There is one characteristic of the TFB Performance E30 that you might pick up on right away: It’s not the prettiest car you’ve ever seen. But we aren’t talking about a trailer queen. This is a racecar, and talking the talk is far less important than walking the walk.

“Lots of people talk crap about it,” said Charlie Hayes, who built the car with Tim Barber of TFB Performance in Sonoma, Calif. “Some people understand what we’re doing, and are happy about it. It’s definitely a lot of mixed emotions.


“It’s not a show,” he added. “All you’ve got to do is win. Doesn’t matter what it looks like.”

Classed in ESR for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill presented by the U.S. Air Force, the TFB E30, er, pickup, led its class during the race for most of the night and the early morning hours against the Davidson Motorsports Radical that was lapping upward of 15 seconds a lap quicker.


According to Hayes, Tim Barber grew up racing sprint cars, where you have an accelerator, a brake pedal, a steering wheel and little else. Rather than building a car with big power, they went the other way. They built a reliable engine, with about 170 horsepower and took a plasma cutter to an unsuspecting E30.

Hayes and Barber cut everything out of an E30 that it didn’t need, which is to say, if it didn’t keep the factory chassis from collapsing in on itself, it was whacked. Once they “added lightness,” they went in with chromoly tubing, built the roll cage for it and braced everything that looked like it needed it. Then they added a big ol’ gas tank — 32 gallons — to provide for long stretches between pit fuel stops at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.


“The first stint was four hours on the dot, I think,” Hayes said. “It was a 110 laps and I don’t think the fuel was gone yet. It probably could have gone for a little bit longer.”

In testing, they tried running it with no body panels on it, but the aerodynamics were so bad it wouldn’t exceed 95 mph. Then they tried some hand fabbed sheetmetal, but they weren’t happy with it. So they shopped around and found that mini truck panels fit the dimensions of their car almost perfectly. And that’s why this E30 wears the front end of a Ford truck.

“It’s an AR stock car body,” Hayes said. “That was what fit our dimensions best. We didn’t have to shorten anything, and it works.”


Boy does it. Not only did they beat a number of pro teams with it, but they finished second in their class and fifth overall out of 69 cars that entered. Because it’s light, it was easy on tires, so easy, in fact, that they regularly double-stinted a set of Toyo 225/50/15 RRs and even left one set on for three driver stints. Fast lap during the Thunderhill race was a 2:01.065.

The detail photos you see were taken when the team was testing the car at Buttonwillow, and most of the coolant plumbing was improved with custom-made aluminum tubing. Even with the radiator mounted next to the driver seat, the engine never lost any water or overheated. In fact, its only mechanical failure occurred when the throttle cable broke with just 10 minutes left in the race.


“We finished the race with safety wire on the throttle body,” Hayes said. “I drove the last three laps with a hand throttle.”

The throttle cable has since been replaced, and even after 25 hours of abuse, the car is essentially ready to race.

“It did everything we wanted it to do,” Hayes said. “We were extremely happy with it. We have a couple of ideas for next year for that car, just a few minimal changes.”


TFB Performance E30 Pickup


2,200 lbs. w/driver and full tank, 32 gallons


M20, stock bottom end, mild port and polish, aftermarket clutch, lightweight flywheel, 170 horsepower.


Front: Ground Control coil overs, Bilstein struts, Spec E30 sway bar, Ground Control camber kit.

Rear: Koni shocks, Ground control coil overs, Ground control camber kit, no sway bar, 4.10:1 rear axle ratio


Toyo Proxes RR, 225/50/15


Stock rotors, calipers, Performance Friction PFC08 pads

Data Acquisition:

none, analog gauges


TFB Performance, Aim Tires, Toyo Tires, PFC Brakes, Bimmerworld, BMW San Francisco, Grieves Family Vineyards, Trefethen Family Vineyards, Highway 12 Winery, Go Pro.






Image courtesy of Brett Becker

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