Aug 5, 2019 update to the BMW 318is project car

Project BMW 318is: Perfecting the Tune

With work on the interior of our project BMW 318is now finished, we turned our focus to tuning the engine. Metric Mechanic built a great engine for our BMW 318is, but they left the final tuning to us. 

Enter Karl Hugh, owner of BMW tuning house Active Autowerke. Not only have we known the man for 20 years, but he also has what we need: A chassis dyno and intimate knowledge of BMW’s E30 engines—he’s been working on E30s since they were new, after all. We rang him up–and he tried to pass, saying that he had to wash his hair or something and didn’t really have time for our crazy project. But we persisted, and finally convinced him to check out the car.

The engine, Karl reported back, was running way too lean due to undersized injectors and tuning issues. Not only were we giving up power, but eventually we could burn up engine internals. “So, I had to find a way to feed the motor with more fuel,” he told us. The first step involved installing larger injectors, replacing our 19 lb./hr. injectors with 24 lb./hr. pieces. “The larger fuel injectors required new mapping to control them, so with that and some added changes in other areas of the DME, I was able to extract more horsepower and torque as seen on the dyno charts.”

What’s the DME? Simply put, it’s the engine’s computer management. And cracking into the DME required some outside help, namely Mark D’Sylva of Enhanced Automotive Technology, a Canadian firm that specializes in DME upgrades and repairs. Mark too has been tuning BMWs for years, having also worked with Metric Mechanic and knew and understood the challenges that we faced.

Better still, he cared and was willing to help Karl get his equipment backdated far enough to read and tune our old E30 maps.

Between Mark’s help and some calls to Germany, Karl was finally ready to tune our old BMW. “The guys at Metric Mechanic built a really stout stroker motor,” Karl added. “It sounded like it could go with more than we tuned it, but for reliability reasons, we did not push it.”

Karl’s tuning brought our BMW to 143 rear-wheel horsepower and about 130 lb.-ft. of torque. Compared to a stock 318is Karl’s run across his dyno, ours made 48 more horsepower at the wheels–meaning that we picked up 51 percent more horsepower. That increase also closed the gap to the mighty M3, with Karl reporting that we were within 20 horsepower of a mildly modified one. Things were starting to look interesting.

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View comments on the GRM forums
noddaz SuperDork
8/6/19 7:40 a.m.

Was this tune done before you went head to head with an M3?  Or are you looking for a re-match...devil

BimmerMaven New Reader
8/8/19 8:56 p.m.

do you have stock 318iS  and stock M3 numbers/ graph for comparison?


1/4 mile

top speed?

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