1988 BMW M3 2.4-litre E30
Purchased in pieces and without an engine, this E30 M3 was rescued and rebuilt, and with a 2.4 S14 under the bonnet, it’s better than ever.
Words: Garry Melnyk. Photos: Rob Hislop.
HARDER, BETTER, FASTER,STRONGER
Sometimes simple is good. In the world of BMW performance, enthusiasts have a global reach for a wide variety of expensive pieces to mod their rides. It boggles the mind. And then, there are those owners who don’t need or want the turbos, superchargers, intercoolers, and pipes. They just want pure performance from a well-built engine without all the mechanical wizardry.
Canadian BMW owner Don Phillips was drawn to the brand many years ago after dabbling with other sports cars. This was in the winter of 2000 when he saw an ad for a 1973 2002. With that little 2002, Don became a ‘shade tree mechanic’, learning on his hobby car as he went along. The car remains in his possession.
“ Don came across a… US 1988 AK03 M3… A sad-looking two-door; in pieces and with its engine bay empty… The interior remained intact, so Don’s challenge was to make right everything else on the car”
But it was at the end of 2010 when Don came across a newer BM, a US 1988 AK03 M3, one of 5300 produced for North America. A sad-looking two-door; in pieces and with its engine bay empty as the S14 four-pot was yanked out and sold. This, because the owner had plans to turn it into a track car, an idea that fizzled out allowing Don to buy the disassembled M3. The interior remained intact, so Don’s challenge was to make right everything else on the car. Parts were in boxes and he knew where the original 2.3-litre was, which had passed through a couple of people before ending up at the shop of the well-respected racer, engine builder and friend, Anthony Kalcounis of Giant Killer Racing in Calgary, a city three hours’ drive from Don’s residence. Anthony agreed to sell the engine to Don, its condition questionable at 127,000 miles. But Don had the big picture in mind. He felt the M3 could be driven on the original powerplant until a freshening sometime in the near future.
“I decided I would reseal [the S14 engine], upgrade the suspension with poly bushes, reinforce and powder coat the subframes, put in all-new fuel lines while the gas tank was out, fix anything that needed attention and drive the car for a couple of years before considering an extensive and expensive engine rebuild,” he says.
By this time, Don’s son Matt had become a fan of the brand, and the pair came up with a plan to have the M3 as a long-term project. “We rented a garage together and that was a special time,” he smiles. Because Matt was working on the second iteration of his 1990 325i (which we featured back in December 2011) by building an M52 turbo to drop in, Don recalls “It was slow that first year.” Suspension work on the M3 was all that was accomplished during the winter because of limited time and money.
Parts for the M3 were purchased through 2011 with a little bit of work accomplished the next year. By autumn 2013 the engine was back under the bonnet, and other tasks were accomplished, allowing Don to turn the key and enjoy his M3 project for almost two months before a hole was burned in a valve. Don believes what happened was partly his fault for not getting all the valves adjusted to spec, but also in part to the S14 being “Very tired, as we found out once it was torn apart.”
So, the time was right for a proper rebuild, and Don knew he had two options: rebuild to 2.3 specs again or punch it out to 2.5-litres like a Sport Evo engine. He conferred with Anthony, who told Don a 2.5 crank and camshafts were lying around the shop along with an oil pump and other miscellaneous Evo bits. The two discussed the costs and details of both build options. In the end, Don knew despite a higher cost, the Sport Evo-spec engine was the way to go. All he had to do was supply additional pieces for the build including pistons, valves, springs, AFM, air box, bearings, water pump and a few other components. It took a while to gather what was needed before the S14 was pulled and sent to Anthony.
Some 16 months later, the engine was done, dyno’d at 190bhp and ready for Don and son Matt to drop back in, and a new OEM clutch and related components were also installed. 5 Series wheels wrapped in Yokohama rubber were found to help put power to the tarmac, while the factory discs were retained. Inside, the M3 has a basically stock appearance, but Don did add a leather-wrapped M Tech 2 steering wheel, BMW logo’d floor mats, a UUC short-shifter, ZHP shift knob and a rebuilt instrument cluster. By spring of 2016, the M3 was back on the road and running great. Not long after it drew the attention of the BMW Club of Northern Alberta and was chosen in 2017 to represent the first-gen M3 at a display of M3 coupés, and the showing resulted in Don’s car winning ‘Best in Show – BMW’.
With the mechanicals sorted out and the engine pulling high revs on the highway, Don moved on to exterior cosmetic details. First, a Sport Evolution replica carbon fibre splitter was fitted up front, with an Evo rear spoiler and carbon fibre flap from M.A. Shaw Industries added out back, and Mark Bowman of Deluxe Autoworks in Edmonton prepped and painted the spoiler and flap. So impressed was Don with the results he decided Mark should respray the bonnet and a blemish on a rear quarter panel. When that job was completed the results were so good that Don gave Mark the go-ahead to respray the entire car in its original Diamond black metallic. “I decided the car deserved more,” says Don. This work was carried out during the winter of 2018-2019, and in spring, once the paint cured, Don had Velocity Motorsport apply XPEL protection film to protect the front wings, valance and splitter, bonnet and lower body panels from stone chips.
Then came an opportunity for Don to take his M3 on a 4500km run into the United States through Washington, along the Oregon coast and into California – a sports car driver’s dream run with plenty of curvy roads. The M3 ran like an athlete in a sprint race, the suspension gripping the asphalt, the Evo-spec engine running smoothly and loving the high revs that Don took every opportunity to hit. Don’s M3 looks, sounds and drives like the champ it is and may yet receive a few more touches as he continues to enjoy time behind the wheel, taking his already exceptional E30 even further than before.
M Tech 2 steering wheel and suede gaiters have been added. This E30 M3 looks sensational. S14 has been equipped with Sport Evo internals and capacity now sits at 2.4-litres. 17” Style 5 splits.
DATA FILE 1988 BMW M3 2.4-litre E30
- ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.4-litre four-cylinder S14, rebuilt to ‘mild’ 2.5-litre Sport Evolution specifications with 94mm bore, 87mm stroke, 2.5-litre Sport Evolution crankshaft, intake and exhaust cams and exhaust cam gear, custom-made Wiseco forged pistons, rotating assembly balanced, OEM bearings, valves, guides, springs, bolts etc., OEM timing chain, rails, guides etc., S50/S52 timing tensioner upgrade, Sport Evolution oil pump, VAC Motorsports oil pump sprocket upgrade and oil pan baffle, Sport Evolution injectors and AFM, OEM water pump, OEM gaskets and seals, new fuel lines from tank forward, IIGO 2.5-litre performance chip, ceramic-coated exhaust manifold, new Samco silicone hoses, new ground straps, Supersprint silencer. Getrag 265 five-speed manual gearbox, UUC short-shifter, Z3 aluminium finned differential cover
- CHASSIS 8x17” (front) and 9x17” (rear) Style 5 wheels with 215/40 (front) and 235/40 (rear) Yokohama S.Drive tyres, H&R race springs, Bilstein sport shocks, E90 drop hats, subframes reinforced and powder coated, AKG Motorsport rear camber kit, Sparco front strut brace, poly bushes throughout, stainless steel brake lines
- EXTERIOR Full respray in original Diamond black metallic, BMW Euro front grilles, Sport Evo front spoiler/ valance with carbon fibre splitter, Sport Evolution rear spoiler with carbon fibre Gurney flap, Startec rear lights, smoked indicators, BMW Motorsport door handles, XPEL paint protection
- INTERIOR M Tech 2 steering wheel, Sport Evolution dead pedal, ZHP weighted gear knob, suede gear and handbrake gaiters, custom-made M3 floor and boot mats, rebuilt instrument cluster with black chrome rings
THANKS Matt Phillips for many long hours helping put the car back together, Anthony Kalcounis at Giant Killer Racing for advice and building a strong engine, and Mark Bowman at Deluxe Autoworks for his attention to detail and great paint job