Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

Owner John Kiely wanted this tired, unloved BMW M3 to be the best in the country. Dan Norris’s team at Munich Legends rose to the challenge.


Words SAM DAWSON

Photography TOM CRITCHELL


‘There was a foot-high hole in’

Epic Restoration

How Munich Legends resurrected a track-thrashed BMW M3 88


It had barely scraped through its MoT test when it came to us,’ says Munich Legends’ restorer James Blackwell of the gleaming BMW E30 M3 now gracing his Haywards Heath workshop. ‘It was rusty and unloved but its owner, John Kiely, wanted it to be the best in the country.’ And this is no ordinary M3, as Munich Legends MD Dan Norris explains. ‘It was nicknamed the Europameister,’ he says. ‘After the M3’s first wins in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft [DTM – German Touring Car Championship], the demand for M3 road cars took BMW by surprise. Part of its response was a series of commemorative special editions – including this, with the lowest production run of all. Officially it’s an 88 Edition, one of 148 to mark the car’s first season in the DTM. Mechanically it was no different from any other E30 M3, but it boasted a commemorative plaque, extended leather trim and was finished in Macau Blue. It was a statement of intent from BMW.


Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

‘But there was a time when E30 M3s simply weren’t worth restoring; they got thrashed on track days, and this was one of those that slipped through the net at that time. John Kiely wanted it restored to perfection.’

Kiely explains how he came by the car. ‘I spotted a Maserati Merak and an R107 Mercedes-Benz 500SL for sale,’ he says. ‘The guy’s dad had died and he was selling off his collection. When I went to see the cars, both of which were in good condition, I spotted this BMW in the corner of the garage covered in old rugs. He wasn’t sure about selling it to me because it was rusty and needed a lot of work, but I persuaded him to sell them all as a job lot. I’d had a few E30 M3s previously, and this was an opportunity to make one really special.’


Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’


Stripdown

‘The first job was to strip the car down to a bare bodyshell to assess the condition of the bodywork,’ says Blackwell. ‘Every nut and bolt off, as if we were preparing it for dipping – if not a full-on bare-metal restoration in the early stages. However, the paintwork was dull, very swirly, and there were large rust holes in the front wheelarches and the scuttle, with a foot-high hole in the front footwell. It was a patchwork quilt of a car, with patches stick-welded on top of other patches. Once stripped, the bodyshop took on the ’shell while I catalogued everything else. ‘All nuts and bolts, anti-roll bars and so on, needed powdercoating or zinc plating. I laid them out and photographed them with annotations.


Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

This would aid reassembly later, but it also meant we had a record of everything before these parts were sent away to the dippers and powdercoaters, just in case anything got lost. I took 400 photos during the stripdown process alone.’


Structure

‘The front subframe had cracked around the engine mounts,’ Blackwell continues. ‘I made shaped plates to weld in place to add strength when welding it back together. By contrast, the rear subframe only had surface rust, so it was just a case of acid-dipping and powerdercoating to return it to as-new condition. There was corrosion in the windscreen scuttle and wheelarches, and some evidence of accident damage to a front wing. The driver’s-side jacking point was missing entirely – and that square section is no longer available, so it had to be fabricated.’


Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

Dan Summers tackled the metalwork. ‘I did a lot of welding to that bodyshell,’ he recalls. ‘The footwells and bulkhead had rotted and needed remaking, and you can’t buy pattern parts for them. We made replacements in-house, tapped up on the bench with dollies because we don’t have an English Wheel. We took the sunroof cassette out at this time too, very carefully, for a thorough clean. This is another part for which no replacements exist, and it’s easily damaged.’


Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

The accident damage had impacted another tricky-to-replace section, as Blackwell points out. ‘Some of the plastic body parts were in poor condition. There were crack repairs in the sill covers, and the rear bumper’s internal structure carrier assembly had all cracked after an impact. The bumper needed a new glassfibre part clipping in. I managed to find a replacement, although thankfully the original internal carrier had taken all the impact so the metalwork underneath hadn’t been dented, nor was the bumper itself damaged. Had it broken through the rustproofing, the work needed to the bodyshell might have been even more extensive, given the way the plastic can trap water unseen underneath.’ While Blackwell attended to the plastic, Summers tackled the metal. ‘We didn’t dip the ’shell in the end, but I did return it to bare metal,’ he explains. ‘Sometimes dipping can remove the original sealant and create problems further down the line. So I used paint stripper and an 80-grit orbital sander to remove the paint. I used spray-filler to level the surfaces, blocked it down, sprayed the ’shell with primer, double-checked the filled areas again, then sprayed a base layer of Macau Blue and a clear top-coat. ‘When the restoration was complete, I also added a ceramic coat for extra protection.’

High point

‘The first time I revved the rebuilt engine, and heard that special carbonfibre airbox sing’ James Blackwell


Running gear

‘We usually tackle the suspension and running gear before we address the engine, because it has to be stripped for preparation and painting as well as repairing,’ reveals James Blackwell. ‘In the M3’s case the suspension components were lightly corroded all over – thankfully not to a structural degree, but the rust needed arresting before it got worse.’


Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

Not everything remained original, though. ‘It now has Eibach springs, Bilstein dampers, H&R roll bars and Polybushes. It was specified by the owner. He wanted pliability so he didn’t opt for coil-over dampers, but he did want the car for fast road use, so he gave me free rein in terms of suspension set-up. I have my own wishlist of parts with E30 M3s, so I know what works. ‘With the wishbones, there’s a balance to be found between replacing everything and the car ending up like Trigger’s broom, and ultimately bearing the owner’s budget in mind. Where we could refurbish, it was done. So the subframes, wishbones and propshaft were sandblasted and repainted. There are replacement suspension parts that are technically available, but are made to subtly different patterns and markedly lower quality compared to BMW’s originals now. We cherry-pick suppliers, but even some parts from BMW itself are the wrong colour, or roughly finished whereas once they were smooth – the exhaust heat shields, for example. We’d rather refinish the originals to maintain the correct look.

Low point‘Seeing the car as a stripped bodyshell, with holes cut into it, trying desperately to picture the finished article’ James Blackwell

Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

‘I stripped the differential down to repaint it and, when it was down to its component parts, nickel-plated them and resealed the unit. The limited-slip gears were in very good condition but the main pinion bearing and crush sleeve – the steel tube that the pinion runs through – had badly worn and ballooned-out as a result of over-tightening. I rebuilt it with a new crush sleeve and pinion bearing – thankfully it’s easy to find these parts, and the gearbox itself was in really good condition.’


Engine

‘John’s brief was to strip down the engine, carry out aesthetic improvements with vapour-blasting, make it reliable, and rebuild it to BMW’s specifications, checking it for bore and wear,’ says James Blackwell. ‘But the crankshaft was damaged, and the engine had spun a bearing and microcracked all the way through the crankcase, leaking oil through the journal. The bottom end was unrepairable junk. So the rest of the engine evolved from the crankshaft. I figured if we were replacing it, why not go to a 2.5-litre crank from the 2.3. And then of course it needs new pistons, a bigger bore and forged conrods. As a result, it wasn’t a straightforward engine rebuild. ‘Because it ended up bored and stroked to 2.5 litres, it was approaching Sport Evo specification, so needed a higher compression ratio with enlarged inlet and exhaust valves, plus Schrick camshafts, stronger valve springs, bigger butterfly valves, and the cylinder head machined to clear it all.’


engine BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

Owner John Kiely had some input even before the damage had originally been discovered. ‘He bought a carbonfibre air intake before the restoration began,’ says Blackwell. ‘I’m glad he did because, as it transpired, the engine couldn’t have been built without it! The upgraded airbox gets rid of the airflow meter, making the engine more free-breathing. A part from Max Automotive simulates an air intake sensor, piggy-backing on the intake, so the ECU doesn’t get confused. But as a result, the engine now makes 270bhp – up from just 195.’


Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’


Electrics

‘Initially, it was just a case of getting rid of the Toad alarm that had been thrown in back in the Eighties, and the Eighties amplifier and speakers on the parcel shelf,’ says Blackwell. ‘Chock-blocks and crimp connectors are pet hates of mine, so I removed everything back to the underlying standard specification and started afresh – John wants to listen to the engine, not music.


Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

‘So I got a Blaupunkt Bremen head unit, which looks very period, but has a modern Bluetooth facility, utilising the original and rare factory-fitted amplifier. I trawled through wiring diagrams, tidying up the loom as I went, getting it back to standard. But John also wanted air-conditioning, which is rare on E30 3 Series except in the US. It just so happened we’d been speaking to Classic Retrofit in relation to the E3 restorations we’d been doing, and also to a customer in Texas who’d got Classic Retrofit to 3D-print a bracket to fit a modern air-conditioning evaporator to fit his E3. ‘I adapted a kit Classic Retrofit made for classic Porsche 911s, run by an ECU reprogrammable in terms of triggers. The kit comes with a button to use, but it’s aluminium and looks out of place in an Eighties interior. So I had to change the software to accept a period-correct momentary button instead. An integrated 12-volt LED rather than incandescent lighting signals feedback status while still looking like an original fitment on the dashboard.’


Interior

‘The interior was complete, but it was worn, tatty, scratched and faded,’ says Blackwell. ‘The headlining was scruffy so I replaced that with a part from BMW. As for the carpets, the main tub was available but not the rear portion, so I took that out, cleaned it and dyed it to get it back to its original black. The Europameister specification also included leather door cards, which needed retrimming in Nappa leather – black, to John’s specifications.

Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister’

‘The seats ended up needing retrimming as well, to black from their original silver-grey, but they were badly worn anyway. They were rare heated factory items but the heating elements were shot, so I rebuilt them with new items. Once again, these came with horrible modern dashboard switches attached to their wiring looms, so I let them into the original loom so they could be operated by the existing centre console-mounted switches to keep it all looking correct.’


Reassembly

‘Putting the car back together was predominantly straightforward, but the engine was a very complex job in terms of getting all the components to work together,’ says Blackwell. ‘I spent the best part of a day checking the valve clearances with a dial test indicator gauge. We weren’t using a comprehensive kit, but rather a series of components not necessarily designed to work with each other – and if we fired the engine up too early, it would be a very expensive disaster. But thankfully, I like building engines so there’s a satisfaction in getting this just right before handing the car over.’


Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister

John Kiely was delighted. ‘Analogue cars like the E30 M3 are really fun to drive,’ he enthuses. ‘I wanted a particular look and feel to this restoration, as well as more power. Not ridiculous to the point of being useless on the road, still an authentic representation of an E30 M3, but with my own subtle differences.


MY FAVOURITE TOOL

James’s Mitutoyo Dial Indicator

‘This was used for piston-to-valve clearance checks, throttle position measurements, testing cylinder bore ovality – you simply can’t rebuild an engine to the correct precision without equally precise tools, especially when they rev as high as a BMW M3 four-cylinder.’

MY FAVOURITE TOOL James’s Mitutoyo Dial Indicator ‘This was used for piston-to-valve clearance checks, throttle position measurements, testing cylinder bore ovality – you simply can’t rebuild an engine to the correct precision without equally precise tools, especially when they rev as high as a BMW M3 four-cylinder.’


‘Munich Legends have done a fantastic, very time-consuming job. I’m especially impressed with the lengths James went to with the air-conditioning. So much thought has gone into this car. But I’m not a purist. Some people will say I’ve ruined a Europameister, trimming it in black Nappa rather than silver-grey leather. But I wanted the car as I would have specified it when new. I even tried to find some new seat runners when I found out about the condition of the originals, only to find none available, so the originals had to be refurbished.


Tired track toy made perfect: the BMW M3 88 Edition E30 ‘Europameister

‘It’s been a steep, expensive job but it’s just how I wanted it, looking like it’s just come out of the factory. The weather’s not been right to test the limits of its handling just yet. But I will.’


Rare LSD parts needed sourcing for rebuild Clear top-coat protects Macau Blue paintwork Suspension first area tackled Surface rust was extensive Blackwell is proud of his electrical fixes Sandblasted and repainted The diff’, now good as new.

Free approach ended up with 2.5-litres

Eighties electrics were poorly spliced Bulkhead/door post area bad on both sides.

Rare plastic parts had taken brunt of impact. Meticulous stripdown vital for taking stock.

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