E46Fanatics - View Single Post - BMW E30 M3 vs. Mercedes-Benz 190E 16-valve
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Old 09-07-2012, 10:13 AM   #38
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Cincinnati
Posts: 815
My Ride: 328Ci, 325i, M3 ZCP
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I think each car is more than just a car, each is a showcase of its company's ultimate goals and a way to stuff as much "awesome" into one car while keeping it street-legal and relatively affordable. Having driven dozens of E30 M3's (from all-original 38k mile show-worthy, extremely heavily-modified cars one of which not only had a fully-built S52B32 "Euro" engine but also a rather impressive forced-induction setup and razor-sharp suspension, to cars with 200k miles that were in such poor shape that I am pretty sure I could hear the car begging "kiiillll... Meeeeeeee"), I find them incredibly involving and every single one is a different experience from the next, sometimes the differences are subtle but sometimes they are immense. However, of all of the many different makes and models, stock or modified, of cars that I have driven in my life (from Honda Civic to Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 and everything in between), the E30 M3 is still a favorite because it has a very specific and unique "personality" to it. It's hard to explain, it really needs to be experienced.

That said, the 190E 16v is also an absolute gem, and like the E30 M3, is just as incredible today as it was 20+ years ago. I have been fortunate enough that I have had the opportunities to drive 4 different cars, two of the 2.3-16v, one 2.5-16v, and a much-too-brief time behind the wheel of an Evo I. The Evo I was the only car that was entirely stock, but all I can say in regards to the difference between it and the 2.3/2.5 is that the Evo pulled a bit harder in higher gears and it felt a bit more stable at speed; I only got to drive it 13 miles, so I can't speak to its abilities like I can the others with which I have had significantly more seat-time.
The 2.3-16 is actually what I found to be more fun to drive, but as they were all modified to some degree, I don't know if this holds true for the stock cars. The lesser-modified 2.3 (suspension overhaul, brakes revamped, drivetrain mounts/bushings replaced with stiffer bits, Delrin shifter bushings, some custom lightweight 17" wheels so that the OE wheels would remain spotless, and a few relatively mild engine tweaks incl: exhaust work, ceramic-coated aftermarket {i believe} headers/exhaust manifold, modified intake system with larger piping, and a few other things), well, it was a blast to drive. I don't know what it would have felt like on 1980's tires, but on Michelin PS2's with a fairly generous width (and thus contact patch), the car gripped at the pavement so tenaciously it was as if the tires were coated in some kind of adhesive. The ride was rougher than most E30 M3's I've driven, at least on the highway (M3's with equivalent suspension work), but it wasn't harsh. The car was also loud, but not in a bad way; the engine and drivetrain was simply very vocal which I actually enjoy as the more communicative parts allow you to have a better overall sense of what the car wants and how hard you're pushing it. I also found that the 2.3-16v was extremely communicative in terms of "letting you know" when you were approaching the cornering limits, and it was possible to drive the car extremely hard through very twisty roads yet have complete control over the behavior of the rear of the vehicle; essentially, you can easily put the tail out, but if you don't want to, it's extremely easy to keep it in, and it's also very controllable during oversteer and easy to reign in. Again, I don't know how much of this is the car and how much of it comes from the suspension upgrades and superb tires, but I was impressed nevertheless.
The 2.5-16v was modified to a much higher degree, and while some people find it sacrilegious to alter such a timeless car (in the same way many think that the E30 M3 should never be touched), I am not one of those people, and neither is the owner. The car had the entire EVO II bodywork including widened fenders (all OEM) and the only difference visually was the aftermarket wheels (and not the EVO wheels) as well as the lack of a suspension-height switch, as the owner decided that the immense expense of trying to retrofit a 22yr-old adjustable suspension system was not worth it at all when far better performance could be achieved with much more modern parts. As far as I know, the car was utilizing double-adjustable coilovers (cannot recall make, but they had at least 20/ea compression/rebound damping settings, and a surprising amount of height adjustment), seriously heavy-duty sway bars, a mix of bushings/bearings/mounts ranging from 10-15% stiffer than stock to 50-60% stiffer than stock (rubber bushings/mounts) to full-on aluminum mounts/bushings (the differential, and something else, at minimum; it's been a few years).
The engine was what was truly impressive, as the owner had essentially "built" the entire motor himself over the course of a little over 4 years while the chassis/suspension/brake work was slowly progressing (apparently the parts are incredibly difficult to source??). It all started due to a rather-simple issue: oil was getting past the piston rings, but rather than just fix that problem, he decided it was the perfect time to make it one of a kind. The Block was bored out to 97.1mm and Custom-made pistons from Mahle were added (whose tops were coated with combustion-chamber heat treatment by Swaintech), forged con-rods from Carillo that assisted in increasing the stroke by 1.75mm to 82mm (thus remaining over-square at 97.1x82mm bore-stroke), a mix of ARP kits (5 full-engine kits for a few different motors) to be able to use their (fantastic) parts exclusively, the crank was sent away to be blueprinted and balanced/honed, the intake manifold was honed and the intake runners were "ported and polished" (he simply made the airflow angle as smooth as possible) with the manifold being sent to SwainTech for heat-resistant coating afterward... The valvetrain was entirely worked over, to the point where he ended up with two entire "heads": one of them, kept in storage, is the entire OE Valvetrain that has been fully-restored and is 100%, and the other one which is on the car started with nothing more than an OE "head" that he built-up using improved parts including oversized titanium valves (the faces were coated by SwainTech), dual valve-springs, rather aggressive camshafts, and a lot more.
The exhaust was custom made by a local shop and apparently the only place near him that was able to do a full mandrel-bent exhaust system and utilized dual 2.5" tubes that were essentially "straight back" pipes with no resonators, ending in a dual-pipe muffler (I can't recall the brand, it was something unfamiliar and primarily used in Europe). The headers were also a brand unfamiliar to me, but were some of the nicest I've ever seen, being full-size equal-length tubular headers with absolutely perfect bends and an interior that was so well done it was almost a mirror-finish, and they were coated with a Plasma-sprayed ceramic coating (again, SwainTech). The intake system was, again, a custom design and utilized a hybrid design incorporating both stock and "CAI" design techniques, which ended up utilizing more of the latter in its final form as a single tube of Kevlar-Impregnated Carbon Fiber 3.5" in diameter, which snaked its way from just 8" in front of the throttle body down to the brake duct area with a giant conical filter at the end, a powdercoated and heat-treated piece of thick aluminum was bent and water-cut to size and fit a bit further back in the engine bay than typical. The throttle body was enlarged and a new butterfly valve added, with a 6" piece of Samco Sport silicone acting as a "coupler" between the 5" CF tube attached to the TB and the much larger one that was the intake.
The brakes were AP Racing 4-pot calipers up front with 2pc floating rotors (slotted) up front and the same in the rear with 15mm-smaller rotors. SS Braided brake lines and clutch line were used. I don't know what type of clutch/flywheel was used, except that the flywheel was incredibly light, and combined with the insane valvetrain and under-drive pulleys (which were also 62% lighter), made the car rev ALMOST TOO FAST.
17" BBS Wheels, of which type I can't be sure but they looked awfully similar to the LM's, finished off the package (well, of what I can recall).

That car, which I drove a number of times (the owner is a friend of my father's), and even drove back to back with an S50B32-swapped E30 M3, is still one of the most memorable drives I have ever had.

He managed to take what was an incredible car, and improve it in the way that only true custom work done by one person can. Talk about personality...

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