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The Need for Swede - 1988 BMW E30 Turbo

Evan Griffey
Sep 11, 2006 SHARE
0610turp_01z+1988_bmw_e30+right_front_view Photo 1/10   |   The Need for Swede - 1988 BMW E30 Turbo

Think Sweden and what pops to mind ... meatballs, IKEA furniture, and the Swedish bikini team? Meatballs: Italians do it better. IKEA: they provide stylishly disposable furniture for the masses and more Allen wrenches than any other entity on earth. The Swedish bikini team: well they might have one up on us there. Those ladies definitely rev our engines.

Although Mikael and Erik Kilander of Falkoping, Sweden, surely appreciate their home-grown bikini team, they're focused on revving engines of the traditional kind: the kind you make with pistons, fuel and boost. They're such huge fans of horsepower that they follow the imaginary Ten Commandments of Tuning, especially the first two: "Thou shall swap in bodacious engines at will;" and, "Thou shall boost the bejesus out of said engine without hesitation." The Brothers Kilander have followed these two axioms with impressive results, making us wonder if their next miracle will be something like walking on water or parting the Baltic Sea.

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Their story begins in a typical fashion: two 20-something brothers are looking for a project car. It starts as something innocuous, but is morphed into something obnoxious. The platform in question is a well-worn 1988 325i and the post-morph product has an M3 body and M5 soul.

Cracking open the hood reveals an S38B38 3.8-liter inline six scavenged from a 1991-1993-vintage M5. These are the pristine E34 M5s hand-built in Germany with motors that are rated at 310 hp. That's 70 hp better than an E36 M3, and 28 hp more than an E39 540i with a V8. The S38B38s are rare birds and require diligent maintenance - especially where the valvetrain is concerned - but they're fast and will last. To prepare the M5 bullet for boost Mikael and Erik o-ringed the block and used a custom copper head gasket to enhance the sealing properties of the engine. The reciprocating assembly consists of a stock crank, Mahle 7.8:1 compression forged pistons produced to Kilander specs and stock rods modified by the Kilander's.

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The brothers fabbed up a sweet turbo header that positions the turbo in such a way that it looks very much like a 2JZ Supra with a single turbo conversion. The first turbo to see duty on the Bavarian bruiser was a Volvo truck turbo. The home-grown Volvo turbo was soon replaced by a Turbonetics T72 that had a lot more on the ball. The remainder of the turbo system consists of a 50 mm Rosenkrantz wastegate, a custom downpipe, a 3.25-inch exhaust system and one of the largest intercoolers we have ever laid eyes on. The Kilander's took two gargantuan Iveco truck intercoolers, joined them together and then welded up custom end tanks to seal the deal. It looks like an intercooler with the front of a BMW wrapped around it. The unit, which measures 1080x140x250 mm, dominates the front of the car and sends a raucous message to the viewing public.

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Fueling has been addressed with a SX Performance high-flow fuel pump, SX adjustable regulator and 960cc Rochester injectors. The system is fed via a 17-liter fuel cell mounted in the trunk.

Along with the M5 engine swap the E30 was fitted with an M5 transmission, a 325/535 driveshaft shortened for this application, 535 axles and a rear end with a 3.07 final drive and LSD that the Kilander's fitted with extra discs to withstand the brute torque of the pressurized powerplant. The clutch is a Kilander special using an OE single-mass flywheel, an organic disc and a harsher racing-spec sinter disc.

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While the running gear was fortified with M5 components, the body and suspension received M3 hardware. A full E30 M3 suspension was swapped in and improved with Sachs coilovers. M3 front fenders add aggressiveness and 40 mm in the rear. Rieger GTS series front and rear bumpers further add to the car's visual impact. The front set-up has been opened up to ensure maximum airflow across the intercooler. Modified M3 rocker skirts, newer E36 side mirrors and smoked taillamps round out the body-tuning program.

While on the subject of tuning, the Kilander's rely on an Autronics SM2 stand alone ECU with an Autronics CDI ignition to pump out power and reliability. The SM2 can provide sequential injection for engine from two to eight cylinders. Tuning is programmed at 32 rpm-based sites and 16 load-based sites and the unit has auxiliary outputs that can be used for boost control, nitrous control and staged injection to name a few. Traction control, datalogging and launch control are also within the SM2's realm of possibility.

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The brothers got the Turbonetics-boosted set-up for a street-tuned vehicle and had it shipped from Cali to the land of Swedish Fish candy. Next they yanked the motor and called on VM Performance for some engine-stand dyno tuning. The Motorsport powerplant dished out 700 bhp, but monitoring of backpressure indicated there was substantial power still on the table. So the Turbonetics hairdryer was replaced with a Holset/Schwitzer truck-to-car hybrid. DSM fans have used a Holset HX-35 off a 2002-up Dodge Cummins diesel with good results. The Kilander's wanted to keep their exact turbo set-up top secret (however, we speculate it is HX-55 based) and since Schwitzer has been acquired by Borg Warner Turbos it is difficult to get the proper information. But the bottom line is this turbo sings a siren's song indeed; and with additional laptop time, and some Swedish magic, the Autronic SM2 coaxed a jaw-dropping 875 bhp at 5000 rpm from the S38B38. Torque checked in at 932 lb-ft at 3900 rpm. The power pulls were made running 1.65 Bar (just over 24 psi) using VP CSP race fuel.

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The interior of the E30 is fully streetcar in appearance with a custom aluminum center dash console housing some much needed gauges and boost control interfaces. A Cobra Monaco sport bucket, Sabelt five-point harness and a roll bar add edginess to the driving experience.

Driving this Bavarian beast is quite an experience. For kicks the Kilanders took the Bimmer out to the strip when it was in Turbonetics trim and clicked off a 10.44 at 141 mph. This impressive effort is really brought into critical focus when you consider the Mickey T drag tires were spinning for more than half the pass. With the 875 bhp set-up and some suspension tuning this could be a nine-second wolf in sheep's clothing.


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By Evan Griffey
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