Sport Evolution

Igor Polishchuk — the founder of CAtuned in Sacramento, California — knows his way around a BMW, especially an E30.

CAtuned have taken Bimmers to the SEMA Show for a decade now, but this sleek, silver-finished M3 just might be their best build yet.

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If you aren’t already intimately familiar with this popular Bavarian tuner, the car we’re about to look at is a culmination of CAtuned’s philosophy, which is best expressed directly in their own words: “CAtuned has done more than refine an old tradition: We’ve started a new one. Guided by an international flare, we fuse unique styling techniques from around the world to create an interesting ride.”

This is exactly what Igor and the team have done again with their 1989 BMW M3, which has a bit of cool history, too.

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This E30 M3 chassis was originally a Dinan car that was built with a Sport Evolution engine, which not only benefited from a slew of BMW M division upgrades but was also punched out to displace 2.5 liters. These engines were originally destined for use in the M3 Evolution III models, which were obviously used for racing with 600 homologation examples produced for the road.

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Thus, not many of these engines were built in the first place, and fewer remain today. Output was 238hp from this ultra-spec S14, representing a 40hp increase over the standard E30 M3 engine. This might not seem impressive today, but bear in mind that this was a 20% jump in power from the same block. It also was more powerful than the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evo II, but I digress.

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Those of you with a keen eye will be wondering why I’m talking about an engine that this car doesn’t have. The Skunk2 billet magnesium valve cover does serve to disguise the engine a bit — and you’ll also notice that the ‘Powered by BMW’ decal remains affixed at the rear — but this is not an BMW S14 inline-four. Instead, it’s a Honda K24 inline-four, which has been stroked to displace 2.6 liters and built to the nines with a naturally aspirated endurance racing spec.

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But why not use that legendary Sport Evolution engine, you might ask? Well, for exactly that reason: it’s legendary. On the other hand, the K24 is light, reliable, capable of big power and has endless aftermarket support. Some people might say it’s a big f-you to put a Honda engine in an M3, but I would say it’s a much bigger f-you to blow up a homologation-spec engine in the pursuit of high horsepower.

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This just isn’t an f-you type of build, anyway, and I appreciate that almost everyone has moved on from modifying cars in a controversial way simply to be controversial.

Global Influence

Instead, Igor and CAtuned are just continuing what they’ve been doing since 2002: blending styles and building the ultimate ultimate driving machines. The decisions here all make sense for the intended use of the car, and the execution is spot on.

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You have CAtuned’s classic mashup of styles from around the globe fully on display, with more Japanese influence coming in the form of the 17-inch RAYS Volk Racing TE37s it rides on. These were actually the last set of E30-fitment TEs available in North America, and after plans to convert the car from five-bolt to center-locks went awry, the Volks ended up finding the M3 in a sense. Thankfully, they suit it well, though that’s no surprise – TE37s look great on everything.

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The ride height has been adjusted thanks to a set of CAtuned Street coilovers, and their polyurethane bushings have been added to further tighten up the old chassis. Braking is from more CAtuned-derived parts including their AP Racing kit, and a Wavetrac differential also has been installed to help further manage the newfound power.

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Inside the car there’s a return to German sensibility, with a pair of Scheelmann Sportline R seats with houndstooth inserts. The rears have been done to match, and an M-Tech II steering wheel ties it all together in period style. I love that the factory onboard computer is retained, yet the carbon fiber door panels remind you that you’re nestled in a very serious machine.

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How serious? Well, take a scroll through the full build list below and learn for yourself. It’s quite extensive as CAtuned have touched everything on this M3, which is the culmination of two decades’ worth of experience. Being fairly local to their shop, I can only hope they take me out for a drive soon.

Seeing cars like this at the SEMA Show is one thing, but putting them through their paces is another. And if a car ever deserved to be put through its paces, it’s this one.

Trevor Ryan
Instagram: trevornotryan

Photography by Mark Riccioni
Instagram: mark_scenemedia
Twitter: markriccioni

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