Every vehicle feature is made of up the same general elements: a photoset, a mods list, and some level of information.
Sometimes you get a chance to talk to the owner or builder, but not always. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that some cars lack any sort of story at all.
Be it marketing dollars, a digital thumbs up, or the top step of a podium, some vehicles are quite honestly the sum of the parts necessary to achieve a goal.
There’s nothing wrong with this, and those cars are actually fairly easy to write about. Pick a theme, a few transition phrases, turn on some music and let words hit the screen. Should an author do a good job, the audience may never know the reference material originally occupied a paper napkin.
The pieces that are far more challenging to write are those where the owner is so passionate about their car and the culture surrounding it, that no matter how hard you try, properly capturing that enthusiasm in words is always going to be an uphill battle.
Speedhunters is predominantly about cars, but the connection between people and cars is what truly drives the site. As a writer it’s often more convenient to side step the human element, because there’s less risk associated with doing so. Cars themselves rarely take offence to anything.
Also, no matter what I write, some of you are going to see Mackenzie Ebber’s car as little more than a bagged E30 on BBS wheels, and assume it’s a rather uninspired attempt to fit in.
There’s a saying about assumptions, but let’s skip that and see if I can convince you otherwise.Powered By Passion
On the surface, E30s are easy cars to love. Classic rad-era styling, reasonably-sized kidney grills, minimal driving aids, an FR layout, and motors that really ask little to run for a long time.
However, they’ve also got their fare share of ‘gotchas’. Incredibly useful onboard computers that don’t light up, dashes that crack at the slightest inclination, idle control valves that refuse to perform the one job they were designed to do, and annoyingly brittle under-dash panels to name a few…
If it sounds like I’m speaking from experience, I am. I love E30s, but it take the right person – with equal parts time, patience and money – to own one long-term, which is why after five or so years I moved on.
Three minutes into my phone call with Mackenzie, it was clear that she is completely invested in not just E30 ownership, but classic BMW ownership in general.
“I’m not even sure how the E30 came up,” Mackenzie explained detailing how she wound up with the 1991 325i. The white sedan proved to be her introduction to the world of E30s, and now she and husband Bryant have a stable that includes a second E30, a 528e, and a BMW 2002.
Mackenzie’s passion for these cars is infectious. From the advanced-for-their-time accessory packages, to archaic-for-today OBDI electrical systems, she loves every detail. In fact, Mackenzie’s passion is so convincing that she converted both her father and brother into BMW enthusiast. Prior to her E30 showing up neither were really into cars.
I must admit that after our conversation, I hit the local buy and sell just to see how much it would take to get back behind a wheel with a roundel in the middle…Ocean Side Views
Keiron spotted this car in Ocean City, where come H2Oi time a bagged E30 on BBS wheels is not at all uncommon. I’d wager literally thousands have left bits of aluminum on the 2.25-mile-long strip.
But this one is so simple and clean that I don’t blame him for being a little trigger happy.
“When we got the E30, I knew I wanted to keep it as clean as possible,” Mackenzie explained regarding her aesthetic choices made throughout. “All of the vehicles that inspired me were visually quite simple.”
USDM headlights were replaced with Euro ‘smiley’ variants, and above them is the extremely subtle upper eyebrow provided by European grills. The bumper trim is also from a Euro-spec car, which again just makes Mackenzie’s E30 more refined all around.
If this was a build all about shock valve, those details would have been skipped for set of obnoxious blast pipes and a chassis-mount wing. You won’t find any of that here.
The car was originally found at a dealership in New Jersey. Mackenzie says it was bone stock and traded in by an older couple who, according to the 180,000 miles on the odometer, had thoroughly enjoyed it. But despite the mileage, it was well kept and the recipient of a recent respray.
The factory interior is largely all original, equipped with the almost ever-lasting perforated vinyl BMW seats. However, Mackenzie and her husband did perform a dash swap.
Dash swaps in any vehicle are not for the faint of heart, and this is a job neither wish to perform again. However, I feel if another wayward BMW wandered into their garage, they would do it all over again.
A simple 360mm wood-rimmed Nardi wheel replaces the factory piece, and a vintage Alpina wooden knob sits atop the shifter.
A Pioneer radio thankfully sits in place of the OEM common ground head unit, and the Air Lift Performance AutoPilot V2 controller fits neatly in the center console.Respect To The Classics
The combination of BBS mesh wheels and a BMW chassis is iconic. With countless of examples prevalent around the world, making the combination look fresh takes a special eye.
Mackenzie’s set of BBS RS wheels measure 16×8.5-inch up front and 16×9-inch in the rear, and are finished in bright white with rose gold accents.
Even with stretched tires it’s a tight fit, but subtle guard rolling all around – and the previously mentioned Air Lift Performance suspension – make it all work.
A race car it is most certainly not, but that doesn’t particularly bother Mackenzie. “For this car, I went with what looks cool [to me]“.Respect Your Elders
Under the unique clam shell hood is perhaps the largest testament to Mackenzie’s love for classic BMWS. Motor swaps for the E30 are now easier than ever, and plenty of owners are taking advantage of that fact. Here, things have been kept largely factory.
The M20 is not an incredibly powerful motor. There’s aftermarket support for it sure, but there’s no denying that it is, at the very least, antiquated.
But remember, Mackenzie is a woman who, other than a tow vehicle, doesn’t own a car younger than 32 years old. Antiquated technology is kind of her bag, and the 2.5L M20 was showing the just-won’t-die spirit only an old BMW motor can.
So rather than cast it aside for a few more horsepower, she made it look like the crown jewel she sees it as.
The factory M20 intake manifold isn’t at all attractive, looking like a rectangle with crab legs emitting from the side of it. Individual throttle bodies are visually one of the most impressive modifications you can do to a naturally aspirated engine bay, but an ITB retro-fit conversion isn’t always without its challenges.
There was a lot of trial and error, but eventually husband and wife were able to get the ITB and Megasquirt managed combination to work agreeably.
While doing the conversion, TREperformance injectors were added, as were Ireland Engineering headers.
Replacing the intake and exhaust side of the engine necessitated an engine bay clean up. That started with removing the Cosmoline – a yellow, wax-type, anti-rust coating that E30s shipped with from factory – a laborious job at the best of times. Mackenzie did it by hand, before prepping the engine bay for paint, which she and her husband also did themselves, with rattle cans no less.
The majority of the tucked wires run within a fender, but some also run snake through the E30 M3 wiring harness cover that’s been installed on the firewall. Keeping with the car’s nickname Penny, several of the brackets under the hood have been coated in copper-esque rose gold.BMW Forever
Speaking with Mackenzie was refreshing. Her deep-dive into the culture is one that’s relatable to anyone else who’s done the same within their sub-genre of automotive enthusiasm.
Poring over old forums cursing PhotoBucket for their wrongful transgressions? Check. Driving insane distances for the right parts? Also check. Arranging life milestones around automobile events? But of course, that’s what we enthusiasts do, isn’t it?
As I said in the intro, bottling Mackenzie’s enthusiasm into words was a losing battle from the start. In an era where the truly passionate are becoming lost among the internet marketing savvy, I’m thankful for the opportunity to represent the former.
Photos by Keiron Berndt