Capable of cracking 200mph and serving up over 1000hp, this astonishing modified BMW E30 Turbo is an absolute beast of a build.
According to the 2023 World Happiness Report, Finland ranked as the world’s happiest country. In fact, Finland has been named the world’s happiest country for five years running now. Finland is also home to a large number of huge-horsepower turbocharged BMW builds. Coincidence? We think not…
We haven’t met Mikko Q, the owner of this modified BMW E30 turbo, but we can imagine him being a very happy person indeed. How could you possibly not be when you’ve built yourself an epic turbocharged E30 on this scale? It’s not just stupidly powerful either, we love the way it looks. It’s got poise and purpose like it’s about to launch itself at the horizon at any moment, which it probably is.
BMW love affair
Mikko’s day job is, in his own words, “IT stuff.” With what we imagine to be a sensible and strait-laced 9-5 (actually, most Finnish companies work 8-4, there’s a handy fact for you), we can picture him eagerly awaiting the weekend so that he can blow off some steam in his E30, and we can’t imagine a better form of stress relief than this. It’s certainly quite the step up from his first car, a 1991 Toyota Carina II, but BMWs are unquestionably a serious passion of his.
“I have always liked the look of the two-door E30 (and especially the M3),” says Mikko as we chat. “I don’t know why BMW, but for some reason, after acquiring the first one, I have slowly ended up in a situation where there are no other cars other than BMWs in the household,” he grins, and that’s what we like to hear. And, when Mikko says his is a BMW household, he really isn’t kidding.
“The other BMWs are three E30s (one project, one for parts, plus one for driving on the ice in wintertime), an E28 which might end up as a project one day, and an E38 (which will be dismantled for parts and is donating its engine for my future project). The daily drivers are an E39 530d Sport Touring and an E60 530i,” he says with a smile, and that’s the sort of dedication to the blue and white roundel we like to see.
Of course, what we’re really interested in is this E30, and while we’ve already established that it’s a bit special, there’s a lot of detail to get into with this build. “This E30 is actually the first BMW I bought,” smiles Mikko as we chat. “A long time ago, I decided that as soon as my life situation allows and I would have premises where I could work, one should be acquired for a project. The pieces fell into place in the summer of 2012, after which I could start the hunt for a suitable candidate,” Mikko explains.
Buying the BMW E30
“I wanted a two-door, original 325i, pre-facelift – I searched for more than half a year but with no luck. At the beginning of 2013, I got word that a friend of a friend of a friend of mine had an unfinished project E30, which could be for sale at a reasonable price. This information turned out to be correct, and I arranged a meeting with the owner to see the car.
“The car was a two-door pre-facelift 323i, and the inspection papers had a note about a larger displacement engine swap in the early 1990s. The person selling it had owned the car for more than six years, out of which the last five years it hadn’t been driven and was a project. Virtually everything that could be removed was removed and what was left was the bare shell, along with the chassis.
Lots of corrosion repairs had been done, and a full roll-cage was about 85% fitted. After that, the motivation for the project faded away, and the car had been left on axle stands in the garage, awaiting its fate. Given the amount of work already carried out on the project, the current condition of the chassis, and the asking price, I simply couldn’t refuse, and the deal was done. However, I was a little nervous about the fact that I hadn’t dismantled a car by myself before, and I had no prior experience with E30s, so how would I get it all back together…” says Mikko, but that clearly wasn’t a problem.
Turbocharging the modified BMW E30
“Once the chassis was moved to my garage, the only clear vision I had in mind was that the car would become a turbocharged summer toy,” grins Mikko. “Turning that vision into reality eventually took about two and a half years to complete.
At that stage, I had no idea what it really meant to build a car from those starting points. It took a lot more time than I could have ever imagined to make the car the way I wanted it to be. The chassis came with a very limited number of parts so, for example, I ended up buying a second donor car for the project plus dismantling parts from at least half a dozen different donor cars around my area. As a result, my circle of BMW acquaintances/friends expanded quite a bit,” he chuckles.
No part left unturned on the E30 project
“The approach I took with the project was clear: if it was a used part, it was thoroughly inspected and reconditioned. All the worn-out parts were replaced. My bank account balance really liked this approach,” he laughs. “The goal during the project was also to do as much as possible by myself and not just buy finished bolt-on parts, though I had only limited previous knowledge/experience. Fortunately, I had some friends who already had some knowledge of car building at that point, from whom I got some good tips and help,” he says, and when a project brings in your friends, it becomes that much more special.
The biggest part of this modified BMW E30 Turbo is, without a doubt, the engine. It’s not just what makes this car so awesome, it’s also been the driving force behind the project, and what’s kept Mikko pushing for ever more power, taking this E30 further and making it faster at every turn.
Engine tuning on the modified BMW E30 turbo
The initial build saw Mikko hit 500hp in 2015, and after pouring an incredible amount of time and work into the modified BMW E30 turbo, that was a thrilling moment for him. “In the same summer, I went (out of pure interest) to try out the standing mile for the first time at the Lappeenranta Aviation Days. I did a couple of runs, and the best one was measured at 282km/h (175mph).
After that event, I could say that something changed in me, and I set myself a new goal: to try and break the 300km/h mark. In retrospect, this can be said to have been the moment when the focus and mindset had shifted towards a top-speed build,” says Mikko, and that determination has shaped the car you see before you.
Top speed runs
Mikko’s first time hitting – and exceeding – his goal was in 2017, when the car, in 755hp trim, smashed the 300km/h barrier. “The radar reading was 312 km/h. My friend, who was sitting in the passenger seat during the run, swore that he would never get into the car again,” he laughs. And that’s where this story could have ended, but with this build, it’s fair to say that Mikko was in too deep to see a way out, so all he could do was to keep going.
“The goal had been achieved, I thought. I had more than enough long days and nights in the garage, I thought. Maybe I should concentrate on something else than cars for a while, I thought,” he says. “Well, as you might have guessed, on the drive home from the event, I delighted(?) my wife with an idea: ‘What if it was just a little bit faster?’” he laughs, and that is what resulted in the car reaching this stage in its evolution.
“I spent a ‘few’ evenings in the garage over the following winter,” Mikko chuckles. “I upgraded all the brakes, replaced the camshafts, built a new dual-plenum-style intake manifold and made other minor repairs. In the spring, during a two-day dyno tuning session, I also upgraded the intercooler. All that work paid off, and the result was over 900hp in the modified BMW E30 turbo. The summer of 2018 was memorable,” he smiles. “In the spring, I did a new personal best in the standing mile when the car reached a speed of 325 km/h.
I won the top speed competition at Bimmerparty (the largest BMW event in the Nordic countries) with a very close gap to second: only a 1km/h difference in my favor. In the autumn, I decided to participate in one more standing mile event before the long winter ahead. The first run’s result: 335 km/h! That was enough to make the car the fastest BMW over a standing mile in Finland (and it still is),” he smiles proudly, and that’s over 208mph in an modified BMW E30 turbo!
The funny thing is that since his insane top-speed run, Mikko has carried out some further mods, taking the car to an unbelievable level of performance. The engine is a mix of M50 and M52, with forged JE pistons, Eagle H-profile con rods, Enem cams, King Racing bearings, and the aforementioned dual-plenum-style intake manifold. There’s a twin-scroll exhaust manifold for the massive 72mm turbo, a huge 600mm custom front-mount intercooler running a Garrett core, and a seriously beefy E85 fuel system, which features one Carter and two AEM pumps, a custom ReWoN Motors fuel rail and monster 2200cc injectors.
Having blown a gearbox after his record-breaking run Mikko’s new transmission has been built to ensure it can handle what his engine is putting out. The ’box itself is a six-speed GS6-53DZ that’s been mated to a custom flywheel with a Tilton twin-plate cerametallic clutch, there’s a custom 3” propshaft, a BMW Type 210 LSD with modified ramp angles and a custom-made diff mount, and custom PPF driveshafts. Finally, there’s a transmission and flywheel safety blanket and three driveshaft safety loops to ensure that should anything go bang, no one is going to get hurt.
Dyno sessions for the modified BMW E30 turbo
After carrying out his upgrades, it was time to get some numbers down on the modified BMW E30 turbo. “The dyno trip, which had become a tradition almost every spring, began to take on tragicomic elements by the time the fourth pair of rear tires (borrowed from the daily driver) were fitted. The previous three pairs had given up on the rollers in different ways as the tuning and dyno sessions had progressed. With the last available pair of tires I had, the increase in boost pressure above 2.5 bar finally brought the desired result: over 1000hp and over 1000Nm (738lb ft) of torque. Maybe that’s enough for the time being…” he chuckles.
We see a lot of powerful BMs gracing this website, but we will always be impressed when we see numbers that big because they’re just incredible, and Mikko’s build is an absolute beast.
Of course, power is nothing without control, so there have been plenty of additional mods applied beneath the surface to ensure that the rest of the E30 can cope when Mikko unleashes hell, and that includes the E36 steering rack that’s been fitted and modified for increased steering angle. “I wanted to have plenty of adjustability, so that’s why I went with the BC Racing suspension and H&R anti-roll bars,” he explains. “Some of the modifications have been dictated by some other mods I have chosen to do. For example, to fit this size of exhaust system on an E30 required some ‘adjustments’ to the firewall and passenger-side footwell,” grins Mikko.
Where most people would be winding their coilovers down to get their BM sitting as low as possible, this modified BMW E30 turbo build is very different, and so the suspension has been set up to deliver what is best to get all the power to the ground, and we love the raked stance it results in. The brakes, meanwhile, utilize E36 325tds calipers with 284mm discs up front and 272mm items at the back, along with Ferodo DS2500 brake pads, HEL braided lines, and there’s also an E32 750iL master cylinder.
Modified BMW E30 turbo styling upgrades
In terms of styling, there’s a lot to like here. “Many of the exterior-related decisions are coming directly from the M3, like the bumpers and rear spoiler,” says Mikko. “I didn’t want to go full-on replica with the car, though, because at the end of the day (sadly), it is not an M3. I just wanted to have some elements from it, and the rest I decided whatever looked good in my eyes,” he explains, and it works for us.
As well as the M3-look front and rear bumpers, Mikko has added OEM E30 Touring side skirts, he’s had the front and rear arches widened, the side moldings have been removed and smoothed, the lights have been blacked out across the car while a pair of AeroCatch fasteners hold the bonnet in place, and the whole car has been treated to a respray in its original shade of black.
And then, of course, we have the wheels. “In my opinion, those wheels fit perfectly for an E30. I just love the look,” says Mikko, and we wholeheartedly agree. He’s opted for a set of 16” Borbet As, measuring 7.5” across at the front and 9” across at the rear, and they look awesome. They are iconic period wheels which are just perfect for this car, especially wrapped in fat rubber for that purposeful square sidewall look.
Interior upgrades on the modified BMW E30 Turbo
Finally, we come to the interior or, as Mikko laughs, “Interior? What interior?! As the previous owner had already started fitting a full roll-cage, I basically started following that path and kept the interior kind of ‘race-spec’. I haven’t really regretted that decision as it turned out to be a very good call after I got excited about driving fast on the standing mile,” he adds. As Mikko says, the interior has been fully stripped to keep things nice and light, and everything that has been fitted has been added for the purpose of driving this E30 as fast as possible.
A pair of Sparco Pro 2000 seats ensure that Mikko and passenger are kept snugly in place, secured by a pair of matching four-point harnesses, with a Sparco steering wheel also added. Lightweight aluminum door cards replace the stock items, the fusebox has been moved from the engine bay to beneath the dash, and the car’s electronics have been mounted in place of the glovebox. A trio of auxiliary gauges show boost, AFR and oil pressure, and there’s also a hydro handbrake and a Coolerworx shifter.
By Mikko’s calculations, it took about two and a half years and over 1000 hours to get the car to its 500hp incarnation back in 2015, and you can see how much more work has gone into this build since then. It’s been a huge commitment and a huge part of Mikko’s life for a very long time. “I can’t name a single modification as a favorite one,” he muses as we chat. “I’m pleased with the whole thing: the way it looks and what it can do. And most importantly, many things I have done by myself without any prior knowledge or know-how, so I have really learned a lot during the years,” he adds with a satisfied smile.
“I doubt I’ll ever call it ‘finished’,” Mikko continues. “I have a Stroud Bonneville-spec brake parachute, which was a gift from friends in 2019 and is still on the shelf waiting for installation, plus a homemade front strut brace, a fire suppression system and 101 other plans,” he laughs. Not only that, but Mikko is currently building a second E30 for his wife, so he’s going to have his hands full for the foreseeable future. But, that’s no hardship when E30s are your passion, and you’ve built yourself an incredible top-speed machine on this scale. And, with life returning to normal, you can bet Mikko and his beast of a build are going to be setting some new records together very soon.
Tech Spec: Modified BMW E30 Turbo
M50/M52 straight-six hybrid; JE forged pistons with custom dimensions; Eagle H-profile con rods; Enem camshafts; double valve springs with custom Chromoly retainers by Rasis; Athena Cooper Ring head gasket; ARP bolts; 6mm steel support girdle for the main caps; King Racing crankshaft and con rod bearings; race-spec timing chains and oil pump with E36 M3 cam chain tensioner; chain tensioner added to oil pump chain; uprated crankcase ventilation system with custom homemade catch cans etc.
Homemade dual-plenum-style intake manifold; homemade twin-scroll exhaust manifold; homemade stainless steel exhaust comprising 4.5” downpipe and 4” piping to single rear silencer; 72mm turbo; 3” homemade boost pipes; 600x300x100mm homemade intercooler with Garrett core; JAZ safety fuel cell; homemade swirl pot; 1x Carter and 2x AEM fuel pumps; Nuke fuel filter; 0.5” PTFE fuel lines; ReWoN Motors custom fuel rail; Fuelab pressure regulator; 2200cc/min fuel injectors; running E85 only; ATDriveBoard ECU; IGN-1A coils; NGK surface discharge spark plugs.
Power & Torque:
1000hp+ and 738lb ft
BMW GS6-53DZ six-speed manual gearbox; custom flywheel by @mikkeee7; Tilton twin-plate cerametallic clutch; Coolerworx Pro short-shift; homemade 3” propshaft; BMW Type 210 LSD; modified ramp angles; homemade custom rear diff mount; PPF custom-made driveshafts with 128mm Chromoly CV joints; uprated OEM E30 rear axle and trailing arms; transmission/flywheel safety blanket; three driveshaft safety loops.
7.5×16” ET 20 (front) and 9×16” ET 15 (rear) Borbet A wheels with 205/45 Kumho Ecsta LE Sport KU39 (front) and 245/45 Toyo R888R (rear) tires; BC Racing BR Series suspension; H&R anti-roll bars; Powerflex bushes throughout; E36 steering rack modified for increased steering angle; E36 325tds calipers with 284mm (front) and 272mm (rear) discs; Ferodo DS2500 brake pads; E32 750iL brake master cylinder; HEL Performance braided brake lines all-around; hydraulic handbrake.
Full respray in original Jet black; widened arches front and rear; side-mouldings removed and smoothed; bonnet roundel removed and smoothed; homemade boot roundel; OEM E30 Touring side skirts; E30 M3-look bumpers modified/adapted to fit with other body modifications; E30 M3-look rear spoiler; tinted lights all-around; E46 side repeaters; AeroCatch bonnet fasteners.
Fully stripped; full roll-cage; Sparco Pro 2000 seats; four-point harnesses and steering wheel; lightweight aluminium door panels; boost; AFR and oil pressure gauges; fuse box relocated beneath dashboard; electronics located in glovebox; firewall and passenger-side footwell modified to accommodate exhaust system.
Photos: Jape Tiitinen.
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