- Post is under moderationSCANDINAVIAN SLAM Air-ride E91 Touring
Who says diesel Tourings need to be boring? In the land of outrageous turbocharging, one Norwegian cares more about the air-ride stance. Words: Iain Curry. Photos: Erik Berg-Johansen.
Stance is everything, right? Feel free to lust after an M2, M3, M5, whatever, but get the stance right on any run-of-the-mill #BMW and you can turn just as many heads. This fact gives us all hope. We can’t all drop tens of thousands on a new M car, nor employ an expensive specialist to bolt on a giant turbo and associated upgraded parts to create a street weapon. But get a car sitting just right and for comparatively little coin you’re a show favourite.
Which makes this Norwegian E91 something of a rarity. You see, our Norwegian cousins have not only an enviable quality of life, but most of them have a fair chunk of disposable income too. Sure, it costs a lot to live in this beautiful Scandinavian land, but locals are well paid to compensate. I’ve met plenty of 20- something Norwegian car modifiers who think nothing of owning both a city flat plus a holiday home by the lakes to retreat to each weekend.
It means many have the money to drive around in new German cars, and often make their mark by adding top-end aftermarket body parts, chassis upgrades and engine mods. Think back to all the 1000hp+ BMWs we’ve featured and many will be from Norway or the equally bountiful Sweden. And just to complete your jealousy, these Scandinavians sure know how to drive too. A thousand horses through the rear treads?
Wheels spinning in fourth gear? No problem. It’s as if they’re born knowing how to control it. Just check out the names of those who mastered the Too Fast To Race Group B rally cars of the 1980s. Yep, the Scandinavians. Showing there are more strings to their bows than just bonkers turbo beasts, Kim Arild Grindermoen has chosen pure stance over performance with his 3 Series Touring. It’s all about air suspension, something he insists is nothing to be afraid of in terms of ease of fitment and even practicality thanks to the easily adjustable ride height. Yes he’s a tad biased as he set up and runs a company called StanceShop – a dealership for Air Lift Performance suspension and AccuAir air suspension management – but he’s a man worth listening to when he can make a humble estate car look this damn perfect on the stance front.
The 26-year-old from Otta in rural Norway is a welder by trade, and bought this totally standard 2011 320d Touring with an M Sport pack to make what he says is his “own statement; something I have never done before by taking it all the way with air-ride”.
It certainly isn’t Kim’s first time at the rodeo. Modifying cars since the age of 16, he cut his teeth on an old Mitsubishi with the usual aftermarket wheels and lowering, before progressing to BMWs a few years later. He’s been very active since then. An E36 was first, then an E30 followed by five more E36s, four more E30s, two E32s and five E34s. Busy boy.
While Kim is one for big power too – he’s currently at work creating a madman E34 Touring with turbocharged M50B25 turbo engine – the 320d Touring has to serve as a daily driver, so the frugal diesel engine has been left practically untouched. An updated ECU helps the four-cylinder realise 207hp now – up from the standard 184hp – which Kim says is “enough for the street to lose your licence.”
Visual clout comes from the ride height, and Kim says the kit is “plug and play and fits without modifications”. We all like the sound of that. “It took a couple of days to get it up and running because of the wiring and air lines,” he explains, “but the struts are as easy as coilovers to install.” Kim says it’s all bolt on with no need for further modifications to the chassis or body.
Slammed on the ground the Touring looks fantastic, and the rear end in particular looks far fatter with the back wheel arches seeming to nicely bulge with the deep-dish 10x19-inch ADV.1 three-piece rims swallowed up by them. But no, those rear arches are completely standard. Up front the 9-inch rims with skinny 225/35 Falken FK453 rubber are ideally placed in the front arches.
Improving things are the 320d’s front arches making way for M3 items with the side indicators replaced by gunmetal stripes. It’s a subtle addition, but adds some front end sportiness to otherwise plain 320d sides. The exterior stays true to BMW’s original Touring shape with Kim going for subtle enhancements to the black body. Most obvious is smoked tape – from Norwegian company Fantasy Factory – to coat the lights around the car, once again this being most obvious at the rear which now looks very mean-looking in its darkness, complemented by a 335i diffuser. A pair of 335i-look Ragazzon exhaust tips pop out from the diffuser, but other than that the bumpers are just factory M Sport items.
While owning an estate car means plenty of room for an outrageous air install, this has to serve as Kim’s practical daily, so that wasn’t an option, but what he has done is put together a very smart, simple install while still leaving plenty of useable room in the load area. He’s running a single, black tank, which ties in with the rest of the car’s mean and moody appearance and is running twin Viair compressors plumbed into an AccuAIr VU4 four-corner solenoid valve unit. In the boot’s side compartment Kim’s added a fibreglass eight-inch subwoofer box, backing up Rockford Fosgate speakers and updated head unit in the main cabin. He has also wired in a Rockford Fosgate 3Sixty.3 eight-channel interactive signal processor which works as an OEM integration ‘black box’ for much improved audio control. While the interior has been kept practically standard, the addition of an OEM Alcantara M Performance steering wheel is a rather welcome upgrade.
The cabin-mounted AccuAir controller offers quick and easy ride height adjustment allowing for seamless transition from slammed show car to practical grocerygetter. Kim also says he’s given the Touring a bash on Norway’s Rudskogen raceway, reporting back that it handles just fine.
Good modifiers are always looking to move on to the next challenge, and Kim says his air-ride E91 will soon serve as practical family transport as his first child is due by the end of the year. He says as a result he’ll be closing down StanceShop, also partly due to how difficult it is to get air-ride cars approved for Norwegian roads, which makes his creation all the more impressive. “I’ll be focusing more on the family life, but you’ll still see cars being modified in the future by me,” he says, reminding us that his E34 is going to be a boosted show special with plenty of fast road potential. So this airride E91 will soon be the official family wagon. Not only will it be the coolest thing rocking up at kiddie daycare, but just think of the endless hours of fun the kids will have raising and lowering this Touring via that control pad. Who needs babysitters?
DATA FILE #Air-ride E91 / #BMW-320d-Touring / #BMW-E91 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E91 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E91 / #BMW-320d-Touring-E91 / #N47D20 / #N47 / #BMW-N47 / #BMW-320d-Touring-Air-ride / #BMW-320d
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel N47D20, #Ragazzon exhaust system, uprated ECU, six-speed manual gearbox
CHASSIS 9x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) #ADV.1 three-piece wheels with 225/35 (front and rear) Falken FK453 tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance suspension and #AccuAir management
EXTERIOR M Sport bumpers, E92 M3 front wings with side indicators replaced by gunmetal strips, Fantasy Factory smoked tape for lights all-round, OEM 335i rear diffuser, M tricolour stripes on kidney grille
INTERIOR M Performance Alcantara steering wheel, updated head unit, twin Viair compressors, single air tank, AccuAir VU4 valve unit, fibreglass 8” subwoofer box in boot, Rockford Fosgate speakers, Rockford Fosgate 3Sixty.3 eight-channel interactive signal processor
“[I wanted to make my] own statement; something I’ve never done before”
Interior has been treated to an M Performance Alcantara steering wheel and the in-car audio has also been upgraded. Boot area houses the smart and simple air-ride install; 19” ADV.1 three-piece wheels look fantastic and really suit the E91 shape.
2.0d engine may be nothing special to look at but it’s the perfect mill for a daily driver and a remap has resulted in a healthy 207hp.
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- Post is under moderationCHAIRMAN OF THE BROAD Wild #Liberty-Walk E92 335xi!
There are wide-bodies and there are wide-bodies… and then there’s this E92 335xi. It’s not for the faint-hearted. Josh Levy has certainly mastered the art of width, as demonstrated by his chunky E92. The extremely wide wheels and body turn this 335xi into an aggressive beast… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Mike Kuhn.
We try not to focus too keenly on one single element of a car when we’re buzzing around a shoot and formulating ideas for the story; after all, you people out there building progressive and exciting BMWs always take a holistic approach. It’s never about one sole piece of the puzzle; it’s how they link together.
This car, however… there’s one thing that just stopped us in our tracks as we were ambling around it – something at the back end of the car that got us rubbing our eyes in disbelief: the rear wheels. Now, this isn’t to sideline the myriad other stunning elements of this E92 – the bulging Liberty Walk hips, the low-slung aired-out stance, the pops and crackles from the quad exhausts – but those rear wheels really grabbed our attention.
They measure a mighty 15x18”. Fifteen inches wide! That’s insane. Remember when you were a kid and you first saw the back end of a Countach, how those wheels seemed cartoonishly wide? They were 12x15”. This brutal 335xi is packing supercar girth, and then some. We’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for that.
It could be the case that owner Josh Levy is exorcising a few demons from his own automotive past. While his personal motoring adventure has been long and diverse, he happily admits that his love for cars was sparked by a build he saw running 13” wheels – and he’s talking diameter, not width. All fit for purpose on a Mk1 Golf GTI, of course, but it shows you how far he’s come. Too much is never enough; it’s all about pushing forward.
“I started modifying cars when I was 17 years old and haven’t stopped since,” says Josh. “It all started when I first saw an ’1984 GTI dropped on 13s, with a roll-cage and just one seat. It looked awesome and I wanted to know more about it. My interest grew and I started my love/hate relationship with automobiles. Whether it’s lowering your car, adding aftermarket parts or whatever, it’s the passion we have for our cars that keeps us going. No matter what car I’ve had in the past, I always wanted to modify it. It’s fun, exhausting, and painful, but I love the feeling when it’s all done. And I actually have a 1984 VW GTI that I’m restoring now.”
A pleasingly full-circle tale then, but how did Josh end up with what has to be one of the widest and most aggressive E92s we’ve seen to date? This sort of thing doesn’t happen by accident, nor does it happen overnight. He must have been harbouring a desire to build such a thing for a while, yes?
“Well, no, I wasn’t really on the lookout for an E92 per se – or, in fact, any car,” Josh recalls. “This project just sort of fell into my lap, really! There were a few mods done to it by a previous owner. It was just an old project that had been hiding away in storage. It needed some TLC but I could see its potential. It simply needed my personal touch to turn it into something badass!”
And when Josh talks about his ‘personal touch’, what he’s basically referring to is tearing the car down to first principles and building it back up again as something fresh, new and exciting. Taking a broad view of the car – which, incidentally, is a 2009 335xi – you can see that there are three key areas to consider: first, there’s the unmissable Liberty Walk bodywork; then there’s the rims and air-ride combo. But there’s also something that’s easy to miss at first glance, given the striking nature of the aesthetics, and that’s the extensive conversion to M3 spec. While the 335xi is a formidable thing in its own right, this example has been treated to no less than the bumpers, front wings, front grilles, lock plates, combination brackets, reinforced bumper brackets and radiator support, mirrors, and side skirts from the mighty M3 – a meisterwerk of parts-sourcing and effort in itself. And that’s before we get to the really juicy stuff.
“I knew my next car needed to stand out and I wanted something that would take really wide wheels,” Josh explains. “I wanted a car that would make a statement no matter where I was going, whether it was at a show or just getting gas. I always loved the E92 M3’s body style, and with the wide Liberty Walk kit it felt like the right way to go… the M3’s body lines mixed with wide flares sure draw you in!”
The next job was rather an important one: wheel choice. “I wanted to build a street monster and show people that having wide wheels isn’t just for looks,” Josh says. “The three-piece Nine1Forged LV6 wheels gave me everything I wanted with their VIP feel and aggressive design. The huge 8” rear lips really help show off that extreme concave construct. I wanted the fitment just right and for my 15” rears to touch the fenders.”
This wasn’t as easy to achieve as Josh makes it sound and a lot of adjustments were necessary, along with rear camber arms: “After I got the fitment I wanted, I realised it was bottoming out and hitting the Liberty Walk kit so I had to make more adjustments and pull more camber out of it! As this is my daily driver I didn’t want to go too crazy, but then again what’s crazy?”
What indeed? There is a certain inevitability to projects like this, where one modification necessarily leads to another until the car’s basically unrecognisable when placed alongside a stock example, but Josh’s commitment to commuting daily in the thing does lend his own personal definition of ‘crazy’ an interesting perspective filter. The best way to categorise it at this stage is ‘exactly crazy enough’. But that’s an elastic concept, and he’s always got a new idea bubbling away.
When your car looks this extreme, you really need to have a bit of grunt to back it up, that’s just an immutable law of the universe. No point expending this much elbow grease on something that’d struggle to haul itself up a moderate incline, there’s little joy to be derived from that. Thankfully, as mentioned, the 335xi is a fiery thing – but that’s not to say that Josh had any intention of keeping the turbocharged three-litre straight-six standard.
“The only issue with buying someone else’s unfinished project is that you can’t totally know what you’re getting,” he admits. “And if you do run into issues, it could be very difficult. I had a few issues under the hood but fortunately it was soon all straightened out. The motor was pretty stock but it felt like the car needed more. I added a full exhaust and that, together with the huge front-mount intercooler, really helped the car open up.” He’s also added a Burger Tuning Juicebox, which sounds like it should be delicious but is actually a rather clever little remap gizmo that’s marketed under the alluring slogan ‘add 100hp to your twin-turbo BMW instantly’. You can’t really argue with that, can you?
So he’s got the look, the power, and he’s the envy of everyone at the petrol station. It’d be churlish not to lavish a little affection on the interior, too, wouldn’t it? After all, that’s where Josh spends a lot of his time – particularly given that he’s using the thing daily. “It came to me as a base model with no extras so I had to do something about that,” Josh grins. “The trim needed some updating along with the doorcards, seats, and there’s now a bolt-in roll-cage from House Motorsport, too.”
This outrageous E92, then, is far more than just a set of ludicrously wide rear wheels. It’s a beautifully finished and surprisingly practical daily driver with oodles of power and that intangible wow factor in spades. The wheels are a pretty good place to start though, aren’t they? When there’s this much for your eyes to process, it’s quite soothing to lose yourself in all that dish.
“Yeah, people do seem to love the car,” Josh declares, amused by the visual and aural assault he unleashes every day upon the local traffic. “I had an idea when I started of what I wanted it to look like but I never thought it would turn out like this. That’s what makes modifying cars so much fun! You can do whatever you like.”
Sage counsel indeed. And with Josh raving about his near-future plans to single-turbo the car, shave the bay, swap the dash, change the boot install, respray the body, replace the wheels and goodness knows what else, he’s certainly taking the ‘do whatever you like’ idea and running with it. We just wonder how much wider the E92 can possibly go.
Rear Nine 1 Forged LV6 rims measure an obscene 15x18” and boast outrageous 8” lips.
If the Liberty Walk kit wasn’t quite wild enough, Josh has added a carbon front splitter and rear spoiler for good measure.
DATA FILE #Liberty Walk / #BMW-E92 / #BMW-335xi / #BMW-335xi-E92 / #BMW / #BMW-E92-Liberty-Walk / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E92 / #BMW-E92-Coupe / #N54B30 / #BMW-N54 / #Nine1Forged / #Burger-Tuning / #N54-Stage-3 /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six twin-turbo #N54B30 , #Dual-AFE downpipes with custom exhaust system, #Burger-Tuning-JuiceBox4-PNP (N54 Stage 3) software, #AFE cold air intakes, M3 washer reservoir, six-speed manual gearbox, Spec 2+ clutch
CHASSIS 12.5x18” (front) and 15x18” (rear) #Nine1Forged-LV6-Extreme -oncave wheels in Blushed Monaco Gold with hidden hardware, 285/30 (front) and 305/30 (rear) Sumitomo HTR ZIII tyres, Air Lift front struts, #Air-Lift rear toe arms, #Megan-Racing rear adjustable control/camber arms, #Air-Lift double bellow rear air springs, #AccuAir management, dual #Viair-480c compressors and five-gallon aluminium tank, Forge Motorsport front brakes with six-pot calipers and 380mm discs, StopTech grooved rear discs
EXTERIOR Liberty Walk ten-piece body kit including overfenders, carbon-fibre spoiler and front splitter, carbonfibre M3 bonnet, Challenge carbonfibre rear diffuser, custom headlights, M4 headlight arms, OEM M3 upgrades comprising: bumpers, front wings, front grilles, lock plates, combination brackets, reinforced bumper brackets and radiator support, mirrors, side skirts
INTERIOR Carbon-fibre trim, Jaffster gear knob, BMW ‘Rennsport’ Performance Alcantara steering wheel with factory airbag, custom ‘race’ seats with matching doorcards, centre console, gaiter and handbrake cover, House Motorsport bolt-in roll cage
THANKS Thank you to my sponsors @Royal_Stance, @Elite_tuner, @Clean.e93, and @Stance_DailyStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationThis may have been Sean Clark’s first car in high school, but it’s all grown up now, with a level of refinement fit for a whiskey lounge. Words: Marcus Gibson / Photos: Adam Croy
BODY-SLAMMED BMW E30 TEST LEARN THE FUNDAMENTALS OF BUILDING A DRIFT CAR / #1987 / #BMW-318i-E30 / #BMW-318i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW / #Toyota-1UZ-FE / #BMW-E30-Toyota-1UZ-FE / #Toyota / #Accuair-i-Level / #BMW-E30-V8 / #V8
Purchased as his first car in high school, Sean Clark’s E30 is all grown up now with a class that belongs in a whiskey lounge. V8 powered, with Accuair i-Level, one-off Rotiforms, candy paint and a killer interior, this E30 ticks all the boxes.
As the NZPC team members stood around with our tongues out, drooling over Sean Clark’s #BMW E30 during the photo shoot, in walked the guys from our sister magazine NZ Classic Car, who proceeded to make tongue-in-cheek remarks about how the suspension must be broken and ask where the hell the tyres were. Now, these guys know their way around an E30, but, given that the IS front lip was literally sitting on the ground while its rim lip was touching the guard, we could see how those old boys would be somewhat perplexed by what they saw in front of them. This car is a statement made with no apologies — it was engineered this way, what with its millimetre-perfect fitment and extremely deep candy paint, which grabs and holds your attention long enough to take in all the custom touches that can be found.
It all began during Sean’s high-school days (actually, four years ago, to be exact), when he came across an E30 already fitted with a Toyota 1UZ-FE 4.0-litre V8. A fan of the German ’80s icon, Sean hadn’t been looking for V8 power, but, when this popped up already cert’d, he saw it as a good base on which to build his dream E30. It was in need of some TLC, but, being a high-school student, he would have to wait until he got his first full-time job before he could sink some coin into the project. In the meantime, though, he was probably only the only kid at his high school rocking a V8 on a daily basis.
The air-management system runs a set of polished custom hard lines to feed the tank, AccuAir A4, and Air Lift air bags. The system has a wireless remote and can even be controlled by an iPhone app.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Sean is mainly influenced by mostly European-based E30s, which led to the first of the big modifications, as he told us: “All of my favourite E30s are on air. That was the first major modification I did. Simon from Get Low imported and installed the kit.” Getting the E30 down was a simple bolt-in affair using Air Lift struts with adjustable dampers. Like most of the latest air-ride kits we feature these days, Sean opted for a complete height-management system, in this case, AccuAir. With three preset heights — low, lower, and slammed — it’s a no-brainer over the finicky switch box and separate valve blocks of the past.
Those kits were loud, high maintenance, and it was a battle to get the height perfect. Having the control that Sean now does is a good thing when the lip of the rim actually sits square on the guard when fully deflated.
It was around that time that the E30 received its first set of rims, though those BBS Rs were soon replaced with custom fifteen52 Tarmacs, then, more recently, with a set of custom Rotiforms. To say Sean has a thing for wheels would be a gross understatement — but his size preference certainly made it hard. “I get bored of wheels pretty easy, and wanted to go three-piece and have something that would pop against the paint more,” he explained. “I talked to just about every wheel company out there, but the problem is that no one really makes three-piece 16s any more. I ended up getting James from 360 Link to convince Brian from Rotiform to produce these.” We are unsure what James from 360 Link said — perhaps he has a stash of questionable photos of Brian, or maybe Brian thinks all Kiwis are like Jake the Muss; either way, Rotiform obliged and put together this one-off set using BBS lips and gold hardware.
To further customize them once they landed in New Zealand, the boys at GT Refinishers laid down some candy and gold leaf on the centre caps.
The boys were also charged with a complete facelift conversion last year. Now, it might be a bolt-on conversion up front, but the rear took a little more commitment, as the team had to graft in the in the rear sheet metal from a later E30 around the boot and tail lights.
This required a facelift E30 to donate its life to the cause. The tail lights Sean chose are rare BMW Motorsport items imported from Germany, along with the Bosch smiley headlights and an MTech wing. The last job at GT was the reshaping of the rear guards to suit the super-low ride height. It was then on to deciding a colour — a job we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. A four-month internal battle ensued as Sean went back and forth with his decision, eventually landing on custom candy red, sprayed over a silver base coat. “There are 10 coats all up I think, as I kept wanting it darker and darker. I was actually out of the country when he was spraying it so it was a little nerve-racking,” he said.
But, needless to say, Sean is hyped with how the exterior has turned out, and he has since shifted his focus inwards. First up, he went for a full interior retrim from Midnight Upholstery. Taking cues from the king of refinement, Singer, the front and rear seats were trimmed in a similar fashion to those beautiful Porsches. The front seats are actually Recaro fishnets from an Isuzu Bighorn that Sean scored for $100, and the rear is a not-so-common E30 variant with a centre armrest. As for the rest of the interior, it was kept all class in black — simple yet effective. The finishing touch, a vintage Momo Prototipo wheel.
Next on his hit list is attacking the engine bay. While the build has never been about all-out power or speed, and with the four litres there’s more than enough juice to decimate the factory equivalent, Sean still feels there is room for refinement, and he’s currently considering his plan of attack — individual throttle bodies (ITBs)? A supercharger? Who knows what he’ll end up with? We guess we will all have to wait and see. But, in the meantime, there is a long hot summer ahead of us, and Sean is ready to make the most of it with one push of the e-Level.
SEATS: (F) Retrimmed #Recaro LX, (R) retrimmed factory
STEERING WHEEL: #Momo Prototipo 350mm
INSTRUMENTATION: AccuAir e-Level
EXTRA: Custom headliner and carpet, custom boot set-up.
PAINT: Custom candy red by GT Refinishers
ENHANCEMENTS: Facelift conversion, IS front lip, IS sideskirts, custom front splitter, MTech 1 wing, German smiley headlights, German MHW tail lights, custom round Condor door handles.
GEARBOX: Toyota four-speed auto
DIFF: BMW E30
The body has recieved a facelift alongside some subtle upgrades such as the IS front lip and #MTech rear wing. Although it was bagged long before the facelift, yet the lip sits perfectly flush on the ground.
DRIVER/OWNER: Sean Clark
BUILD TIME: Four years
LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: Four years
THANKS: A huge thanks to GT Refinishers; Get Low Customs; Midnight Upholstery; Rotiform New Zealand; my mate Daniel, for listening to me stress over the smallest of things and helping out
Discovered in an Isuzu Bighorn bought for $100, the Recaro fishnets have been retrimmed by Midnight upholstery in a Singer style, with bronze rivet vents.
ENGINE: #Toyota-1UZ-FE , 4000cc, eight-cylinder
EXHAUST: Custom headers, dual 2.5-inch pipes into single muffler
COOLING: Fenix radiator
STRUTS: Air Lift Performance air ride, KYB rear shocks, #AccuAir-E-Level , #AccuAir #iLevel
BRAKES: (F) #Wilwood four-pot calipers, #StopTech rotors, Wilwood pads, braided lines; (R) factory
WHEELS: (F) 16x8.5-inch #Rotiform three-piece forged CCV, gold hardware; (R) 16x9.5-inch Rotiform three-piece forged CCV, gold hardware
TYRES: (F) 195/40R16 Falken, (R) 205/40R16 Falken
Fitting the Lexus into the engine bay required a set of custom headers and has left little room for anything else, which could become a problem if Sean does decide to supercharge down the track.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationBOOTYLICIOUS AUDI 100 GL C1 ARE YOU READY FOR THIS JELLY? SUITED AND BOOTED retro saloons through the decades / #1975 / #Audi-100-C1 / #Audi-100 / #Audi / #Audi-100GL / #Audi-100GL-C1 /
Audi 100 Is this the cleanest retro saloon on the planet? We’d certainly bet our last couple of Deutsche Marks on it!
Ruben Mellaerts’ Audi 100 is as clean as a surgeon’s slab and as sharp as his scalpel. But there’s so much more to this build than just rims, altitude and a dab of polish…
RETRO RIDE: AUDI 100
“The closer you look, the more delicious details you find”
Running a retro car means different things to different people. For some it’s about reliving the honest simplicity of a lost age; of maintaining an old car as a sort of rolling time capsule, keeping every element true to its original state. For others, it’s about using a cool old motor as a base to build something thrilling, optimised for modern use in a form that pre-dates moulded plastic bumpers and catalytic converters. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the former are all concours pedants and the latter are bloodthirsty jigsaw-wielders with no sense of heritage – us car geeks can’t be pigeonholed that easily. What it basically comes down to is that we all like driving old cars, and we all have different ideas about what happens under the skin. Right?
With that in mind, Ruben Mellaerts’ mission statement is clear: “I wanted to retain the classic look,” he explains, and it’s just as simple as that… except that, no, this ’1975 Audi is very far from simple. Ruben appears to be some sort of dark master of artifice, hiding in plain sight while he mischievously wisps a cloud of retro magic before your very eyes. Sure, at first glance this car may appear to be a shiny, original mid-seventies saloon that’s sitting artfully low, but the closer you look, the more delicious details you find yourself unearthing. If he just wanted to ‘retain the classic look’, he’d have carried out a straight resto, wouldn’t he? But these still waters, they run deep.
Ruben’s hoodwinking you with details, and you’ve inadvertently sleepwalked right into his cunning scheme. Don’t feel bad though, we all did just the same. But as the myriad tweaks unfurl, you’ll be so glad you did.
“I bought the Audi on the internet from two old people in Peer, here in Belgium,” he begins, with the world-weary look of a man who’s, y’know, seen things. “It was completely rusted on the inside and underneath the car, but it looked very good at the outside… that was the biggest problem!” He uses the word ‘problem’, but Ruben’s evidently not fazed by such trivialities – there’s no more mention of rust throughout the remainder of the conversation, it’s just implicit that he dealt with it in the manner of a mobster with a leaky informant. He just settled it, no questions asked.
“I did the deal with the old folks, poured in some fresh oil, drove it home, sorted it out,” he says, brilliantly enigmatically. The dude’s a pro.
Well, in fact that literally is the case, as the name RM Concept should demonstrate – for that is the name plastered across the bespoke air-ride setup. Yep, Ruben doesn’t just dabble in retro tinkering, he develops systems for others to buy too. And yes, that low-slung stance is indeed thanks to air-ride. “It’s running a custom RM Concept system,” he elaborates, “with shortened Bilstein dampers, my own bespoke uniball topmounts, twin Viair compressors and AccuAir valves.” The rear axle’s been shortened as well, owing to the fact that he’s bolted on some uber-scene-friendly rims that rock quite a lot more girth than stock; the fashionforward #BBS RS sixteens measure 7.5-inches apiece on the front axle, and a robust 8.5-inches out back.
Of course, any chump can pull off the simple ‘stop, drop and roll’ trick, jamming natty rims and suspension onto a stock old motor and letting that be that. But that’s very much not Ruben’s style. You know how we were talking about this car revealing more and more swanky details? Well, let’s dive in.
For starters, there’s the paint. It may look factory stock, but there’s a twist: “It’s a little bit different to the original,” Ruben grins. “It’s a bit of a secret, couple of shades of blue, little bit more iso green...” The exterior chrome has been refinished, with the bumpers neatly contemporised with carbonfibre end caps, and have you clocked the roof? Gorgeous bit of hot-rod lace paint there – it’s an old trick whereby you stretch a sheet of lace over the panel, fog it with a few light coats of contrasting paint, then remove it and enjoy the adoring gazes of passers-by. Lace paint is for winners.
Another mind-blowing element of the build resides beneath the bonnet. Now, your eyes may well already have flitted to the filthy shots of the spreadeagled bay, in which case you’ll have an inkling of what’s gone on: in essence, Ruben’s retained the stock 1,900cc motor (albeit fully rebuilt and treated to some shimmering chrome accoutrements), and focused on giving it the most sumptuous home it could possibly desire. The whole bay’s been shaved, smoothed, wire-tucked and painted to resemble the kind of scene you’d encounter if you dropped the engine from your 1/24-scale Airfix model into the bizarrely smooth lap of your unclothed Action Man figure. It’s all just improbably unadorned, aside from the all-action classic four-banger. Impressive, no?
But despite the huge amount of effort that’s been expended beneath the hood, that’s not actually Ruben’s favourite part of the build. “I just love the interior,” he smiles. “It was trimmed by R&R Autbekleding; the headrests and rear armrest were removed, and the seats covered in leather along with the centre console and doorcards.” It’s a magnificent job, the door trim wearing Bentley-style diamonds to imbue an element of the louche, while the seats feature studs that call to mind a wingback chair in the smoky corner of a 1920s London gentlemen’s club. It’s sort of meta-retro really, and the diamond/leather interface seemingly can’t be contained either, spilling across into the engine bay like some vast swarm of irrepressible opulence.
“It took about three or four months to get the car this way, working day and night on it, and in total it’s probably cost me about Ð12,000,” says Ruben. “But if customisation is in your blood, you cannot resist, can you? I had some ideas, and once I started working the ideas kept coming. In fact, I still have ideas, it’s not done yet; I’d like to have a completely new and much younger engine in there for more power, and do further work with leather and chrome.”
This is all entirely understandable. For people like Ruben, such things are never finished, they’re relentlessly subject to improvement. Which seems like an odd thing to say, because from the current standpoint, we reckon it’s pretty much perfect already. “I built the car with a lot of love,” he smiles. “She’s an old lady, and I treated her with respect. And people like the results, she’s a proper neckbreaker now!”
Observers certainly get a lot of time to check out those crisp lines, as Ruben loves to cruise low ‘n’ slow in this slick old-school barge. He may say that more power’s on the cards, but for now it’s exactly what it needs to be – a casual, low-slung badass, built unpretentiously to rumble as an art piece in the sunshine. Ruben’s definition of ‘retro’ is hard to argue with.
TECHICAL SPECIFICATIONS: ‘1975 Audi 100 C1
TUNING: 1.9-litre four-cylinder petrol, fully rebuilt, #Weber carb, optimised cooling, engine block painted, chromed air filter and cam cover, fully shaved, smoothed and wiretucked engine bay, 5-speed manual ’box
CHASSIS: 7.5x16- inch (front) and 8.5x16-inch (rear) #BBS-RS ceramic polished 3-piece split-rims with black hardware, #RM-Concept custom air-ride system with shortened #Bilstein dampers, bespoke uniball top-mounts, #AccuAir valves and 2x Viair 480c compressors, shortened rear axle, stock brakes painted in high gloss black
EXTERIOR: Fully repainted, chrome refinished, lace paint roof, carbon-fibre bumper end caps
INTERIOR: Custom leather retrim by R&R Autobekleding, headrests and rear armrests removed, period wood trim, new carpets, centre console trimmed in leather, sills trimmed in wood, custom leather doorcards, retro-styled MP3 stereo with Rockford Fosgate speakers, custom boot install comprising wood floor, compressors, air-tank and plumbed-in retro toolbox
Retro headunit is a master stroke! As is the classy retro toolbox.
Good job Ruben likes blue eh?
You could eat your waffle off that!
DRIVER: Ruben Mellaerts
You’ve got form with this sort of thing, then?
“Yes, my first car was a Mk3 Golf, and since then I’ve had a 3C Passat on air, a custom Mk5 Golf, I completely restored a Mk1 Golf, some scooters… and, of course, motorcycles. I love motorcycles.”
Why did you choose an Audi 100 C1 this time?
“It was love at first sight, and I wanted something unique.”
Anyone you want to thank? “Just me, myself and I…”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationCRAZY V8 ESPRIT / LOTUS ESPRIT / PUNK AND DISORDERLY
If you want to annoy the purists, what better way than a #V8 #Lotus-Esprit-S3 running on air ride and Jap wheels. A lot of people don’t like this Lotus. It’s got the wrong engine, the wrong suspension, the wrong attitude. But this Lotus doesn’t really care what you think, it’s got its own stuff going on… Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Chris Frosin.
It’s a matter of pride here at Retro Cars that we seek out cars which don’t follow the welltrodden path; the mavericks, the outlaws, the oddballs – the cars with a bona fi de punk ethos that thumb a nose to authority and cock a snook at the naysayers. There are plenty of people within the traditional classic car scene who’ll tell you that there is a correct way of doing things, and to deviate from the norm is to invoke their ire. But screw them.
Where’s the creativity in building a car that dozens of people have built before? Where’s the sense of achievement? The lifestyle we celebrate is one of brash weirdness, and they certainly don’t get a lot more brash or weird than Rob Howard’s Series 3 #Lotus-Esprit . We’re talking gruff supercar power, scene-friendly altitude, down-with-the-kids rims fresh from Japan… this is the polar opposite to a pipe-and- slippers concours resto. This is a punk collage, a scrapbook of ideas pasted together from all corners of the modifying world, and we couldn’t be more in love with it.
Now, we know what some of you will be thinking – ‘Oh, it’s another old Lotus on air-ride’. Sure, there are a few of these on the scene these days, and we’ve featured a couple of ’em ourselves; Dean Meeson’s Esprit and Luke Gilbert’s Elite. But if a surfeit of bagged Lotuses is the biggest problem you encounter today, then you should probably take a few minutes out to consider how damned lucky you are. Besides, this is very far from ‘just another old Lotus on air-ride’ – this is nothing short of a work of art.
“I’ve always been into cars, even when I was a kid,” says Rob. “I started working on cars when I was about fourteen years old, always wanting to change them, to fi t bigger engines and bigger wheels. I guess it’s in my blood? Anyway, the Esprit was my childhood dream car – James Bond driving into the sea had me hooked! Someone in my town had one when I was growing up, and I knew I just had to have one… one day.”
While Bond’s Lotus may have been modified to cope with the salty rigours of sub-aqua mischief, Rob’s would eventually end up taking an altogether different turn – but, of course, he had to find one first. And that sort of thing doesn’t always go as well as you might think.
“This is actually my second Esprit,” he explains. “The first one I had was a yellow Series 1, which had a Rover V8 already fitted. But it was crap – horrible to drive, and the 130bhp P6 engine was really underpowered. They do say ‘Never meet you heroes’, and I was just so disappointed with it.”
As you’ve probably deduced, however, Rob is not the sort of man who gives up easily. Having harvested the V8 conversion parts and squirrelled them away, he waved goodbye to the disheartening yellow cheese-wedge and went on the hunt for the car he’d really wanted all along: a white Series 3. “These have a much better chassis,” he explains, “and an improved rear suspension setup. Much better for sticking a V8 in there!” And, naturally , there’s that spectre of 007 lurking in the broad rear aspect, ready to indulge in racy espionage at the drop of a Martini glass…
“I found the car for sale on a Lotus forum, totally stock and needing a little work,” Rob recalls. “The exhaust manifold was cracked, and the interior was horrible; very faded and turning green! It ran crap but was perfect for my needs – and it was white! I had no use for the four-pot engine anyway, I already had an engine lined up to transplant into it. V8 power was, of course, at the top of the list for the project. I just love the sound. There’s no stereo in here, it doesn’t need one! And another high priority was the wheels; I hate stock wheels, very boring. This car needed to have something unusual. The Esprit is a tricky one to change wheels on though, and it can look horrible if you choose the wrong type or size. I got lucky, I think my wheels look killer – maybe I’m biased? But lots of people that see it also agree the wheels look great! Anyway, after the V8 and the wheels it was all about making it better and faster, and a tad lower…”
Heh. ‘A tad’. Rob really does run a masterful line in understatement. Being an avid fan of American hot rod shows of the Fast ‘N’ Loud ilk, air-ride was increasingly permeating its way into Rob’s subconscious as a viable option. Having experimented on various previous projects with lowering springs, coilovers and what-have-you, he knew what he wanted and, more importantly, what he didn’t want. There would be no crashy ride or smashed sumps here, this was going to be a suspension setup done right and done well. “I thought air-ride would be the best of both worlds,” he shrugs. “Any height I like, and any spring rate? What’s not to like? OK, it’s not quite as simple as that, and the ride is still fairly harsh, but it’s way lower than I could have got it by other means.” The most cunning part is that Rob’s combination of coilovers and Universal Air bags is managed by AccuAir’s E-Level system, which keeps the car at whatever height you determine regardless of external influence – so, say, if you tell it to run at a particular height, then stuff the boot and passenger seat with bags of cement, it’ll still run at that height you’d told it to. Isn’t it great living in the future?
The ride-height’s taken care of then, so let’s talk about that engine. It’s a Rover V8, like in his maligned old yellow Lotus, but in this instance it’s a pukka TVR unit. What’s more, it’s been stretched yet further into the realms of motorsport excess; the already-formidable 4.3-litre TVR Griffith engine has been reworked by V8 developments into a rumbling 4.5-litre monster. “I found a hillclimb car for sale that had this engine fitted, and I knew it’d be perfect for my Esprit,” Rob grins mischievously. If you cast an eye over the spec box, you’ll see why he’s grinning. The motor really is a monster, with a torque-rich spec designed for propelling light things up tall things at alarming speed. Just the job!
“Fitting the V8 was actually quite straightforward, using the gearbox adaptor I had kept from the Series 1,” he says. “I had to make new mounts and carry out a lot of cutting to the rear body to make room for the big-bore 3in twin exhaust, and things kept changing throughout the build as parts got altered and made better; more often things wouldn’t work out how I planned, so had to be reworked or changed completely. The exhaust was re-done three times before I got it how I wanted! The air-ride was a nightmare to fit too - getting it to go a lot lower than Lotus ever intended meant that, with a car that’s well over thirty years old, a lot of the suspension parts were a pain to remove due to neglect and rust. Jobs take a long time to do as it’s all done on my driveway; the car has spent most of its time on axle stands and in bits since I’ve owned it due to always changing things and waiting for parts. And I still have plans to improve the car, it’ll always be evolving and getting better. Working on cars is like childbirth - you forget the pain until you get the spanners out…”
Thank goodness Rob’s enthusiasm lies in modifying old cars rather than delivering babies, we’re a bit concerned about where he’s planning to stick his torque wrench. But thankfully his skills are entirely well suited to Esprit rebirth, as the results you see here demonstrate; sure, he says it’s unfinished, but that’s true of pretty much every feature car owner we speak to. We particularly love his choice of wheels, too – that James Bond influence of international mystique has led him to source a set of three-piece Super Star split-rims straight from Japan, the rears arriving 9in wide apiece and being rebuilt to a meaty 11.5in girth using Image 5in lips. That’s the sort of forthrightness that gives the car proper supercar presence, something that the old-school wedge always deserved.
“I like to get out in it as much as I can – when it’s working, that is,” Rob laughs. “It’s a Lotus, so something generally needs fixing, but it’s fun to take it to work and there’s always a buzz around it wherever it goes. My colleagues are always saying ‘I saw someone taking pictures of your car again’! And yeah, I know it’s annoyed a few Lotus purists, but who cares about them? It’s my car.”
…and that’s exactly the right attitude. This badass Esprit doesn’t care what you think, it just does what it wants. It doesn’t always work, but that doesn’t matter either. The Low-tus exists on its own terms, and that’s enough.
Monster 11.5in wide rear wheels transmit the 4.5 litre V8’s torque to the tarmac.
“Working on cars is like childbirth - you forget the pain until you get the spanners out…”
“The Esprit was my childhood dream car – James Bond driving into the sea had me hooked!”
James Bond eat your heart out, you can keep your submersible Esprit, we’d rather have this!
Thumping great V8 soundtrack means that Rob has no need for a stereo install.
SPECIFICATION #Lotus-Esprit-V8 / #Lotus-Esprit-V8-TVR / #Lotus-Esprit-TVR / #Lotus-Esprit / #Rover-V8 / #Lotus / #AccuAir /
ENGINE: 4.5-litre #TVR (Rover) #V8 , fully balanced, forged 93.5mm bore #Cosworth pistons and #HRC1037 rods, cross-drilled and balanced #HRC1400 Iceberg crank (80mm stroke), high-volume oil pump, Stage 3 big valve heads, stainless steel 42.8mm inlet and 36.8mm exhaust-valves, fully ported and gas flowed, uprated valve springs ( #VSSV8 ), Piper steel vernier timing chain set, #Piper-BP270 camshaft, Rhoades anti pump lifters, John Eales billet rocker posts and head stud kit, #Edelbrock-Performance inlet manifold - fully ported and gas-flowed to match heads, Edelbrock Performance 1404 (500cfm) 4-barrel #Weber carburettor, #K&N turbo plenum with large K&N cone filter, #Mallory Performance billet distributor with electronic ignition, #Mallory Pro 8mm plug leads and high output coil, TVR big bore exhaust manifolds reversed, twin 3in bore custom stainless steel exhaust system, Rover SD1 sump, Esprit Developments engine conversion kit, custom mounts and turbo rubbers, Sierra Cosworth 60mm core alloy radiator, twin electric 12in rear-mounted fans, Davies Craig EWP 80 pump and controller, extra cooling booster pump fitted at rear, Mocal remote oil filter and oil cooler rad, alloy header tank and swirl pot. 289bhp @ 5500rpm; 300lb/ft @ 4500rpm
TRANSMISSION: Esprit/Citroën SM 5-speed transaxle, alloy bellhousing adaptor and custom input shaft, lightened race steel flywheel, uprated clutch
SUSPENSION: #Gaz-Gold-Racing / #GAZ adjustable front alloy coilovers, #Protech rear alloy coilovers, Universal-Air Aero Sport airbags, #AccuAir-E-Level management, #Air-Zenith-OB2 compressor, #Dakota-Digital quad air pressure and tank gauge kit, twin seamless alloy 3-gallon air tanks, front top and bottom suspension arms modified, uprated polybushes, hubs modified to 5x112 PCD and 66.6 centre bore, Canley Classics forged front uprights (trunnion free)
BRAKES: Front: Audi 100/200 314x30mm cross-drilled vented discs, custom fitted to rear of hubs, Porsche 996 Brembo 4-pot alloy calipers on custom billet mounts.
Rear: Mondeo 280x12mm cross-drilled and slotted discs custom fitted to rear shafts, Esprit rear calipers, carriers modified for larger discs, stainless braided hoses
WHEELS & TYRES: 8x17in +25 (front) and 11.5x17in +20 (rear) Super Star 3-piece split-rims with 205/45 Yokohama Parada Spec 2 (front) and 315/35 BFGoodrich Comp T/A (rear)
EXTERIOR: Side scoop ‘ears’ widened and modified into quad intakes, rear hatch locked ajar with flush-locking bonnet pins, modified front air intake and revised radiator location, rear bumper drilled to improve airflow output, rear engine bay floor removed, extra spaceframe chassis brace fitted with alloy heatshielding
INTERIOR: Stock ‘teddy bear’ cloth refreshed with black dye, #Nardi Personal 350mm steering wheel, MX-5 suede gearstick gaitor, leather #Lotus gearknob, Stack wideband lambda gauge, #Dakota-Digital air pressure gauge, SJ Sportscars black carpet set, Accuair Switchspeed controller
THANKS: “ #Gerald-Moors for all the machining work - A4 Engineering, Unit 7 Manor Park, 35 Willis Way, Poole, BH15 3SZ, Tel:¬01202 676047”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationLAST CHANCE SALOON
This stunning bagged E60 lays the visual smackdown. The E60 is not a car you often see modified, but this example makes up for that in a big way… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Matt Petrie.
When it comes to BMWs, we like them all ways; we like ones that are subtly improved upon and retain their originality but we’re also keen on ones that have just been pushed to the limit and that just come along and smack you in the mouth. Ramiro Sangco’s E60 525i is most definitely the latter because, let’s be honest, there’s not a shred of subtlety or discretion about it. And that’s a good thing. But before we start digging into the details of the car, we’d like to discuss the owner…
What’s wonderful about the modified BMW community is that age ain’t nothin’ but a number. We’re sure Ramiro won’t mind us mentioning the fact that he’s a touch north of 40 and, looking around the office at people of a similar vintage, that’s the sort of age where you settle into some sort of comfortable, sensible, practical saloon or estate, probably diesel (on this side of the Pond). Or maybe you go for some discreet, grown-up performance in the shape of an M5 or something similar. But not Ramiro. This is partly because once you’re into modified machinery it’s awfully hard to go cold turkey, and partly because, as the owner of MODjunkies Motorsports, he couldn’t possibly be driving around in something drab and dull and standard. Oh no, that would never do.
The journey to massively-modified E60 began with a 1991 Acura (Honda) Integra, took in a seriously-played-with 1994 Honda Del Sol (which was featured in numerous magazine articles) and a Mercedes C320 that was involved in an accident. The latter car and incident set Ramiro looking for some new wheels and that led him squarely to the doors of BMW, a brand he has been interested in since the early ’90s and one he’s always wanted to own. “Originally I had my heart set on buying a 7 Series,” he says, explaining his choice of BMW. “After doing research on the availability of aftermarket products for the 7 platform, I discovered that there were more parts available for the 5 Series. That made it easy for me to change my mind and go with the E60.”
Unlike a lot of our feature car owners, Ramiro at least knew that he was going to be modifying his BMW, but like almost everyone else he hadn’t planned on taking things quite this far…
“My initial plan was to go with a simple setup which included a front lip, wheels and lowering suspension. Because of my association with the automotive industry, I could not just stick to the original plan. I could not stop myself from doing so much more,” he laughs. “The car was modified in stages with the help from my friends at Infinite Auto Design in Bellflower, California, and a good friend, Ernie Corrales, with each lending a hand in gutting the car down to its shell and slowly building it to its current state.” This gives you a rough idea of just how much work has gone into creating this monster of an E60.
So, where to start? Well, the wheels are arguably the most striking aspect of the entire build, so that seems as good a place as any to begin. Like many of us, Ramiro knew from the outset that he didn’t want to follow the crowd when it came to wheel choice; he wanted something different for his build, and he’s certainly achieved that with these beauties. “With the help of my friend Brian Garin from Infinite Auto Design, I decided to custom build my wheels,” he says. The forged, three-piece wheels feature a classic cross-spoke design, gunmetal centres and vibrant copper outer barrels measuring 20-inches in diameter, a hefty 9.5 inches wide up front, and 11 inches at the rear – really filling out the E60’s big arches and nicely offsetting that large rear quarter panel. Wrapped around those gorgeous wheels is some Falken rubber, the 235 and 255 sizes selected to deliver the optimum amount of stretch to see the combo neatly and safely tucked up inside the arches. And for that to happen, you need some air suspension on board your ride.
“I originally installed a coilover suspension kit on my car but was not satisfied with the stance of the vehicle and it was hard for me to drive in and out of driveways and over speed bumps,” explains Ramiro. The most obvious solution was to go down the air-ride route which, after doing his research, is precisely what he ended up doing. The strut and airbag assemblies are from D2 Racing while the management is Accuair’s e-Level height-based system. There’s an extremely smart install in the boot, comprising a pair of 2.2-gallon aluminium air tanks from Speciality Suspension, finished in metallic grey, copper hard pipes and twin 444c Viair compressors, all mounted on a piece of wood with an analogue pressure gauge between the tanks adding the finishing touch. Ramiro has also added a pair of Eibach anti-roll bars.
A quick glance at the exterior will tell you that this is not your common-or-garden E60 and an in-depth study of the spec list will tell you why. When it comes to styling this E60 has had more work done than you can shake a stick at with a real mix of parts but everything comes together so well and the end result is a sheer visual spectacle.
The bulk of the styling is made up of the Duraflex kit which compromises a 1M front bumper (arguably one of the most aggressive BMW bumpers around), M5 side skirts and a rear bumper. The front bumper has been filled with a diamond-cut mesh grille from Extreme Dimensions and a custom carbon fibre lip, and there’s a vented, bare carbon fibre bonnet by VIS Racing, complete with power bulge. Those side skirts have been embellished with a set of custom carbon side splitters, which seem to be very popular these days, and these are complemented by a pair of rear carbon splitters from Carbon Creations which cling purposefully to the edges of the rear bumper. At the back you’ll also find a Hamann roof spoiler and a CSL-style carbon fibre bootlid by VIS Racing, with just a sliver of carbon on show. The whole lot has been painted in Infinite grey with a fourlayer chromo clear coat. The colour might be a slightly unusual choice but it looks fantastic, a sort of warm grey that works really well with the wheels and various carbon elements, and is just different enough from a regular white to catch your eye and pique your interest. All the styling elements work so well together and this E60 looks like a slice of pure aggression. Heck, even the BMW Performance roof rack looks good and adds a quirky touch to the whole affair.
Unsurprisingly, the interior has been given just as much attention as the exterior and it’s all rather lavish now. “I wanted my interior to have a rich yet sporty look,” explains Ramiro, “which made it easy to decide to go with the full custom interior.
The seats and panels are upholstered in leather and perforated suede with a custom double-stitched diamond pattern. There’s also suede on the headliner and steering wheel and I’ve added carbon fibre accents throughout the interior, which give it a little bit of a sporty look.” The combination of suede, leather and carbon-wrapped elements is indeed both sporty and sumptuous and really takes the cabin to a whole new level of luxury and ensures the inside looks and feels just as special as the outside.
Finally, we come to the engine and, while the 2.5-litre M54 straight-six under the bonnet might not be a particularly fire-breathing powerplant with a large range of aftermarket upgrades available, Ramiro has added a freeflowing intake and a plug ’n’ play Sprint Booster to get it performing at its best. This, then, is a really magnificent 5 Series, the kind of car that makes you sit up and take notice and it has clearly been built by someone who knows what they are doing as everything, from the styling to the colour and wheels, marries together perfectly. As exciting as it may have been to look at, Ramiro is clearly not one to rest on his laurels as, since the photoshoot, the car’s been given a complete makeover, with a new front bumper, side skirts, head and taillights, and a new colour for the wheel lips. By his own admission, Ramiro says that the car is never finished and we expect even wilder things in the future for this roller coaster ride for the eyes.
Extremely elegant air-ride install features twin metallic grey 2.2-gallon air tanks, copper hardpipes and an analogue pressure gauge; custom Infinite Auto Design wheels boast copper lips and look absolutely stunning.
TECHNICAL DATA Air-ride / #BMW-E60 / #BMW-525i / #BMW-525i-E60 / #AccuAir-E-Level / #BMW
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M54B25 / #M54 / #BMW-M54 , #AFE air intake and filter, Sprint Booster, custom exhaust to fit dual exhaust bumper utilising #Magnaflow components, six-speed auto’ gearbox #ZF6HP / #ZF
CHASSIS 9.5x20” (front) and 11x20” (rear) Infinite #Auto-Design custom three-piece forged wheels with gunmetal cross-spoke centres and copper lips with 235/30 (front) and 255/35 (rear) Falken Azenis FK453 tyres, D2 Racing air-ride, #AccuAir #AccuAir-E-Level management, #Eibach anti-roll bars, #StopTech slotted discs, performance brake pads and braided stainless steel lines (front and rear)
EXTERIOR Infinite grey with Dupont four-layer chromo clear coat, Duraflex body kit comprising 1M front bumper, M5 rear bumper, M5 side skirts, Extreme Dimensions diamond cut mesh grille, VIS Racing XTS carbon fibre bonnet and CSL-style carbon bootlid, Hamann rear roof spoiler, custom carbon fibre front lip and side splitters, Carbon Creations rear splitters, #BMW-Performance roof rack, Spyder Auto head and tail-lights, custom front LED bumper lights
INTERIOR Seats retrimmed in leather and perforated suede with double stitched diamond pattern, suede headliner, OE steering wheel custom wrapped in suede, OE shift knob wrapped in 3M carbon fibre, custom suede shift gaiter, AC Schnitzer pedals, handbrake handle and gaiter, panels in suede with double stitched diamond pattern and 3M carbon fibre wrap, 3M carbon fibre-wrapped dash trims, Cadence sub and mid bass amps, subwoofers and mid-range speakers, twin 2.2-gallon seamless Speciality Suspension aluminium air tanks, twin #444c #Viair compressors
THANKS Infinite Auto Design (www.infiniteautodesign.com), Duraflex (www.duraflexpbushes.com), Carbon Creations (www.carbon-creations.com), Magnaflow (www.magnaflow.com), Stoptech (www.stoptech.com), Cadence Audio (www.cadencesound.com), D2 Racing (www.d2racing.com), Falken Tire (www.falkentire.com), VIS Racing (www.visracing.com), LR Auto Body, Art Induced, Accuair (www.accuair.com), and special thanks to my family and my friends (you know who you are) for all the support and especially the patience
“I wanted my interior to have a rich yet sporty look…”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationSHOWOMAN SHIP BAGGED #BMW Z4
Jaw-dropping wide-body roadster. With her bagged wide-body Z4, this young lady can teach the boys a thing or two about modding. You want show-stopping, jaw-dropping, eye-popping? This Z4 delivers all that, and even more… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Kevin King Uy.
Take a good look at this Z4. Drink in the details, the extravagance and the sheer amount of modifications. Regardless of whether or not it’s to your style or taste, it’s one hell of a build, and it was built by a 22-year-old college student. Not only that, but this isn’t just Monique Song’s first project car, it’s her first ever car. Where the hell do you go from there?
By her own admission, Canadian Monique was not particularly interested in BMs or even European cars. “When I was deciding on my first car, I looked into a lot of different models and asked around for suggestions. At first I thought about getting a GTR, then looked into buying a Dodge Charger because it would be pretty badass to drive the same muscle car as the police, then I looked at Mustangs… This Z4 wasn’t planned, I’d never even thought of a European car until I walked into a BMW dealership. A family friend knew the sales guy there so we went to visit. While we were chatting and looking up inventories, a blue Z4 3.5i came in and it fitted my needs. I liked that fact that it was a convertible so I could enjoy the sun, and that it was small and girly, which suits me. I see the car as a little sister who accompanies me wherever I go, so I named her ‘Hitomi’ – it’s Japanese, meaning ‘eyes, the eye that sees pretty things, the beauty and wisdom’. I think a Z4 should be a girl and I want her to be a beautiful, smart girl.
“I didn’t have a plan when I first got the car. I barely knew how to mod it at first and this project has been a learning process for me. There’s still lots to improve but for my first modified car, but I think I’m doing well.
Speaking of modification plans, if I had had a plan while choosing this car, I wouldn’t have bought an E89 as there are barely any aftermarket parts for this model,” she says, but looking at her Z4 you’d hard pressed to tell. As these things often do, Monique began with a set of wheels, Vossen CVTs, before things started getting more serious. “After fitting the wheels, I realised the wheel gap was too big. It looked like the car was tiptoeing, so I lowered it on bags and worked a lot stuff on top of this, including camber arms, to make the fitment more satisfying.”
The ensuing year-and-a-half resulted in the car you see before you now. As Monique has already touched on her choice of suspension, that seems as good a place as any to start dissecting this build. Her reasoning for going with air was simple: “What suspension lowers the car but can also easily get over speed bumps? Air suspension!” she exclaims. “It wasn’t until I started seriously researching air suspension that I realised how good bagged cars can look. However, there were no E89s on bags at the time, which meant I had to be ‘the first to eat a crab’. It’s a Chinese saying…”
Monique went for the E36 Air Lift air-ride suspension components along with a Megan Racing E85 Z4 camber arm kit and had them custom-fitted to her E89. For management, she went with AccuAir with the controller nicely nestling in her clip-on cup holder.
The air-ride steered the direction of the rest of the build, and from that point on Monique knew her Z4 was going to be a stance car, and that dictated the styling too. “I’ve seen lots of photos online of the Duke Dynamics project Z4 in Japan and I decided that that was what I wanted for my car. It has some GT3-inspired elements to it but the kit is clean looking and not too crazy for street driving. The only thing missing on the kit is a lip. Luckily, Duke Dynamics is based in Vancouver and I managed to get in touch with the owner who made a carbon fibre lip just for my order,” she says.
The Duke kit replaces all the OE body panels, meaning nothing needed to be cut and everything can be reversed if Monique ever changes her mind. “Lots of people ask me if my car is an M model or some sort because it looks more like from factory than a bolt-on wide-body,” she adds. “Unfortunately, the actual fitment of the kit isn’t very good. Europa fitted the kit for me and it took the team there a month and a half to put it together, but they really did their best to make it what it is right now. The kit contains almost all of the pieces except doors, mirrors and the hard-top.
“Painting the kit isn’t much different than painting the whole car so I thought I’d change the colour to create a more dramatic makeover. I loved the original blue too much to remove it all, so I decided on white with a small amount of blue pearl, which really comes through in the light.”
There was still something missing, though… “After staying on the ground with this kit for a while, I noticed the rear bumper was too high up in the air while the front lip was right against the ground. So I got side skirts and a GT3-style diffuser custom-made by Aero Flow Dynamics when I was in LA, and that really helped the car to look even lower when it was on the ground.” The finishing touch involved wrapping the roof to give the illusion of having a soft-top on the car. “I got the idea from the velvet-wrapped cars I’d seen,” explains Monique. “I got the roof wrapped in black velvet when I had the car in LA. The wrapping guys were all confused as to why I wanted that material but after it was done they knew the reason. It really looks like soft-top! I get a lot of questions about it because a lot of people have never seen anything like it!” she laughs.
The styling, however, is no laughing matter as this Z4 is obscenely aggressive. Up front there’s that big splitter and at the rear sits that vicious diffuser – literally, as it has claimed countless ankles whilst parked – with its curved fins below that swathe of carbon fibre. It has to be said that the widebody itself is relatively subtle, no doubt thanks to the fact that the panels are all new rather than piggy-backing on the standard body. The work put in by Europa to get the fit and finish perfect has certainly paid off. Even the most comprehensively styled car is only half done if it’s on the wrong wheels, and with that kit (not to mention the fat arches that needed filling) the Vossens simply weren’t going to cut it anymore. “I like blue and wanted to keep more blue elements throughout the car, so the wheel colour had to be blue. I also needed something in a negative offset to fit the wider body so my choice was narrowed down to custom ordering a set of threepiece wheels. Thanks to Europa Auto Design and SR Auto, I got a pretty good deal with PUR Wheels; the LG02 design I went for just came out not long ago and it’s something I’ve never seen before. It’s very unique and it doesn’t have too many spokes which makes cleaning a nightmare.”
The 19” LG02s look awesome in blue, the angular spoke design definitely stands out from the crowd. The centres are complemented by the Mevius neon blue lug bolts, with mirror polished stepped lips and polished bolts, and the small matter of the massive six-pot Brembo front brake kit visible through the spokes.
The big brakes are not overkill because this Z4 is not just for show – under that long bonnet sits the vastly tunable twin-turbo N54 straight-six, just ripe for a few go-faster parts strapped to it, so it would have been rude of Monique not to indulge. “It started with a ride in a friend’s Subaru STI. I saw this cool COBB Accessport gauge and decided to get one for my car. After reading the manual I found that if I wanted to go to a higher stage, I needed lots of other stuff. I ordered AR Design downpipes soon after, then got an aFe intake from my friend’s 335i.
I got the silencer removed so the car is basically straight-piped now, which sounds amazing and the exhaust gets a lot of attention. At the end of 2014 I got a sponsor deal from STETT Performance for its FMIC, chargepipe and a blue Tial BOV. I then did some engine dress-up, adding coloured bolts and a custom painted engine cover.” That comprehensive list of engine mods means that Monique has at least 400hp to play with, meaning the Z4 has the performance to back up its neck-snapping looks.
If you thought the exterior was loud, you’d best get your earplugs in because things certainly don’t get any quieter inside. The blue-and-white theme has been carried over to the interior with unbridled enthusiasm and dedication, and it really helps to tie the whole build together.
Originally, Monique’s Z4 had been spec’d with some questionable wood trim, which she unsurprisingly felt didn’t belong in a sporty roadster, so she had it wrapped in brushed blue, which looks fantastic, as do the Bride single-piece buckets.
“Initially, I got a pair of bucket seats from Status Racing, but it wasn’t a great experience. Not only was the product not what I asked for, but the company also sent me the wrong base mounts. It doesn’t have them for the E89 but claimed that E85s and E89s use the same ones, which is not possible at all, as not a single hole lined up.
The seats were also too wide for the small Z4 and rubbed against the door and centre console. Bride was the only company that had the correct base mount for my car so I got the mount from there instead. Also, at the time, a friend was selling his Bride Zeta 3 and Zeta 2 seats so I got both from him. Thankfully, when I later attended SoCal, I met up with another friend who swapped their Zeta 3 for my Zeta 2 and I now I have a matching pair.”
Monique had similar woes when it came to finding the right steering wheel, as she explains: “I got a Vertex Seven Star steering wheel because I loved its stitching design and the red, blue and white colour combo. It was sitting in the living room for the whole winter until spring, when it was finally warm enough for the heated steering wheel to go away. I couldn’t find a steering wheel hub for my car so I tried to fit the E90 Momo hub and it worked. After fitting the blue quick release boss from Worksbell, I realised that the Vertex’s deep dish style made the steering wheel too close to me and too far for me to reach the turn signals comfortably. I had it in the car for 15 minutes before deciding to get a flat-faced one. Luckily, I was in LA at the time and Evasive Motorsports has lots of steering wheels in stock so I walked in, picked up a Personal Pole Position one and that’s what I’ve got in the car now.”
We mustn’t forget about the air install in the boot; Monique’s favourite modification on the car. “It’s nothing as crazy as those cars with mass amounts of hardlines and lights,” she says, “but I played with the word ‘bagged’. The air tank was painted as a NOS tank and sits inside a bag. It looks hidden in a natural way. Since I still drive the car quite often, I need a functional trunk. With the bag as protection, I can slide things in without worrying about breaking any pipes.”
Monique has put a huge amount of work into this car and not only was the experience most definitely a learning curve, having unknowingly chosen to modify a car with so little aftermarket support made the whole experience that much tougher, but she persevered and can now enjoy the fruits of her labours. It’s certainly not a shy, subtle build, but it is an incredibly comprehensive one. This is a build with no stone left unturned. It is an astonishing achievement for someone so young with no prior experience of the modifying world and in one fell swoop she’s put the efforts of a lot of older, more experienced people out there to shame. We can’t wait to see what she does for her next trick…
This Z4 has quite literally been bagged, with the fun boot install both a talking point and good way of keeping the hardware protected.
Blue-and-white theme carried over to the interior, with trims wrapped in brushed blue, and Bride seats.
DATA FILE Air-ride / #BMW-E89 / #BMW-Z4 / #BMW-Z4-E89 / #BMW-Z4-Air-ride-E89 / #BMW /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six #N54B30 / #BMW-N54 / #N54 , Stett Performance front mount intercooler, Stett Performance charge pipe with white paint, #Tial BOV, #COBB-Tuning #AccessPort-V3-Stage-2 , AR-Design cat-less downpipe, #aFe Magnum Force Stage 2 Pro 5R intake system, Downstar accessories including blue engine dress-up bolts, custom painted engine cover and power braces, custom muffler delete exhaust, burnt titanium quad tips, six-speed automatic gearbox.
CHASSIS 9.5x19” (front) and 11x19” (rear) PUR LG02 three-piece wheels with candy blue faces and polished lips with 225/35 (front) and 265/30 (rear) Falken FK452 tyres, custom fit #AirLift-Performance E36 air suspension, #AccuAir #AccuAir-E-Level management system with custom ‘bagged’ trunk setup, custom-fit Megan Racing E85 Rear control arm, #Mevius neon blue lug bolts, #Brembo GT six-piston front big brake kit.
EXTERIOR #AutoTechnic matte black kidney grilles, Duke Dynamics full widebody kit (front bumper, front wings, side skirts, rear fenders, rear bumper), Duke Dynamics power-vented hood, carbon fibre rear diffuser, #CSL bootlid, custom carbon fibre front lip, Aero Flow Dynamics custom side diffusers, Aero Flow Dynamics custom rear diffuser, custom paint using white base with blue pearl, hard top velvet vinyl wrapped, 88% window tint, tail-light tint, #LuxAngeleyes H8 V4, #WeissLicht LED white turn signal bulbs, interior xenon bulbs, custom boot switchable ambient lights.
INTERIOR Brushed blue vinyl interior trim wrap, #Bride seat rails, #Bride-Zeta-3 bucket seats, Bride head cushions, Bride blue fashion protectors, 350mm Personal-Pole-Position steering wheel, blue #Worksbell Rapfix 2 quick release, Momo steering wheel hub for E90/E92 custom-fit to E89.
THANKS Europa Auto Design, SR Auto Group, PUR Wheels, NightRunner International and all of my sponsors. Also to all of the shops that I’ve been to and friends who have offered valuable help in any form. Most importantly, thank you to my parents for accepting their daughter’s hobby even though they don’t really like it.
The car sounds amazing and the exhaust gets a lot of attention.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationEVERY CLOUD… #BMW-525e / #BMW-525e-E28 / #BMW-E28 / #BMW /
This show-stopping E28 has gone from rags to riches. Words: Josh Wilson. Sometimes your dream purchase can turn out to be a bit of a nightmare. Fortunately, a bit of TLC can make all the difference, as this sexy E28 demonstrates. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.
“Something about the lines and old-school styling grabbed my attention right away”
Finding the right car for pouring our hard earned wages into can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to vintage chassis. Scouring for sale ads, dealing with sellers and getting all the details can be a bit of a chore but at some point we reach the rewarding conclusion and find ‘the one’. For some we get exactly what was expected in our newly purchased project car but others, like Rob Amason, find themselves desperately seeking a silver lining when a purchase tailspins into a downward spiral. In 2011, Rob began the search for his next project after migrating from the Volkswagen scene to the BMW community. Originally Rob was set on an elegant white five-speed E34 but during the search came across a well-maintained E28 and thoughts of owning an E34 became a distant memory.
“Something about the lines and old-school styling grabbed my attention right away,” he explained. “I immediately started daydreaming about the possibilities of what the car could become.”
Once Rob had made contact with the owner he quickly realised that he was speaking to a devoted BMW enthusiast who had decided to let go of his E28 as he had moved to newer models. Even though the owner was keen to sell the car he didn’t want to sell it to just anyone. He had found it sitting under a tree years ago and nursed it back to health and the thought of some young kid buying the car and just hacking it up made him cringe.
So in the end, it took Rob two months of trading emails and calls trying to coax the owner to sell the E28. His persistence finally paid off, though, and he became the owner of what he thought would be the perfect base for his build. But after his E28 rolled off of the car hauler fresh from California, Rob found himself with a car that wasn’t in the condition that the previous owner had stated.
He quickly noticed that the respray lacked quality, the interior had more wear than the pictures revealed and the Style 5s that came with the car were beyond saving due to being chipped and kerbed. The beginning of his build had begun with heartbreak but then came the silver lining: under the cheap paint was a body that was completely rust-free. Even the floor was intact.
The exterior of this classic looking E28 has been kept clean, showcasing its timeless body lines. Rob carried out a full respray in the original Royal Blau that this car would have come off the production line with back in 1988. He also did us all a favour by tossing the original US-spec bumpers in the dumpster and replacing them with European-spec items, which we think help massively clean up the look of not just this but all older BMWs. Other accents like Euro headlamps, Euro grilles and Euro all-red tail lamps were added to complete the look.
Next on Rob’s ‘to-do’ list was the interior as he wasn’t a fan of the original pearl beige and black interior. The car was completely gutted with the help of Will Villegas – a fellow enthusiast. Recaro Evo 8 front seats and a rear seat from an M5 now reside inside his E28 which have been completely reupholstered along with the doorcards, handles and gear gaiter. Custom upholstery seems to be hard to pull off in vintage BMWs but Rob has managed to give the interior a fresh look while still keeping the overall feel of the car the same, a seemingly simple task that is rarely accomplished as well as this.
The biggest challenge for Rob to tackle was the air suspension. Today, finding an air setup for older BMWs is a pretty simple task but back in 2011 before the air suspension explosion it was not so easy. The only E28 on air at this time, in the States at least, was the infamous Rusty which was built by Mike Burroughs who has graced these very pages.
Knowing that Mike’s setup was a one-off setup, Rob enlisted the expertise of Drew Dorbritz from Dorbritz Design in Texas. Rob and Drew sat down and brainstormed what they hoped to accomplish and also what options existed out there to use as a base. Once they had done the groundwork, they worked alongside performance air suspension specialist Air Lift to create a setup with a balance of form and function.
This pioneering work would also serve as a roadmap for future E28 and E30 owners looking to do similar modifications. As you can imagine, in order to get an E28 with its control arms sitting on the pavement it was necessary to carry out some fabrication work, mainly due to the stock spindles and struts. However, despite the low ride height no modifications to the E28’s body was required, leaving the elegant lines unmolested. To manage the Air Lift suspension, Rob went with Accuair’s eLevel Air Management which is tucked away – adding to the car’s clean composition.
Speaking of being tucked away, Rob has been through a multitude of wheels with this E28 but currently the BMW is sitting on a set of chrome Rotiform SJC Race wheels. These fill the arches nicely as they measure 9x17” in each corner. Peeking out behind those eye-grabbing Rotiforms is a custom Futura Design Big Brake Kit up front with E32 750iL brakes helping out in the rear.
Even with all the upgrades to the suspension, interior, and drivetrain Rob still loves the fact that this E28 still has that oldschool feel. “I love all the quirky little things that come with being the caretaker of an antique class car,” he told us with a big smile. “The fact that sometimes I have to give the dash a gentle tap to get the lights to turn on or that in cold weather I have to allow the car to warm up a bit before getting on the road doesn’t matter at all.
That’s what I like about it! It has real character. I even love the smell of the interior… it’s a scent that only a 26-year-old car can give you.” We agree, it’s an encompassing experience that carmakers can only dream to achieve with their modern offerings. It’s a shame that some will never experience it as they don’t see it as character, rather it’s an inconvenience. It’s been a three-year love affair for Rob and his beautiful #1988 E28, a journey that began with its troubles but has resulted in a resurrection of a beloved chassis with an elegant aura. For Rob, though, it has been more than just building and restoring this E28 as he’s made some good friends through his hobby. “Thankfully this build has helped introduce into my life a great number of relationships that I normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enjoy,” he said. “And while I built this car with a specific vision in mind, it was also with determination that I wanted to build something that was a true reflection of who I am as a person and something that everyone could appreciate. There is never an instance where everyone will be satisfied with what you’ve done but when I take account the relationships that have been forged over this build, the best trophy of all as been the friendships I’ve made.”
ENGINE: 2.7-litre straight-six #M20B27 / #M20 / #BMW-M20 , upgraded head with 885 casting and dual-valve springs, upgraded camshaft, upgraded intake and exhaust valves, upgraded harness and ECU to 173 #Bosch-Motronic with performance chip, powdercoated intake manifold and valve cover, fully polished and upgraded throttle body.
CHASSIS: 9x17” ET10 (front and rear) #Rotiform / #Rotiform-SJC Race wheels with 3” lips and Falken Ziex tyres. #Air-Lift-Universal-Double-Bellow bag with air strut (front), #Air-Lift Universal Sleeve Bag air strut (rear), #AccuAir #eLevel air management system with rocker control, Dual polished tanks with hardlines in custom trunk enclosure, Dual chrome #Viar silent compressors, custom #Futura-Design Big Brake Kit with two-piece discs with anodised blue hats, calipers powdercoated in #Alpine white with blue logos (front), drilled and grooved discs (front), stainless brake hoses (front), new master cylinder, rear brakes upgraded to E32 750iL brakes.
EXTERIOR: Full European conversion comprising Euro front and rear bumpers, Euro headlamps, front Euro grill, rear Euro all-red tail lamps.
INTERIOR: Custom Recaro Evo 8s (front), custom M5 rear seats, custom doorcards, handles and gear gaiter, NRG quick release steering wheel hub and adapter, NRG Wood grain steering wheel and matching gear knob.
AUDIO: #Sony GS Series Audio with XS-GS1720 and XSGS1720S speakers, 12” XS-GS120LD DVC subwoofer, XM-GS400 4/3/2 channel amplifier, XM-GS100 Class D subwoofer amplifier, MEX-BT4100P Bluetooth receiver with Pandora, custom sub and amp enclosure built by German Audio Specialists.
THANKS: First and foremost, I’d like to thank my sons who’ve spent their fair share of hours handing me wrenches, cleaning parts and pushing it in and out of the garage when it wasn’t running. Those friends that took time from their own busy schedules to turn a wrench here and there in exchange for beer and laughter: Will Villegas, Greg Strube, Drew Dorbritz and Team16NiSS. My supports: Meguiars, Futura Designs, German Audio Specialists, Sony Audio, #UndergroundGrfx , Accuair , Kustomz Unlimited and Dorbitz Designs Kustom Shoppe. Special thanks to Courtney Cutchen for the photography work, Josh Wilson for the literary work and CAtuned for the opportunity.
Custom Futura Design BBK sits behind 9x17” Rotiform SJC Race wheels, which tuck perfectly when aired-out.
Easily one of the shiniest air-ride boot builds we’ve seen, with polished hardpipes galore, and it’s immaculate.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationBreaking the Mould / #Vauxhall / #Opel / #2015
Nope, we haven’t made a typo, this really is a VXR-R… find out why in the feature.
HOT RIDE: ASTRA VXR
WORDS JARKLE PHOTOGRAPHY CHRIS WALLBANK
AN ASTRA VXR WITH AIR RIDE, 20IN VOSSENS AND A HEALTHY 321BHP...
It took Vauxhall a long time to make their mind up regarding their range-topping brand. While the boys in Essex decided that ‘RS’ should be their undisputed halo range in the ‘60s, Luton took rather longer and straight up dithered. Between the ‘70s and the early part of the 21st century we were treated to HSs, HSRs, SRis, GSis, Turbos and finally, the VXR. This indecision undoubtedly enabled Ford to steal a march on Vauxhall, and it’s only relatively recently that the latter’s VXR range has begun to approach the levels of appreciation enjoyed by other comparable brands. Still, the VXR brand has delivered some seriously cool cars over the last decade and a bit, everything from bonkers re-badged Holdens to stupidly powerful family vans (take a bow Zafira VXR), and it just keeps on delivering.
Top of the tree has to be the latest Astra J VXR, a car that bristles with tech, looks fantastic, re-defines what a performance front-wheel drive Vauxhall can do, and can go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Focus RS. Then we have the example here, a car bought brand new by Bryn Williams in 2014.
“I’m known for driving my cars pretty hard and for going through a fair few gearboxes,” Bryn explains with a grin. “My last car was a Corsa SRi that I slowly converted to full VXR spec and I destroyed a fair few M32 gearboxes on that, so I wanted a car with a warranty.”
Various Corsas were weighed up and rejected before Bryn finally settled on the all new VXR, put his deposit down, jumped in the car and drove direct to Thorney Sport to well and truly void said warranty. What started out with a discussion about the pros and cons of Stage 1 tuning ended with Bryn driving off in an Astra boasting one of the firm’s Stage 3 VXR-R packages. While this doesn’t involve any alteration of the internals or turbo, it does see the Astra given a stage 3 remap, induction work and free-flowing exhaust system, all of which left Bryn with a handy 307bhp, a figure that jumped to 321bhp once the box-fresh A20NFT had loosened up a bit (just over 60 miles had clicked over on the odometer at the time of the VXR-R conversion). “I’d be lying if I said I noticed a massive improvement in performance after all that work, mainly as I’d driven the car fairly conservatively up until then, but in the months since it’s really come alive,” Bryn explains. “350bhp is on the cards for next year, possibly more if I opt to fi t a larger turbo...”
The VXR-R package came with a whole host of badges, stickers and wheel options, though this latter aspect of the kit posed something of a conundrum; the wheels offered were performance based (Team Dynamics Pro Race being the most popular), and while there’s no doubt that these are fi ne, lightweight alloys in their own right, they aren’t exactly a rare sight on bright blue Astra VXRs. In the end Bryn bit the bullet and fitted some Team Dynamics (though they weren’t Pro Race 1.2s) and ran them for several months, only deciding that they needed to go when he took the fairly drastic step of fitting an air suspension kit to the car.
“That wasn’t a decision I took lightly but I can honestly say it’s been one of the best modifications on the car, and one that’s made it a whole lot more usable.”
First, a bit of background. A set of posh Bilsteins found their way under the arches within weeks of Bryn’s name appearing on the V5, all wound down about as far they could go with the ‘helper’ springs removed. The resulting ride was, perhaps unsurprisingly, crashy and deeply uncomfortable. Throw in the fact that he kept gouging his splitter on all but the most pathetic of speed bumps and it becomes all too clear why Bryn eventually went all out and had Plush Automotive fit an air kit with twin 400cc compressors, Air Lift Performance struts and HPDT rear bags. Bryn admits that yes, he did have some concerns about compromising the poise and handling of his VXR, but the air kit has so far proved much better than the previously mentioned Bilsteins. “The only real issue associated with the kit was that it meant I had to change wheels,” he recalls. “Yeah the Team Dynamics were nice and very lightweight but they weren’t exactly a ‘show wheel’ and I thought they looked out of place on such a low car.”
So what did he opt for? In the end Bryn took advice from his friend, a man with something of a thing for high-end wheels and someone who took him to Auto Werks, a local firm specialising in posh alloys in all manner of fitments. The Astra’s PCD isn’t exactly god’s gift to fitting fancy wheels but there were options and Bryn finally plumped for the rims that grace the car here, stunning 20in Vossen CVTs with their faces ceramic polished. Not only do these wheels stand out from the more commonly seen Team Dynamics, 3SDMs and Rotiforms, they also fitted perfectly right out of the box and with no need for arch work.
This is one of those cars that really shouldn’t look as good as it undoubtedly does, and if you’d asked us beforehand whether fitting air suspension to an Astra J VXR was a good thing we’d probably have replied in the negative. Yet it does, and then some. Part of that’s down to the fact that seeing such a new car on its belly is a novel thing, though the extensive programme of smoothing, shaving and deleting that Bryn’s put the car through also plays a part. Flushing the boot was one of the more challenging aspects here, mainly because on the latest VXR the Vauxhall badge actually serves as the release mechanism so deleting it involved fitting a boot popper at the same time. Both front and rear bumpers were given the same treatment, while any chrome trims were relegated to the bin and replaced with perfect paint. It’s all very subtle and won’t be spotted unless you’re a fully paid up VXR perv, but then perhaps that’s the best indication of smoothing done well.
This has been a fast paced build, with the car taking shape over the course of a year or so, but he’s already working on a custom centreexit exhaust, some other exterior details and, when the package is available, more power. Fair play!
Smoothing the badge (and boot release) was hassle but the results speak for themselves.
TECH SPEC: #Vauxhall-Astra-VXR / #Vauxhall-Astra / #Vauxhall / #Opel-Astra / #Vauxhall-Astra-Mk6 / #Vauxhall-Astra-VXR-Mk6 / #Opel-Astra-J / #Vauxhall-Astra-VXR-R
TUNING 2.0 #A20NFT with Throney Motorsport Stage 3 #VXR-R package and Stage 3 remap, #Thorney-Motorsport panel filter, Pace front mount intercooler, Piper sports cat, #Flow-Dynamics cat back exhaust system, #Forge front lower brace.
STYLING Astra J VXR in #Arden-Blue , smoothed front and rear bumpers, smoothed boot with boot pop relocated, dechromed, colour coded roof rails, smoked rear lights, tinter windows, black sun strip.
CHASSIS Air Lift suspension setup comprising #AccuAir #AccuAir-E-Level management, twin 400cc compressors, performance #AirLift front struts, #HDPT rear bags, 4 gallon seamless tank, I-level, #Bilstein rear shocks, 20in #Vossen CVT with ceramic polished faces, 235/30x20 Nankang NS-2, #Brembo four pots, Hel braided hoses.
INTERIOR Full leather #VXR interior with blue stitching and custom blue seat belts, one off boot build with x2 compressors, x1 tank and colour changing LED lighting.
THANKS Richard, John at Thorney Motorsport, Dave at Auto Werx, Luke at Plush Automotive, Si at Still Static, Dan at Flow Dynamics, Mo Miah at Specialist Tint ltd, Stuart at Ultra Finish, Slammed UK and Sump Scrapers.
“Stunning Vossen CVTs with their faces ceramic polished”
Blue belts are an awesome detail Plush Automotive install is a quality affair as always Vossens will get more popular in 2016.
First Vauxhall: A Grasshopper Green 1400 Sri.
Worst part of the build: Probably the bit that’s ongoing – trying to sort the centre exit exhaust!
Best part of the build: Dropping it down right after fitting the air suspension.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationBMW i8 Haters
What do you do with BMW’s revolutionary hybrid sports car? Slam it on air-ride, wrap it matt black and fit Rotiforms, of course!
SEMA SPECIAL: BAYERISCHE MOTOREN WERKE i8 Words Midge / Photography David Taflevich
DON’T HATE THE PLAYER. OR THE GAME
As a humble writer who’s spent the last decade working on the world’s best modified car mag, I’m legally obliged to hate hybrids, electronics and motors that run on anything but good old fashioned gasoline. The trouble is though, this is very nearly 2016 and I don’t.
You see, technology has moved on. And in the same way that nowadays there’s no real stigma in rolling coal, and by that I mean tuning the absolute bollocks off a diesel, in the future we’ll all be going ballistically fast in rides like this. It’s just evolution.
Personally, to be brutally honest, it’s not so much to do with responsible motoring or saving the planet. It’s more to do with saving the few quid I’ve got left in my pocket. If it’s fast enough for ya, looks the part and costs less to live with than the Focus ST you’ve got your eye on, who really gives a shit what it runs on? Mind you prices will have to come down a bit before we all start to invest. Thirty grand for a specced-up Nissan Leaf? Do me a favour!
My point is, the eco stuff has come a long way. Electric cars used to be limited to short-range city golf carts like the G-Wiz, which I think you’ll agree is nothing more than an offensive snot box, but now we have Tesla Model X which has bonkers gullwing doors on the back and will do 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. Or there’s the R8 e-tron. Who needs a Ferrari V12 eh?
The same can be said for hybrids. The Prius isn’t all that economical and is largely viewed as a marketing exercise for American celebrities to carefully craft their public image while masking the fact they’ve got a custom 9-litre Mustang Boss in the garage. But the world has moved on somewhat and now we have this: the epic #BMW i8.
James McDonnell’s Beemer here isn’t nearly the most modified car we’ve ever had in these pages, but it is one of the most important. And that’s because it’s like looking 30 years into the future. If the totally out-of-reach, million-quid LaFerarri, Porker 918 and McLaren P1 are the next generation of hybrid hyper cars, then this here is the first realistic hybrid supercar.
Compared to hybrids of old, the i8 is a totally different animal. For starters, it’s desirable. Would I have had a poster of this on my wall when I was a kid? Yes. Yes I would. Its futuristic shape is reassuringly ridiculous, like some sort of spaceship. It’s engineered to have so much torque off the line that it’ll do 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. You feel like you’re 10 years old just by looking at it. And Tom Cruise drives one in the new Mission: Impossible. Let’s face it, that’s everything a supercar should be.
It’s all about the wow factor. Put it this way, my favourite movie is Back To The Future (Oh no, those bloody gullwing doors again – Jules). I was five when the trilogy kicked off and I’d still sell my soul to David Cameron himself if I could have a DeLorean, even though they’re supposed to be a bit shit. If they were making Back To The Future now, 30 years on in 2015, this is the car that would be flying around Hill Valley. The i8 is the non-shite, modern day DMC-12. Simple as. Even so, it’s a brave choice for a modified car. Not least because James lives in Florida and being a US ‘gear-head’ is required by law to only hanker after huge V8 motors with superchargers – not a 1,500cc, three-cylinder lump from a Mini with a couple of electric motors.
It has to be said, this one’s hardly been picked for its ease of modifying either. Even the suspension system is something of a hybrid and getting all the right components from AccuAir, Bilstein and HP Drivetech must have caused the guys at Slammered-Inc more than a couple of sleepless nights. At least that awesome satin-black wrap must have been more normal to install.
I can only summarise that James is making a bold statement. With stupidly cheap petrol at the pumps I’m guessing economy isn’t an issue. Judging by those awesome custom 21-inch Rotiforms, or the fact that he’s got an i8 in the first place, he’s obviously all right for a few quid.
I can’t help feeling though, that all this is gonna mean he’s in for more than his fair share of hate from the more opinionated and uneducated bods online. And I don’t think that’s entirely fair because why should it matter that it’s a hybrid? Or where he got a ludicrous amount of cash to spend on it? All we should see is an awesome motor that’s pushing the scene in the best – no, the only – direction possible. Modified eco cars are here to stay. All we have left to do is get used to it.
A brave choice for a modified car. The average US ‘gear-head’ hankers after huge V8 motors with superchargers.
TECH SPEC: #BMW-i8 / #2015 / #BMW-i8-Rotiform
CHASSIS: Custom #Rotiform CBU in brushed and plated copper, 9x21inch (Et30) front, 10.5x21in rear (Et49); Pirelli P Zero 245/35x21 and 275/30x21 tyres; #HP-Drivetech Bags; #Bilstein struts; #AccuAir / #AccuAir-E-Level management.
STYLING: 3M Satin Black wrap; Dapper screen visor; gloss black detailing; bike roof rack.
INTERIOR Factory leather, hardline air install comprising of twin air tanks and Viair polished compressors.
THANKS Slammered-Inc; AccuAir; Rotiform; #3M Wraps.
Why did you choose an i8?
“I saw the one in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and I just thought I can’t not have one of these in my life. It looks awesome and it’s drivable too. I take it to work every day.”
So what is it that you do?
“I have a gallery and tobacco shop called Mr Smokes, where artists display and sell their glassware.”
Glassware? That’s what you Americans call bongs and stuff, right?
“Yeah, but for tobacco use only, you understand.” And you drive a hybrid? There’s definitely some irony in that mate.
“Its futuristic shape is reassuringly ridiculous, like some sort of spaceship”
Engineered to have so much torque off the line that it’ll do 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. Futuristic hardline install suits the car.
What makes it
IT’S A HYBRID!
Just seeing the look on the faces of the huge V8-worshiping good ol’ boys at SEMA when they realised it has the engine out of a Mini, makes one of these worth every penny. At 105,000 quid that’s a lot of pennies though, even without the mods. And that’s if you can even get a place on the waiting list. You’d better get those orders in people.
THERE’S HYBRID SUSPENSION TOO
Obviously the key to making the whole look work is the suspension setup, but you don’t go wandering into any old shop and get an off the shelf kit for an i8. No, unfortunately for James, it’s a little more complicated than that. This custom setup was put together by the guys at Slammered-Inc and consists of HP Drivetech bags, Bilstein struts and AccuAir management. Perfection.
WE LURVE THE COPPER
The eco-Beemer can swallow up some seriously enormous wheels and still look just the ticket. That’s why James had to have these mental 21-inch Rotiforms CBUs custom-machined for the job. We’re loving that unbelievable double copper finish too. And in case you were wondering for your own i8 build, they’re #ET30 on the front and #ET49 on the rear.
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