The late ’80s & early ’90s was a powerful era for a lot of things honestly: Movies, music, jet skis, vibrant colors, the economy, and yeah… cars were a big part of it. Just think…

lowered E30 BMW

Dodge made a car, from the factory, that was red with yellow wheels. C’mon!

Toyota hit with a mid-engine, turbocharged, AFFORDABLE sports car with a killer look & targa/T-tops. Mazda made one of the most gorgeous sports cars of all time with a totally unique rotary engine that revved to the moon. Engineering, competition, & PASSION were hitting on all cylinders in full force. 

Why does an MR-2 exist?? 

Because it’s fun & driver-centric! 

Why did Mazda pursue the RX-7?? 

Because it was awesome, innovative, & they believed in it!

And why did Dodge put yellow wheels on a red Viper?? 

Because it’s badass that’s why! 

airlift E30

These cars were never about profit… They were built to sizzle & inspire.

Sell the grocery-getters for profit… whatever. But build the flagship models because you can! Give the magazines something to talk about! Give the kids something to dream about!

E30 wheel fitment

In the late 80s & early 90s, it was the ‘Boomer generation’ that was leading these companies & passion projects.

Out there creating the real world that people enjoy from their phones today. A lot of smart-ass younger people mock ‘boomers’ with a condescending disrespect. 

…But while doing what exactly?? Copying their designs, fashion sense, movies, and overall everything while lacking the substance behind any of it?? It’s to their own detriment. 

Yeah this was the era where it all came together isn’t it.

And possibly the last era of substance for the foreseeable future. An era where people seemed to understand cars in the soulful sense. When we didn’t cater to the lowest common denominator of driver. And when something like this 3-series BMW was unique & distinguishable from the other cars in its segment… and had a uniquely ‘BMW’ sense of sport, character, and smell. 

It was the era where engineering came to a glorious peak… before it evolved into the monster that inevitably bit our heads off and/or caged us. 

Back then we (well… Honda) innovated things like VTEC…

They were MPG-friendly engines, but also FUUUUUN & thrilling engines to drive. Those engines last for 30+ years, they’re rebuildable, and they don’t lose battery life. It’s a brilliant win-win!

But now… we create $90,000 cars that turn themselves off at red lights. For what exactly?? So when it malfunctions in a few years, we spend more emissions than it ever saved having to take it back to the dealer, while spending and arm & a leg to fix it?? 

Automotive engineering has shifted from things that were engaging, clever, purposeful, forward-thinking, and sport-driven… to things that are overprotective, overcomplicated, distracting, too expensive, too big, and less cool. Politics & enterprise should be separate. But instead it’s become suspiciously intertwined. 

E30 17x9.5

But what can we do… 

Well – my plan is to either A) burn the whole thing to the ground who’s with me. Or B) Build & drive the cars from the era of cars that I love most. And be happy. 

A lot of times I get heated-up about stuff I can’t change & I feel like… I need to make people see things the way that I see things. Like I need to ‘convince them’, and we need to build an army. But we don’t. We can just drive the cars that we love & have fun doing it. 



And to that point, this is Ryan Miller’s E30 BMW.

Ryan’s been building it, enjoying it, and modifying it for the better part of a decade now. It’s evolved to an S52 engine with a mild tuck & ZF transmission out of a later-model E36 M3, which is really like, the perfect setup for this chassis. This E30 is super fun to drive. It’s got all the golden-era, naturally-aspirated BMW vibes. And it’s got plenty of power to get down… without ruining the soul of the E30 chassis, or killing the ownership experience. Man this is it! 

Text by Wooley     Photos by Sam Igel II

E30 interior

Ryan Miller’s E30 BMW

S52 engine & transmission from an E36 BMW M3.

GMR wheels: 17×9.5 -10 on 215/40/17 Yokohama S-Drives. 

Airlift V2 management.

Condor polyurethane engine and transmission mounts. Garagistic chassis-mounted shifter with garagistic dssr selector rod

RG-style front lip 

DTM M3-style rear spoiler. 

Full Borla exhaust with custom stainless tips

Shaved/tucked bay (ABS delete, brake booster delete, & wire relocation. Seams have been smoothed & plates welded in.) 

Racing Dynamics carbon fiber engine cover and badges.

Wilwood pedal assembly on dual brake master assembly and slotted rotors

S52 E30

Racing Dynamics BMW

Here’s my own $500 BMW project lol

…A really nice LS E36 M3

Clean European E21

And a rowdy garage-build V8 2002