I really should have written a feature on the Goblin Works BMW E30 before now, but Fast Car Magazine had an exclusive so I wanted to wait for that. In fact you can vote for the E30 as Fast Car Magazine’s Feature Car of The Year right here if you like it.
But now it’s time to talk custom, so I’ll dive in with the build spec (a lot was cut from the show or simply not featured because we did so much, the episode would’ve been a week long just to fit it all in)…
The engine was from an E46 330Ci Sport which replaced the original E30 318i. It has a Pipercross air filter, E46 M3 Direnza radiator from Japspeed, servo and master cylinder from a Porsche 944. The transmission is from an E36 M3 with short shifter – replacing the original 318i automatic set-up. It has Air Lift Performance Suspension specifically for the E30, I met these guys at Sema and when I told them about the project and my ideas and found out they did an E30 set-up I knew it was the right way to go for this build. It’s the coolest thing to see a car slam to the ground on air – the noise it makes is awesome too. I’ve never used air suspension before so I can’t get enough of it. To me it makes the car seem like a Transformer and adds even more to the design.
The front brakes are V-Maxx for a BMW E30 325i, it’s a full kit including vented discs, pads, lines and red calipers (I opted for red calipers because there’s a pop of red on the Airlift Performance dampers which can be seen in the engine bay). The rear has a brake conversion using an E30 325i Sport rear beam axle and rear suspension arms and we added EBC groved discs and yellow stuff pads with standard calipers for the E30 325, also Venhill brake lines. Which is still an upgrade from the original 318 drums.
The wheels (oh my car gods these wheels!) are 3SDM motorsport inspired custom forged wheels in satin black with Toyo Proxy Sport R888Rs. Front 18″ x 9.5″ Rear 18″ x 11″. 3SDM made these wheels especially for us with the 4 bolt pattern in our specific size, I went down to their factory and watched the wheels being made – the whole process from CAD to CNC to powder coating. They make beautiful wheels and I’ve had my eye on this specific design for a while.
The interior, the original dash and console were repaired and covered in anthracite grey alcantara with a mint contrast stitch. Original door cards were dyed black and also have alcantara middle inserts and a mint stitch to match, this was all done by Brett at Alpha Auto Concepts – he’s an interior genius. He also made a custom carpet in black with the same contrast stitch, covered the original steering wheel and installed a custom black headliner (we welded up the sunroof because it leaked and I wanted the roof smooth so we couldn’t utilise the original headlining). I wanted to keep the original dials as well – it was important to strike a balance between originality and modernisation with this car. Too much one way or the other wouldn’t have worked. The rear seats were removed and a half roll bar was fitted and painted in a pastel mint. The bare metal Airlift Suspension tank, compressors and regulator all sit in place of the rear seats – with everything exposed. I wanted all the components to be visible – not hidden or boxed in, it’s such an impressive kit it had to be seen. The original front seats were replaced with black and grey Corbeau RS2 Reclining Bucket Seats which Corbeau kindly stitched in black for me so they tied in with the rest of the interior. These seats recline and slide so they’re ideal to gain access to the Airlift Performance equipment in the back. They’re also compatible with 3 and 4 point harnesses so I went with grey TRS harnesses from Panda Racing.
Personally I can’t drive without music, but I wanted the stereo to blend into it’s surroundings so I went for a Pioneer SPH-10BT Smartphone Receiver, TS-A speakers in the front and slimline Class D Active subwoofer in the back. Again I didn’t want a big boxy build with flashing lights, instead opting for a stylish set-up – stealth, aestically in keeping and great quality. Overall the interior is a dark, comfortable space with a good balance between form and function. It’s a lovely place to be, it engulfs you and makes you feel part of the car. Celebrating it’s original design and then adding a few custom, modern touches.
The exterior, so the idea behind this car was to design something inspired by an emerging sub-trend on the custom car scene which has it’s roots in Japan. It involves mixing up standard looking performance cars with race elements and mad max inspired styling, to build Dystopian creations which look like they belong in a sci-fi movie or a computer game. To truly transform and enhance the look of this E30 simply adding flared arches and a spoiler or someone else’s kit just wouldn’t cut it. So I decided to create our own bespoke body kit to make this car look like it belongs in a Dystopian computer game. So we worked with Fat Fender, one of the only companies in the UK who still create body kits using the old school foam sculpting method and designed our one-off kit on the car. Taking that Japanese custom sub-trend and my love of BMW touring cars and creating a beast. We used the existing lines and angles on the car to enhance the body, making the car wider, lower and meaner. Giving it a real DTM vibe. Moulds were eventually made and the Fibreglass panels were produced and bonded onto the original body. I wanted the kit to look like an extension of the car rather than something visibly added on, and together I think we achieved that. Fat Fender also painted the E30 for us. I think all cars look good in grey so we went with a mid grey similar to Nardo on the exterior then added a pastel mint colour to the engine bay and roll bar. Ant and Jimmy hated the sound of it initially but came round to the idea when they saw it. The whole colour scheme works really well along with the satin black wheels and dark interior.
The original fuel tank was removed and the spare wheel well welded up, a custom aluminium race tank was then fitted in the boot – so we could get rid of the filler cap on the bodywork and hold more fuel too.
We kept the original rear lights and I wanted to keep the original twin headlights too but to add to this Dystopian Japanese sub-trend aesthetic I also wanted to turn the inner set of lights into air ducts. Ducts with lights didn’t exist for this car (or at least I couldn’t find any) so I made my own, setting LED halos into some plastic ducts which created functioning light ducts. Channeling more cold air into the engine bay and they look pretty gnarly too. The body kit for this E30 is available to buy – this was the only way to justify creating one from scratch and I want to manufacture these light ducts too.
We also gave the car a de-chrome in satin black and window tint too courtesy of my mate Dave.
Where did the car come from? The original car belonged to a mechanic I knew, it was for sale so I nabbed it. E30s are going up in value all the time and as it turns out this car is earlier than we thought, it’s registered as an 87 model but it was actually born in 85. There’s a big market for E30s, they’re rising in popularity and there’s a huge scene for custom BMWs in general – it’s a real cult following. Personally I love boxy 80’s cars and the first fast car I ever drove when I was 17 was a BMW 3 Series, that car got me hooked. I don’t think there’s a meaner looking car than a BMW and I love mean looking cars.
When I got the E30 it looked terrible, it was covered in the dreaded BMW laquer peel, it had rust holes, a leaky sunroof… it needed love. Also it was originally an 318i auto, so it was pretty lacklustre throughout. I actually drove it to the NEC before tearing it apart and although it made it there and back the exhaust shit the bed on the journey home – it just about limped back!
“It’s just as bonkers as I’d hoped. You’re the best kind of lunatic.”
I had a vision and now it’s on the tarmac and it’s alive! There were times when I regretted this build, because it was expensive and full-on and the deadline wasn’t conducive to the amount of work needed to actualize the design. Building this car as well as filming nearly sent me over the edge – I don’t think I’ve ever been so stressed. But looking at it now, it was worth it. I love it. I’m especially proud of this car, because it’s out there but it’s drive-able. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily 100% practical because it’s a fair bit wider than before but it’s built to drive. It’ll certainly drive you out of trouble in the event of an apocalypse and look damn good doing it. It does still need a few tweaks, such as a custom exhaust which I’ll be following up with Maynard Engines. Eventually it’ll be supercharged too – all car folk know, a classic build is never finished.
Special thanks to Fat Fender UK, Airlift Performance, 3SDM, Toyo Tires, The Performance Company, Dave Brown, Paul Whelan, V-Maxx, EBC Brakes, Pipercross, Venhill, Corbeau, Panda Racing, Alpha Auto Concepts, Deutsch Tech, Japspeed.
Photographs by Chris Frosin.