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1989 "Listerine" ///M3

Heritage & Homage

The two team cars owned by Vic Lee Motorsports, the #11 (driven by Will Hoy) and #12 (driven by Ray Bellm), were raced in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) series for the better part of 1990-91.  Vic Lee also owned the LaBatts M3 driven by Tim Harvey.  Though Will Hoy won the championship in 1991, and he and his #11 car are the most celebrated, I chose to replicate #12 for several reasons: admired Ray's driving style, wanted to recognize the "underdog" of the team, and prefer #12 (an even number) over #11 (an odd number). Pictured below are photos of the actual car along with advertisements from the day. Clifford, the "LIsterine Dragon," playfully displayed on the car's hood, was used in advertising campaigns in the 80's-90's for his "dragon breath."

Even as a young lad, I thought the base-model street cars were special and had pined for one ever since.  Only about 5,000 e30 M3's were imported to the States from 1987-1991 and though they were quite rare, proved difficult to move off the lots. Very few folks were impressed by a buzzy, 200 horsepower 4-cylinder for $35,000 1990's dollars. However, during those 4+ years, the E30 M3 became the most successful (winning more races) than any other touring car and began to turn some heads.

In The Beginning

I found my M3 in 1999 for the sum of $8,300.00 @ 163k miles along with all of its maintenance history.  The car lived the early part of its life in the southeast states (GA/FL) and dealer-purchased and driven by a female attorney. It likely looked just like the first photo below.  The second owner acquired the car in 1997at 99k miles where it was somewhat neglected until I became the third owner.

I drove the car occasionally for about a year while creating a list of items that needed to be replaced due to wear and/or failure. The plan was to upgrade any parts that needed to be replaced (such as suspension and exhaust) with higher performance parts while maintaining a comfortable, dependable street ride.

By 2000, the repair and wish list had become lengthy (and expensive) so throughout the next 3-4 years, the list was prioritized based on need (and budget). The car was serviced and driven sporadically until it was a reliable and fun machine.

Around 2003-2004, I became more involved with club events and high performance driving schools where I learned what the car was really capable of and how it was designed to perform. At triple-digit speeds, I was no longer comfortable with standard seat belts, brakes and limited protection. Decisions needed to be made with the future of the car: Performance street ride or dedicated, full-race track beast? Obvious answer is "one of each" but life's variables (time, resources, space, etc.) made the decision more clear. So, why not have both in one?

The dream was to create a street-legal race car to be enjoyed driving to road trip destinations,
socially at group meetings, and safely on the track at high speeds.

Since the first time I saw the Listerine/Omega cars on VHS recordings, I was amazed with the appearance of the car - an absolutely stunning livery. I wanted one...  So much that I sought the original cars to determine if they existed and possibly available for purchase. After an exhaustive search and dreams of trading in my example for the authentic, I set out to create my own as a tribute.

With the heart of a purist, I was reserved about going to extremes and not returning the car to showroom condition. Though with 170k+ miles, minor damage on almost every panel, a well-worn interior and and engine refresh looming in the distance, I began the transformation in 2006 with new paint and body repairs. The goal was to drive the "new" replica car 2,100 miles round trip from North Carolina to Fort Worth, TX for the BMW Car Club of America (BMWCCA) National Oktoberfest where they would be honoring 20 years of the M3.

Chassis & Bodywork

The work began from the inside-out with removal of heavy, aged seats and addition of a rear-half safety cage and a lighter, safer racing seat and harnesses. It was important that the passenger seat was adjustable; not only for spousal comfort, but also to allow access to the rear seat area for storage of additional travel and track gear.

 

Standard bodywork repairs were performed on the exterior, including extensive work to the roof. It was later discovered that the car had suffered extensive damage from a fallen tree branch.  The front bumper was deemed irreparable and replaced with a lighter, stronger carbon fiber unit. All suspension-to-body mounting points were reinforced.

Graphic Designer by profession, I wan't overly intimidated by creating and applying all of the adhesive graphics making up the livery. I was able to source enough photos of the original cars online to determine all logos and locations then measured the car for spacing and sizing. Only one logo remains a mystery. Can anyone help identify?

Chassis and Body Work Specs

  • All original body panels 

  • Carbon fiber rear (adjustable) wing and front bumper cover

  • Removed air conditioning, power steering and original seats

  • Retained electric windows, sunroof, radio, heater, standard seatbelts, ABS, cruise control

  • Rear-half safety cage. Built by Zuffenhaus

  • Front strut tower brace

  • 6-point safety harnesses

  • Sparco Evo 2000 Driver seat

  • Corbeau (one of the car's original sponsors) Sport Passenger Seat 

  • Air/Fuel Ratio and Oil Pressure Gauges

  • Mono Wiper Conversion

  • Paint and body work by Rob Anders

Engine – The Heart (and Soul) of the e30 M3

From 2007 to 2013, we enjoyed many road trips, car shows, club meetings and track events while adding finishing bits and pieces along the way and building the nest egg that would be cracked with the upcoming engine refresh. Periodic engine oil lab analysis confirmed the power plant was healthy but at over 190k miles, track lap times were becoming slower despite my increase in driving experience. With access to a vehicle lift, the engine and sub frame were removed from underneath and refreshed at 200k miles.

This is where my childhood car model-building skills came in handy. I was able to detail and assemble all the components – just like  the plastic kits of the 1980's!  A more qualified professional was chosen to handle the machining and reconditioning of the engine internals but I was excited to get the lump home and piece it all back together. The engine was built for dual street/track duty. Performance parts were added for zip but reliability and longevity were equally important. The car needed to run well on high octane public/pump gas.

Engine Specs

  • 2.7 Liter Crankshaft (94mm stroke)

  • Wiseco Pistons, Crower Billet Steel Rods, ARP Bolts, 10.5:1 C.R.

  • Schrick 292 Cams with Evo Springs, Mild Head Porting, Standard Valves

  • Carbon Fiber Air Intake with 48mm  (enlarged) Throttles and Larger Injectors 

  • Schmiedmann Exhaust Header

  • Custom Stainless 2.5-Inch Center Exhaust with Magnaflow Resonator and Supertrapp Rear Muffler

  • Electromotive TEC-S Stand-Alone Engine Management System

  • JB Racing 8-Pound Flywheel, Clutch Masters FX-200 Clutch Kit

  • Engine Builder: Henry Lawrence (The Power Plant)

  • Base Tune HP at the Wheels: 221, 166 Torque 

 
 
 

Suspension & Steering

When acquiring the car at almost 170k miles, all of the suspension components were quite worn. Standard shocks were replaced with "sport" versions for a few years. New control arms, tie rods, rear e46 shock mounts, urethane sway bar bushings brought back crisp response. As track time increased over street time, front struts were eventually converted to adjustable, reinforced coil-overs with camber plates. New wheel bearings were fitted along with brake duct backing plates. Larger sway bars with reinforced mounting points and adjustable links were also added. 

Front 

Since so many of these components needed to be replaced, it made sense to do them all at the same time. Dropping the entire front sub frame from the car made this much simpler.  The engine mounts had been worn for some time and had not only failed, but also damaged their mounting points on the frame. This cross member was repair-welded, reinforced and coated.

The heavy power steering rack was replaced with a lighter, standard E30 non-power rack.  The ratio is not quite as quick as the M3 rack but close.  Original fluid-filled engine mounts were replaced with firm E24/28 "Green" mounts. 

E36 M3 control arms replaced e30 versions to add a few degrees caster.

Rear 

As with the front suspension components, it made sense to drop the whole rear assembly as well. Control arm and sub-frame rubbers were replaced with stiffer urethane and camber/toe adjustment tabs/bolts were added. M Coupe "finned" differential cover replace the original to offer additional cooling. Adjustable-height spring perches support stiffer race springs. Sub frame and control arms were powder coated to match the car.  Most suspension components were originally black in color. Painting a brighter color not only adds visual contrast, but also allows easier detection of a leak from surrounding components or a structural stress crack. Rear wheel bearings and drive axles were also replaced at this time and stainless steel brake lines replaced aged rubbers.​

Suspension & Steering Specs

  • Ground Control Front Strut Reinforcement and Coil-Over Conversion

  • Adjustable Camber/Castor Plates

  • Koni SA shocks Front & Rear

  • Front Springs: 500# 6-inch  2.5 ID  | Rear Springs: 650# 6-inch  2.25 ID

  • Front Tubular Sway Bar: 22mm  | Rear Sway Bar: 19mm | Urethane Bushings and Adjustable Aluminum End Links

  • E36 M3 Control Arms, Delrin Bushings

  • Roll Center, Bump-Steer Correction Spacers

  • Front:  -1.9 Camber, 0 Toe, 10.4 Caster | Rear: -3.2 Camber, 7/32 Toe

 

Wheels, Tires and Brakes

The paint design and graphics are beautiful on the car but without the iconic white 5-spoke wheels, the look wouldn't be complete. The original race cars spun 18-inch Dymag wheels with Yokohama racing slicks. These wheels were the "center lock" type with one large wheel nut in the center vs. typical 5 smaller nuts around the hub. The wheels were no longer being manufactured and scarcely available used. In addition, the over-sized center locks are not practical for street use as changing a flat would require hundreds of pounds of torque to remove and re-tighten the wheel and turning radius is limited by fender rub.

After searching near and far, I was able to source a set of pre-owned Compomotive rally wheels from a fellow BMW racer and had them refurbished.  Made for off-road use, the wheels are quite heavy but strong. Not exactly the correct look of the Dymags but they would do.

 

In 2017, Speedline reintroduced a line of their classic motorsport wheels – so happy they did!  Though these wheels were not used in the BTCC series, they were on the M3 rally racers of the late 80's and 90's and looked much more authentic on the car.

Since it's used for both street and track pleasure and driven to the track, road-legal high performance street tires would need to serve the purpose. As Yokohama originally sponsored the car and I've had great success with the brand in the past, I elected their S-Drive Extreme Performance tire - impressive rubber for the money.

With added horsepower, upgraded brakes added needed stopping confidence. Using caliper adapters and disc spacers, larger e36 M3 front brakes were fitted with euro "floating" rotors. Rear calipers are original though the factory balance bias valve was removed allowing more pedal pressure to the rear.  The master cylinder was upgraded with a larger 5-series 25mm version.

The BTCC cars ran custom brakes from AP racing.  I was able to source a set of pre-owned, similar calipers and refurbished them for use on the front.​

Wheels, Tires and Brakes Specs

  • Compomotive MO Wheels:  17 x 8, ET25  (with 12mm rear spacers) @ 26.4 lbs

  • Speedline Corse Type 2110 Wheels:  17 x 8, ET15 @ 25.4 lbs

  • Yokohama S-Drive 235/40 Extreme Performance Radials

  • Front Brakes: AP Racing 5040 4-piston Calipers, 330mm x 28mm rotor, PF-01 Pads, Brake Ducts

  • Rear Brakes: e30 M3 standard with PF-08 pads

  • 25mm Master Cylinder

  • Stainless Guide Pins, Brass Sleeves, Stainless Braided Lines

  • Bolt-to-Stud Conversion

  • Motul 600 Racing Fluid

 

Future Plans, Goals & Dreams

Though it's not certain any restoration is truly ever complete, the list of remaining projects to date is no longer overwhelming.  The restoration has taken place in various stages since 2000.  I've managed to handle everything in my home garage with exception of paint and the engine build. I don't own a trailer or tow vehicle so take pride in maintaining the car to a high level so it's reliable both for travel to events and on the track.  I'm careful to drive sensibly on the roads (and the track) as the car attracts a lot of attention (including law enforcement). I enjoy road trips and attending events in the car almost as much as track driving.  The social interaction with fellow BMW enthusiasts is an important part of ownership. Talking about problems, solutions, plans, seeing the joy and excitement the car elicits (in both young and old) is such a pleasure. Clifford even enjoys making appearances at childrens' birthday parties.

I imagine someday racing the car at vintage events as many organizations are beginning to allow 1980's vehicles; however, home renovation and other projects will continue to distract time and funds from this effort for the indefinite future. Meanwhile, the restoration and upgrade process will slowly progress as a labor of love. 

Current tasks on the slate include a quick-swap rear muffler so I can actually converse with my navigator/wife during road trips, then easily swap back to the race muffler for track events.  Would also like to have more control over front suspension settings (something like this please) as well as a better (more reliable and stable) solution for rear camber and toe adjustment.

More dyno time for a proper engine tune is high on the priority list.  It's making good power but there is more to be gained with fuel & ignition mapping and throttle adjustments. Hoping fine-tuning will also increase fuel mileage (for street driving).

Wish List & Additional Areas of Attention:

  • Transmission and Differential Rebuilds

  • Performance Shifter

  • Front-Half Safety Cage

  • AP Racing Rear Brakes

  • Additional Gauges (water temp, amps, fuel pressure)

  • Clear Paint Protection for Front Bumper and Hood

  • Smaller Steering Wheel

  • Tow Vehicle & Trailer

  • Enjoy a pint or two with Ray Bellm and the Original Livery Designer

Photo by Paul Holt