There is no denying the BMW E30 is a true classic at this point. The timeless lines, three box styling, and true simplicity has made this German automobile something to admire. Over 30 years old now, this Bavarian masterpiece has been used as daily drivers, race cars, drift cars, and unfortunately parts cars. Even though the e30 chassis has been known for its superior balance and handling, the cars roofline is quite high, and faces large amount of body roll when pushed to the limits.
Those of you that follow our Instagram know that Race German is no stranger to this chassis. We have a 1991 318is that has had its heart removed for a little younger m50. On top of this we have custom coilovers, solid bushings, larger sway bars, and front and rear Garagistic strut bars. Adding grippy Nitto race compound tires to this recipe and you would think the car would be well planted to the road, right? It’s complicated. As I explained earlier, the car has an extremely high roof line, which makes the center of gravity very high. When there is that much weight up top, it causes the body of the car to lean a lot more than you would you prefer in a racecar. Many Spec E30 drivers have learned to use this characteristic as best as they can in the corners by sliding the car more than what would be recommend by your HPDE coach. I have even heard the e30 is like driving a dumpster full of water. If you have ever driven a e30 to its limits, I think that analogy will start to make a lot of sense.
So is there really any way to get an e30 to corner flat without chopping 3 inches out of the roofline? Our buddies at Garagistic think so. If you have ever searched for aftermarket parts for your BMW, and you haven’t heard of these guys, you may be living in a place without internet. Garagistic is an aftermarket company that specializes in quality products for BMW’s ranging from 2002s to e90s. Garagistic derives from the Italian word, garagisti. This word was first spoken by none other than Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari in the 1950s. The term was used as an insult to describe the up and coming British racing teams who would build their race cars in sheds, over hangs, or garages, instead of fancy, expensive shops their Italian counterparts would use. Garagistic wanted to embrace this term, because most of their parts early on were built in their garage, trying to make unique, quality components for their cars. Because of all this, Garagisitc approached us and asked if we wanted to try out their x brace.
These braces are nothing new, in fact all e36 M3s and e36 convertibles came with them from the factory. The x brace is a simple solution that bolts to the bottom of the car to tie in the front subframe to the frame rails. By tying all of this together, it strengthens the unibody, and prevents the chassis from twisting in extreme cornering scenarios. Sounds simple right? It is, and we are willing to give anything a chance to reduce body roll in our e30.
The x brace showed up a week later and our initial impressions were, quality. I am not sure why I am surprised, coming from Garagistic, but the fit, finish, welds, hardware, and packaging was superior. We opted for the black powdercoat to keep it stealth, but they offer powdercoating in just about any color to match your cars’ theme. Installing the x brace was a breeze and can be done in about 30 minutes with regular hand tools. The front of the brace mounts directly to the subframe where the power steering rack attaches, and the rear points of the brace bolts to the front control arm bushing attachment points. All new hardware is provided as well (nice touch).
So what are our initial thoughts after installation? It sits low. A little lower than we expected. The brace does come with spacers for the front attachment points to lower the brace to clear lower oil pans or larger sway bars. These spacers can be removed to move the brace up about one half inch. Garagistic claims the brace will clear all swapped cars including the v8 swaps. This could be the reason why it sits so low, to accommodate for this. Maybe two different versions is needed for m20/m50 guys and v8 guys? This didn’t scare us though, since this went on our dedicated track car that is trailered to and from the race track. Although no testing has been done with the brace on the street, I would be leery using this brace on extremely low street e30s. But this isn’t a stance life blog, lets get on the race track!
We tested the brace out at Roebling Road Raceway near Savannah, GA. This is a classic fast sweeping course with technical turns in the back to wide open straight down the front, perfect for testing. Heading into turn one around 80mph, we could immediately feel the difference. The car had more direct turn in, with considerably less roll. The steering input felt sharp, and the car easily rotated, but maybe a little too much? After five or so laps, we knew something was a little different in the cars behavior. We were getting a substantial amount of oversteer. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, but the car needed to be adjusted because of the modifications we made with the x brace. Throughout the day we ended up adjusting our sway bars in the back and damping on the shocks to dial in the handling of the car. After a few hours of tinkering, we started to see some of our fastest lap times around this two-mile course.
So in the end is the Garagistic e30 x brace worth it? As with most things in life, it comes down to preference. We can see many positive aspects of it, and some negative. Does it do its job for the intended purpose? Yes. It adds rigidity to the chassis to help the car corner flatter, allowing more rubber to meet the pavement. For a track dedicated car, there is really no drawbacks besides it being a little low. We did put a tire off the curbing on track, and the brace did scrape, which brings me to street cars. I am not sure we would see much advantage to this brace on the street. If your e30 is lowered any amount, you will almost certainly hit the brace while driving city roads. On top of that, I am not sure you would ever corner hard enough on the street to feel the effects of this x brace. I think you would be better off with Garagistic’s front and rear strut bars.
Although there is no perfect solution to getting the roll out of the e30 chassis, great companies like Garagistic have done a fine job coming up with better and better solutions. Sometimes there is just no good way to drive a dumpster full of water around a circuit, but we can try.
Build It. Race It.
Click to Buy: Garagistic X Brace