When the Goblin Works Garage crew told us they were coming back for a second season with a BMW E30, we were excited to see what they’d do with it. But none of us expected a work of god-like genius like this…
Feature taken from Fast Car. Words Dan Bevis Photos Chris Frosin
The peril of the difficult second album is something that’s dug its claws into the very concept of creativity for generations. It took The Stone Roses five years to come up with Second Coming, and some people really didn’t like it. And there are countless examples of bands bursting onto the scene with a stellar debut, then struggling to follow it up with something of similar impact; The Strokes, The Clash, Franz Ferdinand, Elastica… it’s a broader condition, known as ‘the sophomore slump’, whereby the second bite of the cherry can lead to disaster; a footballer’s second season, a student’s second year at college, movie and videogame sequels, it’s all-pervading.
It’s also a load of absolute cobblers. Second outings are an opportunity to up the ante; Nirvana’s Nevermind was better than Bleach, Die Hard 2 was better than Die Hard – and if the excitement of the Goblin Works Garage crew is anything to go by, their second series (airing right now on Quest) is set to be far bigger and better than anything that came before.
The first series was undoubtedly impressive, serving up a broad variety of artfully modified gems, but this time around the guys have winkled out a bigger budget, done more research, spent time at SEMA, picked the brains of the world’s greatest tuning heroes, to enable them to build some truly world-class projects. And the car you see here is solid-gold proof that they’re not messing about.
“We’ve definitely levelled-up with our projects this season,” beams Helen Stanley, going all heart-eyes-emoji at the outstanding modified BMW she’s spirited into being, “and this build is a great example of pushing boundaries in a very short space of time to create something exciting. This series our builds will continue to divide opinion, but as long as these cars get people talking, encourage, motivate, inspire and entertain then we’re doing something right.”
So why an E30 this time? Well, it helps that they’re bang on-trend, with values and interest rising exponentially in recent years. The first car Helen ever drove at 17 was her dad’s 3-Series, so there’s more than a little emotion in this build. The team knew they had to find one, the idea was ticking boxes on every conceivable level.
“This E30 belonged to a mechanic I knew; it was for sale so I nabbed it,” Helen explains. “As it turned out, this car is an earlier one than we thought too, it’s registered as an ’87 model but it was actually born in ’85. When we got it, it looked terrible – covered in the dreaded BMW lacquer peel, along with rust holes, a leaky sunroof… it needed love. Also it was a 318i auto, so it was pretty lacklustre throughout.”
The perfect candidate for rebirth, then! Helen had a vision for how the car should be, a sort of ‘dystopian hellion’, and she twisted the arms of fellow Goblins Ant and Jimmy to let her vision run wild. It was to be their biggest-budget project yet, and given the tight time constraints, temperatures and pulses were rising all the time. “There were moments when I regretted this build, because it was so expensive and full-on and the deadline wasn’t conducive to the amount of work needed to realise the design,” she grimaces. “Building this car as well as filming nearly sent me over the edge – I don’t think I’ve ever been so stressed. But looking at it now, it was worth it. I love it.”
Naturally the car couldn’t have stayed as a 318i auto under the skin, that would have been far too lame. So the wheezy old four-pot has been ousted in favour of a 3.0-litre straight-six from an E46 330ci, along with an E46 M3 manual gearbox. Far more fit for hijinks. And with the heart and lungs taken care of, it was time to address the biggest and most complex element of the build: that outrageous exterior. The idea here was to harness the widebody trend and infuse elements of Japanese culture and race-inspired aesthetics, along with a scary streak of Mad Max, to create something post-apocalyptic that looks like it belongs in a sci-fi movie or a video game.
Obviously an off-the-shelf bodykit wasn’t going to cut it here, so the craftsmen at Fat Fender were drafted in to crack out the magic markers. This is one of the only companies in the UK who still create bodykits using the old-school foam-sculpting method, and their artisanal creation sublimely fuses Manga styling with Touring Car aggression. “We used the existing lines and angles on the car to enhance the body, making it wider, lower, and meaner,” says Helen. “It’s got a real DTM vibe. Moulds were made, and the fibreglass panels produced and bonded onto the original body. I wanted the kit to look like an extension of the car rather than something visibly added on, and together I think we achieved that. Fat Fender also painted the E30 for us; I think all cars look good in grey so we went with a mid-grey similar to Nardo on the exterior, then added a pastel mint colour to the engine bay. Ant and Jimmy hated the sound of it initially but came round to the idea when they saw it!”
What’s interesting to note is that this bodykit is now available to the public to buy; initially crafted as a one-off, the Goblins and Fat Fender are sharing the fruits of their endeavours with the modding public! But they weren’t done yet, not by any means. The rusty sunroof was welded up and smoothed, and Helen didn’t want a fuel filler ruining the body lines so the petrol tank was removed, the spare wheel well welded up and a fuel cell fitted in the boot. The headlights are a cool detail too – look closely and you’ll spot that the inners have functional air intakes in the centres, surrounded by LED angel eyes. “I made these myself,” says Helen. “I found some intake pipes and funnels to fit the E30 which came all the way from Reno, then I recessed the angel eyes into them. They don’t exist as a concept so it was a pain in the arse – but I wanted them, so I made them!”
The next vital element to address was the way the thing sits. 3SDM pitched in to make some custom wheels fat enough to fill the massive new arches (see boxout), and Air Lift Performance were tapped up to enable the lows. “I met the Air Lift guys at SEMA, and when I talked to them about the project and my ideas, I knew it was the right way to go for this build,” Helen enthuses. “It’s the coolest thing to see a car slam to the ground on air – the noise it makes is awesome too. I’ve never used air suspension before so I can’t get enough of it; to me it makes the car seem like a Transformer.” It is unquestionably very cool, and this angry wideboy looks mean as hell when it airs out. So, the Goblins had addressed the oily bits, the shiny bits, the up-and-downy bits… but perhaps the most important part of all is the interior. After all, these guys are hard drivers and every GWG build is crafted first and foremost to be a hoot to helm. You’ve got to have a nice place to sit, haven’t you?
“The original dash and console were repaired and covered in anthracite grey Alcantara with a mint contrast stitch,” say Helen. “The doorcards were dyed black and also have Alcantara inserts with a mint stitch to match – this was all done by Brett at Alpha Auto Concepts, he’s an interior genius. He also made a custom carpet in black with the same contrast stitch, re-covered the steering wheel, and installed a custom black headliner. I wanted to keep the old dials as well; it was important to strike a balance between originality and modernisation with this car. Too much one way or the other wouldn’t have worked.”
The front sports custom-stitched Corbeau RS2 recliners, which tilt to provide a perfect view of the rear, where the bench has been binned and replaced by a custom air install with every element of the mechanicals proudly on display. And quality audio was imperative, so Helen insisted upon a Pioneer smartphone receiver headunit, TS-A speakers in the front and slimline Class D active subwoofer in the back. The interior vibe is a balance of form and function, blending the 1980s design with a variety of tasteful modern upgrades.
“I’m especially proud of this car,” Helen smiles. “It’s a little out there, but it’s usable. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily 100-percent practical because it’s a fair bit wider than before, but it’s been built to be fun to drive. It’ll certainly drive you out of trouble when the apocalypse comes, and look good doing it.”
You see, that ‘difficult second album’ vibe was all total nonsense. The Goblins have absolutely killed it with this E30, it’s an astonishing creation that takes its cues from the 2019 scene and throws in a fresh retro-futurist vibe that only they could create. A dystopian hellion indeed, and proof positive that this team has very much upped the ante.
TECH SPEC: BMW E30
Custom one-off bodykit by Fat Fender, custom mid-grey paint, engine bay painted pastel mint, OE fuel tank deleted (replaced by fuel cell in boot) and spare wheel well welded up, sunroof welded, custom inner headlights with LED angel-eyes and functional air ducts, satin black dechrome, windows tinted by Dave at Zonkey Wrap
M54B30 3.0-litre straight-six (from E46 330ci), Pipercross air filter, E46 M3 Direnza radiator from Japspeed, Porsche 944 servo and master cylinder, custom-modded exhaust system, E46 M3 transmission with short-shift
9.5×18-inch (front) and 11×18-inch (rear) custom 3SDM forged wheels in satin black, Toyo Proxes R888-R tyres, V-Maxx E30 325i BBK, E30 325i Sport rear beam with disc brakes, EBC grooved discs and YellowStuff pads, Venhill braided lines, custom Air Lift Performance suspension setup
Stock dash and console restored and trimmed in anthracite grey Alcantara with mint contrast stitch, doorcards dyed black with Alcantara inserts to match, custom carpets, steering wheel retrimmed, custom headlining, OE E30 dials, rear seats removed, pastel mint painted rear roll bar, custom-stitched Corbeau RS2 front recliners, grey TRS harnesses, Pioneer SPH-10BT smartphone receiver headunit, TS-A speakers, slimline Pioneer Class D active subwoofer
“Special thanks to Fat Fender UK, Air Lift Performance, 3SDM, Toyo Tires, The Performance Company, V-Maxx, EBC Brakes, Pipercross, Venhill, Corbeau, Panda Racing, Alpha Auto Concepts, Pioneer, Compbrake, Japspeed, Paul Bailey, Project Three, and Zonkey Wrap.