picking the right e30


Hey guys. I’m new here.
I did an hpde event last year in my 330ci and I’m hooked. So much that I have decided to pursue the spec e30 class.
I have searched for a decent 325is for a while with a price low enough to save my budget for the buildup.
My plan is to continue my hpde while building up the car slowly to spec while I get my license.
I found a nice 325is, running and driving for 700 bucks. It has an auto so of course a swap is in order. Is it worth the trouble? Or should I hold out for a manual car. It seems like a solid “IS” for $700 is hard to beat even with the need to swap.
What say you spec masters?
Ps. I am aware this is an expensive hobbie. I also know the advice would be to buy an existing car, but I want to build up my own while I learn. Let the bank account hemmorage!!
Thanks, Mike


Buy your first car, build your second.

Most people that decide to build a car and enter the series, fail to complete the car. At the skill level I was at when I first started, there’s no way I would have maintained the enthusiasm for the year it would have probably taken me. There’s always cars available for sale by guys leaving the series. Buy one of those. After a couple years of maintaining it you’ll have skills enough that building your 2nd car becomes a do-able proposition.

Consider the difference in fun between buying a car and being on the track immediately, and deciding to build a car and spending months of evenings toiling, and maybe never getting it on the track at all. As an American boy, you should choose the “have fun now” option.

Unless you have a lot of experience wrenching or are perfectly happy to pay a shop to do it, the tranny swap will be a pita. Those that do it usually have a donor car available so they can pull little parts that going to be needed.


I can wrench. So $700 is cheap enough to warrant a swap?


Im building a car from 2 cars right now. I swapped a complete drive train and electric from the donor car and have the cage about 90% done. Im in it for around $4k right now. The two cars cost me $1500 combined and I recouped $1000 from selling unwanted items from both. I have a complete suspension as well. I’m also doing 100% of the work. I plan to invest another $1.5k into it before its track worthy.



If you can wrench and you ENJOY doing this type of thing, than go for the $700 IS car! The swap is not that big of a deal and you can sometimes pick up the entire swap for around $500 on Craigslist or a Pull your own parts yard. I have done this several times now and have enjoyed each of the builds.

This being said, if you have the full amount to pay for a good used Spec car, that is also a very good option. The downside is that you will need the full $9K-$15K to throw down.


Thanks for the encouragement. I’m looking for a manual car now for a swap donor. I hope to sell off enough unused parts to almost cover the cost of the cars.
I probably could come up with the full price of a pre built car but that’s no fun to me. Besides, I can still track my e46 until the e30 is ready. Next hpde in norcal is in march.

I’d like to thank raaw motorsports for all the in car cams. I spent hours watching your videos on my big screen TV with the sound bar cranked up. B)


go for the 700 car, sounds like a good deal. the swap is no biggie. we have rebuilt getrags in stock in case you want to get a know unit.



Keep us informed on how much “fun” you’re having during the build. Been there, done that :dry:

When it’s all said and done a quality built car is always your best bet. After purchase, you can then have all the “fun” you want personalizing the car to your tastes.


$700 sounds like a great deal for a running 325is auto. Does that car still come with the 3.73 LSD rearend? I know some of the automatics come with the DeVinney rear end. I paid $800 for my first 1987 325is manual with fuel leaks, busted shifter, and a transmission with only 4th and 5th gear. I just spent $500 on my second 1987 325is manual that hopefully only needs a full fuel system overhaul to run again. I don’t think a manual to automatic swap would scare me away especially if the car was already running well.


My low budget do everything myself but the roll cage build still cost me around 13k. It really is impossible to beat buying a logbooked winner with lots of spares.


I have been looking in CA for a built car but I have not found anything. Brian McQueen already sold his car. that was the closest to affordable that I could find locally lately. I need a car I can drive to the track while I get my License so I need a car that passes smog and is currently registered. This build is only going to start out as a driver/track car that sticks to Spec build so my practices and learning can be done in an E30. Hey, if a pre built car comes along around the time im actually licensed, I will certainly follow sound advice. Right now, I just want to drive an E30 on the track.
Im looking at the Turner motorsports Spec suspension kit. Is that currently the go to package deal right now in suspension?


Hey Mike,
This is Mike from BTM Motorwerks, i would stay away from the turner kit. The sway bars the Turner kit comes with are the ST sway bars. The st bars have either 2 or 3 holes in the rear bar for adjustment. We have found the IE rear sway bar gives you infinite adjustment in the rear and is a much better setup. On my first Spec E30 I built i bought the Turner kit and ended up having to buy different sway bars the get the car to handle correctly.



Thanks for the response Mike.
so I should piece together my kit with IE sways?
Im a couple miles from BTM, I would love to stop by sometime and chat for a few if you ever have time.
Ive watched Brad and your team race at Sonoma, Laguna Seca and Thunderhill. I know you guys have a winning team!


Come by anytime!


Thanks! I will!


[quote=“norcalmike” post=75899]Thanks for the response Mike.
so I should piece together my kit with IE sways?
Im a couple miles from BTM, I would love to stop by sometime and chat for a few if you ever have time.
Ive watched Brad and your team race at Sonoma, Laguna Seca and Thunderhill. I know you guys have a winning team![/quote]

Not everyone is a fan of the “infinite” adjustability of the IE bars. I actually prefer the three holes per side on my UUC rear sway.


I don’t like the ST sways either. I had to install IE mounts and hardware on it within a year.


True all Spec E30’s drive differently, some might drive better with the UUC setup. We have found that we have been able to make all of our E30’s handle correctly using the IE rear bar. Just our personal experience.


I appreciate the feedback. I have been reading so much. I think I’ve read every thread on this forum.
I’m picking up the car today and driving it 140 miles home.
The inventory checker for my local pick n pull says there are about 6 e30’s in the yard. Woohoo!
It’s gonna be a great weekend


I decided to slow down a little bit and take my time looking for the right car. Since I started this post, I’ve had a chance to talk to a few people personally as well as some of your comments and it’s opened up my eyes a bit.
New plan. Continue using my e46 and set aside some cash for a better car. I know when the time is right, it will be there.
See you at the norcal hpde events!