Were there an official sports car hall of fame, a few cars from history would be undisputed dead locks for induction. One of those cars is BMW’s E30 M3. Where the New Class and 3 Series cars that followed restored a struggling Bavarian company’s image and forever changed the way the four-seater game was played, the M3 injected undeniable sport performance prowess into an automobile layout that had previously been mostly just a form of moving people. The E30 M3 moved souls.
It’s no mystery then that E30 M3s have become much sought-after gems in the collector car market, and especially among BMW enthusiasts. The pool of available quality cars dwindles, and asking prices are going through the roof.
So it’s no wonder that Southern Californian Mario Guerra has held on to his for so long. This pristine red example was purchased new in 1988 and has never changed owners. And it’d be apt to say the owner has no intention of parting with it.
It’ll be pretty obvious from the pictures that this car has been modified, and it gets driven hard, but it has also lived a quite pampered life. Twenty-three years of dicing up the road, and the odometer reads only a few ticks above 30,000 miles. And aside from the cage and the Recaros and a few other subtle bits, it looks just as it did in the showroom.
The outfit given the task of fitting it with its performance-enhancing accoutrements is San Diego-based TAG Motorsports. The project started to really heat up just last July, and four months later, it was sitting as you see it now.
Guerra is no stranger to exotic metal, so it was clear the TAG crew had their work cut out for them to exceed expectations. We knew we had to build a car that would mesh nicely in his stable, says TAG Motorsports’ Alex Andonian.
TAG Motorsports is actually an offshoot of a string of Evans Tire & Service centers owned by the store proprietors, with multiple locations in and around San Diego. They purchased the customs shop four years ago, were able to weather the impending economic downturn, and are now returning it to its previous level of success. The company will tackle virtually any sort of custom or performance project, from off-road monsters, according to Andonian, to Lamborghinis. And of course, classic BMWs.
Virtually no area on this car has gone untouched. The engine came out, the interior was stripped of its rear seat and soft materials. Says Andonian: Planning the overall theme was tough, and finding parts that really flowed together to give it modern flare with an old-school look. A lot of the parts weren’t available right off the shelf. That’s why the build took a little longer than most. TAG can typically turn out a full custom project in a couple of weeks.
The engine’s original 2.3-liter displacement was pushed to 2.5 with fully built internalsmachined block, OEM EVO crank and bearings, 11:1 pistons and forged rods, ported and polished head, ported EVO throttle bodies.
The greatest part about this engine is that it’s daily drivable, Andonian says. For a motor like this, it’s a pretty reliable car. We wanted a car that we could drive to the track, drive the crap out of it, and drive it to the office the next day. He estimates running 100-octane fuel it puts down about 250 hp to the wheels.
Even better, Andonian reckons the interior strip and subsequent re-toolingwhere they were careful to keep a tasteful OEM-but-with-a-motorsport-flare look, fabricating things like the six-point cage and custom aluminum door panels, even painstakingly sourcing OEM trim bits and carpetingtook upwards of 400 pounds off the curb weight.
It’s like a little go-kart, Andonian says. You can toss it around as much as you like. You can get it completely sideways, but it’s totally controllable. You just smile from ear to ear.
Even to the extent that it’s been worked, this project is still not yet totally complete. It appears the obsession has truly taken hold. Looks like we’re going to turbo it and put a sequential transmission in it, and run it off of E85, Andonian says. We’ll definitely be looking forward to that.
1988 BMW M3
2.5-liter I6, dohc, 24-valve. 2.5-liter EVO stroker conversion, Carrillo 11:1 pistons and forged rods, ARP rod bolts and head studs, ported and polished head, Shrick 274/274 cams, VAC adjustable cam gears and oil pan baffle, EVO III oil pump, 4-inch intake with K&N filter, ported EVO throttle bodies, BMW Motorsport 50/50 headers, VAC center exhaust section and high-flow cats, TAG Motorsports custom exhaust, Motronic ECU AFM to MAF conversion, Miller Performance WAR software, Braille lightweight battery with WARN battery isolator (at rear)
Five-speed manual. B&M short-shift kit, OEM EVO III flywheel, Clutchmasters FX300 clutch, M Coupe diff cover
Full chassis reinforcement kit, upgraded bushings, Ground Control coilovers and camber plates, Sparco strut tower brace, Suspension Techniques front and rear antiroll bars
Brembo 332mm big brake kit (f), red powdercoated calipers with Powerslot rotors (r)
Wheels and Tires
BBS RGR alloys, 7x17 (f), 8x17 (r)
Carbon EVO-style adjustable rear wing and adjustable front splitter, carbon EVO-style brake ducts, front bumper license plate delete
Rear seat delete, Autopower six-point rollcage, Recaro Pole Position seats with custom leather/Alcantara upholstery and red stitching, Schroth four-point harnesses, custom center console with battery kill switch, Sparco 353 steering wheel, ZHP shift knob
The 335i with its wick turned all the way up.
We first met Alex Andonian and learned about his S.D.-based operation on last year’s Targa Trophy rally. A true driving enthusiast, he’s an avid fan of the road-rally circuit, having competed in all three 2010 Targa events and planning to hit them again in 2011, along with other events like the Gumball and Gold Rush.
We’re kind of the young idiots, the guys doing burnouts, he says, grinning. We’re the guys that show up at breakfast the next morning wearing yesterday’s clothes.
The 335i is his daily car, having been driven every day for the past three years. The day he got it, while attending college in Dallas, he put some wheels on it and left everything else alone.
Then he came back to California, and all hell broke loose. When I got out here, I’m like, gotta mod it’, he says. Even so, this BMW has been done tastefully like the E30 above. Many of the parts are OEM, or what we’d refer to as in the vein of OEM Plus.
The look is subtle and effective. Exterior mods include a range of products from BMW’s own catalog, including Euro-spec bits like the head- and taillamps and the blacked-out window trim. The overall look has been given more aggressive lines with an OEM M-Tech rear bumper and K-Tech side skirts, as well as OEM splitters attached to the front. The kidney grilles and lower grille have been given a matte-black treatment. Since the car is actually painted black, for a little contrast to the accents, he added a full matte-white vinyl wrap to the body panels.
Under the hood, the charged N54 has had its breathing capability and turbo capacity seriously enhanced with an AFE intake and Active Autowerke intercooler; on the hot side, the tubes have been opened up with custom downpipes and a center section hooked to a Remus exhaust with black quad outlets. GIAC software masterminds the whole with maps for 91 and 100 octane fuel. To help hook the enlarged power figure to the ground, a Quaife LSD was installed at the rear. KW Variant 2 coilovers, paired up with Eibach sways, drop the car over the, yes, black 19-inch Alloy Technik wheels.
No official dyno figures were forthcoming, but Andonian guesses the car dynoed around 400 hp to the wheels on the 100 octane program. Whatever the figure, it’s good enough to light ’em up on command.
Overall, it makes for a nice, subtle package, the kind of 335 we might like to drive. Still, Mr. Andonian is switching allegiances for the coming year, and will be trading the BMW for a spanking-new Audi S4. It’s bound to cause unrest in the forums.