Father to Son: Modifying your Dad’s old BMW

Beneath this sober exterior beats the heart of a monster...

Drive Cult finds a BMW E30 3-Series with a difference.

The unassuming black BMW in the photograph above belongs to an American named Ryan Kenaley. His father purchased this 1989 E30 BMW 325is in 1992, his first BMW. As seems to be the way in America, by the time Ryan was graduating college the car had made its way into his ownership. Ryan had got hooked on the car early in his driving career when he drove it to and from high school, and I'm sure that in those formative years while cruising with his mates in his Dad's Beemer, the seeds of the dream that has blossomed into this reality were sown.

Over the last couple of years, his inherited piece of Bavaria has undergone some serious work. Mostly conducted at weekends and with the help of family and friends, Ryan has transformed this elegent old-school coupe into something altogether more terrifying. Out has gone the old 2.5L engine, and in its place a monster M30B35 12v 3.5L straight-six motor from a 1991 BMW 535i has been fitted. Ryan pulled the engine out of the donor 5-Series, then broke up the rest of the car and sold it as parts, which netted him more cash than it had cost as a complete vehicle!

E30 engine with turbo and M60 throttle bodyHowever, simply having a bigger engine wasn't enough. Once it was in place under the bonnet, it was time to extract a little more power out of it. One of the traditional methods of getting extra horses from a BMW engine is to fit an oversized throttle body from another BMW engine, so Ryan fitted an M60 throttle body. That still wasn't going to give the kind of power increase that Ryan had in mind; cue the arrival of an HX40 turbocharger unit from a 5.9 Cummins diesel... 

Of course, none of these parts are designed to fit together, so Ryan drafted in his brother to lend a hand. Luckily, his brother is rather handy with a grinder and a welding torch, so they set about fabricating the parts needed to get it all to work. Everything was put together in a package that would give the shortest spool time possible, to avoid the kind of epic turbo lag that you might expect from a stonking great single turbocharger.

The final element that's being worked on at the moment is the rear section of the new, custom-fabricated 4" straight-through exhaust. Apparently the present system is a little hard on the ears, since it currently exits directly under the driver's seat!

And the result of all this madness? Well, in full tune the engine is reportedly good for 550bhp at the rear wheels, in a car that weighs in at a mere 1100kg. Even in its current road-going state, running a mere 17psi of boost, it's still churning out over 400bhp...

Having a 1989 3-Series with a power-to-weight ratio that trumps virtually every modern supercar going might be enough for some, but Ryan's not finished with the car just yet. He already has a methanol injection kit ready to install, along with some higher profile cams. I'm not even sure if I even want to know his target output with that setup!

But what if it all gets too much for a 22 year-old car? Ever the pragmatist, Ryan says "Of course, if it blows up, there's always the option of building an engine up with forged parts. Though, my brother will kill me if I needed his help on that!"

Now there's a man after our own hearts.