- Post is under moderationALL-TIME LOW Crazy-low static #BMW-Z4-Tuned
All the haters are always ragging on bags, so here’s something seriously static that couldn’t possibly offend anyone… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Scott Paterson.
ULTRA-LOW Z4 You won’t believe it’s static!
For a very long time now scene scientists have been asking the question: “How low can you go?” and for all their research and science the answer eluded them but now, it looks like “Big” Jamie Hitchcock may have solved that particular mystery with his Z4, because if it was any lower it’d be ploughing a furrow down the middle of the road. Oh, and it’s static. Did we mention that? We did? Well we’re mentioning it again. And it’s his daily…
So… Where to begin? It’s hard not to just dive into everything that’s going on here so let’s distract ourselves by talking to Jamie for a bit, about his personal motoring journey from “a very badly modified Citroen Saxo” to where we find him today, before we build ourselves up to actually talking about this car. “I have had a love for BMW for about five years now,” says Jamie as we begin to work out what makes this man tick, “ever since the first time I drove one, an E39 5 Series, I just fell in love not only with the way they look, but the way they drive is just like no other brand.” This Z4 isn’t Jamie’s first foray into BMW ownership, he kicked things off with an E46 325Ci Sport, which he treated to a set of coilovers and Rotiform Nue wheels and things were progressing nicely until one month into his time with the car someone crashed into the side of it and that was that… He followed that up with an E36 328i Coupe, which he managed to get further along with, chucking it on air, adding a set of Throwing Stars, some Vader seats and, tellingly, engine raisers in order to be able to go even lower, which was clearly a sign of things to come.
So, why a Z4? They’re not a staple of the modded #BMW community, part of the appeal we suppose, and they definitely divide opinion when it comes to looks, but then again beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “I have always loved Z4s,” explains Jamie, “I used to see them and think ‘Wow, they have a lot of potential.’ I had seen a lot of Z4s in Japan and America and I loved just seeing how they look like a toy car once modified. I was really worried about driving one, being a 6’4” grizzly bear I didn’t think I would fi t, but finally my close friends told me to just go test drive one and I’ve been in love ever since then.”
The Z4, Jamie says, was bought to replace the E36 as a slightly more sensible and reliable car and, while wheels and a little bit of lowering were on the cards from the off, he had no intention of taking things as far as he has, but then again no one ever does. The one area where things have really gone about as far as they could possibly go is the lowering and achieving such an incredible level of low has taken a lot of work. “Suspension-wise there has been a lot, and I mean a lot, of playing around,” chuckles Jamie. The core of the whole setup is made up of a set of D2 Racing coilovers fitted with shorter springs all-round and these are accompanied by some Driftworks adjustable rear camber arms. Just how much camber is Jamie running? Well it looks like most of it, we think… “The anti-roll bar has been removed as it restricted the front from getting lower,” explains Jamie, “and I even had to get my friend at Hard Knocks Speed Shop to make a custom exhaust because my downpipe was touching the floor and that made a huge hole; it’s tucked right up under the car now and from the manifold-back it’s a two-into-one setup and straight-through with no mid-boxes or silencer.” There’s not really much you can say about how the car sits, the pictures do a far better job than mere words on a page ever could and it’s even more dramatic in real life. It’s just so low, that’s really all you can say.
Obviously the fitment is killer, as you might expect, and as it really would have to be when you have no room for manoeuvre around the arches. Wheel choice was pretty essential as far as creating enough of a visual impact to go with that drop was concerned. “I have and I always will get different wheels for the car,” Jamie tell us, words that every wheel addict will be able to relate to completely, “and so far the Z4 has had four different sets, but I always come back to running my current wheels. They are Work Meister S1 three-piece splits and I don’t know why, I just really love the style of them and the way the car sits with them on,” and he’s not wrong. “Before ordering them, Josh from LikeHell and I spent weeks talking about offsets and widths and lip sizes etc. just to get them the perfect size. The three month wait was a killer, not knowing if they would fit or not, but luckily when they turned up they were so worth the wait,” he grins. “They are just beautiful and there is no better feeling than opening a box of brand new custom wheels. They took a lot of camber adjustment and arch rolling just to get the car to drive but, eventually, they worked out perfectly.” We would have to concur there, the white Works look fantastic on the Z4, those polished lips, the gold bolts, and it’s all finished off with a set of striking purple extended wheel nuts. You might think a colour combo that’s completely concentrated on the wheel areas wouldn’t work so well with no other colours to tie it to, but the clean, grey bodywork is a perfect blank canvas and just crying out for a splash of colour, and these four hotspots at each corner are just the ticket.
Contrasting with that outrageous ride height and those wild wheels is the inherent simplicity of the exterior styling; even now the Z4 has quite an unconventional look with some striking lines and Jamie has just given the styling a little tidy up. The front bumper has been painted and smoothed, black grilles have been fitted, the wheel arches have obviously been rolled and pulled in order to accommodate the Works and, in perhaps the ultimate show of commitment to his Z4, Jamie has even removed the windscreen wipers as he felt they ruined the smoothness of the car. While he hasn’t gone overboard on the interior either, being a fan of what he calls its simple style, it’s certainly got some striking elements that give it a bit of a kick. “My friends at Oxford Car Audio have transformed my dash by custom making me a double-DIN head unit install by deleting the central vents,” says Jamie, “I’m so happy with the way it looks. They also did my boot install for me; I felt a bit left out seeing all the cars on air suspension with nice boot builds so I thought I really wanted a nice, clean audio build and with the help of JL Audio UK that’s what they did for me,” he adds with a grin. “The gear knob makes everyone giggle; I had always liked these We Are Likewise gear knobs but they only came in Japenese screw fitment, until one day they finally made a Euro adapter that fits most European cars. Getting it to fit involved a few tweaks but I got it on there in the end. Finally the steering wheel is by Renown USA and I love it, it’s just such a quality wheel,” he says.
Often people take modifying cars far too seriously and it’s good to see someone really having fun with their project and enjoying themselves, which was the core philosophy of Jamie’s Z4 build. “The Japanese fitment scene has always been a big influence for me but with a German twist, it to me just seems more fun and that’s what my car is all about,” he says and we can only agree. We’re certain that there will be parts of this car that don’t appeal to everyone, some people might even have a problem with the whole thing, but ultimately they can get stuffed because this is all about Jamie and what he wanted and what he’s created. It’s the automotive equivalent of a smack round the chops, a shock to the senses and you’ve got to admire it. But Jamie’s not done yet… “I’ve got a never-ending list of plans,” he laughs, “more wheels, more lows…” What? More lows?! He’s already got all the lows. There are literally no more lows left for anyone else. But if you’ve come this far, then why not go that little bit further? In a mad modified world, it’s the only sensible thing to do.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E85 / #BMW-Z4-2.5i / #BMW-Z4-2.5i-E85 / #BMW-Z4-E85 / #BMW-Z4 / #BMW / #BMW-Z-Series / #BMW-Z-Series-E85 / #Work-Meister
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M54B25 / #M54 / #BMW-M54 , induction kit, custom Hard Knocks Speed Shop two-into-one straight-through exhaust system. Five-speed manual gearbox
CHASSIS 9.5x18” ET3 (front) and 10x18” ET5 (rear) #Work-Meister-S1 three-piece wheels with 215/35 (front) and 225/35 (rear) tyres, stud kit, #326Power extended wheel nuts, #D2-Racing coilover struts, #Swift and Tein custom springs, #Driftworks E46 adjustable rear camber arms
EXTERIOR Front bumper painted and smoothed, black grilles, windscreen wiper delete, rolled and pulled arches
INTERIOR Renown steering wheel, We Are Likewise gear knob, custom-fit Alpine Apple CarPlay, JL Audio boot build trimmed in red and plastic moulded to match dash
THANKS There are far too many people to thank with this car; firstly to Josh of LikeHell Design for all the help, James of Crescent Tyres for putting up with all the hassle of my monthly tyre needs, Yusuf and the boys in Team Untamed, everyone at Oxford Car Audio, most of all Lamb and the RXTI boys
“I have always loved Z4s, I used to see them and think ‘Wow, they have a lot of potential’”
18” three-piece Work Meister S1s look spectacular.
Engine fitted with induction kit and straight-through exhaust means it sounds awesome.
“Suspension-wise there has been a lot, and I mean a lot, of playing around”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationLOU’S #BMW-E85 / #BMW-Z4-2.5i / #BMW-Z4-2.5i-E85 / #BMW-Z4-E85 / #BMW-Z4 / #BMW /
It’s been almost four months since I last updated you with news of my Z4 and that’s because, to be honest, nothing much has happened apart from a change of rubber that was required. Truth be told, the mechanics at my garage, ETA, recommended I replaced my tyres back in January, but it wasn’t until I hit a corner in the wet one warm evening and things got a little wayward shall we say, that my hand was forced.
I think the chore of replacing tyres is about as horrible as buying petrol; it’s expensive but it’s got to be done. However, you can at least select a budget when it comes to new tyres, but you do get what your pay for. Cheaper tyres often have to be replaced more frequently and are far less superior in terms performance.
Premium tyres will offer better braking distances, steering precision and aquaplaning resistance.
Now obviously Goodyear Dunlop has a long history in the tyre industry but that’s not to say I choose tyres based on their brand name; I choose tyres to best suit my driving style and requirements, as well as my vehicle, obviously. As such, I opted for the Sport Maxx RT (inspired by Racing Technology). It is Dunlop’s Max Performance Summer road tyre developed for drivers of sporty cars. Perfect. Prices range from £64.92 to £89.50 for 225/45R17s, so they’re not too expensive either.
On the road, thanks to their impressive array of innovative technologies, the Dunlops are proving to be an excellent choice. The stiff ‘Short Braking’ blocks help to ensure shorter braking distances when travelling at speed (type ‘Dunlop Sport Maxx RT – Braking Block Demo’ into YouTube for an example of this) while the massive outer shoulder blocks help to enhance stability and handling through the twisties. This is further helped by the motorsport-derived polymer compound and flatter tread profile to ensure a stickier, bigger contact patch.
Overall, they’re very quiet, comfortable and have good levels of grip and braking performance in both the dry and the wet, to the point that they give me the confidence to push my car hard through the corners.
If all that wasn’t enough, they also offer excellent fuel economy. In a tyre comparison test undertaken by Auto Express it recommended the Dunlop to high-mileage drivers as it offers a 20 to 25 per cent advantage over its rivals thanks to its lightweight construction to reduce rolling resistance. so they really do tick all the boxes. This is also a tyre for those with expensive rims as it has a rim flange protection system, which employs a profile of rubber that runs around the circumference of the tyre above the wheel flange. I’ve never ventured beyond the factory wheels but even so it’s nice to have that buffer zone.
All I need now is for the summer to come into its own so I can drop the roof and really begin to enjoy the benefits of fresh new rubber, and the noise of the (now rare for BMW) straight-six. You can’t beat wind-in-your-hair motoring.
THANKS SE Tyres Tunbridge Wells www.setyres.com/branch/ car-tyres-tunbridge-wells 01892 459965 Dunlop www.dunlop.eu
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- Post is under moderationLOUISE’S E85 / #BMW-Z4-2.5i / #BMW-Z4-2.5i-E85 / #BMW-E85 / #BMW-Z4 /
The somewhat well-known quote ‘stick to what you know’ couldn’t have rung more true when I decided to take my car to another #BMW specialist for the first time in over ten years (simply because it was nearer). A big lesson was learnt as a consequence.
The specialist was recommended to me by the removal firm that I hired back in January last year to move me and my husband into our first home. I had heard of the name from days gone by when I was editor of this very magazine, so was confident it would be a good choice. As one of my old bosses once said, never assume anything.
The experience all started very positively. To save me going out of my way to his workshop, the owner of the company said that I could drop the car off at his home, which was just a stone’s throw from where we live. Upon arrival he wasn’t there, but his wife was in, so I left my keys with her and my car outside. My husband thought I was mad. I too had concerns but I had committed now and to save face I had to show complete confidence in my decision. A few hours later I received a phone call. It was from the man to say that the car was ready to be picked up. Sure enough the Z4 was waiting outside his house and I handed over £100 for the oil service. So far, so good.
Unfortunately I forgot to bring my service book. “No problem”, he said “I’ll pick it up in a few days from your house when I visit my daughter who lives just down the road from you.” Great, I thought. Sadly I never saw that service book again. After numerous excuses he finally confessed (some months later) to losing the book. To add insult to injury he then lined-up a potential buyer for the car. I was never given a contact number for this ‘buyer’ and apparently when he viewed the car he never drove it. Even though we’d not heard from the buyer for a few weeks, I was assured by the owner that he definitely wanted it. He told me the buyer always takes a while to agree to a sale. Hmmm, really?! Needless to say, over the next few months the owner offered no solution to the lost service book and was still trying to convince me that this mystery man wanted the car. In the end I took it upon myself to order a new service book and then trace its service history to get all of the stamps.
Fortunately, the Z4 only had two previous owners and BMW has a record of every vehicle that is serviced by its main dealership, and the car came with more history than your average American town. As it turned out, only Broad Oak Canterbury and Highams Park were responsible for it before I took over the V5, and they both duly stamped it and posted it back FOC.
In the specialist’s defence, he paid me back for the service book and for my postage costs but he offered no apology. By this point it was December (over ten months since that fateful service) – a fruitless time to sell a convertible, so I’ve decided to hold on to it until spring. On the upside, at least I had the best car for what was the warmest year on record.
So, what else has happened in my ownership of the Z4 since my last report in PBMW? Well, I never got any money from the council for having to replace my tyre after hitting a pothole that had been marked up to fill in for some months. What a surprise. And a few weeks ago the service light reared its ugly bright yellow head.
Needless to say, this time the keys were handed over to my trusty friends at ETA Motorsport, whom I should have never turned my back on in the first place. My plans over the next few months now are to tidy it up ready for a new owner. 2016 is supposed to be even hotter so if you fancy a spot of drop-top motoring for the summer, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
THANKS AND CONTACT
BMW Broad Oak Canterbury
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- Post is under moderationJONATHAN McMULLAN E85 #BMW-Z4-2.2i-E85 / #BMW-Z4-E85 / #BMW-Z4 / #BMW-E85 /
We don’t get many Z4s appearing in these pages but we really like what Jonathan has done with his Roadster. He’s owned it for seven years, during which time he and his father-in-law (both avid #BMW fans) have enjoyed tweaking it.
It’s been fully polybushed and fitted with FK coilovers along with an #Ultra-Racing cross brace to help stiffen up the body. The Z4 rides on 9.5x19” E46 M3 wheels all-round with 13mm spacers, mounted on a stud conversion kit, while the brakes have been upgraded with an E46 330Ci setup consisting of Black Diamond discs with Predator pads and rebuilt 330Ci calipers with Hel brake lines all-round.
Under the bonnet sits a CDA induction kit and the straightsix has been fitted with a de-cat manifold and custom quad exhaust system. The rear bumper has been modified to accommodate the Stuke rear diffuser, the arches have been pulled to squeeze the wheels under them and allow for a satisfying drop and a pair of carbon mirrors add the finishing touch. Except it’s not finished just yet, with plans for the next few months involving air-ride, LCI rear lights and a Z4 M front bumper, which will make for one seriously slick Z4.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationDREAM WEAVER
This fully custom carbon wide-body Z4 is one of the most magnificent machines we’ve seen.
The basic silhouette of this car is instantly recognisable – it is, of course, a Z4. And yet, there isn’t a single original body panel there. It’s wider, meaner, more aggressive. And we’re not looking at fibreglass here. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Andy Tipping.
Here’s a fun experiment for you. Take a bunch of carbon atoms, and bond them together into crystals that are more or less arranged in a line. Repeat this a few thousand times, then bundle all the strands together into a sort of tiny untwisted rope. Okay, now lay a load of these little ropes into a thermoset resin – epoxy, say, or polyester – bake for 40 minutes at 200°C (or something, consult your mum’s dog-eared Delia Smith cookbook) and voilà: you’ve just made some carbon fibre. Well, carbon fibrereinforced polymer, to be precise, although if you’re getting matey with your new creation then simply ‘carbon’ will work as a nickname.
Now you’ve got something with a very high tensile strength, low weight, high stiffness, high temperature tolerance, low thermal expansion, and high chemical resistance – all the properties you may desire for making housings for oily machinery without adding too much mass. The benefits of this miraculous weave are manifold and obvious, it hardly needs explaining why it’s so desirable to replace bits of your car with carbon fibre facsimiles.
Making things simultaneously stronger and lighter is a no-brainer. Your car will go faster and be safer. Of course, it’s also pricey – making CFRP is a fiddly process – which is part of the reason why you often see people running unpainted carbon fibre bonnets and what-have-you. It’s a badge of honour. It’s a direct link from your car to a McLaren F1, the first road car to sport a CFRP tub. And while certain manufacturers are making great advances in the field of enabling carbon fibre to be cheaper and easier to mass-produce (look at the Alfa Romeo 4C, for example, which is the first non-supercar to feature a carbon fibre tub; Lamborghini is making some exciting advances too), it’s still a evocative and aspirational material to be working with. Just look at the work of Alberto Torres of Slek Designs in Long Beach, California – he’s a man who appreciates the mystery of the black sheet and has been spellbound by its wiles for some time now. Slek Designs is an outfit that prides itself on mastering the dark art of carbon fibre custom work, promising ‘features and detailing you will not find anywhere else’, thanks to its equipment that healthily exceeds aerospace autoclave specs and a dedicated team who guarantee perfect fitment of all parts. And what better way to showcase their talents than by crafting an entire car out of carbon fibre?
Now, this kind of project requires an interesting base car for the ethos of the project to pivot around. Sure, it’d be impressive to take, say, a Toyota Prius or a Tesla Model S and replicate all of its body panels precisely in carbon fibre in order to draw commercially entertaining parallels about economy and range, but where’s the fun in that? Any chump with an autoclave can take a mould of a panel and mock up a lighter one – Slek needed to think laterally; it needed to make something truly unique. Something beyond custom. Something visually arresting. And that, in a nutshell, is what you’re looking at here.
Yes, that’s right, it’s a Z4. But not just any Z4… it’s the top-of-the-tree, full-fat Z4 M, the delicious little reprobate that came bursting at the seams with the brutal S54B32 engine – the same rampaging six-pot you’d find in an E46 M3. That’s a hell of a lot of engine to stuff into a diminutive two-seater roadster. But wait… the more observant among you may have spotted that this car doesn’t have a roof; those that have heard of #Slek-Designs will have forged a mental association between the company and a certain Z4 Coupé that wowed the crowds at SEMA back in 2013. So what gives? Have the team taken a tin-opener to the hard-top and reworked the thing entirely? Ah, no, this is actually an entirely different car. But its inspiration came from that self-same Coupé. You see, back in 2013, Slek rolled into Las Vegas with a terrifying interpretation of the tin-top Z4 M. It had supercharged the S54, furnishing it with a loopy 570hp, and it was raising a lot of eyebrows. The modified #BMW scene took careful note, as a truly mould-breaking (in all senses of the word) Z4 blew the established benchmarks into the weeds. This was a new world order of Z-car mischief.
Its flawlessly aligned weaves and race car cues caught the eye of one individual in British Columbia, who shall remain anonymous here for reasons of modesty. He wanted one. He wanted one badly. So he commissioned local tuning hero Flow Automotive to make the dream come true.
“To be honest, I never really liked the Z4 before this one, largely as I can’t fit in them,” shrugs Flow’s business mastermind Patrick. “But this wide-body makes it so aggressive!” Well, you can’t argue with that, can you? So why did this mystery wide-body-fancier choose this company, what’s the deal there? “Our shop does any kind of work,” says Patrick, matter-of-factly. “Restoration, performance, or even just basic maintenance. We’d love to be able to do resto or project car stuff all day every day, but the scene and market in our area isn’t really conducive to that, so we make ends meet with maintenance and service.
Although our lead tech, Hartley, is a master fabricator too…” And therein lies the rub. The truth of the matter is that if you’re after quality custom work in British Columbia, these are the lads you want to talk to. Let’s start, then, with the most obvious part of this build: that insane CFRP bodywork. “The cost of the carbon fibre body was around $20k,” Patrick explains. It’s a sizeable wedge of cash, but doesn’t that sound like good value when you consider that it’s basically a whole car shell made from scratch? Ah, but this has been done before of course, so the dimensions were already sketched out: “We delivered the car to Slek for prototyping and testing,” he continues. “There were some minor changes to redesign over its original Z4 Coupé concept, but it wasn’t as if it was starting from nothing.”
With the brutally wide panels having been lovingly hand-crafted and slathered in clearcoat to showcase the racy material, Slek itself insisted on fitting all of the panels to the car. “Slek wanted it to be absolutely perfect for SEMA,” Patrick laughs. This was very wise – with an idea as outlandish and eye-catching as this, the world would undoubtedly be keenly watching; when people see such a thing and comment that the shutlines are factory-perfect and all the weave angles match, an excitable crowd would undoubtedly beat a path to Slek’s door. It is, after all, a pioneer in the field.
With the devastatingly naughty new body in place, the Z4 M was back up to Canada for the work to continue. “We threw on an amazing big brake kit from Sparta Evolution,” Patrick enthuses. “Six-pots at the front and four-pots out back, with its innovative S-groove discs. This was followed up by retrofitting an E46 M3 coilover setup from Status Gruppe – it’s a brand that we really want to champion, because its product isn’t hugely known but should be for a company that produces such premiumquality parts.” And the next job, naturally, was to fix upon the rolling stock; after all, what kind of self-respecting show car wouldn’t be rocking the latest fashionforward rims in this day and age?
“Slek’s carbon Coupé was running gold RSV Forged wheels, and the ones the owner picked for this car are a natural evolution from that,” Patrick explains. “These wheels are more of a brushed copper, which contrasts brilliantly with the carbon fibre, and they’re wrapped in some spiffy Nitto Invos that the sponsor supplied.” The rims measure a staggering 14x19” at the rear (and a still mighty 10.5x19” up front) and come from RSV’s C|R Series, with the rear tyres offering a bonkers 345-section – plenty of rubber to harness the snorting horsepower from that revered S54 motor.
“This Z4 M’s engine is currently stock,” says Patrick, “other than the upgraded headers and a brand new air box to fit the reprofiled hood. However, a friend of the owner has an E30 that we restored and turned it into a track car for him. He’s interested in buying the S54 to swap into the E30… and has convinced the owner to look into a V10 swap for the Z4 M! It’d be a huge job, but we’d tackle it all the same.”
Regardless of powerplant – and let’s not sideline the S54, it’s still an absolute peach – this shadowy owner gets to enjoy one of the most eye-catching and talked-about Z4 roadsters the world has ever laid eyes upon. As its clearcoat sparkled under SEMA’s searing lights, nestling proudly on the Nitto stand at last year’s show while the guys from Flow buzzed around polishing people’s fingerprints away, it was surrounded by dropped jaws and camera-flashes. And that continues to be the case. An all-carbon fibre wide-body Z4 is an incredible thing. A droptop evolution to carry on the magic of the show-stopping Coupé, taking the reins and stopping the show all over again? That truly is a dream, woven from humble carbon into the roadster of the gods.
“These wheels are a brushed copper, which contrast brilliantly with the carbon fibre, and they’re wrapped in some spiffy Nitto Invos” Exterior is incredible but interior hasn’t been forgotten about, with sumptuous seats and lashings of carbon, obviously.
DATA FILE #BMW #Carbon #Z4 / #BMW-Z4 / #BMW-Z4-Carbon / #BMW-E85 / #BMW-Z4-E85 / #BMW-Z4-Carbon-E85 / #BMW-E85-Slek-Designs / #BMW-Z4-M-Roadster / #BMW-Z4-M-Roadster-E85
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 / #BMW-S54 , custom air box, #RPi-GT stainless steel exhaust system with Helmholtz resonators, stock six speed manual gearbox.
CHASSIS 10.5x19” (front) and 14x19” (rear) #RSV-Forged C|R Series RSF1 wheels in brushed copper with 275/35 (front) and 345/30 (rear) #Nitto-Invo tyres, #Status-Gruppe SGT-SRS coilovers, #Sparta-Evolution forged #BBK (six-pot #Triton front calipers, four-pot rear, #Sgroove-Pegasus discs – 355mm front, 345mm rear).
EXTERIOR #Slek-Designs full carbon fibre body (comprising front and rear bumpers, front wings, rear quarter panels, bonnet, doors, side skirts and bootlid), #OSS-Designs custom headlights.
INTERIOR #Recaro carbon fibre seats with diamond-stitched Alcantara, carbon fibre dash inserts and trim.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationBAGS TO THE FUTURE
The BMW E85 Z4 doesn’t get a whole lot of love but, when done correctly, it can look absolutely killer, as this bagged Brit build proves. Ashley Morrell’s Z4 is constantly pushing him further and further down the modifying road. And you know what they say – it’s more about the journey than the destination… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Mathew Bedworth.
The Z4, it has to be said, is quite a weird little car. They generally pass reasonably unnoticed today, thanks to the inherent cushioning system of Father Time’s mighty pendulum – the fact that they’ve been around a few years means that we’re used to them, we’ve accepted them. Radically designed cars don’t stay radical for long – the Ford Ka, the Peugeot 206, the Fiat Multipla, they seemed outlandish and alien and daft-as-a-brush at launch, but now they’re just other cars to blend into the mish-mash of day-to-day traffic.
The E85 Z4 very much belongs in that list too. As a replacement for the Z3, it was a pretty bold step; the Z3 had the classic roadster profile – long bonnet, rearward cabin, stubby tail – and the Z4 built on these design touch-points, but added in a whole heap of strangeness. Look at it side-on, for example, and try to work out what the thinking was behind the front wings; there’s quite a wide variety of lines and angles vying for attention there. The rear bumper appears to be wearing a droopy moustache like a pantomime Mexican villain, while the front end looks a bit like Marvin the Paranoid Android from the 2005 movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
This, of course, is all very good. Life’s too short to drive boring cars, and BMW’s decision to infuse a whole bunch of weirdness into a model it knew would be a volume-seller ought to be robustly applauded. Furthermore, it means that modifiers with an eye for the offbeat have an interesting alternative to chance their customising arms on, thanks to the model now becoming increasingly affordable as a second-hand proposition. It certainly flicked Ashley Morrell’s switch. He’s the creative force behind this particular low-down Zed, and it’s by no means the first oddball he’s spannered together.
“I guess I’ve been in the modding scene for around nine years now,” he considers at length, scratching his chin and peering into the middle-distance. “I’ve had four cars in that time, which isn’t a huge number by some people’s standards, but I’ve always been known for doing something a little bit unusual with them. I’m not really keen on doing things that everyone else has already done, I like to put my own mark on my cars.” His first full-on build was a case in point, a Citroën C2 which surfed the swelling tide of the nouveau-rat look, all forced patina and belligerent scruff.
“It was right at the start of the whole nurat thing, and it was a pretty radical thing to do to a brand-new car,” he says, a sparkle in his eye as if the mischief of it all is only just dawning on him. “Yeah, that was pretty out there. My Mk3 Golf got fairly extreme too, I went a bit crazy on it; five interiors, three resprays, three engines and eleven sets of wheels over three years! By the end of that project, I found myself with a set of stupidly wide American rims, and effectively making the car fit the wheels, which involved all sorts of cutting and welding!”
So if he was that deep into the VAG scene, why the switch to BMW? “Well, after going through my thirteenth sump in six months I decided it was time for a bit of a change,” he laughs. “I wasn’t really sure what I wanted – part of me was keen on the idea of some sort of estate – and I’m not sure what drew me to the Z4 at first, but once I started looking at them, they got stuck in my head. I knew that was the car I wanted next.”
And so the infamous P22 OKE plate found itself being extracted from the Golf and affixed to a shiny silver 2004 Z4 2.2i. “I searched and searched for the right Z4, which wasn’t easy as there don’t seem to be many here in South Wales – must be something to do with the constant rain,” he reasons. “But one day a friend of mine in Cardiff mentioned that he’d seen one come into a garage local to him. I went to see it straight away, and took it home the next day!”
The car was showing 69k on the clock, stock as a rock, and as tidy as Ashley could hope for. All-in-all, a pretty decent base for a project. So, what manner of madness lay ahead for the wacky little roadster? “Well, there wasn’t a plan as such, not from the start,” he recalls. “Having bought it, I just intended to stick some nice wheels on it and enjoy it. But once the wheels were on, it obviously needed lowering, and it all sort of snowballed from there.”
Yep. Of course it did. We hear that a lot. It’s impressive to note, in fact, that Ashley managed to hold out for an entire year with just rims and coilovers before he began to delve deeper. A new set of wheels beckoned; a brilliantly offbeat foursome of Rial Imola splits, which were reworked in custom candy apple red paint and a spangle of retro Seventies gold metalflake thrown in, but it quickly became apparent that wheels this fancy need a killer stance to set them off. So, with a creeping sense of inevitability, the irresistible lure of air-ride arose.
“At that time there really weren’t many bagged Z4s around, so it felt like something pretty fresh,” Ashley explains. “I bought the kit from Plush Automotive and fitted it all myself, along with a few friends who offered to help.” He ought to be particularly proud of those custom copper hardlines which really set off the boot install, and he’s keen to make the point that anything he was physically able to do on the car, he did himself. Not to show off, but simply as a matter of pride – it’s his car, built his way. “If you ever feel like taking apart the inside panels on a Z4, I recommend you don’t,” Ashley sighs. “Three hours to take off the centre console? Well done BMW! But the only thing I couldn’t do myself was the retrim of the seats; that was handled beautifully by Gary at NeatSeats.”
They do look pretty cool too, resplendent in black leather with diamond Bentley stitching, and they’re complemented by a whole bunch of carbon fibre accents throughout the interior to really imbue it with a premium road-racer vibe. Indeed, since our shoot Ashley’s been busy having various interior surfaces retrimmed in Alcantara, which speaks volumes about his twin focus on function and aesthetics.
The exterior of the car is something that he felt had to be as uncluttered and simple as possible, to accentuate the proportions of the car rather than draw unnecessary attention to its details. For this reason, he’s swapped on a pre-face-lift front bumper which has been extensively smoothed and had its numberplate recess deleted. The vast majority of the factory chrome accents have either been junked or replaced with black items; the kidney grilles and BMW roundels, for example, have lost their mirror shine, and even the lights have been dimmed down to suit. It’s a masterclass in subtlety, with plenty of details for the Zed-nerds to seek out on the showground.
“One thing I get asked a lot is how old the car is, and people are often surprised that it’s a 2004 model given how tidy it is” he says. “I use the car every day, and I run it low. I haven’t really built the car to go on track, and people have said I’ve ruined the Z4’s handling because of the air-ride, but to be honest with the AirREX Sport bags I’d say it actually handles better than when it was on coilovers! On the whole, the car gets mixed reactions – the Z4 purists hate it, of course, but I didn’t build it for them, and it does give me a bit of a kick when people stop to take photos of it. One girl I was on a date with thought I was famous because of all the people taking pictures!”
Amusingly at this point, Ashley seems to be suggesting that the project is finished. He’s got the car the way he likes it, and he’s ready to just enjoy it. But you and I know that’s nonsense, don’t we? Take that old Golf as a lesson; this is a guy who just can’t leave things alone: “Oh, alright, you got me,” he concedes. “I will probably do something with the audio over the winter. I fancy a bit more carbon fibre too. Oh, and there’s always new wheels…”
It’s pretty much a done deal that this car will be looking subtly different next time you see it. Ashley’s move into the BMW scene seems to be fitting him rather well.
Air install is neat and smart and still leaves boot useable while copper hardlines add some flair.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Bagged #BMW E85 Z4 2.2i / #BMW-Z4-2.2i / #BMW-Z4-2.2i-E85 / #BMW-Z4-E85 / #BMW-Z4 / #BMW-E85 / BMW-E85
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.2-litre straight-six #M54B22 / #M54 , #K&N filter, custom stainless steel exhaust with back box-delete and twin tailpipes, five-speed manual gearbox.
CHASSIS 8.5x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #Rial-Imola two-piece split-rims with polished lips and custom candy apple red with gold metalflake centres and 205/45 (front) and 215/45 (rear) tyres, adjustable front camber mounts at 3.0 degrees and rear camber arms at 5.5 degrees, #AirREX Sport air-ride system with V2 four-way digital management, custom copper hardlines.
EXTERIOR Smoothed pre-face-lift Z4 SE front bumper, black lower valance, black-insert headlights with US running lights, custom clear side repeaters, tinted rear lights, carbon fibre wing mirrors, black roundels, black kidney grilles, flared and rolled arches.
INTERIOR Carbon fibre door handles, handbrake handle and steering wheel controls, 1M gear knob, retrimmed MSport steering wheel by Royal Steering Wheels, seats retrimmed in black leather with Bentley diamond stitching, custom mount for V2 controller.
THANKS I’d like to thank a few people who have helped me with fitting things and some companies that have chosen to sponsor me over this year: my friends Kieran Phillips and Nick Wealleands who helped with the air-ride and hardlines, Tom Beleschenco (@twosugars88 on Instagram) for painting the wheels and other bits, Aaron Brooks (@techho_scenecleanvaleting) for detailing the car, Gary at NeatSeats for the great work on the seats, and my sponsors E11evens, Cleanitkit and GlobalGrind.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.