The E30 is a true icon of German engineering and performance. As the years pass by, the prices continue to climb it seems and more enthusiasts want to get their hands on one. To this day I still miss mine, wish I never got rid of it.
Enter a team of students @honestassembly on IG and a garage that can’t even fit two cars in it, daring to do what seemed impossible — swapping the current-generation S55 M3 motor into an E30 M3. Purists and collectors alike scoff at anyone that removes the S14 engine, but the performance is so worth it.
The E30 M3 came from the factory with 200hp out of a four-cylinder. At first, that may not sound too impressive but think back to the time they developed this motor, along with its size, it’s incredible. This motor is on par with the performance of the Honda K20 motor. Still, 200hp is nothing compared to the new S55 engine, and the team decided why not combine the two.
With motor swaps, most builders use the drivetrain and some engine wiring, and that’s about it. This group of college kids, however, wanted to take this build to the next level. Instead of getting separate gauges and being able only to monitor a few vitals, they decided to take the entire working F80 cluster and adapt it to the E30 dash. Keep in mind not only are they the first to do this motor swap, but also were tackling the cluster and chassis wiring as well.
Speaking of confined space, taking the motor out of a much larger F80 chassis and putting it into the E30 chassis was not for the faint of heart. Although the engine did look at home inside the bay, it was an extremely tight fit. With such space constraints, the cooling system had to be the best that it could be.
The CSF Race High-Performance Charge Cooler (CSF #8082) is a familiar sight with many S55 builds, the ultimate weapon against heat, .
Let’s face it, many modern motors generate a lot of heat and are aluminum blocks. Thankfully there are many fail safes to prevent the block from being warped, but still there is an increased risk when that same motor has 2 turbos attached to it. On top of that the space its mounted in is smaller than before, this further increases potential engine bay heat.
The CSF TOP MOUNT DUAL-PASS CHARGE-AIR-COOLER (CSF #8082) is by far the best unit on the market to keep temperatures down. Not only is this unit drop in OEM fitment with no modification required, but the core it uses is also 60% larger than the stock unit. On top of that, being a dual pass cross flow unit, instead of the stock single pass vertical flow, it keeps the coolant in longer to make sure that intake air temps are as low as possible.
There is another piece to the puzzle of cooling the air though, and that is the heat exchanger. Since CSF was already signed on to the build. The group decided on also using the CSF FRONT MOUNT HEAT EXCHANGER (CSF #8075) rather than the OEM unit that was in the donor car. Being a highly efficient 2-row core equipped with CSF’s exclusive B-Tube technology, the upgraded CSF unit can maintain the coolant temperatures much lower compared to the stock OEM single-row unit.
Restoring a car is one thing, sourcing new parts and retrofitting is another. The stock E30 dash is flawless, the displays all work and on top of that a factory Nakamichi tape deck was sourced to finish off the complete package. With a classic combo of Alpine White exterior paint and Red Nappa leather OEM seats, this car still has the soul of the E30 from almost 30 years ago.
This OEM+ build has taken a 1 crashed f80, a normal e30 and a lifeless e30 m3 and used the best parts of all 3. The fresh paint, the immaculate interior and the S55 motor make the car even better than it was before. Other than the livery and engine swap, this car still looks like a stock e30 m3.
On top of that, it was entered into the SEMA Battle of the Builders and reached the top 12!
In my opinion, it’s the perfect M3.