Utterly magnificent modified BMW M3 Coupe E30

Utterly magnificent modified BMW M3 Coupe E30

After being off the road for 10 years, this E30 M3. has been fully restored, and with its S14 rebuilt and comprehensively upgraded, it’s now in the best shape of its entire life.


Words: Elizabeth de Latour

Photos: Josh Mackey


PEAK PERFORMANCE EPIC E30 M3

This E30 M3 was bought in a non-running rusty state and has been completely transformed into a simply sublime example of this classic performance icon.


Utterly magnificent modified BMW M3 Coupe E30


Considering how iconic, rare (when’s the last time you saw one out in the wild?), and special the E30 M3 is, it’s amazing just how many modified examples we’ve come across, and how many we’ve featured in just the past 12 months of the magazine being on sale. We’re not complaining, because we love E30 M3s at least as much as anyone else, and we love to see people enjoying them. And what’s great about the E30 M3 is that it’s virtually impossible to ruin it. We’re not saying it’s totally impossible, but we don’t think we’ve ever seen a truly badly modified example.

The reason for that, we’d say, is that they’re not casual purchases, and they’re bought by real enthusiasts who have real taste. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be buying an E30 M3 in the first place, let’s be honest. The only thing you can ever really do when modifying an E30 M3 is enhance it, and Chris Dunbar’s (@dunbar_approved) immaculate example has been enhanced to the high heavens. “I have always had a soft spot for the E30 and E39 BMWs,” begins Chris as we chat. “The classic styling lines, analogue feel and build quality all sum up why I think they are special cars. My first BMW was a 2001 E39 540i – I could not afford the M5, but the V8 in the 540i was good enough at the time to hold me over,” he smiles, and we definitely approve of that choice. The E30 M3, however, is something rather more special, and with his soft spot for the first-gen Three, it’s no surprise that the ultimate incarnation was on Chris’s radar.


Utterly magnificent modified BMW M3 Coupe E30

“An old co-worker had this car under cover for six or seven years that I knew about it. When I moved across the state for a new job, my parting words to him were: ‘If you ever want to sell that car, I’m your guy…’ Five years later (2020), I got that phone call. When we discussed details, he explained that he was not going to let the car go do just ‘anyone,’ but knew that I had the expertise to bring the car back to life after seeing my previous builds from time to time,” smiles Chris. And it did need to be brought back to life because it was not in the best condition.

“It had been kept under a car cover, non-running for 10 years. The M3 was complete, however, the paint had been neglected, and irrigation sprinklers had soaked one side of the E30 for years,” says Chris. “There was rust in the cowl and battery tray, and the car did not run. The previous owner had the car serviced, then an unknown rattle was heard, and he parked it up and left it. As soon as he made that phone call to me, I wanted to cut him a cheque as soon as possible before he changed his mind!” he laughs.

However, while Chris may have purchased the pinnacle of the E30 range, his was most definitely not in peak condition, and there was serious work to be done. “I originally was in the mindset of ‘just get it running’,” explains Chris. “It was a great driver’s-condition car, but without knowing what was actually wrong with the motor, I assumed the worst case — a complete rebuild of the 314.


Utterly magnificent modified BMW M3 Coupe E30

“The unknown-condition 814 had to come out and was sent to C&D Engine Performance in Kirkland, WA. They have rebuilt quite a few of these old motors and know just how to ensure they go back together correctly. It was about 13 months to acquire all the motor pieces, as many are NLA and had to be sourced overseas from the parts hoarders,” Chris explains.

The work carried out to the engine and in and around the bay and to the components that live there is extremely extensive. Among the parts that had to be obtained were a new brake booster reservoir, new engine hoses, and a new oil cooler, the power steering pump was restored, as were the ABS pump and the air-con compressor. However, what we’re really interested in is what C&D Engine did with the internals because if you’re rebuilding an engine, you wouldn’t leave it stock, now would you?

The 814 has been reassembled with Schrick 284/276 cams, Supertech valves, BMW Evo valve springs, Custom CP 11:1 pistons, Calico coated bearings, custom machine work for the crank, and a mild head port and manifold match. That’s a very comprehensive rebuild, and all that engine work has given this 814 a healthy increase in performance, but that’s not the end. Dominating the engine bay is a carbon fibre airbox, which endows this 814 with an intoxicating intake bark. Meanwhile, a Supersprint exhaust system with a Stromung silencer further enhances the already exciting soundtrack. Finally, over 200 hours were spent zinc-plating the engine components, and the valve cover strut brace and intake manifold have all been powder-coated factory wrinkle black. So now, not only does the 814 perform well, but it looks and sounds fantastic, too. Chris’s vision has brought it back to life, and it’s the absolute best it’s ever been.


Utterly magnificent modified BMW M3 Coupe E30

However, while getting the 814 sorted was a major milestone in bringing the E30 M3 back on the road, there was still a lot of work left to do, and a lot of that involved the bodywork. “Once the glass was pulled out for the cowl rust repair, the rabbit hole began, and it turned into ‘while we’re in here…’” laughs Chris. “That quickly turned to finding clear coat on one rear panel that had been repaired in the late ’90s.

After finding clear coat and nonoriginal paint, I made the decision to respray the entire car. Sean Edwards and Jeff Miller were the paint masters who received the car completely stripped – no glass, clips, bolts, absolutely nothing left but a shell to work on. I started to zinc-plate bolts and refinish factory hardware that was unable to be reused,” says Chris.

The end result is magnificent, and this M3 is absolutely majestic. That full respray in its original Zinnober red is stunning, and Chris has added a few enhancements to give the car that personal touch. “I remain very OEM+ with many of the modifications I do,” he explains. “A Sport Evo rear wing was added, along with BMW Heritage emblems, Euro tow covers, French yellow fog lights, and Hella Schwarz headlights. They add just enough to make you take a second look without being over the top,” he reasons. We love how all those elements come together and the difference they make to the car’s looks, enhancing those iconic classic lines perfectly.


Utterly magnificent modified BMW M3 Coupe E30

With styling sorted, the M3 now needed some seriously sexy wheels to finish things off, and here Chris is spoilt for choice. “I have several sets of wheels for the car, and I rotate based on what I’m feeling that week,” he smiles. “The first set are 8.5x17” BBS Magnesium E50s, which were commissioned new by BBS for me in 2020 (there was a nine-month build time). I feel these exude the motorsport aesthetic from the period without running a full centre-lock setup, and I love these wheels. Gold centres with polished lip is a classic on a red BMW,” he enthuses, and these are the wheels you can see the car wearing in most of the photos. The E50s are absolutely incredible wheels, simply iconic, and they are the perfect partner for the M3.

That being said, Chris’s other two wheel choices are no less spectacular and look equally fantastic. “My second set is 8.5x17” Volk TE37s in bronze. This wheel has always been one of my favourites, and I’ve installed these on every vehicle I have ever owned at some point in time. Tossing these wheels on completely changes the character of the car. It looks much more boy-racer, which is fun on occasion!” exclaims Chris, and you might spot these in one or two of the photos. As he says, they completely transform the look of the car, and it’s nice to have that option of switching things up when the mood takes him. And as for the final set, well, it’s another iconic classic. “The third set is fully polished BBS RS212s. Not much to say about these wheels other than classic BBS – the mesh and massive polished lips just work,” he smiles, and that’s yet another sensational wheel choice.

To go with its fresh engine and fresh bodywork, this E30 M3 also needed some fresh suspension. “I chose KW V1 Coilovers. This was a relatively new product at the time, which replaced the entire factory hub, allowing you to retain your factory struts without modifying and cutting existing equipment,” Chris explains. As well as enhancing the handling, they’ve been used to give this M3 a subtle but purposeful drop that makes all the difference to its looks.


Utterly magnificent modified BMW M3 Coupe E30

Finally, we come to the interior, and while Chris has kept things subtle in here, the end result is simply superb. “I fitted Recaro Orthopaed seats in the front with heating/cooling along with power adjustability. I wanted to ensure the interior matched the rest of the car to remain period-correct and OEM+,” he reasons. “The Orthopaeds look like they came with the car, perfectly matching the leather-wrapped centre console and door panels.

These panels were covered in Nappa leather to recreate the Europameister extended leather option,” Chris explains, and it’s the perfect combination. We love the seats, and we can’t remember the last time we saw these fitted in a car; we also love the fact that while everyone usually goes for the sportiest seats possible, Chris’s choice combines sportiness with comfort. Along with the seats and lashings of leather, he’s added new pedals and a Sport Evo footrest, a Nappa leather handbrake handle, a Sport Evo Alcantara gear knob and an M Tech 1 steering wheel for the perfect finishing touch.

We love every E30 M3 we see and every E30 M3 we feature, but we especially love this one. Chris has put in a vast amount of work to take it from a non-running, rusty state to an absolutely immaculate masterpiece of an M car, and the end result is simply stunning. And with a build of this calibre, asking Chris to pick just one favourite part of the whole car feels unnecessarily cruel. “I can’t pick just one modification because I truly think they all work together to elevate the classic E30 M3,” he smiles, and we totally agree. “But I’d say my favourite would have to be the hand-restored wiring harness that was redone with Raychem and future-proofed but left to look OEM,” he says, and we love that out of everything, what Chris appreciates the most is something we can’t even see. That’s the level of work that’s gone into this build over two years.


Utterly magnificent modified BMW M3 Coupe E30

And he really hasn’t held back with this build, which you could probably tell when he went from simply wanting to get it running to carrying out a full, upgraded engine rebuild. “This resto quickly went from a budgeted rebuild to a money-no-object restoration,” he says, and it was worth every penny. “If money truly were no object, I’d rebuild with a true Evo 2.5 with slide throttles, but I think the purpose of that car would end up with a cage in it and live on the track!” he laughs. And we like that – he’s put so much into this car, but he’s kept to the vision he had. He hasn’t taken things beyond where he wanted, to a level that would have changed what the car was all about.

As for future plans, well they’re all about making the most of what he’s created. “The M3 is finished and now has 800 miles on the restoration. I plan to enjoy the car on back roads, take it to occasional car shows and ponder what’s next?” he smiles. Chris has built himself a stunning M3, and it’s been totally transformed, fully restored, and beautifully rebuilt into a magnificent representation of this classic icon. This M3 is at the absolute pinnacle of its performance, and it’s simply glorious.


Utterly magnificent modified BMW M3 Coupe E30

This M3 restoration is complete, and now the only thing left for Chris to do is drive it and enjoy it. Recaro Orthopaed seats combine comfort with sportiness.

The S14 has been reassembled with Schrick 284/276 cams, Supertech valves, BMW Evo valve springs, Custom CP 11:1 pistons, Calico coated bearings, custom machine work for the crank, and a mild head port and manifold match

An old co-worker had this car under cover for six or seven years that I knew about it. When I moved across the state for a new job, my parting words to him were: ‘If you ever want to sell that car, I’m your guy…’


TECHNICAL DATA FILE BMW E30 M3

  • ENGINE: 2.3-litre four-cylinder S14B23 fully rebuilt by C&D Engine Performance, Schrick 284/276 cams, Supertech valves, Sport Evo valve springs, custom CP 11:1 compression-ratio pistons with increased valve reliefs, mild head porting and manifold matching, Calico coated crankshaft bearings, custom machine work for crank, custom carbon fibre intake manifold, BMW OEM shim kit, new slotted OEM cam gears, BMW OEM gasket kit, OEM oil pump, timing chain and components, all new bearings and seals, new OEM AC condenser, new OEM AC fan, new OEM radiator, new OEM engine hoses, new OEM oil cooler, valve cover to oil pan assembly, valve cover, strut brace, and intake manifold powder coated factory wrinkle black, factory power steering rack restored in New Zealand including zinc plating, restored factory zinc parts (power steering reservoir bracket, engine brackets), 200hr+ of zincplating engine bay components, all bolts and fasteners replaced throughout, Innovate LM-2 wideband O2 sensor, Supersprint exhaust with Stromüng silencer
  • TRANSMISSION: Getrag 265 five-speed manual gearbox, new OEM clutch and pressure plate, Sport Evo lightened flywheel, new OEM clutch master cylinder
  • CHASSIS: 8.5x17” ET13 (front and rear) BBS E50 magnesium wheels with Continental ExtremeContact 225/40 (front and rear) tyres, 8.5x17” (front and rear) Volk TE37 wheels in bronze with Continental 225/50 (front and rear) tyres, 17” BBS RS212 wheels, KW V1 coilovers, restored brake booster, new OEM brake master cylinder (NLA), new OEM brake booster reservoir (NLA), restored OEM ABS pump (NLA), new OEM brake lines
  • EXTERIOR: Full respray in Zinnober red, Schutz undercoated wheel wells, new Hella Schwarz headlights, new French yellow fog lights, Sport Evolution rear spoiler, Euro towing eye covers, BMW Heritage emblems
  • INTERIOR: Recaro Orthopaed seats in Nappa leather, Europameister Nappa leather door panels, extended Nappa leather console, Nappa leather handbrake handle, OEM Sport Evolution Alcantara gear knob, new OEM M Tech 1 370mm steering wheel, new OEM pedals, new OEM Sport Evolution dead pedal (NLA), restored OEM Alpine 5908 radio w/Cantaloupe Bluetooth module
  • THANKS I’d like to thank TWCompetition members Jim and Viet for always pushing to be ‘the best’, John Zuberek was instrumental in helping me find the right people for the job in town (and dry-ice blasting!), Sean Edwards and Jeff Miller for their body and paintwork, Chuck at C&D for the motor rebuild, and of course my wife and family for putting up with the rebuild at home while taking over her garage space
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