Category Archives: E30-LS1

Anything related to the ultimate swap of them all, The E30 – LS1 Swap

Garagistic: How to swap an E30 Front Subframe

How to swap an E30 Front Subframe

The time has come, you have finally decided to reinforce your E30 front subframe; it’s not as hard as you might think!
Our friends at Salt City Euro’s show you how to get it done with the Garagistic reinforced E30 subframe!
This is one of the most important modifications you should make if you’re driving your car hard or adding more power. The Garagistic reinforced subframe arrives freshly powder coated and includes welded tabs that make the sway bar and engine mounts much stronger. This is necessary to prevent breaking the subframe. This is a stock subframe that was used with a S50 motor. You can purchase  a reinforced subframe over at the Garagistic website.

There are multiple ways to complete this job, which will also depend on the configuration of your car. For example, we have no power steering, but we do have a 24 valve oil pan which prevents us from removing the steering rack on the car, as you could on an E30 with an M20 or M42. We won’t mention the power steering system again. You are on your own with that. Use this as a general guide.

We’re using an engine support bar to suspend the engine properly since we’ll be removing everything that is holding the engine in place. To complete this job you will need the following tools: the jack and jack stands, an engine support bar, a wrench with 13, 16, 17, and 19 mm sockets, and a ball joint removal tool. We also needed a small pry bar. Start by loosening your lug bolts and securing the car on jack stands. We then removed the wheels and loosened the control arm and tie rod end bolts. You’ll need a 19mm socket for the control arm and a 17mm socket for the steering rack tie rod ends. We’re using a basic ball joint tool to remove the ball joints. Before attempting to remove the ball joints, make sure you leave the nut flush with the threads of the ball joint. This will give you a larger surface to work with and protect your threads. Don’t be afraid to apply a lot of pressure, it takes quite a bit to pop those ball joints out.

Next, remove the two 17mm bolts holding the control arm bushings in place. You may have to carefully pry them off the car’s chassis. Remove the lower nuts holding the motor mounts in place. Disconnect your steering shaft from the steering rack. We are showing this on another car so you can clearly see it. Normally the engine would block the view. At this point you can carefully raise your engine to take all the weight off the motor mounts. We also used the jack with a 2×4 for extra safety. Once you’ve loosened and removed the four 17mm bolts holding the subframe in place, carefully lower the subframe. At this point it is time to disassemble your subframe assembly. Remove the steering rack, sway bar, and control arms, then transfer the steering rack to your new subframe.

It’s time to reinstall the e30 subframe on your car. This is much easier with the help of a friend. Align and reinstall your control arms. A small tip: if the ball joint is spinning and does not want to tighten, you can use a jack to press the joint into the knuckle. Reinstall your sway bar and tighten to spec. Finally, remember to tighten and torque your motor mounts to spec.

You’ve successfully swapped the subframe on your E30. This job is time consuming and may require two people at times. We estimate that it takes 2 to 4 hours to complete depending on skill.

On a scale of 1 to 10, we’d give this job a 5, with 1 being a wheel change and 10 being a full top to bottom engine rebuild.

All Garagistic E30 Front Subframe reinforcements are made in house here in the USA.

Our friends at Salt City Euro’s show you how to get your Garagistic E30 Subframe done!




Project Ares – Pandem (rocket bunny) supercharged LS1 E30

So on to the exterior of the E30 ls1 car we named Ares. Being that the Car will have a supercharged LS1, we wanted this car to be functional. Very functional. No air ride and lots of tire to put down the power with. So we though, we should go widebody! Then we picked the wrong widebody kit……

We picked the Pandem E30 body kit. Why? Because we thought it looked really cool, gave us the ability to run some wide wheel, and there wasnt too many of them around. Little did we know, that this kit is not meant to be functional at all. After getting the kit, we realized, this kit was meant for a car that was going to be parked on air at shows, not put fast lap times down at the track. Every builder who has used this kit on an e30 used it with air suspension for a reason. The wheel arches on this body kit are incredibly high. Meaning cutting the car very very very high. No big deal right?  Ever notice how none of the E30s with the pandem kit have their wheels turned when they are slammed? Yea, thats because they cant turn at that ride height. It would touch the body kit. Thats why the wheels are always straight in the pictures.

So we made a mistake. What were we going to do with this very expensive body kit or the custom wheels made for this car? Cut up the body kit? Not with a price tag that it had.  However, with some serious chasis modification and creative thinking we came up with a solution.

The first thing we had to do was cut the rear wheel arches. Very high. There was no going back now. It was like performing surgury and making sure there was enough “skin” to sow it back togther. We cut the outer skin and left the inner skin to use it to close up the new fender gap.

The front was a little trickier. After realizing that the car wont be able to turn with 9.5 in wheels because it touched EVERYTHING. At the ride height the Pandem kit was expected to “look” right at, it would rub on the inner fender seem. So we cut it out and welded it shut. On turning it touched the wheel well corners (inside cabin). We  had to cut a massive section out to get it to turn lock to lock. On the front the corner of the engine bay had to go for the same reason.

Now being that the car was going to be so low to the ground, we  would also need to make the whole front end removable very quickly. This would make it loading onto the trailer to get to track events/shows/etc a little easier. Its not like we could just air up the car at will. The car has a functional coilover system all the way around compliments of ground control. This includes true rear coilover rear setup like the old DTM cars had. We did mention we picked the wrong body kit right? We will explain how we made the front end removable here.

All LS1 parts can be found at the Garagistic Store.

Project Ares – Boosterless E30 brakes

Being that we are going with a V8 in the Ares E30, we had to go boosterless. Although there are Hydro setups out there as well retrofitted e32/e34 booster relocation kit out there for the e30. They all have serious faults. For Example, the hydro-setup is incredibly cluttered in an already packed engine bay. The e32/e34 us cluttered as well and means more fabwork to brace the wheel well that it gets bolted to. We had it on our M60 V8 E30 Lela and it left alot to be desired from the brakes.

Our boosterless setup is very well thought out. When most people think boosterless, they think, turn the car off and roll down a hill and try to stop the car kinda feeling. Its not like that at all! To make up from not being vacuum assisted, the bore sized on our wilwood boosterless setup is much smaller. 5/8 for the front brakes, 5/8 for the rear and 3/4 for the clutch. Not only are the bore sizes smaller which make the effort to stop the car less, but the pedal ratio is now 6.25:1. This further assist you in braking effort.

We made a few tweeks to our production version for the Ares project to make it easier to work with with. We welded the nuts onto the bracket and the top 3 bolts to make it a one man job to remove them.

We also wanted a way to mount a neat tilton reservoir, so we modified our production version upper plate to include a 90 degree bend to hold the tilton setup/fluid.

This then brought on the creation of our Boosterless plumbing kit.  We needed a way to block the stock boosterless hole setup and a way to route the new lines cleanly through.

We will also be installing a Tilton Remote Brake Bias Adjuster Knob to be able to fine tune everything.

In the future we will be installing a wilwood big brake setup. For now, we had e36 m3 laying around, so we used that for the front setup and z3 stuff out back.  Something we will need to revisit soon.

Project Ares – Deleting the sunroof

Anyone who races cars knows that weight is evil. More or less anyway. However, weight at the top of the car is the worst kind of weight. Especially the sunroof. You want the center of gravity to be as low as possible. So we did away with the E30 sunroof.

Its not exactly a small en devour.  After removing the sunroof itself, all motors, cables etc, we then had to remove the inner cassette that the sunroof fits into when opened. You can drill the spot welds out and it will eventually pop out.  This modification saves you about 50lbs off the roof! This changes the handling dynamic of the e30 dramatically. At first we welded the roof shut with our delete panel. We then decided, lets save even more weight, cut the whole roof off and use a carbon fiber unit instead. So we did.

The new carbon fiber roof weights in at 3lbs. The metal we cut out was another 18lbs. So a total weight savings of 68 lbs off the roof was removed. Not bad!

To make it look right, the guys at Kings auto body then riveted on the roof and blended it in to make it look as OEM as possible.

Being that this was one of those “while we were at it” mods that we did not account for, we realized that our half cage wasn’t really a safe idea anymore. So eventually a full cage is needed.

Project Ares – Steering setup on the Super e30

Sticking with the modular theme, we wanted the steering system to be no different. Obviously we were going to go with a quicker steering setup over the school bus setup of the e30. That ended up being a Z3 rack. Paired with our steering rack conversion kit it bolted right up. For the outer tie rods we made adjustable versions that were a little lighter, beefier, offered more adjustment and allowed bump steer adjustment. These are made to order. Common use is for guys who use e46 lower  control arms.

For the steering column we went with our competition steering shaft. Its made from 2 e46 steering shafts. It is more compact which allows the LS1 headers to wrap around (and its still a tight fit). It also make the shaft much tighter feeling because it eliminates the stock rubber rag unit that disconnect the feeling of the road from the steering wheels.

We then added AN conversion fittings so we can retain power steering and run lines to the LS1 power steering pump. More details to come!

The road to SEMA

Garagistic is proud to announce we are entering the arena of brilliant minds and innovators all around the globe. We’re beginning our journey to the largest auto trade event in the world: SEMA.

Egge Speed Shop - originally posted to Flickr as IMG_9796
SEMA 2008

You read correctly. We will be joining industry leaders from around the world this coming November 2016. But we are not about to go empty handed. We have a treat for you guys; a project car that will be singularly the most ambitious stunt Garagistic has ever tackled. We have named it, Ares.

Violence and control. The fury of war merged with military strategy. This is the embodiment of the offspring of Zeus and Hera. The power of American muscle and the poise of German engineering. This is the son of Olympus, Ares.

Ares, Greek god of war, classically depicted.

We’ve been dancing with V8s long enough now, and damn it we have it down to science. Besides that we have our high caliber specialty suspension we forge here in the shop. Combine these ingredients with a 1989 325i and it all comes together as a street legal, track ready, easy to build, easy to modify, weapon of a car.

ls1 e30 garagistic
Corvette power in a lightweight BMW 3 series.

These are our products. Everything you will see on Ares is either items we make that are currently in production or a custom piece built directly from am existing Garagistic piece. But don’t worry, there is nothing on Ares that would be unavailable to you. One of the objectives when we were conceiving the plans for Ares is to produce new performance parts that can be used in any application.

Vehicle: 1989 BMW 325i
Power train: Supercharged Chevy LS1 5.7
Horsepower: 550*
Torque: 575*
Transmission: T-56 Getrag 6-Speed Manual
Curb weight: 2800 lbs
Wheel width: 17’x11′
Exterior Body Kit: Rocketbunny / Pandem imported from Japan

Certainly we have a massive amount of work before us, however we’ve begun working on this already. Click here for a link to the completion map to see how far we’ve progressed, and keep following us for the next post where I will explain in detail how much we’ve already done to Ares and everything yet to complete. We have a long way to get to SEMA but as they, you never really finish you just run out of time.

Day 7 – 10 Day Build – E21 S54

It may not look like it, but a lot of progress was made this Satuday, Day 7. I was able to effectively place Garagistic’s M60 80A poly mounts in place on the modified/shortened E36 M50 Arms. The Arms bolted right to the S54 Block. The Driver side mount only has 2 bolts utilized, so I must add an adapter plate to adapt the 2 unused holes to the block’s other holes. Not a big deal. More on that later this week. Here are some of the pics: Final pics will not be posted until later this week:

Passenger Side:


Drive Side:


I also took some time to update the subframe brackets. While Garagistic works hard at creating my custom offset rear subframe bushings, I am working on holdiong those bushings down by virtue of the modified brackets, now holding down on the OUTSIDE of the body as opposed to the inside. The reason for this is because of the wider E30 subframe would make contact with the weld nuts on the existing version E21 subframe bracket. So with some modifications of the bracket, weld bolts, we’ve got a pretty solid setup!


I also had a chance to shorten the shifter lever arm as well as the shift carrier, but I have not welded it yet. More on that this coming week.

Due to the final placement of the drivetrain, I had to modify the placement of the center bearing location and I decided to add rivet nuts as opposed to weld studs. This was actually pretty easy to implement.


Day 8 is Monday. I’m taking off this Sunday, so no work or progress is being made today. I want to accomplish the following:

  1. Weld the entire Front Subframe complete – Paint it.
  2. Side Radiator Clearance – Cut/Weld if necessary
  3. Install rear subframe bushings – Weld Diff Mount to Frame
  4. Measure rear driveshaft length – send out for lengthening
  5. Weld downpipes.

A lot planned – Stay tuned!

Day 1 – 10 Day Build – E21 S54

Ok, so one day down, and yes, it was purely a tear down! Not much technical info here. Took us 4 hours to get to this point on a Saturday Afternoon.

Car got picked up today from my place:


Made some space and put the car on the lift:

img_4933Major components removed today.

Front Suspension – Going 100% poly and GC:

img_4934 img_4936 img_4937 img_4938 img_4948

Engine/Transmission/Driveshaft/Exhaust. It’s was leaking something fierce.

img_4950 img_4955 img_4956


Rear Suspension – Dropped right down:

img_4939 img_4940 img_4941 img_4942 img_4943 img_4944 img_4945 img_4946

Some pics of the underbody and tunnel:

img_4957 img_4958 img_4959

Compared the driveshafts. Most likely, that will dictate the location of the engine position and as a result, i must define that position as soon as possible. If I determine that the position is too far forward, I will have no choice but to cut the driveshaft and position the assembly further back. This will result in time lost and more cash spent, but it’s important, and a one-time deal.

You can see below that the new driveshaft is much shorter, and the Center bearing location is much further back. This can easily be remedied by welding some metal relocation brackets. This will be documented in the next few posts

img_4960 img_4963 img_4962 img_4964

You look below you can see some new products coming out, using a custom Garagistic part for E30-LS1 driveshafts. This U joint will handle up to 1000hp easily and be provided exclusively by Garagistic’s LS1 powered E30.

img_4968 img_4970

Sunday is an off day .Restarting on Monday, at which point, I have the following list to-do.

  1. Siphon the gas out of the tank, if necessary.
  2. Do whatever it takes to get that E30 rear subframe to fit
  3. Cut out all unneeded sheetmetal from the assembly. Battery, trans tunnel, rear wheel well.
  4. Hang muffler in place.

Standby for more on Monday!

Symptoms of Faulty E30 Control Arm Bushings

I once asked my dad, who was driving me to the store one day, “How come I can feel every single bump and crack in the road when we’re driving?” to which he replied, “Maybe you think you feel every bump, but what about the ones that you don’t feel?”

It comes on slow, but when it does, it’s not only annoying, it’s downright dangerous. Some automotive designs are more susceptible than others based on the geometry of the suspension arms. It’s something that we all suffer from at least once in our lives. And if we’re avid automotive enthusiasts, it’s something that we all must deal with, either by reaching into our pockets to have someone else replace, or getting on our backs and fixing it ourselves. That’s right. I’m talking about control arm bushings. All cars have ‘em. All cars need ‘em.

They’re a high wear item on our cars and for good reason. They control the suspension travel and buffer the rough road noise/bumps/potholes so that you don’t have to feel them while driving. Most rubber bushings, durometer 60A from our previous polyurethane bushings post, is very soft. This is great because it’s comfortable, but it’s loose, non-sporty, and wears out fast. Not to mention, you need expensive pullers and or other creative tools to press it out.


What are the symptoms of bad Control Arm Bushings, particularly the front? The symptoms vary quite a bit, but the same general theory is the same. Steering wheel wobble at specific speeds is the most common. But bad control arm bushings can sometimes mask itself through warped rotors. Oftentimes when you brake at a specific highway speed, regardless of steering, the wheel shakes. This is due to bad ball joints on the control arm bushings. There are 2 ball joints on the E30 Front Control Arms.  From Real OEM, see below:


As you can see there is no “upper” and “lower” control arm. There is just the single, triangular control arm, and it’s below.

Unfortunately, the ball joints are not repairable. However, it typically takes much longer for the ball joints to wear out compared to the rubber control arm bushing itself.  So for most shadytree mechanics, the control arm is to be thrown out in the even that the ball joint itself develops play.

You can test for ball joint wear by taking a long pry bar and inserting it in between the control arm and the subframe. This allows you to see at a glance if the control arm ball joint moves, you have play and need to replace the ball joints, aka the entire control arm.

Another symptom of bad front control arm bushings is the fact that everytime you go over a speedbump, onramp/driveway, large crack, or quickly brake the car and hear a clunk, it’s much more likely that the rear control arm bushing, commonly referred to as the “CAB” is worn. If you look at the diagram above, you’ll see that the control arm is a stud going through a rubber control arm bushing. This membrane tends to wear out, and quickly if you drive aggressively.

You can replace these and fix any clunking you’re experiencing relatively easy. Here are the rough steps for replacement. Please note that we highly recommend you have these installed by a professional and if you decide to install any product by yourself that you are proceeding at your own risk:

  1. Remove the 2 M10 bolts that hold the “eyelet” to the frame. Use a 17mm boxwrench and NOT an open ended wrench. You need the leverage to remove. They eyelets contain concentric studs that fit very nicely onto the frame member of the E30. Unscrew them, stick a pry bar in, and pry it loose. Oftentimes, you’ll relieve some stress once you remove it.
  2. If the old bushing is bad, it will simply pull right off. But you’ll need to remove the bushing from the eyelet, so that you can reuse the eyelet. For this you can cut the inner diameter bushing from the eyelet twice, making 2 halves. Break through that wall and it will fall right out. Best way to do this is put it in a vice and use a sawzall to cut. See the figure below.3
  3. Now you can replace the bushing. This is where it gets easy, and rewarding. I recommend Garagistic’s polyurethane bushings, 80A. Soft, but great for occasional track use. Perfect for street, and lasts for a ton of enjoyable spirited driving miles!
  4. Simply take the bushing and push it right in. The fit will be very tight and you will need to use a rubber hammer to get it 100% in as the friction increases during installation, but it will fit, and perfectly at that.
  5. Then, Installation of the eyelet is the reverse of removal. Torque the 17mm bolts (M10-1.5) to 14ft-lb.

Best of all, they come with a lifetime warranty!

For those looking for a sportier ride and more aggressive stance, you can always obtain offset control arm bushings. This allows you to have more caster, more camber, more traction.

When you go to place an order for Garagistic Control Arm Bushings, simply check whether you want the centered version (more factory feel) or offset (more aggressive for occasional track use), and whether you want 80A (more aggressive than factory) or 95A (harder and more connected feel) or even delrin (much harder and more aggressive exclusively for track use).


Thanks for reading and have a safe and happy modding experience with Garagistic!


Ares: E30-LS1 – Removable Wiring


Now that we have a removable radiator core on the ARES LS1 Swapped E30, we can now do some cool stuff with the wiring. Here, we decide to route the wiring inside the driver fender and make a removable connector, similar to the C101 or X20 connector conveniently mounted on the side of the inner fender wall, near the ABS pump.

There is one major goal to executing this somewhat complicated arrangement of mechanical & electrical workarounds. And that is our ability to get access to the front of the engine in 1, 2, 3. Quite literally. 1. Unbolt the complete support. 2. Disconnect the electrical connector on the driver side fender, and 3. Pull the entire subassembly forward, headlights, bumper, valence, and all!!

Pinouts and detailed routing will be described in the actual write-up, so if you’re ever interested in executing a clean swap like this, then the write-up will detail every step of the way including pinouts, tools, specific parts used, and the overall intention of the design with regards to the affected components (Headlights, turn signals, electric fan…etc).

The final product will be grommeted, painted, and polished for ease of installation.


Here we used a simple X20 or C101 connector from an any E30, E34, E32, E23, E24…etc. We needed both the male and female end so that the connection would be removable when needed.



The electrical hookups were easy. When you source the X20/C101 connector, you have 2 options.

  1. Source an X20/C101 connector (both male/female), pins, and wire of proper gauge and build this assembly yourself. Part Numbers will be presented in the write-up, along with suggested pinouts. Remember that there are high-gauge wire needed for the electric fan,  headlight power, and ABS power. Lower gauge wire is acceptable for turn signals and other ABS signals.
  2. Go to the junkyard and source your own X20/C101 connector both male and female. You must unplug the connectors, cut about 6-12” of wire, and then crimp The E30 body wiring to that connector assembly. I recommend crimping over soldering. It’s easier, cleaner, and it’s preferred on aircraft flight deck panels! How awesome is that!?

The wiring bundle shall be cut at or near where the wiring is to be terminated at the driver fender.  Take that  bundle and snake it at the fuse box through the hole available and through the tunnel in the driver-side fender frame rail. Out it comes at the front of the tunnel and snakes to your connector.





And that is the installation in a nutshell. All in all, there is not much to it. But it does add value if what you’re going for is an easily removable system.

Stay tuned as we continue to brief you on more info as we continue to build this LS1-E30!