There are those of us that comb through the online classifieds in search of an OEM+ bimmer to scratch our purist itch, and there are those of us that seek out the unusual, aftermarket, Frankenstein-esque variants—the E30-based Hartge H28 is both, at the same time.
For those that have yet to be acquainted, the Hartge name belongs to a Beckingen, Germany-based tuner and mod-house known for swapping BMW factory engines into series and models not originally intended for their use. Founded in 1971, the German tuner was made popular by its specialist work in BMW, Mini, Juno, and Range Rover models. In 1985, the company’s affinity for engine-swapping bigger factory BMW engines into smaller BMW models resulted in it being granted manufacturer’s status in Germany, where the house subsequently produced models that received either Hartge or BMW VINs as a result.
When the Hartge brothers weren’t out racing, they were stuffing higher-displacement, higher-horsepower factory BMW engines from the Five and 7 Series into smaller, more compact models, like the 3 Series. One of their creations, specifically the Hartge H28, should pique the interest of collectors and enthusiasts alike.
Using an E30 as a proper base, the Hartge brothers then proceeded to fit the larger displacement M30 inline-six into the engine bay, a powerplant that was typically found in the “-35i” indexed cars in BMW’s model lineup from 1982–1992, which included the likes of the 535i, 735i, and 635CSi. The package also involved the addition of a Hartge-exclusive exhaust manifold, crankshaft, pistons, limited slip differential, anti-roll bars, different gauges, and 11-spoke Hartge wheels. While exterior colors varied among the factory BMW factory palette, each H28 featured traditional badging and side graphics on the vehicle’s exterior that bore the German-tuner’s name. The finished product was a 210-horsepower sport compact with a healthy 200 pound-feet of torque—power figures that rivaled the 217-horsepower S14-powered E30 M3 Sport Evo II and the 194-horsepower, South-Africa-exclusive M30-powered E30 333i.
Like the 333i and M3 Sport Evolution II, the Hartge H28 is also a rare gem. While the South-African E30 333i and M3 Sport Evo II were limited to roughly 204 and 501 examples respectively, the Hartge built fewer than 20 of these. One rare gem indeed.
Do not let the Hartge H28’s minuscule production numbers deter you from your collector car search, though—an Alpine White example just hit the online market with an asking price of $39,500. This 1986 H28, along with the aforementioned mechanical goodies, has the rare euro-spec headlight-washers, Hartge spoiler, Hartge-padded Momo steering wheel, and extremely rare AC option, which is exceedingly rare for a European spec E30 like this. Keen-eyed enthusiasts will also note that this example is equipped with a single-blade DTM windshield wiper. Despite having been assembled in Germany and then imported to Japan shortly thereafter, this example has covered just 29,000 miles from new, which has potential to augment its future appreciation value.
So, next time you’re out searching for a piece of BMW’s 3 Series history, don’t sleep on the Hartge H28.—Malia Murphy
[Photos via the seller’s ad on eBay Motors.]