Dominick Hyatt’s Gemballa E30 is a Horrendously Beautiful Example of ’80s Boldness

Photography: Brandon Cody

  • Gemballa GmbH is a German-based tuning company specializing in customization and aftermarket parts.
  • Although Gemballa is most well-known for its work with Porsche, it produced a handful of models for other marques like BMW, Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren.
  • Dominick Hyatt has a keen eye for the obscure and stumbled across this Gemballa E30 at a vintage dealership in central Pennsylvania.
  • Gemballa’s upgrades were subtle everywhere else except for the outrageous body that sits 15” wider than the factory E30.

Back “in the day”, it was easy to identify cars by decade. They seemed to take on a vastly different interpretation of what a car should look like; the ‘60s experienced the rise of the American muscle car, the ‘70s faced an oil crisis and is primarily defined as the “Malaise Era,” while the ‘80s was known for its aerodynamic curved style with bold patterns and designs. One look at Dominick Hyatt’s Gemballa E30, and you’ll know immediately which decade it’s from.


Gemballa, founded in 1981 and based in Leonberg, Germany, produced aftermarket builds consisting of wide-body kits, upgraded wheels, interior, gauges, Hi-Fi audio systems, and side strakes reminiscent of the Ferrari Testarossa. Although Gemballa has created many iconic vehicles, this example has a mysterious past. It was made for a client based out of Japan and wasn’t discovered until 2014 when it came through the Port of Philly and was sent straight to Mendels Garage.


If you asked Dominick Hyatt how he discovered the Gemballa, he would tell you it was by dumb luck, and to an extent, I agree. But how could a 21-year-old find such a rare example without knowing what to look for?

To start, Dominick Hyatt’s love for anything with an engine is a generational trait. Both of his parents were deeply involved in motorsports long before they met; his father raced since the early ‘80s and his mother worked on British marques. The Hyatt family spent their weekends at the racetrack. These formative experiences were instilled in young Dominick Hyatt, infusing a deep appreciation for the automotive community and its creations.

Still, he didn’t know about the Gemballa E30 until he picked up his controller to play Midnight Club 3. When he put two and two together, he knew he had to find a way to make this car his own.


The Gemballa E30 attracts a lot of attention. When we spotted it at our Cars and Coffee Season Opener, we had no idea what to think of it. Hyatt calls it “horrendously beautiful”. You have no idea what you’re looking at but somehow, it’s beautiful.

The car is an E30 325i at its core and it’s still largely recognizable as that despite its outrageous body. The Gemballa exterior is wide—15” wider than a stock E30—and required fitting much wider wheels and tires (235/285) to fill the arches. The treatment was so extreme that the fuel filler neck needed to be extended. Still, the widebody kit isn’t all for shock and awe. Unlike modern cars, like the A90 Supra, the air vents on the Gemballa E30 are actually functional (FOR WHAT?).

The factory M20B25 engine is still there, albeit with a beefed-up 274 cam. The E30 interior is spartan and Gemballa chose to keep it that way; it only fitted a couple of MOMO goodies—a steering wheel and shift knob—to give it a higher-end feel.


For a one-of-one, Hyatt drives the Gemballa frequently. That’s not to say that the Gemballa is a daily driver by any means, but she’s no trailer queen either. You can find Hyatt at your local BMW CCA-sanctioned cars and coffee and gran-concourse events like Amelia, regularly. All this is to say, when it comes down to it, Hyatt is a true driving enthusiast and frequents events like these so that others can enjoy it too. The badges and stickers sprinkled all over the body are testaments to that.

“I want everyone to enjoy the Gemballa…I let little kids sit inside so that when they look back when they’re older, they reminisce about the fact that they got to sit inside a one-of-one car that not everyone gets to see in person.”

It’s a refreshing reminder that cars are meant to be enjoyed regardless of their rarity.