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  •   Guy Baker reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    ALL-TIME LOW Crazy-low static #BMW-Z4-Tuned

    All the haters are always ragging on bags, so here’s something seriously static that couldn’t possibly offend anyone… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Scott Paterson.

    ULTRA-LOW Z4 You won’t believe it’s static!

    For a very long time now scene scientists have been asking the question: “How low can you go?” and for all their research and science the answer eluded them but now, it looks like “Big” Jamie Hitchcock may have solved that particular mystery with his Z4, because if it was any lower it’d be ploughing a furrow down the middle of the road. Oh, and it’s static. Did we mention that? We did? Well we’re mentioning it again. And it’s his daily…
    So… Where to begin? It’s hard not to just dive into everything that’s going on here so let’s distract ourselves by talking to Jamie for a bit, about his personal motoring journey from “a very badly modified Citroen Saxo” to where we find him today, before we build ourselves up to actually talking about this car. “I have had a love for BMW for about five years now,” says Jamie as we begin to work out what makes this man tick, “ever since the first time I drove one, an E39 5 Series, I just fell in love not only with the way they look, but the way they drive is just like no other brand.” This Z4 isn’t Jamie’s first foray into BMW ownership, he kicked things off with an E46 325Ci Sport, which he treated to a set of coilovers and Rotiform Nue wheels and things were progressing nicely until one month into his time with the car someone crashed into the side of it and that was that… He followed that up with an E36 328i Coupe, which he managed to get further along with, chucking it on air, adding a set of Throwing Stars, some Vader seats and, tellingly, engine raisers in order to be able to go even lower, which was clearly a sign of things to come.

    So, why a Z4? They’re not a staple of the modded #BMW community, part of the appeal we suppose, and they definitely divide opinion when it comes to looks, but then again beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “I have always loved Z4s,” explains Jamie, “I used to see them and think ‘Wow, they have a lot of potential.’ I had seen a lot of Z4s in Japan and America and I loved just seeing how they look like a toy car once modified. I was really worried about driving one, being a 6’4” grizzly bear I didn’t think I would fi t, but finally my close friends told me to just go test drive one and I’ve been in love ever since then.”

    The Z4, Jamie says, was bought to replace the E36 as a slightly more sensible and reliable car and, while wheels and a little bit of lowering were on the cards from the off, he had no intention of taking things as far as he has, but then again no one ever does. The one area where things have really gone about as far as they could possibly go is the lowering and achieving such an incredible level of low has taken a lot of work. “Suspension-wise there has been a lot, and I mean a lot, of playing around,” chuckles Jamie. The core of the whole setup is made up of a set of D2 Racing coilovers fitted with shorter springs all-round and these are accompanied by some Driftworks adjustable rear camber arms. Just how much camber is Jamie running? Well it looks like most of it, we think… “The anti-roll bar has been removed as it restricted the front from getting lower,” explains Jamie, “and I even had to get my friend at Hard Knocks Speed Shop to make a custom exhaust because my downpipe was touching the floor and that made a huge hole; it’s tucked right up under the car now and from the manifold-back it’s a two-into-one setup and straight-through with no mid-boxes or silencer.” There’s not really much you can say about how the car sits, the pictures do a far better job than mere words on a page ever could and it’s even more dramatic in real life. It’s just so low, that’s really all you can say.

    Obviously the fitment is killer, as you might expect, and as it really would have to be when you have no room for manoeuvre around the arches. Wheel choice was pretty essential as far as creating enough of a visual impact to go with that drop was concerned. “I have and I always will get different wheels for the car,” Jamie tell us, words that every wheel addict will be able to relate to completely, “and so far the Z4 has had four different sets, but I always come back to running my current wheels. They are Work Meister S1 three-piece splits and I don’t know why, I just really love the style of them and the way the car sits with them on,” and he’s not wrong. “Before ordering them, Josh from LikeHell and I spent weeks talking about offsets and widths and lip sizes etc. just to get them the perfect size. The three month wait was a killer, not knowing if they would fit or not, but luckily when they turned up they were so worth the wait,” he grins. “They are just beautiful and there is no better feeling than opening a box of brand new custom wheels. They took a lot of camber adjustment and arch rolling just to get the car to drive but, eventually, they worked out perfectly.” We would have to concur there, the white Works look fantastic on the Z4, those polished lips, the gold bolts, and it’s all finished off with a set of striking purple extended wheel nuts. You might think a colour combo that’s completely concentrated on the wheel areas wouldn’t work so well with no other colours to tie it to, but the clean, grey bodywork is a perfect blank canvas and just crying out for a splash of colour, and these four hotspots at each corner are just the ticket.

    Contrasting with that outrageous ride height and those wild wheels is the inherent simplicity of the exterior styling; even now the Z4 has quite an unconventional look with some striking lines and Jamie has just given the styling a little tidy up. The front bumper has been painted and smoothed, black grilles have been fitted, the wheel arches have obviously been rolled and pulled in order to accommodate the Works and, in perhaps the ultimate show of commitment to his Z4, Jamie has even removed the windscreen wipers as he felt they ruined the smoothness of the car. While he hasn’t gone overboard on the interior either, being a fan of what he calls its simple style, it’s certainly got some striking elements that give it a bit of a kick. “My friends at Oxford Car Audio have transformed my dash by custom making me a double-DIN head unit install by deleting the central vents,” says Jamie, “I’m so happy with the way it looks. They also did my boot install for me; I felt a bit left out seeing all the cars on air suspension with nice boot builds so I thought I really wanted a nice, clean audio build and with the help of JL Audio UK that’s what they did for me,” he adds with a grin. “The gear knob makes everyone giggle; I had always liked these We Are Likewise gear knobs but they only came in Japenese screw fitment, until one day they finally made a Euro adapter that fits most European cars. Getting it to fit involved a few tweaks but I got it on there in the end. Finally the steering wheel is by Renown USA and I love it, it’s just such a quality wheel,” he says.

    Often people take modifying cars far too seriously and it’s good to see someone really having fun with their project and enjoying themselves, which was the core philosophy of Jamie’s Z4 build. “The Japanese fitment scene has always been a big influence for me but with a German twist, it to me just seems more fun and that’s what my car is all about,” he says and we can only agree. We’re certain that there will be parts of this car that don’t appeal to everyone, some people might even have a problem with the whole thing, but ultimately they can get stuffed because this is all about Jamie and what he wanted and what he’s created. It’s the automotive equivalent of a smack round the chops, a shock to the senses and you’ve got to admire it. But Jamie’s not done yet… “I’ve got a never-ending list of plans,” he laughs, “more wheels, more lows…” What? More lows?! He’s already got all the lows. There are literally no more lows left for anyone else. But if you’ve come this far, then why not go that little bit further? In a mad modified world, it’s the only sensible thing to do.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E85 / #BMW-Z4-2.5i / #BMW-Z4-2.5i-E85 / #BMW-Z4-E85 / #BMW-Z4 / #BMW / #BMW-Z-Series / #BMW-Z-Series-E85 / #Work-Meister

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M54B25 / #M54 / #BMW-M54 , induction kit, custom Hard Knocks Speed Shop two-into-one straight-through exhaust system. Five-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 9.5x18” ET3 (front) and 10x18” ET5 (rear) #Work-Meister-S1 three-piece wheels with 215/35 (front) and 225/35 (rear) tyres, stud kit, #326Power extended wheel nuts, #D2-Racing coilover struts, #Swift and Tein custom springs, #Driftworks E46 adjustable rear camber arms

    EXTERIOR Front bumper painted and smoothed, black grilles, windscreen wiper delete, rolled and pulled arches

    INTERIOR Renown steering wheel, We Are Likewise gear knob, custom-fit Alpine Apple CarPlay, JL Audio boot build trimmed in red and plastic moulded to match dash

    THANKS There are far too many people to thank with this car; firstly to Josh of LikeHell Design for all the help, James of Crescent Tyres for putting up with all the hassle of my monthly tyre needs, Yusuf and the boys in Team Untamed, everyone at Oxford Car Audio, most of all Lamb and the RXTI boys

    “I have always loved Z4s, I used to see them and think ‘Wow, they have a lot of potential’”

    18” three-piece Work Meister S1s look spectacular.

    Engine fitted with induction kit and straight-through exhaust means it sounds awesome.

    “Suspension-wise there has been a lot, and I mean a lot, of playing around”
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  •   Sam Huggins reacted to this post about 4 years ago

    The BMW E85 Z4 doesn’t get a whole lot of love but, when done correctly, it can look absolutely killer, as this bagged Brit build proves. Ashley Morrell’s Z4 is constantly pushing him further and further down the modifying road. And you know what they say – it’s more about the journey than the destination… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Mathew Bedworth.

    The Z4, it has to be said, is quite a weird little car. They generally pass reasonably unnoticed today, thanks to the inherent cushioning system of Father Time’s mighty pendulum – the fact that they’ve been around a few years means that we’re used to them, we’ve accepted them. Radically designed cars don’t stay radical for long – the Ford Ka, the Peugeot 206, the Fiat Multipla, they seemed outlandish and alien and daft-as-a-brush at launch, but now they’re just other cars to blend into the mish-mash of day-to-day traffic.

    The E85 Z4 very much belongs in that list too. As a replacement for the Z3, it was a pretty bold step; the Z3 had the classic roadster profile – long bonnet, rearward cabin, stubby tail – and the Z4 built on these design touch-points, but added in a whole heap of strangeness. Look at it side-on, for example, and try to work out what the thinking was behind the front wings; there’s quite a wide variety of lines and angles vying for attention there. The rear bumper appears to be wearing a droopy moustache like a pantomime Mexican villain, while the front end looks a bit like Marvin the Paranoid Android from the 2005 movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    This, of course, is all very good. Life’s too short to drive boring cars, and BMW’s decision to infuse a whole bunch of weirdness into a model it knew would be a volume-seller ought to be robustly applauded. Furthermore, it means that modifiers with an eye for the offbeat have an interesting alternative to chance their customising arms on, thanks to the model now becoming increasingly affordable as a second-hand proposition. It certainly flicked Ashley Morrell’s switch. He’s the creative force behind this particular low-down Zed, and it’s by no means the first oddball he’s spannered together.

    “I guess I’ve been in the modding scene for around nine years now,” he considers at length, scratching his chin and peering into the middle-distance. “I’ve had four cars in that time, which isn’t a huge number by some people’s standards, but I’ve always been known for doing something a little bit unusual with them. I’m not really keen on doing things that everyone else has already done, I like to put my own mark on my cars.” His first full-on build was a case in point, a Citroën C2 which surfed the swelling tide of the nouveau-rat look, all forced patina and belligerent scruff.

    “It was right at the start of the whole nurat thing, and it was a pretty radical thing to do to a brand-new car,” he says, a sparkle in his eye as if the mischief of it all is only just dawning on him. “Yeah, that was pretty out there. My Mk3 Golf got fairly extreme too, I went a bit crazy on it; five interiors, three resprays, three engines and eleven sets of wheels over three years! By the end of that project, I found myself with a set of stupidly wide American rims, and effectively making the car fit the wheels, which involved all sorts of cutting and welding!”

    So if he was that deep into the VAG scene, why the switch to BMW? “Well, after going through my thirteenth sump in six months I decided it was time for a bit of a change,” he laughs. “I wasn’t really sure what I wanted – part of me was keen on the idea of some sort of estate – and I’m not sure what drew me to the Z4 at first, but once I started looking at them, they got stuck in my head. I knew that was the car I wanted next.”

    And so the infamous P22 OKE plate found itself being extracted from the Golf and affixed to a shiny silver 2004 Z4 2.2i. “I searched and searched for the right Z4, which wasn’t easy as there don’t seem to be many here in South Wales – must be something to do with the constant rain,” he reasons. “But one day a friend of mine in Cardiff mentioned that he’d seen one come into a garage local to him. I went to see it straight away, and took it home the next day!”

    The car was showing 69k on the clock, stock as a rock, and as tidy as Ashley could hope for. All-in-all, a pretty decent base for a project. So, what manner of madness lay ahead for the wacky little roadster? “Well, there wasn’t a plan as such, not from the start,” he recalls. “Having bought it, I just intended to stick some nice wheels on it and enjoy it. But once the wheels were on, it obviously needed lowering, and it all sort of snowballed from there.”

    Yep. Of course it did. We hear that a lot. It’s impressive to note, in fact, that Ashley managed to hold out for an entire year with just rims and coilovers before he began to delve deeper. A new set of wheels beckoned; a brilliantly offbeat foursome of Rial Imola splits, which were reworked in custom candy apple red paint and a spangle of retro Seventies gold metalflake thrown in, but it quickly became apparent that wheels this fancy need a killer stance to set them off. So, with a creeping sense of inevitability, the irresistible lure of air-ride arose.

    “At that time there really weren’t many bagged Z4s around, so it felt like something pretty fresh,” Ashley explains. “I bought the kit from Plush Automotive and fitted it all myself, along with a few friends who offered to help.” He ought to be particularly proud of those custom copper hardlines which really set off the boot install, and he’s keen to make the point that anything he was physically able to do on the car, he did himself. Not to show off, but simply as a matter of pride – it’s his car, built his way. “If you ever feel like taking apart the inside panels on a Z4, I recommend you don’t,” Ashley sighs. “Three hours to take off the centre console? Well done BMW! But the only thing I couldn’t do myself was the retrim of the seats; that was handled beautifully by Gary at NeatSeats.”

    They do look pretty cool too, resplendent in black leather with diamond Bentley stitching, and they’re complemented by a whole bunch of carbon fibre accents throughout the interior to really imbue it with a premium road-racer vibe. Indeed, since our shoot Ashley’s been busy having various interior surfaces retrimmed in Alcantara, which speaks volumes about his twin focus on function and aesthetics.

    The exterior of the car is something that he felt had to be as uncluttered and simple as possible, to accentuate the proportions of the car rather than draw unnecessary attention to its details. For this reason, he’s swapped on a pre-face-lift front bumper which has been extensively smoothed and had its numberplate recess deleted. The vast majority of the factory chrome accents have either been junked or replaced with black items; the kidney grilles and BMW roundels, for example, have lost their mirror shine, and even the lights have been dimmed down to suit. It’s a masterclass in subtlety, with plenty of details for the Zed-nerds to seek out on the showground.

    “One thing I get asked a lot is how old the car is, and people are often surprised that it’s a 2004 model given how tidy it is” he says. “I use the car every day, and I run it low. I haven’t really built the car to go on track, and people have said I’ve ruined the Z4’s handling because of the air-ride, but to be honest with the AirREX Sport bags I’d say it actually handles better than when it was on coilovers! On the whole, the car gets mixed reactions – the Z4 purists hate it, of course, but I didn’t build it for them, and it does give me a bit of a kick when people stop to take photos of it. One girl I was on a date with thought I was famous because of all the people taking pictures!”

    Amusingly at this point, Ashley seems to be suggesting that the project is finished. He’s got the car the way he likes it, and he’s ready to just enjoy it. But you and I know that’s nonsense, don’t we? Take that old Golf as a lesson; this is a guy who just can’t leave things alone: “Oh, alright, you got me,” he concedes. “I will probably do something with the audio over the winter. I fancy a bit more carbon fibre too. Oh, and there’s always new wheels…”

    It’s pretty much a done deal that this car will be looking subtly different next time you see it. Ashley’s move into the BMW scene seems to be fitting him rather well.

    Air install is neat and smart and still leaves boot useable while copper hardlines add some flair.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Bagged #BMW E85 Z4 2.2i / #BMW-Z4-2.2i / #BMW-Z4-2.2i-E85 / #BMW-Z4-E85 / #BMW-Z4 / #BMW-E85 / BMW-E85

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.2-litre straight-six #M54B22 / #M54 , #K&N filter, custom stainless steel exhaust with back box-delete and twin tailpipes, five-speed manual gearbox.

    CHASSIS 8.5x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #Rial-Imola two-piece split-rims with polished lips and custom candy apple red with gold metalflake centres and 205/45 (front) and 215/45 (rear) tyres, adjustable front camber mounts at 3.0 degrees and rear camber arms at 5.5 degrees, #AirREX Sport air-ride system with V2 four-way digital management, custom copper hardlines.

    EXTERIOR Smoothed pre-face-lift Z4 SE front bumper, black lower valance, black-insert headlights with US running lights, custom clear side repeaters, tinted rear lights, carbon fibre wing mirrors, black roundels, black kidney grilles, flared and rolled arches.

    INTERIOR Carbon fibre door handles, handbrake handle and steering wheel controls, 1M gear knob, retrimmed MSport steering wheel by Royal Steering Wheels, seats retrimmed in black leather with Bentley diamond stitching, custom mount for V2 controller.

    THANKS I’d like to thank a few people who have helped me with fitting things and some companies that have chosen to sponsor me over this year: my friends Kieran Phillips and Nick Wealleands who helped with the air-ride and hardlines, Tom Beleschenco (@twosugars88 on Instagram) for painting the wheels and other bits, Aaron Brooks (@techho_scenecleanvaleting) for detailing the car, Gary at NeatSeats for the great work on the seats, and my sponsors E11evens, Cleanitkit and GlobalGrind.
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