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1990 UK 325i Sport > 333i

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  • 1990 UK 325i Sport > 333i

    So with ownership coming up to 7 years and her 30th birthday (and some forums losing content), I thought I would post this up here - I have a lot of this on E30Zone but it's only accessible by signing up so this is a little easier. Also Covid-19 has left a little more time on my hands...I'm also potentially on the eve of a new project so it's always good to reflect on current/on-going ones! It's not an E30 M3 but the current iteration has a few M3 bits so hope I can sneak in. I've liked some of the threads on S14 and have been a lurker for 10 years+ so figure I'd finally give back some reading material.

    I've been into E30's for 15+ years now (wow) - I'm originally from NZ, moved to the UK in 2007 and moved to New York in 2018. Am currently back in London but planning to get back to the US soonish.

    This is E30 number 11 - some of the history is here:

    Original E30Zone thread:

    After UK E30's including a 318i touring that I put an M42 in, a 325i touring, and a 96 E36 M3 Evo, I had a hankering to get back in an E30. I bought a 325i Sport from Manchester, and found some rust in the roof, so decided to get another Sport (they were a lot more available then!) - which is where this story begins.

    I must be starting to get old - as in hindsight, my life would have been a lot more simple with keeping her stock, which is an odd thing to think when I'm considering embarking on another project but that's another thread. Some of the comments here may be a bit out of date, but I'm hoping someone finds this useful in some capacity - I've tried a lot of E30 Modifications and have a bit of perspective that I wish I had 10 years ago!

    My goal is/was to have a car that I can drive to the track, go round all day, and drive home. And also do a long distance European road trip without a hiccup. I'd potentially love to ship her to the US and trip around for a few months - but that's a while away. To date I've been around Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Donington and Bedford...still on the list is Spa and the Ring! I really should pull finger.

    Anyway - a thread being worthless without pics, let's start

    FS Ad:

    She was running reasonably well, but I wanted to make her as nice as possible, so off to Barry (South England BMW Mechanic with a beautiful MTech 2 and M3). After rebuilding a coupe of E30's, I simply don't have the time, space, tools, so it's been a real luxury having someone else do the work! And better than I would have, being honest...

    List of parts replaced is pretty extensive, thanks Barry for ensuring I didn't have to lie underneath the car for weeks!

    Newish Mtech springs, shocks and struts from the old car
    Full new front control arms, track rods, E30 M3 bushes, drop links, new BMW standard exhaust (I LOVE this thing), BTB manifold (unfortunately it was advertised as having a BTB which turned out not to be true), BBTB (thanks Byron!), new WMS discs (the old front R had malformed and cracked coming off, ouch), new Toyo Proxes all round, Inspection II, bonnet foam, gearbox seals, guibo & CSB, gearshift knuckle, cambelt/waterpump, a wheel bearing, 25mm Master Cylinder and numerous new clips, etc.

    Replaced the speakers and stereo, a few more things on the checklist but otherwise she's running well and loving her. Need to get the wheels straightened and then can start worrying about whether to 2.8/3L her or not...

    I really love the blue leather!


    It was originally advertised as having a BTB manifold, which it wasn't, so I got one - but then it didnt' clear the Z3 1.9 rack (one of the best E30 mods) so I had an issue. And, more power beckoned. But getting a stroker done was going to take a long time and I wanted to use the fucking thing

    After replacing a LOT of bits and pieces here and there...Barry made me an offer I couldn't help myself on. Cue M52, Z3 Rack and E30 M3 5 Lug. To outline my reasoning - I always wanted a BIT more power (after a 300hp iS turbo which I think is too much for an E30 to enjoy on the road, I was happy with low 200s), and the E36 rack wouldn't fit with the BTB2. The 5 Lug just seemed nice to have for the brakes - witness the WMS (similar to Wilwood - I really really hated the creaking alloy calipers) after going round Donington with a British GT driver passengering (with a lot of "encouragement" to go quicker). And as much as I loved the beautiful new stock Mtech shocks and springs...I just needed something a bit lower and stiffer, hence the Eibachs and Bilsteins. I LOVE the Eibach anti-roll bars and strongly recommend them for anyone - they really fix the 325i balance, and help with controlling it sideways a bit. Threw in a few new bits like braided lined, UUC DSSR, discs/pads and new bits here and there + fluids.

    The M52 - the kicker for me was the Alloy block saving 20-30kg over the M20. I would have loved an S14...but big and not a ton of power, and tough to find. M52 replacements are cheap...this one was a well done conversion, had a lot of new bits, and had the M50 manifold so making around 210hp or so....will find out on the dyno day. Ended up using the ZF and E30 M3 driveshaft and 3.25 M3 LSD (although with a whiny input shaft, the box needs to be switched at some point in the future). DanThe loom looks slick and manifolds are mated to the new stock M20 system I have.

    next up...a decent photo shoot....S52 cams at some point (no rush)....maybe some spare weaves (painted matt black or dark anthracite) with Toyo R888's, do a cold air box, put sump baffle in and replace oil level sensor, look at Pagid Blues after the next track day, replace ZF, liquid leather the interior and maybe a new windscreen. nice to have a "short" to-do list!

    Went around Silverstone this week....awesome track, very quick. Had a blast.

    although after a few laps:

    Current day comment: Pads have been a bit of a bugbear - I had pagid road pads that literally evaporated at Silverstone in 1 day, have tried the Tarox competition pads fronts and pagid blues rear (and just got some Pagid Yellows that I think will be better suited, am trying this out at Donington this coming Monday). I'm also getting the Massive Rallye kit but unsure when I'll actually ever get them on the car...a bit nervous about the level of hassle involved.

    Back to the history:

    A few recent ones from Brands Hatch GP - awesome track!

    FINALLY didn't drive home with metal on metal brakes...had some issues at the start of the day with the wet track and the fronts not warming enough (Tarox Corsa, full race pad) so the rears locked up first. A couple of tellings off by the marshals....switched the Pagid Blues back in and happy days!

    Probably gonna call it a day for the year and get some Brands Hatch (non-GP) ones in early next year since they are cheap and it's close to home. Also going to go back to the Mtech 2 wing and start on the list of small jobs that need and games!

    So a few bits and pieces been happening....been fixing odd jobs around the car - cam sensor, oil change and servicing - all in preparation of a European tour. Am heading down the south of France in late June. Fingers crossed.....

    I have some Dbilas cams and lug studs to install this weekend. And a recent pic:

    Still need to replace the gearbox with the whiny input shaft....but considering shelving that job till I can be arsed. Or it breaks.....


    333i Sport - Alpina M52 3.3, E30 M3 5 Stud

  • #2
    Been a while since I've updated (and realised half my pics are gone, sorry...will try tidy up). So....

    Got the Dbilas cams in, noticeable difference, much better top end. Prob need a remap too but she's running OK. Also put an M Coupe Diff Cover on and a few other random new bits and pieces.

    Drove 13h to Biarritz in France for my birthday with a bunch of friends - made it over 2000 miles there and back easy without any issues whatsoever - v impressed!

    Don't have a ton of pics but will find some more later - here's one from the lighthouse when we arrived. From 1pm to 4am (switching drivers), went straight to a bar still open, swim on the beach then watched the sun rise come up by the lighthouse. Then went for a bit of the hoon in the Pyrenees - beautiful roads!

    Drove back up the Atlantic coast stopping at Ile de Re and Noirmoutier before getting stuck at the channel tunnel for 4 hours on the way back...grr.

    Last Monday took her out at Bedford for the first time, with a buddy of mine from NZ who races an E30 M20 3.1 in the BMW race series there - great track! Managed three laps before this:

    Turns out the pin connected the gearbox selector shaft to the knuckle had fallen out....the circlip was still on there so a bit bizarre how it either a) made it this far without falling out already or b) managed to get the circlip off (it's tough). Anyway - managed to get the machine shop at Bedford to make me up a new pin, got her back in and back on the road - phew! Can't say thank you enough to the guys there, they really saved the day. Went really well on the track - highlights include passing a 997 and track prepped WRX, but that may have just been the loose nuts behind the steering wheel.

    And adding to my collection of E30's in petrol stations...(always funny seeing them compared to modern cars)

    Next plans include probably driving her very little over the next few months, getting a few bits and pieces sorted out and a spot of rust tidied (or a full respray - MTech 2 surprise) and some 16" Sport Evo wheels with R888R's once funds allow.

    So in preparation for a few new pics on the way with the new wheels and ride height (spring pads) in the near future, some pics from the last year or two...

    Late night pit stop on the way to Biarritz

    My castle for the weekend

    Home for a weekend in Austin, TX for SXSW

    E30 spotting in Texas!

    A really cool work trip where we hired the local Fiat 500 car club to drive us around Rome in 70+ Fiat 500's....amazing experience. A lot of heads turned!

    Little project and big project...what's been taking most my time!

    More to come once I pull finger and get tyres, wash her, and take some decent pics. May be a while!'s been a while. 2017 was a bit of a bust car wise with only 2 road trips and no track days - buying a motorbike and failing an MOT led to taking her off the road for the last 6 months to get new floors and one arch...will prob have to do something similar towards the end of this year on a much smaller scale, but she's back in one piece and driving which is lovely!

    A few recent pics attached - I'm not one for mod lists, but I've outlined the broad strokes in case anyone is curious or thinking of doing the same. Big thanks to Barry @ BMPerformance for the copious amounts of time put in here.

    Alpina 3.3 M52 Iron Block w VAC motorsports sump baffle
    Stainless headers and exhaust - meant to be similar to the Fritz M50 system, BUT Longlife in Surrey had to remap the down pipes since the fitment was awful - 4"+ gap between system and the car!
    ZF Box rebuilt by Allgears w CGMotorsport hybrid half paddle clutch & UUC shifter (a bit grabby, but not too bad...was getting slip with the E30 M20 item with the previous M52)
    Mishimoto Radiator (which also needed entire new cooling system, sigh)
    3.25 M3 LSD w M Coupe diff cover

    Note - the Clio servo changes the E30 braking HUGELY for the better...would strongly recommend to anyone

    16" Sport Evo basketweaves w Yoko A048
    Long range tank fitted
    Sparco strut brace repainted
    e46 sport rack fitted to replace the Z3 rack with play
    Tarox Discs and Pads (+ pagid blues/bmw pads for road)
    E30 M3 sport Evo springs (Bilsteins + Eibach roll bars) - ride height is a little high but I love the extra clearance especially in London.

    Next plans include fixing fuel leak from the new long range tank, going on the dyno + a remap, then a track day shake down at Bedford or Brands Indy once the weather warms up...then hoping for a big Euro road trip in spring.

    Future upgrades - I want a lower diff, I have an 2.93 to go on but need the LSD unit and will likely rebuild w 40% lock. Bigger brakes will likely be needed - does anyone have experience w Massive Brakes (Lee) in Canada? Unsure if I want to go to a Wilwood caliper though for the street. I'll also likely pick up a set of H&R Race springs when I'm in the US but don't need them in a hurry given London roads. A full BTB system would be nice if I ever win the lottery...

    And then...hopefully just enjoy the fucking thing!



    333i Sport - Alpina M52 3.3, E30 M3 5 Stud


    • #3's been a looong time since updates, I just had a re-read through my thread and found it funny to see my thinking at the thought I would update this so when I check in again in another two years I can do the same...

      I haven't had an update as I moved to New York for work and have been there the last couple of years, so the E30 has been in storage somewhere (my mates dropped it off...genuinely don't know where it is). I think the last job was changing spark plugs (see new v old) and getting a dyno run (with an infuriating issue of a misfire around 6K RPM). I did a track day at Bedford which was a laugh. I put E30 M3 springs on there to deal with London speed bumps better...check the body roll. Pretty much been on ice since then...I'd love to chop up the S50 manifold I have with BTB and make a better exhaust system, a re-build of the brakes is needed, and a tiny bit of rust left to tidy up with an inner arch (I think I got one of the last ones, although they may have come back into production). Maybe a full engine rebuild needed as there is some oil consumption. And the long range fuel tank...has been a bit of a PITA as I think there is leak still, but need more time to diagnose. Defiinitely leaning much towards keeping it pretty much as it is for the forseeable...would be nice to get some use out of it at some point I guess...

      Present day - I'm debating getting an MTech 1 Sport if it doesn't need too much work and keeping it far more standard, leave the M20 and refresh bits and pieces....TBC! I kinda miss something simple and cheap...although E30 doesn't really qualify as that these days.

      Old V New Plugs

      Dyno Vid

      Dyno Graph

      Body Roll Series

      ell - with Covid lockdown I decided to get the car out of storage as I've been working in New York for the past two years. I had a few odd jobs and figured it'd be handy to have a car given the current situation, so pulled her out and took her for an MOT.

      With my mate's's chipped to around 400 hp I think, the E30 is pretty similar till the end of 4th

      Upon getting home from the MOT, we promptly got here:

      The plan was to re-build the brakes as the right front was sticking a little, strip and paint them and install the brass bushes. Now I had been running E30 M3 springs that were comfy...but way too soft, especially w the M52 iron block up front. Coincidentally, the Turner Motorsport J-Stock springs have gotten back into production, so I figured it may be worth a gamble to see if they are OK for the road. The custom valved front shock is available from TMS but I had to use the Motorsport Bilstein (I think they have Group N valving) for the rear. I also decided to switch to the 22mm/19mm Suspension Technique's sway bars as well while I was there (away from the Eibach which I think was 20mm/16mm).

      This was an accidental match...

      And back in one piece after an oil service! After switching the wheel studs for wheel bolts and getting the centre caps on for the first time in many years. I like the ride height (the extra spring stiffness keeps it at a good height), there's no rubbing with the 224/45R16's and while it's fairly stiff, it's not too bad for the road, so I'm fairly pleased. Oh and the brakes work which is a plus. My only niggle is that the front may be a touch too high (I've used a 2nd top thicker spring pad on the bottom) but I have no clearance issues to date.

      Next plans - I'm very very tempted to go BTB with the S50 manifolds as I've never been happy with any of the M52 exhausts I've had. It may be her 30th birthday present. Probably needs a new battery in the near future (my jump pack has been a life saver)...and I wouldn't mind getting the Massive Rallye kit with 6pot Willwoods front and 4pot rears (overkill for the road and I don't think I can use the Sport Evo wheels unless I have a spacer) but am going to try enjoy it and fix a few bits and pieces like a light fuel leak and noisy fan. TBH the long range fuel tank is more of a PITA than it's worth so that may need to go. I am thinking to pick up a set of Pagid Yellows if I can get a track day lined up in June,

      Will be nice to actually use her for the first time in a while - I'd be keen to go round a track if anyone knows of any coming up (MSV is sold out across the board pretty much, very keen to go round Donington).

      333i Sport - Alpina M52 3.3, E30 M3 5 Stud


      • #4
        So to current day - I have the S50 Manifolds and full BTB system and it's much better than the previous system. Much better volume, drone and tone. Taking the injectors out for cleaning next week and then mostly done.

        The M52 conversion is a tough one - the power is great, but it's taken SO much faff to get to a point where I am happy with it and it's driving to a factory standard. The E30 M3 brakes are great. Turner J Stock is probably a bit too stiff for the street so will likely go to H&R Sport after the track. I have some H&R Races too just in case they are too soft. The Auxiliary fuel tank is a PITA to fill so trying to find solutions there. I wish I could get the leather re-done to a point that is factory, I really like the blue leather but it's just old. And E30's are getting harder to work with as parts are pretty rare. Getting the rust fixed felt GOOD. May need another round in the future as there is two bubbles, one in the rear right arch and then near the windscreen. But I want to focus on using them - I hate seeing project cars that get stalled and stuck and run out of's far, far more fun to be out there using them. It's a bit too easy to start obessing over bits and pieces - not to forget that there's real life to attend to as well. And ordering parts in the states is SO much easier and cheaper than the UK.

        I'd like an E30 M3 but I just don't think it's worth it now they are nearly Porsche money...they are lovely but I don't see them as being super special. Still...wide arches.

        Next Project: I have my eye on an MTech 1 Sport that I found locally. It's auto, but it's not very very tempted. Planning to check it out tomorrow. Unsure if I want to get into the painful spiral of having another car (that I don't need). But then - spare E30. And I really like the idea of a mostly standard car that just works (although getting it to that point will be TOUGH. And a 2.8/9 + BTB beckons...).

        Anyway, thanks for reading, if anyone has any questions on anything I've done happy to give my thoughts.


        333i Sport - Alpina M52 3.3, E30 M3 5 Stud


        • #5
          And the final update as of 1 July 2020 - I decided to bite the bullet and treat the old girl to the BTB S50 manifold and system, it's really nice and a tiny bit quieter. I had the car round Donington Monday and they sent some pics which I've put below. Quite like the one with the BMW banner across the track!

          I switched the front spring pads for the thinner ones and used Pagid Yellows (RS29 I think) and they lasted the whole day pretty well...I'll change them back to stock as have some longer trips coming up. I'm also going to put H&R Sport springs in with the old Bilsteins. The J-Stocks handle very well but they are a little stiff for the road.

          Had a slight issue on the day with the alternator making some nasty noises and not putting out full volts, so luckily there was a replacement nearby so got that in and took it a little easier and was trouble free for the rest of the day. Funny how the E36/46 is now considered an old car! Was tough to find. Although did have some grumbling towards the end on left handers, but it could have been rubber on the track. Will check wheel bearings, etc. when I change the springs (3rd time in a month, ugh). I've also got the injectors out and off to Injectortune for cleaning. Hoping to get her on a dyno and do some mapping and have a feeling they might be maxed out...the never ending story. Will probably be my last track day for a while, it's a big commitment and a never ending cycle of fixing things.

          The delrin rear shifter arm bushing had gone walkabout, so managed to get some heater hose to make a makeshift bushing while the one from BMW arrives from Germany. 10mm from Halfords - it actually fits spot on. Also need to diagnose the reverse light and passenger side wing mirror wiring which I'm not looking forward to. Then get the ECU mounting sorted and give her a proper wash and wax...then hopefully nothing for a while. Fingers also thinking to try some dynamat behind the front tweeter pods to try and reduce some of the wind noise (if that's even possible).

          After seeing a thread on R3V ( I bought a 2nd hand pump and one day when I'm feeling brave will re-build and clean up the spare to switch over. Should be an interesting project. Probably a massive pain in the arse like everything else. Would love to re-do the seats or get some comfy buckets but I'm trying to give cars a break for a wee while. If I can that is.


          333i Sport - Alpina M52 3.3, E30 M3 5 Stud


          • Sean
            Sean commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks for sharing. Great read!

        • #6
          What a great read! Thanks for sharing. You have had some epic adventures with that car. Particularly the drive through the night to hit the bar at 4a and watch the sun come up on the beach, that's an experience that sticks with you.

          Silver over blue leather, what a color combo. I'm a big fan of interesting interiors (red, blue, cloth, weird patterns, anything but beige or silver).

          I know it's "easy for me to say" but I wouldn't bother going after an M3 at this point. Your car is faster and uses M3 footwork anyway, and it looks very cool in its own way with the M-Tech fascia and features. I've actually never driven any E30 that wasn't an M3, but if they all have this handling and steering feel - I bet they do, especially with a 1.9 Z rack - I don't think you're missing anything but the wide arches and the Instagram clout. Speaking of which, do you have one? I'd love to follow along. Thanks for sharing and injecting a bit of life into the forum, I am trying to do the same with my thread!
          1989 Lachs
          1988 Lachs - sold
          1988 DS - sold
          Car blog
          Bay Area M3 FB group


          • #7
            I really like the interior - I would love to re-do it, but debating if I put a fixed back in there, get the standard re-done (with someone I KNOW does a great job), or get a spare set of E30 sport seats and re-done something funky, or something like the Recaro Orthoped....

            I tend to agree on the M3 point...still...if the right opportunity arose! My insta is JungleGus...not a big user and not much car content though!

            Over the last week and a bit, the missus and I took a trip to France since lockdown has eased (and getting it done before the next one). We went Paris > Lyon > Cannes > St Maxime > Gordes > Roussilon > Lyon > Reims and home. Had a spectacular time and the car went (mostly) flawlessly - aside from a fuel pump soldering incident on the side of the A2 20 mins in (note to self...never faff with things that work the day before leaving on a trip) and the fan resistor going day 1 (great for days when it hit 36 degrees C and no air-con) along with the windscreen washer valve failing (sub 5 years old is my guess). Some spectacular drives (over the Alps Grenoble to Cannes via Red Rock Road was absolutely incredible) and it was a great chance to get some use out of the car and see a few car birthdays (177,777 miles and very nearly to 180,000).

            The to-do list has now going to replace a few bits and pieces to make her a bit more road friendly (dual mass flywheel and M3 clutch, higher ratio LSD) and some preventative maintenance like wheel bearings, but it was a lovely chance to enjoy the car and make use of the E30 boot for wine on the way home! It's also really surprising - I saw very, very few interesting cars out and about on the road. Cannes had it's usually quota of tossers but apart from that I think I only saw a couple pre-90s cars on the roads (Porsche 928, one 964).

            - final stop

            Before the trip I got up to DervTech in Manchester since James there has some experience with Alpina 3.3' was finally nice to get her running properly (started with similar to a US M3 Map) and it's running much less lean...we got some nice power and torque. Still a bit more to come on standard injectors, so looking to fit an Alpina manifold with the larger 540/740 throttle body which should give 10hp or so and saves the faff involved with ITBs. James was super knowledgeable and a helpful guy knowing all the pecularities...would recommend him for any M52 based tuning (and more)


            333i Sport - Alpina M52 3.3, E30 M3 5 Stud