E30 BMW Built by Level Motorsports: Part 1 - Safety, Aerodynamics, and Grip!

Italians do it better

by Pablo Mazlumian Photos by Martin Gonzales

As a MotoIQ reader, I hope you can agree with me when I say that a single car can change a human life. In some cases, that one car can change several people’s journey—even generations after—whether it stems from meeting new friends and where that leads to (perhaps their kids end up hanging out years later or even marrying); or maybe it involves a chain of events that drop you to where you are in time today (meaning that you're reading my words here—I’m sorry).

I can relate, as ownership of my first BMW in December of 1996 led me not only to what I do today, both in the tennis world in Kansas City and the car media world—but also to the family I now have, which includes my wife and three girls. Yes, none of it would have happened had I not gotten that car!

Maybe some day I can bore you with the real details of the story but today I wanted to share with you Rocco Bocchicchio’s story, and how a BMW E30 project he started with his dad turned into what Level Motorsports is today.


Rocco Bocchicchio bought this car just over three years ago to start a project with his father, who sadly lost his battle to lung cancer just a few days after the purchase. Rocco then utilized the opportunity he had to build the car anyway as a means to cope with not only the passing of his dad, but also with the complexities and hassles of day to day life.
MotoIQ's Martin Gonzales ran into Rocco during the ProAm Global Time Attack event at the California Speedway, and was impressed enough with his car and story that he wanted us to share it with you. This is the final result. Yes, it's the same car! And now that we've got the deeper stuff out of the way, let's get geekin' and check this sucker out in detail!

When the 1989 BMW 325i was purchased from Pennsylvania, it was full of rust. In fact, Rocco says he had to cut every fastener that attached to the chassis, including all of the brake line connections. He also turned every bolt and every laid bead of weld on this car himself. No one else has ever wrenched on the car!


The first order of business in building a race car is safety, and being that Rocco aspires to enter this car in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, he spared no detail here (thoughts of that Pikes Peak-climbing Mitsubishi Evo tumbling several hundred feet down the mountain enter my mind here). In fact, he tells us there is over 153 feet worth of tubing in this little sucker!

When building a car like this, you're not going to get by with just a four-point roll cage. In fact, this whole cage is a 10-point system. Here, Rocco has made sure that the car is safe from either side impact or major roll with reinforcement around the tubing.
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Sunday, October 30, 2016 6:21 PM
Looking forward to more. Only negative that caught my eye was some missing load paths in the roll cage.
Sunday, October 30, 2016 6:29 PM
forgot to sub
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Sunday, October 30, 2016 10:25 PM
Thursday, November 17, 2016 12:38 AM
Hello Engineered, thanks for the comment. Just wondering what improvements you see that could be made in the cage design. I know that I'm not 100% satisfied with the configuration at the back shock boxes, but that rear section wasn't designed and built all in one shot (as tends to happen when I try to work on my own car). I also don't have secondary A-pillar bars because they kill my egress. I sit really far forward, so getting my legs out is a chore already. I always welcome feedback because I'm a student of this craft. I always welcome the opportunity to learn.
Thursday, November 17, 2016 9:49 AM
Hey Level, glad to hear you're open to suggestions.
Let me start by saying I am by no means an expert on roll cages, but from my reading/observations the the tubes going to the rear shot should all terminate at the reinforced shock tower. https://photos.smugmug.com/MotoIQ/Features/Level-BMW-E30/i-8xKtRfD/0/XL/IMG_0674-XL.jpg

At the front, in this image, where the 2 bars on the right meat the vertical A-pillar bar, I think there should be a short bar from those 2 to the forward reinforcement bar on the left side of the image.

Cheers! And keep up the good work :)
Thursday, November 17, 2016 10:22 PM
Engineered; Yes, the rear is not the best design. Unfortunately I built the shock boxes before the cage, then added the lower bar that ties the subframe to the cage later on. In that case I had to work within the confines of what I had already built. The second photo, of the "foot protection bars"....well, those are in the rules for some organizations, so they are there as a formality for rule compliance. I don't feel like they will help with anything other than debris, even with an added support. I appreciate the perspective. Before I take the car to Mt. Washington next summer I'll probably add extra protection to the foot wells and add the back up A pillar bars, which will end up making me move my pedals, seat, shifter, steering wheel all back a few inches so I can still get out.
Friday, December 30, 2016 8:52 AM
Hi Level,
I would totally add better supports to the foot protection bars as they are not a formality. I've raced with an E30-based Chumpcar/World Racing League team where the front subframe failed on the back stretch at Road America, and the front right wheel worked it's way through the body and into the passenger footwell. (We got lucky that it was on the passenger side, and extra protection has been added since).
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