200bhp M52TUB28 engined 2.8 wide-body BMW 328i Coupe E30
When Polish panel wizard Michael Fox decided to build a stand-out demo car to promote his new bodyshop, this cunning engine-swapped, wide-arch E30 was the radical result.
Thinking Outside the Fox
With its dazzling candy red paint, massive arches and 2.8-swap, this extreme E30 is a serious show-stopping build.
Blue sky thinking, brainstorming, thinking outside the box. These may all be the most lamentable clichés of the marketing world, but when it comes to getting customer eyeballs on your product or business, it really does pay to do something different. And when Polish bodywork specialist, Michael Fox (@fox. garage), moved to Basildon to open up his own bodyshop, he knew he needed something with real wow factor to get his clients chomping at the bit.
“I’ve always been a fan of BMWs, especially the E30 generation – there’s just something about the shape that appeals to me – and I’ve owned a string of them in the past,” says the 34-year-old panel perfectionist. “I’d love a genuine E30 M3 one day, but the prices have just gone stratospheric, so that might have to stay a dream, at least for now.”
And he’s not wrong. The average price for a good, original condition E30 M3 is verging on six figures these days, which is well out of reach of most of us mere mortals. But not one to give up on his dreams too lightly, Michael had a plan. Rather than simply lusting over the brawny boxarched motorsport icon from afar, he simply thought outside the box and concocted a plan to build his own wide-arched wonder, which in turn would be the perfect advertisement for his skills.
“I was inspired by a mixture of different builds that I’d seen on Facebook, Pinterest and various internet forums,” he says.
“But it was some of the E30 projects I’d seen from the US, in particular, that really sparked my imagination, and I knew I wanted to build my car in a similar vein.” With the concept fresh in his mind, Michael wasted no time finding a suitable donor vehicle for his monstrous mash-up, and a standard black 1988 E30 318i soon found its way into the unit of his fledgling business. “The car was in pretty good condition, and I contemplated just giving it a refresh and selling it on, but as soon as I stripped it down, I knew this would make the perfect base for the demo car,” says Michael.
With the car now little more than a bare shell, Michael ordered what would become one of the most eye-catching aspects of the build, the Pandem-style widearch kit from Cardiff-based Byba Kits. “I’d seen other E30s with the Pandem kit and thought it looked so aggressive, I had to have one on my build,” grins Michael. “So as soon as it was ordered, I got straight to work with the angle grinder cutting out the original arches to make way for the wider bolt-on over arches.” Even though it’s a replica kit, the fit and finish look excellent, which for such an extreme conversion is a testament not just to the build quality of the kit but to Michael’s bodywork skills, too. The swollen quarters add 50mm to each side at the front and a whopping 70mm to each side at the rear, transforming the mild-mannered E30 into a steroidal bruiser of a build.
“As well as the four arches, you also get the ducktail rear spoiler, side skirts, spats and a deeper front chin spoiler as part of the kit,” explains Michael. “It’s a beast of a kit, but I wanted to add my own touches to it, too, so I made a custom front splitter and rear diffuser and added some cutouts into the bonnet to show off different parts of the engine.” A modification which brings us nicely onto the car’s rather unique powerplant.
Peek through the precisioncut Perspex windows, and you’ll notice that this is not the 1.8-litre mill that the car originally came with but a much beefier 2.8-litre unit sourced from a more modern E46 328i. “After I completed the E30’s full respray in Candy Red, I bought a complete E46 328i as a donor vehicle for the project,” Michael tells us. “I then set about cannibalising it for the various parts I needed for the E30 build.”
Starting with the engine, which was diligently stripped and rebuilt with new OEM parts to ensure peak performance and reliability from his transplanted motor, Michael set about customising the E46’s engine mounts to install the new lump in the E30’s immaculately presented engine bay. “Installing the new engine required the use of a sump and oil pump from an E34 525i, as the shape and depth of the original E46 sump meant it wouldn’t fit in the E30’s bay,” Michael explains. “The engine swap itself isn’t actually that difficult if you know what you’re doing, but it was made much harder due to the fact I was petrified about scratching the fresh Candy Red paint!”
The 328’s five-speed gearbox followed suit and was soon hooked up to the refreshed and painted motor. An E30 324 turbodiesel propshaft then connected the opposite end to the original 318 differential, which Michael had welded to ensure plenty of bum-out antics, as the 318 item was too long.
“As much as this is a demo vehicle to show what we can do at the garage, it’s also a car that I’m using as my daily driver, and I wanted to have some fun in it,” grins Michael. “The only real power-adding modifications to the engine are an induction kit and the custom de-cat exhaust system, so it’s only running around 200hp. But, combined with the light weight of the stripped E30 shell and the welded diff, it’s actually a proper weapon that loves to drift!” And when your rear tyres are whopping 255-section Nitto Extremes wrapped around 11” wide rims, that’s some feat!
“The wheels are a set of 17” steelies from a Vauxhall Insignia,” laughs the master mechanic. “I sent them off to Banded Steels Essex to have them banded to 11” at the rear and 9” at the front and then painted them in satin black. They are a very unique look that suits the aggressive nature of the car and fills the bloated arches perfectly.”
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that these particular rims are five-stud items, whereas the E30 318 originally came with four stud hubs… “To give me a better choice of wheels, I switched the suspension and brakes to E46 items at the front and E36 323i Compact units at the rear,” says Michael of his mashed-up masterpiece. “Not only did this give me the five-stud hubs I needed, but also allowed me to ditch the original rear drum brakes for a much more suitable disc and caliper setup.” Both the front and rear also benefit from uprated and lowered springs, with the fronts running a fully adjustable coilover setup. A brake booster from a Vauxhall Omega was also drafted in due to its more compact size affording it a better fit in the engine bay.
The final E46 items to be re-homed in Michael’s mental E30 were the more modern motor’s seats. “I wanted an aggressive and motorsport-inspired interior to match the exterior,” Michael recalls. “But because I also daily the car, I wanted comfy seats too, so mixed the OEM E46 items with a flocked dashboard and fully custom fabricated roll-cage.” Along with the stripped-out rear bench, deeply-dished racing steering wheel and the addition of a hydraulic handbrake, the E30’s interior is perfectly suited to the task at hand, providing its pilot with a cockpit that allows Michael to enjoy his radical ride in exactly the way he intended. “I’m really happy with how the car has turned out,” he beams.
“And I am looking forward to attending as many shows as possible over the summer months, not only to be able to enjoy driving the car but also to show off the skills of the business.”
But if you thought this was the end of the road for the project, you’d be sorely mistaken. Michael let slip his plan for the car in the future, which includes another engine swap, but this time to an M62 4.4-litre V8 from an X5. “I’ll probably just keep evolving the car over time,” he shrugs. “The V8 would transform it though, and give it the kind of power and soundtrack that the wild bodywork really deserves!”
And after spending the day in the presence of Michael and his mental machine, we can only imagine what that would be like! What we can imagine, however, is that it will be carried out with the same kind of effortless enthusiasm and out-of-the-box thinking that makes this E30 such an impressive piece of automotive engineering.
This E30 is all about making a big impact and having fun with it.
The swollen quarters add 50mm to each side at the front and a whopping 70mm to each side at the rear, transforming the mildmannered E30 into a steroidal bruiser of a build
Jack Daniel’s screenwash reservoir bottle – because why not?!
Peek through the precision-cut Perspex windows, and you’ll notice that this is not the 1.8- litre mill that the car originally came with but a much beefier 2.8-litre unit sourced from a more modern E46 328i
Interior features E46 front seats and a custom roll-cage The wheels are 17” banded steels from a Vauxhall Insignia.
it was some of the E30 projects I’d seen from the US, in particular, that really sparked my imagination, and I knew I wanted to build my car in a similar vein
Custom quad exhaust system gives this E30 an awesome soundtrack
TECHNICAL DATA 200bhp M52TUB28 engined 2.8 wide-body BMW 328i Coupe E30
- ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 2.8-litre six-cylinder M52TUB28 from E46 328i, E34 525i oil sump and oil pump, customised E46 328i engine mounts, E30 324td radiator with electric fan, induction kit with cone filter, Jack Daniel’s bottle screenwash reservoir, full custom de-cat quad-tailpipe exhaust system. Five-speed manual gearbox and clutch from E46 328i, E30 324td propshaft, E30 318i welded differential
- MAX POWER: Approx. 200hp
- CHASSIS: 9x17” (front) and 11x17” (rear) 5x120 Vauxhall Insignia banded steel wheels painted satin black with 235/45 Pirelli (front) and 255/40 Nitto Extreme ZR (rear) tyres, five-stud hub conversion, E46 328i front suspension arms customised to fit, E46 328i steering rack, E46 front coilovers, E36 323i Compact rear suspension with custom springs and sports dampers, E46 328i 300mm Brembo vented brake discs and pads (front), E36 323i Compact 270mm discs and Brembo pads (rear), hydraulic handbrake, Vauxhall Omega brake booster
- EXTERIOR: Full respray in Candy Red, Byba Kits Pandemstyle wide-body kit including front splitter and rear lip spoiler, custom rear diffuser, Perspex windows cut into bonnet
- INTERIOR: E46 328i half-leather seats, racing steering wheel, custom weld-in roll-cage, rear seats removed, flocked dashboard, 8-ball gear knob
- THANKS I’d like to say thank you to my brother-in-law Michal Szymanski who was my right-handman throughout this project, also Banded Steels Essex for the amazing job they did with my wheels, and Byba Kits for supplying the awesome wide-body kit