People ask me what it takes to build a Spec E30. Believe it or not, it’s a common question that people who are interested in this series ask me. To show how the full process unfolds, we’re going to document a recent build I’ve just begun and let the world in on all the secrets of building a Spec E30 to race! In future stories, we will cover some specific aspects to building a Spec E30 from the start of this project, to the starting line!
FINDING A DONOR CAR
Finding a donor seems easy enough, but how do you know which car to look for? Ideally you would like to find an E30 with the “IS” trim because it has the M20 engine and the limited slip differential allowed by the series rules. There was a time not long ago that you could find a decent-running E30 for sale for $500 or less! That’s simply not the case today and now what you can expect to find is a non-running car in bad shape for $2,000 or more! Be patient when looking for a donor car. They are out there. You just have to hunt for them, and sometimes it takes a while to find the right car.
Other available chassis options are the 325I, 325E and the recently legalized 325 convertible. The good thing about choosing the 325E is that it’s much less likely to have been beaten on, because they were built for fuel economy-minded buyers, not enthusiasts, and that can mean a fresher chassis to start with. The downside is there are a few things that will need to be changed for it to be not only legal in Spec E30, but also competitive. The same could be said for the convertible, although some considerations should be made when choosing this chassis, if only because of the lack of a roof in regions where rain can be a frequent occurrence, or hot regions where the sun beats down on you while you are in the car. Then there is the four-door chassis that offers the convenience of using the rear of the car for storing a tires or tools. Some guys love it for that reason and including the four-door might make your search for a donor car a little easier. All are competitive chassis, so choosing one over the other is simply a matter of personal preference.
For this build, we found a 1987 325E in “Bronzit Beige Metallic.” It was a popular color at the time, and honestly, does not age very well, as with most any 30-year-old paint jobs. Since our plan was always to paint the car, having imperfect paint is also a great haggling point when negotiating a purchase. The same goes for finding someone else’s project that they never finished. If the interior is stripped, it also makes a great haggling point in the negations of the price, even though it saves you time in stripping the interior. Just don’t tell the seller you’re making a racecar out of it, because you lose your bargaining position.
YOU FOUND A DONOR, SO WHAT’S NEXT?
Easy! You need to prepare the car for all the Spec E30 parts required by the rules. The rules, you say? Yes, the first thing you need to do after bringing a donor car home is to sit down and read the rules. Once you have read them thoroughly, read them again! This will allow you to develop a plan on what items to remove and what items to retain. Since Spec E30 racers live by the rule, “If it doesn’t say you can, then you can’t,” you need to know what you can do before you touch the car. Plus, if the rules specify a part that can be removed, it’s likely an item that is desirable to be removed, to maximize the car’s on-track potential.
Now that you are up to speed on the rules, in the next segment we will delve into stripping a car down in preparation for the cage. Because Spec E30 was devised as an affordable class, we’ll keep track of costs to show you what it really costs to build one in your garage.
Donor, 1987 325E, $1,000