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    David finally buys a 911… #2001-Porsche-911-Carrera-2 / #2001-Porsche-911-Carrera-2-996 / #2001 / #Porsche-911-Carrera-2 / #Porsche-911-Carrera-2-996 / #Porsche-911-996 / #Porsche-911 / #Porsche-996


    You know when there’s car money burning a hole in your bank account? How easily it slips away into kitchens, holidays, mortgages and other such non-essentials, when really it should be spent on another highly impractical vehicle. So, with the Citroën SM sold, it seemed I should get on with making use of the cash – but what to buy? My plans veered wildly, but kept returning to the car that has escaped me for 20 years: #Porsche 911.

    It wasn’t so long ago that I could almost afford a pre-73 but those days are long-gone, thanks to everescalating prices (Porsche values started to increase as soon as I sold my 914, it seems). Then I could almost afford an SC but I never found one I really liked. A 964? Well, maybe, but by the time I’d overcome my distrust of that model, they’d shot up in price. Too late for a 993 too, though that would have made a great blend of classic 911 feel and more modern usability.

    What about a 996? I’m sure I remember being as appalled as everyone else when they were launched in 1997 with watercooling and the same front end as the Boxster, but they’ve grown on me and are refreshingly petite compared with the current 911. And they’re still cheap, as 911s go. There are horror stories about leaking rear main seals (not such a big deal) and the self-destructing intermediate shaft bearing (a very big deal. though not as common as is made out, and avoidable). It’s also fair to say that interiors don’t wear as well as in previous 911s. But they’re great to drive, if not quite as characterful as older 911s.

    And they’re going up in value! I was hit with The Fear. Surely I wouldn’t miss out again? It seemed that prices started at £10,000 but, once I started looking more closely, that was for Tiptronic convertibles, maybe with accident repair history, certainly with 100,000 miles or more. I wanted a manual coupé Carrera 2 with full service history and absolutely no previous bodywork repairs. A high mileage I could put up with. Seemed that £15,000 would be needed. I viewed hundreds online, and a handful in the metal. None quite did it for me, the deciding factor often a dubiously coloured interior, or the rather too-common silver paintwork. And then I found a metallic black (with black leather) 2001 Generation 2 Carrera 2 with full history, three previous owners and 52,000 miles. It was just over my £15,000 budget but Gen 2 gives a better-quality interior, torquier 3.6-litre engine (Gen 1s are 3.4) and cleaner styling.

    So as you can see, I bought it. I’m not sure what to do with the registration plate at the moment but other than that I’m delighted! More next month.

    Meanwhile, there was still a chunk of SM money hanging around. I wondered aloud on Twitter about a VW camper (but did I really want another timehungry vehicle?) and was rescued by Toyota PR manager James Clark, who suggested the press garage’s Proace van, converted to a highspec camper for a trip to Le Mans, and about to be offered for sale. You’ll see it above in Toyota’s Le Mans vinyl wrap, since removed. Not quite the classic camper I’d romantically imagined but actually rather useful for long-distance trips to Spa, Nürburgring and the like (when I don’t take the 911). And so another vehicle joins the fleet…
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    Brightwells June sale #2001 / #BMW-Z3-3.0i-Coupé / #BMW-Z3-Coupé / #BMW-Z3-3.0i / #BMW / #BMW-Z-Series / #BMW-Z3-E36/8 / #BMW-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3-Coupé-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3-E36/8 / #BMW-Z-Series-E36/8 /

    A real rarity in the UK this 3.0i Z3 Coupé could potentially offer something different from the Z3 M Coupé for less outlay. With one (Dutch) owner from new the car had covered just 40,000 miles and, in 2014, was fitted with a #VF-Supercharger system and uprated #Brembo brakes. Now developing 320hp it looked like a great example of the breed and offered excellent value given the performance on offer.

    SOLD FOR: £12,200
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    February 2001

    The February issue of the magazine often coincides with the Detroit motor show where BMW has released some pretty tasty machinery over the years and #2001 saw the launch of the X coupé, a concept that showed the possible direction of future #BMW styling.

    It was certainly unusual, featuring the running gear from a 3.0-litre diesel X5 to create what was probably the world’s first 4x4 diesel coupé. It was also the first BMW where designer #Chris-Bangle used his ‘flame surfacing’ design language which apparently gave the “body surfaces the freedom to turn in on themselves, lending a high degree of tension to the design.” No, we didn’t know what he was on about either!

    It wasn’t all about the X coupé, though, as we also had a brace of features about BMWs with capacity increases. First up was the #Racing-Dynamics-R50-Tornado – an E46 packing an M5’s V8 à la #Hartge-H50 and we also tested a #Hartge-E36-M3 that had its capacity increased to 3.5-litres. That latter machine was hugely impressive.
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    Bob Harper
    Buying Guide Why not treat yourself to a little bit of luxury in the form of the bargainous E65 7 Series? BMW E65 V8 7 series. The E65 was a shock when it arrived but it’s actually aged rather well and the V8 versions in particular offer staggering value for money as a used buy. Words: Andy Everett and Bob Harper. Photography: #BMW . #2006 / #2001 / #2007 / #BMW-E65 / #BMW-750i-E65 / #BMW-750i / #BMW-750Li / #BMW-745i-E65 / #BMW-735i-E65 / #BMW-740i-E65 / #BMW-E66 / #BMW-750Li-E66 / #BMW-745Li-E66 / #BMW-E66

    There’s no doubt that when the E65/E66 #BMW-7-Series arrived on the scene back in 2001 it was a big shock. Huge, in fact. The three generations of car that had preceded it had possessed a certain understated style – they might have been the all-singing, all-dancing range-toppers packing the latest up-to-date technology but they didn’t shout about it with the way they looked. So it was understandable when jaws dropped and tongues wagged with the arrival of the E65 7 Series.

    Whereas the previous machines had managed to hide their size with delicate styling it almost seemed that with the E65, Adrian van Hooydonk (the car’s chief designer) had gone out of his way to make it seem as big and as imposing as possible. And dare we say it, a little ugly, too. The kidney grilles were huge, the headlights gave it the look of a lugubrious drunk waking up after a particularly heavy session and the slab sides led to the famous bootlid treatment that was soon dubbed the ‘Bangle Butt’. Pretty? No. Imposing? Yes.

    But it wasn’t just the exterior that shocked the BMW world as inside there were so many new things to get used to. The handbrake was BMW’s first electronic effort – a push button to the right of the steering wheel on the dash and the gear lever had moved to the steering column… which made space on the centre console for the new, all-singing, all-dancing iDrive system. We’ve become accustomed to this over the ensuing 14 years or so but back in 2001 it took a little getting used to, especially as in its first incarnation the iDrive was far from intuitive and clunky in some respects – changing radio stations was a very awkward process for those of us brought up on push button presets.

    So far we haven’t really painted very positive picture of the Seven, but while there was much to confuse and confuddle new owners there was also plenty to like. Performance and economy were both pretty decent from the new Valvetronic V8s and there was so much gadgetry packed into the car that it could more or less do anything. And the best bit is that today you could be running around in one from as little as around £4000. There are cheaper ones out there but we reckon you’d probably be best avoiding the lowest end of the E65 market as you could end up buying a whole heap of trouble. The best news is that large petrol V8 engined limos aren’t in huge demand right now so you should be able to bag a bargain – you’ll struggle to spend more than £10k on one of these and that would be for a low mileage later face-lifted example with full history and all the bells and whistles.

    We’re concentrating on the V8 models here – diesels are more expensive – and there’s something about the E65 that really suits the urgency of the V8’s performance. If you do a high mileage it probably won’t be your cup of tea, but if you tend to cover a lower than average distance in your car then you do get a huge amount of bang for your buck with an E65.

    The 7 Series was initially launched with a 272hp 3.5-litre V8 and a 333hp 4.5-litre V8 and while both engines were more than capable of punting the Seven along at a considerable pace thanks to the inclusion of double #Vanos and Valvetronic, it was the 4.5-litre version that would prove to be the best option. The extra 61hp and 66lb ft of torque meant a 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds compared to the 735i’s 7.6 seconds and the difference in fuel economy between the 735i and 745i was so small that the latter was the obvious choice for those with the extra £4000 to spend.

    Both cars were very well spec’d as standard and all V8s came with DSC, PDC, leather upholstery, 18-inch alloys, sat nav, BMW Professional radio and Hi-Fi speaker system, CD changer, dual-zone auto air-con, Dynamic Drive, electric front seats and cruise control. The long wheelbase Li models added selflevelling rear suspension and a sun-blind for the rear windscreen. There was also a Sport option, and while it lacked a body kit, it did include 19-inch wheels, Sports suspension, High-gloss Shadowline trim, Sports seats, a three-spoke wheel and matt Vavona wood.

    Naturally enough the options list was extensive and you could have spent the price of a 3 Series on upgrades, if you so wanted. Electronic damper control (£760), bi-xenon lights (£470), Logic7 speaker system (£500), Comfort seats (£1160 for the front and £1960 at the back), Club leather (£2860) and a rear entertainment package (£2250) gives you some idea of what was on offer. You could also have heated, cooling and massage seats, soft close doors, double glazing and a TV, too.

    In 2005, the E65 received a face-lift, which softened its hard-edged features and, to our eyes, gave it a much more pleasant visage, even if it did lose some of its outright aggression. The styling changes were subtle but made a big difference, resulting in a far more cohesive design, with slightly larger kidney grilles, reshaped headlights with floating angel eyes, a larger front valence and restyled foglights, while at the back the rear bumper was mildly tweaked, the light clusters now wrapped around the bootlid and a thin chrome strip ran from edge to edge just above the numberplate. On the inside there was nicer wood trim and revised iDrive with a reshaped, leather topped controller. The V8s were upgraded, too, with the arrival of a 306hp 740i to replace the 735i and the 750i with its 367hp 4.8- litre engine replacing the 745i.

    Over the year there were some minor spec changes but broadly speaking the V8 machines remained unchanged, although a sunroof became standard and Dynamic Drive was demoted to being an option during the car’s life. Eventually the E65 bowed out in 2008 to be replaced by the first of the F Generation machines, the F01 7 Series.

    Wheels, tyres and brakes

    The E65 came on a variety of 18- and 19-inch wheels; 17s were available on the six-cylinder cars only. 18- and 19-inch tyres are relatively inexpensive these days. You can get a set of four 245/50x18 Hankooks fitted for around £400 or a pair of front Pirellis for £250. 19-inch wheels? A pair of 245/45x19 Dunlop SP Sports are just over £260 and a pair of 275/40x19 Vredesteins about the same. Chinese tyre companies like Maxxis, Landsail and Davanti are on the ball these days – pay around £80- 90 each for these sizes and all three have decent wear, noise and wet grip ratings.

    Regarding the brakes, discs and pads can be bought from the aftermarket, with quality brake discs like Pagid being around £110 a pair and front pads under £40 for the set. Brake hydraulics are good, and even the ABS block doesn’t seem to give much trouble. If it does, forget buying new as it’s pricey but reckon on £250 for a good used one. Valvetronic engines use a diesel type brake vacuum pump.

    These can fail (very hard brake pedal) and a new pump is £373. The E65 was the first BMW with an electronic handbrake. They use conventional calipers and the usual rear discs with the handbrake shoes inside. A big electric motor in the transmission tunnel area pulls on the handbrake cables and this system is generally okay… as long as the battery doesn’t go flat, that is!


    The E65 completely eradicated the E38’s tendency to suffer from scabby rust – it really is a superbly built car. Double glazed glass can sometimes suffer ‘milking’ in the corners and edges. Make sure the spare wheel well is bone dry. If not it could be down to tired lamp gaskets or the boot seal; both these can be rejuvenated by Vaseline, if they’re not damaged. The vertical felt window channels need a shot of spray grease so the windows power up and down smoothly, taking the strain off the regulators. The window regulators are quite robust. Door handles also need a shot of spray grease occasionally, too. Ensure the sunroof drains are clear as a blocked one will soak the front carpet, damaging any modules underneath, such as the DSC system’s yaw sensor (passenger front). Bonnet release levers can break if the release latches haven’t been lubricated.

    Buying one

    The first thing you need to do is to make sure that an E65 is for you. It’s a pretty large machine so make sure it’ll fit in your garage/parking space and that it’s not going to be too big for your needs. If you’re looking at a pre-face-lift car you’ll also need to make sure you can get along with the iDrive system – it’s much harder to grapple with than the revised version in the later cars. With the familiarity that ownership brings, though, we reckon everyone should be able to get to grips with it.

    Once you’re satisfied you still want one you’ll need to decide as to which engine suits you best – the 745i and 750i do seem more common than the two smaller-engined machines so you’ll have more choice with the bigger power units. But if the right car comes up in the right spec we wouldn’t discount any of the engine options. All are capable of covering ground pretty rapidly and servicing and economy costs hardly vary between the four cars. Try and hunt down an original brochure for the E65 and decide which options you really want – air conditioned massage seats might be enjoyable but you’ll severely restrict your choice of cars if you limit yourself to having certain options. And while soft close doors and auto opening bootlids are nice to have, they do add complexity – and potentially cost – when they go wrong. If your air conditioned seat stops working you can live with it, but if your door or the boot won’t shut, you can’t! In terms of cost to repair, the big ticket items to avoid would be electronic damper control, Dynamic Drive and self-levelling rear suspension. Otherwise the normal rules apply; look at as many as you can and get a feel for how they drive. Look for full history and evidence of recent expenditure and buy the best you can afford.


    The original N62 was used in the 735i and 745 and it’s a good reliable unit. It uses VVT #Valvetronic technology yet is far less prone to the issues that afflict the four-cylinder N42 (VVT motors, timing chains, eccentric shafts and so on). However, it does have problems in old age. The first one is oil consumption due to worn rings/bores and anything that’s a bit smoky is best avoided. Cars that have had regular oil and filter changes as well as long trips won’t suffer from this, and we’d recommend an oil and filter change every year or 10,000 miles using a fully synthetic oil. The other problem is the coolant cross tube in the block. On the previous M62 V8 (E39, E38 etc), the tube was removable without a massive amount of dismounting but for the N62, BMW engineers designed it so the tube is sandwiched between the block and the front timing case. The official repair is engine out, heads and sump off, which is around 30 hours of labour. Companies in the US sell an expanding tube that requires around six hours of labour but the part is still a few hundred dollars to buy. I’ve managed to repair one of these using a modified version of a standard BMW pipe and it cost around £600 – far more cost-effective on a £3500 car.

    N62s also like to leak oil. The plastic cam cover gaskets are the main culprit but if they aren’t badly cracked or distorted then a new rubber gasket, some proper quality sealer and careful fitting can reduce or eliminate this.

    The later units on the 740i and 750i from 2005 (N62N units) are reckoned to be a better engine in terms of the bore wear and cam cover leaks but that’s just because they’re newer. The cam covers were improved in late 2006 but any N62 variant that’s been properly maintained will be fine. Head gasket problems are very rare. Vanos units can fail but they’re more reliable than on the four-cylinder cars; sadly though, the vanos units and VVT motors are not the same as the four-cylinder units and used parts are rare. The DIVA variable intake manifold system seems to be reliable, too, but most of these cars will now need to have the crankcase ventilation system replaced – the oil separator valve and its rubber pipes.

    No matter what year or engine it has, the car must run perfectly smoothly. A new MoT is a fair indicator that the engine is running fine, as any problems with over-fuelling, misfires or the VVT system not working correctly will result in a fail on emissions. A new VVT motor is £230.

    Cooling system prices? From BMW a radiator is £461 and a water pump £256 – pay £175 for a Hella radiator and £67 for a Circoli water pump.

    Steering and suspension

    Here is where money can be consumed. The E65 is a heavy car and at over ten years and 100,000 miles, you may well need to replace parts.

    The E65 comes with three separate suspension types: standard cars; EDC; and Dynamic Drive. The standard Boge Sachs dampers have a good long life and even at 100,000 miles they’re generally still okay. They’re £311 each from BMW and about half that from Boge via ECP. On to the EDC; many E65s come with it and front struts cost over £800 each. Dynamic Drive, though, is another can of worms. If its anti-roll bar motors start leaking it needs to be replaced, costing £1527. In other words, then, it’s probably worth avoiding. The original 735i and 745i brochures claimed that it was standard equipment but it was a common option on these cars. By the time the E65 was face-lifted in ’05, it was standard only on the V12 cars. If the car you’re looking at does have it, inspect the roll bars carefully for leaks and pray.

    The rest of it is down to wishbones, balljoints and bushes. After a slow start, the aftermarket has caught up with the E65 and you can now buy standard type front dampers as well as suspension arms, drop links and bushes from the likes of Euro Car Parts. You will struggle to find a servotronic steering rack though (£2000 new) and this is where breakers come in useful. Be aware, though, that E65s are not being scrapped at anything like the rate that the E38 is. E65s are still in demand and breakers are having to buy complete running cars to service the demand for used parts.


    This is the area where most of the E65’s ills will be found. Early cars were a bit of a disaster with a multitude of problems such as all the windows opening at once randomly and plenty of other glitches. However, BMW got on the case and worked hard to rectify this and these early cars should all have been modified by the dealers at each service as software upgrades came along plus, of course, warranty repairs. By 2004 the car was pretty much debugged but that’s not to say they’re perfect because no car of this age and complexity can ever be. The battery really is the life source of the E65. It has to be both the right amperage, correctly coded to the car’s battery control module, and it must also be in perfect condition. Anything less and the car will misbehave – even new cars in BMW showrooms that had been sat overnight with the interior light left on would be a pain until the battery had been trickle charged and any fault codes erased.

    There are many options on the E65 to add to the complexity – electronic damper control, tyre pressure control, automatic bootlid actuation, comfort access, soft closing doors, heated comfort seats, active cruise control, TV function and so on. The iDrive system was in its infancy in 2001 and it does take some getting used to, both if you’re coming from a pre-iDrive era car or regressing from a newer one. The CD player in the glovebox can fail and the sat nav is at the age now where a TomTom stuck to the screen can do a better job as it can often crash, as can the iDrive system, while the radio is known for just stopping dead. If you buy an E65, you may as well put your voltmeter on eBay because to fix one of these you need a laptop with both INPA and a clever 12-year-old to tell you how to use it. Do not underestimate the E65’s capacity for generating odd electronic problems.


    Much of what goes wrong here is covered in electrics but there are a few titbits. Steering wheels can look a bit ropey at this age, particularly the earlier ones with the light coloured leather. Unless the leather is damaged it’s best to do any reconditioning with the wheel on the car as removing it will require the use of diagnostics to recode it, particularly the airbag warning light. The E65 was the first BMW to use the current type key and starter button and, as it wears, the key and steering lock can become recalcitrant. Whilst it’s possible to take it apart and just remove the steering lock peg, this is now an MoT fail as it needs to work. They can be reprogrammed with wider parameters to cure this, and Grosvenor Garage in Reading is adept at this.

    Finally, radio reception problems can often be caused by a failed diversity amplifier, and a new one is often a better plan that trying a used one – they are not as failure prone as those used on the 5 Series Touring, for example.

    Transmission and drivetrain

    The E65 broke new ground in 2001, having a sixspeed automatic gearbox with mechatronics. Mechatronics means that the gearbox ECU is combined with the valve body in the gearbox itself but despite the ECU being immersed in hot oil, it actually very rarely fails. The actual valve body unit can, however. On the previous five-speeder, the two halves of the valve block had a paper gasket in between but due to higher line pressure, the sixspeed valve block uses a special black sealer that is applied at the factory. In old age it’s quite possible that a bit of sealer can get blown out, leading to a pressure drop in that circuit. This will show up as a harsh shift as the ECU tries to compensate.

    A harsh first to second (and vice versa) shift is common so you need to see if a software update resolves this. Early cars did have a number of software updates to improve the unit but if the car has this problem then either another gearbox is needed or a new Mechatronics unit from BMW, at £3000. Other problems include the finned plastic sump/filter unit leaking and the only answer is a new sump – they aren’t silly expensive at £165. As for oil and filter changes, these units are sealed for life but a new sump/filter and topping up with the correct unit will do it no harm at all. The gearbox can also leak oil from the rubber gasket around the electrical plug in the side of the box and, as there is no dipstick, any oil leaks must be rectified immediately.

    Apart from these issues, the six-speed ’box is a good tough unit that doesn’t suffer from split brake drums like there previous five-speed ’box did. There can be problems with the electronic selector switch on the column but, overall, the transmission is surprisingly reliable. The propshaft and differential almost never give any trouble.


    Should you buy an E65? If you’re brave and like gadgets then go for it. 14 years ago, the E65 really was a tremendous thing and even now a good one is an incredible blend of dynamic ability, intriguing gadgets and sheer go. The 745i and 750i really do shift and the smaller-engined versions are not shy either. We think in time, the E65 (particularly the preface- lift) will become a cult car because it really did move the game along. As ever, avoid the cheaper cars that don’t come with invoices and a well-stamped service book – they are not worth having unless they’re cheap and you’re useful with spanners; if all else fails, you can make a decent profit breaking it! Good ones with 100,000 miles or less start at £4000 and if you’re less than confident about checking it out then getting a BMW dealer or specialist to put it on a ramp for an hour to check everything, including the emissions, will definitely be money well spent.

    OIL SERVICE £165 £175
    BRAKE FLUID £81 £64
    VEHICLE CHECK £79 £79
    FRONT BRAKE PADS £207 £160
    REAR BRAKE PADS £212 £158
    Service prices courtesy of Sytner BMW Sheffield (0114 275 5077) and Grosvenor Motor Company, Reading (0118 958 3481). Prices are inclusive of parts and VAT.

    E65 7 Series – V8 models 735i / 740i / 745i / 750i
    ENGINE: V8, 32-valve V8, 32-valve V8, 32-valve V8, 32-valve #N62 / #N62B36 / #N62B40 / #N62B44 / #N62B48
    CAPACITY: 3600cc 4000cc 4398cc 4799cc
    MAX POWER: 272hp @ 6200rpm 306hp @ 6300rpm 333hp @ 6100rpm 367hp @ 6300rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 266lb ft @ 3700rpm 288lb ft @ 3500rpm 332lb ft @ 3600rpm 361lb ft @ 3400rpm
    0-62MPH: 7.5 seconds 6.8 seconds 6.3 seconds 5.9 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph 155mph 155mph 155mph
    ECONOMY: 26.4mpg 25.2mpg 25.9mpg 24.8mpg
    EMISSIONS CO2: 259g/km 267g/km 263g/km 271g/km
    PRICE (NEW): £52,750 (2003) £56,550 (2006) £56,950 (2003) £61,000 (2006)
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    Cheap X5s… / #2001 / #BMW-X5-E53 / #BMW-E53 / #BMW /

    ‘There’s no such thing,’ quipped a trade contact when the term ‘cheap X5’ was mentioned. ‘There’s buying one cheap, but then you have to run it and fix it.’ He then claimed that the best budget model is the 3.0i petrol. And, I have to agree with him. With 231hp they’re not a bad drive and, if truth be known, the difference in economy between this and the 3.0d isn’t that huge. The 3.0i manual is a very rare model favoured mainly by farmers but it’s a great old bus. It’s also more reliable – the #M54 engine really is a tough old boot as long as the cooling system is maintained (new water pump at 100k). Most sub-£3000 X5s are heaps just waiting to go very badly wrong – things like the #GM-automatic gearbox, air springs, differentials as well as other old high mileage diesel maladies. The 4.4i V8 is just too heavy on fuel and it has the same gearbox and diff problems in old age as the diesels. The 3.0i, though, seems a lot better as it hasn’t got the torque to cause the diffs any great harm. They’re unloved as well so for the price of a stretcher case diesel or V8 (‘gearbox needs attention’ and other such nonsense) you can get into a decent fully-working 3.0i.

    The other killer is potentially road tax. Anything juicy registered after March 2001 (so most old X5s then) could soon be paying the full Class M £505 a year in road tax although at the moment you’ll be paying £290 as Class K (registered before March 23, 2006). The 3.0d is pumping out 259 g/km compared to the 214 g/km of a 2012 3.0d X5 and the 3.0i petrol’s 310 g/km, but be prepared for an anti-diesel backlash following the well publicised VW faux pas. The government could well put an anti-pollution policy into place (an amendment to the London Low Emission Zone anyone?) and old pre-DPF diesels will be right in the firing line with old #BMW-X5 smokers being a prime target.
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    Youngtimer packing a special V12 tweaked by AMG, this record breaking #Mercedes-Benz-R129 SL has an amazing backstory #R129 SL with a special V12. Thought to have been built for the Royal Family of Brunei, this R129 claims even more power than a standard SL73 #AMG . Words Kyle Molyneux and images Craig Pusey. #Mercedes-Benz-SL73-AMG #Mercedes-R129 #Mercedes-Benz #Mercedes-Benz-SL

    Peering in from the outskirts, the tuning world can be a frightening, inspiring place. Imagine, just fora moment, that the performance offered by an SLR, CLK DTM or SLS isn’t enough, nor their crowd drawing exclusivity quite exclusive enough. To companies like Brabus, Lorinser, RennTech and Vath, cars like these are purely the basis for something even more spectacular and expensive. Not even their engines are safe from these power-crazed alien invaders.

    Such firms break down the sandbag walls built by manufacturers to entomb the wildest horses within. And to prove these tuners - and others - really know how to play with fire, they make their creations reliable with beefed up gearbox components and intricate cooling systems that could chill an afterburner.

    Of course, AMG has been in the game for over 46 years and its machines and methods have evolved with technological advances of the time. It is one of the fathers of modern tuning and cars like the 300SEL 6.8 Spa special, the illustrious 124 Hammers and the highly strung W201 190E 3.2 set the course for even more knee tremblingly powerful machines. Some of which, like this metallic black, R129 #Mercedes - Benz SL, claim an open topped drive that destroys even the most Brylcreemed of hair styles while a gargantuan thunder echoes behind.

    Yet even with Black Series badging - signifying the hottest of the hot AMGs today - their Mercedes-Benz beginnings are never completely forgotten. AMGs are still able to cradle you in a velvet glove after punching through the 62mph barrier in under five seconds, a fact our intriguing test subject proves.

    The standard, left-hand drive SL73 AMG made 518bhp at 5,500rpm with 553lb ft torque coming from its 7,291cc M120 V12 at 4,000rpm. However, scripture (possibly in gold leaf) on a carbon panel in the V of this car’s engine describes the metallic muscle underneath as ‘No. 052/7.3 - 565 Edition’. The latter part of the description could mean the engine is packing 565ps (which equals 557bhp), or indeed as much as 565bhp. More golden scripture lies below and it is arguably the most intriguing: ‘Exclusive engine for the Royal Family of Brunei’. Imagine, just for a moment, that a standard SL73 isn’t powerful enough...

    Living unicorns, AMG’s apparent lack of paper pushing in the early years means SL73s are not the best documented beasts, although some believe 85 were made. But as far as this RHD SL’s provenance is concerned, there is little else to go on. “All cars sold to the Brunei family were sold on a highly confidential basis, hence why there is no documentation with this car, just the (fully stamped) service book,” explains proprietor Charles Ironside, who had the car up for £49,950 before it was sold. Our own digging only confirmed that AMG has a record of an order number linked to this car's VIN, but what exact work the order included remains a mystery, likewise the lack of AMG styling.

    There is a rumour the Sultan of Brunei, or one of his notorious playboy brothers, bought several SL73s. They also liked to throw around AMG’s 7.3-litre V12. Back in 1995, a member of the family took a shine to the swooping, two-tone looks of Honda’s Argento Vivo concept car, penned by Pininfarina. But they clearly felt there was room for improvement under those polished aluminium curves, as they had Pininfarina make a few more Argento Vivo bodies, each with a folding carbon fibre roof, before adding an AMG V12 and beefed up running gear from an SL600, but not its hydro-pneumatic level control system.

    In an interesting twist, the American classifieds company Hemmings advertised two of these cars in 2007. The fact they were only partly finished suggests whoever commissioned the work ran out of money (unlikely), became bored, or completely forgot about the project.

    Among the pictures of these cars still available online are a few engine shots, in which a carbon fibre plaque can clearly be seen. Covered in dust, gold script reads ‘No. 051/7.3 - 565 Edition’, followed by ‘Exclusive engine for the Royal Family of Brunei’. It seems we have found the special AMG V12 that directly preceded our test car’s.

    Granted, this may all be coincidence, but what we know for certain is the SL73 was one of several R129s that carried AMG badging and was built from April 1999 to May 2001. The cars began life as SL600s, inheriting that model’s M120 V12, which was then bored and stroked from 89.0x80.2mm to 91.5x92.4mm.

    A new, longer stroke camshaft, titanium pistons, cylinder heads with bigger valves and a sports exhaust system were also added. The conversion price of DM99,180 in April 1999 was based on an SL600 with AMG alloy wheels and the AMG styling package.

    That was roughly £40,000 on top of the SL600’s around £100,000 price tag, which would have ballooned further with the countless options this example has, including a black fabric roof, panoramic glass hardtop, lavish orthopaedic memory seats and xenon headlamps. Yet even with the additional upgrades of this 1999 built and registered Mercedes SL, it would still have been small change to a family valued at $22 billion by Forbes magazine a few years ago.


    After tracking down one of this SL’s previous owners, Matthew Mortlock, an ex NDS Euroboss Series driver and now dealer in old Formula 1 cars, he was able to confirm another remarkable story I’d come across in my research. Namely, that this SL was used to set an accompanied blindfolded land speed record in 2004. Matthew sat alongside driver Toby Holland, who fired this Mercedes down a runway at a GPS confirmed average of 177.71mph without seeing a single yard of his trajectory. All for charity, you understand.

    But that average top speed was just for starters, reckons Matthew, who often saw “ 190mph plus” when circumstances allowed.

    So how did he discover the car? “It came from a friend of mine who dealt with the Sultan of Brunei,” he reveals. “He got hold of it first, but when I saw the car I told him, 4'm having that’. When it came to me it had next to no mileage, but I used it as everyday transport.” He’s not lying - the odometer now shows over 56,000.

    “It was a very reliable beast,” reports Matthew. “I’ve got an SL55 now, and the other SL is quicker than that. You can’t just wham it away from the lights, though,” he warns, “you have to wait until you have a bit of rolling speed before going for full power.”

    It is the issue of traction that dominates your thoughts in this SL. Make no mistake, those 12 cylinders under the bonnet generate a massive amount of twisting force, and its application to the road is made even harder by the greasy surface that greets us today. Anything approaching lull power and the roadster’s backside jives like John Travolta’s, while the orangey-yellow traction control light provides a disco glow.

    Even at 15 years old, the 7.3-litre AMG engine has 15lb ft more torque than the Pagani Zonda Revolucion, declared the fastest Zonda yet and which, like its brothers, boasts an engine derived from the M120 V12.

    The fact this car has 17-inch wheels with 235/45 front and 265/40 rear tyres, and not the SL73’s standard 18-inch alloys with 245/40 front and 275/35 rear rubber, compounds the car's slithery nature. “When I received the car, it had fake AMG wheels, so I wanted to change them to the right alloys, or as right as I could get,” explains its former proprietor. “These 17-inch AMG alloys were an option on R129s.”


    The tougher and more jiggly ride than a normal SL600 all but confirms AMG has fiddled with this car’s suspension, which also boasts the adaptive damping from the base car. This edgy set up chips away at the SL’s GT credentials, but controls the body a little more in the middle of, and out of corners. Although it’s straight line performance is phenomenal, this V12 SL feels cumbersome in bends. Clipping points repel the nose like they’re opposing magnets, and your first input through the numb recirculating ball steering system is often the wrong one as you attempt to feel your way through the turn.

    But when things open out again, this car really begins to make sense. With your right foot pinned and traction asserted, it feels like you’re being pushed downhill by a rugby team of giants, and the feeling continues when you jump on the brakes and just manage to scrub off momentum before the next bend.

    Even in 600 form, the R129 SL is a cruiser at heart, with way more power than strictly necessary, which grants truly effortless progress. But this car. Its massive thrust and sheer ferocity are forever prodding you in the back, and the stiffer ride constantly reminds you that this is not a normal R129 Mercedes. I don’t doubt it for a second.

    Thank you to Charles Ironside for the car Tel 01420 520635 Web, to Groomes for the location Tel 01420 489858 Web and to Matthew Mortlock for his help Tel 01954211047 Web

    With your right foot pinned, it feels like you’re being pushed downhill by a rugby team of giants.

    The standard SL73 ran on 18-inch wheels, but this car has 17s.
    The R129 SL’s two rear seats are merely a token gesture.
    The SL73AMG boasts a 7,291cc M120 V12 unit.
    One of few clues to this car's intriguing past.

    You can raise the ride height with this button.
    The ASR has a tough time dealing with all that power.
    Lumbar controls for the extremely comfortable seats.
    Very glossy wood trim with some very chunky switchgear.
    The cabin lacks drama but still feels remarkably solid.

    JUST THE FACTS #Mercedes-Benz-SL73-AMG-R129
    ENGINE #M120 7.291CC V12
    POWER 518bhp @ 5.500rpm
    TORQUE 553lbft @ 4.000rpm
    TRANSMISSION 5-speed auto RWD
    WEIGHT 2.050kg
    0-62MPH 4.8sec
    TOP SPEED 155mph
    YEARS PRODUCED #1999 - #2001

    With as much as 565bhp, this special edition, V12 powered SL will eat its tyres long before you have figured out a way to pay for them.

    Figures for a standard, left-hand drive SL 73 AMG this special, right-hand drive SL claims 565ps (557bhp) or S65bhp. and a derestricted top speed; fuel consumption according to NEDC combined.
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    The cars they could have made #2001 #BMW-Z29 . BMW’s first attempt at a lightweight sports car built entirely from carbon fibre and aluminium wasn’t the prettiest of things, but it did what it was supposed to…

    In the late 1990s, BMW was riding high from its success in just about every sector it dipped its toe into. But rather then rest on its laurels, future development was crucial to stay ahead and BMW was looking forwards. It meant thinking outside of the box a little, not just in terms of technology, design and innovation, but construction and materials, too. That’s where the Z29 concept entered in 2001.

    The project’s focus was to explore the use and practical feasibility of introducing lightweight exotic materials to car construction. Designed to be very light, the Z29 featured a central tub which housed the two occupants and was made from plastic reinforced carbon fibre. Front and rear subframe sections made from aluminium were then attached either end to support the running gear, drivetrain and suspension.

    The body panels, also made from carbon fibre, were then attached to form the shape and were not-structural, although the Z29 wasn’t exactly what you would call pretty. The primitive shapes and lines indicate BMW’s designers may well have been finding their way working with the foreign material, hence the basic design, although the scissor doors added some extravagant style. Inside was a similar affair and things were kept relatively plain and simple, although the actual design of the dashboard wasn’t very BMW, aside from the cluster cowls. However, strangely, the dash design did share more than a passing resemblance with the dash found on the first generation of Audi TT…

    Aside from the design, the plan to keep weight down worked and the car was indeed light. Total weight was said to be around 1600kg; a relative featherweight for the time and to make the most of that crucial weight saving, power was provided by the S54 straight-six borrowed from the E46 M3 and Z3M. Output was around 340hp and it was coupled to BMW’s #SMG-II transmission, rather than a manual gearbox. This combination produced potent performance and 62mph from rest was quoted as a lightening 4.4 seconds.

    Of course, the Z29 didn’t progress too much further than a single working prototype, but that’s not to say the project wasn’t a success or that its spirit didn’t live on. As a general design and idea, the Z29 doesn’t look too far removed from a #BMW-Z4M that arrived a few years later, complete with the same engine and running gear.

    But the bigger picture was that the car’s construction appeared to serve as a successful stepping-stone for BMW’s future. It seems like no coincidence that it began introducing mass-produced carbon fibre to production cars not long after the #BMW-Z29-Concept experiment took place in the form of the M3 CSL’s roof panel. And look where that has evolved since then, as BMW now builds entire production cars in a very similar way to how the Z29 was designed and built in the i3 and i8. How’s that for success?

    The Z29 originated in 2001 but #BMW didn’t actually allow anyone outside the company to see the car until 2010!
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    ORIENT EXPRESS #BMW-M3-E46-HPF-stage-2.5

    With an Eastern influence to its outlandish styling this 730whp #HPF-turbo #E46 M3 is as wild as they come. Patrick Estudillo’s #BMW-E46 #M3 has enjoyed a lot of different looks over the last nine years, and this latest big-horsepower evolution is really stirring up online controversy with its unique Japanese aesthetic. Haters gonna hate… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Peter Wu.

    It’s a fairly well documented fact that beef and mustard are tip-top partners. A juicy hunk of pink-in-the-middle British beef is exponentially enhanced by a healthy dollop of English mustard. Aha, but consider this… what if you were to remove the yellow dab from the plate and replace it with something green instead – a smudge of fresh wasabi. Eh? Trust me, it works magnificently. A slab of European meat with a soupçon of Japanese embellishment. How very modern.

    This idea, in essence, is what informs the somewhat unmissable M3 that’s posing aggressively before the lens today. Not that owner Patrick Estudillo based the concept on a system of experimenting with condiments; no, he’s blazed a trail that’s now rife in the modifying scene, fusing Western automobiles with the upgrades of the East. There are few cars more staunchly Euro than an #E46 #BMW , but the more you pick over this build, the more JDM mods you unearth.

    Pat, however, is no slave to the scene. He’s been building up to this since he was a kid. “I started into the car scene with my first car back when I was a late junior in high school,” he recalls, grinning as his mind fondly strolls back to the beginning of an era. “My parents handed down to me their BV, and I immediately started doing my research. Being in high school still, the only income I had was an occasional allowance and money received at Christmas and so on; modifying happened slowly, but by the time I reached my second year I had a mildly modified car – I fitted some 19” Racing Hart wheels, full JIC aero, coilovers, exhaust, and racing seats.”

    So far, so JDM. Interesting use of the word ‘mildly’ there too. But hang on… where does Bavaria’s propeller fit into all this? “The E46 M3 really captured my imagination when it was released in #2001 ,” he continues. “I immediately fell in love with it – I knew I had to own one someday! The lines of the car, the aggressive factory styling, and respectable power caught my attention, and I soon became obsessed. I would research about the car day in and day out; by the end of my second year in college, my parents convinced me to sell my car and to wait till I finished school to get the M3.”

    All sounds very level-headed. And by fastforwarding a while into the future, as is the narrative gift of hindsight, we find Pat taking delivery of a manual 2006 M3, #Alpine white on Imola red – one of the last few E46 M3s before production of the E92 began.

    “Many people see it as all show and no go, but little do they know what’s under the hood! The changes in their facial expression when they hear the turbo spooling is priceless”

    “I was euphoric! I couldn’t take my eyes off it,” he beams. “I sat in my garage for hours every day just staring. I admired every line of the car. I would pop the hood, sit inside the car, practice shifting. Pretty much the same feeling as a kid on Christmas morning after receiving the gift that he wished for!”

    So, after all of these years of yearning, was Pat content to get out there and drive the wheels off the thing, fulfilling those fantasies that had been building up to the acquisition of his dream car? Well, yes and no… we’ve already established that he’s got a certain keenness for the aftermarket: “I started modifying it the first week I had it!” he laughs. Over the last nine years, this M3’s seen more makeovers than a stableful of Kardashians, and it all began in that first gleeful week of ownership with a set of Volk TE37s, coilovers, CSL-style bootlid and diffuser, and a custom exhaust. With such an eager start, where on Earth could he go from there? Well, nine years is a long time for a modifier as keen as this.

    “Before long, the car made it to the SEMA show where it received a sponsorship for audio,” he says modestly. “As you can see, the audio has stayed in the car since then. But I was starting to itch for some power at that point and I decided to run with VFEngineering’s Stage 1 supercharger system, and shortly after upgraded to Stage 2 to make a decent 525whp. A year later though, being almost content, I unexpectedly had a run-in with a car that was set up similarly to my car – same wheels, same CSL trunk, same GTR hood, same colour, same interior – in fact, for a moment I thought it was mine and I gave chase! But after a brief encounter I realised it wasn’t my car, and decided that I had to do something to stop mine looking like every other M3 out there. I then set out to redo the whole thing, and began toying with the idea of adding Japanese parts.”

    An incident such as this must be very jarring – having put so much time, effort, care and expense into making your car personal and unique, it would surely come as a cosmic slap in the face to discover that someone else has been singing from the same hymn sheet. A psychologist would probably make a great deal of how one might retreat into one’s shell, regress to the safe haven of childhood and what-have-you; whether or not that theory holds water, the indisputable truth is that Pat was now plundering his youthful experiences with JDM tuning to revamp his BMW.

    The most obvious of such additions sits under the arches: those improbably broad Work wheels (12.5” at the back, no less!). It’s getting gradually easier to source Works outside of Japan – Work Wheels USA is an ever-growing concern; Driftworks can find them for you in the UK – but they still remain a quintessentially Oriental ingredient. Add to this the oh-so on-trend Takata harnesses and Key’s Racing steering wheel and you find the drift scene spilling its juice all over the E46 like a ripe daidai fruit. Perhaps the most boisterous and in-your-face Japanese addition, however, is that colossal, towering Voltex carbon-fibre spoiler with its custom chassis-mounted aluminium risers. “That wing gets a lot of hate online,” he smirks. But you get the feeling he likes it that way.

    Further exterior mods followed in the form of carbon-fibre canards, rear diffuser and a front splitter. By this point, however, Pat was jonesing for more power. You can never accuse the E46 M3 of being all-show-no-go, particularly when you’ve tweaked the engine as much as he had, but nevertheless he was feeling the withdrawal symptoms.

    “I sought out HorsepowerFreaks for its turbo system and ended up with the Stage 2 kit,” Pat nonchalantly recalls. “At that time, the car made around 600whp on methanol and C16 fuel; the feel of the power the turbo produced was almost like night and day – with the supercharger, power was instantaneous, so after a while you sort of get used to the increase and notice it less. With the turbo, it’s always a rush when you go wide-open-throttle and the turbo spools up!” It was at this point in the car’s evolution that Pat threw in a roll-cage and a buckets-andharnesses combo, dove headfirst into the show scene and… well, decided that he wanted to change it all again. Bit of a recurring theme, that, isn’t it?

    “HPF came out with some revisions to its turbo systems and I seized the opportunity by sending my car to it again, having it build the motor and upgrade the turbo to a P6766 with open wastegate. It made serious power after that! Around 560whp on 91 octane, 620whp on 110+ octane, 690whp on 91+ methanol, and 730whp on 110+ methanol. The thirst for power was real, and with the new-found increases, the clutch was upgraded to Clutchmasters’ bronze twin-plate race unit, the axles were upgraded, as was the bracing. With the motor and drivetrain addressed, I then came across a deal for a Flossman GTR wide-body that I couldn’t pass up…”

    Never one to keep things mainstream, even the modifications get modified, and upon receiving the Flossman kit he set about shaving, smoothing, venting, and widening the arches even further. With it all neatly fitted to the M3, thoughts turned to colours. “I love white, but I wanted to go brighter,” Pat recalls, “so the new paint is actually a Lexus LFA shade, white Nova Pearl; a very bright white with a very subtle pearl.”

    This was the time at which the colossal rear wing arrived, Pat taking inspiration from Japanese tuner BenSopra and having custom brackets crafted to mount to the chassis but look as if they’re merely perching on the bumper. The Work rims were thrown into the mix, as was a complex AirREX digitally controlled airbag suspension setup – something that has caused almost as much consternation among the shouting online masses as that wing (oh, and don’t even get the internet started on the perceived weight penalties of all of that audio in a road-racer).

    “The current state of the car is an absolute love it or absolute hate it,” Pat admits. “I’ve received many compliments as well as many criticisms. A lot of the hate comes from the internet, when a picture of the car has been posted – many have said it’s overdone, the wing’s too big, it’s ugly, it’s a waste, and have even gone as far as to throw insults at me. They try to dictate how a car should be built, and how mine is how it shouldn’t be done.”

    But he’s smiling as he says this. The flipside is that for every hater, there’s a raft of fans congratulating him for his out-the-box thinking and flawless execution. “What seems to particularly impress people is the power it makes,” he says. “Many people see it as all show and no go, but little do they know what’s under the hood! The changes in their facial expression when they hear the turbo spooling or the sound of the wastegate is priceless. And overall the reactions are different in the real world – there’s more negativity online, more positivity in person.”

    Of course, these are just other people’s opinions; it’s nice to have the admiration and respect of your peers in the scene, but Pat has always built his car the way he wants it to be. With its mix of big horsepower, unique looks, form-and-function interior and shouty audio, as well as that killer combo of Works and air-ride, this M3 is a true international polymath. German heart, American soul, and enough wasabi to make your eyes water.
    HPF-built engine boasts an insane amount of work, as you can see below, and can make 730whp on the right fuel.

    DATA FILE #BMW-M3-E46 #S54

    ENGINE: HorsepowerFreaks-built 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 , #HPF stage 2.5 turbo system, Precision T6766 billet wheel turbo, ARP L19 head studs, HPF third-gen forged pistons with heavy duty wrist pins, HPF connecting rods, HPF torque-plated head, ported and polished head, HPF diamond-cut cylinder walls, HKS twin SSQ blowoff valves, HKS purple BOV insert, Tial MVR wastegate, HPF ceramic coated turbo manifold, HPF 4” thick x 24” wide polished front-mount intercooler with polished intercooler piping, HPF 3x3 silicon couplers with T-bolt clamps, HPF polished intake manifold, HPF Stage 4 carbon-fibre intake, HPF methanol tank, FJO methanol fogger and pump, HPF stainless methanol line fittings, Stage 2 methanol solenoid and harness, HPF Stage 3 fuel system, Walbro fuel pump, HPF fuel filter, HPF RC 1100cc high-impedance injectors, Denso Iridium spark plugs, HPF remote oil pump, HPF stainless high temp oil feed and return lines, HPF Stage 3 downpipe, HPF open wastegate dump tube, HPF engine management system and wiring harness, HPF factory DME connector, HPF large core oil cooler, HPF performance fan clutch, AEM 3.5bar map sensor, HPF engine mounts, JIC Cross stainless steel Section 2 exhaust piping, Agency Power rear silencer with 80mm titanium tips, Rogue Engineering brushed aluminium oil cap, VRS two-tone carbon-fibre engine cover, carbon-fibre DME cover and ballast cover, Bimmian chrome oil cap.

    TRANSMISSION: Clutch Masters FX850 Bronze twinplate clutch/flywheel, Autosolutions short-shift kit (40% reduction), DSS Stage 5 axles.

    CHASSIS: 9.5x20” (front) and 12.5x20” (rear) Work VS-XX wheels with charcoal faces and hairline brushed finish barrels with 255/30 (front) and 305/25 (rear) Toyo Proxes T1S tyres. Renn Spec stud conversion, 326Power extended wheel nuts, AirREX performance airbag suspension with digital controlled air compressor, threegallon air tank, custom boot enclosure mount for compressor and tank and electronic solenoids, Dixis titanium front strut brace, Eibach adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars, Radenergie carbon-fibre adjustable rear control arms, HPF eight-point chassis brace, Turner polyurethane front and rear control arm bushings, Brembo GT eight-piston front calipers, Brembo GT two-piece 380mm cross-drilled front discs, custom brushed aluminium rotor hats with custom engraving, Brembo GT four-piston rear calipers, Brembo GT 345mm cross-drilled rear discs, custom brake caliper brackets by Oink Fabrications, brake calipers painted green, stainless steel braided lines.

    EXTERIOR: Lexus LFA white Nova Pearl paint, Flossman GTR wide-body kit (including front bumper, front wings with shaved vents, side skirts, rear wings extended 1”, rear bumper), custom front and rear wing vent slits, VRS carbon-fibre moulded rear diffuser, custom-moulded Hamann brake duct covers, Seibon carbon-fibre GTR bonnet, Voltex Type-V 1600mm carbon-fibre GT Wing with custom aluminium wing risers (chassis-mounted), Voltex carbon-fibre front canards, custom front chassis-mounted race splitter, Varis three-piece carbon-fibre race diffuser, shaved side mouldings and side markers, Aerocatch bonnet locks, #DEPO smoked corner lenses, ACS roof spoiler, matt black side wing grilles, matt black front kidney grilles, carbon-fibre front grilles.

    INTERIOR: #Recaro ASM RS-G Ruby Edition bucket seats, Recaro JDM mounting hardware, Takata MPH-340 harnesses and gel foam pads, Key’s Racing Deep Corn steering wheel, #MOMO steering wheel adapter hub, 9K Racing black anodised quick-release hub, custom black suede headlining and pillar covers with red stitching, custom four-point roll-cage (powdercoated white) with removable harness bar, carbon-fibre ashtray and console overlays, OEM Euro centre tray, Hamann aluminium gear shifter, LeatherZ Imola red/black stitch gaiters, Bimmian brushed aluminium handbrake handle, Bimmian brushed aluminium pedals, Defi BF Series oil pressure gauge, Defi control module, AEM Digital AFR gauge, AEM Digital boost gauge, HPF steering column gauge pod, HPF knock siren, HPF race mode switch with key and LED indicator, HPF methanol activation switch, polished fire extinguisher.

    AUDIO: #Memphis-Audio M-class 6.5” front speakers, 6.5” rear speakers, tweeters, 12” subwoofers, amplifiers, 1 Farad capacitor and wiring; custom fibreglass Autofashion sub box, custom plexiglass amp enclosure, subwoofer and amp enclosure wrapped in Imola red leather, blue LED boot lights, custom fibreglass bootlid enclosure wrapped in Imola red leather, 15” flat panel monitor, McIntosh power meter, 3M Dinoc vinyl trim.

    THANKS: My mum, dad, brother Allan, girlfriend Jade, Mike Ma at M2-Motoring, Freddy and Elroy at AutoFashionUSA, Lalo at Dripset, Rob at Oink Fabrications, Marshall at AirREX, Stan at Toyo Tires, Logan at Work Wheels USA, Tommy at GoTuningUnlimited, Hung at Lumion HID and to Team Legacy for all the support.
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    C2K Motorsports’ stunning, supercharged Santorini #E92-M3 is about as good as it gets. It doesn’t get much better than a supercharged #E92 #M3 , and they don’t get much better than this. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Crooks Life Photography.

    Modified M4s are starting to become popular and they’re looking really good, but then you come across an E92 M3 that looks like this, a car that’s pretty much achieved motoring perfection, and you can’t help but wonder if any M4 will ever look this good…

    The lucky man who’s been able to experience this BMW nirvana is Curt Wilson, pilot and aerospace engineer by trade and owner of C2K Motorsports. Unless you don’t know what an internet is, you will be familiar with this particular E92 M3 because it’s been enjoying life in the spotlight across social media for some time now, and with good reason. Take a good, long look at those pictures and you will fall in love with this E92 M3. Everything from the colour, that vivid shade of Santorini blue, to the aggressive aerodynamic additions and those stunning HRE wheels combines to create one of the most striking and visually delightful E92 M3s that we’ve ever seen.

    Curt’s BMW journey actually began just eight years ago, though his passion for cars is most definitely long-standing, as the 30-year-old Las Vegas resident explains: “As a teenager I was into the import street racing scene. My first car was a #2001 #Toyota-Celica , which I built with a custom turbo kit and eventually blew up. My next car was a Dodge Neon SRT-4 with a 60 trim turbo making over 400whp. I then got into autocross and road course racing and purchased a Honda S2000 which, to this day, is one of my favourite cars! BMW has always been an iconic brand to me. I envied the E36 and #E46 M3s as I was growing up. The sound/performance of the straight-six motor, the aggressive stance and luxury yet motorsport-inspired design confirmed the phrase ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’. I remember as a kid I used to work as a field hand for a pilot whose hobby was growing tobacco. He drove a red 318i with manual gearbox that he would drive me and my friends home in. It was the coolest car I had ever ridden in! I was unable to afford a BMW until after I had started my career which only made my long-awaited ownership that much more euphoric. Having come from a street racer background the twin-turbo straight-six was the Holy Grail of performance. When I heard details about the new N54 motor in the E90 335i I knew I had to own one. I bought my first #BMW in #2007 in the form of a #E90 335i.”

    This 335i was followed by another #335i , a #135i , an #E93 335i Convertible and also an #E60 #M5 with a Corsa exhaust, which, says Curt “made the most glorious noise of any of my cars but was just too big and had obscene gas consumption”. His time spent looking at M3s in his youth was not forgotten, though, and when he caught wind of BMW Individual and European delivery, he realised that an E9x M3 built to his exact specification in his ideal colour was within his reach. “I’m an active online blogger and Bimmerpost member,” he says. “I always aspired to one day build an inspirational project car like the insane builds that I had admired in various posts and publications. I remember seeing a few spy shots of a special UK edition colour for the #E92 M3 called Santorini blue. I spent hours staring at every photo I could find of the colour and decided that I must have it! I brokered an individual Euro delivery deal on a manual Santorini E92 with Speed cloth. It’s just one of eight US Santorini cars and the only one ever made with this exact spec.

    Some time later I found myself in Munich after a couple months of agonising anticipation. The entire experience, from the excitement while waiting, the city of Munich, the delivery process, touring the German countryside and even driving on the Nürburgring was much more enjoyable and outright satisfying than anything I could have imagined. After the trip I had an affinity and connection with the car that eclipsed any reservations that would prevent me from building it exactly how I wanted it to be,” and so Curt began to do just that.

    If you own an E92 M3 then you pretty much need to supercharge it, it’s almost like an unspoken rule, and ESS are the go-to guys when it comes to strapping blowers to the #S65 V8, so that’s exactly where Curt went. “I wanted to retain linear and useable power delivery that could match the upgraded suspensions/brakes/wheels and knew that I couldn’t reach my HP goals without forced induction. The ESS VT-1 supercharger system was the obvious choice due to their quality, reliability and customer support.” The ‘entry-level’ ESS kit is anything but basic, delivering enough power to make you sit up and take notice, but the centrifugal supercharger retains the same linear power delivery as the engine in standard form, meaning it feels similar to drive, just much quicker, the main difference being there’s a lot more power being delivered at every step in the rev range. How much power? Well, Curt says the car now makes 550whp with 330lb ft at the wheels on regular unleaded, which is around 600hp at the flywheel and a serious gain over the standard 420hp.

    Every E9x M3 also deserves a performance exhaust because it makes them sound so damn good, and here Curt has opted for a full ESS Tuning system, complete with high-flow cats and thermal coating. With a lot more go, Curt’s M3 also needed a lot more stop and so he turned to StopTech, manufacturer of fine and rather large BBKs, and opted for the beefy ST-60 six-pot front calipers with mighty 380mm drilled discs and at the rear you’ll find the ST-40 four-pot caliper kit with 355mm discs, also drilled, which is big enough to serve as a front kit on some cars. The finishing touch was a flourish of Ferrari yellow paint to make them stand out and it was job done. We’d say the E9x M3 is a not a car that is particularly wheel sensitive – it’s very hard to pick a set that doesn’t look good and Curt’s selection here looks absolutely awesome on this E92 M3. “HRE was my first and only choice,” he says. “Its reputation and quality is unsurpassed in the high-end sports car community. I wanted a lightweight wheel with a design that was not too far from OEM appearance but with a special colour which is why I chose the FF01 in custom ‘Fog’ textured finish. I had a hard time letting go of my OEM GTS wheels but as soon as I saw the car with the HREs installed I knew I’d made the right choice!”

    The FF01 is part of HRE’s FlowForm range and it’s a stunning-looking wheel, with its sculpted, twin seven-spoke design, slight concave shape and impeccable attention to detail. And the Fog finish really is the icing on the cake, a sort of matt, sparkling graphite that looks almost velvety. It was an inspired choice and the wheels look absolutely gob-smacking on the #BMW-M3 . They measure 9x19” up front and 10.5x19” at the back and are wrapped in seriously wide Toyo Proxes T1 Sport rubber – 255/35 up front and 295/30 at the rear with not an ounce of stretch in sight, it’s all about front-end grip and rear-end traction with this setup, with a Treadwear tyre lettering kit adding the finishing touch.

    The suspension choice is also all about performance, though it has given this E92 M3 a purposeful drop, with a KW Clubsport coilover kit nestling in the wheel arches, offering two-way damping and adjustment and complete with EDC emulators, which prevent the EDC warning coming up on the dash when you switch to an aftermarket suspension setup. “The KW Clubsport kit is my favourite modification on the car,” enthuses Curt. “It changed the dynamic of the M3 more than any other aspect. The stance, stiffness and feedback that the clubsports gave the car are all vital aspects that I have come to supremely appreciate. Full coilovers will be the first modification on any of my future cars.”

    With such an awesome exterior colour on top of the M3’s rugged good looks, Curt rightly didn’t want to go OTT when it came to any styling additions and his choices help to give the #BMW-E92 some more visual punch, upgrading it from a right hook to an all-out, KO blow uppercut. “I chose a relatively new company at the time, Mode Carbon, for my aero-kit,” he explains. “It makes an excellent GT4 style front lip, unique carbon fibre side skirts and rear LM series diffuser. Their fitment and quality was spot-on and since my first purchases from the company it has grown to be one of the most well-respected and recognised carbon fibre companies in the BMW and #Mercedes community.”

    The carbon front splitter looks aggressive and lets you know that this M3 really means business. The rear wing isn’t shy either and the carbon additions tie in perfectly with the whole black and blue theme that Curt has got going on across the whole car, which includes the black towing strap, custom ONEighty NYC headlights and black exhaust tips peeking out from that rear diffuser. Inside, Curt has kept the same theme going with some heavy-duty upgrades that don’t leap out and smack you in the face. “I chose Stätus racing seats due to their wide variety of customisable made-to-order options. Initially I ordered the Ring FiA seats which were extremely snug but I eventually exchanged them for the wider GTX variant which is much more comfortable for my 6’3” 200lb frame.

    “I ordered black suede with Santorini blue stitching. The suede seats match the Alcantara BMW performance steering wheel and knob with custom suede shift and e-brake boots. The final interior modification was a roll-cage from Autopower Industries which was moulded into the stock rear interior and painted black to retain the subtle and refined luxury of the original BMW interior.” The singlepiece seats are serious but don’t look out of place and that roll-cage is incredibly subtle thanks to its black finish and the Santorini highlights are the perfect finishing touch.

    Curt says that he spared no expense on the modifications and it shows, his car wants for nothing and he loves it but he remains humble despite the fact that the car has become something of an international online celebrity. “The car is very popular on Instagram and one of my favourite and most humbling compliments is when people from all over the world send me images of exact replicas of the car that they have built in video games. It really means a lot to me that people like the car enough to take the time to replicate it down to minute details such as the sponsors on my time attack doorcard.” We’ve seen a lot of modified E9x M3s here at BMW towers over the years, all of them incredible machines but the fact that every once in a while, one comes along that still manages to wow us is the most incredible thing of all, and we couldn’t be happier about that.

    Gorgeous HRE FF01 flow formed wheels in Fog finish suit the M3 perfectly and the Treadwear tyre lettering kit adds some visual flair; monster StopTech BBK offers serious stopping power. Interior has been treated to Stätus Racing Ring GTX seats with Santorini stitching and Schroth harnesses plus an Autopower Industries roll-cage; ESS VT-1 550 supercharger boasts carbon intake plenum.


    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 4.0-litre V8 #S65B40 , ESS Tuning #VT-1 550 Supercharger system with limited production carbon fibre plenum, ESS Tuning full exhaust system with high flow cats and thermal coating, standard six-speed manual gearbox.

    CHASSIS: 9x19” ET25 (front) and 10.5x19” ET26 (rear) HRE FF01 wheels in Fog finish with 255/35 (front) and 295/30 (rear) #Toyo Proxes T1 Sport tyres, Treadwear tyre lettering kit, MRG Race Co titanium racing stud conversion, KW Clubsport two-way adjustable suspension with EDC emulators, #StopTech ST-60 #BBK with 380mm drilled discs (front) and ST-40 BBK with 355mm drilled discs (rear), calipers painted Ferrari yellow (front and rear).

    EXTERIOR: Mode Carbon GT4 front lip spoiler, Mode Carbon carbon fibre side skirt extensions, Mode Carbon LM Series rear diffuser, Mode Carbon GTS rear spoiler, #ONEighty NYC custom headlights, iND Blackout grilles/ gills/bonnet vents, iND tow strap and painted tow strap cover, Car-Pro C-Quartz compounding and paint correction.

    INTERIOR: Stätus Racing Ring GTX seats in Ultra Suede with Santorini blue stitching, Autopower Industries bolt-in Racing roll-cage, Schroth Racing quickset fourpoint harnesses, #BMW-Performance steering wheel, BMW Performance gear knob, custom suede gear lever and handbrake gaiters.

    THANKS: Sam and Nick at Mode Carbon, Roman at ESS Tuning, Greg, Laurent, and Jorge at HRE Wheels, Stan at Toyo Tires, George at KW Suspensions, Matt at Status Racing, Theo and Corey at The Specialist Detail Studio, BMW David at Steve Thomas BMW, Jimmy at Crooks Life Photography, Todd at Trophy Performance and my wife for putting up with my obsession.

    Carbon galore adorns the E92 M3 with a front lip spoiler, side skirts, rear diffuser and wing all coming from Mode Carbon; custom ONEighty headlights are very smart.
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