M57 420bhp 3.0-engined 1988 BMW 335d E30
Lurking beneath the bonnet of this beautifully-modeled E30 sits a twinturbo M57 diesel lump, and while this swap might seem like sacrilege, this unholy monster has the torque to convert even the most devoted petrol follower to the dark side.
Words: Elizabeth de Latour
Photos: Deniss Podnebess
DIRTY TORQUE 335d E30
Twin-turbo diesel-swapped classic Three
It might look unassuming on the outside, but this E30 packs a 420hp twinturbo diesel punch, and it’s one wild ride. 42 Purple Reign
Diesel has had a bit of a rough ride. Back in the old days, it was never at the top of anyone’s shopping list. While diesel cars were economical, they were also noisy and slow, often not even equipped with a turbo (like the E30 324d, for example), and even when a turbo was added to the mix, performance wasn’t exactly thrilling. Diesel was best left to commercial vehicles for a long period. Then technology began to advance, swirl chambers made way for commonrail injection, performance began to come along in leaps and bounds, and suddenly, diesels became a very viable petrol alternative, and the performance diesel had arrived. Things only got better and better over the ensuing years, with the move to twin-, triple- and even quad-turbo setups and the diesel days seemed like they would never fade. But things change.
Where diesel was once the go-to engine choice, it has since fallen out of favour; where once drivers were encouraged to go diesel, now it’s looked on unfavourably. While petrol-powered cars remain popular and turbocharging has made smaller engines both punchy and economical, diesel sales have been tumbling and look set to fall further and further as drivers switch to hybrids and electric power. The diesel glory days may be behind us, but those days did produce some awesome engines, and it would be a shame to see those engines go to waste…
Diesel swaps on the modded BMW scene are, it’s fair to say, rare. In fact, off the top of our heads, only Ant Rowling’s E30 Touring comes to mind, and funnily enough, that’s also painted in the same shade of Marrakesh brown as Andrejs Gemanovs’ dieselpowered E30 offering. Clearly, brown, diesel-swapped E30s are the way forward, and while derv power might be an unusual choice for a classic Three, there’s no denying that Andrejs’ build is an absolute beast. So, just what on earth possesses a man to forego a whole extremely viable host of engine options and instead opt for diesel power? Well, to get to the bottom of that, we need to understand the working of Andrejs’ mind.
“I am the co-owner of a garage focusing on repairing BMWs, though we also work on any cars that come to us,” Andrejs tell us as we begin to chat, so it’s clear that he’s a man with a mechanical mind, and he’s clearly passionate about BMs, too. “My first car was an E30. I was 18 or 19; my friend had a 325, we had a ride, and I knew I wanted to buy one for myself. I bought a blue ’87 325i – it died in two weeks of hard riding after that,” he chuckles, but those two weeks of ownership made a big impression on young Andrejs. “The feelings you get from behind the wheel, the way they react to your actions: these are the things that make BMWs special to me. I admit there are good and bad models from all German manufacturers like Mercedes, Audi and BMW, but I stick to Bimmers,” he adds with a grin.
Naturally, with a build like this in his possession, it’s unsurprising to hear that Andrejs has tried his hand at modding before, with another E30 build, funnily enough. “Before this 335d, there was a pre-facelift 325i with Rieger styling (it was popular here in Latvia some decades ago), with the engine modified to a 327, with a ported head and some other mods. At that time, it was a quick car, unlike nowadays when you can be outrun by family crossover,” he laughs, though we suspect that doesn’t happen too often to Andrejs and his E30 335d… “This car belonged to a friend of mine who had bought it as a project car. It was a 316 with no interior but a very nice body, no rust, the perfect starting point. I found a project on the internet where someone put a 3.0d engine into an E30 body and thought this could be lots of fun, as diesels do have serious torque. So I offered my friend a reasonable amount for that 316, and it all started,” Andrejs smiles.
Of course, the star of the show here is the engine, and Andrejs got his hands on an M57, stuffed it into the E30 and spent the next two years enjoying it, and if that was the end of things, this would be a very short feature, but that was just the beginning. “Three years ago, I decided to go for a more powerful engine, and a friend of mine (Flash Racing team) was building a race car project using an E46 with a twinturbo M57N2. The engine was fully rebuilt and tuned, but the guys decided to go higher and bought a Lamborghini race car, so they had to get rid of what was left from that E46 project.
This is how I got my current engine (for a very reasonable price, by the way),” Andrejs grins, and this is no ordinary M57. As Andrejs mentioned, it’s been fully rebuilt and features a ported head, larger valves, hybrid turbos from Lithuanian turbo specialist Turbosystems, and a Mitsubishi Evo IX intercooler. All this combines to deliver a hefty 420hp and an absolutely monstrous 664lb ft of torque. For anyone wondering why Andrejs chose a diesel swap for this E30, you’ve got 664 very good reasons right there. All that power and torque is sent to the tarmac via a six-speed manual gearbox from an E90, equipped with a modified Sachs Performance clutch to help it cope with that massive torque output.
What we like about this car is that to look at it, there’s really nothing here to suggest that this E30 is such an absolute powerhouse, and while it’s clearly a modified car, it’s a very subtle one. The bulk of the aesthetics is handled by the M Tech kit, and we always appreciate when someone doesn’t mess with the classics, allowing the iconic styling to really shine, and the only additions you’ll find are the smoked Hella headlights, and MKV tinted side repeaters. “These cars need the M Tech kit and fresh paint to look cool,” says Andrejs, so a respray was in order, and it came down to two colours. “I was choosing between Avus blue and Marrakesh brown, but when I saw how Marrakesh looks in direct sunlight, there was no other choice for me. I love the colour,” he grins. We’re sure there are plenty of people reading this right now and shaking their heads because Avus is arguably one of BM’s best colours, but, even as big Avus fans, we have to say that we’re totally on board with Andrejs’ decision here. Marrakesh is a seriously nice colour, and, weirdly, we reckon it looks better on older BMW offerings than the newer models it originally came on, so it’s the perfect choice for this E30.
In addition to the M Tech styling and the Marrakesh respray, this E30’s looks are further enhanced by the wheels, and the retro styling of Andrejs’ choice is perfect. “I love how my FLW 16s look and my car looks different from all the other E30s on BBSs,” he grins. Standing out among a sea of modded E30s is no mean feat, and the simple five-spoke styling and the metallic silver finish are the perfect match for the classic 3 Series looks. And to go with those wheels, naturally, a drop is the perfect match, however, with over 400hp and 664lb ft of torque muscling its way to the road surface, the chassis upgrades are here to do more than make sure this E30 looks good. “I fitted Eibach springs and Plaza Sport shocks,” Andrejs tells us, “I didn’t want it to be too low or too firm (the roads are not very good here), just the classic German way – a bit lower and with better handling,” he smiles. He’s also added poly bushes throughout and modified the rear axle to allow the suspension to be adjusted. The brakes, meanwhile, are a combination of Ford Mondeo front calipers and Audi A3 vented discs, while at the rear sit larger non-vented discs, a combo that offers muchimproved stopping power.
The final part of the build we come to is the interior, and there are some lovely touches in here. Up front sit Sport seats, and they are joined by rear seats with headrests and a ski hatch, and while the half-leather material might look like it’s come straight from Bavaria, Andrejs reveals that all is not quite as it seems… “I recovered the seats myself using leather and fabric offered for home furniture, but which looks very close to what BMW offered as the original interior,” he grins, and, honestly, if he hadn’t said anything, you’d never have known. Other additions include the rear blind, black headlining, the M Tech II steering wheel, and the understated Becker Traffic Pro head unit, plus little extra touches like the M tricolour stitching on the handbrake gaiter. The modifications here are subtle and are very much in keeping with the original interior, but they are just different enough to make the cabin feel more special and really finish this build off perfectly. Andrejs has been working on his E30 for eight years now, and it shows because this build has been executed with flawless precision. He’s put thought and care into every aspect of this 3 Series: the colour, the unique interior, and of course, that awesome engine, and it all adds up to make one very special E30 that’s a real one-off. And it’s also that awesome engine which is Andrejs’ favourite part of the build. “It’s so cool to drive daily, and you can accelerate without thinking about what gear you are in,” he grins, and all that diesel torque is clearly seriously addictive. Of course, no matter how impressive the build, there’s invariably something else that will be tweaked and played with, and that’s the case here too. “There are always small things to correct, but nothing global,” Andrejs laughs. “I will put in electric windows when it’s in its winter sleep and then drive it frequently in summer,” and that sounds perfect. And while this E30 isn’t going anywhere, Andrejs already has another project on the go, a red 1988 E30 Cab that he got from the US four years ago. It’s clear that his passion for BMs remains undiminished, and E30s will always be a part of his life, and no matter how you feel about this build, you have to agree that sometimes, turning to the dark side is the right move…
I fitted Eibach springs and Plaza Sport shocks. I didn’t want it to be too low or too firm (the roads are not very good here), just the classic German way – a bit lower and with better handling
Andrejs has built himself an absolute monster. Twin-turbo M57 makes 420hp and 664lb ft of torque. Discreet boot sticker is the only hint that something strange is going on here…
These cars need the M Tech kit and fresh paint to look cool… I was choosing between Avus blue and Marrakesh brown, but when I saw how Marrakesh looks in direct sunlight, there was no other choice for me. I love the colour.
DATA FILE BMW 335d E30
- ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel M57D30N2, fully rebuilt, ported head, larger valves, Turbosystems hybrid turbos with ceramic bearings, custom exhaust manifolds, 76mm exhaust, Mitsubishi Evo IX intercooler, E39 cooling fan, modified ECU, ABS delete. E90 six-speed manual gearbox, modified Sachs Performance clutch
- POWER AND TORQUE: 420hp and 664lb ft
- CHASSIS: 9x16” (front and rear) FLW wheels with 215/30 tyres, Eibach springs, Plaza Sport shocks, poly bushes throughout, modified rear axle allowing for suspension adjustment, Ford Mondeo calipers and Audi A3 vented discs (front), larger solid discs (rear)
- EXTERIOR: Full respray in BMW Marrakesh brown, M Tech styling, Hella smoked headlights, MKV tinted side repeaters
- INTERIOR: Sport seats, rear seats with headrests and ski hatch, all custom trimmed, rear blind, black headlining, M Tech II steering wheel, Becker Traffic Pro head unit
- THANKS: Flash Racing for the engine, my family for supporting me and being patient
Custom-trimmed seats look like they could have come straight from BMW.
I recovered the seats myself using leather and fabric offered for home furniture, but which looks very close to what BMW offered as the original interior