BMW Driver Survives Nightmare Crash When His E30 Loses Its Brakes At 110 MPH

Every old car owner’s worst nightmare is a mechanical failure, a crash out of your control. Greg built his 1991 BMW E30, a 318is with an S52 engine swap, into his absolute pride and joy, and he’s lucky he lived after his brakes gave out on track at 110 mph.

Listen to the car. It absolutely sings. And it absolutely crumples on impact.

This is at Watkins Glen in New York, one of the country’s most daunting race tracks. The car is Holly, and it was the owner’s pride and joy. “The car I’ve poured my blood, sweat and tears into is no more,” Greg wrote on a r3vlimited forum post “Goodbye to Holly,” describing how it all happened:

Thirty minutes into the session without any warning the brakes were gone and I had no pedal pressure as I entered the braking zone into turn 8. I did my best to try to get the car turned and scrub off some speed and not hit head on as I was taking the turn off line. The rest is history. My instructor and myself walked away with no injuries. That is the most important part.


This car got destroyed. The chassis itself bent and cracked from the crash.

Illustration for article titled BMW Driver Survives Nightmare Crash When His E30 Loses Its Brakes At 110 MPH

Unsurprisingly, Greg is looking to get right back into it, putting out a call for another old BMW to build up:

With the important part out of the way, I can now express how heartbroken I am to have lost this car that has been my canvas for many years. That being said, I will take what I can from her and build a stronger, safer, and faster car. I don’t want to jump the gun and hop right into someone’s project but I am itching to get back on the track asap. I would appreciate input as to what I should do next, I know building a car from scratch is the most expensive road to take but most satisfying in the end.

I’ve been constantly debating in my head about changing platforms, perhaps buying a full caged and prepped E36 or E46, maybe making the jump to something that is a full fledged racecar and learning from there. Or starting from scratch with the E30 platform I know best, gain more knowledge and save my race car dreams for later in life. After this accident I really do want a full cage with door bars. I could ramble on for days with pros and cons of each, the right situation will pan out in time. But if you have a rust free 318is slick top you are hiding for a great owner, let me know. 

It’s hard to stress just how terrifying this crash is to someone who owns and tracks a tin-can vintage car, built with light, thin steel and little in the way of crumple zones.

We love old cars, but the lightness and agility that makes them so entertaining also makes them horrifying in an unavoidable wreck. This BMW driver is lucky to have made it out.

Illustration for article titled BMW Driver Survives Nightmare Crash When His E30 Loses Its Brakes At 110 MPH

Also, Greg, those door bars are a wise choice. I speak from experience.

(A hat tip and big thanks to Derek for sending this over!)

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.



It is a shame this happened to him and his car. One thing to take away from this is thank goodness he was one of the good guys who took his racing to a track. Can you imagine what could have happened if this had happened in a street race? Be like Greg here, take it to the track. If something goes wrong then that might just save your life and the lives of others.

I hope he finds another car that speaks to him and enjoys it to the full!