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    Executive Express

    The V8 engines marked a new side to the #BMW-E34 so we tracked down a #BMW-540i to see how it fares. When the V8 models were introduced to the E34 range late in their lifespan they added a whole other dimension to the existing platform in more ways than one… Words: Simon Holmes. Photography: Dave Smith.

    By the early 1990s the E34 5 Series had firmly established itself as the dominant executive saloon car in its class. Even though it had been around since 1988, the big BMW was still the car to beat and regular newcomers from the likes of Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes were still pitted against it for magazine road tests on a regular basis. It seldom lost, too, no matter what model was being tested or what it was up against as the high build quality, capable chassis and keen pricing structure compared to competitors always won high praise.

    However, by 1992 the E34 was over halfway through its life span and with the E39 replacement due in 1995 BMW needed to give the Five a fresh injection of life to keep it at the top and that came in the form of its new V8 engines. Named the M60, both a 3.0-litre and 4.0-litre version were announced for the 5 Series, even though they had initially been designed with the E32 7 Series in mind. They were the first V8 engines BMW had offered in a road car for 27 years and development had begun in the mid-1980s. The engine’s design and construction were big steps forwards, even for BMW, and being an all-new package it shared virtually nothing with any other existing engine made by the brand. Even the 3.0-litre and 4.0- litre versions themselves were very different to each other and a varied bore and stroke meant neither the crankshafts or blocks were interchangeable.

    The M60 also utilised a complex quad-cam, 32- valve arrangement that was driven by a series of chains and hydraulic tappets. The latest Bosch management controlled the vital fuel and spark through clever multi-point injection and there were eight individual coils, one for each cylinder, too. The V8’s sophisticated, modern arrangement that had been carefully developed using a revolutionary computer-aided design processes to ensure that despite the size and complex structure of the engine, weight was kept to a minimum. The aluminium block weighed just 25kg and both of the cylinder heads weighed 60kg altogether. The cam covers were made from lightweight magnesium, the powder-metal con rods were nearly 20 per cent lighter than forged equivalents and the inlet manifold, together with the intake system, were made of plastic. The end result was an engine that weighed 203kg in total – an impressive feat for a quad-cam, 32-valve, 4.0-litre V8 engine. But despite all of the clever technology there was little to tell from opening the bonnet as #BMW had by now taken to using plastic covers to make the engine look more simplistic and modern.

    To make way for the new 530i and 540i designations, the existing straight-six powered 535i was retired from the range and although the 3.0-litre was potent enough it was the 4.0-litre that really created waves for BMW. Power output was an impressive 286hp, just 29hp short of the 3.6-litre M5 but with 23lb ft more torque thanks to the 4.0-litre’s equally eyebrow-raising 289lb ft. That propelled the 540i to a limited top speed of 155mph, whilst the 62mph sprint from rest came in 7.0 seconds using the standard issue five-speed automatic gearbox it came with. As the E34 neared the end of its life in 1994 additional options were added, included a Touring model and a six-speed manual gearbox, shared with the M5.

    The V8 engine gave the 5 Series a new lease of life in more ways than one. Road tests of the time fell head over heels for the new V8 engine, hailing it as one of the most refined and exciting engines the world had seen. It was an effortless performer and different to the straight-six units that had previously occupied the E34 engine bay, delivering a big wave of smooth power with plenty of punch. The only dampener was the infamous Nikasil liner issue that was to follow, although most cars affected were fixed under warranty at the time.

    The launch of the 540i also helped to remarket the E34 as more luxurious than ever and leather interior, electric windows all-round, cruise control and metallic paint were all standard by 1994 whilst stiffer M-Tech suspension was a no-cost option and all for £35,650. A 4.0-litre Jaguar Sovereign cost nearly £6000 more at the time, which made the 540i seem good value.

    Since the E34 ended its production run it retreated into retirement while leaving its replacements to fight on in the executive market. It’s a great granddad now, with BMW having since released three more generations of the model. Sadly, plenty of 540i models have since found their way into scrap yards as the demand and price of big-engined V8 saloon cars has dropped over the years. That makes it hard to find a nice, clean example these days and scanning the internet will reveal less than a handful for sale in the country. Classic car sales specialist Four Star Classics has a fine example in stock though, so we went along to have a drive and see how it fares today.

    Having driven other E34s before, but never a V8 version, and having read the old reviews I was interested to see for myself how the big Five would feel in comparison. Although of course, the ‘big’ Five no longer feels as big as it once did. These are no longer the giants they were perceived to be at one time and in the real world a current 5 Series looks and feels a whole lot bigger.

    This fine example from 1995 in understated Cosmos black with the later, plain-Jane five-spoke wheels is about as tight as you can find one of these cars now. It has covered just 71,000 miles in its 19-year lifespan which equates to an easy-going 3700 odd miles a year.

    The interior particularly reflects this, it looks virtually like new inside and it feels it. The optional electric seats are still as lively as ever and once in position I flick the key and the V8 calmly coaxes into life in a notably un-dramatic way. There’s no deep rumble or hardly even a mild burble, just a quiet hum with a marginally deeper tone than usual for an E34. Moving the automatic gearbox into ‘Drive’, I move off with similar levels of low noise and make my way out on to the B-roads of Surrey. Straight away the steering feels heavy and mechanical, but only because I’m used to modern BMWs and there’s a similarly loaded feel to the brake pedal. It’s a lot harder to press than I had expected and at first seems to do little. Again, I put this down to the over-servo’d feeling of modern BMWs. Once the initial surprise is over and I become used to them both, the steering and brake pedal develop a suitably reassuring feel.

    On the road, it soon becomes apparent what the road testers at the time meant about the engine. It’s super smooth, more so than any other E34 I’ve driven. In fact, it’s smoother than any other BMW I’ve driven from this era. Admittedly though, its level of performance is a little hard to work out at first as due to the lack of noise, silky power delivery and automatic gearbox, the car feels almost lethargic. It pulls away from junctions with plenty of willing but once travelling it’s a little harder to gauge what it’s got left in reserve. It soon becomes clear that’s a misguided conception and there is plenty of power on tap if you need it although there’s never any real commotion about it.

    It’s certainly fast when it gets going and once you plant the throttle a little further into the floor so the kick-down engages, it really does shift. The gearbox itself is a little clunky and lacks the same refinement the engine possesses but the V8 makes good use of it still and it’s easy to fall into a relaxed rhythm with the car. Gentle motoring soon becomes a subdued pleasure and aside from the odd creak inside the cabin itself there’s virtually no road noise, wind noise or engine noise. It very much comes across as a luxurious vehicle and that’s exactly how it was marketed.

    The handling also conveys this image, though that’s not exactly a positive attribute on these roads and it appears this car has been selected without the stiffened M-Tech suspension. It glides along very comfortably but picking up some pace coming into some sweeping corners and turning in a little sharper suddenly makes the car feel quite wallowy. It almost lulls you into a false sense of sure-footed security, as although the ride through the big, large profile tyres is a little soft, it feels confident… until you come to the sharper corners. Then body roll suddenly reveals itself and you realise the suspension is mainly set up for comfort, perhaps the stiffer M-Tech suspension would help considerably here, but then that’s not quite the point of this car in some ways.

    Despite this, I find the car relaxing and easier to drive than other E34s and I suspect it’s easier to live with on a day-to-day basis more than virtually any other #E34 . It makes for a brilliant cruiser so the auto box suits it and although it’s a cliché, the engine really is as super silky smooth as you could imagine. Of course, with this much power available and with a six-speed manual together with the M-Tech suspension and lower profile tyres I imagine the car would transform into an M5 chaser, but for now, I like it just the way it is.

    All-in-all I was very impressed with the 540i. It genuinely holds its own today for pure driving comfort that has now developed a touch of ‘90s charm and that’s a real testament to the car. The fact that it’s able to impress some 20 years after its release highlights the reasoning why it received such glowing reviews at the time. The big V8 engine really did give the E34 a new lease of life and in doing so gave it a new, luxurious dimension for owners to enjoy. I certainly did…

    Above: Interior is in wonderful condition and is fitted with arm rests and electric adjustment. Everything works just as it should.

    Contact: 4 Star Classics - Tel: 01483 274347 - Web:

    The #1995 #BMW-540i-E34
    ENGINE: #M60 , 32-valve, quad-cam V8 #M60B40
    CAPACITY: 3982cc
    BORE/STROKE: 80x89mm
    MAX POWER: 286hp
    MAX TORQUE: 289lb ft
    0-62MPH: 7.0 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph
    ECONOMY: 17.8mpg
    PRICE WHEN NEW: £35,650

    Although it’s a cliché, the engine really is as silky smooth as you’d imagine.
    It’s certainly fast and once you plant the throttle into the floor it really shifts.

    Being a late model the alloys are the five-spoke versions and are fitted with large tyres to give a soft, comfortable ride.
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    Retro road test – rare #Ferrari-Testarossa vs. #BMW #M5 #E34 #S38B36 - engined – #1990 - Can BMW build a four-door Ferrari ? #BMW-E34 vs. #Ferrari #Testarossa 1990 giant road test. BMW has just launched, in Britain, the fastest saloon ever made. The #BMW-M5-E34 can accelerate as briskly as most mid-engined supercars, could do a genuine 170mph if it were not for a speed governor, and can lap racing circuits more energetically than just about any road car, period.
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    You don’t see many modified E31s around and this bagged Velvet blue beauty of an #BMW-840Ci deserves all your attention. Glorious air-ride 8 Series is the ultimate urban aristocrat. You don’t see many modified E31s about and so a bagged 8 Series is something extremely special.

    The 8 Series is arguably one of the least-modified BMWs around, especially when it comes to decently modified examples. You don’t tend to see many Eights around at all, which is at least partly down to the fact that over ten years in production BMW sold around 30,000 worldwide and most owners are likely to be a little older and more sensible and therefore less likely to modify them. I had a silver 840Ci some years ago and, apart from replacing the broken EDC shocks with something less expensive and more reliable and sticking an exhaust on it, it remained untouched. Which makes me even more jealous of Matt Clifford’s example because not only has he modified it, he’s done an awesome job of proceedings.

    When it comes to modified Eights, there are a few supercharged ones about, a couple of wide-body examples and even the odd engine swap but nothing quite as downright slick and sexy as this. I like the fact that Matt hasn’t messed with the styling of the car which is, without doubt, the most appealing part of the whole. In ten years of production, with the exception of the arrival of the Sport kit, the 8 Series remained unchanged. At its launch it must have looked out of this world. By the time production ended it was starting to look a little long in the tooth but now I think it’s come full circle and looks downright glorious once more. Much like, say, an #E34 , it’s very much a BMW that doesn’t need a lot of work to get it looking absolutely perfect, just a few minor additions are all it takes to really bring out the best in an 8 Series. And that’s exactly what you can see here.

    Matt has long been a car fan, picking up the motoring vibe from his equally car keen dad although, luckily for us, he didn’t get a taste for Fords like his old man. “I love everything about cars: modifying them, driving them, taking photographs and filming them and then sharing the creations with the world,” he says. Like most young car crazy guys Matt did the hot hatch thing but, as he’s only 23, his first set of wheels was rather sturdier than the hot hatches of old and came in the shape of a Citroen C2 VTR. Prior to the 840 he built himself a rather tasty Golf R32, too. “I haven’t always been into BMWs, I must be honest,” he says, “but ever since I saw a 840 on the motorway I was won over; that shape and shark-like design had me hooked and ever since then I have fallen for the older classic designs, such as the 3.0CS, #M1 and 635.”

    The chance motorway encounter was enough to convince Matt that he needed an 8 Series in his life so he sold his car to fund the venture and after a bit of research was ready to start the hunt. The problem was good Eights are a bit thin on the ground, as Matt soon discovered: “I looked high and low for a decent car with low miles and good bodywork in the spec I wanted. After seeing some weird brown and beige leather combos I found this one at Dove House Motor Company in Northampton. It was in great condition in Velvet blue metallic with a white/light grey interior with blue piping. The company was a treat to deal with and honest, too, telling me that the car had a couple of problems that needed sorting but that it had a performance workshop to put the car right for me. After a test-drive and a couple of viewing trips I stumped up the cash and collected it mid-summer 2014.”

    Matt paid strong money for his #BMW-840Ci-Sport , but a good example is worth every penny and this colour combo works so well. Velvet blue is an exceedingly sexy colour.

    When it came to the modifying, Matt had a very clear idea of where he wanted to take the 8 Series: “I had a vision in my head of that shark-like body laid out low so I went with air-ride.” However, as bagged Eights are not something you often see, it wasn’t simply a case of popping onto the Air Lift website and adding some bits to the shopping basket. “John at Air Lift helped out massively with what parts we needed to order, getting us measure this and that to make sure we had the right parts for the car,” Matt explains. “When it came to the build process, I wouldn’t dare touch a car myself. I struggle to change a light bulb. I leave the building to the pros. I enjoy my vision coming together and driving it to shows up and down the country and in Europe. All the work for the car has been done by Pure Customs in Coventry. The guys there are good friends of mine although it was their first air install and, boy, was it a pain! Everything is custom including the top mounts and the struts – which needed angle grinding in two as they are attached to the hub in one piece. They were then welded back up with the Air Lift bag rather than the standard setup. I needed custom brackets for the rear bags and all the mounts and the adaptors for the wheels are custom items from G23.”

    All that custom work was not easy but most definitely worth it when you look at the end result. The 8 Series is a good-looking car but slammed to within an inch of its life it reaches its visual zenith. Breathtaking? Yeah, we’ll go with breathtaking.

    The 8 Series has a decent-sized boot but Matt’s not gone overboard on some massive build back there – lift the lid and you’ll find a single polished air tank and nothing more, which is quite refreshing and sits well with the minimalist approach that Matt has taken with the rest of the car.

    So let’s talk wheels. Now, it’s fair to say that Rotiforms do divide opinion somewhat but as there are so few modded Eights about pretty much anything that isn’t a Style 5, Throwing Star or M Parallel looks fresh, and so it is with these. “The wheels were purely an impulse buy,” says Matt. “I have loved TMBs since I got into the car scene. This set came up on a Facebook group so I grabbed them with both hands. I was in Mexico at the time but still paid a deposit on the wheels to collect them when I got home. I wanted to complete the air and wheels altogether so had to get them quickly.” Rotiform’s TMB is a three-piece wheel and Matt got his hands on a set of polished, staggered 19s (9s up front and 10s at the rear) and proceeded to wrap them in 215 and 235-wide rubber for a bit of stretch. The TMB is quite a modern-looking wheel but as the #E31 ’s shape is so elegant and quite futuristic, they suit the car perfectly and really look awesome tucked up into the 840’s gently swollen arches.

    As we mentioned earlier, Matt has left the exterior untouched and that’s fine by us. “I wanted to keep the car looking as normal as possible yet with a nice stance and low to the ground,” he says. “I have got a front bumper in mind which I’m currently working on getting sorted. The car still has the standard interior as it is pretty special with its floating headrests and trimmed leather. People always ask me if I have changed the interior or had it retrimmed. I tell them it’s standard, it’s just BMW was way ahead of the times. I have added an M Tech 3 steering wheel, which I had trimmed in grey Alcantara with M-style stitching, as the standard 840 steering wheel resembles a tractor steering wheel,” he laughs.

    Despite only picking the car up last summer and getting it finished not long after that, Matt got seriously stuck into what was left of the 2014 show season. Well, you don’t build a car like this just to tuck it away in a garage! He won ‘best non-VAG’ at the car’s debut outing at the Dub Fiction show, as well as bringing it along to Ultimate Stance, where it was part of our very own #BMW display. Needless to say the 840 received a whole lot of love and that has been the general theme since it was finished. “At first, when I bought the car as standard, my girlfriend didn’t understand why I had a sold a newer R32 to buy an older classic,” Matt explains, “but when it all came together and she saw the final result she started to understand. All my friends love the car, well I hope so anyway, but it only matters if I love the car; other people are allowed their opinions and on this project opinions vary but you should drive what makes you happy, and this makes me smile every time, especially when I see people twisting their necks on motorways or at petrol stations to get a better look.”

    With so much love for the Eight, it’s not going anywhere and Matt is already thinking about plans for this coming season. “I have some plans but I don’t want to give too much away at the moment,” he says. “I can say it involves new wheels and some body work, maybe a funky wrap just for a joke at one show! If money wasn’t an option, I would have a set of HRE Vintage wheels, a loud exhaust and a nice sound and air install…” But whatever the future holds, what really matters is the here and now of owning and enjoying a beautiful bagged 8 Series, and that is something Matt knows all about.


    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 4.4-litre V8 #M62B44 , five-speed automatic gearbox.
    CHASSIS: 9x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) polished Rotiform TMB three-piece wheels mounted using custom G23 adapters with 215/35 (front) and 235/35 (rear) tyres. Air Lift Performance universal air-ride kit modified to fit #E31 with custom top mounts, custom struts, custom brackets for rear bags.
    EXTERIOR: Standard Sport kit.
    INTERIOR: Standard two-tone Sport leather interior, BMW M Tech 3 steering wheel trimmed in Alcantara with M tricolour stitching.

    THANKS: My team at Watercooled Society, Pure Customs for the hard work on the install.

    The gorgeous lines of the 8 Series look even better when the car is sitting on the ground.
    The E31’s ample arches are more than capable of swallowing the 19” Rotiform TMBs.
    I wanted to keep the car looking as yet with a nice stance and low to the ground normal as possible.

    Standard two-tone Sport leather interior looks fantastic and those floating headrests are a special feature.
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    Dinan Turbo #BMW #M6 #E24 ( turbo-engined #M635CSi #E24 #1988 ) The Annihilator. By Nicholas Bissoon-Dath.

    The needle races past 60 mph. The on-ramp ahead curves tightly away, but your right foot stays flat to the floor, the turbo-charged engine screaming with the hard- edged bass of a highly tuned six-cylinder in full cry. As the sign suggesting a ramp speed of 25 mph flashes past, you bend into the turn, and your passenger audibly pleads for divine protection. You feel the immense lateral loadings build as your speed rises, but the car clings to the road with no dramatics. As you merge onto the highway at more than 80 mph. you look over at the disbelieving face in the right seat. Welcome to the world of the Dinan Turbo BMW M6 E24.

    Company #AMG has the #Hammer , but #Dinan-Engineering has an equally formidable implement; think of it as the #E24-Annihilator . It blasts from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, through the quarter-mile in 13.2 seconds at 107 mph, and on to a rev-limited top speed of 172. It offers race-car handling, #BMW quality and feel, and a shove in the back dial will get anyone’s attention.

    Steve Dinan is a 34-year-old mechanical engineer and the founder of Dinan Engineering (81 Pioneer Way, Mountain View, California 94041; 415-962-9417). He has spent the last nine years of his life servicing, racing, and tuning BMW's. The Turbo M6 is his star, and he has every reason to be proud of its brilliance.

    The source of the Dinan M6’s E24 prodigious performance is its modified turbo engine. Dinan Engineering retains the 24-valve M6 block and head, but that’s about all. It lowers the compression ratio from 9.8 to 7.7:1. A specially matched Garrett T04B turbocharger supplies the boost, which is limited by a Roto-Master waste gate to 13.0 psi. A huge HKS intercooler lowers the temperature of the intake charge; at 134 mph on a 70-degree day, according to Dinan, the reduction is a whopping 160 degrees. Dinan also installs a new airflow sensor and high-flow injectors and enlarges the stock air-cleaner inlet for better breathing. 4he final touch is a #Bosch-Motronic engine-control system, reprogrammed to Dinan’s specifications by Veloz Car Computers.

    The results are 390 horsepower at 6400 rpm —134 more hp than the standard M6 E24 — and a 7300 rpm redline. Not only is the power amazing, but it feeds in smoothly and progressively in response to the throttle. Press with your right foot and full boost is available just a moment later. The thrust builds at a furious pace, and before you know it you’re traveling at twice your previous speed. It’s easy to maintain high average speeds along remote secondary roads, picking off other cars as if multiple-jumping your way to victory in a game of checkers.

    Dinan has also seen to it that the M6’s superbly controllable brakes will haul you down from high speed as often as necessary. Metallic pads grab the stock rotors, and the front brakes are cooled by means of race-car-sized ducts feeding air from two gaping intakes in the front spoiler. The Turbo M6 #E24-Turbo stops from 70 mph in only 173 feet, ten feet shorter than the stock M6 can manage.

    Dinan’s racing experience is evident in his Stage 4 suspension. The $1938 package includes firmer shocks, stiffer springs, and adjustable anti-roll bars at both ends. Negative-camber plates in front and a special rear crossmember allow the normally fixed camber settings to be adjusted at all four wheels.

    The rolling stock consists of #Goodyear Eagle ZR S or #Yokohama A-008R tires on #BBS modular aluminum wheels. In front. 225/50ZR-16 rubber is mounted on 8.0- inch rims; the rear tires are 255/50ZR-16s on 9.0-inch wheels.

    Yes, #Steve-Dinan personally tunes the sus-pensions of his cars, and he achieves impressive results. We measured 0.91 g on our skidpad; that’s 0.04 g better than a #Z52 #Corvette with 275/40ZR-17 tires. In the real world, the #Dinan-Turbo-N16 will scythe through a series of switchbacks at an incredible pace. Charge into a comer at more than twice the posted limit and the car holds its line precisely. Once past your apex, the tail digs in as you press hard on the throttle and unwind the steering. You can blast through comer after corner in this fashion, in an unending stream of speed and tire squeal and fury, yet remain in complete control.

    At the limit the car understeers just enough to let you know that you’re about to run out of grip. The rear wheels can also be provoked loose by accelerating hard in a tight comer or by sharply backing off the throttle at the limit. When the rear does let go, however, it does so slowly and predictably.

    The price of this performance is a nice, round $20,000 — not including the $59,000 that an #M6-E24 will cost you. For your extra twenty grand you get the rocket engine, the Stage 4 suspension, the wheels and tires, the brake modifications, and a special Center forced clutch.

    You also get a few compromises. The #Dinan M6s ride is substantially stiffer than the production car’s, and the front tires tend to follow highway ruts. If you find such behaviour unacceptable, Dinan Engineering offers three other suspensions for 1970-and-later BMWs, each with its own level of control and complexity. It also sells turbo kits for both 5- and 6-series BMWs (means #E34 and #E24 ). Our test car didn’t have any smog controls, but Dinan builds emissions-certified turbo engines as well.

    We’ve driven Dinan BMWs equipped with both types and found that the cleansed car suffers little in feel. Dinan’s racetrack experience and development work have paid off. The Turbo #M6 s limits are so high, and its acceleration is so aggressive, that only the most exotic performance cars on the planet can compete with it. This is a civilized race car for the street. Drag racers, beware. And heaven help anybody w ho tries to keep up with the #Dinan-Turbo #BMW-M6-E24 on a winding road.

    Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive. 4-passenger 2-door sedan #BMW-E24 series

    1988 Price as tested: $80,000

    Engine type: turbocharged and intercooled 6-inline, iron Block and aluminium head, Veloz / ##Bosch-Motronlc electronic engine control system with port fuel injection.

    Displacement 211 cu in, 3453cc #S38 / #M88
    Power (SAE net) 390 bhp at 6400 rpm
    Transmission 5 speed
    Wheelbase 103.3 in
    Length 193.8 in
    Curb weight 3537 lb
    Zero to 60 mph 4.8 sec
    Zero to 100 mph 10.8 sec
    Standing ¼-mile 13.2 sec @ 107 mph
    Top speed 172 mph
    Braking 70-0 mph 173ft
    Road-holding, 300 ft dia skidpad 0.91g
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    So you want big power? Take one #M3-E30 , and add big turbo. It’s all simple, lo-tech stuff.

    There's not a lot of information on #Lotec . A German company in the spirit of Porsche-addling maniac #Ruf , it creates #Mercedes-Benz -engined specials for the autobahn addicts of the Fatherland. But we do know that Lotec created 20 E30 BMW M3s, all benefiting from a simple, non-factory extra, a Garrett T4 turbocharger.

    Ian Knight spent five months looking for an #BMW-M3 #E30 . He must have seen hundreds and could find fault with every one. Each had an un-pukka history, or had been smashed up. The best was white and had been resprayed in blue, and not very well at that.

    Things were not looking good. But he had to have an #M3 , and persevered in his search. His troubles were compounded by the fact that, the more he drove, the more bored he became with the car’s 200 bhp. It didn't give him the kick in the back he needed. Yet. all his life he'd wanted one, and he still had to own a decent example. The Evo Sport, with its 238 bhp, 2.5-litre mill, was as good as he was going to get, so he went to see one that was supposedly the best in the country. It was full of filler and he didn't find it all that quick. Damn.

    Enter stage left #GR-Motorsport of London, a specialist importer of exotic automotive fruit. At the time, the company was chasing down a very rare car indeed. So rare that Ian had no idea of its existence. It was a turbo model, with 350 bhp at its disposal. Was he interested? Docs the Pope preside over the Roman faith? However, apparently the car had no real documentation to speak of, and was white. His interest suddenly waned. GR shouldn't bring it here on his account.

    It didn't. It imported the car regardless of his disinterest, then gave him a call mentioning a price that was five grand under par. Perfectionism aside, Ian's interest was rekindled. It may have had a history with more holes than a colander, but it was a two-owner car, one being a dealer. Hmmm... 350 bhp. He took a chance, and bought it.

    He’s never regretted it even though his first action was to have the turbo replaced. Two years of standing had been followed by a 160 mph autobahn blast on its way back to the UK. and the blower's seals were shot to pieces. The suspension, too, was decomposing. #Eibach springs and #Bilstein dampers soon sorted that out.

    They were designed to give the car a 25 mm drop, but now, he's convinced it’s much lower than that. But there's almost never any wheelarch rubbing, and the car handles faultlessly, so he’s not complaining.

    The #BMW-M3-E30 arrived shod with 8x16 ACT alloys. Wrapped fatly with 225/45 #Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber, they looked splendid, in a cross-spoke kind of way. No reason to change them he reasoned. But, as any cross-spoke owner will know, they're the work of eternity to keep clean.

    Despite Ian having a scam of perfection-ism running through his like a streak in bacon, he found bringing the car up to an acceptable standard of finish very easy. The paintwork was straight so a good cut and polish brought it to life. The bonnet, however, was rusty, necessitating replacement. At the other end, the rear valance was renewed, as it had been mutilated to fit a nasty DTM-style exhaust heat shield.

    Now the car was clean inside and out. It wasn’t concours, but he loved its pace, and that was enough. Until recently, that is. The creeping need to perfect the paintwork means a respray is now due. Everyone tells him it’s unnecessary, but he knows other-wise. It doesn’t help that his best friend, Blue (don’t ask), is a master sprayer, and the owner of the most perfect M3 ever.

    Not without effort, though. Blue's car is mind-numbingly showroom because he’s made it that way. Thanks to his skills, the Lotec example will soon be as-new, too.

    The Lotec conversion is devastatingly simple. And simply devastating, come to think of it. It involves new inlet and exhaust manifolds, a massive T4 turbo, a #Porsche wastegate and an uprated fuel sys-tem. A custom exhaust is also used. The management is tweaked to take all these changes, giving 336 bhp. Ian’s car has received further work, the nature of which we’re not sure about, but it’s likely to have occurred in the ECU mapping department, to give the 350 bhp he enjoys so heartily.

    The standard final drive is retained, but to apply the T4’s slam-dunking torque delivery, the gearbox from an #E34 #M5 obliges. This #Getrag five-speeder has much longer ratios than the stock item, and provides 28 mph per 1000 rpm. This is an #BMW M3 four-pot, remember, so do the maths... the car has a theoretical top speed of 198 mph, before you allow for the detrimental effect of its aircraft-hanger aerodynamics.

    Even counting these, it’s still an extremely fast car. Part of the conversion is to park the windscreen wipers vertically, because at speeds over 160 mph, the arms would be forced off the horizontal by airflow, until the linkage broke.

    If the turbo is brought on song early in a launch, 60 mph can be achieved in well under six seconds. But the downside of the gearbox is that its big old ratio spread extinguishes the standard M3's revvy sparkle. I couldn't remove from my mind, while at the wheel, that if someone wanted a very powerful, long-legged mile-muncher, they'd be better off with an M5, full stop.

    Just as I’ve never understood the #Alpina 3.5-litre conversion, with its heavy engine transplanted under the M3 bonnet, I can't fathom this car, which seems to deny it what it was designed by BMW to be.

    However, Ian has a fiendish plan to have the best of both worlds. Noting that the turbo engine, being very little heavier than the standard item, doesn't knacker the M3’s superb handling, he plans to fit a six-speed, dose-ratio gearbox, to make the most of the rev-happy screamer.

    Above. Compact size of the #S14 four-cylinder meant plenty of room for the turbo installation. Twin-coil ignition and custom-made inlet plenum (left) are part of the Lotec conversion.

    Below. The #Garrett #Garrett-T4 turbocharger runs at 14.5 psi/1 bar with a remote Porsche wastegate. Gearbox is an #E34-M5 five-speed unit.

    Perhaps as a consequence of the grownup gearbox, the car is ridiculously civilised. In certain other applications, read big- turbo Cosworth Fords, the T4 turbo is deeply unsubtle, exploding into life at 4000 rpm causing Essex-man fishtailing as you try to keep the biscuit-tin car on the road.

    Not so here. The M3 feels pleasantly eager at low revs, before the power begins to build. And build. And build. After a certain time, the driver runs out of bottle, road, or both, and lifts off. At which there's momentary lag before the car slows. It’s incredibly grown-up, and astoundingly fast.

    And very, very German. This is the M3, translated for autobahn use meaning, of course, that it really is an M5 in miniature. Inside, factory leather, with the #M-sport colours, sewn in, reinforce the luxury-tourer impression. The previous owner was a lucky man, with the perfect combination of car and terrain at his disposal.

    Except that he wasn't all that fortunate. GR Motorsport's German scout was an acquaintance of his family, which sold the car while mourning his loss. The poor chap got crushed to death at work. Ian likes to think the ghost of Herman the German rides with him, with revs rising and falling of their own accord at idle.

    If Herman was on board recently, he would have had fun. Ian wound the turbo boost up to one bar, which transformed the car. Gone was its urbane nature, replaced by a savagery that shocked and delighted him. It moved the M3 onto a different level. Unfortunately, three laps into a Castle Combe track day, the engine suffered oil starvation, and the bottom end ate itself.

    Ian was lucky. He’d seen a #Subaru-Impreza park itself into the Armco at 60 mph and the only harm was to his wallet.
    He won’t be doing any more track days, once the engine’s rebuilt. The road’s the place for him and Herman to enjoy them-selves. And Curborough sprint days, of course. It was a shame the car removed itself from the track day scene, as he’d just about got the braking system right. Although the three laps were enough to warp a set of new discs, his brake specialist, Jim Freeth of Performance Braking in Monmouth, had turned him on to a blue Pagid pad that was giving brilliant service.

    As you read this, the Lotec will be back on the road. There are two others in the country, but these are resting. Having resurrected his engine, Ian's going to be a lot poorer, but he’s not cowed by the expense. It cost less than ten grand to buy, and gave him two years, or 6000 miles, of wild times before going pop. So he's going to take it on the chin, and console himself with the simple charms of Lotec transport.
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    Lap of Luxury. #BMW-750i-E38

    We take a fond look back at the great V12-engined #E38 #BMW-750i . Back in the day the #E38-750i was right at the cutting edge of technology but how well has it lasted the test of time? Mark Williams finds a superb shortwheelbase (SWB) example to find out. Photography: Mark Williams/Lullingstone Cars.

    Back in the days when I was obsessed with Mercedes, a word I would often hear was ‘youngtimers’. A youngtimer car would always be at least one generation removed from the contemporary models, probably already been through one or two owners and had lost that new car, latest thing appeal. And yet it would be parked very carefully, with the wheels devoid of careless curbing and equipped with expensive (i.e correct) tyres. The paintwork would have a lustrous shine and the little details like window and ‘screen surrounds demonstrated the owner’s care and attention. Fast forward a few years and we’re talking about cars which were too old to be considered as daily propositions, yet too young to be classics, whilst at the same time having successfully managed to avoid the crusher’s claws or those awful government-funded scrappage schemes.

    It was (and indeed, still is) a byword for growing old gracefully. These are well-cared for cars in the homes of owners with the necessary open minds to maintain them to the appropriate degree, whilst not being overly concerned at the otherwise depressing decline in their value, nor with following fashion. This is the natural selection process which, in BMW land, eventually distilled the #E30 #M3 , #E34 #M5 and #E39 M5 production runs down into a concentrated group of survivors, whereupon economics will not be denied and these victors then start to creep up in value. It’s happened already with the M3, those in the know tell me it’s now starting with the #E39-M5 although bizarrely (a last example with a six-pot, hand-built and an analogue driving experience) it’s yet to really kick off with the E34. It will though, I’m sure of that. As the years pass, one starts to realise these cars stand as footnotes in history, and reverence inevitably follows.

    However, even though BMW’s rich and dominant history over the last 30 or so years is littered with machinery capable of creating youngtimer status, I’ve never really seen or heard the phrase associated with their products. And this is strange because for every model Mercedes has offered up in that timeline, BMW has an equally compelling riposte, something quietly confident and beautifully engineered like an E34 #535i Sport or more brutish and blunt like an BMW E31 850 CSi. Laid back luxury more your thing? Then at some point in the past you’ve either owned or fancied having a W140 Series S-Class Mercedes. Slabsided, two-tonne-plus leviathans with so much room you loll around, have a get-out-of-my-way road presence and an armageddon-surviveable build quality (decomposing wiring loom aside). And if you believe in doing things properly, you’ve probably hankered after the V12, given once they pass a certain age they’re worth less than a cauliflower. Wait a moment though, during the same period #BMW produced something equally tasty and V12 powered, right? Understated, quite often eclipsed behind the mega-Merc’s footprint and horsepower figures (it’s always been my belief that the German horsepower race started with these two), but piloted by a driver who seemed to be just that tad cooler, more engaged with the process and ultimately, having a better time. The E38 Seven Series is a youngtimer candidate and no mistake.

    BMW stuck to evolution and not revolution in its unveiling of the E38 generation 7 Series in #1994 (from a design perspective anyway, electronically it contained more computing power than it took to put man on the moon and represented a massive leap forward, but we’ll come to that later). A little too conservative for some, elegant, understated and quietly stylish to others, the shape has aged with a timeless grace which (in my opinion) the #E65 / #E66 generation which succeeded it will struggle to emulate. Vindication perhaps of BMW’s decision at the time to not mess with the formula which proved so successful with the #E32 ? Think of today’s #F01 / #F02 and consider this; as a design statement, is it an evolution of the #E38 or E65 ? To this day the E38 is a design which endures, even portraying a certain roguish appeal and informing BMW’s current design language amongst its saloon output. Ideally proportioned on 18s, but still appealing to the eye on comfort-orientated 16-inch wheels, it just works.

    Inside it’s much the same story. I’ve owned three of these, and in each I would invariably adopt a laidback, quietly contented driving position, sunk low into the comfort or sports-contoured seats, admiring the layout and architecture of the dashboard and interior design. The sweep of the burr walnut on the passenger side, the ‘come sit here’ look to the front seats, all snuggly bolstered and with their upper portion angled just so to support one’s upper back.
    Then your eyes fall to the palm-shaped gear lever before a glance in the rear reveals chairs which seem to envelope their occupants, complete with headrests apparently melted over the tops of the seat backs. I don’t honestly think BMW has produced such a intrinsically correct interior since the E38, although the E39 is a possible exception, sharing as it does so much of the same flavour (not to mention the electronics, but we’ll come back to that). The E65/66 was too cold, and the F01/02, whilst clearly a product of the same line of thinking, seems to have lost the welcoming ambience somewhere along the line.

    Or is all this just a bad case of rose tinted spectacles? After all, the examples I had weren’t exactly paragons of reliability and they’re long gone now. How have these things actually aged? A chat with old friend Ian Lockwood at Lullingstone Cars ( – erstwhile Ultimate7 and before that Oakriver Cars) offered up the opportunity to find out. Where he once would deal in E38s almost weekly, today Ian tends to deal in more contemporary BMWs (X5s and the like) as the old Sevens are proving hard to source in the required condition which makes them worthwhile retail candidates. But they do crop up occasionally, and the arrival of W52 GYW (now sold), an excellent condition 2000 model year SWB #750i for £6k afforded me the opportunity to wind back the years and dial back into the appeal.

    It’s dry and clear, but damn cold on the agreed date and as I arrive at Ian’s premises not far from Swanley, I draw up alongside the freshly polished and prepped Seven. I’m again under time constraints so after a quick hello, I climb aboard the idling 750i and head off down the drive. Already I’m spotting the narrow diameter to the steering wheel rim and smiling quietly as the layered-in-leather interior creaks and groans to itself. It seems wide, too. The lanes down here are pretty narrow, and today they’re occupied by a thousand cyclists too, so these factors combined with my relative unfamiliarity makes those few moments a bit fraught.

    We’re soon on to faster and flowing roads though, and the 5.4 litre #M73 #V12 starts to make its presence felt, both aurally and physically. Muscular low down, but tending to sound a bit strained higher up, it seldom needs to be revved beyond 4k and between idle and this useable ceiling it offers up a quietly enveloping soundtrack and respectable if not earthshattering acceleration. It’s natural gait is seven tenths, working seamlessly with the five-speed auto to ensure you cover the ground with minimal fuss. A mournful moan from up front signals a big hearted assault on the horizon and whilst a moderately welldriven Golf GTI will soon disappear into the future, you simply cannot beat a torque-rich V12 pouring its power into the transmission and feeling that elasticity contained before it shoves you up the road. Provided you can stomach the fuel bills of course, more of which in a moment.

    When the corners arrive, and as they often do around here, the brakes slow the car with that notable effort-to-effect multiplication ratio which will be familiar to anybody who has driven an older Bentley. One presses down on the pedal to what is thought a suitable degree, and the car responds by standing on its nose as a dinner plate-sized servo takes your input and ramps it up to what is actually needed to slow this thing from speed. It’s no surprise that these days there is talk of harvesting the heat caused by braking.

    Tip the nose into the corner and in this age of active dampers the amount of lean on display will be a tad disconcerting at first. It’s not untidy, but you’re aware of the suspension working to keep the whole caboodle aiming towards the apex one way or another. And it lets you hear it working, too. Although that’s forgiveable given the 88k miles this example had covered at the time of the test.

    Back in period, the E38 always seemed a more incisive drive than the #W140 Series Mercs, and that still holds true today. The latter isn’t a bad steer per se, but its sheer mass discourages this kind of driving, as capable as it is. A motor this big occupies a lot of road when travelling sideways. In the BMW though, one is aware of the slightly reduced mass and it’s this, coupled to the lower and more intimate driving position and allied to BMW’s own particular take on chassis dynamics which swings the balance in the BMW’s favour if you have even the remotest interest in vehicle dynamics.

    A left click of the auto lever engages sports mode, which is mostly ill-advised as it kicks the ‘box down a gear or two. This in turn sends the revs soaring and the V12’s exertions can now by fully heard – not always a good thing. Best to use kickdown in order to get up ahead of steam then lift in order to prompt the ‘box into changing up. It’s a little like asking your grandmother to do a sports day; you can ultimately ask the question, but the answer isn’t necessarily what you expect to hear. Plus plenty of fluids are required to maintain this kind of behaviour. In the M73’s case, it will already be happily dispensing a gallon of unleaded every 20 miles or so at best, maybe a tiny percentage more on a run, but a damn sight worse around town, so it’s perhaps best to not encourage it. Still, as I think I’ve said before, V12 owners don’t lie awake at night sweating over the price of a barrel of crude and besides, it’s relatively cheap these days… We recorded 18mpg on test and given the country roads and total absence of open country, I was quite pleased with that.

    In terms of equipment, accepting the fact that radar-guided this and that, night vision, blind-spot monitoring, reversing cameras and head-up displays etc are very much a modern phenomenom, you don’t really want for much inside an E38. Later models benefit from a wide-screen nav display, but even so the combination of leather and inlaid walnut, allied to electric everything, blinds in the rear, softtouch headlining, double-glazing and heated seats do make you feel good about life. Then you notice that this example has a powered bootlid (which I’ve never seen on an E38), plus powered rear seats (rare on the short wheel base models) and you start to think ‘crikey that’s a lot to go wrong’ or ‘nice touch’ depending upon your disposition.

    Even though modern BMWs don’t seem as well made as the older ones were (or at least, comparatively speaking, as well built as today’s used examples did in period) they are at least new and ergo, less likely to go wrong. Alas that is not something we can say about the E38 and if you are looking for one, best pay attention. Here comes the sobering bit…

    If you intend on owning the car for any significant period, odds are you will need to change the radiator, which always tend to split at the top hose. Modern replacements are better made, but still not immune. The V8s suffer from the usual array of oil leaks but the 12s are actually pretty solid, so long as you keep the servicing up to date. The intake cyclones can split (due to rubbish plastic which dries out with age) causing a hunting idle but otherwise, and partly due to the chain-driven valve gear, these old engines are pretty sturdy.

    Alas the rest of the E38 isn’t ageing as well and the three I had suffered from the following at some point (although none of them where afflicted with all)… The charcoal filter for the fuel tank gets clogged up and requires replacement, as soon as possible really because it will only accelerate the wear of the metal fuel tank (if still fitted, although by this point most of them should have been replaced with the later plastic item). They fail to vent properly as the filter loses its ability to breathe, the whole tank gets sucked in, metal fatigue results and hairline cracks start to appear in the centre of the tank. And be careful how you put the new tank in; always make sure you fit new seals to the sender pump fitted to one side (which is responsible for picking up fuel and sending it over to the other side of the tank as you fill up, as on the 750s there is one main tank split into two sections either side of the diff) otherwise you will have fuel spilling out over the top of the tank when you fill it up. With hot exhausts close by, this clearly isn’t good.

    If you’re still not dissuaded then you’ll also have the prospect of ruinously expensive wiper mechanisms to deal with if they ever do pack up (they were rumoured to be £2k from BMW years ago, but of course much cheaper options now exist and there’s always eBay), door handles which come off in your hand as metal fatigue sets in here, too, plus rust in the usual BMW E3x hot spots such as bootlids and fuel filler areas. And we can’t talk about E38 reliability without mention of the infamous wheel wobble (which, bizarrely, the test car didn’t suffer from at all). This sets the steering wheel off ever so slightly at around 45mph but then goes a short while later. You can pull your hair out worrying about this, and I’d almost recommend just living with it once you’ve changed the pads, discs and bushes and been advised that the suspension is pretty solid.

    Oh, and the electrics too of course. Which aren’t actually that bad in all honesty, except for the maddening rear light clusters, whose bulbs respond to electrical impulses across the whole board in which they’re located, as opposed to individual wiring, but whom seldom sit in their apertures with anything remotely approaching a good connection. Eventually, ‘check brake light’ will appear in the instrument cluster (assuming you’ve paid the inevitable £150 or so to one of the firms who are now – mercifully – able to repair the straps within the cluster which fail and take all the pixels with them) and you’ll duly go and buy a new bulb. Fitting that results in a good connection for a day or so, then the message reappears and the reality begins to set in…

    Other electrical gremlins are the sat-nav monitor, which can suffer from failed pixels leading to vertical green lines and a particular favourite, the two batteries on 750 E38s. Many head-scratching evenings were spent at various BMW specialists with my E38s, using hidden menus in the dashboard (check it on Google) to locate the voltage reading and ascertain whether the batteries were kaput or there was a drain somewhere…

    If all this sounds like I’ve got a downer on the E38 then that’s not the case. They’re fantastic machines to drive and own but ultimately, caveat emptor reigns. One needs to go into E38 ownership with eyes and wallet open. Buy a good one like W52 seemed to be and you’ll hopefully only experience a few of the above. But buy without due diligence and you’ll pay for it dearly.

    Back at Ian’s base I marvel at the underbonnet packaging and mourn the loss of good engine bay visuals. Today’s plastic-clad powerplants really can’t compete with the M73’s installation; all intake plenums and trunking. It’s a marvellous sight. And I simply love the turbine startup on these things, plus the fact that the whole car gently rocks on its springs as it fires up.

    It’s worn the years well the E38, and this particular example even more so. The product of several careful and loving owners, who both understand what the car is and how it should be maintained, it’s a survivor and a real youngtimer. Hopefully it will continue to enjoy careful maintenance consummate to its mileage and condition now it’s being enjoyed by its new owner. You can see more of this Seven at my QuentlyBentin YouTube channel and Lullingstone Cars will have more for sale at some point if you see the appeal. I wouldn’t blame you for taking one on, despite their flaws.

    Today’s plastic-clad powerplants really can’t compete with the M73’s installation.
    You simply cannot beat a torque-rich V12 pouring its power into the transmission.
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    Reduced to its essentials: #1980 #BMW-320/6 #E21 with racing genes. The idea for this car was born out of necessity. "Here in Belgium cars to have annual technical inspection," says Dieter Verboven, the owner of the 3 Series presented. "This was so consuming my E30 Cabrio converted information. With its wide body kit, the 218-hp M20B27 engine Kempower and Tramont rims would never have arisen by the test But I did not want to demolish the car Then I had an idea .. ".
    The opposite of a trailer queen: The E21 by Dieter Verboven is a true and proven piste M3 shock.

    The what, in essence, to tune an older model BMW. For vehicles over 25 years in Belgium must only once for technical control - never again. "So I've been looking for a #BMW-E21 out and finally found him in Antwerp." Fortunately for Dieter: The car Which shut in, first owner, stainless and had just 76,000 kilometers on the clock. For this one Could only speculate about its colour: In the initial survey in underground garage on of the E21 wore on opaque layer of dust.
    Now it happened in quick succession: Dieter bought the E21 and E30 sold his, Which he had Previously equipped with the standard engine and the other wheels. The tuning unit and the Tramont Rims he lay back for the new project. The E21 has been thoroughly cleaned, worked the paint and installed the engine Kempower Including homemade exhaust system. The car got adjustable "Koni Yellow" -Federbeine and fits to lowering springs, clipping off the 60 mm ground clearance. In this state, we went to the scrutineering. Dieter remembers: "Everything went smooth, the BMW came through without a problem!"

    Then the Tramont wheels turn came. Your wedding with the E21 Proved difficult, as They are very wide - 8.5 x 17 front, rear 11 x 17! The solutions werewolf flared wheel in the style of classic round distance running. The rear did what Intended for a #BMW-2002 Turbo werewolf Further extended by 50 mm, Then They fit.

    Dieter drove the BMW for a while, then he Decided to completely strip the interior. In the empty shell height adjustable bucket seats built, a safety cage, a 33er Alcantara steering wheel and a CAE - a Short Shifter. Externally, the car modified by #AC-Schnitzer E36-mirrors, tinted turn signals and tail lights red.

    Then, after a few track days, the engine gave up the ghost. Dieter newly built it on, in addition, he Exchanged the twin headlight front against the Einschein bowler - version of the 316i and the converted information 3 with adhesive film-in-a "RS Edition". This is Followed by more track-days Participants. When the engine faltered again, Dieter decided instead to invest in another overhaul in a new unit. So he bought a #E36 #M3 engine (S50B30), built in 1994. After several optical upgrades and adaptation to the environment E21-Dieter did not begrudge the engine, among other things, a custom exhaust system and a self made "Ram Air" - air supply. In Conjunction with a customized mapping of Alpha N of the six-cylinder shoulder stand now pull the trigger to the 320 hp (at the rear wheels!).

    "A real nightmare what the wiring," says Dieter. "But are all spent countless hours." Howewer, was still there time for niceties: The previous seats had Sparco models soft in your dash tachometer with shift light and a display for the fuel-air mixture werewolf integrated. About oil pressure and oil temperature instruments give #VDO information, a GPS-driven speedometer measures the speed.

    "I'm glad did now everything is done," says Dieter. "This is something I Probably will not do it again. But what I still want to change the struts." Semi-slicks werewolf not bad either. And the unit is to be Replaced. And the differential ... Well, so is it with real athletes, ever higher, faster, farther.

    This is not a control center, Which is a switching Cathedral: CAE Shortshift- Tower.

    The disciples folk music like "La Montanara" #BMW junkies tend to be on "Tramontana". Here the model "Staria" in 8.5 x 17 ET18.

    Upper-class underbody - there is no #E21 this sleazy corners.
    What is written on the back, front, inside: a 320 with 320 hp (Real!).

    Lightning Clean E21 engine compartment with "foreign engine" strut, bar and very delicious looking intake air supply.
    Sparco twice, twice different: left the version "Corsa" right "by 2000 'variant in professional sports instructors, leisure driver- Genius: Dieter Verboven of guillemots, Belgium.

    FEATURE FACTS 1980 BMW E21 320/6

    Motor: #S50B30 -line six-cylinder, 3,201 cc, 320 hp, #E34 #M50B25 oil pan, 2 "-Custom exhaust system, Supersprint manifold, self-made" Ram Air "- air supply E30 M3 aluminum radiator, Alpha N mapping, engine compartment gecleant, in Conjunction with a customized mapping of alpha-N mapping Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission from #325i #E30 , SAE Shortshift- Tower.

    Suspension: adjustable "Koni Yellow" - shocks, lowering springs (- 60 mm), rear axle with #ZF limited slip differential (25%).

    Brakes: front Fiat Coupe 20v turbocharged-disc brakes with Brembo four-piston calipers, rear #E30 slices with Alfa Romeo Gtv dual piston calipers.

    Rims: Tramont "Staria", 8.5 x 17 ET18 front, rear 11 x 17 ET 08 Tyre: #Kuhmo , front 205 / 40-17 rear 245 / 35-17.
    Bodywork: Two-door sedan, #BMW-2002-Turbo spreads wheelhouse, 316 single spotlight, #AC-Schnitzer mirrors, painted black kidney, painted in white with "RS Edition" - Folierung.

    Interior: Sparco 'by 2000' - bucket seats, Sparco Corsa-shell seat, Both with "Sandter" logo, 33ers Alcantara racing wheel, CAE Short Shift Tower, safety cage, tachometer with shift light, Ads for gasoline-air mixture, oil pressure and oil temperature GPS speedometer.
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    BIG-BANG THEORY #BMW #850i #E31 #M70 V12 engine tuning #H8-6.0 – J800MGH

    There’s simply no substitute for cubic inches, says #Hartge of its amazing 6.0-litre #BMW-850i E31 conversion. Charles Armstrong-Wilson agrees.

    If you were lucky enough to own a #BMW-E31 BMW 850i, then you would probably feel pretty happy about the situation. There will always be those, though, who are never satisfied; those who always want more from any car. Mike Harrison to one of those people.

    As vice president of a software company he's used to running some fairly nice cars but, when the time came, finding something to better his 850i was going to be tricky. He knew he wanted more from the next car, and was looking at options like Ferrari's F355 or the then-new #BMW-850CSi . Then he decided on a different approach and contacted Birds (UK) Ltd.

    Above: there's little to distinguish Hartge-converted 850i from a standard car, but 19-inch wheels and lowered stance contribute to overall effect of classic coupe shape, making it look even lower and wider - and meaner.

    British agent for German BMW tuning specialist Hartge. Birds had already done some work on Mike's previous car a #535i #E34 and Kevin Bird suggested that a Hartge 6.0-litre conversion might have the desired effect. While they were at it a list of other changes were specified which, although they added up almost to the price of an #M3 #E36 , transformed Mike’s 850i into something very special indeed.

    First the engine came out and was bored and stroked with Hartge pistons and crankshaft, taking it to 5992cc. Its standard camshafts were retained, but the four electronic management units - two for the engine, one for the fly-by-wire electronic throttle and one for the gearbox - were sent to Hartge in Germany to be reworked. The only other modification to the engine was replacing the exhaust's rear silencer boxes with Hartge items, but the result of all this work was to take the power output from the standard unit's 300bhp up to 430bhp.

    Clearly the gearbox was going to need work too. Mike considered a six-speed manual conversion, but Kevin Bird had other ideas. Alpina's Switch-Tronic manual override system had already proved how a BMW automatic gearbox could be manually controlled, and at the time Kevin was considering developing his company's own system.

    The result is known as Switchlogic and Mike's 850i was the first vehicle to have it fitted. As a preparatory step, the four-speed automatic gearbox was rebuilt, and uprated in the process.

    The torque converter was also modified by cutting it open and employing a specialist with the required expertise to tweak each of the vanes individually. The car was already fitted with a low-ratio final drive - 3.91:1 instead of the more usual 3.15:1 - giving better acceleration.

    In Mike's list of requirements he had specified a colour change from metallic Diamond Black to none-metallic Cosmos Black so, while the mechanical work was being done, the car was resprayed.

    Above: technically inaccurate now, original badge is retained to avoid giving the game away.
    Well, wouldn't you?

    As far as the chassis was concerned, relatively little was changed. A Hartge suspension-lowering kit dropped the car by 30mm. and a set of Hartge 19-inch wheels and 35-section Continental tyres was fitted.

    Completed, the car looks little different to a standard E31 8-series except for the massive wheels, lower stance and Hartge tailpipes. Inside, the only addition is the control stalk for the ingenious Switchlogic transmission.

    Boxes that liberate some of engine's prodigious power. Conversion are these discreet badges on camshaft covers.
    Under the bonnet, only a pair of Hartge-monogrammed camshaft covers give the game away, and the whole underbonnet area still looks standard and generally untampered with - always the hallmark of a good conversion.

    The changes only really become apparent on the move when the car’s 430 horses make their presence felt. Normally the 0-62mph dash takes 7.4 seconds in an automatic 850i, or 6.8 seconds in a car with manual transmission. The Hartge conversion gets it there in just 5.3 seconds - and it feels like it. The all-important 'ton' is very accessible, and the car just keeps on accelerating hard, presumably right up to the claimed top speed of 188mph. When Hartge modifies the engine management it also divests the unit of its 155mph top-speed limit.

    But where the conversion really shows its mettle is in the massive torque. At high revs the engine hauls like a jet fighter on afterburner, but with each upchange there is a different urge from the unit, the relentless shove of colossal mid-range grunt. The acceleration appears to be uninterrupted by the change of ratio, and only the engine note alters as the Switchlogjc flicks it up a cog.

    The car's torque converter is also a revelation and, once on the move, has the positive feel of a manual transmission's dutch.

    The car is no animal, though, and is as thoroughly civilised as you would expect. None of its practicality has been compromised and it will trickle through traffic without any fuss, just as before. But a boatful of right pedal gives an instant response. The torque converter improves normal driving, too, with a more immediate response to the throttle. useful in busy traffic.

    Hartge's conversion gives Ferrari performance with BMW engineering, and has breathed new life into a car that was des-tined for the used car lot.

    Above: elegant V12 is unaltered externally and the conversion Is confined to its major Internals — pistons and crankshaft - and the four electronic management units.

    Above: massive 19- Inch Hartge modular wheels shod with 35-profile Continental tyres add enormously to the car's looks and handling - and all for a mere £5400...

    Above: inside, dues to the 850i's spectacular performance are limited to a control on left of steering column for the Switchlogic manual-override auto transmission.

    Above and centre: some say 8-series is too subtle; we say It looks great from any angle, especially with those wheels.
    Left: apart from transmission switch, Interior is standard 850. Why modify perfection?

    Below: ptllariess window layout harks back to classic CS coupes. Those wheels are BIG!
    H8-6.0 430bhp engine conversion Suspension lowering kit Rear silencers.
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    Duly noting that they do 15mpg, occupy more road than some seven-seaters and are no faster than certain saloons, Russell Bulgin tries to find a place in the world for three, er, lifestyle accessories, the BMW 850i E31 , #Jaguar-XJR-S and new Porsche-928GTS photographs by Ian Dawson .

    Yes, each of these cars is brilliant. As brilliant in all the hard-to-get good stuff - toe-twitch alacrity, down-the-road grip, the ability to tease trouble before slyly electronic king their way out of it - as you might reasonably expect when appending a signature to a cheque for not less than the thick end of £48,000. They are as brilliant as they have to be, glittering atop the price lists of these respected marques, each a complex totem to corporate ego and the ingrained belief that more is better and might will always out.

    And this is no longer enough. That each of these cars also packs a roster of shortcomings which would spell commercial genocide in a less rarefied market sector is worrying, certainly. But once you’ve gloried with the grip and got hands-on with the handling one question bubbles to the fore: are these cars stimulating harbingers of freedom - intellectual, social and small-p political - in a recessionary era, or just a trio of fat old dinosaurs which should go the way of the stegosaurus, the triceratops and, sadly, Raquel Welch in One Million Years SC?

    These three cars - the £66,465 #BMW 850i E31 with Active Rear Axle Kinematics (hey!), the £48,029 #Jaguar XJR-S and the £64,998 #Porsche 928GTS also reflect very accurately the current commercial fortunes and product philosophy of their manufacturers. Try this: Slick as it is, the BMW can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be green irrespective of body colour - environmentally responsible in terms of construction and eminently recyclable - or a snorting two-seater for a clientele which wants to mash autobahns into submission, day in, day out.

    Financially strapped Jaguar does what any budget-conscious individual would do when tarting up a 17-year-old car; throws a bodykit at it and tunes the engine. The reality of Ford and Jaguar's collective short-termism is Essex Man aesthetics pasted on Great British indomitability.

    Having spent the '80s proving you can’t sell BSc products with an O-Level marketing strategy, Porsche faces the essential truth about the 928 - not enough people want one – and revivifies it the only way the company knows: by throwing more engineering at it. More power, more grip, more... just more.

    ‘Are these cars the harbingers of freedom - intellectual and small-p political - or just fat old dinosaurs?’

    And before casting a critical eye over each car, you should file away the following facts. These cars deliver profoundly terrible fuel consumption figures: in the mid-teens after a day of mildly invigorating driving. The Jaguar, for example, has an effective range of around 250 miles, which limits its appeal as a transcontinental mile-eater. You can stuff the glovebox with freebie-tokens in no time at all, though.

    Such is the combination of dynamic competence and sheer mass of these cars that the effort demanded to touch the limit on the public road should be sufficient to have the driver registered clinically berserk.

    You can’t begin to explore the twilight zone of apex-slinging fun in these cars without putting your licence and other road users at considerable - some would say unconscionable - risk. If you can quantify such an intangible, you might surmise that you can use 30 percent of the available performance without attracting attention from any policeman with a Panda car and polite radio manner.

    Each machine displays a rare level of packaging incompetence. Plan area plus a nodding acknowledgement to seating capacity is a good rule of thumb to the sheer zappability - summer morning, winding road, grin gleaming Colgate factor five - of a performance road car. A Mazda MX-5 seats two in comfort and occupies a veneer of asphalt 13ft 1 in by 5ft 6in; each of the cars tested does precisely the same job but takes a lot more metal to make its point.

    These cars are each within an inch of 6ft across the flanks, with the Jaguar and BMW stretching the tape at 15ft 8in long with the Porsche 10in shorter. A #Mercedes-Benz-W124 saloon is 15ft 8in long and can carry four in comfort, plus a week's shopping, the dog and granny’s travel requisites; if you wish to deal in absolutes, note that a Renault Espace is two inches shorter and two inches narrower than the Porsche and can lug five easily, seven if chummy.

    But, you will say, that’s not the point. These cars are not meant to be sensible, to be relentlessly practical. Maybe not; maybe they should be. Why do manufacturers make strenuous efforts radically to improve their everyday cars in terms of fuel efficiency, performance, accommodation and ecological responsibility only to cap the range with a supremely paunchy, uselessly fast old bloater?

    Because, of course, there is a market for the car as jewellery, the car as status, the car as self aggrandisement. If a gold Rolex Daytona chronograph costs £9800 and tells the time with the accuracy of a 12 quid Casio, then a £65,000 #Porsche which cruises the middle lane at 70mph makes perfect sense. To some people.

    So what of the reality of driving these cars? First, the BMW. A great shape - sinewy, taut - is let down by a lack of confidence at the front end. Perhaps the design team's pencil was worn down; more likely we’ve all seen a Toyota Supra in the rear-view mirror once too often.

    Inside, the cockpit is densely black and ergo- BMW to perfection, constructed of a faintly uneasy combination of black synthetics and semi-matt black leather; surfaces of leather-grained plastic abut leather-grained leather. The ambience is Braun travel alarm; blackly black, functional, moderne, eliciting admiration rather than affection.

    But the 850i works. As a place to pass the miles in, as a fax-free adjunct to an office, a Club Europe ticket and a platinum American Express card, the 850i interior is an elegant, soothing and high-tech minimalist home from home.

    Jaguar V12 is stroked to 6.0 litres; gives smooth 330bhp and thunderous performance. XJR-S chassis and substantially tauter than standard XJS steering are Cockpit is hedonistic though hardly efficient.

    To drive, the BMW 850i E31 is good. Good but not exciting, stimulating or particularly communicative. Springing is lovely, compliant and motorway-friendly, but with a Tendency to turn floaty come the twists.

    There’s a wodge of disinformation about the steering at straight ahead and an elasticity, a faintly artificial self-centring which begins to grate after a while. You don’t want to know everything the front wheels are doing - the inevitable Catseye abuse is an relevance, for example - out it would be reassuring to scroll more data than the BMW processes.

    That V12 #M70 engine packs 300bhp, the smoothness of an electric motor and no sense of involvement whatsoever. Even the noise of the motor is fey, like the thrum of distant air- conditioning. The gearbox is clever, with three programmes: E, presumably economy, proving the Germans have a sense of irony; S, sport ditto; and M for manual which no-one would use seriously. S allows you to pull more revs, eke out brio, gusto and a smidge of ker-pow, but the shift quality is always a shade slammy.

    This car also has cockpit-adjustable suspension, activated by touching a rocker marked K and S. This proves that BMW has had two opportunities to get its suspension calibration wrong: K is fine on smooth roads but discombobulated on anything pocked and winding, while S is jiggle-hard and recommended solely for those who are drivers amply provided with natural padding.

    Even in (Komfort), which is 30 percent softer than standard - and feels it - the 850i will switch to Sport in 40 milliseconds if you are being particularly aggressive in a bend and all to no great effect as the ride still isn’t wholly satisfactory. You can also get the #E31 #BMW #850i to flick from Float to Stiff at precisely the time it is changing down with a hint of a thump; the effect is to make the 850i seem slightly hesitant, unwieldy, unsettled by the reality of pitch-and- toss B-road topography.

    Active Rear Axle Kinematics (that’s AHK in abbreviated German) - yours for £4710 in a package which includes the adjustable suspension, ASC+T traction control, Servotronic steering and the electrically adjustable steering column - is BMW’s four-wheel steering. Steering wheel angle and road speed are measured and an electro-hydraulic steering actuator twiddles the rear wheels to suit.

    The result, says BMW, is a reduction in understeer (agreed), more precise handling (agreed), improved levels of safety (agreed) and a feeling that, as the non- AHK 850i was hardly likely to throw you into the hedge thanks to a mistimed wriggle of the right foot, it’s possibly not worth the extra cash. (BMW would presumably disagree on that one).

    Switch off the excellent ASC anti-skid control and you can excite a curious flash of oversteer before the AHK comes over all territorial and nudges the rear end back into line.

    In present company, the #BMW-850i is the slowest, the least engaging in recreational driving and, of course, the most civilised, the easiest to live with, the most elegant, the best built and the car you would pick to drive to Geneva, whatever the weather, whatever the reason. You would always respect such country- crossing abilities, but never fall passionately in love with it as a loyal and faithful servant. Somehow, the #BMW-850i-E31 is a shade too nice, too pinkly soft, too twee: it tries a mite hard to be friendly and accommodating, offers heart but not soul.

    Never forget that the Jaguar XJS began to look remotely acceptable only when it was decapitated into a soft-top. So the bodykit on the Jaguar Sport-developed XJR-S performs an optical illusion hitherto unknown in contemporary motoring: it distracts your eye from just how terrible the basic car looks, with its stunted cabin, runaway nose and bizarre buttressed rear. Then there’s the dreadful new rear end, where neutral density rear lights - late ’80s trendy - have a major artistic quarrel with their chrome surround - late '60s forgettable - and all to no real improvement.

    That the #XJR-S still manages to pack a superb and radically nose-down presence is a credit to the #JaguarSport crew but the whole project remains testament to British antique restoration skills. The 5.3- litre V12 is stroked to 6.0 litres and 333bhp, 18 percent up on the standard car. Uprated springs and Bilstein dampers are a traditional aftermarket stock- in-trade, and the XJR-S also gets a set of slick new wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle ZRs.

    The Jaguar has the worst cabin of the three, but it is the one you want to spend the most time in. It is, unforgivably, cramped ahead and impossibly tiny aft. Why insert such vestigial rear seats? Only leather- lining the spare wheel well could be more pointless.

    The shallow screen crams the world into an accelerated Cinemascope and the layout of the dashboard is less considered than the two German cars’.

    This Jaguar brandishes Montegoid column stalks but, then again, it is the cheapest of the three cars by the margin of a #Mercedes-Benz #190E 1.8 plied with a few choice extras. Nasty by the standards of Mum and Dad saloons, these wands have no place in the cabin of a Jaguar, matching a slimy tactility with the fact that they are cack-handedly fiddly. Which is a shame. Because for all its faults, the walnut, chrome and creamy Autolux hide never fails to seduce. Just sitting inside the Jaguar makes you feel good; it flatters you like a favourite shirt.

    This V12 has grunt and flair to spare. A slug of torque from mid-to-top, an easy going gait which turns thunderous when you begin to quantify the silkiness of the carpet with your throttle shoe. What lets the Jaguar down, ironically, is the three- speed GM400 automatic transmission. Conventional wisdom might have it that any car pushing out 365lb ft of eager-to-please torque could get away with only one gear. Conventional wisdom would be wrong.

    The XJR-S likes living in top gear. Activating kickdown or even dropping a cog produces a rumbustiousness and major forward surge: this is a sledgehammer attack compared with hitting the reprogramme button in the BMW to achieve much the same end. When in top, the XJR-S possesses an endearingly positive surge to deal with motorway flotsam: again, winding roads get it all out of kilter.

    Porsche engine is the rortiest here, a multi-valve V8 against the two-valve V12s. It delivers rocket thrust, and the harsh chassis matches it. Cabin is well designed in front, cramped in back, hideous in colour.

    To make the XJR-S handle, Jaguar Sport has, effectively, de-Jaguared the dynamics of the car. Gone is the pillow-ride and Anadin steering. Instead, you get a firm, well damped motion control that gets fazed only on washboard surfaces, plus slightly nervy and reasonably accurate steering. The XJR-S understeers more than either of its rivals, but once you’re used to that, and the way the steering makes you nibble the wheel to the apex, it masters most moves with a real grace.

    And a lot of noises off. Above 50mph that thick A- pillar and a door mirror that looks like a chromed Harold Robbins paperback sluice up unacceptable levels of wind noise. The leather interior creaks expensively: if the velour and plastic panelling of an econobox was this vocal, you would take it to the dealer for warranty rectification pronto.

    James Bond should drive the XJR-S. Tweaked and massaged it may be, but it retains an essentially British charm. As it is, the person who buys this car would be able to lecture you on the benefits of hand-stitched shoes and intends, one day, to own a Bentley Turbo R.

    In hot red, the Porsche 928GTS looks like Marilyn Monroe's lipstick trying to wriggle its way out of the tube. The light plays gooey tricks along its hip-and-thigh flanks: 14 years on, the 928 can still summon gasps from the kerbside. This shape was organic long before designers coined the term.

    Maybe that’s got something to do with the fact that Porsche has relentlessly funked up the shape of the car. Viewed from a car following the GTS, those unfathomably huge 255/40ZR17 Bridgestones coated on sinfully spoked alloy wheels simply drop straight out of the wheel- arches, plop onto the tarmac. If the BMW is sinew and the Jaguar middle-aged spread with a new haircut, then the 928GTS is muscle pumped with clembuterol.

    But inside, the 928GTS displays some hysterically questionable taste. A red exterior was matched to a pimptastic pale grey leather trim with toning carpets hewn from the stuff furry dice are made from. That the 928GTS has some neat accommodation touches - the way the instrument binnacle adjusts with the steering column up-down remains a delight - the best seats and all-around visibility was completely ignored because the synthetic polar-bear fur on the floor irrevocably grabbed your attention.

    The #Porsche-928 GTS is the noisiest. It pokes out a hardcore V8 throb multitracked with a four-valve head-thrash. You love the sound, an American muscle car that has graduated from a top European finishing school. However, you can’t escape it. And, on top of that, the 928GTS splodges a ringing tenor ding which seems to percolate up the gear linkage - the five-speed transaxle, don’t forget, sits between the rear wheels. There is also considerable tyre swish, road rumble and a feeling that this car is rawer, less couth than the other two.

    Your ears do not deceive. The #Porsche-928GTS is blatantly yobbist. It is also the fastest, the most fun to drive, the most rewarding to drive and the car which results from a manufacturer with the clearest vision of things fatso. Porsche's brief to its engineers must have been something like: make this car involving; make punters fall in love with it; make it bloody fast.

    A four-cam V8 taken out to 5.4 litres, 340bhp and hauling 369lb ft of torque seems good enough. When you add in an effective working range of 4000rpm - from 2800rpm to 6800rpm - and a five-speed manual shift which manages to be sloppy, notchy and just about exemplary you have a recipe for real driving fun.

    For once the steering is perfectly weighted and has a wholly mechanical-feeling smoothness as if rifle oil is periodically dripped into its works. Ride? Firm, but consistent - unlike the BMW - and remarkably supple given the tyres look as if they spent a previous life as rubber bands.

    An electronically controlled transverse rear diff lock-up - traction control with added pretension - works with genius subtlety, allowing sufficient tail happiness before cracking the whip. Brakes? ABSed, like in each of these cars, but with a better pedal feel than the slightly softer Jaguar action and more initial bite than the BMW.

    Stick the Porsche in third, let the torque carry the day and the #928GTS does what neither of its rivals can manage: it shrinks around you, seems to fade to Mazda MX-5 dimensions. But it makes more demands on your forbearance than the other two.

    A deep-rooted lack of manners makes it a less amenable long-distance companion than the #E31 #850i or #XJR-S : it may offer the highest reward to the enthusiastic driver, but it will never soothe after a hard day at corporate HQ. This Porsche is pugnacious, up- and-at-’em at all times.

    For serious wing-dingery on roads that turn your knuckles a shade paler, you would take a Lancia Delta HF Integrale or #Ford-Escort-Cosworth-RS in preference to any of these cars: those hot homologators flow on roads where the fatties flail. Crossing Europe in an afternoon? None of these cars comes close to offering slice of all these virtues, buy a #BMW #M5 #E34 instead: a blend of handling and pace which outranks two of the three cars here and proffers discretion, a rear seat and a decent boot to boot.

    But these cars are not transport in the accepted sense. The way each performs is less important than what they say about the owner: they are lifestyle accessories for people who always know the chicest holiday location, get the best table in the restaurant and are on first-name terms with their personal financial r advisers. If thrashing them across Exmoor highlighted their shortcomings, a late- night run from Frankfurt to Milan for a breakfast meeting is their true habitat.

    These are the cars which say that you’ve made it, you’re going to flaunt it and to hell with the petrol consumption. These are cars which, now more than ever, defy rational analysis. They are, of course, brilliant. And stupid. And often at the same time.
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    CAtuned knows a thing or two about modding E30s as this stunning two-door example goes to show. An #BMW #E30 build is an exercise in measured restraint and quality workmanship. The devil really is in the detail… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.

    Subtlety goes a long way these days, the less-is-more approach often saying way more than ostentation and wackiness ever could. Look at it this way: Batman and Superman have a clear and obvious sense of purpose – they’ve got the eye-catching costumes, the superhero actions, the uncompromising and forthright approach to getting the job done… but you wouldn’t exactly want to have them round for dinner, would you? There’d be a palpable sense of tension in the air, they’d have one eye on the door. Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, however… they’ve got a sense of mystery about them. It’s not what they’re saying or doing, it’s the obvious potential brimming beneath those sober suits. These are the people that you want to have a conversation with.

    In many ways, then, this gleaming white #BMW-E30 is the Clark or Bruce of the 3 Series world. It doesn’t shout about its abilities, it’s not shoving itself into your line of sight. No, it’s casually hanging back, in the knowledge that it has the skills to pay the bills. It doesn’t need to seek out your attention, it knows you’ll be double-taking as you pass and going in for a closer look.

    This approach has #CAtuned written all over it. Regular readers will recognise the name, as this is by no means the first of its builds to feature in these pages. CAtuned is the motorsport and custom wing of Auto Heaven, a full-service maintenance and repair outfit in Sacramento, California. AH was established in 1995, and branched out into this sort of specialist custom work in 2002, focusing principally on retro BMWs – #2002 s, #E28 s, E30s and #E34 s are their particular favourites, and that passion is keenly demonstrated in the car you see here. “This came to us as a no-rust California car,” says Igor Polishchuk, head honcho at CA. ‘It’s a #325es, and it was a non-runner with an auto ’box when we got it. It had been stationary for about eight years – solid, but in need of a bit of love!’ We’ve seen pictures of the resto and he’s definitely understating the work involved here – the federal-bumpered project base was largely complete, but that didn’t stop the team totally stripping it back to first principles and starting anew.

    This is pretty much the ethos of a CAtuned build, you see – it’s not just a case of modifying and optimising, it’s effectively renewing everything that can be renewed in order to make the car the best that it can be; indeed, as close to a ‘new’ E30 as is possible given current parts availability.

    And in the case of this car, they really went all-out. Look at the engine, for example – it’s not a mega-horsepower hot rod motor, but instead a refreshed and breathed-upon unit; the US-spec 2.5-litre #M20 has received new pistons, rings, rods, main bearings, gaskets, seals, sensors, plugs, cap, rotor, wires, belts, hoses, tanks, water pump and thermostat, so that the modifications could be applied to a good-as-new base. Then the guys added their own proprietary valve cover, intake manifold and stainless-steel exhaust system. “It’s got that note that you love to hear!” Igor enthuses.

    Rather than tying all of this gently rasping, eagerly revving retro splendour down with a slushy old self-shifter, they junked the auto in favour of a fresh Getrag five-speeder, the old-school thrust running back to a rebuilt 3.73 diff complete with spiffy powdercoated casing. So now the thing had the shove to match the trademark CAtuned aesthetic – the next step was to make the look happen.

    And they’ve done a pretty damn fine job, wouldn’t you say? The subtlety of the white hue adds to the stealthy ethos of the build, and it’s pleasantly old-school too, being the car’s original paint. And once it was all buffed to perfection, the federal bumpers being swapped out for Euro-size items, the shell was treated to all manner of shiny new goodies: all the window glass and rubbers, the roundels, a set of Bosch ‘smiley’ headlights, Euro front grilles (which have a full-length lip at the top rather than having a gap above the lights like US-spec grilles do), a Euro-size rear number plate recess filler and some Motorsport door handles all help to lend a sense of 1980s Bavarian freshness. “One of the hardest parts of the build was pulling together all of the pieces to make the car a complete Euro package,” Igor explains. “Finding all of those Euro-spec pieces and trim isn’t always easy. It was an ongoing part of the project though, as the build wasn’t rushed through – it took about 16 months from start to finish.”

    Having crafted a cohesive and comprehensive European look, the guys threw an M Tech 1 kit into the mix, complete with the hard-to-find spoiler; it’s an oldschool kit that’s subtle rather than shouty – all, of course, in keeping with the theme. The attention to detail outside is mirrored in the interior too, which feels as near-asdammit like a brand-new E30. The original tired seats have been junked in favour of a super-fly set in Cardinal red, which acts as a shock of lipstick when you open the door of the sober and sensible white shell – it’s like peeping a glimpse of the ‘S’ logo between the buttons of Clark Kent’s shirt. “We were lucky to find an interior that had the rare ‘ski pass’ option,” says Igor, meaning that if they ever fancy popping up to the Donner Ski Ranch, they won’t be needing a roof-rack. The dials are pretty cool too – they were custom made by Bavarian Restoration, incorporating the Cardinal red with the CAtuned palm tree logo.

    If you were to hoist the car up on to a ramp, you’d find some pretty serious stuff going on under there. Although it was already rust-free and solid, the guys have taken the precaution of giving it a thorough rust-proofing beneath with a thick, sticky coat of underseal and inhibitor. The corners have been treated to CAtuned’s own custom coilovers in order to get the car sitting in a modern and respectable manner; castor and camber adjustment are all part of the game, as well as endless height adjustability. It’s all about making the thing as usable as it is easy on the eye.

    Also keeping up with modern developments is the brake setup – the rears sport cross-drilled discs with performance pads, while up front there’s a custom CA big brake ensemble with four-pot Wilwood calipers. Just the thing for ensuring contemporary stopping power, to complement that 21st-century handling; an E36 steering rack adds to the sense of driver engagement, while comprehensive body strengthening eliminates any unwanted flex. You’ve probably already spotted the wheels. While Fifteen52’s Tarmac design has been a runaway success for the brand, it’s not all that often that you find them on an E30. They look spot-on though, don’t they? The mixture of flat surfaces, angles and curves ties the look in precisely with the 3 Series’ own lines, and it gives the purposefully low #325 a cheeky hint of motorsport aggression.

    Having expended such energies in effectively creating a new E30, the finished product is no museum piece. “It’s now used as a daily commuter,” Igor assures us. “The M Tech 1 cars aren’t a huge reaction or inyour- face type of car – especially being that it’s white, and that’s what makes it more enjoyable. You can drive it everywhere.” And that’s just the way it should be – a considered and thorough build, with quality parts, eager handling, just enough performance to entertain, comfortable appointments, and built to be used. A wonderful notch in the bedpost of CAtuned’s projects, then, and very much the Bruce Wayne of the bunch – it doesn’t need to scream its credentials out loud. If you know, you know.


    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.5-litre straight-six #M20B25 , rebuilt with all-new pistons, rings, rods, main bearings, gaskets, seals, sensors, plugs, cap, rotor, wires, belts, hoses, tanks, water pump and thermostat. CAtuned valve cover and intake manifold, #Walbro fuel pump, Mishimoto #E36 radiator with Spal electric fan, custom CAtuned exhaust system, #Getrag 260 five-speed transmission, rebuilt 3.73 diff with powdercoated cover.

    CHASSIS: 8x17” (front & rear) Fifteen52 Tarmac wheels with Toyo tyres, custom CAtuned coilovers, castor and camber adjustment welded in with Polybushes, CAtuned / #Wilwood stage 2.0 brake kit, stainless brake lines, Motorsport Hardware studs, extra body reinforcements welded in, rebuilt E36 steering rack with upgraded poly steering link.

    INTERIOR: All-new Cardinal red interior, Motorsport mats, rare ‘ski pass’ rear bench, custom Bavarian Restoration CA Tuned gauge cluster.

    EXTERIOR: #M-Tech 1 kit with rare M Tech 1 spoiler, new glass, new roundels, Bosch ‘smiley’ Euro headlights, M3 foglights, Euro grilles, Euro rear number plate filler, Motorsport handles.
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