Incredible 238whp 1989 BMW M3 2.5 E30
With a 2.5-litre engine under the bonnet, a dazzling Cardinal red interior, and a selection of perfect visual enhancements, this epic E30 M3 is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Words: Elizabeth de Latour
Photos: Patrick Lauder
EPIC E30 M3 Incredible 2.5 build is on another level!
With a selection of styling enhancements, air-ride, one-off wheels and a 2.5-litre engine build, this E30 M3 is truly a masterpiece.
You’re probably bored of us gushing about E30 M3s every time we feature one, but can you blame us? This is such an incredibly iconic car. It’s a living legend, such an important part of BMW history, and when you’re passionate about the brand, you can’t ignore that. It’s a car that so many of us would love to own, but not so many can afford to. The funny thing is that David Raese never expected that he’d end up owning an E30 M3, it wasn’t an ultimate dream car for him, he just sort of fell into one. But he’s turned that unexpected M3 into an absolute masterpiece.
First things first, let us reassure you that David is very much a BMW fan. “I have been into BMWs for close to 20 years,” he tells us. “BMWs are true drivers’ cars and you can really feel that when driving them at their limits,” David enthuses, and he’s definitely preaching to the choir. His personal motoring journey began a little further east, however, and that’s also when he got his first taste of modding. “I think for a lot of people like myself it started with Hondas. They are cheap, easy to tune and really give you an idea what cars are capable of being,” he says, but BMWs were on his brain, and when the time came to buy one, he didn’t do things by half. “My first BMW was a 2002 E46 M3 ’Vert that was in storage for 10 years. It only had 19K miles on it. It was like a time capsule,” he smiles, and what a fantastic entry into BM ownership.
And now we come to the unfortunate chain of events that led David to become an E30 M3 owner. While the outcome is a happy one, there’s certainly been some trauma along the way, both in terms of how he came to own one and the ownership experience itself. “Originally, I never thought I would own an E30 M3. I had always had modern BMWs. I had recently finished my all-metal wide-body F10 M5 when disaster struck,” laments David. “I went for a late-night drive to clear my head in the M5 and was run off the road by a drunk driver who fled the scene. Jack, a collector friend of mine, heard about the incident and reached out and offered to sell me his E30 M3. And so the story continued…” says David. And while the loss of his M5 was terrible, the M3 offered an unexpected ownership opportunity. “Jack had owned the M3 for the past 15 years.
It was in great shape, but, like all 30-year-old cars, it was starting to show its age a bit,” he continues, and while some general TLC was on the cards, serious modding really wasn’t. “I thought I was going to keep it simple and add wheels and suspension possibly and be done,” says David, but this turned into a far more involved build than he would have imagined.
“The first thing was addressing the stance of the car,” David tells us as we get stuck into the mods. “To get the car low, I added an Air Lift 3H setup. This gave me the on-the-fly height adjustability I wanted. I then tightened up the car’s handling with thicker sway bars and end links from Suspension Techniques. Further rigidity was added by the Mason Engineering front and rear strut braces,” he says, and that got this project off to a solid start.
As we all know, wheels make the car, especially when it’s been treated to some serious lowering. David was not playing around when it came to picking the perfect set, and what he’s got on his E30 is simply stunning. “For wheels, I reached out to Rodney, the owner of EVO61 Wheels. This was not my first set of EVO61 forged wheels, so the choice seemed obvious. I was really able to work with Rodney and truly design a super-light, strong, one-off wheel for the car.
He made a set of period-correct-looking five-spoke wheels that were pocketed quite a bit behind the spokes to reduce weight,” says David, and these are gorgeous. He’s opted for 17s, and they are the perfect size, and the design is equally so. The clean, five-spoke styling looks so good, and then you’ve got the brushed silver centres, and the polished stepped lips, while the red centre caps add a flash of colour. The fitment is, naturally, perfect, with the arches front and rear coming to rest just above the lips, and the visual drama they deliver is breathtaking.
With the car coming together beautifully, David now decided it was time to treat it to some TLC and fight back against the effects of time and age on the body. “I took the car into Elite Auto Body in Sacramento, where it received a period-correct, solvent-based, window-out, panel-off paint job,” he says. That has got this M3 looking absolutely flawless, and seeing that paint so immaculate is something special. And, with the bodywork sorted, now was the perfect time to enhance the exterior. David hasn’t gone overboard because the E30 M3 shape is at its best when you let the styling speak for itself and just add a little extra spice.
On David’s car, that comes courtesy of a carbon fibre front splitter, carbon DTM mirrors, and a carbon Gurney flap on that Sport Evo rear spoiler. These additions are subtle, but really give the M3 some serious punch in the visual department.
The interior hasn’t been forgotten about, either, and once again, things have been kept subtle, but the colour scheme really adds some serious flair. “I wanted to stay true to the car again, so I made small adjustments. I added a short-shifter and solid selector rod for crisp, tight shifts. Then I added a custom Alcantara M Tech II steering wheel, as well as getting the entire interior retrimmed in original Cardinal red leather. The interior was completed by Creative Restorations, and he was able to source the best leather,” smiles David, and the stunning results speak for themselves. The red interior is absolutely gorgeous and gives this build a flash of colour that perfectly contrasts against the silver bodywork. The finishing touches are the gear and handbrake gaiters in black leather with red stitching, and the whole cabin is simply spectacular.
So far, E30 M3 ownership had been treating David well, but the course of car ownership never did run smooth. “One day, the engine blew while taking a short trip to take some pictures. This was the critical point where I knew it was all or nothing – time to rebuild the engine,” says David with determination, and that’s when this project got kicked up a notch. “I chose Schatz & Krum in Sacramento for the job. After inspecting the blown motor, we noticed that so many parts had to be replaced due to wear that I might as well go all out and do a bottom-up build. So I ordered every internal forged part possible and increased the engine to a 2.5-litre with an OEM 2.5 crank. I also added Schrick 284/276 cams, and the engine was now a fully forged 2.5.
“I added a carbon fibre DTM airbox, as well as a wideband controller; this was essential to custom tuning the car on the dyno. I also added a CSF radiator, silicone hoses, Euro header and custom exhaust exiting through a Remus muffler. Fuelling is handled by an aftermarket fuel pressure regulator and Nuke fuel rail, something not often seen on S14 motors,” explains David. “Larger injectors helped to increase the flow with a larger Walbro fuel pump as well. Meanwhile, the redline was increased safely to 9200rpm. This entire custom engine build and tune took over a year as parts for the S14 motor are not just lying around, and due to the car’s notoriety have become increasingly expensive,” he adds, but it was time and money very well spent.
No one wants to be faced with an engine rebuild, but if you’ve got to have one, then you might as well go all out and make it as good as you possibly can. All of that work has taken power up to 238whp, somewhere in the region of 280hp at the crank, and as you can imagine, that has transformed the car, and it’s little wonder that David is very much in love with his 2.5 S14. “The custom motor is my favourite modification on the build. With a new lease of life and a much higher redline of 9200rpm, coupled with a substantial increase in power, it has really changed the dynamic of the car,” he enthuses. If the rest of the car wasn’t spectacular enough already, this really is the icing on a particularly delicious cake.
For David, this has been a five-year journey thus far, and while there have been downs to go with the ups, you can tell how incredibly passionate he is about his E30 M3. “I don’t think it will ever be done as I always want more and find something better to add or adjust,” he grins.
“It’s in the shop now getting a coil-on-plug conversion and a standalone ECU to further dial in the custom engine performance,” he adds, and this is clearly an M3 that will continue evolving. It may have come into David’s life unexpectedly, but this E30 is now very much a part of his life and will continue to be a part of it for a very long time. The E30 M3 is a true performance icon, a very special car, and when it’s treated to a few choice enhancements, it becomes even more special.
All of that work has taken power up to 238whp, somewhere in the region of 280hp at the crank, and as you can imagine, that has transformed the car, and it’s little wonder that David is very much in love with his 2.5 S14
The S14 is now a fully forged 2.5, and upgrades include an OEM 2.5 crank, Schrick cams and a DTM carbon fibre airbox.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE BMW M3 2.5 E30
- ENGINE: 2.5-litre four-cylinder S14, OEM 2.5-litre crank, Schrick 284/276 cams, carbon fibre DTM airbox, wideband controller, CSF radiator, silicone hoses, Euro exhaust manifold, custom exhaust system, Remus silencer, aftermarket fuel pressure regulator, Nuke fuel rail, larger injectors, larger Walbro fuel pump
- MAX POWER: 238whp
- TRANSMISSION: Five-speed dog-leg gearbox, short-shifter and solid selector rod
- CHASSIS: 8.5x17” (front) and 9.5x17” (rear) custom one-off EVO61 forged three-piece wheels with brushed silver centres and polished stepped lips, 205/30 (front) and 245/35 (rear) tyres, Air Lift 3H air suspension, Suspension Techniques thicker anti-roll bars and end links, Mason strut braces (front and rear), drilled discs
- EXTERIOR: Full respray, carbon fibre front splitter, carbon fibre DTM Mirrors, Sport Evo rear spoiler with carbon fibre Gurney flap
- INTERIOR: Full retrim in OEM Cardinal red leather, Alcantara-wrapped M Tech II steering wheel, black leather gaiters with red stitching, alloy pedals
- THANKS Rodney Yamasaki, the owner of EVO61 Wheels, Schatz & Krum in Sacramento for building my engine
I added a short-shifter and solid selector rod for crisp, tight shifts. Then I added a custom Alcantara M Tech II steering wheel, as well as getting the entire interior retrimmed in original Cardinal red leather
The interior has been treated to a full retrim in gorgeous Cardinal red leather Stunning oneoff custom 17” EVO61 wheels