E30 325i TOURING SWEET LIKE CHOCOLATE
This gorgeous brown E30 Touring is good enough to eat. Fed up of seeing the same old shit? Aside from a ground-scrapingly low stance, unique wheels and paint job, Custom Cars’ latest demo vehicle proves that with a few special touches and not much money you can produce a feature car. Words: Louise Woodhams. Photos: Simon Dodd.
In my opinion, the reason why the VW scene is at the forefront of the modifying game and continually moving on to the next level, is ultimately down to two factors. Firstly, they’re not afraid to put their hands in their pockets, and when 19” Phaeton wheels and a twin-turbo W12 Bentley engine pushes the ceiling, they’re not reluctant to think outside the box either. Unfortunately, it’ll be a while until we fully hit it, but owner of this quite sublime E30 Touring, Dipesh Amin, is desperate to give the UK scene a new injection of life. No doubt most of you will already know the name, an influential member of the PBMW forum and the man behind styling specialist Custom Cars. His first creation, a turbo’d E30 M3 with 3.5 conversion, was featured in March 2005, and has since spurred a number of one-off force induced E30 Tourings, and more recently, Patrick Samuels’ E34 M5-engined E30 M3 Cabriolet.
Built for £7000, this 325i is proof that you don’t need to remortgage your house to create a car worthy of being splashed on these very pages. Ultimately, the key ingredients to this ride are hard slammed suspension, unique wheels and an individual colour scheme, oh, and a few special styling touches to give it the edge. It’s clean as heck. Too clean perhaps, as Dips mentioned to me that on more than one occasion he has had to actually point out what he’s done to admiring onlookers, but there’s no denying that OEM+ along with a bit of imagination gets attention, even if you’re not sure what has been done.
Unfortunately, and it’s a view that Dips very clearly shares with us, a lot of BMW owners suffer from blinkered vision. Rather than setting trends and being original, they prefer to stick with what’s safe, which frankly, is just boring. While the overall standard of Bavarian metal in the UK has been raised over the past few years, we’re still going to shows and finding row upon row of very similarly styled and tuned cars.
Surely modifying is about pushing boundaries and making an individual statement, so okay you may borrow a few ideas here and there, but there really are no set rules or regulations, especially if you want to make a statement with your creation. And this car certainly does that!
When you’re the owner of an independent workshop, customers’ cars take priority over your own, meaning this ’88 Touring sat unloved and untouched for three years, bought back when he first had the idea of building a retro car. Fortunately, the engine had been rebuilt by the previous owner, so all that remained was for Dips to freshen up the mechanicals; new wishbones, bushes, drop links and rod ends, among other things, were sourced and fitted. Being an automatic, internal engine upgrades or forced induction were never part of the agenda. Instead a Quikshift air filter was employed, which uses extremely fine stainless steel wire mesh to maximise air flow, along with a Powerflow exhaust system, and bringing that magical 150bhp to the party is a Dynotune nitrous oxide direct port kit. In some respects, it is considered the most complicated to install due to the required plumbing, but Dips tells me the benefits far outweigh the complexities. Not only are direct port systems nicer to look at, but because the injector nozzles are screwed into each runner of the intake manifold, you can jet per cylinder and control how much fuel and nitrous go into each for optimum power delivery (in this case up 1300bhp).
Sadly the car wasn’t ready for the Ultimate #BMW
show at Santa Pod, but they’re hoping to test it at the Flame and Thunder event later this month.
Now it may look as though this car is on air-ride, but Dips’ Touring has been lowered the traditional way – on coilovers. The prototype three-way adjustable setup (height, damper and rebound) with remote reservoirs has been supplied by Automac and has enabled Dips to drop the front by a highly respectable 100mm and 80mm at the rear. Aiding the slam job is the original set of 16” BBS RM wheels, but to make them stand out they were sent to Germany for bigger dishes, once 6.5” in width they now measure 8” up front and 9” out back. And if that wasn’t enough, the rims were then steam cleaned, sprayed black and the face fully polished. Custom shallower centre caps were made and fitted and each bolt plated in 24-carat gold, although Dips got the shock of his life when he realised it would set him back £3 a bolt and with 32 on each corner, that amounts to quite a bit! The rims look superb however, especially against the sumptuous, rich and silky smooth brown bodywork, and the tyres are so low profile, they look like they have been painted on!
While the motoring consumers’ preference for silver and black continues to grow, Dips decided to throw a spanner in the works with his custom Renault brown hue flecked with gold pigments. Once staple of the earth-tone ’70s, brown is now the colour synonymous with 21st century high-end luxury cars and, it seems, fitting for the beautifully proportioned E30 – now the epitome of retro cool. “If you’re going to spend 2k on a paint job, why not go for something completely different? We experimented for weeks with different shades from various manufacturers but it was worth it, this colour works so well with the rims and interior,” explained Dips.
It’s not just the colour that aids this car visually, it’s the subtle approach Dips has taken with his careful choice of adding and deleting certain parts. One of the original reasons for buying this Touring was because of the electric glass sunroof, a rare factory option that modifiers in the States apparently pay up to £500 for, and the first we’ve ever come across. The M-Tech 2 kit already fitted was unfortunately in a bad way, so it was stripped down before being resprayed, at which time the handles and mirrors were colour-coded, the kidney grille de-chromed and smoked MHW rear lights and Hella fronts employed. This car is a real test for people who claim to know their E30s; the rear wiper, side repeaters and locks for example have been deleted, so has the notch in the petrol cap, and the bonnet and bootlid flushed. The front and rear arches have both been flared and the diffuser is custom-made from plumbers’ copper piping, a real testament to the handiwork of Dips. In a bid to continually evolve, he was even thinking of going for a bronze window tint, but with the factory tinge being slightly green it wouldn’t have worked. Being an E30 owner myself, it really made me think just what is possible with the right vision and mindset, the detailing is in abundance.
Similarly, the interior left me feeling very ashamed of my own efforts. The roof lining was sagging, so it was retrimmed in black Alcantara along with the A, B and C pillars.
The carpet was dyed the same colour, and to provide a contrast, the glove box, centre console, under dash tray, outer trim of the door cards, centre section of the steering wheel and even the nitrous activation switch were colonised and colour matched to the beige leather sports seats. These are perhaps the more noticeable changes, but did you spot the rear headrests that were fitted along with the 15lb nitrous bottle and unique rectangular shaped Vibe 6x9s in the boot, both sprayed to match the exterior?
No, what about the auto shift, which Dips swapped for an E46 item and retrimmed the inner section of in brown Alcantara to match the steering wheel? Not exactly retro but a definite improvement over the old Tshape knob. In keeping with the two-tone theme, the face of the instrument cluster was smoked with additional LEDs fitted to help the dials stand out, and a black CD tuner was sourced, in this case the Sony CDX-CA900. And if you think all of that’s anal, you’ve got another thing coming.
“No one ever modifies their rear view mirror so I thought why not use it to house the auxiliary gauges. Impractical as hell, but cool,” Dips explained. You’re telling us! Having paid £50 for an M-Tech 2 sports mirror in order to utilise the wire within the stalk for the map reading light, people thought he was mad when they heard he was going to cut it up, and then reduce the gauges to almost a quarter of their size in order to get them to fit!
For Dips this car combines two of his most favourite aspects in a car – it looks good but you can also cane the shit out of it – it’s no cotton wool show car, that’s for sure! Having bought it for next to nothing, he’s turned what he literally describes as a shed into what is in our view, one of the best E30 Tourings to date. Perhaps more impressive is the strict budget he adhered to, and the fact it was built in his garage with the help of few friends in just three weeks, proof that almost anyone can create a car of the same level. Okay, so he’s been working with cars for the past 20 years, and he learnt mechanics working in main dealerships, but the bodywork side of things was self-taught. “E30s are limited as to what you can do with them but you have to work with what you’ve got. If you have the right ideas and the vision to see what the car will look like finished you can’t go wrong,” he explained to us. Our point exactly, and if you needed any further evidence, just look at what he’s done for customers to date. In Dips’ endless quest to keep modifying, pushing the scene forward and open up people’s eyes to just what’s possible, we’re glad to tell you there’s still a lot more to come from the Custom Cars stable.
Direct-port nitrous oxide kit not for the faint-hearted. We’d sure like to see what it brings to the party at Santa Pod.
Special thanks to RAC Auto Windscreens that kindly agreed to let us use its Feltham fitting centre for the shoot.
Low enough for you? We love strict regime of colour-coding and deleting Dips has adhered to.
“No one ever modifies their rear view mirror so I thought why not use it to house the auxiliary gauges. Impractical as hell, but cool.” You’re telling us!
DATA FILE / #1988
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 2.5-litre straight-six #M20
rebuilt with #M20-DynoTune
direct-port nitrous oxide system jetted to 150bhp including braided fuel lines and nitrous lines, #Quikshift
air filter and #Powerflow
stainless steel straight-through exhaust system with twin 3” rolled pipes, four-speed EH auto switchable Sport gearbox
CHASSIS: 8x15” (front) and 9x15” (rear) #BBS-RM
custom wheels with 24-carat gold plated bolts and custom centre caps shod in 195/45 Toyo tyres and 215/40 Dunlop tyres respectively, 15mm spacer on the rear, Automac prototype three-way adjustable coilovers (lowered 100mm up front and 80mm out back) with new wishbones, bushes, drop links and rod ends, #Brembo
brake discs and #Pagid
pads all round
2 body kit, custom rear diffuser, flared front and rear arches, flushed bonnet, tailgate and petrol cap, side repeaters and locks deleted, colour-coded door handles and mirrors, kidney grille de-chromed, MHW smoked rear lights and Hella fronts, full respray in custom Renault brown with gold flake
INTERIOR: Sports beige leather seats with M logo, colour matched and colonised glove box, centre console, under dash tray, outer trim of door cards and centre section of the steering wheel, A, B and C pillars and roof lining retrimmed in black Alcantara, rear headrests fitted, E46 auto shifter with inner section retrimmed in brown Alcantara to match steering wheel, M-Tech aluminium pedals, smoked instrument cluster face with additional LEDs, smoked auxiliary gauges (oil and water temperature, and oil pressure) custom fitted to an M-Tech 2 rear view mirror, carpet dyed black, beige mats and load cover, colour-coded 15lb nitrous bottle in boot
ICE: Sony CDX-CA900 CD tuner, Vibe SEK50 5.25” components and QB69 rectangular shaped 6x9 speakers
THANKS: Custom Cars (07957 432167, 07956 605065) & all the boys that helped out, Automac GB Ltd (020 8440 8700)
Have you ever seen anything like it? Auxiliary gauges fitted to the rear view mirror, just one of many custom touches.
“We experimented for weeks with different shades from various manufacturers but it was worth it, this colour works so well with the rims and interior”