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1990 BMW M3 - Old Dog, New Tricks

Recreating The First Generation BMW M3

May 15, 2013
Photographer: Khiem Pham
Sstp 1304 01 o+1990 BMW m3+OE euro headlights Photo 1/6   |   SSTP-130400-EURO-

When it comes to BMWs, one car we can all agree on is the E30 M3. It may not be the fastest or newest Bimmer, but the original M3 is a timeless classic that's rooted deep in racing and designed to perform around a track. While there are plenty of feature-worthy E30 M3 examples around the world from full racecars to show-queens, we found we could relate most to Greg Strube's project.

Greg's not your stereotypical BMW guy. Hailing from Houston, he appreciates all cars having already owned and built 15 projects to his name, from a supercharged Civic to a modified VW GTI. He's an everyday guy like us with a passion for cars whether Japanese, Euro or Domestic. So when we met him last year at Wekfest Texas, we knew his '90 M3 would be a perfect fit for our mag.

Sstp 1304 03 o+1990 BMW m3+S54 swap Photo 2/6   |   1990 BMW M3 - Old Dog, New Tricks

You'll first notice the car isn't over-the-top but tastefully done—just a set of refinished HRE wheels, a pristine interior and a mouth-watering engine bay.

Under the hood, the smooth bay has been blessed with BMW's 3.2 liter S54 motor out of the E46 M3. "I wanted to keep the swap unique yet still BMW," he told us. "I looked at the S54 as just a new iteration of the original motor that comes in the car—high-revving, ITBs and it's from an M...Albeit with two extra cylinders."

The entire motor transplant took place in Greg's garage. Because it was his first motor swap, he had to learn a new set of skills such as soldering and metal work. He also had to develop a custom sub frame and oil pan to fit the beefier six-cylinder while also whipping up a new 3" exhaust. The driveshaft and transmission mount remained stock but the motor mounts were retrofitted from an E36 3-Series.

Sstp 1304 04 o+1990 BMW M3+recaro SRD seats Photo 3/6   |   1990 BMW M3 - Old Dog, New Tricks

"The power is completely different," Greg explained. "I dynoed the stock four-cylinder and put down 155 to the wheels. I should now be at almost twice that. I know some people in the E30 M3 community frown on swaps, but the S54 is such a great motor and I'm really happy with it."

The rest of the project included the usual suspects such as coilovers, clutch, a more aggressive OEM rear spoiler and Recaro seats. As the Euro scene would call it, Greg's M3 has an "OEM+ feel". It wasn't intended to be a race or show car but perform and look better than stock using a mix of OEM and high-quality parts.

Tuning Menu

1990 BMW M3

Owner: Greg Strube

Sstp 1304 06 o+1990 BMW m3+BMW sport evo III rear spoiler Photo 4/6   |   1990 BMW M3 - Old Dog, New Tricks

Hometown: Houston, TX

Occupation: construction project manager

Engine: 3.2 liter 24-valve six-cylinder S54 swap with drive-by wire, M-Sport button; 4" intake; custom oil pan; Magnaflow high-flow cat and muffler; 3" single exhaust; AKG motor and tranny mounts; headers; Mishimoto E36 M3-spec radiator; SPAL electric fan; Samco coolant hoses; Setrab oil cooler; shaved and tucked engine bay

Drivetrain: Five-speed manual transmission from '99 M3; 3.25 rear differential; Clutchmasters clutch and flywheel; B&M short shifter

Engine Management: Modified E46 M3 ECU with Alpha-N tuning

Footwork &: Chassis Custom subframe; Ground Control coilovers; Sparco strut bar

Wheels &: Tires 17x8.5" front, 17x9.5" rear HRE 506 wheels; 215/40R17 front, 245/35R17 rear Falken FK452 tires

Exterior: OE Euro headlights and grille; carbon BMW Sport Evo III rear spoiler; smoked turn signals; carbon front splitter, foglight deletes and side mirrors; rear plate filler

Sstp 1304 05 o+1990 BMW M3+arc audio sub Photo 5/6   |   1990 BMW M3 - Old Dog, New Tricks

Interior: Recaro SRD seats; AC Schnitzer steering wheel; M-Sport shift knob; rear seat delete; ARC Audio 10" sub, amplifier and component speakers; Alpine head unit; vintage tape player

Thanks You: My very patient wife Synthia for supporting the project; my friends Rob A., Rob S., Shannon and Travis for helping at various points and for listening to my ideas; iWax Auto Detail for keeping the car clean; Marque at; my team 16Niss for motivating me to finish.

Sstp 1304 02 o+1990 BMW M3+BMW sport evo III rear spoiler Photo 6/6   |   1990 BMW M3 - Old Dog, New Tricks
Sam Du
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