trip to the Nurburgring back in 2011. “I couldn’t take a stock car to the ‘green hell’, that just wouldn’t do, so again we stripped the car down, fitted coilovers, polybushed the whole car, fitted bucket seats and harnesses, upgraded the brakes to E46 330i Items, fitted a Miltek exhaust and made carbon door cards. Basically, we made a very nice track car out of it for the trip and it was brilliant! It was my first rear-wheel drive car at the Nurburgring and although terrifying for the first few laps, I quickly fell in love with it”.
As we touched upon earlier, the E91 was bought with far more sedate intentions. At the time, Matt was busy building a name for himself in Time Attack and needed something reliable and spacious to collect parts for the aforementioned Fiesta that was being developed into a class-winning machine. It took a while for a manual E91 335i to come up in the classifieds but Matt jumped on the opportunity when this example came to market in the neighbouring county of Essex. Like many Tourings, it was being used as a family estate and bore the dings, sweet wrappers and sticky handprints to prove it. However, mechanically it was well looked after with nearly a full BMW service history and it felt like an honest car. “I didn’t spot that it had a panoramic roof, a huge miss I know, I must have had my blinkers on but the first time I realised it had this option was on a trip out with my buddy Alfie, He was carrying out the obligatory passenger new car button fiddle and then there was a whirring noise as the headliner folded back to reveal the clouds above!”.
During the first year of ownership, the modifications were limited in line with the car being needed to rack up miles comfortably. The wheels were changed and the car was fitted with BC coilovers that allowed it to be lowered but also retain a degree of comfort. Inside, the walnut trim was removed. When Matt sold his Time Attack Fiesta there was a track car-shaped hole in his life. He knew he wanted something to scratch the itch but was struggling with the decision on what to go for. He decided to start enhancing the E91 in the meantime and, self- evidently, one thing led to another. “As with all tinkering, it gets more in-depth as you begin to understand the quirks and perks of the vehicle. After a successful first outing at Brands Hatch, it was decided that this would be the new track car project! I have been visiting the Nürburgring for 10-years now and you begin to see a pattern with the locals in that they all drive BMWs or Porsche. I knew I would be going back to the Nürburgring potentially very soon, so I thought let’s build a Nürburgring capable 335i Touring!”.
With the mission statement now radically changed, Matt wasted no time in with the E91’s next incarnation of upgrades. We’re big fans of the E9x 335i here at BMW Car and in the March 2021 and, more recently, the August 2022 issue have discussed the virtues and ownership considerations of N54-powered cars at length. It’s often described as the ‘The German 2JZ’ owing to the fact that it shares the attributes of being a straight-six, twin-turbo, infinitely tuneable powerplant with the iconic Toyota engine. Matt has opted to keep the engine itself pretty standard but has sensibly addressed certain hardware Achilles heels with well-thought-out upgrades. “I have taken care of all the maintenance issues like replacing the sump gasket, water pump, thermostat and auxiliary belt and tensioner. I then had to change my injectors to Index 12s as I had the original Index 2s in there which began to leak when the car went for mapping with the hybrid turbos. The biggest changes are my Forge Motorsport charge pipe and Tial 52mm Dump valve, this is an aluminium replacement part as the plastic ones can crack. It replaces the twin dump valve set up which in my mind reduces the chance of a part failure by 50 percent, it looks a lot tidier and makes an epic dumping noise!”.
Matt has fitted Mosselman MSL50-65 hybrid turbos that are capable of supporting up to 650hp. He is yet to finish the mapping process with them but has already found that the power curve is a lot smoother, reporting that the low down torque is even more accessible than with the already impressive standard items. Keen to address the N54’s tendency to run hot, Matt has fitted a Mosselman billet aluminium oil thermostat housing and low temp oil thermostat which has dropped oil temperature by an impressive 20°C. This is accompanied by a Mishimoto aluminium radiator and Airtec stepped intercooler. All quality kit.
Evolve downpipes have been drafted in to increase turbine gas exhaust flow, decreasing the turbo spool time and assisting with a sharper throttle response. The standard Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valve failed so was upgraded to a much stronger and more handsome billet aluminium Rob Beck item. A Radium catch can setup is currently on order. Burger Motorsport dual cone intakes are a popular modification. They are washable, reusable and produce a distinctive induction noise. The increase in power (currently 460hp at the flywheel) saw the standard clutch struggling. An F10 550i clutch pack was fitted along with a new N54 dual mass flywheel. An ML Performance clutch delay valve delete, HEL stainless steel braided clutch line and a Frictionless Euros ceramic prop shaft bearing complete the upgrades to the drivetrain.
Matt has opted for E9x M3 front control arms (upper and lower). He has HardRace rear adjustable toe and camber arms that he describes as “bulletproof”. BC Coilovers are a huge UK Time Attack Sponsor and many of the cars run their custom kits so this was an obvious choice of suspension for Matt. His set incorporates BC BR coilovers with 10 and 12kg springs, BC BR adjustable top mounts and BC adjustable drop links: “With customisable spring rates I could match to the car’s weight, we quickly pieced a kit together and fitted it. We’ve seen a huge improvement in handling characteristics, a perfect altitude drop with plenty of adjustment for camber, height and dampening. It has made it a dream to adjust the car’s set up for new tracks. Also, they have stood the test of time and taken all the abuse I can throw at them with no issues”.
A Hack Engineering power steering reservoir was fitted after spirited laps were starting to show the limitations of the standard unit. H&R thicker anti-roll bars front and rear do what they say on the tin. Also aiding rigidity are the Body Kit Online Store’s front subframe brace and rear floor brace. Both the rear subframe and the differential have been fitted with Polybush Black Series bushes.
Braking is taken care of by a package that consists of M140i front brake callipers, 340mm front disc conversion, F8x M4 rear callipers, DS UNO Brake Pads and 345mm rear disc conversion. Matt has his sights on a big brake kit though: “A set of six-pot AP callipers on the front would be on my hit list and a matching set of AP rears would be great, anything to help me brake later and deeper into a turn”.
Wheel choice was determined by weight, cost and looks. The Japan Racing Wheels JR29 ticked all these boxes. The Rota RT5 wheels in some of the photos feature the same offsets and size as the JR29s and were available secondhand at a mate’s rate that couldn’t be passed upon. The JR29s are Matt’s dry wheels on which he runs Nankang AR1 tyres. The RT5s are shod with Uniroyal wets.
Exterior styling preferences have changed direction since Matt started building the Touring. Originally he favoured a fairly OEM-looking sleeper style but with chasing times, functionality has become king. The need for increased cooling and airflow saw Geoff Steel WTCC carbon bonnet vents being fitted and the M3 replica bumper and PS Designs carbon GT4 style splitter are lightweight aero aids. Drilled door handles, GW Composites carbon M3 mirrors, Aerotech bonnet catches, and Tegiwa tow straps further point to the car’s intent.
Motorsport influence is evident in the stripped interior but certain creature comforts have been retained to make those trips to Germany bearable including air-conditioning and the stereo. Alongside the obvious weight- saving measures like the rear bench delete and Corbeau bucket seats, some lateral thinking has been deployed. Swapping out the rear door cards and replacing them with carbon fibre panels has saved 3kg per door. Removing the panoramic roof and plating it with aluminium saved 40kg from the highest point of the car. A carbon fibre roof panel is currently being manufactured that will save even more. An RPS lightweight battery is another significant part of the diet. An IA Motorsport harness bar, STR 6-point harnesses, Coolerworx shifter and a Momo steering wheel signed by the ‘Urban Outlaw’, Magnus Walker top off a purposeful cockpit.
The majority of the work has been completed over the last three years with lockdown restrictions being the catalyst to get busy, putting the car on axle stands without the pressure of constantly needing it on the road. Despite the impressive progress, the Touring is constantly evolving and is thus never likely to be classed as completely finished. The lure of the Time Attack is, once again, calling out to Matt and he wants to enter the car in both the UK and Dutch championships. Matt has plans to carry out a complete E90 M3 front-end conversion to allow him to run 10j wheels up front as well as a rear diffuser for improved rear-end downforce. A Wavetrac LSD is also on the shopping list.
“Although my time of 8:08.2 bridge to gantry was 45-seconds less than my previous Nurburgring PB, I feel I can beat it but there’s some more work to do to the car and for me as the driver. My track knowledge is good but there is always somewhere I can improve. There are always milli-seconds to chase”. It sounds like this impressive lap time might be reduced even further still. So, we have a sneaking suspicion that this won’t be the last you’ll hear from Matt and his unique ‘Ring special Touring.
Special thanks to my buddies Alfie, Posh Josh, Jason and Harry for all your help with various parts of the build and all my supporters on Facebook and Instagram. Shout out to the Teams that supplied parts, helped with knowledge and gave guidance on what would be best for the build: Airtec Motorsport, Frictionless Euros, Corbeau Seats, BC Coilovers, Hard Race UK, WG Motorparts, Pro-Tuner, Zero Point One, GW Composites, ML Performance, Biddenden Motorsport & Mosselman Turbos. Thanks to opentrack.co.uk for track access on the day of the photoshoot.
TECHNICAL DATA BMW 335i Touring E91
- ENGINE: N54B30 base engine, Forge Motorsport charge pipe with Tial dump valve, Airtec Motorsport stepped intercooler, Evolve downpipes, Mishimoto radiator, Mosselman oil thermostat, billet aluminium block coolant adaptor, Mosselman MSL50-65 hybrid turbos, 034 Motorsport engine mounts, Denso 2 Step Colder spark plugs, Rob Beck PCV valve, Hack Engineering power steering Reservoir, Body Kit Online Store ram air scoops, N20 3.5 bar TMAP sensor, ML Performance 3.5 bar TMAP sensor adaptor, Burger Motorsport intakes
- TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual transmission (ZF GS6-53DZ), F10 550i clutch pack and new N54 dual mass flywheel, ML Performance clutch delay valve delete, HEL stainless steel braided clutch line, Frictionless Euros ceramic prop shaft bearing
- CHASSIS: BC BR coilovers with 10 and 12kg springs, BC BR adjustable top mounts, BC coilover adjustable drop links, E9x M3 front control arms (upper and lower), Hardrace rear adjustable toe arms, Hardrace rear adjustable camber arms, H&R thicker anti-roll bars (front and rear), Body Kit Online Store front subframe brace, Body Kit Online Store rear floor brace, Polybush Black Series subframe bushes, Polybush Black Series differential bushes. Wet wheels: Rota RT5 18x9.5 ET35 with Uniroyal Wet tyres. Dry Wheels: Japan Racing Wheels JR29 18x9.5 ET35 with Nankang AR1 (all tyres 255/35/18), 15mm wheel spacers, M140i front brake callipers, 340mm front disc conversion, F8X M4 rear brake callipers, DS UNO brake pads, 345mm rear disc Conversion, HEL stainless steel braided brake lines, Frictionless Euros ceramic rear wheel bearings
- EXTERIOR: E9x M3 replica bumper, PS Designs E9x M3 GT4 carbon splitter, GW Composites M3 wing mirror caps, Geoff Steel WTCC carbon fibre bonnet vents, Aerocatch hood catches, Tegiwa front and rear tow strap, handmade drilled door handles, Select Tints rear window tints, Kill All Wipers rear wiper delete, Rival Motorsport stud and nut Kit, Mumbray Motorsport brake cooling ducting kit, Burger Motorsport cowl filters, handmade aluminium panoramic roof delete
- INTERIOR: Momo Mod.78 steering wheel, Brown and Geeson quick-release boss, Coolerworx shifter, STR 6-point harnesses, Corbeau Revenge driver’s seat, Corbeau Pro Series passenger seat, VAC Motorsport seat mounts, Pure Track extinguisher mount, Zero Point One harness guides, homemade false floor, IA Motorsport harness bar, carbon rear door cards, RPS lithium lightweight battery, black M-Sport interior swap, carbon fibre infills for the open trim pieces (seatbelt holders, etc), carbon fibre gearshift surround plate