250bhp BMW 328i Coupe E30 2.8 M52

250bhp BMW 328i Coupe E30 2.8 M52

Having had the chance to buy back the E30 from his teenage years, the owner of this stunning machine embarked on a four-year project to turn it into the classic 3 Series of his dreams.


Words: Elizabeth de Latour

Photos: Jason Dodd


2.8 M52 E30FANTASTIC THREE

Red Letter Day

BMW 328i Coupe E30 2.8 M52

The owner of this E30 got to buy back his teenage purchase as an adult and transformed it into an epic 2.8 build.



250bhp BMW 328i Coupe E30 2.8 M52


We can’t get enough of the E30 – it is arguably the classic 3 Series icon. It’s the one that everyone loves, the one everyone wants, and at a time when BMW’s design philosophy seems to be going off the rails and entering its most controversial period yet, looking at an E30 is like being wrapped up in a warm, cosy blanket. It’s comforting, a hit of serotonin when you need it most, a car that reminds you of a happier past, or perhaps makes you feel a connection to a time before you were born. And while a standard E30 is a lovely thing to behold, there’s a lot to be said for a tastefully modded example, too.


250bhp BMW 328i Coupe E30 2.8 M52

This brings us neatly to Rob Andrews’ (@rob.e30) stunning build, and this immaculate E30 effortlessly blends subtle styling on the outside with a hardcore interior, which gives this car two distinct flavours wrapped up in one delicious package. Oh, and of course, the 2.8 M52 under the bonnet only adds to the appeal…


250bhp BMW 328i Coupe E30 2.8 M52

For Rob, it was always about BMW. “I’ve been interested in BMWs from a young age; my favourite toy as a child was a red BMW toy car,” he grins, and now his favourite toy as an adult is also a red BMW, and things have come full circle, which is fitting for this E30. “My first BMW was the E30 I own now. I got a Saturday job in my early teens in a garage that specialised in BMWs, and that’s where the passion began. I had to have one!” Rob exclaims with a grin, but there’s a little twist to this story.


250bhp BMW 328i Coupe E30 2.8 M52

“I first owned this car at 18 years old. Being a young dumb teen, I bought the car through my love for E30s, roared it around for about six months and sold it on for something else. Then, six years down the line, I spotted my old car on somebody’s driveway! At that moment, I decided I needed it back to build the ultimate E30 I had envisioned. I knocked on the door and managed to come to an agreement that same day,” Rob smiles, and it’s funny sometimes how things work out. “The first time was an eBay ad, an old guy who had owned it for years, so naturally, it was a little tatty. The second time I found the car, it looked like someone had shown it some love, but this didn’t stop me from tearing it to bits and rebuilding it from the ground up, including a colour change,” and it was all part of his plan to build himself the perfect E30.


250bhp BMW 328i Coupe E30 2.8 M52

Rob decided the strip the whole car and build it back up exactly as he wanted it, and while this approach was definitely more involved, it made all the jobs that much easier to do. “The full strip-down began first, I then sourced the engine for the swap and got the engine bay painted ready to start mocking up,” Rob explains. “Then, the suspension and steering modifications came after, along with the roll-cage and wheels. When I was almost ready for paint, I made sure I had all the body panels and addons needed,” and as you can see, it was a case of working on the car in stages, gathering everything that Rob desired, and then putting it all together, like the ultimate model kit.


250bhp BMW 328i Coupe E30 2.8 M52

“The engine I chose was the M52B28 from an E36 328i,” Rob tells us. “I chose this engine swap for several reasons: firstly, it’s a considerable power increase (130hp to an estimated 250hp) with more reliability, making it a no-brainer. It wasn’t an overly difficult swap with help from BMW forums on the correct parts to use, e.g. M5 engine mounts and a Corsa C steering linkage!” he grins. “The engine swap took around a year to complete, and the whole build was a labour of love over four years,” adds Rob, and every single second was time well spent. Now, you might be wondering about that power figure that Rob quoted because the 2.8 M52 makes 193hp stock, but, of course, simply swapping in this engine and leaving it stock was never part of the plan. This M52 has been enhanced with an M50 inlet manifold, a custom exhaust and an EndTuning ECU tune to bolster its power output, while an LSD at the rear helps put power to the tarmac.

To go with the increase in performance, the E30 needed some chassis upgrades to help it handle that and to help it handle. “I went for GAZ Gold coilovers after reading great reviews.

Also, being a true rear coilover conversion massively improves handling. These, combined with offset M3 bushes and a quick purple tag steering rack, make the car drive like the best-handling modern cars,” enthuses Rob. And not only has this setup endowed this E30 with a supernaturally sublime chassis, those coilovers have allowed Rob to get his lows on, and the drop is perfect, bringing the arches down over his stunning choice of wheels.

“For me, it always had to be BBS for that iconic look,” smiles Rob. “Then I saw this full chrome set come up for sale and snapped them up with an exhausting 18-hour road trip across the country to collect them! I had thought about another track set of wheels with some big sticky tyres, but by the time the car was completed, it just looked too good to take on a track,” he chuckles. BBS RSs are such gorgeous wheels, and they truly are the perfect partner for any E30. Here the combo of chrome centres, polished lips, gold hardware and red and gold centre caps is a dazzling one that looks sensational on this car.

Now we come to those two areas of extreme contrast – the immaculate OEM+ exterior and hardcore interior, and they definitely give this E30 something of a split personality. Originally this E30 was finished in Alpine white, but now it wears a coat of Brilliant red, and the colour suits that three-box shape so well, and it really pops, making all those black details stand out all the more intensely. Rob has fitted clear front indicators, as well as an M Tech 1 spoiler with the edge left black and the inner portion colour-matched to the bodywork. We love how clean the car looks, and it really lets you appreciate the simple elegance of this iconic design. Open the door, however, and things get rather more full-on, but Rob hasn’t completely ripped out his E30’s interior, instead adding the parts he wanted and leaving the rest of the cabin intact. “I wanted it track-focused from the beginning, so I added the rollcage, and a carpeted rear seat delete with two bucket seats up front, but still maintaining full interior carpets, door cards, dashboard and trim,” says Rob. The Sparco buckets up front offer some serious support and are joined by a pair of OMP harnesses, and there’s also an OMP steering wheel while the dashboard has been flocked. Rob has chosen some top-tier components, and it’s the perfect environment to really enjoy making the most of all his underbonnet and chassis upgrades.

It’s funny to think that a chance encounter four years ago led to Rob buying back his E30 and finally being able to put together the perfect build he’d envisaged, and he’s certainly not squandered his second chance with his teenage dream. And, out of all those glorious modifications that he could make happen on his second ownership adventure, which one stands head and shoulders above the rest? “It’s difficult to narrow it down to one,” muses Rob, “but it would have to be the engine conversion. The power delivery, reliability and overall look and fit in the engine bay is like it was made to be in the car,” he grins. Naturally, impressive as this classic 3 Series build is, Rob isn’t done yet, and his mind is busy planning for the future. “I might possibly do an interior swap to some retrimmed BMW Recaros and lose the roll-cage,” he reasons, which would bring the interior more in line with the OEM+ vibe of the rest of the build. But we’re sure there’s plenty of time for Rob to allow his creative juices to continue flowing. Having got the chance to get back his beloved first-ever BM, he’s not about to let it go anytime soon, and Rob and his E30 will be enjoying many an adventure together well into the future.

For me, it always had to be BBS for that iconic look. Then I saw this full chrome set come up for sale and snapped them up with an exhausting 18-hour road trip across the country to collect them!

These 16” BBS RSs are simply stunning, and the perfect choice for this E30.

I wanted it track-focused from the beginning, so I added the roll-cage, and a carpeted rear seat delete with two bucket seats up front, but still maintaining full interior carpets, door cards, dashboard and trim

The track-focused interior features Sparco bucket seats and a roll-cage with a rear seat delete


TECHNICAL DATA BMW 328i Coupe E30 2.8 M52

  • ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 2.8-litre straight-six M52B28, M50 inlet manifold, RJ Motorsport full custom stainless exhaust, ECU tune. Getrag five-speed manual gearbox, LSD
  • POWER: 250hp (tuner’s estimate)
  • CHASSIS: 9x16” (front) and 10x16” (rear) BBS RS wheels with chrome centres, polished lips, gold hardware and red and gold centre caps, GAZ Gold coilovers, M3 control arms, strut brace, purple tag steering rack, uprated EBC discs and pads brake pads and discs
  • EXTERIOR: Full respray in Brilliant red, clear front indicators, M Tech 1 rear spoiler
  • INTERIOR: Sparco Rev GRP Tech bucket seats, OMP harnesses, RJ Motorsport roll-cage, carpeted rear seat delete, flocked dashboard, OMP steering wheel The drop served up by the coilovers combined with the BBS RSs delivers a perfect profile Rob jumped at the chance to buy back his E30 and has put in the work to make this his perfect build

I went for GAZ Gold coilovers after reading great reviews… These, combined with offset M3 bushes and a quick purple tag steering rack, make the car drive like the best-handling modern cars

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