Were there an official sports car hall of fame, a few cars from history would be undisputed dead locks for induction. One of those cars is BMW’s E30 M3. Where the New Class and 3 Series cars that followed restored a struggling Bavarian company’s image and forever changed the way the four-seater game was played, the M3 injected undeniable sport performance prowess into an automobile layout that had previously been mostly just a form of moving people. The E30 M3 moved souls.
It’s no mystery then that E30 M3s have become much sought-after gems in the collector car market, and especially among BMW enthusiasts. The pool of available quality cars dwindles, and asking prices are going through the roof.
So it’s no wonder that Southern Californian Mario Guerra has held on to his for so long. This pristine red example was purchased new in 1988 and has never changed owners. And it’d be apt to say the owner has no intention of parting with it.
It’ll be pretty obvious from the pictures that this car has been modified, and it gets driven hard, but it has also lived a quite pampered life. Twenty-three years of dicing up the road, and the odometer reads only a few ticks above 30,000 miles. And aside from the cage and the Recaros and a few other subtle bits, it looks just as it did in the showroom.
The outfit given the task of fitting it with its performance-enhancing accoutrements is San Diego-based TAG Motorsports. The project started to really heat up just last July, and four months later, it was sitting as you see it now.
Guerra is no stranger to exotic metal, so it was clear the TAG crew had their work cut out for them to exceed expectations. We knew we had to build a car that would mesh nicely in his stable, says TAG Motorsports’ Alex Andonian.
TAG Motorsports is actually an offshoot of a string of Evans Tire & Service centers owned by the store proprietors, with multiple locations in and around San Diego. They purchased the customs shop four years ago, were able to weather the impending economic downturn, and are now returning it to its previous level of success. The company will tackle virtually any sort of custom or performance project, from off-road monsters, according to Andonian, to Lamborghinis. And of course, classic BMWs.
Virtually no area on this car has gone untouched. The engine came out, the interior was stripped of its rear seat and soft materials. Says Andonian: Planning the overall theme was tough, and finding parts that really flowed together to give it modern flare with an old-school look. A lot of the parts weren’t available right off the shelf. That’s why the build took a little longer than most. TAG can typically turn out a full custom project in a couple of weeks.
The engine’s original 2.3-liter displacement was pushed to 2.5 with fully built internalsmachined block, OEM EVO crank and bearings, 11:1 pistons and forged rods, ported and polished head, ported EVO throttle bodies.
The greatest part about this engine is that it’s daily drivable, Andonian says. For a motor like this, it’s a pretty reliable car. We wanted a car that we could drive to the track, drive the crap out of it, and drive it to the office the next day. He estimates running 100-octane fuel it puts down about 250 hp to the wheels.
Even better, Andonian reckons the interior strip and subsequent re-toolingwhere they were careful to keep a tasteful OEM-but-with-a-motorsport-flare look, fabricating things like the six-point cage and custom aluminum door panels, even painstakingly sourcing OEM trim bits and carpetingtook upwards of 400 pounds off the curb weight.
It’s like a little go-kart, Andonian says. You can toss it around as much as you like. You can get it completely sideways, but it’s totally controllable. You just smile from ear to ear.