Simply glorious 310hp 2.4 S14 engined 1987 BMW M3 E30

Simply glorious 310hp 2.4 S14 engined 1987 BMW M3 E30

With its current owner for 18 years, this Diamond black beauty of an E30 has been fully restored and refurbished, tastefully upgraded, and with a 2.4-litre S14 making 310 naturally aspirated horsepower under its bonnet, it really doesn’t get much better than this absolutely epic M3.


Simply glorious 310hp 2.4 S14 E30

Diamonds are Forever

Simply glorious 310hp 2.4 S14 engined 1987 BMW M3 E30

This E30 M3 is about as good as it gets, with its owner caring for it for 18 years, and it’s been turned into a 310hp masterpiece.

Words: Elizabeth de Latour

Photos: John Langley

If certain cars deserve their owners, and vice versa, then David Kavanagh (@hesnotthemessiah) and his E30 M3 absolutely deserve each other. A car like the E30 M3 needs an owner who will enjoy and use it but also care for it and look after it with the passion and commitment it deserves. And, over 18 years of ownership, David has done all that with and for his E30 M3 and so much more.

«I think I have been interested in BMWs as long as I can remember,” he muses. “I am an engineer by trade, and BMWs have always been special to me. Loads of fun to drive, mostly rear-wheel drive. The way they look — I would argue they are some of the most iconic shapes, even back to the 328 and the 507, the CSL Batmobile E9, the M1 E26, the original 8 Series E31 and obviously the E30,» grins David. “The engineering that goes into them — bullet-proof engine blocks, the tunability and the racing pedigree. All my favourite drivers drove them: Hoy, Minshaw, Soper, Cecotto (my most favourite), Ravaglia, and van de Poele. The way they sound as well, even the modem CSs and Ms all sound fantastic,” he enthuses, and his sheer passion for the brand is tangible.

Simply glorious 310hp 2.4 S14 engined 1987 BMW M3 E30

“My first BMW was a 1973 2002 E20 — a neighbour had it on their drive, it hadn’t moved for a while, and I asked him about it as I had always admired it. He offered it to me as he wasn’t in a position to do anything with it (he worked away a lot of the time), so for £250,1 ended up with a gorgeous Colorado orange 2002,” says David with a smile. «It needed some work, obviously, but I was eager to get cracking to sort it. I hadn’t even passed my test at the time, I was still having lessons,” he adds with a laugh, which gives you an idea of just how much he loves BMWs, and having previously owned a 2002tii and a 2002 Turbo, you can see that he’s got a particular soft spot for the classics.

So what about this particular classic? „It’s a long story,” David laughs, “which starts in June 1987 at Brands Hatch. I was at the BTCC meet, walking around the pits, and I saw the E30 M3 for the first time. I was instantly smitten,” he grins. „There were a few in the race, and nothing looked like it or sounded like it; most of the other cars in the race were turbocharged, whereas the M3 was naturally aspirated, which I prefer. The induction noise was spectacular, especially at full throttle along Brabham Straight. However, it wasn’t ever the case of ‘Oh, I must have one of those one day’, but it was always at the back of my mind. One happened to come up at the right time, at the right price, and I jumped at the chance.

Simply glorious 310hp 2.4 S14 engined 1987 BMW M3 E30

“And that’s another long story,” laughs David. “I found it in Portugal. I wanted one from southern Europe or maybe Japan, due to their milder winters, but not necessarily the USA as most seemed to have had an engine swap, and I wanted the S14,” he explains. “This one had been stored for the previous eight years and was in really good condition overall and with low kilometres. The seller had done some key bits before storing it, like emptying the petrol tank, putting it up on axle stands etc. The paintwork was a bit dull, but I checked all the usual spots, and there was no rust,” says David with a satisfied smile. “I spent a few days recommissioning it – the electrics were fine, well, good enough for the journey, and I changed the brake linings and changed all the fluids. The front nearside caliper was stuck on, so I had to make do with a 5 Series hub temporarily. I gave it a good service, fitted a new set of tyres and set off back to Blighty. It never missed a beat all the way home,” he grins, and what an incredible way to start his ownership experience that was. “I kept it totally stock for around 10 years, carrying out maintenance and detailing, I just loved having it,” David says. “I happened to be at Silverstone Classic in 2017 and got chatting to John and Russ at JC Racing. They had a few cars entered, and that’s when everything changed…” David tells us, and after a relaxing decade with his E30 M3, things were about to suddenly get rather exciting.

“Once I had finally decided to modify the M3, my dream was to try and replicate my memories from being a kid watching racing pretty much every weekend. Touring cars were always my favourite, I used to watch rallying as well. So, a touring car/rally car mix was my dream, specifically DTM and Prodrive,” explains David. “There wasn’t really a fixed plan as such, like most long- term projects, they just develop iteratively. I just knew I wanted the car to last as long as possible and would optimise everything to that end. I wanted the best people to work on it, people who knew them inside out, people who raced them or looked after race cars seemed the most obvious. To that end, only race teams or race mechanics have ever worked on her,” says David, and that lets you know just how seriously he took this build.

“The engine took just over a year to complete,” he explains. “I started with a totally rebuilt engine courtesy of Robert Elsworth and Leon Witter, both ex-JC Racing and Geoff Steel Racing. It now has lightweight M5 shims, 190 Race Cat Cams, JE forged pistons from the USA with 12.1 compression, some head work and is now around 2.4 litres. It’s also got Group A buckets, heavy-duty valve springs and retainers, a ported and polished head to Group A spec, oversized valves for both inlet and exhaust, an extended sump, and Vibra-Technics Performance engine mounts.

Simply glorious 310hp 2.4 S14 engined 1987 BMW M3 E30

“It has a DTM carbon fibre airbox and DTM sliders (I’m not sure if there are any other E30 M3 road cars with this mod?), and has been set up by Arran at Amspeed Racing,” continues David. “My favourite modification on the whole car has to be the DTM sliders. Apart from the fact they are unique for a road car, they made such a difference power-wise and to the volume of the induction noise,” he explains. “They made another 37hp once tuned by the maestro and electronics genius that is Wayne Schofield. It took him three days to set them up for the road, as they are obviously not meant for road cars, but they run perfectly, even in heavy traffic,” and that’s an awesome addition to this exceptional build.

But we’re not done with the list of extensive engine upgrades, not by a long shot. “The car has Porsche 997 injectors as they give a better (more of a conical shape) spread, all fitted and tuned by Wayne Scofield. There’s a DTM cooling system supplied by Vink Motorsport, including a radiator, expansion tank and piping fitted by Omnium Racing. It also has a full racing exhaust including manifolds, designed by myself, based on a DTM system, all built and fitted by Simpson Race,” says David. “It’s a four-into-two-into-one setup, which I think is more efficient than the four-into-one setup on the DTM cars. It is a non-cat car, so I took the decision to take out the middle box and just have a slightly bigger rear box. The work that Simpson did is simply outstanding. The welding is sublime; they even made me some DTM style tips, and the exhaust sounds incredible,” enthuses David with a huge smile on his face. And the result of all that incredibly extensive engine work? “It now revs to 8500rpm and develops 310hp and 265lb ft of torque,” he grins, and that’s an awesome result for an NA S14, and it was worth all that effort.

Simply glorious 310hp 2.4 S14 engined 1987 BMW M3 E30

As you would expect, the chassis has also received a selection of upgrades to enhance handling. “It did have KW V3 road suspension, but it now has AST 5200 Club Sport coilovers fitted. I chose KW for the first upgrade, as I really liked their ethos, and I loved that they were passionate about motorsport and R&D,” he explains. “My friend JP at Omnium Racing recommended the ASTs. It also has H&R front and rear anti-roll bars fitted, and now it also has a fully rose- jointed rear end,” and that’s a combination which has done an amazing job of enhancing the M3’s already legendary handling.

It is an almost universally accepted fact that wheels make the car; when you’ve got a car of this calibre, the right wheels are so important, and David has impeccable taste in this area. “I kept the wheels 15” for around 12 years; I had the originals on for eight years, then a friend gave me a set of magnesium OZ Racing wheels, which I had on for a few years,” David tells us. “I always thought the brakes were a bit underwhelming, and really the only way to sort that effectively was to go bigger with the wheels,” he reasons. “Therefore, it was actually the brakes which determined the wheel size initially. I’d always fancied APs, and a contact of JC Racing makes the brake kits up, so I asked him (Malcolm) to build me a set of six-pot APs with Britcar discs on the front initially. Before long, a friend, Nick Bartlett, happened to have a set of four-pot Brembo Racing rears that were surplus to requirements, along with some brand new-old-stock M5 discs, so, consequently, the rears were changed. The car now stops, really stops!” emphasises David with a grin.

Simply glorious 310hp 2.4 S14 engined 1987 BMW M3 E30

The first set of larger wheels came from Wayne Greatrix; he had a set of three-piece, 18” Image UK wheels, which were a BBS replica-style wheel (the ones in the photos) and fitted perfectly and looked spectacular,” says David, and we can only agree. The style suits the E30 perfectly, and the gold centres contrast perfectly against the black bodywork, but as much as David loved these wheels, he had his heart set on something else…

“My dream wheels were always the BBS Group A wheels they used to run in the DTM. I was chatting with Alex Downs (who runs The Drivers Collection Shows) about wheels, and he mentioned that he had a set of wheels from Rimscarnated and could recommend them if I ever needed someone to make my dream DTM wheels. Subsequently, after a few discussions with Isaac, the owner, I went for my dream wheels, at last – I’d been dreaming about them since 1989.

Moreover, they could make them five-stud but look for all the world like centrelocks,” enthuses David, and we don’t blame him for chasing his wheel dream and making it a reality.

In terms of aesthetics, the E30 M3 is a car best enjoyed with minimal styling additions. Take what BMW gave the E30 M3 and just enhance it subtly, and the results always look fantastic, and that’s exactly what David has done here. “The exterior styling is courtesy of Roger at Muzzi Motorsport. It has its DTM rear spoiler with carbon fibre DTM flap and its front DTM carbon fibre splitter. It also has Sport Evo front wings to accommodate the 18” wheels. Everything else is standard,” says David, but just those changes have given this E30 M3 that much more presence and it looks wonderful. “I have recently had the car dismantled, refurbished and repainted by CLP Automotive and WPS Paintworks. That took just over a year as well.

It now has five coats of paint underneath: two undercoats, a stone chip coat and two body-colour coats. The exterior has been fully painted as well, including the engine bay and boot space,” adds David, and it’s little wonder this M3 looks as flawless as it does.

The interior follows a similar less-is-more philosophy as the exterior, with just a few tasteful additions that make all the difference. “The interior mods include an Alcantara roof lining, which looks stunning, along with a replica Prodrive short-shift fitted, which is so precise. It’s also got a Prodrive Stack dashboard courtesy of Arran at Amspeed – I’d always wanted a Stack dashboard, and it was made necessary to accommodate the new rev limit of 8500rpm, and, finally, it has a Prodrive pedal setup including footrest,” David tells us. These changes are subtle but make a big difference to the overall look and feel of the interior, as well as enhancing the driving experience in the case of the short-shifter.

We love the E30 M3, and we really love David’s example. The work he’s put into the car, especially the engine, pursuing pure NA power, is just awesome, and the passion and love he’s got for this M3, after owning it for almost two decades, is truly wonderful. And while it’s been an ongoing project since David started his modifying journey in 2016, it’s finally nearing completion. “I think this current iteration with my buddy JP at Omnium Racing will be the last.

My journey will be at an end. Probably…” David laughs. “If money were no object, I would have fitted a Drenth sequential gearbox, but I have done everything else I wanted to do. I wanted to recreate my childhood memories, a mix of DTM and Prodrive,” he says with a satisfied smile, though there are just a few finishing touches left to apply. “My friend Tim is a jeweller, and he is making me a silver plaque for the centre console, similar to the special edition models. It will have the usual BMW M3 stats, but will have 001/001, just for a bit of bling and a tribute to the amount of work that has gone into her,” grins David. “Possibly, a new front seat setup with leather Recaro Speed seats with the M stripes stitched in,” he muses. But whatever his future plans might be, David’s E30 M3 will be a part of them. Project cars are often fleeting, and so often, the thrill is in the chase and the build, which makes cars like this and owners like David somewhat rare. His stunning M3 is proof that, sometimes, the thrill and the joy are right there, with the car you have, the car you’ve poured so much into, and David is making the most of the wonderful M3 he’s built, whenever he can.

Three-piece Image 18s were needed to accommodate the six-pot AP front brakes, and the M3 now wears Rimscarnated Group A DTM-style Wheels.

TECH DATASimply glorious 310hp 2.4 S14 engined 1987 BMW M3 E30

  • ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 2.4-litre four-cylinder S14, lightweight M5 shims, 190 Race Cat Cams, JE forged pistons, 12.1:1 compression ratio, Group A buckets, heavy-duty valve springs and retainers, ported and polished head to Group A spec, oversized inlet and exhaust valves, DTM carbon fibre airbox, DTM sliders, Porsche 997 911 injectors, Vibra-Technics Performance engine mounts, custom Simpson Race exhaust system including DTM-style manifolds, no centre silencer, larger rear box, DTM exhaust tips, DTM cooling system including radiator, pipes and expansion tank, extended oil sump, 8500rpm redline. Getrag 265 dogleg five-speed manual gearbox, diff cooler, Sport Evo driveshafts
  • POWER AND TORQUE: 310hp and 265lb ft
  • CHASSIS: 18” Image three-piece wheels (in photos), 8x18” (front) 8.5x18” (rear) Rimscarnated one-piece BBS DTM replica wheels (fitted after shoot) with 215/35 (front) and 225/35 (rear) Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres, AST 5200 Club Sport coilovers, H&R anti-roll bars (front and rear), fully rose-jointed rear end, AP Racing six-piston calipers with Britcar discs (front), Brembo Racing four-piston calipers with M5 discs (rear), Pagid fast road pads
  • EXTERIOR: Diamond black, Sport Evo Front Wings, DTM-style carbon fibre front splitter and rear spoiler with Gurney flap
  • INTERIOR: Full extended leather interior with M tricolour stripes on seats, Alcantara roof lining, Prodrive Stack gauges, Prodrive pedal setup, replica Prodrive short-shift
  • THANKS A massive thanks to everyone involved. I have made so many friends over the years. So many incredible artisans and dedicated experts. JC Racing, where the journey started, essentially, Robert and Leon at R. Elsworth BMW for building such an amazing engine and all their help and expertise over the years, Nigel Moseley at Moseley Motorsport for all the help and advice, Adrian at XS Racing for looking after her in the first few years, Arran at Amspeed Racing for all the tech, DTM and Prodrive parts and rear diff cooler, Simpson Race for the incredible exhaust system and craftsmanship, the man, the myth, the legend, Wayne Schofield for his unparalleled electronics genius, Nick Bartlett for his help and advice, the rose-jointed rear, the Sport Evo driveshafts, Brembo brake kit and extended sump, Oli, Eddie and Alex at CLP Automotive and WPS Paint for all the incredible bodywork, paint and knowledge, JP at Omnium for the suspension setup and fine-toothed comb approach to all his assessments and upgrades, David at Sytner BMW Sheffield for all the parts and his help and advice, Roger at Muzzi Motorsport for all the exterior carbon fibre parts, the guys at Vink for all the DTM cooling system kit and front and rear bumper parts, Malc for his work on the APs, and last, but not by any means least, my amazing wife, Jo, for all her support, for putting up with me and being the most important part of the journey.

The S14 now sits at 2.4 litres and features DTM sliders along with a carbon airbox, with an 8500rpm and makes 310hp.

The engine took just over a year to complete. I started with a totally rebuilt engine courtesy of Robert Elsworth and Leon Witter… It now has lightweight M5 shims, 190 Race Cat Cams, JE forged pistons from the USA with 12.1 compression, some head work and is now around 2.4 litres

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