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    BMW’s iconic #BMW-Art-Cars have been setting hearts a-flutter since #1975 but your chances of actually owning one are pretty much zero. There is, however, little stopping you from building your own… Words: Daniel Bevis /// Photos: Patrik Karlsson / #BMW-Art-Car /

    Art Attack E9 and E21 resto-modded Art Car replicas

    The BMW Art Car series is something that’s been capturing the imagination of motoring enthusiasts for generations. It all began in 1975, when French racing driver Hervé Poulain commissioned American artist and friend Alexander Calder to paint the 3.0 CSL that he was to drive at Le Mans. Using bold primary colours, Calder transformed the already eye-catching form of the #Group-5 E9 into something that looked like it was rapidly swishing through the scenery even when it was sitting still. It turned out to be one of the last art pieces Calder produced before his death, and in the mid-seventies it was actually a pretty astonishing move to present a car to the world as a work of art; it was, as you might imagine, even more astonishing that the flawless museum piece was then entered in the Le Mans 24hr.

    The Calder Art Car sparked off a chain reaction that resonated through the decades. The following year, Frank Stella painted an E9 CSL; the year after that, Roy Lichtenstein had a go at a Group 5 E21, then it was Andy Warhol’s turn with an M1, with the snowballing project building momentum until it all came to a head with the recently unveiled John Baldessari M6 GTLM, the 18th official #Art-Cars Car .

    Now, there have been quite a lot of other BMWs to be decorated by artists in unusual ways over the years, but these core 18 are the official ones, the bona fide commissioned #Art-Cars . They haven’t all been race cars (David Hockney’s, for example, was an 850CSi and Matazo Kayama’s was an E34 535i), but they have all been devastatingly beautiful and incomparably desirable.

    To BMW’s endless credit, the collection isn’t kept safe and secure in a hermetically sealed and top-secret location – they get toured around the world from Goodwood to Pebble Beach and beyond, and the PR bods even took them on a sort of world tour in 2012 which included a brief but comprehensive exhibition in, er, a multistory car park in Shoreditch (which was very weird, but an utter joy to attend – BMW didn’t publicise it widely, so very few people turned up; those of us that did got to enjoy some rather special alone-time with these magnificent creations).

    But just having a little look-see at the occasional show was never going to be enough for Swedish retro race enthusiast Jonas Nilsson. He had a dream, an all-consuming aspiration, to possess an Art Car of his very own. But obviously BMW would never sell him one, they’re far too valuable, so he was left with just one option: to build his own tribute to these iconic slices of history.

    As you can see here, he got a bit carried away. He hasn’t built one Art Car, but two – and that’s just about pushing the very limits of awesomeness that our brains are able to cope with. So let’s try and piece it together in as logical a way as possible, without our minds dribbling out of our ears at the sheer magnificence of it all…

    “BMWs have been special to me ever since I was a little boy, and our neighbour came driving home in his brand-new E21,” Jonas recalls. “I’ve always thought that they have very nice car models and very good performance.” Yep, no arguments here. And that early infatuation clearly planted a seed, as things have gone a bit nuts in the intervening few decades.

    “The first #BMW I owned was an E36 318iS,” he continues. “It was white, with a subtle body kit – just right for a guy in his twenties.” It wasn’t, we must point out, all about the BMWs for Jonas though, as he’s also pretty keen on Opels. His first car was a Monza GSE, and over the years he’s built some fairly impressive modified examples including a twin-turbo Monza with nitrous and a ’caged, supercharged Kadett GSi on slicks. It’s this passion for brutal performance and race car thrills that ultimately informed what you’re seeing here, allied to that early passion for BMWs. It turned out to be the perfect recipe.

    “It had always been my dream to build an Art Car, so when the opportunity to do it came up, I had to take it,” he says, matter-of-factly. “The Roy Lichtenstein E21 tribute was the first one I built, and when that was finished I felt ready to tackle another one, so I attempted the Frank Stella E9, which was the one I’d really wanted to build all along.” Blimey. He makes this deranged behaviour all sound so normal, doesn’t he? What’s arguably most impressive is that Jonas built up everything you see here himself, as you can’t just nip to Halfords and pick up a Group 5 body kit for an E21. “All the bodywork is made in steel and cannot be bought, so I made it all by myself to a plan I had in my mind,” he explains, like some kind of automotive voodoo shaman.

    “To create these two Art Cars, I actually used four cars,” he goes on. “I took two cars and cut the body from the base, then I took one base and welded it together with the other body, and to make everything fit I had to adjust the length and trim the base car to make everything match up.”

    Looking inside either one should give you a bit of a giveaway as to what resides beneath their respective skins; the E21 is all E36 inside, while the sharknose E9 has an E34 M5 hiding down there. It’s all utterly bonkers, and phenomenally impressive that he’s made it work.

    “I found the E21 at a friend’s place,” says Jonas. “It was in okay condition, but the engine didn’t work.” And what better remedy for a misfiring first-gen 3 Series than to slice the body off, plonk it on to an E36 325i chassis, and bolt on some outrageous retro racer bodywork?

    You’ll spot that the E36’s M50 engine is nestled beneath that colourful bonnet, while the 1990s underpinnings have allowed a little flexibility in upgrading things, which is why you’ll find some serious D2 coilovers in the mix along with 19” wheels. On the whole, though, the spec is relatively mild when you look at just how extreme the E9 ended up becoming.

    “I found the E9 on a car sales website, almost in mint condition,” Jonas grins, plainly unconcerned about chopping the thing up. “Whereas the E21 took about a year to build, this one took more like 18 months as there was a lot more to do.” Part of the reason for this is that he opted to complement the forthright race car looks with some appropriate power in the form of an S38 engine from an E34 M5 (which is the donor car beneath, remember) to which he’s added a Rotrex C38-81 centrifugal supercharger. It’s an astonishingly quick machine, which is just what you would hope for when you look at its angry angles and pointy aero.

    “Every detail and measurement of both cars were made from a model in 1:18 scale, including the wrapping,” Jonas explains, again shrugging off an incredibly complex engineering endeavour as if it’s all in a day’s work, and reducing us to shimmering pools of jealousy in the process. “The Art Car livery is vinyl-wrapped though if money were no object then of course I would have them painted on! And there’s not a part of either car that hasn’t been taken out and perfected before being put back in. I try to do as much as I can by myself, because I love a good challenge!” Well, yes, evidently. The work here really does speak for itself, and while Jonas’ bread-and-butter lies in the mill industry, he hopes one day to transition into building cars like this for a living; a passion that’s currently being fuelled by his new project, a race-inspired, street-legal 635CSi. If all goes well, he could one day be commissioning famous artists to adorn his creations with their colourful daubings… but for now, this pair of Art Car tributes is a fabulous showcase of his skills. BMW may take the official ones out and about, but they don’t tear around in anger like Jonas’ do. As dream two-car garages go, this one really is a work of art.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE BMW #Frank-Stella / #BMW-E9 / #Rotrex / #Rotrex-C38 / #BMW-E9-Frank-Stella / #BMW-E9-Art-Car / #BMW-E9-Art-Car-Replica /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.5-litre straight-six #S38B36 / #BMW-S38 / #S38 , #Rotrex-C38-81 centrifugal supercharger, chargecooler, race aluminium cooler with Evans waterless coolant, Nuke Blackline linear FPR, Nuke fuel rail, #Nuke-Blackline filter, #ECUMaster management, five-speed #Getrag-280 manual gearbox, Tilton racing clutch, modified cardan shaft, 40% locking diff, 2.87:1 final drive, 210 diff housing, forged CrMo driveshafts

    CHASSIS 10x19” (front) and 13x19” (rear) HRE 508 wheels with 265/30 (front) and 345/35 (rear) Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, E34 D2 coilovers, D2 Racing big brake kit with eight-pot calipers and 380mm discs (front) and six-pot calipers and 380mm discs (rear)

    EXTERIOR Custom handmade all-steel Group 5 bodywork, Frank Stella Art Car tribute livery

    INTERIOR E34 M5 dash, Cobra Misano Anniversary seats, custom-trimmed matching rear seats and doorcards


    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Roy-Lichtenstein / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-E21-Roy-Lichtenstein / #BMW-E21-Art-Car / #BMW-E21-Art-Car-Replica / #BMW-Art-Car-Replica / #Art-Car-Replica

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M50B25 / #BMW-M50 / #M50 , five-speed #Getrag manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 9.5x19” (front) and 11x19” (rear) #Rennsport wheels with 265/30 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo (front) and 325/30 Dunlop Sport Maxx Race (rear) tyres, E36 D2 coilovers, #Powerflex bushes

    EXTERIOR Custom handmade all-steel Group 5 bodywork, #Roy-Lichtenstein-Art-Car tribute livery

    INTERIOR E36 interior blended with original E21
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    BINARY LOVE

    Building a drift car requires a certain degree of barely contained madness, and this 520hp turbo E30 is exactly the sort of crazy that floats our boat. What was your first car like? Was it anywhere near as hardcore as this E30? Daniel Lavman’s drift-focused build is a lesson to us all… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Hjalmar van Hoek.

    If there’s one piece of advice from Red Dwarf’s neurotic android Kryten that we need to hold close to our hearts for all of our days, it’s this: ‘If you don’t #GOSUB a program loop, you’ll never get a subroutine’. Or, in more Lister-friendly parlance: ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’. It’s an obvious point but nevertheless one that stands to be remembered. You only live once and there’s no point spending your life thinking about what could have been. Why go off half-cocked? You’ll only regret it on your deathbed. ‘Why did I spend my thirties driving a diesel Vectra and trying to maximise my mpg instead of building a badass drift car?’ you may wonder.

    That, of course, is not going to be a concern for Daniel Lavman. He, as you’ve probably guessed, is the chap who nailed together this particular badass drift car and it doesn’t really need pointing out that he’s pretty happy with it. I mean, wouldn’t you be?

    The most eyebrow-raising element of this project (or, at least, the first eyebrow-raising element, for as you’re soon to discover there are a great many) is that this is Daniel’s first car. I know, let that sink in, give it some thought. I’ll just stew for a moment in the fact that my first car was a rusty 1.0-litre Nova, and we’ll regroup shortly when we’ve reassessed a few basic issues of perspective and lifestyle. Better? Okay, let’s find out what the deal is…

    “Yep, this was my first ever car,” Daniel confirms. Well, that’s cleared that up. “I’ve had a few other cars over the years but no full race builds of this scale.” The implication here is that there’s a certain sentimental attachment to this project, which will probably make a lot of sense to more than a few of you. How many can say that your current car is your first car? Probably not a huge number. But you’ll never forget your first car; it means freedom and enlightenment. It’s also a means to an end, probably bought cheaply and scrapped when it broke. I know my Nova was.

    (Although, to be fair, scrapping it was the kindest thing. The fewer cars in the world with 45hp engines the better.) But Daniel’s fledgling steps into E30 ownership evidently made quite an impression, as he just didn’t want to let the damn thing go.

    “I’ve always liked the E30 as a model,” he says. “I think it’s because of the size, you can build it into anything. It doesn’t get much cooler than a sick E30.” This is a view that we know is shared by a lot of readers given that our voting for the 2015 PBMW Car of the Year ultimately saw three different E30s vying for the title. The retro Eighties three-box is at its zenith right now, still being relatively affordable and representing a strong ‘my dad/neighbour/BTCC hero had one of those’ vibe.


    “I don’t even remember what the car was like when I got hold of it, it was that bad,” Daniel laughs. “But I know that it was in really, really bad shape; the grinder loved it! Just a few weeks after I bought it I’d totally stripped it down and welded in a roll-cage, changed the roof from steel to fibreglass, and swapped the M20B20 engine to an M50B25.” This last move was an act that planted a flag in the ground as a statement of intent, proving that Daniel wasn’t messing around. The M20 offered a sturdy but sober 120-something horsepower whereas its M50 successor knocked things up a notch with such treats as DOHC, coil-on-plug ignition, four valves per cylinder and a whole world of tuning opportunities. And with such mischief in mind the motor was never destined to remain stock; the idea behind slamming in a stronger motor was to sprinkle in a pocketful of stardust and see just how stellar the thing could be. We’re talking about a billet Precision 6262 turbo, a cooling system so clever it’s got a doctorate in engineering (er, possibly), and a Pinky and the Brain-style ECU calling the shots with a frightening demeanour hellbent on world domination. The upshot of Daniel’s relentless rebuilding and refining both inside and outside the engine? A mighty 518hp at 1.3bar of boost, bolstered by 502lb ft of torque. That really is quite a lot of torque, isn’t it?

    But this car hasn’t been built for pulling tree stumps from the ground. Take a look at the pictures, you’ll soon figure out the purpose of this thing: it’s a bona fide, dyedin- the-wool drift machine, taking no prisoners but plenty of names. The selfstyled ‘Dirty E30’ spends so much time going sideways it should have wipers fitted to the doors, and the strong spec list enables this smoky prowess to be done in fine style. Consider, as a starting point, the squareon view of the tail-end. Between the smoked tail-lights, where you’d generally expect to find a numberplate, you’ll see a seductively canted radiator setup with twin fans blowing a farewell salute to whoever happens to be behind – which, realistically, is basically everyone. The bodywork has been unceremoniously sliced away beneath the bumper, while the top half sports a spoiler like a skate ramp and a neatly drilled sheet of plastic to titillate the rear-view mirror. And that’s just one aspect of the aesthetic!

    Take a peep through the side window and you’ll spot a natty gear shifter with two elbows (don’t you wish you had two elbows on each side? The things you could do…), a whacking great hydraulic handbrake, an ohso- contemporary tablet to monitor the EMU ECU readouts, forthright fluid reservoirs, and an overall aura of Mad Max-meets-Ken Block. It’s a little frightening, frankly. “Back at the start, my plan was just to build a nice and fast street car,” Daniel recalls with no small amount of nostalgic amusement, “but that escalated quite fast and I changed my plans! I started to build it into a pure drift car for track use. One thing that I think is common for all car builds is that you always want to step things up, to upgrade the build, even when it seems like it’s finished. So after a few events in 2013 I decided to take the car to the next level, with a total rebuild centring around a new roll-cage from Divina Performance.”

    Daniel was absorbing all manner of treats from the drift scene and the E30 chassis found itself wearing drift-tuned D2 coilovers and a fairly astonishing lock kit, along with some stupefyingly large brakes to rein in the lunacy. After all, let’s not forget we’re talking about 518hp. That’s a lot!


    Remember those eyebrow-raising elements we were talking about? Yeah, we said they were plentiful. Daniel has been keen not just to build a devastatingly competitive skidder but to craft something that rewards onlookers with every glance, each fresh vista offering something new and exciting. There’s the fuel filler in the rear window, the towing-eye on the strut top (something that’s becoming a real darling of the scene these days), the way the vast turbo’s pipework snakes over the angled M50 head, the pins holding the bumpers on, the exhaust exiting through the front wing, the Aeroquip fittings… ah, hell, this list could go on all day. The point is that this E30 is a triumph of both function and form, and that’s by no means an easy thing to achieve. It goes like Thor himself has jammed a lightning bolt up its backside. It slips sideways with the ease and precision of a good ol’ boy line dancer. And it looks so animalistic it makes small children lose sleep. Now, some of you may be looking at this car and thinking ‘I’d have done such-and-such differently’ or ‘those aren’t the wheels I’d have chosen,’ but you have to remember that this is an evolving thing. It’s alive. Daniel is endlessly shaking up the formula, those ones and zeroes of its very binary code being reshuffled on a week-by-week basis.


    “Shortly after this photoshoot, something happened…” he reveals. “It must have been those beers in the workshop that did it, and then the grinder came out – and soon enough the car started morphing into E30 version 3.0! Even more extreme, I started working on removable wide-body wings and bash bars, an E34 M5 rear axle and, of course, more boost. I’m building a new engine for next season, too: a fully forged M50B28 which should have 750hp+. Watch this space!” You can follow his progress on Facebook, at facebook.com/DrtyE30.

    So you see this constant evolution is shaping the 3 Series into something formidable and always surprising and fresh. Daniel’s taken it out to a few Gatebil events to wow the crowds, along with a variety of local meets and drift events, and he feels so totally keyed into the car that he’ll indulge in a lot more drifting through 2016. It’s getting a lot of good reactions, too. And although a build like this polarises people – like a certain sticky breakfast spread, you either love it or hate it – if you’re anything like us, you’ll be in the former camp, your face resembling that particular Emoji that has hearts for eyes. This is binary love. And the drift-specific focus of this E30? It’s a hell of a subroutine.


    Custom widened arches front and rear look the part and help to accommodate nine-inch 16s.

    It must have been those beers in the workshop that did it, and then the grinder came out Daniel Lavman.

    The ‘Dirty E30’ spends so much time going sideways it should have wipers fitted to the doors Daniel Bevis

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE Turbo Drift #BMW-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-E30-M50 / #BMW-E30-Turbo /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six M50B25 / M50 / #BMW-M50 (non-VANOS), #EMU #ECUMaster tuned by #PSI-Motor , #Precision-6262 billet turbo / #Precision , custom exhaust manifold and system, rearmounted cooling system, Z3 rear axle with 4.10 diff, #ZF five-speed gearbox, rebuilt M20 flywheel with #Sachs 618 pressure plate and sintered clutch, 518hp and 502lb ft at 1.3bar


    CHASSIS 9x16” (f & r) #OZ-Vega wheels with 215/40 (front) and 225/40 (rear) tyres, D2 Drift Spec coilovers, #T-Parts steering lock kit, #Brembo four-pots with 315mm discs (front) and two-pots with 270mm discs (rear) #OZ

    EXTERIOR Fully shaved and smoothed, rear doors welded up, custom wide arches front and rear, removable bash bar, custom aluminium rear spoiler, fibreglass roof

    INTERIOR #Custom-Divina-Performance TIG-welded cage, #Driftworks Cobra FIA fibreglass seats, #QSP six-point FIA harnesses, custom aluminium details, #Tilton-600 Series pedal assembly, custom shifter mechanism and handbrake, Samsung tablet for EMU ECUMaster readouts

    THANKS All of my friends who have been involved in the build! Also PSI Motor, Idefix Autoworkshop, #Divina-Performance , #TBM-Performance , Thagesson Motorsport, DDESIGN.NU, Flatoutperformance.se, T-Parts, Oljemagasinet.se, Brothers Garage, Spacers.se, and Svensk Turboservice AB

    Interior suitably stripped-out, with multiple gauges and a Samsung tablet displaying essential information.

    Multiple cooling hoses are fed by NACA ducts in the rear quarterlights in order to supply boot-mounted rad with air.

    Engine bay, and pretty much whole front end, dominated by massive 6262 turbo; vast intercooler occupies entire front area so rad (bottom right) now lives in the boot.
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