If you haven’t looked at E30 BMW M3 prices lately, don’t bother - they’ll only upset you. Unless, of course, you already own one.
In line with the most coveted modern classics, it’s been a long time since a decent example of the first M3 was something the average enthusiast could stretch to. There is a solution, though - don’t get mad, get creative.
It is still possible to buy a more run-of-the-mill E30 for sensible-ish money, leaving a decent pot of cash to make it as fast as an M3, or faster still. Alternatively, you could buy one that someone’s already sunk thousands into, like the 1989 316i you see here.
Its original 1.6-litre inline-four no longer provides a paltry 89bhp to drive the rear wheels, though. The iron-block M40 lump was ditched back in 2017, with an all-aluminium Nissan SR20DET fitted in its place.
The SR20 has been upgraded with a long list of parts (all of which are detailed on the nicely comprehensive classifieds advert), including a Nistune ECU board, Nismo injectors, an uprated fuel pump and an electronic boost controller. It’s good for around 260bhp, which is more than enough to make a stock E30 M3 look rather silly.
That’s also about three times the car’s original output, but thankfully, there are plenty of other upgrades to ensure the E30 can handle it. There are B&C adjustable coilovers, two-piston front brakes from British company WMS, rear brakes from an E36 328i and an E36-sourced limited-slip differential.
Inside, you’ll find a pair of Sparco bucket seats with harnesses, a full roll cage and a Sparco QR steering wheel. The latter operates a steering rack pinched from a Z3.
It looks the part, too, thanks in no small part to yet more liberal borrowing from BMW‘s back catalogue. Elements of the front end plus the wing mirrors and spoiler are all inspired by OEM BMW bits, going nicely with the Compomotive TH wheels. The smoked rear light clusters won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the originals are included in the sale.
SR20-swapped E30s are more common than you might think. They’re a popular choice in the drifting world, although the seller insists this example hasn’t ever been used for such wear-intensive shenanigans.
Tempted? The E30 is listed on eBay with a fixed price of £14,000.