454whp S85 V10-powered monster BMW E30 Coupe

454whp S85 V10-powered monster BMW E30 Coupe

With a five-litre S85 V10 engine squeezed into its engine bay, this hardcore E30 is an extreme machine guaranteed to get your pulse racing.

Words: Elizabeth de Latour

Photos: Oscar Malmlund


V Max -E30s really don’t get much wilder than this spectacular, stripped-out, V10-powered monster, and it’s an absolute weapon that will blow you away.

454whp S85 V10-powered monster BMW E30 Coupe

For a long time, if you were a car manufacturer and you wanted to add a super saloon to your lineup, it was going to have a V8 up front; that was the engine of choice, with very few leftfield exceptions (Brabus, we’re looking at you and your V12 E-Class). But then, one day, BMW’s M engineers looked at the company’s F1 programme and thought: ‘Why not V10?’.

Why not, indeed, because putting a five-litre, 10-cylinder engine into a family saloon was clearly the most logical decision that could have been made… And so the E60 M5 was born, and everyone proceeded to lose their minds over it. And rightly so, because no one had created such an absolutely mental mainstream hyper saloon before, and it really caught everyone off guard.

454whp S85 V10-powered monster BMW E30 Coupe

While people did – and still do – have mixed feelings about the SMG III gearbox, no one ever had any complaints about the S85 V10, not when it made 507hp and revved to over 8000rpm. And while not everyone wanted an E60 M5, plenty of people wanted its V10 because who wouldn’t? And these people started having rather naughty thoughts about where they could put that V10, which leads us very neatly on to this E30 sitting right in front of you, and it’s a very naughty build indeed…

Its owner, David Henling- Nilsson (@d.henling), hails from Sweden, and this Nordic nation (along with its neighbours) is a paradise for anyone who lives outrageous BMW builds. It has always been the home of huge-horsepower turbocharged monsters and outlandish engine swaps, and we don’t know if it’s something in the water or those long winter nights that cause Swedish BMW enthusiasts to conjure up some of the most extreme and downright awesome BMWs we’ve ever seen, but, whatever the reason, we’re not complaining.

454whp S85 V10-powered monster BMW E30 Coupe

“I have been interested in BMWs since I started to like cars,” explains David as he takes us on a tour of his V10 E30. “They just look better to me than other cars,” he reasons, and who are we to argue? “But,when a friend’s father bought an E36 328i, I was hooked and never looked back,” David adds with a grin, and he got into BMW ownership in style. “My first BMW was a turbo-converted E30 320i Coupé. I knew I wanted an E30 just for the looks, and this one was newly painted and looked great. It was a terrible build, though, but I loved it,” chuckles David. “I recently found it and will try to buy it back this year if my girlfriend lets me,” he adds with a laugh.

David got a taste for E30s after his first ownership experience, which eventually led him to acquire the beast you see before you here, and his reason for buying it is a simple one. “It was the baddest thing out there when I was looking for a new car,” David grins. “The E30 body with the V10 engine makes it the best of both worlds and the looks, of course – I had never seen a BMW look like that before, it was a real unicorn!” he exclaims. “I found it on Facebook, on a BMW sales page, and it was almost finished when I bought it. I fixed the brakes, fitted a new sump and welded it to fit, and I also changed the rod bearings; other than that, it was pretty much done,” he says with a smile, and what a machine this is.

Now, among the modifying community, there is something of a bias towards building your car from scratch, or at least having a standard car modified by someone according to your own vision – the ‘built, not bought’ philosophy. The thing is, being honest, as fun as it is to start with a blank canvas and see your vision come to life, it’s not the sensible way of doing things, and that’s the simple truth. It’s so much cheaper to buy a car that’s already been modified instead of doing it yourself, especially with a build on this sort of scale. Ultimately, people build and sell cars all the time, and in that case, we’d rather cars like these can find new homes with enthusiasts like David, who will be able to enjoy and appreciate them, and you just know that he does.

It would be criminal to start anywhere else other than under the bonnet of this E30 and to see that V10 happily nestling in the 3 Series engine bay is just wild. You can appreciate how little spare space there is in there, with the S85 occupying seemingly every available square inch. There’s no room for the stock airboxes, so it’s fed by two cone air intakes, and while the engine itself is standard, there’s a custom exhaust that helps the V10 breathe that much better, bringing a few extra horsepower to the party. Two 3” downpipes lead into a 2.5” X-pipe centre section, and then there are two gutted race cats and a single 4” tip that exits via the passenger-side sill. And there are precisely zero silencers, which means this E30 is blessed with the most unholy, ear-splitting V10 symphony imaginable, as David’s Instagram reels so wonderfully demonstrate. It’s truly glorious, and to hear that supercar soundtrack coming from a classic 3 Series is genuinely hilarious. Oh, and as far as power is concerned, it’s now making 454whp, so around 530hp at the crank, which is just over a 20hp increase over stock and more than enough to make this E30 capable of lighting up the rears at a moment’s notice.

Not only does David have a V10 to enjoy under the bonnet of his classic Three, but the experience is made even better thanks to the fact that there’s a manual gearbox attached to it. The transmission is a ZF Type G six-speed manual gearbox from an E92 M3, running an original M3 clutch, with a shortened propshaft due to the E30’s compact dimensions, while power is sent to the tarmac via an M535i diff, and it’s a combo that works exceptionally well.

In terms of looks, this is clearly not a stealth build; it’s all about purpose and presence, and it’s got heaps of that, thanks to the massive arches that have been added to the normally subtle E30 body. Up front sits a pair of completely unsubtle DL Custom Works items, and to match them, the rear arches have been widened by 65mm on each side, and this combination has given this 3 Series such a muscular, pumped-up look, like it’s just flexing, and it has every right to do exactly that. Those massive arches are filled with a set of Japan Racing JR11 wheels, and these 18s measure 8.5” across up front and 10.5”-wide at the rear; they suit this build really well, and look suitably dramatic thanks to some serious concave on those faces. But there’s lots more to the exterior than just those arches, and this E30 oozes aggression from every pore.

Up front sits a custom lip that juts out from beneath the bumper, along with Hella smoked headlights, and then you’ve got the custom aluminium side skirts, while at the rear sits a custom spoiler and a massive diffuser. That’s not the end of it, though, because there’s also a roof-mounted scoop that feeds air to the rear-mounted radiator via four tubes, and where the rear number plate would normally sit, there’s a cut-out to allow the fan to expel hot air. You’ll also have spotted the lightweight rear windows, which leave you in no doubt that this is a hardcore build. The finishing touch is a respray in Silver grey metallic, as found on the E46 M3 CSL.

Beneath the surface, the chassis has received a selection of enhancements, with the E30 sitting on a set of D2 coilovers that have delivered a tasty drop as well as enhancing the handling and allowing David to make the most of all that rampant horsepower and beyond that, you will find a C-Parts steering kit, along with E90 tie rods and E46 ball joints.

Finally, we come to the interior, and as you might expect from looking at this build, it’s a pretty hardcore setup. “There’s not much except for a steering wheel and two seats,” laughs David. “The in-car entertainment is the V10 engine,” he adds with a grin, and what more do you need? The interior is dominated by the full lime-green Finess roll-cage, but clamber over that, and you gain access to the Lico Hurricane bucket seats complete with six-point Sabelt harnesses. The entire dashboard comes from an E63 M6, which looks strangely at home in the E30’s cabin, and there’s a suederimmed deep-dish RRS steering wheel. Finally, you’ve got a pair of safety nets, carbon fibre door cards, and a D2 hydraulic handbrake.

Seeing a V10 in an E30 will never fail to get us seriously excited, and David’s fullon, hardcore build is a very exciting car indeed. It looks so aggressive, it’s got so much presence, and it’s just awesome. It’s a car that does not hide its intentions and lets you know from the moment you see it means business – this a serious machine, and no mistake.

And while there’s a lot to love about this E30, it’s the V10 that’s the star of the show, and, unsurprisingly, it’s one of Daniel’s personal highlights on the whole build. “The engine swap is one of my favourite things about the car – it’s one of the best sounding engines out there,” he says with a smile, “and I also really like the roof air intake back to the radiator. It’s a cool solution that stands out,” he adds.

Even with such a complete build, there are always a few things to do, and, in this case, David is hunting for more power because a mere 530hp clearly isn’t enough… “I want to change the camshafts so she screams even higher,” he grins, and that’s going to make this 3 Series even wilder, which is really saying something. With massive power accompanied by an apocalyptic soundtrack, it really doesn’t get much better than this epic E30, and watching David disappear in a massive cloud of tyre smoke, that V10 howling through the Swedish forest even after he’s long gone, you know he’s having the time of his life, and that’s what cars, and modifying them, is all about.

454whp S85 V10-powered monster BMW E30 Coupe

Japan Racing JR11 18s suit the build perfectly. The cabin has been stripped out and features only the bare essentials Custom switch panel.


  • ENGINE: 5.0-litre V10 S85B50, 2x 3” downpipes into 2x 2.5” X-pipe, gutted race cats, 4” exhaust tip, Köhler Tornado 2 ECU, original wiring harness with Köhler connectors, rear-mounted radiator.
  • TRANSMISSION: ZF type G sixspeed manual gearbox from E92 M3, original E92 M3 clutch, shortened M6 propshaft, M535i differential
  • MAX POWER: 454whp
  • MAX TORQUE: 339lb ft wtq
  • CHASSIS: 8.5x18” (front) and 10.5x18” (rear) Japan Racing JR11 wheels with 235/35 (front) and 265/30 (rear) tyres, stud kit, D2 coilovers, C-Parts steering kit, E90 tie rods, E46 ball joints
  • EXTERIOR: Silver grey metallic, detachable front end, custom front lip, Hella smoked lights, DL Custom Works front arches, AeroCatch bonnet pins, custom aluminium side skirts, lightweight rear windows, rear roof scoop, rear arches widened 65mm per side, Idefix rear spoiler, DL custom wing, custom diffuser
  • INTERIOR: Lico Hurricane seats, Sabelt six-point harnesses, E63 M6 dashboard, RRS deep-dish suede steering wheel, Finess roll-cage reinforced with extra tubes, D2 hydraulic handbrake, anodised aluminium shelf, 4x 125mm tubes for radiator, carbon fibre door cards, safety nets, Opel Astra electric servo
  • THANKS Göran Holmgren, my good friend and mechanic

454whp S85 V10-powered monster BMW E30 Coupe

There’s not much except for a steering wheel and two seats. The in-car entertainment is the V10 engine

It shouldn’t fit, but it does – just barely… The satisfied face of someone who gets to enjoy a V10 E30 whenever he wants

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