Leith Wain's E30 M3 V10
In this business, the Frankenstein moniker gets more than its fair share of play. Anyone who's ever stitched metal from a long-dead car into their own project can't help but draw a parallel to the mad doctor and his creation. But when Mary Shelly published Frankenstein in 1818, the novel's monster wasn't created from Dr. Frankenstein's graveyard collection. Instead, the creature was more of a golem-painstakingly sculpted into existence from inanimate material out of love and a longing for what could have been. And that difference is exactly what makes Leith Wain's E30 M3 a fitting heir to the Frankenstein name.
Anyone can plop a huge motor into a little chassis, but you see, this car doesn't quite fit that bill. Far from some junkyard hack job, it's closer to what a V10 E30 M3 would look like if it had rolled out of BMW's factory today. The difference in craftsmanship is evident everywhere, and it's down to the staggering level of detail in each and every nook and cranny. For example, here's one you haven't heard before: The crew swiped the front and rear subframes from an E90 3 Series to take advantage of the current M3's suspension geometry. And as you might guess, it wasn't exactly a bolt-up affair. So now's as good a time as any to introduce the man behind the monster, Mitch Piper. He pioneers such crazy ideas as making E90 subframes talk to E30 chassis, and then-unlike the rest of us-actually makes them happen in his fabrication shop in Manassas, Va. For the record, the aforementioned subframe mating took the complete removal and reconstruction of the E30 frame rails, but peeking under the finished car on the lift is akin to automotive pornography.
Once the subframes were mocked up on chassis jig, the real work began. Piper had to completely cut away the rear of the car in order to build new shock towers, frame rails, spring mounts, and wheel tubs. An inspection of the many intricate welds necessary to put it all back together reveals precision to rival BMW's army of welder bots.
But the chassis itself was a small part of the big picture. Many hours went into fitting sheet metal around the car's new beating heart, a brand-new S85 V10 sourced straight from BMW. In stock form, the heavy breathing 5.0-liter kicks out 507 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. That's nearly 300 horsepower and six cylinders more than the E30 M3's stock 2.3-liter provided. The team decided to bolt the M5's silky six-speed manual gearbox behind that lump of aluminum glory, but snugging that expanse of drivetrain into a space built for a four-cylinder involved significant fabrication.
The crew quickly realized their new front subframe wasn't willing to cooperate with the M5 mill. To fix the problem, Piper completely reconstructed the part, along with the firewall and transmission tunnel. After everything was mocked in place, the team constructed, fitted, and installed new sheet metal for all the missing pieces. They even constructed custom intake manifolds. How did everything fit together when they were done? According to Piper, the very tops of the cylinder heads now sit just below the top of the wheel line, and the weight distribution is an amazing 52/48. How's that for a center of gravity? Once everything was in place, Piper sewed in a custom stainless steel dual exhaust, which peeks menacingly out of carbon pockets in a custom rear valence.