Featured Car / Parking Spot Car Feature

Parking Spot Car Feature: John Truong’s Turbocharged M-Powered E30 Convertible

There was something about this white E30 drop-top that caught our eye the second it rolled into the M Car Day show. The Epsilon meshie wheels, the stance, and the sound emanating from the engine all hinted at something special. We followed it and even amongst all the M-Power cars selected it to spotlight as a feature car.

We liked that the car was a driver, a road warrior, not some M-badged trailer queen that only gets driven to and from shows. Plus, this open-air Bavarian had an M-Power DNA transplant compliments of an M-spec S54 engine, fortified with a turbocharger no less. We were sold.

The E30 series BMW took the baton from the E21 in 1982 and set off to forge the automaker’s reputation as a builder of “Ultimate Driving Machines.” The E30 series was phased out between 1990 and 1993 but during its run the E30 introduced us to the M3, and one of our favorite variants, the one-year only 1991 318is and its bulletproof M42 four-cylinder engine.

The owner of our feature car, John Truong, has taken his E30 to new heights of performance. John is the owner of Lab22, a performance tuning shop in Portland, Oregon. John is in a good place, only working on select projects as Lab22 is more passion that business these days. The car was in the Tacoma area under the watchful eyes of Andy Nissen-Barber of Kirkland, Washington’s Vogue Autowerks. Andy is handling some audio and interior upgrades and has been taking the car to shows so he knows it inside and out.

The E30’s big claim to fame, and how it got into the M-Car Day parking area, is its M3 engine swap. The S54, the high-performance M-Power version of the M54, is a naturally aspirated 3.2-liter inline six factory rated at 333 horsepower. It provides the vintage E30 with E46 prowess under the hood. The S54, produced between 2000 and 2006, uses aggressive engine management, hotter cams, lighter weight reciprocating components, and a Double-VANOS continuously variable valvetrain to produce 104 more horsepower than the base E46 M54 powerplant.

Even with all the accolades thrown at the S54, John saw it as merely a good starting point, a solid foundation for boost. The engine is pressurized via a Precision Turbo 6766 with custom piping and a front-mount intercooler. A trick Radium fuel system feeds the fire while engine control is provided by an AEM Infinity stand-alone ECU.

Andy told us the 6766 is limited to a paultry 5 psi which translates into 440 horsepower at the wheels. “It’s tuned super conservative,” says Andy. “This thing has a stock rearend and we didn’t want to leave the diff on the ground behind us somewhere.”

Engine bay accents and wheel centers are Laguna Seca Blue. The E30 rides on Fortune Auto 500 Series coilovers and Epsilon mesh wheels which Andy is quick to point out as being, “real, and rare as hell.” We also took note that the dash features a gauge pack out of a Honda S2000. Andy says every gauge and light works as intended.

The E30 is presented here in the spirit of our Cars of Deutschlandia themed Caffeine & Gasoline car show and cruise-in slated for November 5th. Each of our free Caffeine & Gasoline events has a theme and are held on the first Saturday of the month, every month. This Saturday we are celebrating the cars of Germany and hope to see you at our Tacoma Retail Flagship Store, enjoying the sights and free donuts and coffee.

Check out our gallery of outtake shots on Flickr.

Have fun in your garage!


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