Skip to Content

1991 BMW E30 Turbo with M50 swap

There is not much that beats the look and feel of older BMWs. The one potential complaint may be their engine performance in the current market. Enter our top car find, a BMW E30 Turbo running a swapped m50 non vanos engine.

red 1991 e30 318i

Come get this gal from Palos Hills, Illinois. The seller is asking $14,200 and is highly motivated!

This BMW E is Like That

This 318i started life with its underwhelming 1.8L I4 stock motor. That did not make much power, originally scooting 0-60 in around 9 seconds. It is a convertible. Perhaps they just wanted to keep people from getting their hair messed up with the top down.

red 1991 318i on pavement

What started life as a simple BMW 3 series has grown into a truly wild ride. It’s got a 30-item build list, obviously highlighted by the turbo setup. Quick spoiler, we’re talking about a massive horsepower gain from the factory.

With 18 pounds of boost pressure and some good ole pump gas, you’ve now got 450 wheel horsepower. Before the larger m50 swap, this car had a curb weight of 2,867 lbs. The 2 door, non-convertible, weighed significantly less. Something to the tune of 500 pounds, if the internet is to be believed.

right side view of engine bay with blow off valve
engine bay

That’s an alarming number, I have become alarmed. You too are becoming alarmed. That’s a ridiculously good power-to-weight ratio that will absolutely encourage you to upload youtube videos of parking lot drifts.

The swapped engine is the 2.5-Liter M50 without Vanos. One less thing to maintain and rebuild in the future. Cool – get to the turbo build!.. It’s running a Gt3582 top mount turbo with a 44 mm external wastegate and an ON3 Blow Off Valve.

The listing doesn’t say the brand, unfortunately. I’d definitely recommend following up there. Turbo kits that use this turbo can be had for pretty cheap and that’s not a bad thing. It just needs to be high quality and not implode during safe and speed-limit-style driving.

Gt3582 top mount turbo

The listing reads like the build has 5000 miles on it now, so we should be out of the woods for an oil feed flying off spontaneously or the fuel system cutting out. I guess only if you believe those concerns ever actually leave. That’s the cost of admission for driving a sweet build, and this is a sweet build.

BMW E30 Turbo Tuning

The brain of the car is MegaSquirt 3x v3.57 ECU. A tried and true platform that’s going to give you all of the customizations you need. Plus it’s got AntiLag / safety limits extra money fast person tune. In all seriousness, this is a solid upgrade.

Here’s a pretty cool video of the MegaSquirt AntiLag tune being effects.

E30 Drivetrain

The M50 is paried with a Getrag 260 5 speed transmission. There are some other manual gear boxes that could handle quick shifts a little more gracefully and potentially inspire more confidence.

There are some reports. of a tough first gear to second shift.Maybe weaker synchros. Sort of facing something in my M5 now. (Haha, we laugh so we don’t cry.)

The Getrag 260 will still hold it down, but you’ll need something beefier if you’re going for huge power. Just drive this first before making a decision like that. They went with the venerable Spect Stage 3 clutch for this E30. Another popular option is something from the Clutchmasters FX line.

We’ve got the motor, transmission, and clutch. We’ve got no shot and putting that power down how we all want and dream without a (fresh driveshaft mount, woo exciting) 2.9 LSD with polyurethane bushings. Oh, and a new guibo.

Mine is shot in my daily E39 530i, and it’s a pain to deal with… Enough about me. The Ground Control coilovers provide a lower right height but don’t look to be the 5 lug conversion option.

It’s also got Condor Engine and Transmission polyurethane mounts. You’re definitely going to be in tune with what the road feels like; feedback galore.


The interior looks, all right. Not really a make or break for a car like this. The seller does have a refinished dark blue E30 leather interior for an extra 1.2k. If they are legitimately leather and not vinyl seats, that’s a good deal, for convenience’s sake.

drivers clothe seat with small tear

If you’re not nostalgic about seeing rear seats like this, then I have now become sad.

clothe grey rear seats with some blemishes

What do I think?

All in, with Cometic MLS head gasket (the joy of not blowing head gaskets going forward), APR head studs, and a head refresh this ride should hold up for a long time. Given my E30 whims, I would’ve picked up this instead 86 swap instead. Performance wise, this certainly competes with most of the other BMWs we’ve run across.

Age is always going to be tricky as our BMWs age season their rubber gaskets and hoses with years of service, but you’ve got quite the chance to pull on some modern-day Turbo M cars with this build. You’re going to get way more attention than they will. Street demon time!

Here’s the Facebook Listing and the build list below.

Turbo Engine Parts

  • 2.0k – 2.5L m50 non vanos
  • 0.8k – Gt3582 turbo
  • 0.3k – ARP head studs
  • 0.7k – Head refreshed, valves lapped, Viton valve seals
  • 0.3k – LS truck ignition coils
  • 0.6k – 60lb 630cc Deka injectors
  • 0.7k – MS3x v3.57 ECU
  • 1.5k – Tune with AntiLag / safety limit
  • 0.8k – RapidSpool manifold
  • 0.5k – 44mm wastegate
  • 0.1k – On3 blow off valve
  • 0.4k – Intercooler Kit
  • 0.2k – New radiator
  • 0.3k – Cometic .140 MLS head gasket

Drivetrain and Chassis

  • 1.5k – Getrag 260 5 speed
  • 0.8k – Spec stage 3 clutch
  • 0.2k – Condor engine/ trans mounts
  • 1.1k – 2.9 LSD w poly bushing
  • 0.1k – New Guibo
  • 0.1k – New Driveshaft mount
  • 0.6k – Ground control coilovers
  • 0.1k – Stainless braided brake lines
  • 0.3k – Electric puller fan
  • 0.2k – Red46 skid plate
  • 0.4k – Chassis mount shifter
  • 0.6k – Custom exhaust with metal hangers