Don’t be fooled by the fancy badge. This stunning, garage-built BMW E30 from Lincoln Stevens combines lots of the stuff we love: a punchy aspo V8 with induction noise for days, three pedals, and a trophy-winning finish – all wrapped in a compact, street-driven package!
First published in the December 2023 issue of Street Machine
Lincoln, who’s 62 but admits to thinking and acting like a 30-year-old, has a long back-catalogue of cool Aussie stuff, from a succession of 351-powered Falcons to One Tonners and hot panel vans. By the 90s, he’d found his jollies in BMW coupes.
“I’d liked the little boxy shape of the E30 for a long time and had thought, ‘I’ll end up getting one of these one day,’” Lincoln recalls. “I knew I couldn’t afford to buy a decent-condition one, so I thought I’d just look for a rust-free shell and slowly buy all the parts to build it from the ground up.”
Lincoln eventually bought a dry, totally stripped shell for $500 from E30 racer Pierz Harrex, and a mostly complete but rusty donor car to supply everything else. “I then sold that shell to a metal yard for $500,” he laughs.
Lincoln handled 95 per cent of the build himself, mostly within the confines of his Brisbane garage, and later in his new shed in Townsville – hence the ‘Blood, Sweat and Years’ logo that now adorns the car’s firewall. “I decided I wanted a really tidy street car, and as I’d done with my E46 M3, I decided to paint the underside of the E30,” he says. “I built a rotisserie for it out of two engine stands and started grinding all the body deadener off, which took weeks and weeks, and after playing with House of Kolor mixes, I finally came up with a colour and painted the underside. Bit by bit, I refreshed everything and started putting it all back on, and in the meantime I was deciding on which engine I should put in it.”
A four-banger was out of the question, so Lincoln picked a quad-cam, 4.0-litre M60B40 V8 from a 90s-model 740iL. “It’s actually lighter than the six-cylinder option I was looking at putting in,” he explains. “I test-fitted the engine a few times; the conversion took a bit of modifying the firewall and tunnel, and I had to lower the front crossmember 15mm so the engine would be neatly tucked under the bonnet and so the tailshaft would run nice and straight.”
Lincoln rebuilt the mill himself, treating it to ARP studs, WPC bearings and a lightened flywheel, topped off with a glorious set of custom 48mm throttlebodies. It’s putting out just shy of 300hp, with 295ft-lb of torque on tap through a US-sourced Getrag five-cog manual. An E36 tailshaft links the ’box to a medium-case diff packed with a four-clutch LSD and 3.15:1 gears.
“The engine is very snappy, with the power coming on instantly at the touch of the throttle,” Lincoln enthuses. “It’s a fun thing to drive for sure.”
E36 M3 trailing arms, lower control arms and five-stud hubs replace the factory four-stud gear on both ends; these support later E46 brake rotors and calipers. Lincoln achieved the ride height by combining BC Racing coil-overs with adapted OCD airbags, managed by an AirLift 3P system and dual Viair pumps.
“Making the engine look tidy in the bay was a ton of work after I’d put the ITBs on it,” Lincoln says. “I had to rewire and reroute a lot of wires and hoses, including all the wiring for the injectors and coil packs, as they were encased in plastic factory boxes that originally sat on top of the heads and now wouldn’t fit.” The fabricated engine cover uses an aluminium base, coated with chopped carbonfibre and body-colour paint flakes (plus a drop of Lincoln’s own blood) and sealed with a layer of resin. “That was a ton of work, as there are so many angles on it that the resin just wanted to run off it every time,” he points out. The whole engine bay features atmospheric lighting from hidden, high-density ‘COB’ LEDs, creating a shadowline effect and subtle glow across the engine.
Dek-A-Dent Townsville sorted out a panel crease and a few small bruises before Lincoln stripped, primed and sanded the car, ready for paint and three coats of clear by Lincoln’s mate AJ. “I brought the car home, where I allowed it to sit for 12 months for the clear to really settle and cure,” he says. “Then I sanded all the clear and took it back to get flow-coated with another three coats of clear. After waiting about nine months, I sanded all the clear again, but this time with six grades of paper until it was super flat, and then buffed it.” Meanwhile, Lincoln designed and created a shadowline headliner, custom speaker surrounds and boot panels, alongside the million other small jobs involved in assembling a show-quality car from a shell.
Lincoln and his wife Leanne were rightfully keen to drive the E30, and it saw plenty of after-work and weekend cruising before its debut on the show scene. “After its first show, we were genuinely surprised how many people liked it, and how they were raving about the quality and detail,” Lincoln recounts. “By the time we went to Rockynats and then got the invite to Meguiar’s MotorEx Superstars, we thought perhaps we should stop driving it for a while until we’d done that and all the other shows we wanted to do!”
The car’s also been to Red CentreNATS and a string of Queensland shows, coming away with at least one trophy at pretty much all of them. The interior alone has bagged four awards! “She’ll be getting driven again now while the weather is decent in North Queensland,” Lincoln says. “I love driving it, and I love how nearly every time I pull up for fuel, someone will say, ‘Beautiful car mate, and that paint is gorgeous.’”
Despite initially being unimpressed when two sad-looking 80s Bimmers arrived in the garage, even Leanne has been converted. “About halfway through the six-and-a-half-year build she was disliking it immensely, and disliking me too I think, as I’d spent nearly every night, weekend and holiday working on it, not to mention the money I’d spent on it so far,” Lincoln says. “After driving it down to its first show and setting it up, I said, ‘I need to go home and have a shower.’ When I returned, Leanne had the biggest smile on her face and said, ‘You should hear what people are saying about your car; they really love it!’”
A show car of Leanne’s own is next on the agenda. “I can’t say what it is, as we’re wanting to do a reveal when it’s finished, but I can tell you that it is a very unique car, and I have never seen one at any show car event ever,” Lincoln says. If the E30’s anything to go by, it should be rad as hell.
As Lincoln pivoted his E30 build from an outright streeter to a show-quality finish, cost blowouts became a pressing issue, but an accidental solution came from his other BMW coupe.
“I designed a cold-air intake for my M3, as I wanted that induction sound,” he says. “I put a post up on the E46 M3 Facebook page showing what I’d made and a vid of the sound, and to my surprise, I ended up getting guys asking if I’d make one for them. I said yes, came up with a price, and sold three in a couple of days!”
Lincoln’s bolt-on design showed a 12hp increase with dyno testing, and he wound up selling hundreds of kits! “It was a bit of a dilemma though, because now I was making all these kits and didn’t have any time to work on my build,” he laughs. “Orders for the kits did end up slowing down and I was able to juggle both, and of course the funds helped the rest of the E30 build.”
1989 BMW E30
|Custom House of Kolor Kandy Red
|4.0L BMW M60B40
|Three-row radiator, Spal 16in thermo fan
|Custom extractors, 2.5in stainless system
|Getrag five-speed manual
|Medium-case, four-clutch centre, 3.15:1 gears
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES
|BC Racing BR coil-overs, OCD airbags
|BC Racing BR coil-overs, OCD airbags
|E46 BMW discs (f & r)
|WHEELS & TYRES
|Japan Racing JR14 18×8.5 (f & r)
|Bridgestone 215/35R18 (f & r)
Paul Marsh at North Queensland Trimming for always going the extra mile, especially with the dash; my wife for being so patient and understanding with me over the 6.5-year build – I love that she now loves the car and enjoys everything that comes with taking it to shows; my sons Luke and Joel for their ideas, suggestions and input – the engine cover certainly made a difference and the light module they made for the engine bay and interior lights works a treat; Zane at Brisbane Refinish Supplies for the advice; AJ and Andrew for the bits they painted; Peter for helping me clean and prep parts.