Behind its immaculate exterior, this awesome BMW E30 sleeper hides a turbocharged S54 surprise so powerful it will blow away anything it comes across.
Feature from Performance BMW. Words: Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Patrik Karlsson.
There must be something in the aquavit up in Scandinavia (or maybe it’s the aquavit itself…) because the BMW owners in this region are constantly pumping out huge horsepower monsters, and Stefan Larsson (@bmw_steffe) is one such owner with one such car. We’re not complaining, mind, because as far as we’re concerned, you can never have too many turbo BM builds, and this dazzling turbocharged BMW E30 is giving us everything we could possibly want. Massive power from a BMW engine? Yes. Classic wheels? Yes. Sleeper looks with a standard body? Stefan is three for three, and we are on board in a big way.
We’re in Sweden today, and for Stefan, BMWs have always been the way, and he’s always been a big fan of the classics. “I’ve always liked old BMWs like the E30 and the E28, I think they always had a special sports car look and always were at the forefront,” he says, and when it came to his first set of wheels, there was only one choice, naturally. “I chose an E30 320i M Tech 2, I thought they were nice and a little cool, and of course, you wanted a BMW as the first car when you got your driver’s license,” he grins. Being a BMW fan from Sweden, you wouldn’t be entirely surprised to find out that when it comes to modding, this isn’t his first rodeo, and in fact, this isn’t even his first big-horsepower turbo build. “I previously had an E30 with a turbo M20B27 running 3 bar and 970hp, which I drove at the strip and managed a 9.42second quarter-mile at 257km/h (159.7mph). I liked the idea of having a street-legal car with a lot of power and a full interior, so therefore I built the car I have today,” he smiles, and it’s even more insane than his previous effort while looking superbly subtle.
“I had been eager for many years to restore an old BMW E30 to like-new condition with a slightly tougher engine, and of course with a turbo,” grins Stefan as we discuss this epic build. “I found the car in the neighbouring municipality about 200km from me without an engine and gearbox. It was in very poor condition, and the body needed a lot of work,” he says, and that doesn’t sound like a particularly appealing prospect, but it’s exactly what he wanted, the perfect blank canvas to get his teeth into. “The plan,” he explains, “was to restore it and get it in the same condition as when it rolled out of the factory in 1988,” and looking at the pictures, we’d say he’s succeeded.
In terms of visuals, this turbocharged BMW E30 is as clean and stock as they come, and Stefan hasn’t done anything as far as enhancing the car’s looks goes, but that’s not to say that he hasn’t put a lot of work into the car, you just can’t see it. “I started by dismantling the whole car, I put it on the body cradle, blasted it, then it started to repair it with new front and rear arches, sills etc., and I also changed the roof to get rid of the sunroof. I mounted everything on the chassis, so it was on wheels, stripped down the engine and gearbox, built everything together, so the car was almost ready, then it was disassembled for paint. It’s bad to paint it first then build everything as it can cause some damage,” explains Stefan, so this definitely sounds like the sensible way of doing things. “The goal was not to move away from the original look; therefore, it is not a modified look, I just bought new lights etc.,” he adds, and the result is one immaculate BMW E30. It looks perfect, flawless in every way, and the only non-BM element you will find is the paint, with Stefan opting for VW Lapis Blue, and it’s a stunning choice. We’ve got a soft spot for lush blues and Lapis is so rich and intense, and the paint does all the work when it comes to this BMW E30 3 Series getting noticed.
When it came to the wheels, Stefan knew he had to stick with something classic, and the BBS Style 5s he’s chosen are the perfect fit for the E30 3 Series. The deep-dish, cross-spoke design suits the classic 3 Series shape so well, and the combo of silver centres and polished lips is equally timeless, and these 17s work so well here. Their impact has been enhanced by the addition of a set of XYZ coilovers, which not only bring with them a most welcome drop but also enhance the E30’s chassis, and they’re aided in that by the Powerflex bushes that Stefan has fitted, while the rear axle has been modified to allow the wheel angles to be adjusted. As with the overall exterior, the interior is essentially entirely stock, which means lovely tartan Sports seats and an M Tech 1 steering wheel. If you look very closely, you might spot the chunky Sparco gear knob and the discreetly mounted boost and oil pressure gauges ahead of it.
So far, this is the tale of a very nice, fully restored and largely original BMW E30, but we know it’s rather more than that, and things change very quickly once Stefan has lifted the bonnet. Beneath this, sitting snugly in the exceptionally clean engine bay, you will find an S54 bolstered by a BorgWarner S369 SXE turbo, and a selection of serious upgrades join the party to make sure that this whole powertrain really delivers. And what it delivers is no less than 1008whp along with 744lb ft wtq. Incredible.
“I wanted to build a bulletproof S54,” Stefan tells us, “So I contacted Bäckis at PPF in Avesta, and said that I wanted the best parts for an S54 for 1000hp. That meant forged DP pistons, forged DP I-profile connecting rods, Supertech valve springs, and ARP bolts everywhere,” and that’s definitely given him the S54 he was aiming for. Additional upgrades include Bosch 2200cc injectors, twin Walbro 450lph pumps, an 80-litre boot-mounted fuel cell and a Nuke swirl pot, plus a custom intake manifold, and a 3.5” exhaust system that’s finished with a discreet single tip. The gearbox, meanwhile, is a T56 six-speed from a Dodge Viper, with a twin-plate Tilton clutch, and a Strange Engineering propshaft, all of which is more than up to the task of coping with the massive numbers that S54 generates.
This BMW E30 sleeper is simply sensational. The star of the show is obviously that turbocharged S54, but the whole package is just so nice. We love Stefan’s commitment to keeping the car looking stock, we love that he’s out in the effort to rescue and fully restore this E30 3 Series in the first place, and we obviously love that he’s built it to be so insane. Naturally, putting together something like this takes time, and it’s been an ongoing project for Stefan. “I started in 2011 and finished the car in 2018, but I did not work on it every day; two children have come in between, and I bought a house,” he smiles. With life carrying on around the build, perhaps the most impressive part of this turbocharged BMW E30 is that the result is exactly what Stefan wanted to build. “I bought what I wanted for this car and had no budget restrictions, and there was nothing else I wanted to buy, I got everything I wanted, and then it was just a case of taking the time to build it. Some small things need to be rebuilt; for example, the brakes, and I recently changed the engine control on it to a MaxxECU one,” he adds, but no matter how complete a project might be there’s always going to be some additional fettling and further improvements down the line. This turbocharged BMW E30 build has only enhanced Stefan’s love for classic BMs, and he’s keen to get his hands dirty with an E28 restomod that would be running an S85 V10, but whatever future builds may come his way, this epic BMW E30 3 Series sleeper is here to stay.
Tech Spec: Turbocharged BMW E30 with 1000whp
Engine & Transmission:
3.2-litre straight-six S54B32, DP forged pistons and I-beam con rods, Supertech valve springs, ARP valve cover bolts and crank bearings, 3.5” exhaust system with dual silencers, Bosch 2200cc injectors, twin Walbro 450lph fuel pumps, 80-litre fuel cell, Nuke swirl pot and fuel filter, BorgWarner S369 SXE turbo, custom intake manifold, custom intake. Dodge Viper T56 six-speed manual gearbox, Strange Engineering custom propshaft, Tilton twin-plate clutch
Power & Torque:
1008whp and 744lb ft wtq @ 1.65 bar
17” BBS RC090 Style 5 wheels with 205/35 tyres, XYZ Coilovers, Powerflex bushes, rear axle rebuilt to allow wheel angle adjustment, E36 M3 brakes on homemade adapters
Full respray in VW Golf R Lapis Blue
Sparco gear knob, custom-mounted boost and oil pressure gauges