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Wednesday 17th November 2010

Driven: Gama E30 V8-S

We try an old 3-series with a V8 shoehorned in. And fall in lust...



It's certainly not an ostentatious vehicle, but the moment you clap eyes on Gama Motorsport's white BMW E30, you know there's something a little out of the ordinary going on.

What look fleetingly like black steel wheels reveal themselves to be shiny black alloys coupled with distinctly racy (and wide) Toyo 888s, while at the back is a workmanlike exhaust.

But it's evident that this is no chavved-up shed; it's all too subtle, clean, and well put together. That's because, of course, this particular E30 BMW is not some tarted-up Max Power refugee, but a serious (and also utterly silly, if that makes sense) performance car proposition.

It's called the Gama V8-S, and it's called that because beneath the bonnet (of this particular example, at least) is a 4.0-litre M60 BMW V8.

The E30 V8-S demo car started out life as Gama boss Gregg Alvarez's 318i daily driver until Gregg decided that it would be a good idea to stick a V8 in it. Now the white E-reg E30 is number one of a planned run of 50, all of which will have a V8 of some description slotted into their engine bays.


"It's been a bit thrown-together, this one," says Gregg. "Plus we're kind of learning as we go with it."

But we have to say it doesn't look thrown together at all. The 4.0-litre V8 - poached from an E39 5-series - nestles snugly beneath the nose-hinged bonnet with all the 'proper' plastic covers. It's all very neat. Where possible, ancillaries are BMW-sourced and the whole thing looks genuinely professional.

Inside, apart from a knob to adjust the brake bias, and the (slightly) more modern gearknob, the Gama E30 looks like any other 22-year-old 3-series. It's tidy, but it's clearly had 'a life'. "The standard interior is all part of the charm" says Gregg, "it makes it all the more fun when you realise just how fast it is."

I begin to understand what Gregg means by 'thrown together' when we hop into the car to get started. There's a miserable November drizzle in the air, so I switch the wipers on, which work, but only fitfully. "It was like that when it was a 318i - I always meant to fix 'em," grins Gregg. "Then I put a V8 in the engine bay - and I still need to do it." It's a question of priorities really - and from a PH point of view Mr Alvarez clearly has his priorities in the right place.


Apart from the semi-knackered wipers, the only other mildly alarming aspects of the car are the unassisted steering and the non-servo brakes. The steering actually isn't much of a problem above parking speeds, but the brakes are somewhat more alarming - no servo assistance and standard E30 325i stoppers combine to make this one of the most seriously under-braked cars I have ever driven. Having said that, Gama's customers are almost certainly going to be sensible enough to fit proper stoppers - Gregg just hasn't had the time with his car.

But if the slowing down aspect of the Gama V8-S (well this particular one) isn't all that brilliant, the way it goes down the road more than makes up for it. In its first life, the 4.0-litre V8 was artificially restricted to fit in with German tax regulations; with a bit of a freer-breathing intake and exhaust it gives an estimated 315bhp. Couple that with 310lb ft of torque in a car that weighs around 1000kg, and you've got one heck of a fast BMW.


Trundling through the Friday afternoon traffic, however, the V8-S feels as docile as any other old BMW. It crashes a bit through potholes (the 60mm drop in the suspension will do that; we'd have a slightly softer set-up on ours) but otherwise feels totally manageable.

Wind the V8 beyond 3000rpm, however, and the car is transformed. The engine note hardens into a metallic gargle and you're thrust down the road with TVR-alike ferocity. In a 22-year-old four-door 3-series that is a hilarious feeling. Gama's estimation of 0-60mph in 4.7secs and 0-100mph in 10.2secs feels perfectly achievable.

It's all surprisingly well mannered, too. This is a car that will spin its wheels in third gear on dry Tarmac (I can certainly confirm that it does so with gusto in the wet when you give it a proper prod), and yet you can feed the power in as gently as you like. Likewise, the light - if long-throw - six-speed gearbox feels satisfying yet approachable.


I can't vouch for the car's grip in the dry, but attack a corner in the wet and there's more grip than you'd expect from such track-oriented tyres. Best of all it still feels light and nimble - that V8 isn't the thumpingly heavy lump you might expect it to be, and there's no sense of the nose weight attempting to push the front end unduly wide. If you put decent brakes on this car you would turn into a genuinely spectacular track tool.

It's easy to think of more glamorous ways of getting some rear-drive V8 fun - a secondhand AMG Mercedes, a TVR Chimaera or a Mustang spring most immediately to mind - but I guarantee that none of them will surprise other road users or make you smile as much as a Gama E30 V8-S.


If you've got £8000 burning a hole in your pocket and can cope with the idea of chucking it all at a two-decade-old BMW 3-series, it's hard to imagine a more amusing way of spending it...

Riggers
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Corsair7

Original Poster:

8,632 posts

135 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
Riggers said:
and there's more grip than you'd expect from such tack-oriented tyres
thats a bit harsh mate.


wink

GTRene

9,196 posts

112 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
I like this sort of cars, a E30 shell and a big V8 planted in it :-)

the M60 and specially the M62 engines are great machines.

I've read in a old 2001 magazine that the Morgan Aero GT/N uses a M62 engine wich was tuned by a Swiss tuner Heini Mader? to 500hp biggrin

thats serious stuff biggrin don't know if thats still NA but its possible because you can stretch such basis 4.4 to 5.0 or even 5.2 liters...

it was still a 4.4 and NA see here>>

http://www.supercars.net/cars/1943.html

then 500hp is very nice.

Edited by GTRene on Wednesday 17th November 11:58

clarkey328is

2,218 posts

62 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
GTRene said:
I like this sort of cars, a E30 shell and a big V8 planted in it :-)

the M60 and specially the M62 engines are great machines.

I've read in a old 2001 magazine that the Morgan Aero GT/N uses a M62 engine wich was tuned by a Swiss tuner Heini Mader? to 500hp biggrin

thats serious stuff biggrin don't know if thats still NA but its possible because you can stretch such basis 4.4 to 5.0 or even 5.2 liters...

it was still a 4.4 and NA see here>>

http://www.supercars.net/cars/1943.html

then 500hp is very nice.

Edited by GTRene on Wednesday 17th November 11:58
There's probably no reason you can't bung an S62 in there though....
I take it the £8000 includes brake and suspension upgrades on the "production" models then?

M666 EVO

888 posts

50 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
I like this sort of thing. A mate of mine years ago put a Rover V8 in an old Capri 1.6S shell, I've heard of people putting Metro Turbo engines into Mini's (the proper one) and the obvious Cosworth lump in mk2 Scorts...

Wish I had a spare 8k to get one of these. Be even better if they could do a convertible version. Either way, good work fellas.

Dagnut

3,374 posts

81 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
Pity about the brakes and the wipers etc, I know these are easily fixed, but unfortunately it gives the impression of an backyard set up rather than pro tuners. 8 grand is a lot of money.
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seefarr

297 posts

74 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
clarkey328is said:
I take it the £8000 includes brake and suspension upgrades on the "production" models then?
From the previous story, I don't think so. Just the drivetrain swap.

http://pistonheads.com/news/default.asp?storyId=22...

Wonder if it includes an LSD though spin

LuS1fer

31,797 posts

133 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
How much!!!!!
I would hope the characteristic lift-off oversteer of what were very average cars has also been addressed or tha you're on good terms with the local shrubbery.

GTRene

9,196 posts

112 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
M666 EVO said:
I like this sort of thing. A mate of mine years ago put a Rover V8 in an old Capri 1.6S shell, I've heard of people putting Metro Turbo engines into Mini's (the proper one) and the obvious Cosworth lump in mk2 Scorts...

Wish I had a spare 8k to get one of these. Be even better if they could do a convertible version. Either way, good work fellas.
there was a convertible for sale till a week ago in germany...but remember they are more flex then a fixed roof.

also very nice and expensive, this race/track E30 with M5 V8 wow...

http://suchen.mobile.de/fahrzeuge/showDetails.html...

400hp in a stronger made chassis and lighter too







nice ride biggrin

The real Apache

38,984 posts

172 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
Dagnut said:
Pity about the brakes and the wipers etc, I know these are easily fixed, but unfortunately it gives the impression of an backyard set up rather than pro tuners. 8 grand is a lot of money.
Hang on Daggers, he did say it was the first one and admitted it was a bit of a learn as you go process. I'd imagine the production cars will be fully sorted. This is just what I'm looking for personally

kambites

41,596 posts

109 months

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Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
£8000 strikes me as amazingly little money, given that it costs more than that to drop a 2 litre I4 Honda engine which is no bigger than the standard unit into an Elise.

Zircon

292 posts

69 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
Dagnut said:
Pity about the brakes and the wipers etc, I know these are easily fixed, but unfortunately it gives the impression of an backyard set up rather than pro tuners. 8 grand is a lot of money.
Totally agree. If you were charging £8k ( a hell of a lot of money - decent Chimaera purchase price) for effectively: a new engine, a bit of suspension and some slightly higher spec brakes on such an old, not yet established classic car, I would have been a bit more careful if i were Gama before waving their flag as a business.

1/ Do the work on the 2 door - they are infinitely more appealing in terms of appearance and desirability

2/ Brakes equal to the cars speed ability are just as important as the engine conversion

3/ Fix the small things like wipers before using the car as a demonstrator - shows that you care about the small details.

I love the idea though, I just feel that this is far too much money for what you get. I would take the £8k and buy a hand made v8 TVR in the first place.......


Garlick

40,601 posts

128 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
Lovely photo of the back of your swede Riggers. Almost artistic.....almost.

rallycross

6,040 posts

125 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
£8k to fit a 2nd hand engine and gearbox into an old 3 series!

They haven't worked out how to fit pas or a brake servo probably due to lack of room, does not sound like very good value to me.

vrooom

3,586 posts

155 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
I wondered how much that cost if you do it yourself ?


kambites

41,596 posts

109 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
What has the age of the car got to do with anything? An engine swap is an engine swap, if anything it's harder on an older car because you have to deal with rusted up fixings.

5678

5,406 posts

115 months

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Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
Love the concept. But £8k? Really? Eight THOUSAND pounds to fit a second hand engine and box?

I'd love to see how that breaks down.

Garlick

40,601 posts

128 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
5678 said:
I'd love to see how that breaks down.
Not too often for that price one would hope.

Petrolhead_Rich

4,405 posts

80 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
Great Idea, well put together APART FROM THE BRAKES

NO SERVOsilly

If they get the brakes sorted and fixed the wipers on their demo car then It would be a winner, but these tiny little elements spoil it IMO

Fix the wipers, and fasten a vacuum hose from the inlet to the brakes and its an excellent idea! thumbup


kambites

41,596 posts

109 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
"No servo" is a good thing. "No servo" with rubbish brakes, is not.

redgriff500

9,633 posts

151 months

[news] 
Wednesday 17th November 2010 quote quote all
I know of people paying £10k for a low mileage 6.0 LS engine to be fitted to whatever the hell they want which seems much better value for money.

To drop a used (try finding one, let alone 50 below 100k) BMW V8 in I'd expect a sub £4k price tag really.

Edited by redgriff500 on Wednesday 17th November 12:46

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