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BMW Z3 scores an LS1 swap

By Chris Thompson, 02 Aug 2017 News

BMW Z3 scores an LS1 swap main

6-speed gearbox and GM’s V8 get a new home in BMW’s light roadster thanks to Aussie engineer

The classic concept of a big engine in a small car has been proven time and time again, with timeless examples like the Shelby Cobra, the VW Golf R32, and the upper echelon of BMW Z cars.

But what if you’ve got a small car with a small engine and you want to change that? Most people would turn to the tried and tested option of the relatively cheap LS-swap.

MKAL Automotive in Melbourne is one such place that’ll do it properly, with ex-Holden engineer Steve Kalfat running the place.

LS1 engine in BMW Z3The Z3 came into the shop with a four-pot, and ended up leaving Kalfat’s care with a GM V8 and a six-speed manual ‘box.

Though the thing looks rather snug in the Z’s engine bay, Kalfat says getting the motor in wasn’t as difficult as one might think.

“Everything was pretty straight-forward, even the wiring was easy,” he told MOTOR.

“We braced the rear end and manufactured a new cradle for the diff from a 6-cylinder Bimmer, and braced the chassis mounts.

“We swapped in some similar front-end gear to that of an E36, so that the car could handle the extra weight.”

BMW Z3MKAL even sells a range of LS conversion parts for E36 and E46 BMWs.

Though it’s been a short while since the Z3 rolled out of MKAL, Kalfat says he remembers the power through the rear wheels being between 220kW and 230kW.

That’s a significant improvement over the 100kW or so that a 1.9-litre four-banger Z3 would have made back in the day, and that’s before it gets to the wheels.

In the past, we’ve covered another of Kalfat’s more conventional swaps, with an LSA making its way into an ex-police VT Commodore.

Then, Kalfat told us that he won’t put something through his shop unless it comes out the other side with an engineer’s plate and the car is complied with ADRs.

This Z3 was no exception, though the starting price might turn some away. To do it right, Kalfat says a swap like this starts at $15,000, with specific needs being taken into account on top of that.