October 6, 2022

The BMW E30 convertible has lengthy been admired; however this BMW E30 with an S54 engine and SMG paddle-shift from an E46 M3 has received us just a little scorching beneath the collar…

Function from Efficiency BMW. Images: Wealthy Pearce.

Jap Bloc motoring has been the butt of many a joke over time, and this has all the time been a tad unfair. In any case, Russian automobiles are among the hardest machines ever constructed, for 2 key causes: firstly, they should be engineered to be dependable and usable in some terribly tough climate situations whereas working on a patchy provide of gasoline of wavering high quality. And secondly, there’s an ingrained nationwide notion that there’s no such factor as an unfixable automotive, so once they break down or get crashed or what-have-you, they want to have the ability to be mended with huge hammers and swearing. The three-box Lada particularly (or, because it was badged in its home market, the VAZ) should be hailed by posterity as one thing of a hero.

You see, that rickety battler primarily planted the seed that grew into the startlingly speedy E30 drop-top you see right here. How so? Its proprietor and creator, József Kiss, had a Russian-market Lada 1200 as his first automotive. “It had a really weak engine, but it surely was rear-wheel-drive,” he explains. And that element is essential… as a result of the passion for being propelled from behind, together with a zeal for extra energy, created the logical stepping stones towards the magnificent E30 we now have flexing on the seashore for us proper now.

At present, József’s ardour for rear-driven efficiency has led him a good distance down that exact path, as he runs his personal enterprise, Kiss Motor Works (@kissmotorworks), endeavor all the pieces from restoring traditional BMWs to constructing and modifying M automobiles from a naked shell by to the completed product.

“I’ve been all in favour of BMWs since I used to be a child,” he says. “I really like German automobiles and engineering, and likewise how simply we are able to swap elements between the BMW fashions so I could make a automotive simply the way in which I need it.” E30s have all the time been a selected favorite, ever since he used to observe a pal of his racing them, who then helped József purchase one in every of his personal – a 1984 323i. A number of years down the road, he discovered himself constructing a 325iX Sport Touring with an S54 engine, and you’ll think about simply what an animal that was with an M3 motor and all-wheel-drive. Sadly that automotive needed to be offered, but it surely actually lit a hearth in József’s affections, realizing how efficient and entertaining it may be to place bigger-brother energy into this endlessly prepared chassis. And having by no means owned an E30 Convertible earlier than, it appeared like the plain selection for the subsequent set of adventures!

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BMW E30 with S54 Engine

The drop-top ’80s 3 Collection is a automotive that actually got here into being by sheer pressure of will; a convertible model of the E30 was by no means initially supposed to exist, and when the mannequin launched as a spread of saloons and estates, wind-in-the-hair motoring appeared on no official Bavarian flipchart. Nevertheless, suspecting that there could also be a distinct segment demand for a soft-top after the success of the roof-scythed E21, BMW commissioned Karrosserie Baur to develop one as an choice, changing the primary roof pores and skin with canvas. When it grew to become obvious that an open E30 was one thing the general public actually needed, BMW’s personal engineers cracked out the can-openers quick-smart and crafted one thing elegant and complicated, a full convertible. This, because it turned out, was an absolute belter of an thought, and the issues offered like scorching muffins; there may be nonetheless a good quantity round in the marketplace at this time, though it’s honest to say the standard can range fairly dramatically.

The automotive József lined up within the crosshairs for this challenge was discovered at a salvage public sale in Southampton again in 2016; the chassis was fairly stable and the engine was working, albeit slightly smokily. The physique had some areas of corrosion to think about although, and the paint was fairly horrible, plus the leather-based seats had been all ripped to hell. Very a lot a challenge then, however he knew from the off what was going to occur with this construct. Properly, form of.

BMW E30 with S54 Engine

“I had a plan from the beginning, though I wasn’t precisely positive what it was,” he laughs. “I knew I needed to repair the physique and paintwork, and for positive I needed to show it into one thing particular. At the moment, I had a 2002 E46 M3 SMG Convertible, and I began interested by making this drivetrain work in an E30.” And with that madcap thought scratched within the sand, it grew to become one thing that simply needed to occur.

“I stripped the automotive utterly again to the naked shell,” József continues, “after which I needed to do the wiring loom for the engine and gearbox. I wanted to do all this as a result of I needed to make use of the SMG gearbox. My plan was to make use of the E30 chassis loom and a part of the E46 loom collectively, however I ended up with too many wires within the chassis – so I took out the E30 wiring and changed it with an entire E46 M3 chassis loom. Clearly, I eliminated all of the wires that weren’t vital for the E30, and when all the pieces was examined and dealing, I moved on to modifying the suspension and brakes,” he says.

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As you’d hope of an clever engineer, he wasn’t simply going to drop an E46 M3 motor on this older cabby and cross his fingers – this was a holistic challenge from the outset, and the chassis must be comprehensively beefed up. József set about adapting a full braking system from an E46 M3 to suit the E30 platform, using E36 M3 Evo entrance hubs and decrease arms, together with a set of absolutely adjustable E36 HSD coilovers.

“I needed to modify the entrance subframe to maintain the unique sump, that was the primary problem,” he says. “The rear finish is from an E36 Compact. I needed to maintain the engine in factory-standard type, so the one modification is the diff – it’s a 188mm medium-case eight-clutch LSD with 45% locking and a 3.91 ratio for faster acceleration. Oh, and some mods to the exhaust manifold and velocity stacks for the throttle our bodies to make extra noise!”

BMW E30 with S54 Engine

With the swap to E36 M3 entrance hubs and Compact rear finish, the PCD was modified from 4×100 to five×120 to permit a wider breadth of wheel choices, and József in the end opted for a set of staggered BBS Type 5 split-rims of the kind discovered on the E31 8 Collection. These had been sourced by a mate in London, then shipped out to Poland for a full refurb with new bolts, sprucing, portray of the centres and modified aluminium centre caps. The selection of OEM+ wheels was a wise one, because the evolution of the challenge had made József more and more eager to pursue an aesthetic of stealth, creating one thing that would feasibly have been constructed by BMW themselves. With the rust eradicated and the physique perfected, the shell was repainted in its unique manufacturing facility shade of Diamond black (a process carried out by a very good pal in Hungary; it was such a painstaking and fastidious job that it took over a month), earlier than being adorned with an unique M Tech 1 physique equipment and BBS rear valance.

This astounding consideration to element continues by the inside, the place we discover a set of Recaros from an E30 M3 Sport Evo. “These had been so exhausting to search out,” says József. “I finally tracked a pair down in Birmingham, and we despatched the entire inside to Poland for a retrim. I fitted the E46 M3 speedometer, but it surely was smaller than the unique, so I needed to make some modifications to attain the right manufacturing facility look. All of the switches are from the E46 M3, with 3D-printed surrounds to tastefully combine them, and the handbrake and equipment knob are additionally 3D-printed. All of this was designed and printed on my own.”

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BMW E30 with S54 Engine

Maybe the good component of the inside is the customized steering wheel. With the entire automotive having an M Tech 1 type, it made sense to have the steering wheel to match, so József discovered a ratty previous one and had it retrimmed to match all the brand new leather-based, then cunningly wired in a set of paddle-shifters to manage the SMG transmission. And that’s not one thing you see in a BMW E30 every single day.

“It took me two years to complete it, after which my dream automotive got here true,” he smiles. “I simply love having that engine with the SMG gearbox within the E30, it makes the automotive a lot enjoyable to drive. Wonderful engine noise, and with the higher-ratio diff, it’s fairly aggressive.” He’s received just a few extra plans after all as a result of these items are by no means actually completed, after which there’s the subsequent challenge within the pipeline, an E46 M3 to be fitted with a V10 and DCT ’field. That previous Lada undoubtedly has lots to reply for – it began József off down a righteous path, and people early hankerings for extra energy have spiralled into one thing splendidly chaotic. BMWs which are insanely highly effective and more durable than Ladas – for a sure area of interest of lovers, there’s no extra stirring dream than that.

Tech Spec: BMW E30 with S54 engine

Engine & Transmission:

3.2-litre straight-six S54B32, twin 2.25” stainless-steel Scorpion exhaust. Getrag 420G E46 M3 six-speed SMG II, 188mm medium-case eight-clutch LSD with 45% locking and three.91 last drive


8×17” (entrance) and 9×17” (rear) BBS Type 5 wheels with 205/40 (entrance) and 215/40 (rear) tyres, modified entrance subframe, E36 M3 Evo entrance hubs and decrease arms, E36 Compact rear finish, E36 HSD absolutely adjustable coilovers, E46 M3 brake conversion


Restored and repainted in unique Diamond black, M Tech 1 physique equipment, BBS rear valance


E30 M3 Sport Evo entrance seats, customized M Tech 1 paddle-shift steering wheel, E46 M3 gauges, E46 M3 switches with 3D-printed surrounds, customized 3D-printed gear knob and handbrake