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1990 BMW 318is - Drift Dreams Reincarnated

One Man Returns to His Roots in Drifting With This Immaculate BMW E30

Austin Lott
Jul 19, 2019
Photographer: Troy Barker

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.

1990 BMW 318is Pandem Front Lip 01 Photo 28/28   |   1990 BMW 318is - Drift Dreams Reincarnated

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!

1990 BMW 318is LS1 Swap Photo 28/28   |   1990 BMW 318is - Drift Dreams Reincarnated

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.

1990 BMW 318is Sabelt Steering Wheel Photo 28/28   |   1990 BMW 318is - Drift Dreams Reincarnated

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."

By Austin Lott
26 Articles
1990 BMW 318is - Drift Dreams Reincarnated
Tuning Menu
Owner: Sven Bengtsson
Hometown: Adelaide, Australia
Occupation: Coffee Nerd
Instagram: @svenmate
Power: 340 whp
Engine: 5.7L LS1 V-8 swap; VCM Performance 7 camshaft; Rollmaster double-row timing chain; ARP cam bolts; Aeroflow rear bulge sump, surge tank, remote oil filter relocation kit, billet two-piece timing cover, oil cooler, air filter, 57l foam filled fuel cell; Melling high-pressure oil pump; custom extractors, 2.5-inch exhaust system; 52mm alloy radiator with Davies Craig thermo fan and custom shroud; Speedflow fittings and braided lines; Carter high-flow lift pump; Bosch 044 fuel pump; Sard fuel pressure regulator and gauge
Drivetrain: Six-speed T56 gearbox swap; heavy duty clutch; remote bleeder kit; Arrow short shifter; two-piece balanced tailshaft; locked medium case differential with 3.46 ratio gears
Engine Management: OEM ECU using MAF-less Cece tune; OBDII and tablet for gauges using Torque Pro
Footwork & Chassis: SLRspeed Super Angle drift kit; BC Racing BR Series coilovers; Garagistic delrin and 85a bushings, adjustable camber and toe correction kit with eccentric hardware, secondary diff mount, welded-in rear strut tower reinforcement plates; E36 steering rack with Condor Speed Shop spacers; relocated column; BigD front strut brace; heavily reinforced rear control arms
Brakes: Massive Brakes mounts; Wilwood two-piece rotors, Dynalite calipers, BP-10 pads; Garagistic Teflon-coated stainless braided lines; SRS dual rear caliper kit; Aeroflow brake bias valve
Wheels & Tires: 16x8 -10 front, 16x9.5 -52 rear Performance Formula Forged wheels; 205/45R16 Nankang NS2R front, 225/50R16 Nankan NS20 rear tires; 60mm race wheel studs and nuts
Exterior: Pandem widebody kit; Alpine White paint; Garagistic tow hooks; DTM Warsteiner M3-themed wrap by GU Auto Concepts; custom skidplate
Interior: Custom rollcage; Tilton floor-mounted pedals; Velo GTP seats on custom mounts, six-point harnesses; NRG quick-release hub; Sabelt suede deep corn steering wheel; HKB Boss hut kit; GKTech pull-type hydraulic handbrake; neon interior lights
Thanks: GU Auto Concepts for taking this car to the next level and for all the support during and after the build; those boys have become like family and I can't express my gratitude for the late nights and countless hours put into creating this beast. Also, my mates Kieran, Nick, and Paula who helped me tremendously in the early stages of the whole project

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