BMW E30 exterior

Ross Bradley’s filthy E30 – AKA Widowmaker.

Cars Culture

It's not often a fettled BMW E30 can make us stop in our tracks - but this one just boggles the mind...

A BMW E30 running 800bhp you say? Never, you say? Well yeah, we say. Ross Bradley is the owner and the brains behind the build. This stunning E30 (can we still call it that?) has been completely overhauled – something some purists will no doubt scowl at – but we happen to think it’s awesome!

Just what has Ross done to this mighty-fine machine you see sprawled across this page right now, then? Well, let’s just say it wasn’t done overnight. When he purchased the car back in 2006, he used it as a daily for a few years, just doing little bits to it here and there. You know how it goes; wheels, body kit, oh and an engine swap from the standard 2.0-litre 320i unit for a straight-six 2.5-litre. Four years of ownership came, though, and Ross needed a change. He took it off the road and gave it a mini overhaul, resulting in turboing the 2.5-litre engine and changing suspension, wheels and brakes.

BMW E30 exterior

However, even all that wasn’t it for this E30. Ross had bigger plans. Fast forward another four years and Ross had done a major overhaul to exactly how it sits today, and that’s really what we want to talk about here.

As stock, the E30 once produced a pretty measly 123bhp from its standard 320i engine, now it’s running 800bhp. Nope, not from the 2.5-litre unit he’d swapped over to, but from another swap. An early Chevrolet small-block V8 unit, to be exact! Ye-ha to the US of A.

So, how about that new engine set-up, then?! Well, the whole thing was re-bored by 0.030 to a whopping 5.82-litre. It’s safe to say, a lot was involved in fitting this engine. *Deep breath*. It features a GM V8 forged crack, as well as ARP main studs, Eagle H-section forged con rods, with Clevite bearings, Probe oversized forged pistons, a Melling high-volume oil pump, ported and polished alloy heads, Edelbrock valve springs with titanium retainers, Cloyes double roller timing gear and chain, Clevite cam bearings, Comp Cams 256/263-degree blower cam and lifters, Edelbrock magnum chrome moly push rods, Comp cams 1.5:1 alloy roller rockers, ARP hardware (rocker arm studs, intake manifold bolts, sump bolts, timing cover bolts, engine mount bolts, exhaust header bolts, crank pulley bolts, bellhousing bolts), ARP oil pump driveshaft, hand-built custom turbo headers and downpipes, twin Holset HX35 turbos with 12cm2 turbines, twin Tial 44mm wastegates, hand-built custom twin 3-inch turbo-back exhaust with Simons silencer, custom-made intercooler, Tial 50mm dump valve, Edelbrock Pro-flo inlet and matching fuel rails, Pro comp 90mm throttle body, 770cc injectors, twin Bosch 044 engine feed pumps, Torques pressure regulator, March serpentine pulley kit, Megasquirt ECU, Ford coil packs, fully lightened and balanced flywheel, mk3 Toyota Supra R154 gearbox (mated with a custom adaptor for Chevrolet bell housing), McLeod hydro clutch release bearing, Spec R Stage 4+ race paddle clutch, Cube short shifter, custom propeller shaft and an E28 M5 210mm limited-slip differential with 3.07 final drive and M3 Evo twin-ear rear mount.

And all that was done by Ross, in his garage. “All the work you see here was done by me, everything hand made in my garage (I’m an engineer by trade), apart from the interior. Anything that I needed to make this work I had to make and build it. You couldn’t buy the engine or gearbox mounts, and the rear end needed to be chopped out and re-made etc,” he said.

BMW E30 engine

So, a fair bit of work then?! It wasn’t just everything that needed fitting, it was actually getting the engine to go in. Work was done on modifying the front cross-member to provide engine clearance for the new lump, as well as moving the steering rack forward by 20mm.

To handle all that power, Ross had to uprate the brakes. He decided to go with an In-Car brake servo conversion, using a Renault Clio servo and a Volkswagen Sharan brake master cylinder, with a 5-lug conversion using E36 and Z3 hubs. AP racing six-pot front callipers and 330mm discs complete the front brake set-up, while Porsche Brembo six-pot rear callipers and Apec Z3 rear discs complete the rear. An E36 M3 front anti-roll bar with custom mounts and rose-jointed droplinks, with reinforced rear trailing arms and a custom rear strut brace that was tied into a custom rear differential mounting bar was also added to give the car more stability under all that boost. Noise was also important, so Ross fitted a hand made 3″ stainless exhaust system ceramic coated from turbo back, with Manley Performance severe duty stainless-steel swirl-polished oversized valves; 2.02-inch inlet and 1.6-inch exhaust.

Once the running-gear was all sorted, the exterior got a damn good seeing to. The body received flared and re-welded rear arches, an Mtech-2 sport BMW body kit and a modified front valance for that impressive intercooler. This was all then finished off with a full respray in Black Cherry Candy, painted by Ross and his dad. “I try and do everything I can myself. It’s a real sense of achievement when you see your ideas come to life,” Ross told us.

About that interior. This came last, to really finish the build off. The original front seats have been swapped for Recaro CS’ on custom rails and have been fully re-trimmed in Ruby Red Nappa leather and black Alcantara. The original rear bench, dash and centre console have also been trimmed to match. All completed by Lawrence at lG Trimming in Enfield, London.

BMW E30 interior

Once all that was finished, it was time to think about what wheels it was going to all sit on. We all know how the right shoes are so important. They can literally make or break a car. Ross went with 17×9” ET25 (front) and 17×10” ET20 (rear) Hartge fully polished three-piece wheels dressed in 215/40 and 235/40 Federal RSR tyres, with custom-made centre caps. All lowered on GAZ GHA coilovers.

This car is bloody bonkers and it’s used – as much as Ross possibly can. No trailer queen here, let’s put it that way! “I love the build. It always makes me smile when you see how shocked people get about what’s under the bonnet. Some of the reactions I get when they see it makes it all worthwhile”.

So, that’s that. You may continue to look at it in awe.