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

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

    F80 M3 530hp Sakhir orange Saloon

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    THANKS Dinan Engineering, Jim Bustos at MMI Vehicle Systems, Brionne Go of Go Wraps, Chuck Thomas, Nick Owen and Brandon Watson at BMW of El Cajon, RC Levell
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    Just Right / #Dinan / #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance-F22 / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance-Dinan-F22 / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Dinan / #BMW-M235i-Dinan-F22 / #BMW-F22-Dinan / #Dinan / #2015


    A finely-honed BMW M235i with #M-Performance and Dinan upgrades. It seems like the M235i is loved the world over and here we have a subtle but stylish machine from Australia using a blend of M Performance and Dinan upgrades. Words & photography: Chris Nicholls.

    The M235i is, as has often been stated, the Goldilocks car of the BMW range. In terms of price, power, handling, practicality and even history, it hits the spot. This is especially the case in Australia, where #BMW list it at $55,000 in base form. In a country where a standard Cayman (the car’s natural rival in the UK) sells for double that, it has no real rivals. The new Mustang isn’t there yet, the local Holden and Ford performance heroes are much larger (and fourdoor), and none of its Japanese or European rivals are rear-wheel drive. It kind of explains why, when it first launched in Australia last year, there was actually a waiting list.


    That price also makes it the perfect base for tuning. Recent economic conditions in Australia mean that while the rich get richer (as they do elsewhere) and order ever more supercars, most people aren’t in a position to spend huge sums on modification. So an already fast and affordable base is a great starting point. But what to do? Obviously there’s a limit, given most people’s budgets, so it’s probably best to just make it look nicer and go a bit faster. But here again, there are options. Do you go aftermarket for everything, or do you go factory? After all, unlike some manufacturers, BMW does offer a large number of add-ons via its M Performance program. Perhaps a mix is the best way – combining the factory fit and finish of OEM parts and using aftermarket where the manufacturer doesn’t offer what you want?

    This is exactly the path Southern BM, one of Australia’s largest BMW specialists, decided to go down with its own M235i build. It realised there was room in the market for an affordable modification package to this popular performance car, and having gone the ‘all-aftermarket’ route for many of its other, more extreme builds, it wanted to offer something cheaper, simpler and easier to put together for its M235i customers.


    Given body and interior modifications are one area where hassles (namely fit and finish-related) almost always occur, the first order of business was to order extensively from the M Performance catalogue for these parts. On went almost the entire range of available exterior components, including front and rear lip spoilers, rear diffuser, carbon mirror covers, black kidney grille inserts, side skirt flashes and even decals, as well as the lovely 19-inch forged, doublespoke wheels. Inside, the excellent, hi-tech M Performance Alcantara wheel with race display replaced the standard tiller, not only adding some cool looks and a great steering feel, but also extra information for the driver. Many of the plastic components and panels were replaced by Alcantara and carbon ones, too.

    The results were, even after this round of alterations, profound. Decals aside, the exterior changes are subtle, but work together to help give the car a more planted, solid feel. Indeed, the extra aggression is something that many would probably argue the M235i needed from the factory. Andrew Brien, Southern BM’s co-founder, agrees, saying the looks were his team’s favourite part of the car. “We like the styling. BMW really changed up the looks with the introduction of this car and with the additional BMW M Performance parts, it really is a head-turner.”

    Inside as well, the seemingly small changes all come together to make the cabin a much more inviting and pleasant place to be. Slipping into the supportive leather seats, there’s an air of not just quality (as you’d find on the standard model), but genuine sportiness thanks to the carbon cladding and Alcantara coverings. It makes the M235i really feel like a driver’s car, and it’s an interior you don’t want to get out of.

    Initially, Southern BM also fitted an M Performance exhaust and brake discs to try and add some extra sportiness, but while the exhaust fitted perfectly and sounded great, Brien and his team also wanted to offer something more for customers, so as part of fitting a Dinan P1 Power Package (the aftermarket part of the mix), the M Performance system got dropped in favour of the included Dinan Free Flow stainless steel exhaust.


    Moving the car around for the shoot, it became obvious how different the Dinan exhaust was from the M Performance one, too. Listening to a YouTube video Southern BM posted of the factory version prior to the shoot, it’s clear the OEM pipes added a great bark on start up, a throaty burble on idle and a harder-edged metallic sound when revved, but the Dinan version steps it up a notch. You still get the bark on start up and burbling idle, but you get an even harder metallic kick on revving and it’s noticeably more baritone in its delivery. Southern BM has videos of both exhausts on its YouTube channel so they’re worth checking out for yourself if you’re planning to make such a move.

    The rest of the P1 package includes a carbon fibre cold air intake and Dinantronics Stage 2 tune, and fitting it all together was a smart move. Not only are all the parts designed to work in unison, in keeping with the whole ‘no fuss’ concept Southern BM wanted to offer, but attempting to tune things itself didn’t make much sense anyway.

    “With the introduction of the F-series cars, the tuning market changed a lot. These cars are no longer easily tuneable by means of flash tuning via OBD. We are Dinan dealers and the software development team at Dinan have great resources and talent to achieve a more enjoyable driver experience,” says Brien. The fact it also offers high-quality, ‘no compromise’ parts is just icing on the cake, so it’s no wonder Southern BM went with this kit.


    It’s hard to argue with the results, too. A quick chassis dyno check showed the components added 50whp, and while that’s less than the 56hp claimed by Dinan, as we all know, dyno differences, the weather on the day and other factors always come into play, so the claim seems solid.

    Interestingly, Brien argues that “the most impressive part of the tune is the increase in torque (a claimed 84lb ft), which allows you to pull hard when you open up the throttle”. As they say, though, power is nothing without control, which is why the final step in building this machine was fitting a #Quaife-ATB diff. “What is lacking on modern BMW cars is mechanical grip,” says Brien. “As you pull out of a corner, you want the throttle to respond, not react to traction control, so the Quaife LSD is a must-have.”

    For the unfamiliar, Quaife’s ATB series uses a helical, torque-biasing unit (as opposed to the more common clutch packs) which may not provide the same aggressive lock-up, but is much more usable on the road. Indeed, it’s likely you won’t notice it at all during daily driving – there is no clunking or recalcitrance. As with the rest of the build, it’s essentially like it was there from the factory.

    While it wasn’t possible to try the diff out at speed on the day of the shoot, riding along in a highly tuned 135i with one fitted a few weeks beforehand gave some insight into how much of a difference it makes. Not only does it work with the factory DSC, but when you turn the electronic aids off and slam the throttle, instead of traction control limiting things, both wheels spin up at equal speed and you get to enjoy the full accelerative force of the fettled N55 engine. It’s sublime. There’s also a very noticeable increase in turn-in, which, combined with the extra grip from the 19-inch Pirellis on the M235i, would no doubt transform it from being a nice, fast daily to a much more enjoyable winding road weapon. Indeed, Brien says that is exactly the case: “Not that the original car is in need of upgrades – they are nice cars out-of-the-box – but with these upgrades it makes this a really nice car and more enjoyable to drive.”

    Interestingly, despite the ever-increasing popularity of track days, Brien says he hasn’t taken it out on track just yet to truly test its limits, but then, that wasn’t ever really the brief for this car. “We weren’t looking to build a track car. To us, they are different beasts, looking to achieve different results. This car is a road tourer that you can have some comforts in if you are out cruising, but performs if you want to take the car to task up in the mountains.”

    Brien says they have considered building a “more extreme version”, and for track use would recommend Dinan anti-roll bars and Monoball kit, as well as performance pads, but for now, he’s happy with where the car is. “This build is to show the road user what can be achieved when looking for a clean road tourer,” he says. That ‘clean’ part is actually worth mentioning for those who might perhaps be unaware how important a low-key car is in Australia, especially the state of Victoria, where Southern BM is based. That’s because Australia in general, and Victoria in particular, has very restrictive laws when it comes to car modification. Bar some very small freedoms (mainly wheels, suspension and engine tuning mods that result in no more than a 20 per cent power gain), almost any aftermarket performance tuning needs to be certified by approved workshops, and given the truly serious stuff will likely never pass certification anyway, most people don’t even try.


    Even when they are approved or within legal boundaries to begin with, poorly-trained police can still pull your car over if they think it’s illegal and stick a nice, yellow defect notice on your windscreen that can’t be removed until you show them proof or get things recertified. This is why Victorian enthusiasts these days often try and go unnoticed and avoid police attention in the first place, and while this M235i is only lightly modified and therefore completely legal, the fact it’s relatively subtle means you’re likely to avoid being pulled over unnecessarily.

    Actually, the fact it can fly under the radar means this M235i ticks another box on the Goldilocks list. Right price, right performance, right practicality level and even right amount of tuning to be legal and avoid scrutiny. It really is just right.

    CONTACT: Southern BM
    Website: www.southernbm.com.au


    TECH DATA #Southern-BM F22 M235i

    ENGINE: #BMW-N55 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six / #N55
    POWER: 308rwhp (230rwkW)
    ENGINE MODIFICATIONS: #Dinan-P1 Power Package (carbon fibre cold air intake, free flow stainless steel exhaust, #Dinantronics Stage 2 tune)
    DRIVELINE MODIFICATIONS: Standard #ZF eight-speed #Steptronic automatic gearbox #Quaife ATB LSD
    CHASSIS/SUSPENSION MODIFICATIONS: Standard M Performance adaptive dampers / Standard suspension arms and anti-roll bars
    WHEELS AND TYRES: M Performance double-spoke 624 forged wheels (7.5x19-inch front, 8x19-inch rear), Pirelli P Zero RSC tyres (225/35 R19 front, 245/30 R19 rear)
    BRAKES: Stock M Performance #Brembo aluminium brake callipers (four-piston front, two-piston rear), #M-Performance cross-drilled and slotted s (370mm x 30mm front, 345mm x 24mm rear)

    EXTERIOR:
    M Performance front splitter
    M Performance carbon fibre rear spoiler
    M Performance rear diffuser
    M Performance carbon fibre mirror caps
    M Performance side stripes kit
    M Performance Rocker Panel film set
    M Performance gloss black grilles

    INTERIOR:
    M Performance Alcantara steering wheel with carbon trim and race display
    M Performance carbon fibre and Alcantara interior trim set
    M Performance carbon fibre shifter console
    M Performance carbon fibre selector lever trim
    M Performance carbon fibre and Alcantara handbrake handle assembly
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