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Super Sleeper: How To Build A Corvette-Engined BMW 3-Series

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The Corvette LS1's a great engine, the E30 BMW 3-Series is a great chassis, but they were never meant to go together, right? That didn't stop a pair of maniac motorheads from doing it. Here's how to build one yourself.

The art of the motor swap can be practiced at many levels, the hack-and-slash backwoods special is far too common, and gives the option a bad rap. Far more rare is the carefully engineered and documented masterpiece which manages to leave the weight balance unaltered and greatly improves the power on tap.


Although many of you may have followed this swap when it first appeared on the forums two years ago, but for those of you who didn't, here's the story. A father and son duo from Edmunds, Washington has chosen the latter and performed some darn respectable work on a rather unassuming BMW E30. The first step was to take the original BMW 4-cylinder and chuck it out, it was good in its day, but the iron block and peaky nature mean it's ripe for an upgrade from the General's parts bin. Cue the easily-lovable, all-aluminum LS1 V8 and T56 combination from a Corvette. At more than 350 HP it's a significant upgrade over the original equipment, especially considering the low-down power those engines make and the fact the car only gained 85 lbs over the stock configuration. That's a fairly reasonable trade-off.

The real difference between the average swap and this one is the degree of care that was put into it. The two used computer aided engineering tools to mock up and virtually test a variety of parts like the engine mounts, adapters and trick remote power brake system. The only "adjustment" necessary to the body was to whack the transmission tunnel a bit to make room for the new six speed, with amazingly lined up perfectly with the shifter hole.


That engine's packed in tight, but it's clean, and it looks like a runner. Perhaps the greatest part about all this is the two meticulously documented the whole process, from parts to electrical diagrams over at BimmerForums, and if you're interested there's a 30-page thread going over the whole build. If you're too lazy, or want cleaner documentation with which to build your own, they've condensed it down to a CD you can buy and use towards your own evil plans. [BimmerForums]