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    DRINKING THE KOOL-AID 530hp #Sakhir-orange F80 M3

    It’s easy to go with the flow, isn’t it? Wheels, suspension, then hit the show scene. But for Sam Herz, it’s not quite that simple. He deliberately chose a controversial colour for his new M3 and everything just spiralled from there… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.

    F80 M3 530hp Sakhir orange Saloon

    Deep in the deserts of western Bahrain lies the Al-Sakhir Palace – a bold and imposing white colossus, brimming with Frenchinspired bastiles, faux-medieval crenellations, and more pillars than you can shake a gold bar at. Built in the late nineteenth century, it’s a place of serenity; it lay abandoned for decades after Sheikh Hamad died in 1942, and even since its renovation in the mid-1990s it’s remained a place of peaceful retreat…

    …Well, until 2004, that is. That’s the year the Bahrain International Circuit opened just down the road, and ever since there’s been a perennial soundtrack of redlining race motors accompanied by the ever-present whiff of race fuel. What price tradition, eh?

    And it’s after this effervescent turn of events that BMW has named one of the more vibrant colours on its palette in recent years: Sakhir orange. This, basically, is a colour for people who don’t muck about.

    The unimaginative masses may choose to spec their new cars in Resale red or Inoffensive silver, but there’s a hardcore of BMW fans who live for today, who couldn’t give a monkeys about residuals, who want their new purchase to be as in-your-face as it can be while still holding (perhaps tenuously) on to its warranty. Sam Herz is one such person. Just check out his outrageous F80 M3: it’s so hashtag just-ain’t care, it’s Sakhir orange on the outside and the inside.

    “It was a surprisingly difficult car to source in this colour scheme,” Sam laughs. We don’t doubt it – the ratio of serious enthusiasts to plastic posers who buy M3s is a figure the firm is naturally unable to provide, but we’re sure the former group is probably smaller, their whims taking the dealers somewhat by surprise sometimes. So let’s rewind to where all this began for Sam. It started, as you might imagine, with another BMW. “It really all stemmed from a poster of an E46 M3 that a friend gave me in high school,” he recalls, squinting slightly as he peers through a rose-tinted fug of ethereal mist. “I kept that picture on my wall throughout college as sort of a motivation – and, eventually, I got one!”

    You can insert your cliché about living out the American dream here, although the truth was that it was a bit of stretch; being a college student with an M3 meant that he naturally didn’t have a whole bunch of cash for modifications. But time marches inexorably onward, situations change as lifestyles evolve and nowadays the act of fettling hot BMWs offers Sam a rather soothing break from the go-go everyday of working in software, doing something we don’t totally understand with ones and zeroes. We think he might captain one of those ships in The Matrix. Whatever it is he does, he’s a smart cookie. That’s all you need to really know.


    “I have bad enough luck that I generally leave the big jobs to the shop,” Sam shrugs, “but I am looking forward to doing a little more of my own wrenching now that I have a garage.” Ah, splendid, he is human after all. Excellent. An excitable meatbag of aspiration, trepidation and enthusiasm, just like the rest of us. So, why an F80 M3, how did that all come about?

    “Well, as my E46 became more track focused, I needed a daily driver outside of my motorcycles,” Sam explains. “Previously I’d bought Performance Technic’s Dinanequipped 550i shop car – which gave me my first taste of the Dinan Kool-Aid! However, it was always kind of big and a bit ungainly. So I started looking for a slightly smaller, sportier sedan, preferably with a manual transmission, since I’d finally taught myself how to drive stick at the ripe age of 28. And after looking at basically everything in the segment, I landed on the F80. I’ve always liked the combination of the sporty and the practical that you get with the M3, and I find the new body quite striking. Also, after seeing Sakhir orange on an M5 I really, really wanted a car available in that colour!”

    This time around, Sam elected to purchase the car brand-new from a dealer, although his detailed and specific demands meant that this was very far from a case of merely ambling into a showroom, pointing at one of the cars and saying ‘yeah, that one please. Don’t wrap it, I’ll drive it home’. Not only did Sam insist on puzzling and slightly troubling the salesman by demanding an F80 that was both metallic Sakhir on the outside and stuffed with sumptuous Sakhir leather within, but he wanted Euro delivery, too. And if you don’t know what that is, here’s the principle in a nutshell: BMW USA offer a programme whereby customers get to meet their new car at the place it was built. Having flown themselves to Germany, they head over to BMW Welt where they’re put up in a swanky hotel, given a full factory tour, offered a variety of official ‘Driving Adventure’ packages, and then given the keys to their new motor and pointed toward the autobahn. When they’ve had their fill of mischief, BMW ship the car to the States to meet the new owner back at home. Brilliant idea, isn’t it?

    “When I first sat in the car at BMW Welt, it had less than a mile on the clock,” Sam beams. “I’d managed to swing things so that I could immediately take it on a grand tour of Europe, arriving at the Nürburgring with just 1203 miles racked up – just in time for that first oil change! Then there was a track day at Spa-Francorchamps a few days later, along with check-ins at both Audi factories, Ferrari, Pagani, you name it – I definitely put in the world’s slowest baby laps of every circuit but the car came home in one piece!”

    It’s an impressive tale of automotive swashbuckling but, of course, this has to be far more than a story of a man buying a new car and then driving it around. This isn’t that sort of magazine. Inevitably, Sam had plans to awesomify the F80 a little, both aesthetically and mechanically. “Actually, I didn’t at first,” he admits. “I sort of wanted to keep it stock-ish but then US customs somehow lost the car for about a month, and you know how it goes… I started getting ideas!”

    Having dipped his toe into the fragrant waters of Dinan with his old 550i, Sam was keen to replicate the engineering ethos of that car: proper, quality upgrades, geared as much for reliability as performance. If you do things cheap, you do them twice, and that’s not Sam’s way. This is why you’ll spot pretty much the entire Dinan catalogue in the spec list – the Dinantronics Performance Tuner Stage 2 hardware and software package combines with the firm’s carbon-fibre intake and an Akrapovič Evolution exhaust system to churn out a mighty 530hp. “I’ll be upgrading to Stage 3 soon, and adding a Dinan heat exchanger, too, at which point it’ll be closer to 550hp,” he explains casually. Man, he really did get into that Kool-Aid.


    “I fitted a lot of the genuine M Performance options, too, as I’ve been burned by the bad fitment of inferior parts a few too many times,” Sam continues. “And I also fitted a full self-healing clear bra so that I can actually drive the thing.” You know what he means here: optioning Sakhir orange is a brassy move, so you don’t want to then have the thing covered in stonechips and baked-on kamikaze insects. This outrageous paint job is the car’s key hook, and it’s for keeps.

    “The wheels were actually the hardest decision of the build,” Sam ponders, gazing fondly at them as if mentally validating his choice for the umpteenth time. “I was originally thinking of BBS LMs but they really don’t fit the lines of the F80. The HRE P40SC was in the running but it’s copied too often. But when IND Distribution showed off the first set of BBS FI-Rs, I knew that was the one!” The forthrightness of the rolling stock perfectly complements the bullish chassis, too. M3s are brutal in stock form but Sam’s sports Dinan coilovers, control arms and anti-roll bars, along with BMW’s own astonishing carbon-ceramic brake upgrade take it to the next level. Bit of a track warrior now, then? Something to show his E46 a thing or two? “Nah, it’s the daily,” Sam smiles. “This is California, so that means commuting to work and back; I just drove it to Seattle to see my parents. I took it to the last IMSA race at Laguna Seca. I even used it to carry all my stuff when I moved house. It’s a great car. I take it everywhere. And I often get thumbs-ups from other drivers and people coming over to talk about it at gas stations – I think it’s the orange…”

    Yep, we’d say that was a pretty safe bet. There’s opulence and motorsport intent woven deep in that Sakhir DNA, and a car with that paint is noteworthy enough. But with the care and attention Sam’s expended choosing its upgrades, and his relentless eagerness to use it as the M division intended, that’s actually about as far from drinking the Kool-Aid as it’s possible to get.

    “The wheels were actually the hardest part of the build”

    Stunning 19” #BBS FI-R wheels suit the M3 so well; below, various carbon fibre exterior additions.

    “The engine has been upgraded with a Dinan carbon-fibre intake and #Dinantronics Stage 2 software, which take power up to a mighty 530hp”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-F80 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-F80 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-F80 / #S55 / #2016 / #BBS-FI / #BBS / #BMW-M3-Dinan / #BMW-M3-Dinan-F80 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre twin-turbo straightsix #S55B30 / #S55 / #BMW-S55 /, Dinantronics Stage 2 hard/software, #Dinan carbon-fibre intake, #Akrapovič-Evolution catback exhaust system, approx. 530hp, six-speed manual transmission

    CHASSIS 9.5x19” (f) and 10.5x19” (r) #BBS-FI-R wheels in platinum silver, 275/30 (f) and 295/30 (r) Yokohama Advan AD08R tyres, Dinan coilovers, antiroll bars and rear control arms, #BMW-M carbon ceramic brakes with sixpiston calipers and 414mm discs (f) and four-piston calipers and 380mm discs (r)

    EXTERIOR Sakhir orange metallic, Suntek clear bra (including roof and carbon-fibre trim), M Performance carbon fibre accessories

    INTERIOR Full Sakhir orange leather, #BMW-M-Performance steering wheel, M Performance gear knob, M Performance handbrake, super-cool floor mats

    THANKS Dinan Engineering, Jim Bustos at MMI Vehicle Systems, Brionne Go of Go Wraps, Chuck Thomas, Nick Owen and Brandon Watson at BMW of El Cajon, RC Levell
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