When Sven Bengtsson picked up this '90 BMW 318is three years ago, he didn't plan to build one of the wildest E30s in Australia. It just happened.
A little backstory... Sven has always been an aspiring pro-am driver and has had a few different drift cars; however, his favorite was a 325i, also an E30. "It was my daily driver," he explained, "but I learned how to properly drift in that thing in my early twenties. I guess I emotionally held onto it, because I didn't choose to sell or get rid of it." This explains why he returned to the E30 chassis for his latest project car. See, his first E30 was his baby, and he lost it due to one epic but unfortunate demise. He was pushing his car extremely hard at a local track like he normally does, but during one particular session, he washed out wide on a big sideways entry and went headfirst into a tire wall at 60 mph. Damn! Luckily, he was OK, but his poor E30 received a bent chassis that would prove to be too difficult to get back into shape. Fun fact: After Sven had the accident, he realigned the car and continued to put on the best drifting exhibition he could, even limping the car home despite its heavy damage. So, after years went by, Sven realized he needed to rekindle the fire of his original E30—this time with much more power.
The first stage of his new build came together in six months, with the vast majority of the work being done in Sven's garage after his nine-to-five job in the coffee industry. Thank goodness for lots of caffeine, as the E30 was placed on a rotisserie, where Sven painstakingly removed all the sound deadening and stripped the car to its bare metal form. From there, it was time to transform the car into something that was destined to get sideways, so he sourced a Holden Commodore SS as a donor vehicle. "What's a Commodore?" you might ask. For those who don't know, the Commodore SS was made by the Australian arm of General Motors, and thus came with the infamous LS1 V-8. Just like in the States, the LS engine is plentiful and cheap in Australia, making it an obvious choice for getting some easy and reliable power for any drift car. "Once I removed the driveline and everything connected to it, I parted out the Commodore and sold the shell, which ultimately left me with a free engine package," Sven says with a smile. Free V-8 engine and six-speed tranny? Yeah, we'd have done that, too!
With a bare chassis and an LS in place of the anemic four-cylinder, Sven turned to GU Auto Concepts for the bodywork. The crew cut and stitched the body, fit a seven-piece Pandem widebody kit, sprayed the car in original BMW Alpine White paint, and applied the DTM Warsteiner-inspired livery you see here. The widened looks and drop are Sven's favorite parts of the build. We're glad they didn't mold in the fenders in this case, as they fit perfectly with that classic '80s style.
When you look at the photos and remember this is a much-used drift car, you'll be surprised to see how low it really is. The front crossmember sits less than 2 inches off the pavement. Just after getting the Pandem aero installed, Sven was shaking the car down at a new track when he ran wide in a corner. As he explained it, the run-off was soft sand, so when he got to the edge of the track, the rear tires dropped off the ledge, leaving the underside of the BMW to do its best Tony Hawk impression. Sven limped the Bimmer back to the pits to find a 2-inch hole in the sump. To remedy the issue while not sacrificing the car's stance, he raised the engine a touch, welded up the sump, and fabricated a nice skidplate. "Now I skate over all rocks, ripple strips, and bumps without damaging anything. It's awesome," he tells us.
Every build teaches something, and Sven's was no exception. After totaling his first E30, going through life's challenges, and ultimately putting every dollar bill and free hour he had into rebuilding the car that made him fall in love with drifting in the first place, it was all worth it in the end. Sven left us with this advice: "Sometimes throwing caution and money to the wind and doing something crazy can be the best thing that's ever happened to you."