1989 BMW 318is Coupe E30

1989 BMW 318is Coupe E30

Australian Andrew Burke is no stranger to the world of top-level modified BMWs, but his latest (and maybe final) build is the most insane of the lot.


Words: Chris Nicholls

Photos: Simon Shiff


there are no ‘new’ E30s left in the world… Andrew came up with the next best thing – the most meticulously resto-modded E30 that probably exists anywhere on the planet right now

Australian Andrew Burke is no stranger to the world of top-level modified BMWs, but his latest (and maybe final) build is the most insane of the lot.

Imagine you could walk into your local BMW dealer today and buy a brand-new E30 318is. Would you? Andrew Burke decided that yes, he very much would. But of course, there are no ‘new’ E30s left in the world, and even if there were, modern regs would prevent any MW dealer from selling you one. So after a crash totalled the chassis of his previous 318 is, Andrew came up with the next best thing — the most meticulously resto modded E30 that probably exists anywhere on the planet right now. Everything bar the long block and gearbox is either new or restored to better than new, and the whole car is so well done that we dare anyone to come up with a cleaner example in 2023.

1989 BMW 318is Coupe E30

To prove our point, let’s start with the hardware. Because when Andrew describes this as a nut-and-bolt resto, he’s not joking. There isn’t a single reused nut, bolt or washer on the car. Everything is either new or NOS OEM, and not only that, to ensure consistency of finish (older BMW bolts were yellow zinc plated, while current BMW bolts are silver, ‘zinc flake’ coated), Andrew decided to strip and re-coat all the NOS hardware to match the newer stuff. The only areas where Andrew deviated from this singular focus were the fancy ARP stainless bolts he used to mount the bonnet and boot lid and the Pro-Bolt anodised orange bolts for the front wings. Because you’ve gotta have a bit of bling in there somewhere, right?

1989 BMW 318is Coupe E30

Andrew's perfectionist streak continued into the sourcing of all the other sundry components. Every clip, fastener, grommet, weather strip and trim piece still available new for the E30 was purchased from either a dealer or places like Schmiedmann and FCP Euro, and while only 50% of the trim pieces were still available, Andrew managed to find NOS dating back to the ’80s for some of the unavailable items. Everything he couldn’t find was cleaned and sent off for refinishing in either gloss or matt black electroplate. This included the window trims, kidney surrounds, and headlight rings in gloss for a modern Shadowline effect, and the engine bolts and fuel tank balance pipe (attached to a completely restored tank, naturally) in matt to match their surrounding textures. Anything that wasn’t plated was powder coated, including the reinforced subframes and every metal bracket around the car.

The replacement chassis all these bits and pieces attached to? Well, Andrew chemically stripped it of its previous Alpine white paint in his warehouse/ personal workshop, then spent a week with a grinder and wire wheel removing all the seam sealer because he wanted to reapply it neater than factory.

1989 BMW 318is Coupe E30 - interior

Yes, he’s that kind of guy. Once it was ready, he sent it next door to Johnny Z’s Hot Rod and Custom Shop – a multi-award winning hot rod shop that just happened to be his business neighbour – for a full, hot rod-spec respray. This meant three base coats of white, and five coats of Fire orange applied to every surface (bar the underside, which was left stock because it was in such good nick), then a full week of flatting and polishing. Only then could Andrew start the assembly process.

Now, before you go thinking the rest of this build was as easy as simply clipping and bolting the bits back together, remember this is Andrew Burke we’re talking about. First, because he wanted a modern E30 in every sense, he decided to upgrade the sound deadening to modern standards by fitting three different layers of Car Builders insulation. Then, he filled every cavity in the frame with 3M Cavity Wax. Finally, he checked the fitment of various body panels and went to extremes like melting the glue holding a trim piece mounting bracket in place, moving it a few millimetres, then re-glueing, just to ensure perfect fit. Then, and only then, could reassembly begin in earnest. Over the next couple of years (this build took place mostly during the pandemic, with Australia implementing some pretty extreme lockdowns that limited movement), Andrew slowly pieced the car together.

1989 BMW 318is Coupe E30 - engine

First came minor electrical pieces and matching wiring harnesses (all concentrically wound and DR25 wrapped by Andrew, of course), and then came the custom Alcantara roof lining and pillar trim. After that, he fitted up the rebuilt HVAC system, complete with new seals, condenser, evaporator and so on, all designed to work with R134a gas, and bolted in the radiator and sundry cooling bits. To make sure the rebuilt interior HVAC unit and new RHD dash (yes, it was he who scored the last brand-new RHD E30 dash in the world) wouldn’t foul over all the sound deadening, he then test-fitted things using his old dash before finally committing.

Next, he moved on to interior trimming. Having already gone with a custom solution for the roof etc., Andrew was hardly likely to just chuck his old Recaro Experts and stock rear seats back in there and call it a day. No, he went as far as sourcing 134 square feet of Spinneybeck Copenhagen full aniline, untreated, uncorrected hide for the leather (Spinneybeck supplies Singer, for anyone wondering) and some Warwick- Rupert houndstooth for the rest to create a stunning two-tone effect for the seats, door cards and so on. He then worked with his trimmer (Glenn from Rocket Kustom Auto Trim) to decide on stitching patterns, add more bolstering to the rear seats, and even change the radii of the curves in the seat stitching to better match the E30’s square lines. Finally, because he decided that the stock Recaro headrests were “quite bulky and inelegant,” he sliced the stock BMW seat headrests in half, widened them with custom supports and used those instead.

1989 BMW 318is Coupe E30 - suspension and engine detail

With the interior mostly sorted, Andrew moved on to the mechanical stuff. The old M42 was pulled down and refreshed, but crucially not rebuilt, as some parts were simply not available anymore, and Andrew said he’d rather an unopened old motor than some partiallyre-built Frankenstein. The accessories like the MAF were black crinkle painted, while the gearbox, which had earlier been cleaned up and etched to make it look more ‘OEM’, was mated back onto the engine. Andrew even painted the rebuilt alternator housing with bleach to remove some of the shine and make it look more like a factory piece. He then plumbed and wired up the AC, rebuilt the fuel system with new hoses etc., fitted all the brackets and subframes, bolted together the suspension assemblies (including his rebuilt AST 4210 dampers, and custom-painted H&R springs) and bent up new brake hard lines. Finally, he bolted the whole undercarriage to the chassis, adjusted the clearance on the braked shields to match his Wilwood BBK (brake shields being a necessity for registration in Australia), and sat the car down on its suspension for the first time.

It was then that Andrew noticed that the BBS LMs he had on his previous car just didn’t seem to suit this new build as well as he wanted. So to hark back to the glorious DTM era that helped make the E30 so famous, he ordered a custom set of Italian-made NTM TB3 DTM wheels. Effectively an E50 tribute, these forged beauties arrived very late into the build but proved a perfect match for the car in their 7.5x17” ET18 sizes. To add a bit more impact, Andrew had the rear lips made wider than the fronts (40mm versus 25mm), but kept the fitment relatively conservative, as he wanted a car he could drive regularly on all sorts of road surfaces and without any rubbing issues. Having got the car to the rolling chassis stage, Andrew then worked on buttoning up all the millions of little bits and pieces that help turn a ‘roller’ into an actual car. All the electrical components were tested, and the glass (including a brand-new windscreen), and heat shields were installed.

1989 BMW 318is Coupe E30

Custom Relicate German square-weave dark blue carpet went in, and new custom blue webbing seatbelts and OEM buckles were fitted. Finally, the engine and drivetrain were bolted together, and after some ‘finessing’ to get the manifolds to clear the E46 steering shaft, the finishing touches – a full Supersprint exhaust, MagnaFlow cat and the remaining body trim – were fitted to complete the build.

As you can see, the end result is just stunning. The Fire orange glows like a thousand suns, and the NTM wheels match the E30 body lines perfectly. While he was initially unsure about going with a blue interior, colour science means it complements the orange exterior just so, and, overall, Andrew is rightfully chuffed with the car. As planned, he also drives it regularly, takes his dog for occasional rides in it, and generally uses it in the way it was meant to be used (for anyone wondering, 75% of the car is covered in paint protection film, so don’t worry about the exterior finish). The only remaining question is ‘What’s next?’ Right now, he’s not sure. Having built a stunning track car (a dry-sump S54-swapped E30 that was featured in Performance BMW back in the July ’17 issue), and now a stunning road car, he feels that his internal combustion build days are done. If he’s going to build anything, it’ll be an electric-swapped Land Cruiser, he says. The mind boggles.

when Andrew describes this as a nut-and-bolt resto, he’s not joking. There isn’t a single reused nut, bolt or washer on the car. Everything is either new or NOS OEM

to hark back to the glorious DTM era that helped make the E30 so famous, he ordered a custom set of Italian-made NTM TB3 DTM wheels

Stunning custom NTM wheels look so good on the E30. The M42 has been treated to a refresh, and the engine bay has been tidied up. Full custom retrim looks incredible and contrasts perfectly against the Fire orange paint.

1989 BMW 318is Coupe E30 - alloy wheel


  • ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 1.8-litre four-cylinder M42B18, Supersprint exhaust, MagnaFlow cat, S52 ignition coils, custom-machined coil mounting plate and hardware, Pro-Bolt anodised orange coil mounting bolts, custom matt blackplated new OEM hardware, black wrinklepainted AFM housing and cam covers, hydro-blasted OEM stainless steel exhaust manifold. Five-speed manual gearbox
  • CHASSIS: 7.5x17” ET18 (front and rear) NTM TB3 DTM wheels with 25mm lips (front) and 45mm lips (rear), 215/40 (front and rear) Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, AST 4210 dampers, custom-painted H&R coil springs, custom-machined Delrin rear spring spacers with Torrington bearings, Vorshlag pillow-ball upper mounts (front), Moton pillow-ball upper mounts (rear), custom reinforced subframes and mounts, Wilwood SL6R (front) and SL4R (rear) BBK with Massive Brakes two-piece slotted full-floating discs
  • EXTERIOR: Full Fire orange respray, M Tech II body kit, E30 M3 front bumper seals, HellermannTyton harness stand-offs bolted into rivnuts inserted into all stock wire harness clip holes, Thomas & Betts cable ties, Pro-Bolt anodised orange front wing bolts, ARP 12-point stainless bolts for boot lid and bonnet, Car Builders Sound Deadener, Acoustic Liner and Mass Noise Liner, custom gloss black-plated OEM kidney and headlight surrounds, custom gloss black-plated OEM window and door trims, Bavarian Tuning Solutions HID headlight conversion, E36 M3 side skirt rubber trim
  • INTERIOR: Full custom retrim of seats, door cards, and shifter and handbrake gaiters in Spinneybeck ‘Black Diamond’ Copenhagen leather and Warwick-Rupert ‘London Clay’ houndstooth, full custom roof lining and pillar retrim in Alcantara, full custom Relicate German square-weave dark blue interior carpet, boot carpet and floor mats, new RHD E30 dashboard, E30 M3 Sport Evo steering wheel, ZHP anatomic weighted shift knob, Recaro Expert front seats with custom-widened OEM E30 seat headrests, Seatbelt King custom blue-webbing seatbelts, custom concentrically-wound wire harness with Raychem DR25 heat shrink wrapping
  • THANKS Jack from Johnny Z’s Hot Rod and Custom Shop for the paintwork, Glenn from Rocket Kustom Auto Trim for all the interior retrim and carpeting/mat work and Simon Shiff (@simonshiffsays on Instagram) for the photos
there are no ‘new’ E30s left in the world… Andrew came up with the next best thing – the most meticulously resto-modded E30 that probably exists anywhere on the planet right now
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