The story of Michael Ludick’s E30 build begins in the early ’90s when, as a South African schoolboy, he first developed his love of cars and speed.
It was Michael’s neighbour who is mostly to blame for this, thanks to the turbocharged E30 in his garage. Michael was crazy about the car and couldn’t get enough of the sound when he heard it coming up the street. The first time he actually got to experience the boosted BMW was when his neighbour agreed to drop Michael and his date off at a school dance, and from that point on he was absolutely hooked. Michael needed an turbo E30 in his life.
Although Michael’s first car out of school was a 1.3L Ford Laser Tracer, it wasn’t long before that gave way to an E30. A friend told him about a sedan that was spending most of its time parked up, and this turned out to be a 1986 323i with low mileage and in pristine condition. The owner was reluctant to sell at first, but Michael eventually twisted his arm and purchased the BMW in 1999 for R16000.00 (US$1,100).
For the next year, Michael drove the E30 in mostly original condition, adding only a set of lowering springs and modifying the exhaust system to let the six-cylinder engine up front sing a little louder. In this form, Michael took the E30 along to a drag racing event at Witbank Airport in Mpumalanga where he ran a best 16.9-second at 128km/h (79mph) quarter mile time. It wasn’t fast, but it was fun.
Ultimately, this led to Michael’s first turbo conversion in 2002. Pieced together on a shoestring budget it definitely wasn’t anything fancy, but quarter mile ETs dropped to a best of 13.8 at 162km/h (100mph), and as fast as 187km/h (116mph) on the half mile. Not bad for a full-weight road car running on 14-inch street radials and pump fuel.
For the next year, Michael raced the car at every opportunity he got – both legal events at Witbank Airport (including gymkhanas), and not-so-legal activities on Witbank roads. Too soon it all came to an end though, but probably not in the way you imagine.
While heading home one night from a party in Johannesburg, a car-jacking attempt saw wooden beams thrown out across the road in front of Michael’s car. He swerved to avoid them, but one beam struck and smashed his engine’s aluminium sump pan, and immediately the BMW six lost oil pressure. There was no way Michael could stop, so with oil pouring out of the engine he continued on until it blew a few kilometres down the road.
Thankfully, Michael got away safely, but the incident took its toll. Without sufficient funds to rebuild the engine, the E30 had to be parked up and Michael bought another car to get to and from work in. At one point the in next while he purchased a standard naturally aspirated engine to get the BMW back up and running, but the interest just wasn’t there to see it through.
Anyone else might have cut their losses and sold the car outright, but luckily Michael wasn’t so short-sighted.
It took five years, but eventually Michael was in a position to re-power the E30, and this time he wanted to go really fast. Boetie Budler, who today owns and drives the world’s fastest BMW-powered drag car, once raced a 10.8-second-capable E30 333i. At this point in 2007, Michael set a goal for himself to achieve a 10-second level of quarter mile performance at a minimum.
The big question was whether to use a BMW engine or something else, but after meeting then prominent drag racer Dirk Lourens, Michael’s mind was made up. Dirk had considerable experience building high-powered Mazda 2.0L FE3 engines for drag use, and could complete the entire conversion in the E30.
The rebuild was completed at the end of 2009, just in time for Dirk to shake it down and run an 11.31-second pass at 208.6km/h (129.6mph) in early 2010. Michael picked up the car from Dirk a few months later full dialled in, and in September had his first outing at Amsterdam Raceway. There he managed an 11.4 at 197km/h (122.4mph), which Michael says felt incredible.
Three months later nitrous oxide was added, and Michael dipped into the 10-second bracket with a 10.9 at 220km/h (137.6mph). Two months on from there he wound it right up with more giggle gas and more boost and blasted a 9.96-second ET, running as fast as 233.6km/h on the day.The Rebirth
Happy with the setup, Michael raced the E30 in its 9-second guise for the next few seasons, both locally and nationally, but in December 2013 it was time for another change. This was just a visual one, but two years later he had an itch to go faster.
A 2JZ swap crossed Michael’s mind, but wanting to retain the car’s independent rear suspension he passed on that option, ultimately settling on a G-Force drag transmission, as recommended by his good friend and fellow racer Leon du Plooy.
With the new gearbox and other changes in place, Michael’s E30 was immediately quicker, something he was pretty happy about given he had ditched the nitrous system along the way. A best pass of 9.57 at 234.6km/h (145.7mph) was soon eclipsed by an 8.98 at 232.2km/h (144.2mph).
When 2016 ended, unfortunately so too did the national drag series. Michael felt he had nowhere further to go with the car, so once again parked it. But that’s not the end of this story…
In late 2018, Michael and a few fellow South African drag racers fulfilled a lifelong dream by attending the Haltech World Cup Finals at Maryland International Raceway in the US. Four of the guys shipped their cars across for the event, and although Michael wasn’t one of them, he did use the opportunity stateside to pick up some parts for his E30 with a full makeover on the cards.
In November 2020, after 18 months or so back under the knife, Michael’s BMW was completed in its current and ultimate form.The Final Form
With the vinyl wrap removed and custom-mixed Daytona Grey paint laid down by Anton Raaths, I’m sure you’ll agree that it looks far more sinister. Prior to this finishing stage though, Anton converted the E30 from four to two doors, widened the rear arches and replaced all the glass bar the windscreen with Lexan.
With quarter mile performance the primary goal, stickers now replace three of the headlights and a cold air intake replaces the fourth. Out back a parachute was added.
28.0×10.5 M&H Racemaster drag slicks wrap around Spin Werkes drag wheels at the rear, which suspension-wise still features the IRS. Yes, Michael has resisted the urge to go 4-link. For now.
A number of modifications were made to hold power, like a BMW M5 diff, custom single-piece propshaft, and custom driveshafts and CVs. The previously-fitted G-Force 5-speed gearbox marries up to a Quarter Master twin-plate clutch and custom flywheel.
The engine remains the epicentre of the build, and it’s still the same Mazda FE3 2.0L 16V unit from before, albeit now with some serious hardware upgrades.
Starting out, there’s a Vanderlinde Developments solid lifter head with high-rev kit and and turbo cams from Dirk Lourens. The block is stock, but features a number of modifications and has been fitted with 86mm CP forged pistons, custom connecting rods and a modified crank.
Boost is now supplied by a Precision Turbo Gen 2 ball-bearing turbo and Precision 50mm wastegate combo, all mounted and plumbed up by Michael and his brother’s company, Ludick’s Bro’s. They also fabricated the custom aluminium intake, 76mm intercooler and radiator.
On the fuel side, you’ll find 2,200cc Siemens Deka injectors fitted in a custom rail. An Aeromotive A1000 FPR keeps fuel pressure in check, while a MagnaFuel ProStar EFI pump delivers methanol from the custom aluminium fuel cell.
Managed through a FuelTech FT450 engine management system wired in by RD Electrical and tuned by Marius at Fullboost Performance, the package is currently seeing 639kW (856hp) and 798Nm to the rear wheels. In other words, a lot.
Inside, my favourite part has to be the E30’s original BMW steering wheel – one constant from the very beginning of Michael’s journey with the car. Then there’s the G-Force shifter, and at the top of the windscreen a lever to activate the parachute and a control panel. Safety features include a custom 6-point roll cage, and Kirkey aluminium seat with a 6-point Sabelt harness.
Due to Covid restrictions, Michael’s only been able to test the car once, and that was at Midvaal, which isn’t up to the same standard as South Africa’s national drag strip, Tarlton. That said, he still managed a 9.2-second run, which isn’t slow. When Tarlton opens back up, Michael will be chasing down his 8.5-second ET goal, which let’s be honest, will happen.
It’s really great to see builds like this. It certainly didn’t happen overnight for Michael, but if it had, I’m not sure it would have ended up this good. Twenty-two years is a long time to stick with one car, but it’s definitely been worth all the effort.