Today, I get to show you a magnificent 1988 BMW E30 M3 styled by Stan Chen and I’m pretty excited about it.
Some of you younger folk might be wondering why I’m so thrilled to talk about a 33 year old car. To those people I’ll provide a warning: appreciate the cool cars around you now because one day they’ll be extremely rare and you’ll long for the days when those cars were much easier to come by.
The E30 M3 is one of those cars. When I was in high school back in the late 90s an E30 M3 was still “rare” but being in Southern California I would still see them on the street relatively often. Heck, I’d even see them on sale locally for very cheap and wouldn’t give it a second thought.
How things have changed! An E30 M3 in “fair” condition would still command $30k plus today or more. In fact one exceptionally pristine E30 M3 once sold for $256,556.
Forget GameStop stock, I wish I bought that E30 M3 I saw in the classifieds for $5,000 back when I was a junior in high school!
In any case, I will always appreciate a clean, nicely done E30 M3 like the one seen here owned by Stan Chen. Let’s take a closer look shall we?
At first glance some of the unfamiliar might assume that Stan has added a widebody kit to his E30 M3. Though, those people would be wrong.
Chen’s E30 M3 is the “Evolution II” version which came with those wide fenders stock. Again, this car was released in 1988 and they did cool stuff like that!
Though, this is not to say that Stan didn’t make some modifications to the outside of his M3. However, most mods were meant to keep things looking original or close to it.
A front lip splitter was added and the original rear spoiler was replaced with an identical unit but made from carbon fiber. The factory side view mirrors have also been replaced with carbon fiber versions.
There are also various small but tasteful modifications found all over the outside of the vehicle. For example Stan swapped out the USDM headlights with original headlights from Germany which feature the “smiley face” within it.
The front grille was also completely replaced with the German version which slightly cuts off the top of the round headlights which gives them an “angry” look; which also serves as an ironic dichotomy to the “smiley” headlights.
The door handles have been replaced with aluminum versions which are embossed with the “BMW Motorsport” logo. Though Stan warns that on hot days those handles will burn your hands. Perhaps it’s worth it just for that extra touch of style though?
Finally there’s the eye catching paint job. The shade is just dark enough to give the E30 M3 a classic look but not so dark that it hides the lines of the body. Though, even if it did, the gold stripes sets the fenders off nicely.
When Stan was asked why he chose to go with Gold as the accent color he replied “I love gold! It’s a sign of royalty.” We agree, his car is pretty regal looking.
Considering the rarity of the E30 M3 Stan rightly did not want to do much to the engine. The BMW S14 engine (not to be confused with Nissan) is super rare and cannot be bought even as a crate engine.
So, rather than slap on a turbo or supercharger, Stan went the complete opposite direction and had the factor engine completely rebuilt with genuine BMW parts. If you know anything about BMW then you will know how baller of a move that is.
Wheels, Tires, and Suspension
While keeping as much of this car as original is possible is a goal, having a 30 year old suspension setup is ill-advised. Stan replaced the factory suspension with a set of 12-way adjustable AST coilovers.
To add some rigidity to the chassis, a CNC’d aluminum strut tower bar custom made by Sadistic Iron Werks was bolted on.
At the corners live a set of forged Rotiform LHR-F turbofan style wheels wrapped in Toyo Tires. Chen is a fan of turbofan wheels but he wanted to go a route that was different than other similarly styled wheels he’s seen on the street. The LHR-F’s from Rotiform give that same classic look but are open in the middle so that the brake calipers can still be prominently shown off.
When it came to the interior of Stan’s E30 M3, he felt he had a little more freedom to stray away from the original factory set up. This was mostly due to the fact that when Stan bought the car, the interior was pretty much a lost cause.
“There was almost no interior at all. It had mis-matched seats, no carpet, and the dashboard was destroyed.”
With the interior being beyond repair, Stan saw an opportunity to reimagine it completely with inspiration from classic German and Italian cars of the era.
He equipped the E30 M3 with a set of Recaro CS Sportster seats and then had those seats re-wrapped in “pumpkin colored” leather and had vintage-style metal eyelet vents added.
The rear seats and other interior panels were also wrapped with the same leather while the rest of the interior remained black as a subtle way to match the exterior of the car.
The dashboard was refurbished by Bavarian Restoration and gold bezels were added in the gauge cluster.
A custom pedal set was created by Sadistic Iron Werks have a stark contrast from the rest of the interior but still work nicely with the overall aesthetic.
Stan Chen’s 1988 BMW E30 M3 Toyo Tires Video
Restraint was the right move when it comes to an E30 M3 in my opinion. I commend Stan for knowing where to embellish and where to restore on his unique build. If you want to know more about this M3 from Stan himself then check out the video above from Toyo Tires. Afterwards let me know what you think of this M3 by tweeting to me at @MotorworldHype.