Project Henna: The Plan

From the Beginning

At an MSRP of around $34,800 what did the original E30 M3 offer its drivers?  Technically, the 1987- 1991 E30 M3s for the US market were closely based on the technology of their European counterparts.  The S14 is based on the S38 six-cylinder head and block, which explains its somewhat bulky size.  It is a durable motor that can run 100,000 miles before requiring a rebuild to remain in top shape.  The primary elements of the engine are pretty traditional: iron block with cylinder liners, short stroke steel crankshaft with eight counterweights, aluminum cylinder head with 10.5 to 1 compression, four-valve per cylinder hemispherical combustion chambers (yes, its got a Hemi), chain driven double overhead camshafts, tubular headers and twin-tract catalytic converters.
The results produced an engine with 83.4 hp/l for a total of 192 hp at 6,750 RPM in US trim (200 for non-cat Euro models) and 170 lb-ft torque.  The actual performance of the US model trailed the European non-cat version more than the power numbers would suggest.  The British magazine Autocar reported 6.5 second 0- 60 mph times for the European M3; Motor Trend recorded 0- 60 mph times for the US specification model at 8.1 seconds and ¼ mile time of 16.0 seconds at 88 mph.  (Fuel economy– as if a sporty car should concern itself with that– was EPA rated 17 city and 29 highway.)

Despite the slower times, Motor Trend declared that driving the E30 M3 was “an absolute hoot”, thanks in large part to the race bred suspension tuning.

The Story Evolves from there

Models dubbed “evolutions” became necessary to remain at the top in motorsports.  As road cars, the Evo M3s were not all  equal.  Some of the earlier 2.3- liter engines tuned to 220 hp were slower than their 200 hp counterparts thanks to taller gears.

The Evolution I ran subtlety upgraded aerodynamics but stuck with the 200 hp Euro 2.3 engine.

The Evolution II made a larger leap from the original.  The engine, with upgraded cams, pistons and flywheel, produced 220 hp under its white air box and cam cover (both with M Sport stripes).  It also sported BBS mesh wheels, an additional front spoiler, brake ducts and an extra lip on the rear wing.

And then there was the 2.5- liter Evolution Sport

The final competition-bred E30 M3 was the 2.5- liter engine Evolution Sport, introduced in 1990.  Just 600 examples were made of this very special car.

The 2.5- liter was conceived purely as a challenger against the similarly sized Mercedes-Benz 190 Cosworth.  The Mercedes had been equipped with full-production 2.5- liter 4-cylinder engines for several seasons by the time BMW followed suit.  The primary changes were a capacity increase from 2,302 cc to 2,467 cc thanks to an elongated crankshaft throw, and slightly larger bores.  The result was an impressive gain of 46 hp  and 6 lb-ft torque over the “normal” US spec engine.

Top speed jumped, despite the higher downforce set-up of the front spoiler and rear wing, from 140 mph to 156 mph.  More noticeable on the street was the added power throughout the rev range, which resulted in a respectable 6 second 0- 60 mph time (2.1 seconds quicker than the 2.3- liter!)  City EPA rating even went up, to 18.8 mpg (versus 17.0 mpg).

The performance of the 2.5- liter S14.1 is legendary, thanks to the many talents of BMW’s race engineers.  “It was more difficult than the work we did in Formula,” commented one insider to Jeremy Walton, author of the 3 Series Companion, “it was quite a big four cylinder, and we got it to rev past 11,000 rpm”!

The final M3 Sport Evolution III was a great swan song to a fundamentally simple front-engine, rear-drive, four-cylinder M3.  Very few BMWs since have been able to match its character.

And this leads to our project…



The Evolution of Henna

Working together with Tony Salloum, owner of VAC Motorsports and noted authority on all things E30 M3 and S14, we propose to rebuild Henna’s engine back to better than new.  This includes:

VAC Stage 3 Performance cylinder head work, which includes 6-Angle intake machining, full radius exhaust valve job, all-new valve guides, refreshed and blueprinted valves to VAC specifications, balance valve springs, plus much more.  Also, camshafts, pistons and connecting rods.  Most importantly, and why I talked so highly of the 2.5- liter Sport Evolution III, an elongated crankshaft throw will make the stock block into a 2.5- liter capacity engine.

Tony has convinced us that the added capacity of a stroked 2.5- liter (or 2.7- liter) engine is the perfect way to go for the spirited street driving and occasional track duty scenario we’re looking at.  The added mid-range torque will make the car much more of a pleasure to drive on the street.  And the added stroke takes none of the high revving capability, or top end punch, away.  Between the added capacity, the honed intake and more robust internals, Henna will be a real everyday performer for decades to come. And none of this work will detract from the value of the car, since it is internal, and reversible if desired.  Because of the track history of the car, it is our opinion that it will actually add to the bottom line.  The car is worth it.


Evo X Race Car – Brembo Motorsport Brakes & Race Technologies

Brakes are often overlooked as a part of a performance car’s list of upgrades.  This includes street cars all the way to race cars running on tracks every weekend.  Power regularly tops people’s lists of modification priorities, but the performance benefits from brakes are often unknown or minimized without real information to back up this decision.  At VR Performance we make an real effort to educate people on the benefits and explain how they can not only reduce braking distances, but provide a level of performance on the track that will be there consistently.  As you get more serious about going to the track, having quality brakes, pads and fluid makes a huge difference.  Years ago I remember getting a ride in a 911 Cup Car with slicks at a track and I couldn’t believe how hard it could decelerate.  It gave me a new appreciation for brakes and safety harness.

Brembo offers a large product line from OEM replacement rotors to motorsport systems on Formula 1 race cars.  The area I focused on with the Evo X build is the motorsport level and Brembo’s were at the top of the list.  Their racing catalogue has a large range of caliper designs including two piece, monobloc and from 2 to 8 pistons.  There is a range of rotor sizes including; diameters, thicknesses and slot styles.  After researching the options I was interested in a 6 piston front caliper and 380mm diameter rotor with type 5 slots.

At this point I needed some help, so I contacted Race Technologies in Irvin, CA (and Concord, NC) which we work with.  They are the official Brembo S.p.A. distributor in the US focusing on the performance aftermarket and racing industries.  Since there wasn’t an existing race system for the Evo X, I anticipated RT needing some performance parameters including vehicle use (road course), vehicle mass and deceleration targets to define the capabilities of the system.  Without these inputs it’s very difficult to do the engineering to design a system that will perform properly.  Now, with existing Evo X high performance systems like the GT and GT-R, Brembo certainly wasn’t starting from scratch on this car and those systems are remarkable in their own right.  They already have the CAD packaging and decades of brake experience that I wanted to take advantage of.  Even though an engineer, I’m not a brake engineer and when this project kicked off last year I knew there would be a lot to learn – and there was.


I always thought the Monobloc aluminum calipers were awesome from a design and machining standpoint along with the no nonsense anodized color.  Hey, looks count.  I suggested a front caliper and the process was officially started including the Race Technologies motorsport group and Brembo Italy where the analysis, approvals and feedback takes place internally between the divisions before coming back to the customer.

Now, here’s a little reality check for newbies running shops like VR Performance.  Most people wouldn’t share this, but I think it’s important to do so to explain the back and forth process and show not everything is “off the shelf”.  So, after some time had passed I got some feedback from RT stating I could not use the front caliper I was interested in.  I thought to myself, what do you mean I can’t use this caliper?  I’ve drooled over this thing at SEMA for years.  I was really bummed.  As it turned out, the specifications of this caliper and the disc were not designed to not handle the levels of thermal energy that a relatively heavy car like the Evo X would generate.  This is why when you get into this custom realm you have to have some patience and be open minded, which can be tough.  After an explanation over the phone I realized that if I didn’t listen I would be committing myself to weight targets that if not met, would render my original selection potentially incapable of doing what I wanted to do.  And that was to brake hard, corner after corner, lap after lap and not worry about surpassing any limits that could only be remedied with do-over money.

So Race Technologies proposed a front caliper that could accommodate a thicker rotor with larger annulus and higher thermal capacity.  I used this information to select another caliper and I asked if it would be good and it was.  It was a 6 piston monobloc too, but had a removable bridge and internal fluid crossover.  Originally I thought, go with the integrated bridge on the assumption it’s stronger and I don’t plan to do any endurance racing where a removable bridge pays off, but it had the internal fluid crossover which was a special design element to me.


For the rear brakes it was pretty straightforward regarding the caliper and rotor.  Brembo offers a 4 piston monobloc caliper with integrated bridge and internal crossover.  The rotor is a 345mm diameter with type 1 slots that are straight compared to the curve of the type 5 on the front.


Another important recommendation is to integrate a race pedal setup with a balance bar to adjust the balance the brakes front to rear to compensating for the weight distribution and dynamic transfer.


At VR, we enjoy getting into all the details of projects like this and in part 2 of this blog we’ll get into technical details including the installation, wheel clearance and terminology.  If you’re interested in a Brembo brake system feel free to call us at (586-991-2455) or email at ( to discuss your vehicle project and get a quote on Brembo brake systems for any level.

Evo X Race Car – Dry Sump & Dailey Engineering (Part 1)

We’ve been in the process of building an Evo X into a race car for some time now and while running through all the engine modifications that we wanted to do, we came to the conclusion it would need a dry sump to handle the levels of acceleration the car would generate on the track.  We started looking around on the web and didn’t see anything available that was meeting what we had in mind for bolt-on simplicity, engineered design and performance.

During the PRI show in December 2015, we talked with Dailey Engineering from Temecula, CA to see if they had a dry sump for the Evo X, and even though they didn’t, we inquired whether they would be interested in designing and developing one with our help.  After looking at the products in their booth it was clear they had the expertise.  We talked with Bill Dailey the owner who has many years of motorsport experience and he said they were interested in working together and we should talk further when we were ready.  Since the car was mostly disassembled by March of 2016, we gave him a follow up call to see what all this project would involve.  He discussed their capabilities and timing and we told him the car’s components were there for what ever was needed.  We bounced some ideas back and forth; his covering the important design elements to incorporate and mine for bolt-on simplicity and being able to retain the A/C for those customers in hot climates that have serious track cars, but may still see some street duty.

After kicking things off in earnest we got to work with Billy the design engineer at Dailey leading the project and Eric, partner in VRPerformance and our engineer on this project, started getting all the packaging measurements between the body and engine.  Eric sent him the critical components from the engine for him to build his model from.  It was clear the biggest challenge would be fitting an additional pulley to drive the pump between the damper and frame rail.  We knew using the OE damper wouldn’t work, so Billy acquired the damper drawings for the ATI and Fluidampr for the X and we ordered each to make sure everything would fit during mock-up once completed.

One of Dailey’s design elements is to integrate the pump and pan as shown in the X system below.  The pan is machined from 6061-T6 and the pump from 7075-T6511 billet aluminum.  Starting with the pan, the perimeter matches up with the ladder frame (aka girdle) on the Mitsubishi 4B11T engine.  It bolts on using hardware that will be supplied in the kit from us at VRPerformance.  You’ll notice the raised area that runs around the perimeter of the pan.  It serves as a trough for the oil to collect in to be pumped out via the two scavenge sections of the pump.  The pan also has screens integrated into the drain openings to keep larger debris out of the scavenge sections.  If there was ever an engine failure, the cover can be removed for cleaning out.


The scavenge sections are the two with the black tubes joining them to the pan as shown below.  The pump is from their SP (small pump) line utilizing a spur gear design that Dailey has found to provide a consistent oil pressure curve while minimizing cavitation.

Cavitation is term used to describe air mixing with the oil.  We’ll breakdown the technical details of pump curves and a number of other topics in part 2.  A ‘pump curve’ is the graphical representation of oil pressure versus engine RPM.  It is very important to have the right amount of oil pressure for a given engine’s performance including; power, torque, operating RPM, bearing clearances, oil viscosity and operating temperature.

The scavenge sections of the pump use a roots type rotor or impeller that you would associate with a Roots supercharger.  These pump oil and air from the pan to the oil tank.  Dry sump systems hold the excess oil in a remote tank typically located in the trunk or engine bay.  By removing the oil from the pan you eliminate the parasitic losses from the rotating assembly, e.g., crank and rods moving through collected oil that you would associate with a wet sump system.  When parasitic losses are removed that increases power output and one of the main reasons dry sump systems were invented.


Another reason dry sumps were invented is the ability to supply pressurized oil at high levels of acceleration whether that be longitudinal or lateral.  With race cars being able to brake and turn at high sustained g levels, the oil in a conventional wet sump will move up the wall of the oil pan leaving the oil pickup no longer submerged and unable to suck up oil to lubricate the engine.  This has led to many engine failures.  As a stop gap measure, many baffled oil pans have been created as means to reduce the pickup being starved of oil and certainly buy’s one some additional protection for short events of high acceleration.  One additional benefit of the dry sump is, by eliminating the oil pickup, the depth of the oil pan can be significantly reduced allowing the engine to be lowered in the chassis.  In our case, the engineering challenge to drop the engine, powertrain and half-shafts down is more than we have time to tackle.  This is why locating the pump under the pan provided the best packaging and a few other things we’ll cover in part 2.  Below you can see the system installed on the engine and mocked up in the car.


The pressure stage of the pump has it’s outlet run through a square tube turning up into the ladder frame supplying oil exactly as the OE pickup does.  This adds to the bolt-on simplicity of the system.  It has a robust high pressure capable o-ring joint where it meets the pan.  The OE filter housing located on the Ladder Frame is retained and functions as before.  Dailey Engineering has created a number of oil pump configurations beyond the standard one shown here that we’re using.  The pump is expandable by an additional scavenge sections that can be used for crank case vacuum or scavenging from other parts of the engine, e.g., turbo.  Dailey also designed an optional ‘regular pressure housing’ pump that will replace the square tube with an AN outlet from the pump allowing more of a custom plumbing setup for remote filter housing, cooler, etc.  More details to follow in part 2 coming soon.

Project Henna: Intro

We are excited to start this long term ‘hennarot’ E30 M3 project.

I remember being a passenger in this car back in 2000 or 2001 during a MotorCity BMW club track school at Michigan International Speedway. It was my first driving event (DE) with the BMW club and Keith, the owner of this M3, was my in-car, on-track instructor.  I had a much more powerful M Coupe (which has a very similar rear suspension as the older E30 3-Series cars) at the time but I wasn’t nearly as quick.  Keith ran these cars in BMW Club Racing so I wasn’t surprised he was quick.  I do remember his envious comments about the S52 power I had in the M Coupe every time he rode shotgun with me on track.  E30 M3s are loads of fun and can be quick, but they’re anything but fast relative to modern M cars.

This particular M3 is in good shape from a corrosion perspective but tired in every other sense.  The paint is faded, battle scars mar its flanks, and the engine is in need of a thorough going through.  As a matter of fact, its not exactly running at the moment thanks to electrical gremlins.

Our immediate plan is to remove the drivetrain and get into the engine and assess what we have.  From there a proper engine rebuild is probably in order– how far we go is dependent on what we find and, of course, what Keith agrees to.

Come back often to see updates on this, and many other cool projects.

Welcome to VRPerformance

Founded in 2004, VRPerformance LLC was formed by the collaborative efforts of two graduate automotive engineers with the intention to provide the automotive enthusiast performance driven products, services and experiences.

VRPerformance differentiates itself from the competition by focusing on an engineered approach to best in class sales and service through our retail location in Michigan. We build relationships with our customers based on mutual respect. Our approach is to supply a well thought out program of performance equipment and services tailored to our clients needs.


VRPerformance sells and installs high quality, good value performance parts for both street and race applications including engine, driveline, exhaust, suspension, wheels, tires, interior and exterior products. Our product line is designed to improve the performance of your vehicle through increased capability and durability. Through our own experience and research we have selected the finest aftermarket equipment for your car.


Our shop is clean and organized, equipped with all the necessary modern tools and staffed by technicians that are enthusiasts like you. To put it simply: our focus is to make your street, track or race car better.

One of the biggest differences between VRPerformance and many of the other outlets is the fact that we are a real world performance tuning shop. We install what we sell and we talk to customers face to face so we know what works. Browse our website at and check out our products and services. If you have any questions feel free to contact us, we’ll be happy to help direct you through the many performance options meeting your needs for the street or track.