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1986 BMW 325e - Beige Beast

Chris McGuire's BMW 325e may be beige, but there's nothing ordinary about its 3.2 liter motor swap.

Greg Emmerson
Nov 1, 2007
Photographer: Jon Domingo

Just like Jorge Goncalves' VR6 elsewhere in this issue, this '86 BMW 325e is the first car Chris McGuire owned. Nine years later, it's the only car he's ever owned and, like the VR6, it has been continually upgraded.

Eurp_0711_01_z+1986_bmw_325e+car_driver Photo 1/10   |   1986 BMW 325e - Beige Beast

The 24 year-old accountant from Chicago got the car when he was 16. His father bought it new, and Chris got it as a hand-me-down from his brother, so the car's always been in the McGuire household.

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By the time the BMW E30 was his, Chris had become attached to it, despite 90k on the clock, a rough interior and a few "dents and dings." However, it was bone stock and a great canvas for a young man's imagination.

Inevitably, Dad was initially opposed to any mods but Chris was able to talk him round with some well-chosen parts including a chip, intake and exhaust. But as he learned more about the car, he realized the low-revving 121hp stock motor wasn't going to cut it. From that point on, he vowed to do a motor swap and future mods were in preparation for that day.

He started on the interior because it was in the most need of work. The simplest solution was to swap in a set of E30 M3 seats plus some 325i door cards. These were black leather and meant he could discard the stock tan cloth. He also added an M steering wheel and shifter to give him the modernity and comfort he sought.

The next task was the suspension. Upgrades in this area would allow him to enjoy the car more with its stock power. So he contacted BMW performance and race specialists Ireland Engineering in California. He bought stage 3 race springs, sway bars and reinforcing kits, adding additional plating to the sway bar mounting points. He initially ran this set up with Bilstein dampers, but later swapped to Koni dampers to better match the springs.

A search online turned up a Rieger show car in Germany with a wheel design he liked. It took six months to track down a set of CR2000 wheels but he imported them himself. "I wanted everything to be unique, and at the time nobody else had these wheels. However, you can now get them quite easily from Tuner Shop," Chris said.

Eurp_0711_06_z+1986_bmw_325e+wheel Photo 2/10   |   1986 BMW 325e - Beige Beast

The 17x8.5" wheels originally ran 235/40 tires, but Chris swapped to 245/35 Falkens after the engine swap. "With its solid bushings, the car turns in so well and the tires really bite," he said.

Over the next couple of years, he concentrated on the exterior of the car, but also found brakes while waiting for parts.

The first problem to overcome was the exterior color. Most people hated the factory Bronzit beige metallic, and Chris went through stages of tolerating then loathing it. In the end, he decided it was so despised by the E30 community he'd be the only person with it, so the original paint remained.

The mods started with the removal of the aluminum bumpers, which were replaced by plastic bumpers from the '89-on facelifted E30. The front also got a Rieger front spoiler, splitter and side skirts.

On the rear, the facelift bumper wasn't to his liking, so he bought a bumper from Autovogue in Britain. Above it, he placed a BMW M Technic 2 bi-plane spoiler from Germany.

Eurp_0711_02_z+1986_bmw_325e+front_view Photo 3/10   |   1986 BMW 325e - Beige Beast

The M Technic 2 Sport package also included plastic exterior door panels and Chris decided to use these on his 325e. However, he didn't realize they'd require so much effort to align with his Rieger side skirts, requiring the skirts to be moved out almost 2".

Following lighting upgrades, Don Kuhlmey at Patrick BMW Collision in Schaumburg, IL painted the new parts. "Don really helped me and I couldn't have built the car without all the friends I made along the way," Chris told us.

The carbon parts came later, including a hood and a special set of mirrors. The latter were molded from a pair of Schnitzer mirrors and only four were ever produced.

As for the braking, Chris had bought a kit from Ireland Engineering, which used Ford Mustang calipers and custom rotors on the front, but he had always wanted Brembos. So he got a pair of Brembo's Mini Cooper 4x100 rotors and hats. Ben Thongsai at B&D Automotive in Westchester, IL then machined a spacer to clear the tie-rod ends and align the center bore. He also produced brackets to mount Brembo's Lotus-type four-piston calipers. On the rear, he used a Brembo E36 M3 rotor and mated it to Brembo calipers from the Mitsubishi Evo 8.

Eurp_0711_04_z+1986_bmw_325e+engine Photo 6/10   |   1986 BMW 325e - Beige Beast

To ensure the brake upgrades worked efficiently, Chris fitted the master cylinder from a BMW 750iL that would be able to push sufficient brake fluid. "You have to pay to play and I wanted everything to be perfect, so I didn't cut corners anywhere, especially with the brakes," Chris explained.

By the middle of '04, the car was deemed ready for its heart transplant. "The S52 swap wasn't as common back then, but there was plenty of information available," Chris recalls. So he did his research and had spent 18 months obtaining the necessary parts, including the 3.2 liter motor and tranny from an '98 M3 plus everything to convert it to OBD1.

He then assisted Ben Thongsai install the parts and claims Ben's custom harness adapter makes all the difference; allowing the E36 engine wiring to simply plug into the E30.

Eurp_0711_03_z+1986_bmw_325e+photo Photo 7/10   |   1986 BMW 325e - Beige Beast

The transplant requires no major surgery. The engine sits on E28 535i motor mounts, using E36 mounting arms. The transmission tunnel was also unmolested, requiring an E21 320i "California Mount" to ensure a perfect fit.

The E30's stock fuel system remains and an M3 radiator was used before Chris switched to a thicker aluminum aftermarket radiator.

You don't need to change the instrument cluster but Chris wanted E30 M3 instruments for the higher redline and top speed. The only additional part he needed was a signal interface to mate the six cylinder motor to the four cylinder tachometer.

Before the motor was fitted, Chris bought some performance parts. These included larger injectors, a Euro M3 air meter plus software from Turner Motorsport, which is a very popular mod for E36 owners. He also swapped to the early M3 3.0 intake manifold because it has bigger intake runners. He then constructed a custom cold-air intake using a carbon heatshield manufactured in Britain for the E36 M3. He combined it with a K&N filter from Gruppe M. Finally he bought a long-tube header and created a free-flow exhaust system.

Although the car's not been on a dyno, the mods are expected to give a healthy 240hp.

The car has a Z3 M Coupe diff. It uses a shorter final drive than the tall-geared 325e, giving it sharper acceleration. It's also the same final drive as the European E36 M3s, which is something Chris can utilize when he eventually installs a six-speed gearbox.

Other plans include a custom turbo system. While Chris admits he's "very happy," he says "it'll never be finished because there's always something to change."

"I'm not into street racing or drag racing.

I built it to work on a road course and to be used as a daily driver," Chris said. "The stiff suspension means it's not too comfortable on Chicago's streets, but it's perfect for track days."

Recalling a recent experience at a Porsche Car Club event, he recalled that "blowing past a new Carrera 4S is a great thrill!"

Eurp_0711_10_z+1986_bmw_325e+engine2 Photo 8/10   |   1986 BMW 325e - Beige Beast

Tech Spec
1986 BMW 325e
Owner: Chris McGuire
Location: Chicago, IL
Occupation: Accounting

Engine: 3.2 24v i-6 S52 with OBDI swap, Turner Motorsport 3.5" HFM, 24 lb injectors and software, 3.0 intake manifold, custom intake, Eurosport underdrive pulleys and fan delete, long-tube headers, E36 M3 downpipe and Stromung cat-back exhaust, carbon engine and fuel rail covers, polished oil filler cap

Eurp_0711_07_z+1986_bmw_325e+cockpit Photo 9/10   |   1986 BMW 325e - Beige Beast

Drivetrain: S52 five-speed transmission, UUC Evo3 short shift, Double-Shear selector rod and Version 3.0 clutch stop, 3.25:1 LSD with M-Coupe finned diff cover, '95 M3 steering rack

Brakes: 320mm Brembo front rotors with four-piston calipers, 310mm rear rotors with twin-piston calipers, stainless lines, 25mm master cylinder

Suspension: Koni dampers, Ireland Engineering stage 3 race springs and anti-roll bars, metal and polyurethane bushings throughout, heavy-duty motor and tranny mounts, E30 M3 aluminum control arms, Sparco front stress bar, reinforced mounting points

Wheels & Tires: 17x8.5" CR2000 wheels, TC Kline wheel stud kit, 245/35-17 Falken FK452 tires

Exterior: updated E30 front bumper with Rieger Infinity I lip and splitter, M Technic 2 door panels and trunk spoiler, Rieger Infinity I skirts, Autovogue AV3 rear bumper, carbon hood and mirrors, blacked-out kidney grille with European headlight grilles, Hella smoked ellipsoid projectors and fogs with 6000K HID upgrade, tinted MSW indicators

Eurp_0711_09_z+1986_bmw_325e+steering_wheel Photo 10/10   |   1986 BMW 325e - Beige Beast

Interior: black leather E30 M3 seats and instrument cluster, 325i door cards, M Technic 2 steering wheel and rearview mirror, Alpine CDA-7893 head unit

Thanks/contact: Don Kuhlmey at Patrick BMW Collision (847-605-4050), Ben Thongsai at B&D Automotive (800-450-0300), Frew Enterprises (847-635-0962), Nick Majka at MMSport (www.mmsportonline.com) ,Ireland Engineering (www.bmw2002.com),(www.tunershop.com), my father Paul McGuire and (www.euroteknik.com)

By Greg Emmerson
1078 Articles

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