This Student-Built, SEMA 2018-Bound E30-Generation BMW M3 Packs the Engine of a 2018 M3
Honest Assembly dropped in a 425-hp engine from the F80 M3 into what’s arguably the greatest sports compact of all time. The result? Magic.
Tuners have been tinkering with the BMW 3 Series since the original was launched more than three decades ago. In the years since, however, the E30-generation has become the aftermarket industry's wet dream. Over time, that trend has escalated beyond endless modifications into the heady realm of engine swaps, whether they be Chevy LS-derived or sourced from the Bavarian company's own parts bin.
Yet as a group of volunteer students have displayed with the handbuilt Bimmer seen below, there's still plenty room for ingenuity in the BMW game. For the 2018 SEMA show, Honest Assembly—a steadfast student group whose buttons get pushed by speed—created a Bavarian chimera: a drivable E30 M3 with the unfamiliar heart of a torched F80 M-car.
Replacing the original 2.3-liter four-cylinder is a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged inline-six that musters up 425 horsepower, which is a heaping spoonful when you factor in the classic 3er's low curb weight. In true purist fashion, It sends that power to a manual transmission—even if this build might not necessarily resonate with the purist crowd.
One thing that will hit home with traditionalists, however, is the amount of work it took to build this SEMA-bound Bimmer. A separate donor car was needed to pile together the essential bits missing from the E30 M3 base vehicle; likewise, transferring the power plant over was no easy feat, given that the modern BMW it came from had died a fiery death. Extensive fabrication, body work, and down-home resourcefulness quickly became a theme with the car. Thanks to the help of dedicated mentors and serious work ethic from the crew, even the most complicated jobs were exceptionally sorted with precision.
Dynamic platform modifications come courtesy of Motion Control Suspension, while Forgeline wheels are wrapped in sticky tires to translate the added power to the tarmac. Other high-performance parts from companies such as CSF Radiators help to keep the newly installed S55B30-code engine happy and making peak power without losing reliability. Once the drivetrain, cabin, and exterior were all buttoned together, the crew designed a CRC Auto-themed livery, as a throwback to the rad '80s era in which the E30 was born.
In all, this project took Honest Assembly around 11 months to complete after stripping the car down to a bare chassis in 2017. It's this culmination of effort and time that earned the crew a spot in the SEMA Battle of the Builders contest, a special running for grassroots customizers who take on the big-budget operations at the country's largest aftermarket motor show.
The build process will be documented by The Drive in an upcoming video series which highlights the details of Honest Assembly's journey from blank slate to finished product, all ending in Las Vegas during the 2018 SEMA week. Stay tuned.