- Post is under moderationBMW’s iconic #BMW-Art-Cars have been setting hearts a-flutter since #1975 but your chances of actually owning one are pretty much zero. There is, however, little stopping you from building your own… Words: Daniel Bevis /// Photos: Patrik Karlsson / #BMW-Art-Car /
Art Attack E9 and E21 resto-modded Art Car replicas
The BMW Art Car series is something that’s been capturing the imagination of motoring enthusiasts for generations. It all began in 1975, when French racing driver Hervé Poulain commissioned American artist and friend Alexander Calder to paint the 3.0 CSL that he was to drive at Le Mans. Using bold primary colours, Calder transformed the already eye-catching form of the #Group-5 E9 into something that looked like it was rapidly swishing through the scenery even when it was sitting still. It turned out to be one of the last art pieces Calder produced before his death, and in the mid-seventies it was actually a pretty astonishing move to present a car to the world as a work of art; it was, as you might imagine, even more astonishing that the flawless museum piece was then entered in the Le Mans 24hr.
The Calder Art Car sparked off a chain reaction that resonated through the decades. The following year, Frank Stella painted an E9 CSL; the year after that, Roy Lichtenstein had a go at a Group 5 E21, then it was Andy Warhol’s turn with an M1, with the snowballing project building momentum until it all came to a head with the recently unveiled John Baldessari M6 GTLM, the 18th official #Art-Cars Car .
Now, there have been quite a lot of other BMWs to be decorated by artists in unusual ways over the years, but these core 18 are the official ones, the bona fide commissioned #Art-Cars . They haven’t all been race cars (David Hockney’s, for example, was an 850CSi and Matazo Kayama’s was an E34 535i), but they have all been devastatingly beautiful and incomparably desirable.
To BMW’s endless credit, the collection isn’t kept safe and secure in a hermetically sealed and top-secret location – they get toured around the world from Goodwood to Pebble Beach and beyond, and the PR bods even took them on a sort of world tour in 2012 which included a brief but comprehensive exhibition in, er, a multistory car park in Shoreditch (which was very weird, but an utter joy to attend – BMW didn’t publicise it widely, so very few people turned up; those of us that did got to enjoy some rather special alone-time with these magnificent creations).
But just having a little look-see at the occasional show was never going to be enough for Swedish retro race enthusiast Jonas Nilsson. He had a dream, an all-consuming aspiration, to possess an Art Car of his very own. But obviously BMW would never sell him one, they’re far too valuable, so he was left with just one option: to build his own tribute to these iconic slices of history.
As you can see here, he got a bit carried away. He hasn’t built one Art Car, but two – and that’s just about pushing the very limits of awesomeness that our brains are able to cope with. So let’s try and piece it together in as logical a way as possible, without our minds dribbling out of our ears at the sheer magnificence of it all…
“BMWs have been special to me ever since I was a little boy, and our neighbour came driving home in his brand-new E21,” Jonas recalls. “I’ve always thought that they have very nice car models and very good performance.” Yep, no arguments here. And that early infatuation clearly planted a seed, as things have gone a bit nuts in the intervening few decades.
“The first #BMW I owned was an E36 318iS,” he continues. “It was white, with a subtle body kit – just right for a guy in his twenties.” It wasn’t, we must point out, all about the BMWs for Jonas though, as he’s also pretty keen on Opels. His first car was a Monza GSE, and over the years he’s built some fairly impressive modified examples including a twin-turbo Monza with nitrous and a ’caged, supercharged Kadett GSi on slicks. It’s this passion for brutal performance and race car thrills that ultimately informed what you’re seeing here, allied to that early passion for BMWs. It turned out to be the perfect recipe.
“It had always been my dream to build an Art Car, so when the opportunity to do it came up, I had to take it,” he says, matter-of-factly. “The Roy Lichtenstein E21 tribute was the first one I built, and when that was finished I felt ready to tackle another one, so I attempted the Frank Stella E9, which was the one I’d really wanted to build all along.” Blimey. He makes this deranged behaviour all sound so normal, doesn’t he? What’s arguably most impressive is that Jonas built up everything you see here himself, as you can’t just nip to Halfords and pick up a Group 5 body kit for an E21. “All the bodywork is made in steel and cannot be bought, so I made it all by myself to a plan I had in my mind,” he explains, like some kind of automotive voodoo shaman.
“To create these two Art Cars, I actually used four cars,” he goes on. “I took two cars and cut the body from the base, then I took one base and welded it together with the other body, and to make everything fit I had to adjust the length and trim the base car to make everything match up.”
Looking inside either one should give you a bit of a giveaway as to what resides beneath their respective skins; the E21 is all E36 inside, while the sharknose E9 has an E34 M5 hiding down there. It’s all utterly bonkers, and phenomenally impressive that he’s made it work.
“I found the E21 at a friend’s place,” says Jonas. “It was in okay condition, but the engine didn’t work.” And what better remedy for a misfiring first-gen 3 Series than to slice the body off, plonk it on to an E36 325i chassis, and bolt on some outrageous retro racer bodywork?
You’ll spot that the E36’s M50 engine is nestled beneath that colourful bonnet, while the 1990s underpinnings have allowed a little flexibility in upgrading things, which is why you’ll find some serious D2 coilovers in the mix along with 19” wheels. On the whole, though, the spec is relatively mild when you look at just how extreme the E9 ended up becoming.
“I found the E9 on a car sales website, almost in mint condition,” Jonas grins, plainly unconcerned about chopping the thing up. “Whereas the E21 took about a year to build, this one took more like 18 months as there was a lot more to do.” Part of the reason for this is that he opted to complement the forthright race car looks with some appropriate power in the form of an S38 engine from an E34 M5 (which is the donor car beneath, remember) to which he’s added a Rotrex C38-81 centrifugal supercharger. It’s an astonishingly quick machine, which is just what you would hope for when you look at its angry angles and pointy aero.
“Every detail and measurement of both cars were made from a model in 1:18 scale, including the wrapping,” Jonas explains, again shrugging off an incredibly complex engineering endeavour as if it’s all in a day’s work, and reducing us to shimmering pools of jealousy in the process. “The Art Car livery is vinyl-wrapped though if money were no object then of course I would have them painted on! And there’s not a part of either car that hasn’t been taken out and perfected before being put back in. I try to do as much as I can by myself, because I love a good challenge!” Well, yes, evidently. The work here really does speak for itself, and while Jonas’ bread-and-butter lies in the mill industry, he hopes one day to transition into building cars like this for a living; a passion that’s currently being fuelled by his new project, a race-inspired, street-legal 635CSi. If all goes well, he could one day be commissioning famous artists to adorn his creations with their colourful daubings… but for now, this pair of Art Car tributes is a fabulous showcase of his skills. BMW may take the official ones out and about, but they don’t tear around in anger like Jonas’ do. As dream two-car garages go, this one really is a work of art.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE BMW #Frank-Stella / #BMW-E9 / #Rotrex / #Rotrex-C38 / #BMW-E9-Frank-Stella / #BMW-E9-Art-Car / #BMW-E9-Art-Car-Replica /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.5-litre straight-six #S38B36 / #BMW-S38 / #S38 , #Rotrex-C38-81 centrifugal supercharger, chargecooler, race aluminium cooler with Evans waterless coolant, Nuke Blackline linear FPR, Nuke fuel rail, #Nuke-Blackline filter, #ECUMaster management, five-speed #Getrag-280 manual gearbox, Tilton racing clutch, modified cardan shaft, 40% locking diff, 2.87:1 final drive, 210 diff housing, forged CrMo driveshafts
CHASSIS 10x19” (front) and 13x19” (rear) HRE 508 wheels with 265/30 (front) and 345/35 (rear) Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, E34 D2 coilovers, D2 Racing big brake kit with eight-pot calipers and 380mm discs (front) and six-pot calipers and 380mm discs (rear)
EXTERIOR Custom handmade all-steel Group 5 bodywork, Frank Stella Art Car tribute livery
INTERIOR E34 M5 dash, Cobra Misano Anniversary seats, custom-trimmed matching rear seats and doorcards
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Roy-Lichtenstein / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-E21-Roy-Lichtenstein / #BMW-E21-Art-Car / #BMW-E21-Art-Car-Replica / #BMW-Art-Car-Replica / #Art-Car-Replica
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M50B25 / #BMW-M50 / #M50 , five-speed #Getrag manual gearbox
CHASSIS 9.5x19” (front) and 11x19” (rear) #Rennsport wheels with 265/30 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo (front) and 325/30 Dunlop Sport Maxx Race (rear) tyres, E36 D2 coilovers, #Powerflex bushes
EXTERIOR Custom handmade all-steel Group 5 bodywork, #Roy-Lichtenstein-Art-Car tribute livery
INTERIOR E36 interior blended with original E21Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationThe Last Hurrah Road test SA M5 E34 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW-M5-E34 / #BMW-M5-SA / #BMW-M5-SA-E34 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-SA / / #BMW / #BMW-South-Africa
We go for a blast in two South African-built E34 M5s to see if they vary from the Euro versions.
The last BMW-5-Series to be produced at the Rosslyn plant in South Africa was the E34 and the last of the E34s to be made there was the mighty M5. We profile a pair of 3.6-litre examples Words: Johann Venter. Photography: Mahomed Abdulla.
Over the years BMW Car has covered many of the unique BMW models developed for the South African market. If memory serves me correctly the E12 530 MLE was the first South African model to be featured (in the November 2007 issue) and deputy editor Sebastian de Latour paid us a visit in 2012 to sample several models all unique to the SA market and a few other specialties in-between. His report back from his expedition culminated in eight features to the delight of all BMW enthusiasts in SA.
Resident editor, Bob Harper, has also had the pleasure of sampling our South African fare, enjoying an immaculate, uniquely South African Henna red E28 M5 one afternoon in Sussex, revealing all in the October 2014 issue. The car in question was chassis number 17 and most written sources – including those on the internet – indicate that 96 of these machines were built in SA, although my BMW contacts insist that in fact 150 were made – a debate for another day…
It is therefore fitting to have a look at the last M car to roll off the Rosslyn production line; the E34 also being the last 5 Series to be manufactured at the plant. Out of approximately 12,250 M5s that were assembled by hand by teams of technicians at the Garching facility in Germany, from E34 535i bodies shipped from the Dingolfing factory, 265 were assembled at the Rosslyn plant by hand from Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits. According to BMW folklore, Garching was under such pressure that some of the M5s were actually assembled at Dingolfing.
BMW had significantly increased production over the previous M5, of which only 2241 were produced. In fact, BMW’s hand was forced to build the first M5 by its more influential customers, initially it thought it could get away with appeasing a select few. The E34 M5 was quite a different story. Production was increased and lengthened due to the various special editions which included the following: 22 Ceccotto editions, 51 Winkelhock editions, 20 20th anniversary Motorsport editions, 15 Naghi editions for the Saudi Arabian market, 50 Limited Editions signifying the end of the right-hand drive production for the UK and 20 Italian dealer specials, the ‘Elekta’ Touring models.
Although production of the M5 started in September 1988 in Garching, South Africa was once again lagging behind. Assembly got underway two years later in September 1990 and was short-lived, ending in March 1993. Traditionally 5 Series production had always lagged behind its German counterparts with the E12 starting in 1974 (compared to 1972 for Germany) while the E28 kicked off in South Africa in January 1985 three-and-a-half years after the German start of production in 1981. By December 1991 the world was ready for a feistier M5 in the form of the 3.8-litre model, which even included a Touring, with a limited run of 891 units. All of the world that is, except North America and South Africa, instead enthusiasts here were pacified with the E34 540i six-speed manual, more on that later.
First let us get acquainted with these two stunning examples and see how they stack up against their European counterparts. The Glacier metallic blue is a very early example, chassis number 19, originally sold by BMW – JSN Motors on 4 February 1991. The service manual reveals the JSN address as Anderson Street in downtown Johannesburg – at one stage there were up to three BMW dealerships in the city centre, today there is only one. Chris Theron is the fourth owner, yet the odometer only shows 64,500km (40,100 miles).
Chassis number 214 in Ice white was registered in March 1993, making it one of the last 50 to be produced. It belongs to Andy Ackerman, again he is the fourth owner. With 267,000km (165,900 miles) on the clock, it has enjoyed the life of a gypsy on both the east and west coast of SA and returned to the Highveld in 2012 when Andy acquired it.
From the exterior these cars look identical to those produced at Garching, with a 20mm lowered suspension and a minimalistic M Technik aero kit which comprises of a front air-dam, side skirts and rear diffuser, all painted in a contrasting Diamond black metallic. The Ice white M5 has retained the original M-System I ‘Turbine’ wheel, designed in BMW’s wind tunnel to increase airflow by 25 per cent, allowing for better cooling of the brakes. These wheels are a bone of contention as they create a whitewall effect, though I personally think it is an innate part of what makes the M5 such an icon.
The M-System II ‘Throwing Star’ wheel only became an option in the last three months of production in 1993 and they enhance Glacier blue colour of Chris’s M5. Buyers in SA had very few options, but like the previous generation M5, local cars came virtually fully spec’d, which included an extended Nappa leather interior, with unique leather doorcards. The only anomaly is the cheap carpeting used in the boot. One of the few factory options available was the boot spoiler, fitted to the white M5. Not a box I’d have ticked, as I think it interferes with the clean lines and rids the car of the ‘sleeper’ effect.
There are, however, some notable differences between the SA cars and those produced for the European markets. In the early ‘90s emission regulations were not as well enforced globally; local cars were not fitted with a catalytic converter (with lambda sensor). This also applied to the Middle East and South East Asia. Significantly the latter M5s were developed with a lower compression ratio of 9.2:1, whereas the SA cars had the same compression ratio as those in Europe: 10.0:1. The auxiliary air pump is also not connected, it is simply used as an ‘idler’ to tension the AC belt. Local cars were also not fitted with a sump guard, only the splash cover.
Underneath the bonnet, though, is where it matters most – the SA M5 has the identical 3.6-litre S38 B36 motor as found in European cars. The engine is a refinement of the M88 24-valve in-line six-cylinder, as found in the previous M5, with capacity up to 3533cc. With an improved Bosch Motronic 1.2 engine management system, providing better management of the air and fuel mixture and electronically controlled butterfly valves in the inlet manifold, the engine is able to develop 315hp (232kW) and 266lb ft (360Nm) of torque. Further enhancements included a new forged steel crankshaft, improved camshafts, flywheel and equal length stainless steel headers all of which upped the compression ratio. The M5 set a time of 6.4 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint, tapping out at an electronically limited 250km/h.
Before I get behind the wheel it’s worth having a look back at how local Car magazine summed up the M5 back when it was new: “The M5 is really an impressive car which sets new sports sedan standards in terms of performance, ride, road-holding and comfort. Not a car for those who are not keen on driver involvement, but certainly one for the enthusiast who knows what he wants, in all likelihood the best sports sedan in the world.”
The Ice white M5 is a very tidy specimen, with even the self-leveling suspension still intact, Andy points out that the engine has been completely rebuilt. Engage the ignition and you are greeted by a throaty roar, definitely giving off more bass than I am expecting. It is revealed that the centre resonator has been removed. The sound is fantastic and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Thanks to these Sport seats I am able to get down really low in the cockpit and the side bolsters offer superb support.
As I amble along a narrow lane to connect to the freeway, it gives me time to observe my Germanic surroundings. Everything is still in working order; these cockpits were built to withstand a nuclear catastrophe. Once on the open road I ignite the fuse under my right foot and this ’bahnstormer comes alive. The engine pulls freely to the redline, spinning with the intensity of a Singer sewing machine. The noise from the exhaust building into an exploding crescendo, so ferocious, it tingles your spine.
Gear changes are very precise, the shifts are short and tight, exactly what is needed at these unlawful speeds. At a 160km/h I overshoot the turn-in to the B-road where my arrest for enjoying this M5 is less likely to happen. The B-road is peppered with patch work and the gradient on either side of the white line rather steep. My best option is to use the middle of the road – for the next 4km I have a clear line of sight, then the road banks sharply to the right.
The M5 handles the patch work with ease, soaking up the uneven surface, yet still maintaining a straight line and all the while I am pressing into the redline.
All too soon the bend is upon me and I veer to the left to avoid whatever is coming my way. Once through the bend the accelerator is given the full might of my right foot. Hurtling through the countryside at a rate of knots meant for the autobahn, I spot a sleeping policeman just in the nick of time, and I press my foot heavy on the brake. The stopping power of the M5 is still phenomenal; ABS comes to the rescue, preventing the car careening off the road.
The country road has meandered into suburbia, time to return the M5 whilst still intact. As I reluctantly hand back the keys to Andy, he explains that the gear linkage mechanism has been overhauled and that the bushes have been replaced with bearings. An upgrade worth doing, as gear shifts are now very slick.
On to the Glacier blue M5 then. I am yet to come across a cleaner example and doubt whether there is another on the Continent to rival it. I am mesmerised by this car, I could stare at it all day, it has such a hypnotic effect on me. Factory fresh, is a term often bantered about, but this road going M5 deserves a new term – even the inside of wheel arches, engine and undercarriage look brand new. Lifting the handle on the driver door; it gives off a solid thud as the latch mechanism releases, inside the smell of new leather permeates throughout the cabin. Firing up the engine there is that initial high pitch and then it settles into that familiar M5 low growl.
I follow the same route as I did before, first getting familiar with my surroundings as I follow the narrow lane. Everything in this car looks and feels brand-new and the engine feels tight, like it is still being run-in. Onto the freeway and once again the hammer comes down. At about 4000rpm things really start to happen and the M5 accelerates into the redline before you can blink. With the accelerator at full tilt the resonance flap inside the plenum chamber opens at 4120rpm and remains open until 6720rpm, which brings about the intoxicating ‘warp speed’ effect. Onto the patch work of Tarmac and this M5 feels even more solid.
There are no rattles or squeaks just the wailing sound of the engine and the cacophony from behind. This time round I’m not caught out by the sleeping policeman, but like before I need to turn around once I reach suburbia to entrust this icon to its rightful owner. It’s been an enthralling morning, I can only imagine what it must be like behind the wheel of the final 3.8-litre incarnation of the M5.
It’s unclear why the 3.8-litre M5 wasn’t available in SA, instead a 540i six-speed manual dressed up as a M5 3.8-litre was offered from September 1995.
Production ended in January 1996 and only 72 units were produced at the Rosslyn plant. BMW Motorsport aficionados in SA were once again offered a fully kitted-out E34 range topper which included an M5 body kit including boot spoiler; M-System II ‘Throwing Star’ wheels; extended Nappa leather (with the MColour stripe inserts); M Sport steering wheel; sunroof; rear sun blind; car phone and ESP.
The 540i even came standard with stiffer springs and uprated dampers and somehow the cheap carpeting in the boot didn’t get left behind. Enthusiasts however were disappointed that electronic damper control, the illuminated gear-shift, M steering rack and brakes were not options.
There is the argument that Jaguar started the age of the fast saloon with the Mk2 in the ‘60s – the infamous getaway car among British robbers. BMW, however, gave rise to the age of the Super Saloon with the introduction of the E28 M5, a title which is still relevant with the current F10 M5. Since its inception the M5 has kept a few Italians and I suspect even more Germans up at night. Unfortunately, the production of these Super Saloons at the Rosslyn plant has long ended; in fact, from 2018 the plant will no longer produce the mid-size sporting compact saloon in the form of the 3 Series – instead it is tooling up for the production of the X3. It is indeed the end of an era.
THANKS TO: Ron Silke
TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-E34 / #BMW-M5-3.6 / #BMW-M5-3.6-E34 /
ENGINE: #S38 / #BMW-S38 straight-six, DOHC, 24-valve
COMPRESSION RATIO: 10.0:1
MAX POWER: 315hp @ 6900rpm
MAX TORQUE: 266lb ft @ 4750rpm
0-62MPH: 6.4 seconds
STANDING KILOMETRE: 26.0 seconds
50-75MPG (FOURTH GEAR): 7.6 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
NUMBER MADE: 834
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- Another correction Whoops, we seem to be making a habit of this! In the September issue, in the Last Hurrah feature, we stated that the E34 M5 was thAnother correction
Whoops, we seem to be making a habit of this! In the September issue, in the Last Hurrah feature, we stated that the E34 M5 was the last M car produced at the Rosslyn plant in South Africa. This is, in fact, incorrect: the E36 M3 was the last M car to be assembled at the plant, production started in the third quarter of 1993 and ended by mid-1994. Thereafter M3s were directly imported from Germany. The M3 four-door Saloon, however, was manufactured at the Rosslyn plant, starting in the third quarter of 1997, with production ending in the latter part of 1998. Apologies for any confusion this may have caused. More ...
- Post is under moderationHere at #Drive-My we love classic BMWs and the #BMW E24 #BMW-6-Series is one of the most iconic bimmers ever made by the Bavarians. While in the US customers were greeted with the #BMW-E24 M6 , in Europe the same car used a different name: #BMW-M635CSi-E24 . In essence, the two were exactly the same. They were both powered by twin-cam, 24-valve inline-six-cylinder engines known as the #BMW-M88 or #BMW-S38 , which were both derived from those used in the M1 sports car. Unveiled at the #1983-Frankfurt-Motor-Show , the only difference between the European and US or Japanese models was the name, which was changed to be easier to remember and fall in line with the M3 and M5 models.
The cars were assembled manually on the production line of the Dingolfing factory and used body panels built by the coach masters over at Karmann. Those were the days when the M division put heart and soul into their creations, building some of the greatest M cars of all time.
The video below not only tells the story of the car but also of its owner. Most of the time, we tend to forget that our elders were once young like us and they shared similar passions. With cars like the E24 #BMW-M635CSi , it’s clear they’ve been just as passionate about their BMWs as we are today. The video below was put together by a team of passionate BMW owners in the Czech Republic.
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- Post is under moderationBLUE STEEL #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW /
Valencia Motorsports’ beautifully built, hardcore E36 track machine packs an S38 swap. Valencia European’s E36 M3 racer fuses raw power with immaculate presentation. And that’s probably not the M Power engine you were expecting to find, is it…? Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Eric Eikenberry.
It’s a classic idiom: ‘you can’t put a quart in a pint pot’. It means, in essence, that you can’t do the impossible; there’s a finite amount of space in a pint glass – well, there’s a pint, isn’t there? – so logically you can’t squeeze a quart in there. A quart is two pints. You’ve been greedy, your eyes are bigger than your stomach.
This is all so much half-hearted vintage nonsense, of course – nothing is impossible in the 21st century. We’ve got hoverboards, Skype, sat nav, er, Rubik’s cubes, it’s all good. If something seems impossible, humanity has evolved to think around the problem. There are no hard tasks, simply some that take longer than others. Want a pet unicorn? Bone-graft a horn on to a pony. Yearning to fly unaided? Strap on a squirrel suit. Fancy confounding your elders and squeezing a quart into a pint pot? Pour half of it in, drink it, then pour in the other half. Easy.
Valencia European of Santa Clarita, California, demonstrate this modern thinking rather neatly with the gleaming blue race car you see before you. The E36 M3 is the pint pot, the massive E34 M5 engine is the quart. ‘Sure, it’ll fit’ was the ethos. The team just had to have a bit of a headscratch and figure out how. No biggie. So who are these guys, and what are they up to with this outrageous baby-blue racer? “Valencia European is an auto repair and collision repair shop in Valencia,” says head honcho Sean Salvino. Well, that cleared that up. He’s a matter-of-fact sort of guy, isn’t he?
“We specialise in BMWs,” he continues, “and the main objective for this build was to market the shop and to show how passionate we are about what we do. My business partner, Bjorn, and I share the same passion for the M line. He’s more into the older-generation engines, as he believes that they were simpler in design yet have lots to offer.” So these are fellas who’ve made a business out of a hobby that they’re passionate about, and there’s no small amount of enthusiasm for the old-skool flowing through the place. That’s good, that makes sense – we can see why they opted for the E36 M3 as a project base, it’s a model that’s rapidly becoming the connoisseur’s choice.
“This E36 M3 was actually my track day car for about two years before we decided to build it up into a race car,” Sean explains. “Bjorn and I wanted to merge our ideas of how we thought a race car should be done! There were two cars in the shop at the time that we contemplated using for the project – this E36 and an E34 M5. But since the M3 already had a basic roll-cage and race suspension fitted, it was a step ahead. The next question was the powerplant…” Now, there aren’t any bad M3 engines; they all have their own charms, competencies, capabilities and potential.
But the E36 generation has been a bone of contention for some enthusiasts; namely those in North America. While the European-spec M-car enjoyed the 3.0-litre, 286hp S50 motor for the first few years before swapping to the 3.2-litre, 321hp S50, the USA received rather strangled engines: initially a 240hp version of the 3.0-litre S50, then a 3.2-litre variant of the M52 developed specifically for US-market M3s – the S52, still with 240hp, albeit torquier. A good engine, but not a great one, compared with what the rest of the world was enjoying. American BMW enthusiasts tend to simmer about this a bit, Sean included: “You and I know that E36 M3s here in the States got short-changed with the S52 not having individual throttle bodies and so on,” he fumes. “So we decided that instead of using that motor, the E34’s engine was the clear choice.”
This is where we arrive at the amusing quart-in-a-pint-pot scenario. The hand-built wonder that was the E34 came bulging with a muscular 3.6-litre straight-six, the S38, producing somewhere north of 300hp out-ofthe- box. But, of course, any physics fans among you will have spotted that the M5 is bigger than the M3. “Being that it wasn’t your typical build, it challenged us more and more,” Sean admits, although not grudgingly.
We get the feeling that he relished the challenge, that he and his team genuinely enjoyed the work. “The main issue that we had with it was the height of the S38 – the oil pick-up was sitting right on the engine and suspension crossmember, with the intake manifold up against the hood. We attempted to move it back at first, but we agreed that it was going to adversely affect steering geometry, so we left it alone. We ended up redesigning the oil pan for it to sit lower and maintain the same engine position in the car as how the BMW engineers had designed it, while shaping the hood to allow for the extra engine height.” This is a solution that makes itself glaringly obvious from the outside, particularly when you view the car in profile – that vast power bulge in the bonnet is a none-too-subtle harbinger of the furious power that resides within. It looks rather like the bulge you’d find on an Aston Martin V8 Zagato, which is pretty good company to be in.
It’s a fairly spicy interpretation of the venerable S38B36, too – Valencia has kitted it out with a massive custom air intake, an Ireland Engineering race-spec aluminium radiator, and the pulleys from a later 3.8-litre S38, while the spent gases are forcefully exhaled through a fancy straight-through exhaust. It really does sound the business. “After hearing it on track, people always comment on how good the car sounds,” Sean grins. “They always say it’s how a BMW should sound! I’ve also encountered people following me to the race track to see what the car was about, drawn in by the noise…”
The fact that it has not only squeezed the vast engine in there, but made it work effectively is something that should be applauded. And equally impressive is its approach to the interior; with a dedicated track car, it’s so easy just to strip the cabin of everything superfluous and leave it at that. But Valencia’s E36 is truly a sight to behold once you’ve swung open the lightweight driver door. The roll-cage is staggeringly hardcore, the gussets and hollowed-out door skins speak of singleminded purpose, but it’s the clinical icewhiteness that truly catches the eye. They really have done this properly. Furthermore, peering back from where the passenger seat would have been, you get a glimpse into the book where the struts for that towering rear spoiler are chassismounted.
It’s a Bimmerworld race wing with custom high-rise uprights, and it’s not exactly subtle. Neither are the arch flares, custom-fabricated in steel to wrap around those square-setup 10.5”-wide Apex ARC-8s, and it’s all hiding a thoroughly sophisticated chassis that begins with an hors d’oeuvre of Ground Control coilovers, serves up adjustable ARBs for the main course, and tops it all off with a dessert of brake upgrades, before enjoying some seamwelding over brandy and cigars.
What’s the upshot of all this effort, then? A trophy or two, perhaps, or just some good ol’ rough-and-tumble track fun? “We took first place in the Global Time Attack Limited RWD Class at Chuckwalla Raceway in 2013,” Sean beams. “Then there was the Redline Time Attack at Willow Springs Raceway, where we again took first place in the Modified RWD Class, and won the Super Session – something we went on to repeat at the Redline event at Buttonwillow Raceway.” It seems, then, that the plan has worked.
With either Sean or Don Pastor behind the wheel, this mighty M3 is kicking butt all over the West Coast, and doing a damn fine job of showing the spectating public what Valencia European is all about – sure, it can hammer the dents out of your 1 Series or figure out why your dash is full of warning lights, but its skill-set goes far beyond the everyday. These are a bunch of guys who know a thing or two about building race cars, and that’s a very useful reputation to have. The fact that the car is as immaculately presented as it is devastatingly effective is a sizeable cherry on a very delicious cake. Redefining what’s possible is something they take in their stride – to hell with physics, this quart of engine sits very happily in its shiny blue pint-pot.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.6-litre straight-six #S38B36 / #S38 / #BMW-S38 , #S38B38 cam gears, #Kempower Speed sensor delete, custom harness, Ireland Engineering race aluminium radiator, electric cooling fan, custom 4” intake and #K&N filter, E34 M5 oil cooler, custom engine mounts, custom 3” straight-through exhaust, E30 M3 #Getrag-265 / #Getrag gearbox, custom transmission mounts, six-paddle racing clutch, custom propshaft, 4.27:1 LSD.
CHASSIS: 10.5x17” (front and rear) ET25 #Apex-ARC-8 wheels with 18mm spacers (front), 275/40 (front and rear) Nitto NT01s tyres, 90mm Motorsport Hardware extended lugs, #Ground-Control race coilovers, Ground Control camber/castor plates, #Eibach 550/650 spring rates, #H&R adjustable anti roll-bars (front and rear), Ground Control race trailing-arm solid bushings, SPC rear camber arms, front lower control arms, #Delrin bushings, ABS delete, manual brake bias controller, custom steel braided brake lines, Raybestos race pads, tubular front bulkhead/radiator support, seam-welded front shock towers.
EXTERIOR: Dzus-fastened bumpers and bootlid, Alumalite front splitters, Alumalite drive planes, custom metal wide-body flares, deleted door handles, frame-mounted Bimmerworld race wing with custom uprights, sunroof delete, custom fibreglass bonnet, Racequip tow strap.
INTERIOR: #Sparco steering wheel, #Sparco-Pro-2000 racing seat, Crow Industries harness, Longacre rear view mirror, I/O Port window net, full gusseted roll-cage.
This may be a stripped-out track car, but it has been finished to an exacting standard. Interior is finished in white with a full gusseted roll-cage and the bare essentials.
S38 is a bit of a squeeze but Valencia managed to make it fit and gave it a few upgrades for good measure.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationThe #1981 #BMW-635CSi-E24 / a sharper toothed shark / Uprated Shark: E34 M5-powered Six / #BMW-635CSi-S38 / #BMW-635CSi-S38-E24 / #BMW-635CSi / #BMW-E24 / #BMW / #BMW-6-Series /
A Sharper Toothed Shark A lovely E24 Six complete with S38 power. Crammed with the might of the twin-cam S38 engine from an E34 M5, this Six delivers a knockout punch Words: Johann Venter. Photography: Mahomed Abdulla.
This 1981 635CSi is one of the most elegant Coupés to come out of Bavaria. It was conceived by legendary automotive designer Paul Bracq. The Seventies was an exciting time at BMW. Having survived extinction it was ready to take on the world with several new models and at the forefront was Bracq.
In 1972 BMW unveiled the Turbo concept, a futuristic wedge-shaped design with gull-wing doors which highlighted to the world BMW’s intentions. And if the world needed any further proof of the company’s plans for the future that same year it opened its new four-cylinder building next to the Olympic Park that still acts as the company’s global HQ. Bracq was also responsible for the design of the first Three, Five and Seven Series. Although his tenure at BMW was short-lived his influence lived on for decades. It’s hard to believe, though, that BMW only had four models in its line-up up until 1988.
Although the purists might call us heathens, we won’t hide from the fact that we like what ‘garagistas’ such as Eagle are doing with the E-Type, Singer with early air-cooled 911s, and Mechatronik with classic Mercedes. Fitting more modern engines and equipment, making the cars more drivable, reliable and safe but still keeping enough of the originality so that they are still considered classics works for us. Similarly, at the heart of the conversion on this E24 Six is the S38 motor as found in the ‘3.6’ E34 M5 – a fettled and updated version of the M88 24-valve in-line ‘six which was deployed in both the E28 M5 and E24 M6. Its capacity was increased to 3535cc for the S38 while further improvements included a new forged steel crankshaft, upgraded camshafts, flywheel and equal length stainless steel manifolds – all of which upped the compression ratio. Better mapping of the Bosch engine management system, a more precise electronically-controlled fuel-injection system and butterfly valves in the inlet manifold provided better power delivery further down the rev range. This resulted in 315hp at 6900rpm and 266lb ft of torque at 4750rpm, propelling the M5 from 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds with an electronically-controlled top speed of 155mph.
Darryl Pietersen, the lucky owner of this lovely example, shares his thinking behind the build: “I always had it at the back of my mind to do something different. We don’t have many E24 M6s in South Africa.” Darryl has been in love with the BMW marque for as long as he can remember and his first introduction to BMW was with a 2002, as he recalls: “I decided to fit a rotary motor to make it go faster, which was a big mistake. My second 2002 I kept completely original and sold it for more than what I had paid for it. My first M car was a 1996 E36 M3 but unfortunately it was stolen before I had even done 60 miles in it! In between I had an E34 535i – what an amazing car – and years later when my needs changed I progressed to an X5. Then, about six years ago, I was watching a feature on TV on the E24 6 Series and thought I could see myself in something like that.”
Finding the right car, though, wasn’t easy: “I looked for a clean example for a quite a while. I eventually found this car in Cape Town. I bought it without physically seeing it and took delivery of it in January 2011. It had 136k miles on the clock and the motor was running perfectly.”
As the car had come from the Cape Town area Darryl was initially concerned about the dreaded tin worm but his fears proved to be unfounded: “Fortunately there was no rust. It was complete but the paintwork was weathered and certain areas had lost the metallic finish completely. The leather Recaro seats were worn, too. The previous owner had also bought the car with the intention of restoring it but never got around to it.”
So a restoration for the Shark was on the cards but having always lusted after the M635CSi Darryl knew that he wanted more power for his car and explains why he eventually went down the S38 route: “The M88 motor is extremely hard to come by in South Africa, the S38 slightly less so. When I consulted my longtime friend and owner of Tune Tech, Shaun Sing with the vision I had, he confirmed that the S38 motor was the one to have – the last of the six-cylinder breed in the M5.
Shaun has been working on my BMWs since he started Tune Tech 20 years ago – back then operating from home. I trust him emphatically, he is an excellent BMW mechanic and tuner. I was lucky to find one of these engines at IPC as they are not common. IPC predominately import used engines from Germany and this 3.6-litre motor had only done 50,000km [31k miles]. It truly is a great piece of German engineering and runs absolutely beautifully.”
Anyone who has taken on a restoration, let alone one that involves an engine swap, will tell you these things take time… and so it was with Darryl’s Six which was five years in the making. “I did extensive research to make sure that the conversion could be done successfully. The car was stripped down to bare metal and built from the ground up. It is covered in at least five coats of paint.” It’s an eye-catching shade and we enquire as to whether it’s actually Alpina blue? “It looks like Alpina blue, yet it isn’t,” Darryl replies. “I always liked the Avus blue found on the E36 M3 but for this car I needed it to pop even more.
I wanted it to have more body. The colour itself is very close to the Mazda Deep Crystal Blue Metallic.” Setting off the paint very nicely are a set of Alpina wheels, but even sourcing these wasn’t easy, as Darryl explains: “They’re original Alpina items, imported from… Slovakia! I could not find these Alpina 18-inch rims in South Africa and the ones from the UK were an astronomical price. In the end it still cost me an arm and a leg but it was worth it.”
The car sits very well on its Alpinas and Darryl explains that he managed to achieve exactly what he was looking for with the suspension: “I wanted an M Sport-look which I achieved by fitting Bilstein dampers with H&R springs. It is a winning formula, as the ride height is lower while the firmer package allows for less body-roll and better handling. The springs are progressive and only become stiffer when on a chase. All other suspension rubbers and bushes have been replaced with OEM parts. The result is a ride that is not overtly firm, the stance is not too low and the handling is magnificent.”
Just about the only other aspect of the car that required attention was the interior and Darryl has kept an OEM-look, simply installing a new carpet to replace the worn original and having the Recaro seats recovered in leather.
“This car really draws plenty of attention,” enthuses Darryl. “Youngsters can’t believe that this car is over 30 years old. Paul Bracq penned a very futuristic BMW. The lines were way ahead of its time and therefore the younger BMW enthusiasts can be forgiven for thinking it is fairly new. It is definitely one of the stand-out modern classic BMWs for me,” Having looked at the build of the car it’s time to see if it drives as well as it looks, so we head off to our photo location: a deserted, unfinished piece of the N4 Magalies Freeway close to Hartbeespoort Dam, about 90km outside of Johannesburg. The road is barricaded off with concrete road barriers but luckily for us the centre barrier has been pushed aside, just enough to create an opening for the E24 and our camera vehicle to slip through. It is quite eerie as there are no other vehicles on this dual carriage highway. Where the road comes to an abrupt end it is laden with burnt rubber tracks. Oil drums are stacked together where the two lanes converge and to the side is the carcass of a burnt out bus lying on its side. It is like stepping into the apocalypse, a kind of Mad Max world, if you will.
In contrast to this End of Days scene the Six cuts a rather svelte figure. We like the #Alpina theme running through this interpretation of the car, the colour so close to the ubiquitous Alpina blue and those Alpina wheels fitted with Falken ZE 912 asymmetric rubber, 225/45 ZR18 up front and 235/45 ZR18 in the rear, filling the arches perfectly. The valve stem is hidden behind the Alpina centre cap, with air being channelled through one of the spokes into the tyre so that there’s no valve protruding from the wheel, resulting in a super-clean finish.
Although this is not my first rodeo with this beast, I am ecstatic to be handed the keys. Inside are the best Recaro Sport seats of this period. They look superb and feel even better once you settle in, offering excellent support, while the three-spoke steering feels exactly right with just enough padding on the rim. To be honest, I didn’t initially appreciate how the gauges were displayed within the instrument binnacle in the earlier versions of the Six, with the speedo in the centre being larger than the two gauges on either side. Over the years, though, this setup has grown on me and with the red needles I am beginning to think that it looks better than the later, more conventional setup. It is also great to see that the old Pioneer Component radio/cassette deck has been retained… if only I could find one of my ’80s cassettes!
Engage the ignition and there is a thunderous roar. I am expecting it to settle down like a normal big inline ‘six, but it doesn’t. Deploy first gear and the lever shifts into position with ease. The engine is freerevving and easily pulls towards 6000rpm, hurtling the Six and myself towards the horizon with sheer voracity. It slips into second like a glove, precise but elongated. The engine is still in the sweet-spot and the revs are soon back on the limit. The engine noise seems to fade out at the top end. Third is another protracted throw and then all of a sudden the revs seem to dip down to zero, as if you’re frozen in time.
Then the power begins to surge again but the momentum has been lost. By the time I hit fourth I’ve run out of Tarmac. I am happy to spin it around to have another go, it truly is great guns in first and second, but the original ’box lets it down when you want to go guns blazing for the entire journey. Darryl he insists that I do another sortie and push it even harder, which I gladly do. I discover it will rev beyond 6000rpm and that wheel-spin is possible in second if you hold onto the higher revs for long enough in first. “It still has the 635CSi five-speed gearbox,” Darryl says. “The M5 gearbox has a larger bellhousing which would have meant cutting into the frame to accommodate the bigger ’box. The midrange is therefore lacking and you can feel that when you change from second to third. I relish each opportunity I get to drive it, though. I love how it pushes down on its haunches as you accelerate. It’s a thrill that I cannot seem to get enough of, no matter how short-lived it is. I drive it every weekend if I can, starting with a drive to work on Friday as a treat!
“I find myself appreciating older BMWs even more today and really enjoying the classic BMW experience. I often take the Six out for a drive with fellow enthusiasts and to classic events and car shows where I can share my enthusiasm.” So mission accomplished then? “There is always something that still needs doing on a classic car, it never ends. I must point out, however, that Shaun and his team at Tune Tech did a sterling job. Everything runs and works perfectly, including the electronics. The motor is perfectly balanced. There is no vibration whatsoever.”
Now that the Six is completed we can’t help but wonder whether there is another BMW project on the horizon for Darryl? “ #BMW has been part of my motoring journey since… well, forever. My brothers owned several BMWs and so have many of my friends. I am, therefore, quite nostalgic about the car. I intend to pass on the Six to one of my grandsons when the time is right; for the other grandson I intend to restore a 2002. It is part of my BMW legacy that I wish to leave behind for them,” he explains.
As we are about to leave Darryl decides to lay down his own tyre tracks, marking his territory in a plume of smoke. The joys of electronic-free driving: just drop the clutch, ram the load pedal and give it plenty of opposite lock… it’s sheer driving pleasure.
Special thanks to: Ron Silke
“Paul Bracq penned a very futuristic #BMW . The lines were way ahead of its time”
18-inch Alpina alloys look lovely and hide their valve stems behind the centre cap.
The engine is free-revving and easily pulls towards 6000rpm, hurtling the Six towards the horizon.
At the heart of this conversion lies 3535cc of #BMW-S38 #BMW-M-Power goodness, an #BMW-E34 #BMW-M5-E34 having donated its heart for this super Six.
Darryl has kept the interior of his E24 largely original and just about the only restoration work required was for those superb Recaro seats to be retrimmed and for the carpet to be replaced.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.