- Post is under moderationThere’s no denying this was a strange looking one, but powered by a big V8 and four-wheel drive it would have been a hoot to drive we reckon. BMW Concepts A look on the rather unusual #V8-powered Z18 from 2000. / #BMW-Z18-Concept / #1995-BMW-Z18-Concept / #BMW-Z18 / #BMW-Concept / #BMW / #V8 / #1995 / #BMW-V8 /
No roof, four-wheel drive, a 4.4-litre V8 making 355hp and a manual gearbox? This had real potential to be a lot of fun!
BMW CONCEPTS: The cars they could have made Z18
When a manufacturer goes to the effort of creating a concept car it’s usually immediately displayed to the public at the nearest upcoming motor show. This is done to seem like the company is pushing ahead, showing off some outside, innovative thinking whilst offering a glimpse into future styling ideas. So on that basis the Z18 concept was a little odd as it made its debut to the public in 2000, some five years after it was built. Even then it only saw the light of day to mark an occasion; the 15th birthday of BMW Technik Gmbh which is the creative team behind most of the concept cars.
Inspired by the company’s success of the Enduro motorcycles of the 1990s the idea was to create a car counterpart. It was designed as what is best described as a research project, centred around the concept of providing driving pleasure in an unusual way. Or as #BMW described it: “The yearning to explore off-road terrain and the pleasure of mobility under the open skies was combined for the first time on four wheels.”
That essentially meant creating an #off-road , highly robust roadster that was constructed from a steel chassis and fitted with a plastic body. What you see is what you get; there was no roof although it did apparently have holes in the floor to let any water filter out! Its styling also seems to share a passing likeness to the BMW Z1, but then they were created at the same sort of time by the same design team. Being four-wheel drive it’s safe to assume the running gear was largely borrowed from the X5 that was in development and due to be released in 1999.
But best of all was the engine, as BMW had selected to create quite a nippy number thanks to the use of a 4.4-lite V8 making 355hp and it was coupled to a manual gearbox! With no roof and not a whole lot of weight that would have made the Z18 good fun to drive, especially off road we reckon!
It was a practical concept, too, as the inside was described by BMW as incorporating “…a variable interior concept and elevated seating to characterise the innovative driving experience…” The variable part is what made it interesting as it was suggested the cabin could offer two- and four-seater configurations as well as a pick-up style option if required.
The project obviously never got off the ground and as mentioned, for some reason or another, BMW didn’t even attempt to display it, which seems a shame. You could argue the sports utility concept of the Z18 was turned down a few notches but embraced with the introduction of the X6 and the like, so perhaps the ill-fated 1995 concept did do some lasting good. However, even a lightweight roofless X6 is a long way off this…Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationFull-fat 4x4: E53 X5 4.8iS Bringing out the BIG GUNS. Words: Simon Holmes. Photography: Steve Hall.
When BMW introduced the X5 it raised some eyebrows and so did the V8 versions that followed, including the daddy of them all: the 4.8iS.
Bringing Out The Big Guns It’s easy to forget that BMW used to make massive #V8-engined X5s like the 4.8iS.
The launch of the first X5 seems like a long time ago now, and for good reason as it was 15 years ago, back in 1999, that BMW first ventured into the relatively new SUV market. Only it called the X5 (and every subsequent X model since) a Sports Activity Vehicle, or SAV instead.
The new model was met with scepticism at the time as there was some speculation over how well this new wave of larger four-wheel drive cars actually drove on a day-to-day basis. Despite the pumped-up ride height the majority of these cars spent their time on the road rather than off it but that’s what set the X5 apart. Instead of being developed primarily as an off-road vehicle that was then adapted to drive like a car, BMW turned that theory on its head and developed a platform that shared its suspension design closely with a road car. This ensured its roadholding capabilities were preset, so it was then a matter of adapting it to work as a four-wheel drive afterwards. The upside was that on the road it felt and handled like a larger, high-riding car. The down side was its off-road ability, particularly with its car-like large wheels and low profile tyres, wasn’t exactly exceptional but BMW gambled that in this market it wouldn’t have to be.
The decision paid off. The X5 soon became a surefire hit and the fact it wasn’t much good at climbing mountains didn’t really matter. People understood the concept and the car-like feel of the SAV appealed to the masses. It didn’t take long until a demand for a more powerful version to suit the image and make best use of the developed chassis arose either.
Initially, the range of engines was limited but a petrol V8 was always in the line-up to satisfy those wanting a certain amount of grunt in their new SAV. At first this was provided by the 4.4i model, producing a wholesome 286hp but after good sales and feedback BMW realised there might be a market for a hotter version. So for those yearning for more power a 4.6iS model entered production in 2001 to run alongside the 4.4i. Powered by the M62 4.6-litre V8 producing 347hp it pushed the X5 into a different realm, as despite its size and 2.2-tonne weight it offered performance that would give many of the big BMWs a scare with its 0-62mph time of just 6.5 seconds.
However, by 2004 the X5 was due a face-lift and the M62 engine was reaching the end of its life span, so the new and improved N62 V8 replaced it. This unit featured double Vanos and came in a range of sizes but 4.6-litres to suit the previous X5 model was not one of them. Instead, there was now a larger 4799cc version and so the 4.8iS was born to replace it. The new range-topper produced 360hp at a relatively rev-happy 6200rpm and with it came a matching 369lb ft of torque at a much lower 3600rpm. The big V8 only came connected to the six-speed automatic Steptronic gearbox but performance was frankly ludicrous for the size and weight of the car. From rest, 62mph was achieved in just 6.1 seconds whilst some independent tests claimed to have breached the sub-6 second threshold. It kept on going until it ran out of gearing and aerodynamics at its 153mph top speed.
To help distribute all that power to the floor, all of the new face-lifted X5 models also featured xDrive as standard, which meant the clever four-wheel drive system could vary power between the front and back when needed. The 4.8iS also received self-levelling air suspension with sports settings both front and rear that featured manual ride height adjustment, too.
All that performance and technology came at a price and on launch the new replacement iS cost £58,025, nearly £10,000 more than a 4.4i Sport and some £22,575 more than an entry level 3.0i SE. For your money you did get a level of luxury unrivalled by the lower models that still holds its own today. Inside the usual Dakota leather interior fitted to other X5s was exclusively upgraded to soft Nappa leather and the headlining was finished in anthracite. The front seats were heated and offered electric adjustment with memory functions as standard. All X5 models came with gadgets galore with everything from cruise control and PDC to rain sensors and tyre puncture warning, but the 4.8iS also featured a CD changer to go with the advanced ten-speaker stereo. The standard safety equipment was topped with rear side airbags to match the existing front, side and head airbags for the driver and passenger. To match the beefy performance there were also beefy looks and the standard wheels were upgraded to giant 20-inch items carried over from the 4.6iS that measured 9.5- and 10.5-inches wide, front and back. They were fitted with supercar-wide 315/35/20 tyres at the rear and 275/40/20 at the front. To top it off, xenon headlights, chrome exhaust tailpipes and extended wheel arches were fitted.
Despite fuel consumption and running costs not being exactly strong points for the model thanks to a claimed 20.9mpg combined figure, the 4.8iS actually sold pretty well, although ever improving diesel technology would mark the end for the big petrol engines. There are still a few around but they aren’t exactly common; fortunately reader Jag has supplied us with the 4.8iS seen here. He hasn’t had the car long and actually bought it on a bit of whim after it caught his eye for sale on the internet, which makes him a brave man! Knowing that the 4.8iS is a rare beast finished in this fetching shade of Estoril blue, Jag bought it and has since been using it as a fun family car for the weekends. He chose well as this particular iS would have been an expensive purchase when it was first ordered back in 2005 as it’s been fitted with a range of options including an Electric Panorama Glass Sunroof at £1095, Aluminium Running Boards at £215 and Professional sat nav with TV capability at £2440, among others. It’s a fine example to photograph and fine example to test-drive, which Jag has graciously let us do.
The first thing you notice when climbing up into the capacious cabin is that you literally have to climb into the car, rather than settle yourself into it. At 1.8 meters tall the X5 is big but whilst it looks large on the outside once you’re behind the wheel it feels positively gargantuan. Even the driving position itself seems raised, more so than later X5 models as the seats themselves don’t go quite as low to the floor.
It’s easy to adapt to, though, and it does give a great, open view of the road. The height of the pedals takes a little longer to get used to as they sit a little too high, producing a slightly strange angle for my long legs to position. But otherwise the interior is a nice place to be and the panoramic sunroof really makes it feel light and airy through the vast cabin space. The dashboard, instruments and switchgear all have a solid, late 1990s feel of BMW build quality, which is a good thing.
Out on the road the immediately surprising thing is how well the X5 hides its vast mass. You can feel the weight of the car shift around as you accelerate and brake but it doesn’t necessarily feel like two tonnes of metal. That’s largely down to the engine, as the big V8 makes light work of pulling away with haste and once on the move it’s perfectly content to travel with complete effortlessness. A relaxed right foot sees the automatic shifting gears at 2000rpm and at these lowly speeds the engine seems super silky smooth, allowing a consistent gliding sensation. The gearbox’s changes are a little less seamless but not enough to disrupt the feel and even with those big wheels and skinny tyres the ride seems pleasant and although it’s firm it’s far from harsh.
There’s still plenty of grunt low down and the power seems almost lazy in its delivery at first but on the more open sections of road the X5 transforms. Once you engage some more throttle and force the gearbox to kickdown a gear or two it’s then that the V8 picks up with a sudden sense of urgency. Whilst the power maintains an effortless wave of momentum the speedo quickly climbs and even at higher speed it reacts with the same smooth punch of torque, making light work of just about any road once on the move. The accompanying soundtrack it makes is glorious, too, as the deep burble it emits at low revs awakens to become a satisfying growl higher up. It sounds just like a big V8 should and it inevitably brings a smile to your face every time the revs build.
However, on the more flowing A- and B-roads the lack of immediate steering response is notable and it almost feels a little clumsy. In tighter turns it requires the steering wheel to be fed through your hands as it hasn’t got the lock to turn without taking your hands off the wheel, something I haven’t experienced on a car in awhile. Also, when pushing on in the corners it seems to show a tendency to want to understeer, though the active xDrive system works away to ensure it remains composed. You do find yourself sliding around the armchair-style seats a little though. Whilst it’s certainly not the kind of car to be taken on regular track day outings it’s fair to say the 4.8iS is a lot of fun in the way a big power engine always is.
It’s a very big and heavy car but it hides its bulk well thanks to that engine as a dab of throttle makes it come alive and with an associated engine note to put virtually every current BMW to shame. It’s clearly more suited as a heavyweight cruiser, although Jag tells us that 20mpg is about as much as it will do on a run. But then it’s not the kind of car you buy for the economy and that goes with the territory with an iS.
It’s a shame BMW doesn’t do a petrol engine V8 equivalent in the current X5 line-up as although the big diesels offer similar performance, they don’t quite have that same aggressive feel or, of course, sound. The big gun X5 was definitely one of a kind…
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E53 / #BMW-X5 / #BMW-X5-E53 / #BMW-X5-4.8iS / #BMW-X5-4.8iS-E53 / #BMW / #V8 / #BMW-V8 / #N62B48 / #N62 / #BMW-N62 /
ENGINE: 32-valve, V8
MAX POWER: 360hp
MAX TORQUE: 369lb ft
TOP SPEED: 153mph
0-62MPH: 6.1 seconds
Out on the road the surprising thing is how well the X5 hides its vast massStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationFIRST WORDS
First things first, we begin this issue with an announcement: we have new bosses as PBMW now belongs to Kelsey Media Ltd, whereas before we were owned by Unity Media Plc. Obviously what you’re interested in is how this affects you, and it’s all good news. Most importantly, #PBMW isn’t going anywhere so you’re still going to get your regular modified BMW fix, no worries there, and while both cover and subscription prices have been adjusted you’re now getting 13 issues a year rather than 12, as the magazine will now be on sale every four weeks rather than once a month. This means even more modified #BMW goodness to wrap your reading gear around throughout the year. No complaints then!
Hopefully January didn’t drag you down too far and you’re on the up, getting excited about the prospect of warmer weather and hitting the shows. Got exciting new plans? New wheels? New paint? Ready to go or still planning? Whatever your situation, we can’t wait to see what’s new on the BMW scene once show season kicks off.
As for the right now, you’ve got the March issue in your hands to put a smile on your face and it’s packed full of awesomeness. Where to begin? How about with our cover car? Griot’s-Motors rocked SEMA with its insane E30 Touring and now it’s here to rock your world. This two-door, #V8-powered , M3-bodied machine is unlike anything we’ve ever seen and it’s an incredible build from top to bottom. We’ve also got 2M Autowerks’ awesome E46, which started out life as a 330Ci but now boasts a custom metal wide-body rear end, sits on HRE splits and then there’s the small matter of that S54 swap. Closer to home there’s an insane, #BMW-S62 #V8-swapped E34 drift beast, a wild 476hp 135i, and a super-clean E36 Touring for you to enjoy, plus our Car of the Year results!
In fact, there’s so much to enjoy that we should stop wasting time with idle chat and let you get on with reading the issue. We’ll see you next month.
Griotʼs-Motors two-door #BMW-E30 / #BMW-V8 / #BMW-Touring / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E30 / #BMW / #Griot's-Garage / #BMW-E30-Griotʼs-Motors / #BMW-Touring-2-door / #BMW-E30-M60 / #BMW-E30-V8 / #Getrag / #HRE /Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationPASSION WAGON #BMW-M3
Griot’s Motors unleashes its V8-powered, two-door, #BMW-M3-bodied E30 #BMW-M3-Touring . Two-door, M3-bodied, #V8-powered E30 Touring.
Astonishing in its vision, astounding in its execution, just plain awesome by its very existence, the Griot’s Motors two-door, #V8-swapped , #M3-bodied E30 #BMW-M3-Touring-E30 is quite unlike anything we’ve ever seen… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Kevin Uy.
What’s amazing about the modified BMW scene is that, just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone comes along and produces something the likes of which you’ve never seen before. It’s no mean feat, and you’re looking at one such creation right now. It is a two-door, #M3-bodied-E30-Touring powered by a 4.0-litre M60 V8. This creation is the brainchild of the Griot’s (pronounced Gree-oh’s) Motors team, itself the skunkworks division of Griot’s Garage – a car care manufacturing company based over in Tacoma, Washington, USA. If you’ve never heard of Tacoma, look up Galloping Gertie, an infamous bridge that collapsed in 1940 due to strong winds. And if you’ve never heard the term skunkworks before, it’s basically a name given to an experimental department of a company.
Griot’s Motors was started by Richard and Phillip Griot. “The garage buys, sells, restores and modifies a wide variety of classic cars,” says Nick Griot. “Our main restoration shop is actually part of the Griot’s Garage headquarters.” Skunkworks it may be but Griot’s Motors is an impressive operation in itself, with around 70 cars currently held in the company’s collection, which is constantly changing as cars are completed, sold on and new ones purchased. BMWs naturally make up a portion of this collection, with a number of modern and classic examples along with a couple of motorbikes. “BMWs have always been of interest to us as they represent a perfect blend of design and function which carries through to the people who buy them,” explains Nick.
“BMW owners are passionate about racing, preserving, modifying and maintaining their cars – which is pretty much us in a nutshell. Griot’s Garage is also the exclusive Car Care Provider for the BMW Car Club of America so we are actively invested in the BMW community and do a lot with the club every year.”
That’s all well and good but it doesn’t explain how this insane E30 Touring came about. “At Griot’s Motors we basically focus on modernising cars without losing any of their vintage attributes,” explains Nick. “And we are constantly looking for unique, hard-to- find cars. This was a car we wanted to own just because we finally could. E30 Tourings were never imported to the States and, generally, a car must be over 25-yearsold to be able to be imported and registered. We found this car for sale in Florida and it had made its way there from Germany via Japan. It was in good original condition, and very complete, so we bought it thinking it would remain relatively stock and would be enjoyed as it was. However, once we got the car and saw the wear and tear and significant paint degradation we knew it was in need of restoration, which is where we went a little mad and cooked up a crazy vision for the car – one that had never been done before.”
The blame for everything that you see here can really be placed on Richard’s shoulders, as Nick explains: “After sitting in the car he stated that visibility was not up to his standards and he wondered aloud about the potential of longer doors from an E30 Coupé to improve visibility. That started the discussion of the two-door conversion, which led us all the way to M3 body work, an engine swap, and custom fabrication.”
The bodywork didn’t come first, though, that honour goes to the engine, but it’s too big a deal for us not to get excited about it. The sheer amount of extensive custom fab work that’s gone into making the dream a reality is mind-boggling. With the seed sown, the Griot’s Motors team started exploring the idea of the two-door conversion and, after taking some measurements from their pair of E30 M3s, they realised that the M3 bodywork would work very well. With what might seem like an insane idea now looking eminently achievable the car was delivered to J-Rod & Custom who began the Herculean task of turning four doors into two and making it all look like a factory job.
The B-pillar had to be moved back nine inches in order to be able to accept the longer doors. A completely custom frame had to be built into the space vacated by the rear doors. And new inner wheel wells were created to accommodate the wider M3 rear arches (the quarter panels having been sourced from Germany). The rear light housings had to be modified to fit the standard light clusters, new window trim was also created and the glass from the rear saloon doors was used between the B- and C-pillar. The front arches fitted straight on and all the remaining body parts are OE #BMW items with bumpers and side skirts acquired from local BMW enthusiasts. The finishing touch involved six coats of PPG Deltron Griot’s Red. The end result is nothing short of spectacular. Nick says the goal was to create a car that looked like a factory product, and that’s been achieved and then some. The bodywork is perfect, the paint finish flawless, and the combination of Touring body, two-door configuration, and M3 arches is breathtaking. No doubt there are plenty of Touring enthusiasts out there choking with rage right now but you’d have to be a fool to look at this E30 and think it doesn’t look anything less than perfect.
As we briefly touched upon earlier, the engine was actually the first step in the build process and, when it came to the V8 swap, the Griot’s team worked to the same exacting, obsessive standards to ensure that, bonnet up, the engine bay would leave onlookers as floored as the rest of the car. Before all this madness began there was a 2.5-litre M20 under the bonnet but that simply wouldn’t do for a car of this calibre, which is why an engine swap was a necessity. The engine in question is from a #1995 E34 540i, purchased in its entirety to provide the E30 Touring with not only that lusty 4.0-litre #V8 but also a six-speed manual gearbox and engine wiring harness, making for an easy engine exchange, with the V8 sitting on custom mounts along with a fabricated transmission saddle and tunnel reinforcement to support it. But the engine swap itself isn’t the only impressive part, it’s the work that’s gone on around it, the attention to detail, that impresses the most. Prior to the insertion of the V8, the engine bay was shaved and smoothed to remove any and all holes and brackets. “The plan,” says Nick, “was to have an extremely simple engine bay that showed off the most beautiful aspects of the engine without the clutter of wiring and engine accessories.”
The brake booster, he says, was removed and has been replaced with a full pedal assembly inside the car and then reservoirs were fabricated in-house for coolant, brake/clutch, and power steering fluids.
These were then machined with threads that corresponded with the factory reservoir caps, giving the custom parts a factory appearance. As a result of this painstaking attention to detail the engine bay is nothing short of a work of art. It’s clean enough to eat your dinner off and it ensures that all eyes are immediately drawn to that V8, itself embellished with red painted rocker covers and a classic BMW roundel on the engine cover. A custom cold air feed, utilising a large velocity stack located in the passenger side high beam hole and an in-line filter, supplies the big V8 with all the air it can ingest. Elsewhere the Griot’s team has fitted V8 X5 exhaust manifolds with a custom T304 stainless steel exhaust system, while a custom driveshaft and 2.93 LSD-equipped rear end have also been fitted.
Killer one-off styling and a sweet engine swap are all well and good but it’s only a job half done where a major project like this is concerned. Now came the turn of the chassis to be comprehensively overhauled. Step one involved removing the front and rear subframes and completely refreshing them, with both being reinforced in key areas before being powdercoated satin black. The E30 received polybushes throughout and camber adjustment was added to the rear trailing arms. “The front strut assemblies were sent to Ground Control and the guys there worked their magic, shortening and reinforcing the strut housings so we could get the car as low as we wanted,” explains Nick. “They also provided us with the Koni shocks, front camber plates, spring perches, and new springs that would accommodate the increase in weight from the V8.”
With the Ground Control coilover setup endowing the E30 with pretty much the perfect ride height, all that was needed now was the perfect set of wheels to adequately fill those swollen arches. You’ve no doubt been staring at the pictures for a while now so you’ve probably identified what the Griot’s Motors team decided to fit: HREs. Is it wrong to get excited about HREs? Like, really, really excited? They just look so good here. Choosing a flat-faced wheel rather than the default dished design is a bit of a ‘woah’ moment but, despite being a thoroughly modern wheel, the classic crossspoke design brings to mind the BBSs that the E30 M3 originally wore so well. And that’s exactly why these 501Ms were selected for this build. They allowed the Griot’s team to keep that factory look while giving them the modern size and width options they wanted for an aggressive stance. And while deciding on the final colour took some time, the brushed gold that was chosen is not only gorgeous but a perfect match for that bright red body.
Right now, you’re probably reeling because, let’s be honest, there’s a hell of a lot to take in here, but Griot’s isn’t finished with you just yet because now we come to the interior. And, well, it’s a bit special. Up front, the M3 theme has been carried over from the outside with reproduction tricolour M Tech cloth applied to the doorcards and front seats, a retrimmed M Tech I steering wheel with tricolour stitching, and an M gear knob.
In the back, however, well that’s where everything goes crazy. The rear passenger and luggage area has been transformed into a mobile product display and valeting station: this is a car that can wash itself.
Well, not literally, but you know what we mean. The rear seats have been replaced with a custom aluminium water tank and hose while the entire boot has been fitted with a custom enclosure that allows the entire range of Griot’s Garage detailing products and polishers to be displayed. The whole affair has been beautifully finished and looks magnificent. It’s a very different boot build to the ones we’re used to seeing but no less impressive.
The Griot’s Motors E30 Touring is the vehicular embodiment of what Griot’s Garage and its skunkworks outfit stand for. It’s an incredible creation, one that’s come about from the vision and imagination of a small group of guys and one that could only have been created by people with nothing less than absolute passion for cars and for modifying them – because what kind of person decides to build a two-door Touring?
So much care and attention has been poured into not just making sure that the end result looks absolutely perfect, which it does, but also making sure that everything has been built to the highest possible standard and finished to absolute perfection. The goal was to make a car that looked like it could have rolled out of BMW’s own factory, and this car is that and so much more. And beyond showcasing what Griot’s Motors is capable of creating, the on-board valeting station showcases what Griot’s Garage is all about. This really might be the cleanest car we’ve ever shot. Best of all, this Touring isn’t about to be tucked away or sold, it’s going to be hitting the 2017 shows across the USA. And after that it’s going into rotation for regular driving whenever anyone wants to because, after all, that’s what it was built for. And that makes us very happy indeed.
“We went a little mad and cooked up a crazy vision for the car – one that had never been done before”
DATA FILE #Griotʼs-Motors two-door #BMW-E30 / #BMW-V8 / #BMW-Touring / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E30 / #BMW / #Griot's-Garage / #BMW-E30-Griotʼs-Motors / #BMW-Touring-2-door / #BMW-E30-M60 / #BMW-E30-V8 / #Getrag / #HRE /
FILE ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 #BMW-E30-M60B40 / #M60B40 / #BMW-M60 / #M60 , custom engine mounts, rocker covers painted red, engine bay shaved and smoothed, custom coolant and power steering reservoirs, tucked wiring harness, custom cold air feed from full beam headlight hole, X5 exhaust manifolds, custom #T304 stainless steel dual 2.5” exhaust, #Getrag six-speed manual gearbox, fabricated transmission saddle, tunnel reinforcement, custom propshaft, 2.93 LSD rear end
CHASSIS 8x17” (front) and 9x17” (rear) #HRE-501M wheels in brushed gold with 215/40 (front) and 235/40 (rear) Falken Azenis RT615K tyres, reinforced subframes, fully polybushed, rear trailing arm camber adjustment, shortened and reinforced front strut housings, fully-adjustable #Ground-Control coilovers with adjustable #Koni struts, camber plates
EXTERIOR Full OEM steel E30 M3 body panels including front and rear quarter panels, E30 coupé doors, side skirts, M3 bumpers (front and rear), full respray in #PPG-Deltron Griot’s Red
INTERIOR Seats and door panels retrimmed in reproduction M Tech cloth, retrimmed M Tech I steering wheel, six-speed M gear lever, new OE carpet, rear seats removed, custom aluminium water tank and hose, water jet-cut product display area in boot
THANKS Thank you to our sponsors, HRE Wheels, Brembo Brakes and Ground Control Systems. Thank you to J-Rod & Custom, McFarland Upholstery, Kassel Performance, Falken Tire and the hard work of Forrest Davis and Tim Willard of Griot’s Motors – without them, this project would have never been completed
“The plan was to have an engine bay that showed off the most beautiful aspects of the engine”
Shaved and smoothed bay ensures that all eyes are on that V8 when the bonnet’s up.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationCONTINENTAL DRIFT
It’s become an international sensation but the heart of drifting is in Japan. That’s not to say you have to use a Japanese car, however; you just have to get a little creative… 400HP E34 M5 V8-powered drift 5 Series S62 V8-swapped E34 drift machine. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Ade Brannan.
Drifting has come a long way from being the sole preserve of mischievous Japanese outlaws sneaking out for touge battles after dark. The sport has spread like wildfire across the globe, consuming everything in its path in a fug of dense tyre smoke. Of course, there are drifters and there are good drifters; any fool can kick a clutch and light up the rears but the true connoisseur has an ingrained knowledge of entry angles, balletic transitions, and all those technical tricks that are earned and learned rather than simply assumed.
Interestingly, the rise of the modern obsession with drifting neatly overlaps the demise of what archaeologists of the future will probably call ‘the fibreglass body kit era’. The modding fraternity’s enthusiasm for bolting massive, extravagant plastic addenda to humdrum shopping hatchbacks rapidly tailed off when they started seeing footage of big-power RWD cars atomising their tyres at high speed. And the timing of the fall of one phenomenon and the rise of the other is no coincidence. And Jeek Federico, owner of this slightly scary E34, straddles the two scenes rather effectively.
Now, it’s all very well teaching yourself to drift and honing a few cheeky skills, but it’s not like you can just do it out there on the Queen’s highway. You’ll be tugged by the fuzz in short order. And if you try to hang the tail out at Brands or Silverstone, you’ll be black-flagged straightaway, and probably blacklisted, too. But thankfully there’s a place on these innocent isles where such smoky shenanigans are actively encouraged: Driftland. It’s up there in Lochgelly in Scotland. Oh, and by chance, Jeek just happens to be the owner of the place. Handy, eh?
Driftland is the UK’s only dedicated drift venue, and it caters to all levels of enthusiasts who prefer to do their driving while looking through the side windows; seasoned veterans are welcome, but Jeek also runs a fleet of 15 or so E36 Drift School cars. Naturally he needs something pretty boisterous for his own car as well, to act as a showcase for all the place offers. And that’s where this E34 comes in. “I was looking for something to replace my E39 540i drift car that I’d owned for years,” he recalls. “I tried a few different Japanese models but hated them all. I’d known of this particular car for quite a few years and it came up for sale at just the right time; it had all the best bits of a big V8 German beauty that I loved, mixed with the agility and weight of a nimble Japanese car.”
Aha, you’re intrigued now, aren’t you? Because, you see, this isn’t just a strippedout travelling salesman special – it’s a custom-engineered lightweight with a German heart and a Japanese soul. The front end of the car is pretty much all Nissan S14 200SX, converted to run a JDM steering rack rather than the heavy old steering box. And the commitment to weight saving throughout the car is extensive and farreaching; even the single-wiper conversion runs an E46 Compact motor to shave off a few grams.
But don’t go wringing your hands just yet. It’s not all Japanese. Take a look at what’s going on under the bonnet, for example: the eagle-eyed and nerdy of engine code will have recognised this as an S62B50 – the hyperactively enhanced variant of the solid-as- a-rock M62 that you’d usually find under the bonnet of an E39 M5 (or, for those of a more exotic persuasion, the retro-futurist Z8 – y’know, the car James Bond sawed in half in that questionable 007 movie). This is a mighty motor, offering 400hp in factory tune; it’s got eight individual throttle bodies, hollow camshafts, and it’s just peachy.
“These engines don’t need a lot of modification,” Jeek assures us. “I’m running Huxley Motorsport exhaust manifolds and an Alpha N map with MAF delete but, aside from that, it hasn’t been messed with and it makes a solid 401hp.” He’s got it running through a five-speed manual ’box with a super-lightweight flywheel (this isn’t like a lazy, rumbling American V8, it’s an eager revver), while a Helix paddle-clutch makes short work of those fourth gear clutch kicks.
As you might imagine, the chassis that underpins all of this culture-clash fury is a bit of a mixed bag – part German, part Japanese, but all awesome. “The brakes are from an R33 Nissan Skyline at the front,” Jeek explains, “along with an E36 M3 Evo pedalbox and cylinder. The rear end is all E34 540i – it’s running zero camber to give perfect tyre wear and maximum grip from those 265/35s at 15psi.” Custom Apex coilovers suspend the thing, and you’ll find a variety of oriental flavours in the mix, too, from the likes of Tein and Doritech among others. The overriding theory behind the build is to ensure that every element of the car is focused on doing its job correctly; there’s nothing superfluous here, it’s all just hell-bent on destroying tyres in the most aesthetically alluring way possible. “The plan with it was always just to have fun, wreck tyres, and do huge top-of-fourth-gear smoky skids, all while advertising my business,” laughs Jeek. And his sense of fun is palpable throughout the E34. Sure, it’s aggressive and mean, but it’s also a little bit mischievous.
The choice of wheels presented a bit of head-scratching, not least because the car’s running different PCDs on either axle: 5x114 front and 5x120 rear. “I have always been a fan of dish and width,” he says. “My old E39 ran 10”-wide Rondels all-round, so the new car’s wheels had to be beefy specs, as well as being easily replaceable in the event of one getting damaged. I opted for the STYLE49 wheels from 7Twenty, in 10x17” on the front and 10.5x18” on the rear.”
They certainly complement the gorgeous paintwork very well. If the colour’s left you scrabbling through your memory banks of all the paint codes, it’s actually a Citroën shade named Whisper Purple. “I originally bought the car from my mate at Jankes BMW Spares,” says Jeek. “It was high off the ground, had crap wheels, and a terrible paint and sticker scheme. I had the body and paint all sorted out by the good guys at Toole Design. Along with the paintwork, the car was lowered and received a set of side skirts and a 1980s Zender splitter. The paint’s definitely my favourite thing that’s been done, as it looked rubbish before.”
While the look may be pin-sharp and ready to mingle with the heavies, it’s important to remember that this E34’s real party piece is its extraordinarily light weight. “It weighs just 1150kg wet,” Jeek explains. “To put that in context, that’s about the same as a new Fiesta.” Just absorb that fact for a moment: imagine a new Fiesta with 400hp, then consider the fact that they’re not even rear-wheel drive… the dedication to weight saving has been relentless and ruthless here.
“The theme for the interior was, quite simply, race car,” he grins. “There’s nothing in there that the car doesn’t need. That steering wheel is actually a genuine carbonfibre item from one of Ken Block’s M-Sport Focus rally cars. There’s also a pair of Motordrive seats with Driftland-branded harnesses (because sometimes you need to scare a passenger), a hydraulic handbrake, extinguishers, and that’s pretty much it.”
Which, of course, is just as it should be. The base car was a non-sunroof 530i but there’s not a whole lot of that left here now, aside from the essential silhouette. The attention to detail stretches way into the recesses that you wouldn’t spot, too. All the underseal has been scraped from the underneath, which has been painted grey, while the insides are a complementary grey and blue. Everything about the car screams purpose, but at the same time it’s a very considered build. The perfect tool, in fact, for advertising Driftland.
Is it the ultimate BMW drift car, then? Has Jeek nailed it this time? “Ah, I don’t know,” he considers, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “I often think about what the next car might be, but I’m not sure what could be better – this engine in a 1M shell maybe? Or maybe some V10 M60 goodness?”
It’s a moot point for now, however, as this shouty workhouse is a harsh taskmaster. “It got quite crashed up this year, so it’ll be getting some fibreglass rear quarters made up, and at the same time the car might end up a different colour, as well as going a little lower,” he confirms. “And, hey, if money were no object, a flat-shift sequential and a supercharger would be nice.” Well, if this E34 is as effective an advert as it is a drift car, those dreams may well be coming true before long.
The plan was always to have fun, wreck tyres and do huge skids, all while advertising my business.
Interior has been stripped-out and fitted with a Huxley Motorsport roll-cage plus a pair of Motordrive seats
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-S62 / #BMW-V8 Drift / #BMW-E34 / #BMW / #7Twenty / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-5-Series-Drift / #BMW-E34-V8 / #BMW-E34-S62 / #BMW-E34-V8 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW-E34-Drift
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.9-litre #V8 #S62B50 / #S62 , #Alpha-N map, new shells, Huxley Motorsport exhaust manifolds, #Doritech exhaust system (with V-bands for quick removal), #TTV-Racing lightweight single-mass flywheel with custom paddle and #Motorsport-Helix cover plate, 35-litre alloy tank underneath rear floorpan with #Bosch-044 pump and pressure gauge in bay, five-speed #ZF gearbox, 3.23 welded diff
CHASSIS 10x17” 5x114 (front) and 10.5x18” 5x120 (rear) #7Twenty-STYLE49 wheels, #Nissan-GTS 320mm fourpot front calipers with ventilated discs, 540i rear calipers with ventilated discs, rear subframe reinforced with adjustable camber and toe, #Powerflex bushes, front subframe modified to use Nissan steering rack, bottom #Nissan arms, front Nissan knuckles with adaptors to use #BMW wheels, #Doritech knuckles for extra lock, #Tein tie rods, #GKT-Tech castor arms and GKT Tech lower arms, hydraulic handbrake with 0.650 Wilwood pump, #Apex custom coilovers – 10/8kg damping adjustable
EXTERIOR E34 530i non-sunroof shell, Citroën Whisper Purple paint, underside painted grey, inside painted grey/blue, side skirts, #Zender splitter from the 1980s
INTERIOR #Huxley-Motorsport roll-cage with extension to front turrets, #M-Sport/Ken Block carbon fibre steering wheel, E34 #BMW-M5-E34 instrument cluster and kick plates, #Motordrive seats, #Driftland harnesses, Coolerworks gearshifter, power steering cooler, #Lexan windows, flocked dash, M3 Evo servo and pedalbox, extra gauges for oil/water temperature/oil pressure/fuel, flick switches, custom wiring with fuse/relay panel, single wiper conversion running E46 Compact motor, #Zero-2000 plumbed-in extinguisher, 1kg hand-held fire extinguisher, small battery with fibreglass box and cut-off switchStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationSWEET LIKE CHOCOLATE #BMW
With a 4.4 V8 under the bonnet, this is one tasty E30 Cab. With a delicious paint job good enough to eat and a V8 under the bonnet, this E30 Cab is a treat for the eyes and ears. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Matt Richardson.
A few years ago, all manufacturers suddenly decided that now would be the time that brown cars were ‘in’ and every new car we saw in photos from motor shows etc were brown. And, you know what? It was alright. Jakub Wojciechowski thought similarly, and with his E30 Cab rocking a luscious cookies and cream colour scheme, he’s got a car that seriously works. Though if you still need convincing there’s also the V8 under the bonnet… Yeah, we thought that might win you over.
Originally from Poland, Jakub has spent the past eight years in the UK and all of his life lusting after BMWs: “My first car was a E30 325e Coupé. I wanted an E32 7 Series but they were too expensive so I ended up with the E30 instead; it was nice but after six months I found myself wanting more power so I sold it.” Two weeks later he found himself a resident of the UK and not long after that he found himself behind the wheel of a SEAT Toledo. “It was fun to drive,” he says, “but FWD is never as much fun as a rear-wheel drive car...”
One fortuitous day, whilst out on a job in London for the automotive window repair firm he works for, Jakub drove into the wrong car park and instead of finding his customer’s car, he found this car. “It was a Dolphin grey 325i that had been crashed into. The nearside of the car was damaged, and there was a ‘for sale’ sign in the window...”
£750 later he was the proud owner of a rather sorry-looking German E30 (hence the left-hand drive), but he had plans, big plans: “I wanted to put something else under the bonnet, so I spent a lot of time on various forums and sites seeing what I could fit; I wanted the biggest and best engine I could get, so it had to be the 4.4-litre M62 V8.”
When Jakub gets an idea in his head, he doesn’t waste time: “I had it for four days and then drove it over to Poland and left it with a friend of mine who was going to do the work for me.” Car deposited and ready for its transformation, step two was getting hold of a donor car, so Jakub did just that: “I bought an E38 740i for £1300, drove it to Poland, gave my friend the engine and gearbox then broke the car and made my money back.”
Once back in the UK again, Jakub’s friend informed him that the 740’s auto ’box wasn’t going to fit into the E30, so Jakub went shopping once more, snapping up a V8- powered E34 530i with a five-speed manual for £525 and once again hit the road, delivering it to his friend. Jakub then left his friend to get on with it, happy in the knowledge that before too long he’d be hitting the streets in his very own V8-powered E30. Unfortunately, things rarely work out exactly the way they’re meant to…
After a year and a half, Jakub’s friend gave up on the project, telling him it was too involved. A disillusioned Jakub left the car sitting for another year before he could find the energy to try and get the project off the ground again. Attempt number two, however, proved to be a lot more successful as his research led him to the doors of PUZ Drift Team Polska; not only was this outfit extremely successful when it came to drifting, winning the Monster Energy King of Europe series, it also happened to have no less than four M62-powered E30s.
“The guys there knew what they were doing,” grins Jakub. Seeing a V8 under an E30’s bonnet never fails to impress – there’s just so much engine stuffed into such a small space and if you can look at those pictures without making V8 noises in your head (or with your mouth, we won’t judge) and imagine it doing a massive smoky burnout, there must be something wrong with you. The engine’s been equipped with a set of X5 exhaust manifolds as they fit in the confines of the E30’s engine bay and there’s a 2.5” manifold-back, cat-free exhaust that runs to a rear silencer and is finished off with a pair of 60mm tailpipes, the drop-top allowing Jakub to really enjoy that awesome V8 soundtrack. The five-speed ’box has been mated to a shortened propshaft which connects up to an LSD, because when you’ve got that much grunt up front, you need to be able to put it down where it counts.
While the V8 swap was a major part of this build, there’s so much more going on here and Jakub really has left no stoned unturned. We need to talk about the interior, because it’s going to raise a few eyebrows but, hey, at least it’s not dull grey or boring black, right? “The car was originally twotone,” explains Jakub, “gold on top and bronze on the bottom so I wanted an interior that would match; I left everything with my mum’s friend and one year later the interior had been transformed to look like this.” A two-tone car with a two-tone interior is a bold look that some people might find challenging, but it was exactly what Jakub wanted. “I had the car in its twotone colours for three years,” he says, “and then I saw an X1 in Marrakesh brown and I immediately knew that I wanted that colour for the E30,” he says. Marrakesh is a lush, rich brown, with a gorgeous metallic flake to it – it’s the kind of deep colour you just want to dive into and it looks fantastic with the light on it, picking out all the details on the bodywork. And, even though the interior was created with a different exterior colour in mind, it still works here, adding a second shade of brown, like hot fudge sauce on a rich chocolate cake, and then topping the whole lot off with some cream. Delicious.
A five-stud conversion has been carried out, using E36 Compact rear components and E30 M3 front components, the latter being far from cheap but generally regarded as the right way to do a front-end five-stud conversion if funds allow, with everything bolting straight on and requiring no modifications. E36 328i brakes have also been fitted, giving this E30 rocket ship a useful increase in stopping power.
With the five-stud conversion the world is your oyster when it comes wheel choice, though actually finding a set that Jakub liked and that were the correct fitment for the car proved tricky. “Initially I had some 18” Alpina wheels from an E34 on it but the offset was all wrong. I was going to get another set but the offset on all the ones I looked at was either too low or too high. Then I found these 7.5x17” wheels in white and the right offset so I bought them. They were cheap and they suit the car,” says Jakub and we have to agree. The arches have been pulled by 8mm to fully accommodate them and they work with the brown, the interior and they definitely work with the drop that the E36 eBay coilovers Jakub’s fitted deliver. The car also sports a pair of replica M Tech 2 bumpers, which have had the rubbing strips removed and have been fully colour-coded. Jakub’s carried out a quad projector HID headlight conversion with LED angel eyes.
“It’s been to three different garages, three different bodyshops and two different upholsterers,” says Jakub wistfully, “and parts have gone missing. The guy who did the leather died before he could finish the soft top panel and the person I took it to couldn’t match the interior colour so it’s been trimmed in black leather for now. I’m still looking for some Shadowline trim as I’m not a fan of the chrome and I would love a set of BBS LMs, RSs or a set of E32 Alpina 17s,” he adds, “but I eventually want to sell this car and buy an E28 M535i but I’m going to keep that standard.
“I sometimes wish I hadn’t touched this car in the first place. I like it and it makes me happy, but on such a big project there’s always something to do,” he sighs.
He is right, of course, a project like this is a big undertaking and it can easily turn into one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time but that you end up regretting when there just doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
For some people, the thrill is the build but it’s actually probably a more normal emotional response to want to finish a project car so you can enjoy it, though we doubt many of us can relate to that. “Having said that,” says Jakub with a smirk, “I don’t regret a single penny I’ve spent on it.”
There it is, that little spark of joy that is always there with any modified car, even when you’re fed up with it, even when you wish you’d never started a project in the first place and when you can’t stand the sight of the thing – all it takes is that single moment where you realise that, actually, despite all that, deep down you still love your car. No one can go through the drama of building your car but you, we as outsiders only see the finished product that we admire at the petrol station, on the street, at a show. Jakub’s journey with the E30 has been long and arduous, a lot of downs fighting with the ups, but all it takes is that one moment of joy and you’ll be reminded that what you’ve built is something pretty delicious.
DATA FILE #BMW-V8 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-Cabrio / #BMW-E30-V8 / #BMW-E30-M62 / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabriolet / #BMW-3-Series-Cabriolet-E30 /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.4-litre #V8 #M62B44 / #M62 / #BMW-M62 , X5 exhaust manifolds, twin 2.5” custom stainless steel exhaust system, back box with twin 60mm tips, E34 530i V8 five-speed manual gearbox, 25% locking LSD
CHASSIS 7.5x17” (front and rear) wheels with 205/40 (front and rear) Blacklion BU66 Champoint tyres, five-stud hub conversion, E36 adjustable coilovers, double brake servo moved behind headlights
EXTERIOR Debaged front and rear, side trims removed from doors and wings, aerial and door locks removed, wheel arches pulled 8mm
INTERIOR Full leather retrim in custom twotone finish including dash, steering wheel and centre console, heated front seats
THANKS To my mum Dorota for all the running around she’s done, car hire and garage, Furman in Lubon Poland, RS PUZ in Torun Poland
“I saw an X1 in Marrakesh brown and I immediately knew I wanted that colour for the E30”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationOne last time. Frazer Nash last competed at Le Mans in 1959 – in this car. Time for Tony Dron to test it on track at Gooodwood.
The gentleman driver #John-Dashwood invited the accomplished club driver #Bill-Wilks to share a Frazer Nash in the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours. They'd heard about a Frazer Nash with a #BMW-V8 engine but, as no such thing was suitable, Dashwood bought this 1955 Le Mans Coupe from the Frazer Nash makers, AFN Ltd.
But hang on - the name Dashwood rings loud bells in any Englishman's mind. Was this John Dashwood related to the infamous rake of West Wycombe, Sir Francis Dashwood, who founded the notorious Hellfire Club of the 1750s? Yes, indeed, he was of that ilk.
These are arcane matters but the Dashwood baronetcy of West Wycombe is the Premier Baronetcy in the Baronetage of Great Britain. As a younger son in that line, the Dashwood who owned this car in 1959 had no title. He was just plain John and, also unlike his colourful 18th Century forebear, he appears to have led a thoroughly respectable, indeed blameless life - Eton, Oxford, 'something in the City', a nice house in Surrey, a successful marriage and two children - an all-round good chap, for sure.
After driving their car recently at Goodwood, I set about tracing Dashwood and Wilks but 55 years after the event it was not easy. In John Dashwood's case it was impossible but I did eventually track down his son, Tom, who gave me the sad news that his father had passed away in December 2013.
Bill Wilks, however, was eventually found - thanks to the 'VSCC mafia'. He's 80 now, obviously fit and happily retired in Dorset, but in 1959 he was 25 and had already made a name for himself as a quick man in Frazer Nash cars.
'Actually', Bill told me, 'I had just packed it all in because I was getting married and taking out a mortgage but then John asked me to join him at Le Mans and I thought, why not?' Dashwood, who was Five years older than Bill, had chosen well. Young Wilks wasn't just quick, he was also a proper engineer who recalled doing a lot of work on the car himself, putting it as right as he could before they set off for Le Mans, where the ACO had accepted them as first reserve.
The four-year-old Frazer Nash was hardly going to set the pace at Le Mans in 1959, to be frank, and Gregor Grant's Autosport race report stated: 'With the non- appearance of the Conrero Alfa Romeos, all reserves were called in, including the veteran Frazer Nash of Dashwood and Wilks.' Bill was well aware of that but, hey, you don't turn down a drive at Le Mans lightly.
Dashwood's aim was to take part in a good sporting spirit Even so, they reckoned the old Coupe might still be quick enough in its class - and its large fuel tank would ensure long stints between pit-stops. AFN's standard tanks varied from 14 to 25 gallons, with a 5 ½ -gallon auxiliary tank available.
Rumours that they added an extra fuel tank from an Austin Seven set off my personal bullshit sensor. No, Bill Wilks explained that they raised the fuel capacity to about 18 gallons by adding an auxiliary tank of about two gallons: 'I am absolutely certain it was not an Austin Seven tank - I made it!'
Its pace on the long Mulsanne straight in qualifying wasn't bad - pulling 6000rpm in top, which equated to 140mph with the 3.54:1 final drive they had fitted. At that speed, the kink in the straight should have presented no worries but Bill remembers getting a big shock there.
'I looked at that kink and thought, no problem, I can take this on full noise - easy!' As he turned in, the rear suspension jacked itself up, the car took a great lurch and Bill was looking into the trees. 'I thought it was Judgement Day - I really thought that was it.' But he held it and, back at the pits, investigated the alarming handling problem.
Excessive body roll was expected in those cars and earlier, back at the Isleworth factory, the legendary Harry Olrog of AFN had altered this Coupe's rear suspension, creating a Panhard rod arrangement. What Bill recalls now, very clearly, is that the real problem was not that but dodgy dampers. On closer inspection, they had been modified in a curious way, presumably to stiffen them up. 'I think I found some pieces of wood inside but, anyway, I put them aside and found a better set from a supplier in the paddock - Armstrongs, I think they were, but, whatever, they were much better.'
Apart from that, the car had gone well and Dashwood wisely nominated his more experienced co-driver to start the race. There was some concern over whether the brakes would last - some say that it had roadgoing cast- iron drums, though Bill insists that it had Al-Fin racing brakes - 'But they still weren't any good!' he adds.
Three hours into the 24, Bill came in to hand over to John. T told him to be careful because the brakes had gone but I had some sort of premonition as he drove off - I felt something was about to go wrong.
It did. The overheated brakes really were finished and John Dashwood did not complete one lap. At Amage comer the car buried itself in the mound of sand on the exit, where, as Bill recalls, it remained until the end of the race.
Dashwood was devastated, feeling he had let everybody down but you have to feel sympathy for the poor chap - it was really very bad luck.
Legend has it that the gearbox casing was split in Dashwood's effort to slow down before hitting the sand. Bill says that's wrong: 'Reverse gear did break in John's efforts to back out of the sand after the race. The steering was slightly damaged but they managed to patch things up enough to drive it back to England.
So ended the last appearance of a Frazer Nash in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Ten years earlier, in 1949, Norman Culpan and 'Aldy Aldington had finished in a blaze of glory, third overall in a Frazer Nash High Speed model, but that was to remain the finest hour of Frazer Nash in the 24 Hours. What concerns us now, however, is how the remarkable Le Mans Coupe of the later years came into being at all.
Since taking over AFN Ltd in the late 1920s, the Aldington brothers, led by the dynamic HJ 'Aid/ Aldington, had made heroic efforts to become big players in the high-performance motoring world. They had made the best of the fabulous chain-driven sports car designed by the company's founder, Archie Frazer-Nash - the man has the hyphen but the cars don't - but they always lacked the capital to become truly independent manufacturers.
That was overcome in the 1930s by a strong link with BMW. When the German company proceeded to design the world's most advanced sports cars, business boomed at AFN. The efficient Aldingtons were well-organised importers, with workshops and a talented team enabling them do far more than merely service the cars they brought in. They made parts and bodywork, modifying cars as required and marketing them as Frazer Nash-BMWs. They worked extremely well with the BMW management and engineers, who were right behind them, and things, you might say, were going great guns in the first months of #1939 .
When the world then came crashing down, AFN Ltd switched to war work. As peace returned in #1945 , they wasted no time in returning to high-performance cars. Had it been possible, the link with BMW would have been resumed immediately but German industry needed time to recover and, anyway, British buyers weren't that keen on German products just then.
Controversially, Aldy Aldington did retrieve some useful items from Germany at the end of the war, but that has probably been misinterpreted. He wanted to resume his business links with the German engineers that he admired so much but, in a radically changed world, he simply couldn't.
Instead, he looked for a link with a large British company. After unhappy meetings with leaders in the Midlands motor industry came to nothing, an agreement was signed between AFN and the Bristol Aeroplane Company to develop new post-war high-performance cars from the legacy of BMW's advanced pre-war models.
That should have provided the industrial muscle Aldy needed but the relationship was doomed. A relatively small business in the motor trade, led by a quick-thinking and impatient visionary, could not work with a large corporation accustomed to the different engineering ethics of the aeronautical industry.
They soon fell out and AFN Ltd went its own way, retaining an agreement for a supply of the new #1971 cc straight-six Bristol engines, which were based on BMW's pre-war engine and ideal for the new models that AFN planned to produce.
The basics of the post-war #Frazer #Nash had been laid down by AFN's John Perrett, who designed a two-seater sports car based closely on the front end of a #BMW-327 , with transverse-leaf suspension and lower wishbones, and the rear end of a BMW 326, with longitudinal torsion bar suspension and a live axle located mainly by an A-bracket. The main frame was based on the tubular chassis of the #BMW-328 .
Aldy then managed to recruit a superstar: Fritz Fiedler who, as the chief designer of BMW cars from #1932 , had been behind all the great BMW sports cars of that decade. Arriving at Isleworth in #1947 , Fiedler took on the development of the post-war Frazer Nash chassis, suspension, body design and construction and also part of the work on the Bristol engine. A mild-mannered genius, he was a very well liked at AFN, if gently amused when they called him 'Doctor' Fiedler.
Fiedler returned to BMW after three years, having made a huge contribution to AFN's early post-war success. He went on to influence BMW's return to prominence, which was secured by the time he retired and continues to this day.
In 1952, a revised #Frazer-Nash chassis was inspired partly by race driver Ken Wharton's wish for a single- seater Frazer #Nash-F2 car but also by a desire to produce a simpler chassis that was cheaper and easier to make.
By 1953, Aldy knew that the adventure as a manufacturer was all but over for AFN. It had been a glorious effort, resulting in some wonderful thoroughbred cars. The Le Mans Replica, a copy of the High Speed model that finished third in the 24 Hours, was and remains a truly great classic. Other superb post-war Frazer Nash models emerged from AFN but the enterprise lacked sufficient scale. The quality of the cars went without question and the few that they could make sold well despite being very expensive.
In the mid-1950s, AFN Ltd became the official importer of Porsche cars, a move that was destined to transform the company into a much bigger, very different business - #Porsche Cars Great Britain Ltd.
Only nine Le Mans Coupes were made in all and the first of them, driven by Ken Wharton and HA Mitchell, took a fine class win and 13th overall in the #1953 Le Mans 24 Hours. By then the Le Mans regulations demanded enclosed wheels and encouraged coupe bodywork. AFN's Le Mans Coupe was therefore developed from the open two-seater Targa Florio model.
This particular Coupe was originally sold as a road car to Mrs Kathleen 'Kitty' Maurice (nee Gorst, later Mrs Thomas) in April 1955, and it had a well-documented engine change early in its existence. Kitty Maurice was a keen motorist and, as the landowner of Castle Combe, she had made the conversion of the wartime airfield into a motor racing circuit possible. She soon sold the car to a Dr Mawe, who used it in club competitions in #1956 before selling it back to #AFN late in 1957, where it remained until John Dashwood bought it in March 1959.
Its next owner was the well-known racing driver and Gerrards Cross-based specialist motor trader Roy Bloxam, who fitted disc brakes and other mods such as a #ZF limited-slip differential. He took second in class and tenth overall in the 1960 Autosport Production Sports Car Championship.
Its many owners in the half-century since then have generally cared for it well and it remains remarkably original. At the end of the 1960s, an owner in Malvern had the #Panhard rod removed and an A-bracket restored, taking the rear suspension back to its original specification. By 1963, its original green had been changed to wine red but its Swedish owner in the 1970s, Ake Andersson, had it painted blue. Early this century the colour was changed again, going back to a shade of green close to its original colour.
One owner, though which one isn't known, changed it back to drum brakes - aluminium at the front and iron at the rear. The FLA papers issued for it in 19% show this had been done by then. And, about 12 years ago, a Laycock overdrive was Fitted - a type that would have been available when the car was new. With the standard final drive, an overdrive transforms the car, especially for normal road use - and it might even be about right were somebody to take it back to Le Mans to run it in the Gassic.
It is obviously eligible for top events such as that and the Mille Miglia but would also be ideal for great open- road driving events, such as the Colorado Grand, which it has done twice in more recent times.
My instant reaction on driving it at Goodwood is that it feels like a superb roadgoing sports car, even today - and it's certainly quick enough to outperform most modem traffic. By racing car standards it Is heavy - it was weighed at 2079lb (943kg) by the Le Mans scrutineers in 1959 - but against most of today's road cars it's a featherweight with a formidable power-to-weight ratio.
This car's obviously high value, of course, is largely the result of its genuine Le Mans history, so the normal preference of Frazer Nash fans for the open cars definitely docs not apply here. There's a lovely period feel to the small, high-quality tan interior but tall prospective owners should note that it is best suited to shorter drivers - the seat had to be completely removed for me and I sat on the carpet to drive it.
Even so, it was a pleasure to power it round the Goodwood circuit, where it felt quicker than I had expected. The handling was a bit skittish at first and I went back into the pits after just one lap to have the dampers adjusted. They had been on the hardest setting but, with them suitably softened, the car was much better.
It's a stable car at speed, a true thoroughbred of the old school in some ways - years of sound engineering and the black art of 'chassis-sorting' created a confidence- inspiring machine with sensitive steering. On the straight, it runs true but there is always the feeling that it's ever ready to tackle the next comer. It turns in well and immediately adopts a superbly neutral angle of drift, which the driver can make a little bit more or less pronounced almost by merely thinking about it. The famous Bristol engine is a delight and, in my short run, the brakes were fine - as we know, it takes three hours to knock them out!
This delightful post-war sports car has a great story to tell - the next chapter of which begins after its sale by Bonhams at Goodwood in March.
THANKS TO Tony Bancroft. Blakenoy Motorsport. Tom Dashwood, the #Frazer-Nash Car Club and Archives. Goodwood Motor Circuit, Richard Procter, James Trigwell, and Bill Wilks. Bonhams is selling the car at the #Goodwood 73rd Members' Meeting on 21 March.
Car #1955 #Frazer-Nash-Le-Mans-Coupe
ENGINE 1971cc six-cylinder, OHV, three #Solex downdraught carburettors
POWER 142bhp 5750rpm
TRANSMISSION Four-speed #Borg-Warner manual, rear-wheel drive
STEERING Rack and pinion
Front: independent, transverse leaf spring, lower wishbones, telescopic dampers.
Rear: live axle located by A-bracket, longitudinal torsion bars, telescopic dampers.
WEIGHT 963kg (2079lb - as weighed by #Le-Mans scrutineers, #1959 )
PERFORMANCE Top speed 140mph claimed at Le Mans. 1959. 0-60mph c8sec
Above, left and right Closed bodywork was developed from the open-top Targa Florio - only nine coupes were made: power comes from a #BMW- derived triple-carb straight-six.
‘DRIVING IT AT GOODWOOD, IT FEELS LIKE A SUPERB ROADGOING SPORTS CAR, EVEN TODAY’
Left. Surprisingly civilised inside for a Le Mans entrant, though it lacks headroom for the taller driver. Tony Dron had to remove the seat and sit on the floor...
Above. With 142bhp from its 2.0-litre straight-six and a (scrutineered) kerbweight of 943kg, the Frazer Nash was capable of 140mph on the Mulsanne straight.
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