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  •   Guy Baker reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    Supercharged Z4 M Coupé / This supercharged Z4 M Coupé will blow you away!

    Walk the line
    Strapping a supercharged to the already potent Z4 M makes for an exceptional performance machine.
    Words and photos Chris Nichols.

    Tuning a car is often a fraught process. There’s the stress that comes from buying new products, not knowing if they’ll work until they’re on the car, despite your hours of research. There’s the possibility that the workshop you’ve chosen will do bad work or rip you off. And, of course, there’s the likelihood that fitting upgrades will simply expose weaknesses in other parts of the car you weren’t aware of, forcing you to spend money you hadn’t planned to.

    Melbourne, Australia’s Kris Hooper knew about all those potential pitfalls when he chose his 2006 Z4 M Coupé. A tearaway in his younger days, he’d managed to destroy one car and blow two engines in another before getting a 1998 Subaru WRX sedan as his first proper performance car. However, his experience making mild mods to that, coupled with his otherwise methodical thought processes and focus on research, meant when he decided on something European to change things up, he wasn’t going to approach the project with anything other than highly considered plans to ensure he avoided many of those common tuning errors.
    “Magazines and forums have taught me how easy it can be to perform a modification only to find you are not happy with the result, to not get enough bang-for-your-buck, or to find further down the track that it is incompatible with something else you have planned.” All this is why, before he even began, Kris had a pretty clear idea as to what he wanted and how to achieve it. The Z4 M base was already a great start – powerful, with great street handling and braking, and looks that Kris fell in love with well before the test-drive. But his desire for a true all-rounder that combined ability on the street with track prowess meant things had to be planned well in advance, particularly as, being such a rare car outside of America, parts were not exactly in huge supply. “Most of the parts I’ve used have come from the US,” Kris says, “simply because the number of E85 Z4s in the States makes production of go-faster bits viable.”

    While in some respects, that lack of choice made things easy, Kris still needed to make the right decisions to achieve the goals he wanted, so on top of his research he talked to the guys at SouthernBM, a local and highly renowned specialist shop. The end result was a pretty tasty combination of American tuning parts, such as a 34-row Zionsville radiator, Vibra-Technics engine mounts, a StopTech Trophy BBK, Turner anti-roll bars, Hyperco Linear Race springs, Rogue Engineering rear shock mounts and adjustable rear control arms, and an APR Performance carbon GT wing. In fact, JRZ RS-1 dampers aside, the only brake and suspension parts Kris didn’t get from the US were the Vorschlag E46 M3 camber/caster plates and Carbone Lorraine R6E pads. Even inside, Kris relied on US know-how to help improve the already pleasant Z4 M cabin in the form of beautiful and custommade anti-slip pedals from Ultimate Pedals. To these he added a Recaro Pole Position bucket for himself and a ZHP-style weighted BMW gear knob.

    Rather surprisingly, given the S54 engine is from the E46 M3, Kris had trouble finding options even here, specifically in the form of supercharger kits. At the time, only ESS kits were available, so to get the power he wanted Kris had no choice but to go with the company’s VT2-525 blower, intercooler and intake manifold kit. Currently it makes 403whp and 228lb ft of torque. Of course, ESS equipment is hardly second-best, and thanks to upgrading the included Setrab oil cooler for a bigger one, Kris reckons even now, with more options on the market, he wouldn’t change a thing.

    Thankfully, Kris’s other engine tuning options were easier to come by. He decided on a beautiful Tekarbon carbon fibre engine cover to spruce up the bay, and a KSS Performance valve-controlled exhaust to allow him to stay street-legal and not annoy his neighbours on those early mornings when he heads to the track yet still enjoy the full metallic scream of the S54 when he gets there. And he’s there a lot.

    In fact, thanks to holding onto his WRX for more practical driving, Kris can afford to use the Z4 as almost purely a toy. This freedom, combined with his desire to learn from instructors on a regular basis and to study his own on-board data stats, means he’s able to really enjoy the car at the Marque Sports Car Association (MSCA) sprint days he attends regularly. He actually won his class in both 2014 and 2015.

    Not that it’s all been plain sailing on the way to the top. While Kris has generally been very careful to build the car in a holistic way, avoiding many of the pitfalls others fall into, there have been challenges and even a scary on-track moment coming from a rare lapse of judgement when it came to both on-track behaviour and the order in which he fitted his mods. In terms of the challenges, the biggest was getting rid of the stock suspension setup’s on-track understeer. “For a car that handled so well on the street, I wasn’t expecting so much understeer,” Kris says. “An additional strut brace didn’t help. Wider front tyres didn’t help. Additional front camber didn’t help much either. Nor did changing my driving style to add some extra trail braking. It wasn’t until I swapped the suspension to the current coilovers and anti-roll bars and was able to stiffen the rear relative to the front that I was able to get the car to rotate like it should.”

    And that scary moment? That was the result of what turned out to be an unwise decision to head to Calder Park, a track with one of Australia’s longest straights, on stock brakes (albeit with nearly new pads) despite having fitted the supercharger kit. Now, in his defence, Kris says the brakes had been ordered at the same time but not arrived before the last-minute spot opened up. We’ll let him tell you what happened next: “Halfway through the day, the pedal was starting to feel a little sketchy, and I began a cool down lap so I could come in and inspect the pad material. Part way into that lap, though, a supercharged Honda Civic tore out of the pits ahead of me, and the red mist descended. About a minute later he was still in front as we hit the main straight. At the end of it, as we were both hitting 220km/h (135mph), some semblance of rational thought returned and I started braking slightly before my marker because of my earlier concerns. Too little, too late. Under my left foot I could feel little more than air. Brake pressure was non-existent.”

    As he later learned after pumping a whole extinguisher into the front left caliper, the pad material had just crumbled away by that point, leading to piston seals melting and fluid spraying everywhere. Luckily he still managed to save it, steering the Z4 around the Civic and through the narrow gate at the end of the straight before spinning to slow down in the field beyond. Safe to say, the StopTechs went on straight afterwards!

    One additional benefit of fitting the big brakes was that they necessitated a wheel change. Never a fan of the OEM design, Kris had previously chanced upon a forum member running Volk Racing G2s in the same matt black as his own Z4 and decided they were perfect. And, as luck would have it, a member of a different forum who lived locally was selling a set just when Kris needed them. “They must have been the only used set of wheels in the correct fitment available locally at the time, and possibly ever since,” he says. “I was so happy with them that when it came time to get a separate set of track wheels I went straight to Volk, who made me up a set of TE37SLs that, again, are exactly what I wanted.” It’s hard to argue with Kris’s choice, too.

    Japanese wheels often look great on BMWs and this is no exception. The relatively rare G2 design’s sharp edges and rounded curves, especially, match perfectly with the E85 Z4 M Coupé’s similar mix of lines, keeping the car looking current and fresh, despite now being ten-years-old. And thanks to Kris’s focus on getting the handling, power and braking right, it’s now a car that doesn’t just look great but one he can enjoy driving for years to come (like his WRX, he has no plans to part with it though).

    “The Z4 M, to me, represents a challenge, one that never gets old. There is such a fine line between getting it right and everything going to hell in a split-second. Sprinting along the right side of that line is one of my favourite things in the world.”

    DATA FILE #Supercharged Z4 M Coupé / #ESS / #BMW / #BMW-Z4-M-Coupé / #BMW-Z4-M-Coupe-E86 / #BMW-Z4-M-E86 / #BMW-Z4-E86 / #BMW-E86 / #BMW-Z4 / #BMW / #Rogue-Engineering / #Vortech / #Volk-Racing-G2 / #S54B32 / #BMW-S54 / #S54B32-Supercharged / #S54B32-TUNED

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six S54B32 , #ESS-VT2-525 supercharger kit ( #Vortech-V3Si supercharger, #ESS intercooler and intake manifold), #K&N air filter, #Zionsville aluminium radiator, #Vibra-Technics engine mounts, #Tekarbon carbon fibre engine cover, #Bosch-453cc injectors, #KKS-Performance valve-controlled exhaust with push-button controller, KKS-Performance 4x80mm exhaust tips, software reflash to remove speed limiter and raise rev limiter to 8200rpm, six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 8.5x19” ET+35 (front) and 9.5x19” ET+22 (rear) #Volk-Racing G2 wheels with 245/35 (front) and 275/30 (rear) Bridgestone Potenza tyres for the street, 8.5x18” ET+35 (front) and 9.5x18” ET+22 (rear) Volk Racing TE37SL wheels with 245/40 (front) and 275/40 (rear) Nitto NT-01 tyres for the track, JRZ RS-1 coilovers with Hyperco Linear Race springs (450lb front, 600lb rear), Turner Motorsport 30/25 E46 M3 anti-roll bars, stock front strut brace, Rogue Engineering adjustable rear control arms, Rogue Engineering rear shock mounts, Vorschlag E46 M3 camber/caster plates and perches, StopTech Trophy Sport BBK with six-pot calipers (front) and four-pot calipers (rear), 355x32mm two-piece slotted rotors allround and stainless braided lines, Carbone Lorraine R6E sintered endurance pads, Motul 600RBF fluid

    EXTERIOR Carbon fibre centre grille (sourced by Turner Motorsport), APR Performance rear carbon GT wing, M Power windscreen decal

    INTERIOR Recaro Pole Position race bucket (driver’s side only), Macht Schnell Competition Liteweight seat mounts, BMW ZHP-style weighted gear knob, LeatherZ leather door handle covers, custom billet Ultimate Pedals anti-slip racing pedals
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  •   Sam Huggins reacted to this post about 4 years ago

    This fully custom carbon wide-body Z4 is one of the most magnificent machines we’ve seen.

    The basic silhouette of this car is instantly recognisable – it is, of course, a Z4. And yet, there isn’t a single original body panel there. It’s wider, meaner, more aggressive. And we’re not looking at fibreglass here. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Andy Tipping.

    Here’s a fun experiment for you. Take a bunch of carbon atoms, and bond them together into crystals that are more or less arranged in a line. Repeat this a few thousand times, then bundle all the strands together into a sort of tiny untwisted rope. Okay, now lay a load of these little ropes into a thermoset resin – epoxy, say, or polyester – bake for 40 minutes at 200°C (or something, consult your mum’s dog-eared Delia Smith cookbook) and voilà: you’ve just made some carbon fibre. Well, carbon fibrereinforced polymer, to be precise, although if you’re getting matey with your new creation then simply ‘carbon’ will work as a nickname.

    Now you’ve got something with a very high tensile strength, low weight, high stiffness, high temperature tolerance, low thermal expansion, and high chemical resistance – all the properties you may desire for making housings for oily machinery without adding too much mass. The benefits of this miraculous weave are manifold and obvious, it hardly needs explaining why it’s so desirable to replace bits of your car with carbon fibre facsimiles.

    Making things simultaneously stronger and lighter is a no-brainer. Your car will go faster and be safer. Of course, it’s also pricey – making CFRP is a fiddly process – which is part of the reason why you often see people running unpainted carbon fibre bonnets and what-have-you. It’s a badge of honour. It’s a direct link from your car to a McLaren F1, the first road car to sport a CFRP tub. And while certain manufacturers are making great advances in the field of enabling carbon fibre to be cheaper and easier to mass-produce (look at the Alfa Romeo 4C, for example, which is the first non-supercar to feature a carbon fibre tub; Lamborghini is making some exciting advances too), it’s still a evocative and aspirational material to be working with. Just look at the work of Alberto Torres of Slek Designs in Long Beach, California – he’s a man who appreciates the mystery of the black sheet and has been spellbound by its wiles for some time now. Slek Designs is an outfit that prides itself on mastering the dark art of carbon fibre custom work, promising ‘features and detailing you will not find anywhere else’, thanks to its equipment that healthily exceeds aerospace autoclave specs and a dedicated team who guarantee perfect fitment of all parts. And what better way to showcase their talents than by crafting an entire car out of carbon fibre?

    Now, this kind of project requires an interesting base car for the ethos of the project to pivot around. Sure, it’d be impressive to take, say, a Toyota Prius or a Tesla Model S and replicate all of its body panels precisely in carbon fibre in order to draw commercially entertaining parallels about economy and range, but where’s the fun in that? Any chump with an autoclave can take a mould of a panel and mock up a lighter one – Slek needed to think laterally; it needed to make something truly unique. Something beyond custom. Something visually arresting. And that, in a nutshell, is what you’re looking at here.

    Yes, that’s right, it’s a Z4. But not just any Z4… it’s the top-of-the-tree, full-fat Z4 M, the delicious little reprobate that came bursting at the seams with the brutal S54B32 engine – the same rampaging six-pot you’d find in an E46 M3. That’s a hell of a lot of engine to stuff into a diminutive two-seater roadster. But wait… the more observant among you may have spotted that this car doesn’t have a roof; those that have heard of #Slek-Designs will have forged a mental association between the company and a certain Z4 Coupé that wowed the crowds at SEMA back in 2013. So what gives? Have the team taken a tin-opener to the hard-top and reworked the thing entirely? Ah, no, this is actually an entirely different car. But its inspiration came from that self-same Coupé. You see, back in 2013, Slek rolled into Las Vegas with a terrifying interpretation of the tin-top Z4 M. It had supercharged the S54, furnishing it with a loopy 570hp, and it was raising a lot of eyebrows. The modified #BMW scene took careful note, as a truly mould-breaking (in all senses of the word) Z4 blew the established benchmarks into the weeds. This was a new world order of Z-car mischief.

    Its flawlessly aligned weaves and race car cues caught the eye of one individual in British Columbia, who shall remain anonymous here for reasons of modesty. He wanted one. He wanted one badly. So he commissioned local tuning hero Flow Automotive to make the dream come true.

    “To be honest, I never really liked the Z4 before this one, largely as I can’t fit in them,” shrugs Flow’s business mastermind Patrick. “But this wide-body makes it so aggressive!” Well, you can’t argue with that, can you? So why did this mystery wide-body-fancier choose this company, what’s the deal there? “Our shop does any kind of work,” says Patrick, matter-of-factly. “Restoration, performance, or even just basic maintenance. We’d love to be able to do resto or project car stuff all day every day, but the scene and market in our area isn’t really conducive to that, so we make ends meet with maintenance and service.

    Although our lead tech, Hartley, is a master fabricator too…” And therein lies the rub. The truth of the matter is that if you’re after quality custom work in British Columbia, these are the lads you want to talk to. Let’s start, then, with the most obvious part of this build: that insane CFRP bodywork. “The cost of the carbon fibre body was around $20k,” Patrick explains. It’s a sizeable wedge of cash, but doesn’t that sound like good value when you consider that it’s basically a whole car shell made from scratch? Ah, but this has been done before of course, so the dimensions were already sketched out: “We delivered the car to Slek for prototyping and testing,” he continues. “There were some minor changes to redesign over its original Z4 Coupé concept, but it wasn’t as if it was starting from nothing.”

    With the brutally wide panels having been lovingly hand-crafted and slathered in clearcoat to showcase the racy material, Slek itself insisted on fitting all of the panels to the car. “Slek wanted it to be absolutely perfect for SEMA,” Patrick laughs. This was very wise – with an idea as outlandish and eye-catching as this, the world would undoubtedly be keenly watching; when people see such a thing and comment that the shutlines are factory-perfect and all the weave angles match, an excitable crowd would undoubtedly beat a path to Slek’s door. It is, after all, a pioneer in the field.

    With the devastatingly naughty new body in place, the Z4 M was back up to Canada for the work to continue. “We threw on an amazing big brake kit from Sparta Evolution,” Patrick enthuses. “Six-pots at the front and four-pots out back, with its innovative S-groove discs. This was followed up by retrofitting an E46 M3 coilover setup from Status Gruppe – it’s a brand that we really want to champion, because its product isn’t hugely known but should be for a company that produces such premiumquality parts.” And the next job, naturally, was to fix upon the rolling stock; after all, what kind of self-respecting show car wouldn’t be rocking the latest fashionforward rims in this day and age?

    “Slek’s carbon Coupé was running gold RSV Forged wheels, and the ones the owner picked for this car are a natural evolution from that,” Patrick explains. “These wheels are more of a brushed copper, which contrasts brilliantly with the carbon fibre, and they’re wrapped in some spiffy Nitto Invos that the sponsor supplied.” The rims measure a staggering 14x19” at the rear (and a still mighty 10.5x19” up front) and come from RSV’s C|R Series, with the rear tyres offering a bonkers 345-section – plenty of rubber to harness the snorting horsepower from that revered S54 motor.

    “This Z4 M’s engine is currently stock,” says Patrick, “other than the upgraded headers and a brand new air box to fit the reprofiled hood. However, a friend of the owner has an E30 that we restored and turned it into a track car for him. He’s interested in buying the S54 to swap into the E30… and has convinced the owner to look into a V10 swap for the Z4 M! It’d be a huge job, but we’d tackle it all the same.”

    Regardless of powerplant – and let’s not sideline the S54, it’s still an absolute peach – this shadowy owner gets to enjoy one of the most eye-catching and talked-about Z4 roadsters the world has ever laid eyes upon. As its clearcoat sparkled under SEMA’s searing lights, nestling proudly on the Nitto stand at last year’s show while the guys from Flow buzzed around polishing people’s fingerprints away, it was surrounded by dropped jaws and camera-flashes. And that continues to be the case. An all-carbon fibre wide-body Z4 is an incredible thing. A droptop evolution to carry on the magic of the show-stopping Coupé, taking the reins and stopping the show all over again? That truly is a dream, woven from humble carbon into the roadster of the gods.

    “These wheels are a brushed copper, which contrast brilliantly with the carbon fibre, and they’re wrapped in some spiffy Nitto Invos” Exterior is incredible but interior hasn’t been forgotten about, with sumptuous seats and lashings of carbon, obviously.

    DATA FILE #BMW #Carbon #Z4 / #BMW-Z4 / #BMW-Z4-Carbon / #BMW-E85 / #BMW-Z4-E85 / #BMW-Z4-Carbon-E85 / #BMW-E85-Slek-Designs / #BMW-Z4-M-Roadster / #BMW-Z4-M-Roadster-E85

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 / #BMW-S54 , custom air box, #RPi-GT stainless steel exhaust system with Helmholtz resonators, stock six speed manual gearbox.

    CHASSIS 10.5x19” (front) and 14x19” (rear) #RSV-Forged C|R Series RSF1 wheels in brushed copper with 275/35 (front) and 345/30 (rear) #Nitto-Invo tyres, #Status-Gruppe SGT-SRS coilovers, #Sparta-Evolution forged #BBK (six-pot #Triton front calipers, four-pot rear, #Sgroove-Pegasus discs – 355mm front, 345mm rear).

    EXTERIOR #Slek-Designs full carbon fibre body (comprising front and rear bumpers, front wings, rear quarter panels, bonnet, doors, side skirts and bootlid), #OSS-Designs custom headlights.

    INTERIOR #Recaro carbon fibre seats with diamond-stitched Alcantara, carbon fibre dash inserts and trim.
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