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Admit it. You want this BMW E30 driving simulator.

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You know you’ve thought about it. You and a bunch of friends are lapping the Nürburgring in a Ford GT on the latest rendition of Gran Turismo or Forza and you think, “This would be so much cooler if I was sitting in a racing seat with a steering wheel, shifter, and pedals in front of me.” For my friends and I, this dream has become a reality.

For years, my friends and I have filled the time between car shows and F1 races by sitting on the couch, racing each other around our favorite tracks to see who can post the fastest lap times. That is, until one evening I arrived at my buddy’s house to find a stack of lumber, a skilsaw, and a spare E30 seat instead of the Playstation controller I was expecting. Apparently, James had a different plan for that evening. Version 1 of the E30 Driving Simulator was built that night.

That first “simulator” was just the seat out of an old BMW, bolted to some 2x4s, with platforms to hold the TV and generic plug-in racing equipment (steering wheel, shifter, and pedals). However, with my friend’s vast understanding of the inner workings of computers (plus a couple years and about four versions later), we have what you see today.

Sitting in the driver’s seat is nearly identical, in both form and function, to the interior of an actual BMW E30. Everything works. The steering column gives the proper wheel angle, and the tape deck and CD changer offer up your favorite 80’s hits (“Danger Zone” anyone?). The gauge cluster gives accurate readouts of in-game speed and RPMs. You read that right… look down at the speedometer to check your speed before you hit the chicane at Laguna Seca. None of that on-screen sissy stuff.

OK, enough with the details and on to the pictures and video!

The cockpit features fully-functioning HVAC fan, backlit display, factory E30 stereo with CD changer, emergency brake, horn, ignition, E30 on-board computer, shifter, etc.

bmw-e30_driving-simulator_cockpit

The gauge cluster is fully-functional and accurate, allowing the driver to check speed, RPMs, car temperature, and remaining fuel.

bmw-e30_driving-simulator_gauge-cluster

On the back of the simulator , a 14″ LCD provides passers-by with current car information (tire pressures, temps, RPMs, etc.) along with current and top lap times.

bmw-e30_driving-simulator_rear_detail-1

The electronics module operates the simulator’s computer (3.16Ghz Core2Duo, 2GB of ram, and a Geforce 280GTX), signal generators, and other electronics required to operate the instrumentation. Also shown is the small LCD showing more game stats and the Zotac nitro, which displays video card statistics.

bmw-e30_driving-simulator_rear_detail-2

And finally, take a lap with James!

30 Comments

  1. Looks awesome! Does the steering wheel provide resistance/feedback? Also, in the first picture… were they all out of good beer?

    • The unit behind all steering input is the guts of a Logitech G25 900 degree steering wheel with the actual wheel removed, at that point i machined a hub adapter on my lathe and adapted it to the BMW E30 Steering linkage.

      However to answer your question, yes it does provide a decent amount of force feedback, however I’d like to increase the amount of torque the motor can output as with such a large wheel its not nearly as powerful as it was with the original logitech wheel.

      And yes on the beer, i’ve learned that too many people drink my good bear, so back to the cheap German variety for now!

  2. Monodose says:

    I want one!

    • I also want one!! I’ve always been a BMW fan, with my first one being a BMW 2002tii. I wish they could open their own factory and sell these simulators.

  3. Jennifer1784 says:

    That thing is pretty neat!

  4. Alex April - E30 Yahoo says:

    Derek, that is completely sick. Nice work, fellas!

  5. Lyn Hurd says:

    Derek,
    Saw this through the e30 forum. Awesome! How do I get one or get plans or arrange to build one?….Seriously.

    • A lot of the internal pieces used to build this (mainly the integration between the game and the gauges, ignition, parking brake, etc) are no longer made, so it would be difficult to recreate it. Structurally it is just E30 parts attached to wood instead of the body of the car. 🙂

      If you send me an email (click on my name at the bottom of the article) I can put you in contact with James, who is the brains behind the operation.

  6. Like most of us guys, i love cars,
    and so i like everything else that is related to four wheels and a steering (or any deviation to it)
    My first real car that i am proud to have was a E30.
    and currently i am in the process of making a basic racing simulator…
    When looking for ideas, i saw yours and now i cannot put back my jaw that has dropped on the floor… GREAT WORK Guys, i want the same!!! LOL

    Please Derek, email me your contact or that of James!

  7. i want this BMW E30 driving simulator.thank a lot

  8. That’s pretty much the best thing ever…

  9. Build page? 😀

  10. Nice Works… but …

    Steering looks horrible !!!
    it looks like more old ship, than race car handling !!!

  11. starfox550 says:

    loving the set up. good looking. i’m a big E30 fan! suggestion………. genuine MTEC wheel would look superb, im my eyes at least

  12. Really nice work !!

    I know how many hours on it.

    I just build myself a BMW e30 simulator, look: http://www.sysprofile.de/id99704

    Please help me, i need more info about “The gauge cluster gives accurate readouts of in-game speed and RPMs”

    Please email me how you do that

    • Wow! We’ve got something to strive for with our next version. The construction of your simlulator is nothing short of amazing.

  13. pizzaboy says:

    can you post a procedure how to get the gauges and handbrake working in sync with the simulator?

    • pizzaboy, the hardware parts used to connect the gauges and other accessories to the game have been discontinued by their manufacturer, so, at this point, there is no way to recreate what James did. The software used is a product called Sim Tools (sim-tools.de). Their website should have some good information to direct you on how to integrate it for your purposes. I hope this helps!

  14. FishTaco says:

    did you design the software?

    • The software that controls the gauges (as well as the interface hardware) was written by a company called Beta Innovations. At this point they only do work for existing customers as the market was so niche he could not stay in business full time.

  15. Man, that’s neat.

    Is it possible for you to post the blueprints?

    • Nacho, I would if we had some… 🙂

      Like most projects, it has always been “under construction”, so we never really planned much out. Just building as we go and making stuff fit. If you’re looking to make one yourself, I’d say start with the basics of just having something that holds the screen, pedals, shifter, seat, and steering wheel. From there, make improvements for comfort and aesthetics.

  16. Pingback: Bmw E30 Gauge Clusters | BMW Photos Blog

  17. bright lamba says:

    were can i buy bmw e 30 driving simulator gtr2 and how much

  18. Helo i send from brasil this mails is possible you send the drawing plans and controllers electronic used?
    Thanks
    ferran

  19. Hi, I’m planning on doing a project quite similar to this. I was hoping to use a micro controller like the ‘Arduino’ to control the instrument cluster and then a Logitech G27 or Thrustmaster T500 RS. My two questions are, 1: Did you use an arduino? and 2: If so, how did you manage to output the game data like Rpm’s and speed for example to transfer it to the arduino? Thanks a lot, Joel

  20. I enjoy lokking through an article that can make men and women think.
    Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

  21. Passion the site– very user pleasant and lots to see!

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