Car Life>> The Road To Seattle Pt. 1

Almost nine months ago, I purchased a 1989 BMW 325i. And for the past few months, I’ve been tootling around Southern California with the car completely stock. Since my Miata, I’ve had the inkling to drive a fixed up car for a long, long time.

But before I was going to throw on a bunch of aftermarket parts on the car…

…I wanted to see what I had to work with. I made a trip over to HPS Silicon Hoses, in the City of Industry, for a baseline run.

The E30 was bolted to HPS’ DynaPack and was ready to go.

I hopped in and, while HPS’ own, Hung Huynh, worked the computer.

The result? 110 horsepower and 130 torque! Watch out guys, it’s a true speed demon.

Since owning the car almost 9 months ago, I’ve been slowly collecting various parts to put on the car.

One of the first things to go out was the exhaust.

I took the car to E30 Motorwerks, in Huntington Beach, to get a differential swap. Since the owner and operator, Robert Calhoun, was under the car working on that, I figured he can replace the exhaust as well.

After a fair bit of internet hunting and forum searching, I decided to go for E30 offering from Stromung (which is, quite literally, the next door neighbor to E30 Motorwerks). It’s nice to know that all Stromung exhausts are hand built as the build and craftsmenship of these exhausts are something to marvel.

The polished exhaust tips with the Stromung engraving is beautiful.

Here’s the original 22 year old exhaust which has seen much better days…

…as a whole lot of old exhaust bits were emptied out of the muffler.

Could this have been the reason for the dramatic loss in horsepower? I’ll soon find out as I plan to make a trip back to HPS for a second run in a week or two.

My 325i came with an open differential. Seeing how I plan to actually do things with the car, it had to be swapped out for something much more performance oriented.

I found a used BMW clutch-type 3.73 LSD locally for a good price. Robert checked the internals to see if they’re okay, cleaned up the pumpkin and resealed it.

After the LSD swap, Robert finished up the exhaust install.

The Stromung rather pretty, no? It also sounds good. It’s not too loud and not to quiet as well –just a clean and sporty tone.

A week later, I made a second trip to E30 Motorwerks as my coil overs came in. Suspension wasn’t something I wanted to completely cheap out on. And knowing just how bad some coil overs can get, I went for a set of Ground Control coil overs paired with Koni shocks.

Stock vs. Ground Control.

The rear top hats are a very quality piece.

Those of you that are familiar with AE86 Corolla coil over installs would be very familiar with how the E30 work. The front strut housings had to be taken out to be cut, shortened, and welded back together.

Clearly, it was a job this measely photographer couldn’t tackle on his own.

So to the work bench the front strut housings went.

Surgery was performed…

…and was quickly patched up like new…

…by Robert’s wielder, John Hickerson.

The rears were an easy install. These went in way before the fronts were in.

But eventually, the fronts made it into the car.

Knowing roughly how low I wanted to run and knowing how dangerously low E30 oil pans hang down, I knew I needed a skit plate. I got the E30 Motorwerks extra-beefy skid plate installed, which John Hickerson also fabs up for Robert.

Interior wise, not much has changed. But since my stock radio and speakers were previously blown from Will Roegge’s Dubstep mix, replacements were more than needed. I researched around for weeks on different head units and I became disgruntled as I found all brand new head units look as though they belong in a car that is from the year 2152 rather than this beige 1989 sedan.

After more research into period correct head units, I decided on this Nakamichi CD400. The color preset of orange was one of the main selling points as the rest of the interior lights are orange. Also, the allure of a bit of JDM inside of a German car was more than tempting.

On the speaker front, I settled for a set of Infinity References in the stock size of 5.25″ all around. I didn’t want to cut or modify any existing interior of the car is really just too clean to touch in that way. Because of my stubbornness in speaker size upgrading, the new speakers aren’t too much of an improvement over the stock speakers.

Thanks to the guys from HRE Wheels, I was able to get my hands on a one-off set of 16″ wheels. HRE currently does not make a 16″ wheel so being one of the two people to have them is something else! The wheels are 16×8.5 +6 all around. They’re forged three-piece wheels which have been powder coated bronze (which HRE does in-house) and weigh in at an amazing 14.9 pounds a corner!

A German made car with a Japanese made stereo head unit and American made wheels. Quite the melting pot, no?

When it came to the decision on tire choice, I shopped around quite a bit. Sticky street tires like Falken Azenis, Nitto NT01s or Hankook RS3s were my top picks, but I after a bit of deliberation, I decided to go for tires that weren’t super grippy and would allow me to slide around a bit. I looked at the Toyo T1Rs, Yokohama S-Drives and Falken FK452s. I chose the Falkens. And thanks to the guys from Falken, I was able to get my hands on a set of FK452s in 205/50/16. I decided on the 50 series tires as I wanted a bit more of a meaty look on the car.

I had the tires mounted on the wheels thanks to the kind folks at Bavarian Exclusive.

I ordered a factory BMW IS lip to replace the dinky little lip that came with the car when I bought it. My friend Derek Dicker (whom I bought the car from) and I spent an afternoon painting the lip not with spray paint, but Plasti-Dip. It’s basically rubber in a spray can. The result is a smooth and rubbery finish.

Hopefully, it’ll last longer and not chip like spray paint usually does….

I took the car into a shop which a long-time Miata buddy, Emerson Hemedes, works at to finalize the ride height and also to get the suspension aligned.

The Ground Control coil overs, with the shortened strut housings, put the car on a pretty low ride height at the highest setting but had so much more drop to give. I decided for a good balance of aggressive low and also kept as much drivability as possible. 11.5″ fender to hub all around was what Emerson and I decided on.

For the alignment, I settled for a 3 degrees of front camber and 2.5 degrees of rear camber with as little toe as possible.

Here’s the car after finalizing the ride height and alignment. This is how E30s should’ve left the factory floor!

The next day, the wheels and tires went on. Here’s obligatory wheel fitment shot.

And here’s how the car sits as of today. I find the ride height to be a rather good (not perfect) balance of looks and drivability.

What’s a photographer to do after he finished up his car? Take it out for a photo shoot of course!

Larry Chen and I stumbled upon a great location.

At the location, our photographer dreams were realized.

What’s next up for the car? A road trip to Formula D Seattle this weekend and I’m hitting the road early tomorrow morning. Southern California to Seattle, Washington: 1,159 miles. The part two will be highlighting the more than two-thousand miles to Seattle and back.

M20 don’t fail me now.


Special thanks to all those who have helped with the car in one way or another: Robert Calhoun from E30 Motorwerks, John Hickerson, Mickey Andrade, Derek Dicker, Jesse Lee, Emerson Hemedes, and Kyle Ranauro.

E30 Motorworks

HRE Wheels

Falken Tire



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Love the car!


Keep up with mate.

more post needed!


"The car left the factory floor with around 160 horses. Twenty-two years later, it has lost 50 of those horses."

Someone should teach you about fwhp vs. rwhp... :P


Note to self: Do not read photographer's posts.. only look at pictures. Car looks awesome! love my E30s


very nice after more than 20 years the car still amazing >>>but what about the new power figures ???

add some air induction kit and see the numbers after that ?

good luck dude


Beautiful Result!!


nice write up and nice car!! u got the stance just right with the fattyness of the tyres!


good write-up. nice to see what cars some of the writers on this site drive, keep it coming!


wallpapers please!


Nice choice on the wheels and tires, if you could drop the rear any more, it would make the car look like a mini E32. Hope to see some desktops


some desktops please! looks amazing!


This car is.. perfect. Nice.




Wow Linhgbergh, those wheels are amazing and a great size too. You need to track your car in socal and represent the E30 crowd!


i want some desktops please!


Thats a really nice color and the trim and wheel color complement it well. I personally like how the rear ride hight sits. Keep up the good work!


I like it!


Nice car, tasteful mods, but have you ever turned a wrench? Seems like you bring this thing around everywhere to have work done on it!


wtf, this is amazing


Give it a proper service, injector cleaner (or new injectors) a tank of premium a good run and I bet you make up a surprising amount of that lost power. Beautiful car man, wheels are great!


Very nice, I just bought a '91 525i and plan on doing similar things.

How much did all this cost you or was much of it free?


The car looks awesome dude!


gorgeous looking drop, hope the 5 doesn't ruine it! excellent photo shoot spot also!


Awesome clean looking car. Makes me want to give my 1987 944 Targa a similar treatment. However miserable summer-weather and a lack of funds aren't helping. I am looking forward to reading about your trip.


DAMN MAN! That stance is sick! Great job! I'd say keep it like this.

From a fellow E30 owner.


After all this modifications the name is :pothole detector ;-)


WOW - now THAT looks amazing on the E30!!


Sweet article, taking care of the basics, and picking quality parts too. That Nakamichi headunit is rad. And finally, someone buying the appropriate tire for the job---I love your honesty in admitting you want something sticky, but not too sticky, and you actually made a good choice too.


Very tasteful.




Well Linhbergh, nitpicking typos aside your ride is looking wonderful for what it is. Props! Those one off HRE's are stunning :)


the last pictures are amazing!


I'm a sucker for E30s and this one is no exception. Too bad there's not much here in manila.


That looks so spot on now, the ride height is perfect with that little bit of rake and the wheel and tyre choice is all kinds of right! Nice fat tyres round it all off. Some great choices there


pleeeasseee some desktops!!!


great post. Nice mods to your car as well. Have a safe drive to Seattle :D I'll be watching on livestream from the comfort of my couch in Costa Mesa


Handsome! Hows the second dyno result Linberg?


What a set of wheels and a good stance can do to a car. Looking gorgeous. Congrats =)


desktops please! especially of the second to last one... one of my favorite E30's hands down


i love the e30 so im a little excited to follow this build.


Man, you guys make me miss my E30 Sedan.


I was surprised to see you had the same exhaust and coilovers as I did. If you wanted to set the car up for drifting, you should have gone for the spring rates of 12k front and 17k rear. It seems stiff, but it works. This is my e30


i think some good improvements have been made, it looks well, - protection for the oil pan is the best mod. in my opinion. can't get over the 'Stock springs vs. Ground Control springs..what a difference.


Nice! Looks like you are going for a Hokosuka GTR atyle with a euro vibe :)


This car is.. perfect. Nice.


needs yellow high beams, fogs, murdered out primer black...stickers... zipties.... gutted interior roll barz...wait this is a roadtrip car right? :P i never woulda thought of bringing one of these cars back to life and i like what you did. good work!


Very very nice mate!


something to marvel at*

great car, though!


Pothole detector


last few pics look like universal studio's back lot. sweet ride bro..


Beautiful choice of wheel's and congrats on owning one of only 2 sets of 16 inchers.

I now want an E30 more than ever


sweet drive the the number 1 up the coast. and take pics of the sandy car car next sand dunes in orgeon.


see you when you get here =)


The car is coming along quite nicely!

56 really don't know the difference between horsepower at the crank and horsepower at the wheels? Impressive. Oh and I hated those tires when I had them.


Great work! I've been toying with getting myself an E30, a battle between JDM and german, but after reading this post and seeing thos awesome pictures (how's the photography book, DVD comin'?) I am leaning more towards an E30 with JDM flavour now!

Keep it up!


Looks like the Universal Studios backlot or some other studio...nice place to shoot the E30!


great job on it so far!


AWesome how well the E30 looks with a few good tweeks and such, just wheels, suspension and a IS lip makes the car.

The M20 should do over 1000 miles happily, Did the same millage to and from Hockenhiem Germany from the UK!

As for the down on power, get the fuel filter replaced, check all the hoses are intact and get the injectors ultra sonically cleaned should restore some of that lost hp, a head overhaul would also help as well.


Hahaha hell yea! Go Emerson! My shop was featured.... Did Emerson run your E30 on our new alignment checker afterwards?


spot on wheel choice. looks great!


DESKTOPS!!! seriously amazing car linhbergh. oh and i used to think HREs only looked good on the rmr pm580


How did you guys get into the Universal backlot?!


looked way better on stock wheels but

this is still definitely my favorite Speedhunters mobile.


We neEd MOAR!!!!!!


Make sure you recheck that alignment after changing wheels!!- That's a big no no! Looks sweet though!


Wow. Clean as Shit!


the suspension part that replace the front strut,

is it called the 'strut insert'?




WOW! This make look my E30 like a big dump! Nice wheels too!!!


nothin but love man(but comin from a dude thats all function/grip i woud have ran a 225 on those wheels, the direzzas r nice and priced right)

still love what ur doin with it, keep it up


Give us wallpapers mate! and send me the stock rims:-)


Needs an IS rubber duck tail lip for the boot.


Execution is very clean. When you invest time and care, you always get great results.


2318 miles with 3 degrees of negative camber? The man at the Tire Rack is expecting your call!


Seriously though, it looks great. I went to half-chub when I saw the HREs. Do want.


such a sick ride! im jealous!!!


amazing car OMG nice e30


WOW man that is NICE! Looks great on those wheels and great parts bolted up so far, cant wait to read up on your updates, hope you enjoy it, theyre so much fun, I need an E30 now!


Linhbergh, you make me want to purchase another e30 and I think I hate you for making me want to do that.


I 'm in love with this E30 now! Pretty Jealous linh!


This E30 looks awesome! Very cool project!


Why the welding? Lowered/shortened/dropped E30 front strut inserts (of the right size) are available off the shelf for peanuts. Much easier than cut 'n' shutting the originals - stronger too.


Can't wait to see this bad boy on July 30th at Qualcomm Stadium !! !! =)


OMG where is this photoshoot location!?


damn nice work man....

really nice stance for the E30


Wow, those are some awesome photos at the end. My pathetic amateur photography skills are in awe.


Nice looking, but an E30 needs some nice BBS wheels and a KW Suspension kit. Add some Michelin Pilot Sport (Cup+ maybe) tires and it's ready not to go sideways that much but around corners at nice speeds.

But nice US-Style-E30.


Ubercool E30! got lucky with that limited wheels you had! beautiful car man.. . i wish my e30 318i m40 can be as cool as your car..


Clean car. Clean wheels. Clean ass drop. Hella clean!


Fantastic report, and amazing tuning :O The car know looks astonishing, the photos just looks as cool as the bimmer :D


de los mejores coches k ay y la mejor marca sin duda bmw the best


best rims ever .. ! ..they look super awesome on the E30 !!


I will help the 100 comment cause.


Beautiful.... very jealous.


I've fallen in love all over again with the E30!


I wish I kept my 1991 318is now....=(


Still a beige piece of ****

Oh yeah Comment #100!!


thats a beautiful ride! im working on mine just waiting for that paper!


Ugh, as an ex-miata owner who had ruled out E30's you make them all come rushing back into play! Very, very nice E30!


WOW.. you make my e30 look horrible. Nice work


Hey I got a spot for you to post up near Portland, Oregon! You wont get this in time I am sure. However if someone does pass the info along...Come by have a drink and some food and a place to rest your head! I will be heading up to Monroe (north of Seattle) to the Formula D myself. possibly Thursday. Timing might be about right for you. Just putting it out there. I love what you did with the Beemer and my bro would too! He has a M3 and a new M6 on the way! Goodluck in your travels and maybe I will see you up there!


Looks mean! I love those wheels, the overall stance reminds me of my old suspension set up. Goodluck on the road trip! I would like to make it out to fd but don't think work will allow.


I've been searching for a better looking head unit for my '91 M5. Yours looks the part! Does it have any aux input options?


i hope you know how many people are going to replicate this car exactly. its truly amazing. ew typing through drool is kinda gross


Oh wow! this is beautiful, great taste you have man


I was in the San Diego, California area the other day, when I heard that John Russakoff's shop, JSP


That is the factory white. The camera just had a filter to make the pics look a different color.


OH MY GOD!!that wheels and the lowness are feast to my eyes.great e30 man!!i wish i could built it that way