- Post is under moderationRetro 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. https://drive-my.com/en/test-drive/item/2200-ferrari-testarossa-vs-bmw-m5-e34-1990-giant-road-test.htmlStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationPEAK PERFORMANCE
C2K Motorsports’ stunning, supercharged Santorini #E92-M3 is about as good as it gets. It doesn’t get much better than a supercharged #E92 #M3 , and they don’t get much better than this. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Crooks Life Photography.
Modified M4s are starting to become popular and they’re looking really good, but then you come across an E92 M3 that looks like this, a car that’s pretty much achieved motoring perfection, and you can’t help but wonder if any M4 will ever look this good…
The lucky man who’s been able to experience this BMW nirvana is Curt Wilson, pilot and aerospace engineer by trade and owner of C2K Motorsports. Unless you don’t know what an internet is, you will be familiar with this particular E92 M3 because it’s been enjoying life in the spotlight across social media for some time now, and with good reason. Take a good, long look at those pictures and you will fall in love with this E92 M3. Everything from the colour, that vivid shade of Santorini blue, to the aggressive aerodynamic additions and those stunning HRE wheels combines to create one of the most striking and visually delightful E92 M3s that we’ve ever seen.
Curt’s BMW journey actually began just eight years ago, though his passion for cars is most definitely long-standing, as the 30-year-old Las Vegas resident explains: “As a teenager I was into the import street racing scene. My first car was a #2001 #Toyota-Celica , which I built with a custom turbo kit and eventually blew up. My next car was a Dodge Neon SRT-4 with a 60 trim turbo making over 400whp. I then got into autocross and road course racing and purchased a Honda S2000 which, to this day, is one of my favourite cars! BMW has always been an iconic brand to me. I envied the E36 and #E46 M3s as I was growing up. The sound/performance of the straight-six motor, the aggressive stance and luxury yet motorsport-inspired design confirmed the phrase ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’. I remember as a kid I used to work as a field hand for a pilot whose hobby was growing tobacco. He drove a red 318i with manual gearbox that he would drive me and my friends home in. It was the coolest car I had ever ridden in! I was unable to afford a BMW until after I had started my career which only made my long-awaited ownership that much more euphoric. Having come from a street racer background the twin-turbo straight-six was the Holy Grail of performance. When I heard details about the new N54 motor in the E90 335i I knew I had to own one. I bought my first #BMW in #2007 in the form of a #E90 335i.”
This 335i was followed by another #335i , a #135i , an #E93 335i Convertible and also an #E60 #M5 with a Corsa exhaust, which, says Curt “made the most glorious noise of any of my cars but was just too big and had obscene gas consumption”. His time spent looking at M3s in his youth was not forgotten, though, and when he caught wind of BMW Individual and European delivery, he realised that an E9x M3 built to his exact specification in his ideal colour was within his reach. “I’m an active online blogger and Bimmerpost member,” he says. “I always aspired to one day build an inspirational project car like the insane builds that I had admired in various posts and publications. I remember seeing a few spy shots of a special UK edition colour for the #E92 M3 called Santorini blue. I spent hours staring at every photo I could find of the colour and decided that I must have it! I brokered an individual Euro delivery deal on a manual Santorini E92 with Speed cloth. It’s just one of eight US Santorini cars and the only one ever made with this exact spec.
Some time later I found myself in Munich after a couple months of agonising anticipation. The entire experience, from the excitement while waiting, the city of Munich, the delivery process, touring the German countryside and even driving on the Nürburgring was much more enjoyable and outright satisfying than anything I could have imagined. After the trip I had an affinity and connection with the car that eclipsed any reservations that would prevent me from building it exactly how I wanted it to be,” and so Curt began to do just that.
If you own an E92 M3 then you pretty much need to supercharge it, it’s almost like an unspoken rule, and ESS are the go-to guys when it comes to strapping blowers to the #S65 V8, so that’s exactly where Curt went. “I wanted to retain linear and useable power delivery that could match the upgraded suspensions/brakes/wheels and knew that I couldn’t reach my HP goals without forced induction. The ESS VT-1 supercharger system was the obvious choice due to their quality, reliability and customer support.” The ‘entry-level’ ESS kit is anything but basic, delivering enough power to make you sit up and take notice, but the centrifugal supercharger retains the same linear power delivery as the engine in standard form, meaning it feels similar to drive, just much quicker, the main difference being there’s a lot more power being delivered at every step in the rev range. How much power? Well, Curt says the car now makes 550whp with 330lb ft at the wheels on regular unleaded, which is around 600hp at the flywheel and a serious gain over the standard 420hp.
Every E9x M3 also deserves a performance exhaust because it makes them sound so damn good, and here Curt has opted for a full ESS Tuning system, complete with high-flow cats and thermal coating. With a lot more go, Curt’s M3 also needed a lot more stop and so he turned to StopTech, manufacturer of fine and rather large BBKs, and opted for the beefy ST-60 six-pot front calipers with mighty 380mm drilled discs and at the rear you’ll find the ST-40 four-pot caliper kit with 355mm discs, also drilled, which is big enough to serve as a front kit on some cars. The finishing touch was a flourish of Ferrari yellow paint to make them stand out and it was job done. We’d say the E9x M3 is a not a car that is particularly wheel sensitive – it’s very hard to pick a set that doesn’t look good and Curt’s selection here looks absolutely awesome on this E92 M3. “HRE was my first and only choice,” he says. “Its reputation and quality is unsurpassed in the high-end sports car community. I wanted a lightweight wheel with a design that was not too far from OEM appearance but with a special colour which is why I chose the FF01 in custom ‘Fog’ textured finish. I had a hard time letting go of my OEM GTS wheels but as soon as I saw the car with the HREs installed I knew I’d made the right choice!”
The FF01 is part of HRE’s FlowForm range and it’s a stunning-looking wheel, with its sculpted, twin seven-spoke design, slight concave shape and impeccable attention to detail. And the Fog finish really is the icing on the cake, a sort of matt, sparkling graphite that looks almost velvety. It was an inspired choice and the wheels look absolutely gob-smacking on the #BMW-M3 . They measure 9x19” up front and 10.5x19” at the back and are wrapped in seriously wide Toyo Proxes T1 Sport rubber – 255/35 up front and 295/30 at the rear with not an ounce of stretch in sight, it’s all about front-end grip and rear-end traction with this setup, with a Treadwear tyre lettering kit adding the finishing touch.
The suspension choice is also all about performance, though it has given this E92 M3 a purposeful drop, with a KW Clubsport coilover kit nestling in the wheel arches, offering two-way damping and adjustment and complete with EDC emulators, which prevent the EDC warning coming up on the dash when you switch to an aftermarket suspension setup. “The KW Clubsport kit is my favourite modification on the car,” enthuses Curt. “It changed the dynamic of the M3 more than any other aspect. The stance, stiffness and feedback that the clubsports gave the car are all vital aspects that I have come to supremely appreciate. Full coilovers will be the first modification on any of my future cars.”
With such an awesome exterior colour on top of the M3’s rugged good looks, Curt rightly didn’t want to go OTT when it came to any styling additions and his choices help to give the #BMW-E92 some more visual punch, upgrading it from a right hook to an all-out, KO blow uppercut. “I chose a relatively new company at the time, Mode Carbon, for my aero-kit,” he explains. “It makes an excellent GT4 style front lip, unique carbon fibre side skirts and rear LM series diffuser. Their fitment and quality was spot-on and since my first purchases from the company it has grown to be one of the most well-respected and recognised carbon fibre companies in the BMW and #Mercedes community.”
The carbon front splitter looks aggressive and lets you know that this M3 really means business. The rear wing isn’t shy either and the carbon additions tie in perfectly with the whole black and blue theme that Curt has got going on across the whole car, which includes the black towing strap, custom ONEighty NYC headlights and black exhaust tips peeking out from that rear diffuser. Inside, Curt has kept the same theme going with some heavy-duty upgrades that don’t leap out and smack you in the face. “I chose Stätus racing seats due to their wide variety of customisable made-to-order options. Initially I ordered the Ring FiA seats which were extremely snug but I eventually exchanged them for the wider GTX variant which is much more comfortable for my 6’3” 200lb frame.
“I ordered black suede with Santorini blue stitching. The suede seats match the Alcantara BMW performance steering wheel and knob with custom suede shift and e-brake boots. The final interior modification was a roll-cage from Autopower Industries which was moulded into the stock rear interior and painted black to retain the subtle and refined luxury of the original BMW interior.” The singlepiece seats are serious but don’t look out of place and that roll-cage is incredibly subtle thanks to its black finish and the Santorini highlights are the perfect finishing touch.
Curt says that he spared no expense on the modifications and it shows, his car wants for nothing and he loves it but he remains humble despite the fact that the car has become something of an international online celebrity. “The car is very popular on Instagram and one of my favourite and most humbling compliments is when people from all over the world send me images of exact replicas of the car that they have built in video games. It really means a lot to me that people like the car enough to take the time to replicate it down to minute details such as the sponsors on my time attack doorcard.” We’ve seen a lot of modified E9x M3s here at BMW towers over the years, all of them incredible machines but the fact that every once in a while, one comes along that still manages to wow us is the most incredible thing of all, and we couldn’t be happier about that.
Gorgeous HRE FF01 flow formed wheels in Fog finish suit the M3 perfectly and the Treadwear tyre lettering kit adds some visual flair; monster StopTech BBK offers serious stopping power. Interior has been treated to Stätus Racing Ring GTX seats with Santorini stitching and Schroth harnesses plus an Autopower Industries roll-cage; ESS VT-1 550 supercharger boasts carbon intake plenum.
DATA FILE #BMW-M3-E92
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 4.0-litre V8 #S65B40 , ESS Tuning #VT-1 550 Supercharger system with limited production carbon fibre plenum, ESS Tuning full exhaust system with high flow cats and thermal coating, standard six-speed manual gearbox.
CHASSIS: 9x19” ET25 (front) and 10.5x19” ET26 (rear) HRE FF01 wheels in Fog finish with 255/35 (front) and 295/30 (rear) #Toyo Proxes T1 Sport tyres, Treadwear tyre lettering kit, MRG Race Co titanium racing stud conversion, KW Clubsport two-way adjustable suspension with EDC emulators, #StopTech ST-60 #BBK with 380mm drilled discs (front) and ST-40 BBK with 355mm drilled discs (rear), calipers painted Ferrari yellow (front and rear).
EXTERIOR: Mode Carbon GT4 front lip spoiler, Mode Carbon carbon fibre side skirt extensions, Mode Carbon LM Series rear diffuser, Mode Carbon GTS rear spoiler, #ONEighty NYC custom headlights, iND Blackout grilles/ gills/bonnet vents, iND tow strap and painted tow strap cover, Car-Pro C-Quartz compounding and paint correction.
INTERIOR: Stätus Racing Ring GTX seats in Ultra Suede with Santorini blue stitching, Autopower Industries bolt-in Racing roll-cage, Schroth Racing quickset fourpoint harnesses, #BMW-Performance steering wheel, BMW Performance gear knob, custom suede gear lever and handbrake gaiters.
THANKS: Sam and Nick at Mode Carbon, Roman at ESS Tuning, Greg, Laurent, and Jorge at HRE Wheels, Stan at Toyo Tires, George at KW Suspensions, Matt at Status Racing, Theo and Corey at The Specialist Detail Studio, BMW David at Steve Thomas BMW, Jimmy at Crooks Life Photography, Todd at Trophy Performance and my wife for putting up with my obsession.
Carbon galore adorns the E92 M3 with a front lip spoiler, side skirts, rear diffuser and wing all coming from Mode Carbon; custom ONEighty headlights are very smart.
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- Post is under moderationSIXY BEAST #BMW-M6-E63
You might think that a 507hp V10 would be enough but, as this M6 goes to show, a little bit more can go a long way. The V10 M6 is an awesome machine but there’s always room for a little improvement. Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Paddy McGrath.
The lure of a used V10 #M5 or M6 is almost impossible to resist. Prices are low, cylinder count is high and value for money is off the scale. Yes, SMG divides opinion; yes, fuel economy is dire; yes, range is poor; and, yes, the running and potential repair costs are painfully high. But come on, it’s a V10! Once you get above eight cylinders things start to feel really special. V8 BMWs, and V8 cars in general, are ten a penny but a V10 anything is much more rare and a lot more exotic. A V10 is a supercar-style of engine; it’s Italian exotica; it’s #F1 ! And the fact that now you can get a V10 in a fast German executive machine which is actually affordable is something to be celebrated – especially if someone then decides to modify their V10 M5 or M6.
Kristjan Koik is one such man, the sort of man who buys an #E63 #M6 and decides that, yes, it’s quite good but it could be, you know, better. Estonian-born Kris cut his motoring teeth on a Lada of all things but has been into BMWs for about 15 years now, with a couple of E30s under his belt before having a fling with a modded Impreza STi. He then moved to the Emerald Isle where he got a taste for two-wheeled machinery, before marriage nipped that particular pastime in the bud and he returned to four wheels and BMWs, namely a modified #E46 M3 and this M6. “I bought the car in July 2014 from a dealer in UK and imported it to Ireland,” says Kris. “It was in absolutely immaculate condition. Since all my cars for the last couple of decades have been modified to some extent then the M6 was not going to stay stock for long. Once my lovely wife gave me the green light, I took the opportunity and bought all my dream mods before she could change her mind,” he laughs.
The car was handed over to CA Technologies and, over the course of four weeks, underwent something of a transformation. Now, the V10 isn’t exactly short of power with a factory figure of 507hp (but typically around 485-490hp in practice) but if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly and Kris though it would be a shame not to have a crack at getting a bit more power from the S85. Despite being a highly-strung engine there is still a bit of latent power that can be extracted with the right selection of modifications. Step one was a remap, which added around 15-20hp. A solid start. CA Technologies also installed a Macht Schnell Power Pulley kit, which mainly improved low-end response and power. The combination of those two alone made a noticeable difference to performance. On the intake front, Kris opted for an Evolve Eventuri system, which not only looks exceedingly sexy with its carbon intake shrouds but delivers on the performance front, too. According to Evolve, the intake system has been designed to deliver improved throttle response, more torque, improved drivability and more power. Those intake shrouds ensure that the twin high-flow air filters receive cool air from outside of the engine bay, fed by a pair of nose-mounted MAY #2015 47 scoops that force air straight into the intakes at high speed. Not only does the kit deliver a healthy increase in power, another 12-15hp, it also makes an awesome noise, which is probably the second most important thing, especially where a V10 is concerned. And speaking of noise, there’s plenty more of it at the rear end thanks to the Eisenmann exhaust system CA installed with its massive quad oval pipes. If you’ve not heard an #S85 V10 running a high-flow intake and performance exhaust then let us tell you, it makes for one hell of a noise. That noise probably accounts for 95% of the V10 ownership experience and we can guarantee that whenever Kris puts his foot down all his troubles are instantly forgotten, bludgeoned into oblivion by a wailing wall of V10 noise.
Chassis-wise, Kris hasn’t bothered with an all-singing, alldancing coilover kit, opting simply for a set of Eibach Pro-Kit springs which offer a little bit of a drop, just enough to get those arches filled, and more control out on the road than the standard springs offer. With all the extra power on tap, a brake upgrade was a wise move. Kris opted for a StopTech BBK up front with sizeable six-pot calipers finished in striking yellow and clamped onto 380mm pistons with uprated StopTech pads and braided hoses at the rear.
When it came to the wheels we reckon that, generally speaking, concave wheels are the way forward for the M6 and Kris clearly agrees: “I went for Vossen CV3s. Along with the StopTechs they are my favourite modifications on the car.” We agree. The CV3s look awesome on the big Six. The design is simplicity itself, so clean. These 20s are 9” wide up front and 10.5” at the back and they are mounted on a 75mm stud conversion kit with a set of 10mm spacers to get the stance just so.
Inside, there are lashings of carbon fibre, with a matching, chunky Carbontech flat-bottomed steering wheel and, in terms of the exterior styling, Kris has kept things nice and simple, choosing to just accentuate the M6’s natural aggression. That’s all this car needs really. Black front and side grilles are a given and there’s a carbon front lip that helps make that front look even lower, while at the back there’s a gorgeous Vorsteiner carbon diffuser, while the angel eyes have been upgraded with a set of Umnitza Orion halos. These subtle additions have made all the difference making the car look athletic and muscular.
Kris has taken one of BMW’s most exotic performance machines and added a little extra spice that has just given it the edge in terms of looks and performance. “I think it’s now the perfect combination of sportiness and luxury,” Kris concludes. “The M6 is here to stay.” And with that intoxicating V10 at his beck and call, who can blame him?
DATA FILE #BMW #M6 #E63 #SMG
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 5.0-litre V10 #S85B50 , remap, Macht Schnell power pulley kit, Evolve Eventuri intake system, RPi scoops, Eisenmann Sport exhaust with quad oval tips, seven-speed #SMG-III gearbox.
CHASSIS: 9x20” (front) and 10.5x20” (rear) Vossen CV3 wheels in silver with 255/35 (front) and 285/30 (rear) #Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, #Eibach Pro-Kit springs, 10mm spacers, 75mm stud kit, StopTech BBK with six-piston calipers in yellow and 380mm slotted discs (front), StopTech uprated discs and pads with braided hoses (rear).
EXTERIOR: Black grilles, Vorsteiner-style carbon front lip, Vorsteiner carbon rear diffuser, Umnitza Orion angel eye kit.
INTERIOR: Carbon Tech flat-bottomed steering wheel.
THANKS: CA Technologies International, Dorset; Autoenhance, Essex.
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- Post is under moderation
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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- Post is under moderationLap 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 (www.lullingstonecars.co.uk – 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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- Post is under moderationNAUGHTY BUT NICE
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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- Post is under moderationBLACK EAGLE
This, quite literally, show-stopping UK #E28 boasts an impossibly shiny #M106 under the bonnet, a massive turbo and the small matter of 500hp. In a word: epic. Built with sheer passion and devotion, this stunning 500hp #BMW-E28 is the ultimate evolution of a near decade-long project. Photos: Steve Hall.
We all love our cars (when they’re working) but it’s rare to come across someone for whom their car really is everything to them. Marsel Theodhori is one such man. His passion for his E28 is unrivalled in anyone I’ve ever met, and it’s this raw, unbridled passion for what was once a humble E28 that has driven him to build one of the finest examples out there. I have a soft spot for the E28 – I owned a #518i Lux for a year some time ago, which I bought for the princely sum of £400. It was so charming, characterful and modern in the way it drove, that it instantly became a member of the family. It didn’t miss a beat over those 12 months and when the time came to sell it, I was genuinely sad to see it go. I think about it often and the way it has lodged itself in my memory and affections means I can definitely relate to the way Marsel feels about his.
Marsel is an interesting man – passionate, intense, intimidating perhaps, but a really nice guy and one with more than a few stories to tell. And his E28 is even more interesting. His love for the second generation 5 Series began when he was just 14 years old. “Growing up in Albania, my neighbour had a white E28 #Alpina and every time I saw it, I thought it looked fantastic. I loved the looks and my dream was to one day have a car like that.”
Fast forward to 2005 and by now Marsel was in the UK when he spotted this humble #E28 #525e . He had loved it from afar, with it belonging to his good friend, Nick Rundall. When Nick wanted to move on to a newer model (and knowing that it needed work and that Marsel was in the motor trade), he gifted him the car, beginning a nine-year journey which resulted in the car you see in front of you.
Marsel has named this car the Black Eagle, a touching patriotic nod to his homeland of Albania (whose red flag bears the image of a black double-headed eagle) and the Order of the Black Eagle, the highest title that could be bestowed upon a citizen of Albania.
The last time the E28 saw the outside world was in September 2012. Marsel had spent seven years working on the car at this point and had built it up to a very high standard. He had sourced an M106 engine for it, which was fitted to an #E23 #745i – a 3.4-litre turbocharged straight-six that was loosely based on the #M30 , developing 252hp at 6psi (0.4bar) of boost. That’s a good starting point, but Marsel wasn’t content with that so a whole host of work went into the engine to get it uprated to handle a serious increase in power.
Marsel’s E28 was suitably recognised at that point for the great car it was; it even had a brief moment of fame in print: “It had a feature in Total #BMW in April 2012 and it had been appearing at most of the shows that year. It was putting out 360hp+ and I travelled to a lot of places, enjoying the result of a very long build. I was just making the most of it so I was really driving it hard and the car was responding well. It made an impressive appearance at the Gaydon BMW Festival and the Santa Pod BMW Show that same year where it won Best of Show.”
Show glory is one thing, but 360hp is another and Marsel is the sort of person who enjoys driving his cars. “I’m an engineer by trade but also a very heavy-footed driver,” he says. “I really love driving sports cars to their limits. Well, that pleasure cost me one day when I blew the #K27 turbo, which was the original item fitted to the M106 by BMW. That turbo was designed originally for 0.4bar and I was pushing close to 1bar for about 3000 miles until it started to smoke off throttle. The car came off the road at the end of September 2012.” That’s when Marsel started to think big. He decided to make the most of the unfortunate situation and realise the true potential of his E28: “I wanted to build a car that would win shows and blow people away. I wanted to build the best E28 that I could,” he says.
Step one was choosing a new turbo that would give Marsel the power he was hungry for. “The K27 was removed and I started making plans for a new, more sophisticated turbo. Considering the potential of these engines, I had to seriously consider a major upgrade on all fronts. Unfortunately, in this country we have a limited market for such applications and turbochargers. Therefore there was only one place I could look to: the USA. In the States there are hundreds if not thousands of stockists and manufacturers of performance parts and turbochargers.
“Hunting for the best deals, I came across a #Garrett-GT4202 turbo for half of the UK price and bought it straight away.” The #GT4202 is rated for up to 1000hp, giving Marsel plenty of headroom on the power front. However, it is significantly larger than the K27 so it gave Marsel a bit of a headache when it came to fitting. “I had the turbo hanging from the ceiling at one point,” he explains, “and I was lowering it into the engine bay so I could tie it into place. That meant I could start calculating how it would sit in the engine bay and what sort of manifold I would need to fabricate for it.” The massive turbo fits in the engine bay, just, but there was the small matter of the bonnet getting in the way, so Marsel had a custom item made with a neat cut-out for the turbo to peep through.
While the whole car is finished to an incredibly high standard, the engine is what this car is all about. When the bonnet pops, the engine bay draws in BMW fans like bees to honey. Every square inch of the bay has been polished to within an inch of its life, every hose is braided, every pipe is blue and the blue-and-red colour scheme has been executed with serious attention to detail – the oil filler cap is blue and even the washer fluid and coolant are red and blue.
The turbo sits on a beefy modified M106 manifold with a custom stainless steel top mounted flange neck, with a 4” downpipe, which slims to 3.5” to clear the bulkhead before expanding to 5” for minimum restriction and splitting into two 2.5” pipes which run to a custom Frtiz’s Bits back box. The turbo itself is served by a 5.5” core chargecooler with a custom top panel, itself mated to a 55mm twin-core 500x630mm chargecooler rad. You won’t find any highflow induction kits here – the turbo has been fitted with some silver mesh, presumably to stop people and animals from being sucked in, and that’s it. Beyond the bling, there’s serious engineering evident wherever you look: the turbo is braced against the engine and the entire engine is braced against the strut brace. This is because once, under hard braking, the engine tilted forward a fraction and that was enough to push the viscous fan into the thicker rad that Marsel had fitted. To ensure that doesn’t happen again, he took the precaution of bracing the engine to stop any unwanted movement.
Of course, the dazzlingly shiny exterior is just the tip of an extremely comprehensive iceberg. The data file reads like an engine builder’s wish list and no expense has been spared in building an engine that will deliver a lot of power happily and comfortably, day in, day out.
The H-pattern con rods and #Mahle forged low compression pistons have been carried over from the previous build, along with the #Glyco race bearings, but the ported and polished NA cylinder head is new, as are the titanium double valve springs, sodium-filled exhaust valves and titanium rockers and rocker shaft lockers. The engine is fed by twin #Bosch 044 fuel pumps, and there’s a fuel cooler, 1000cc Bosch injectors and Marsel has used an #E34 #535i inlet manifold with an original 3” reverse-mounted throttle body. It is the engine you would build if you could.
As the old saying goes, power is nothing without control, and Marsel has ensured that every supporting component has been suitably upgraded to ensure that the rest of the E28 can handle all the power that’s being developed by the engine. On the transmission front there’s a fully-rebuilt dogleg gearbox with a custom short clutch master cylinder, M535i driveshaft and propshafts, restored 3.07 M5 LSD and upgraded race-spec motorsport diff mount. Peer under the rear of the car and, as well as an immaculate and impossibly polished back box, you will see the diff cooler and diff pump mounted below. On the suspension front you’ll find #GAZ Gold race coilovers all-round with 550lb springs up front and 250lb rears, which have been carried over from the first build, with fully adjustable rose jointed front upper top mounts, fully adjustable rear top upper mounts, front and rear thicker, uprated antiroll bars, with Powerflex bushes all-round, new wheel bearings and all the various suspension components have either been renewed or reconditioned.
The brake setup that Marsel had first time around worked well enough for him to keep it so he just renewed the components with four-pot front Brembos calipers from an E31 840Ci and 324mm discs and 300mm rear discs mated to E28 #M535i calipers, with Goodridge braided hoses throughout. Marsel hasn’t forgotten about the looks in all of this and has poured his heart into getting the exterior styling exactly to his tastes. The body was stripped and the car was given the full M5 treatment, while new headlights and chrome rear lights have also been fitted. Various components have been polished and rechromed, such as the window surrounds, door handles and the C-pillar inserts, with the resulting brightness contrasting beautifully against the Jet black paint.
The wheels are an interesting choice. Previously, Marsel was running #BBS RSs before switching to these Fomb 17s, which he’d had refurbed in black for its big reveal in 2014. He had been planning to get the BBSs ready for our shoot, but as they needed to be refurbed and have new barrels, it was no small task. Also, as he pointed out, everyone has BBS RSs – they’re gorgeous, classic and iconic wheels, but they are a bit of a trend right now. Marsel wanted something different for the E28 and that’s when he decided to stick with the Fomb wheels, and give them a fresh look by getting the dishes diamond cut. The end result? Pretty spectacular. With an all-black finish, the dishes were completely lost, but now you can really appreciate just how dishy they are and they tie in perfectly with the polished elements across the whole car.
The interior hasn’t been touched during the past two years but it was so nice there was no need to do anything. The retrimmed front seats still looks like new, as do the recolonised rears and, despite the colour, the carpets, door carpets and doorcards are completely original, which is particularly impressive as they are insanely clean.
“I really wanted to impress the UK BMW world by getting out to all the shows this year. I badly wanted this car to shine like a star and drive like a bullet so the final piece of the puzzle was to give the car another remap,” Marsel explains. “The only man that I would ever trust in tuning this car is Sam Borgman at TDI in Lakeside, Essex. Sam and I have spent a considerable amount of time together in perfecting this car. On 3 August the car was on the hub dyno being tuned and ready for the road. Sam had it set within a couple of hours and managed to get a comfortable 500hp which I think is more than enough for driving pleasure. The car is now running like a dream – just like I wanted it to be.” And with that, it was time to unveil his creation to the world.
“The first major show I took the car to was the Gaydon #BMW Festival. It got a lot of interest from all the visitors throughout the day and I had the chance to meet and chat with some true motoring enthusiasts. I had plenty of tech talks during the day and I really enjoyed it. It was actually the first time I had taken my wife Leonora to a car show and she was also amazed as to how many people really loved the car. That day I won Best of Show and I felt very happy and proud of this achievement.”
That’s been pretty much the formula for Marsel and his E28 – turn up to a show, wow the crowd and take home silverware. Almost Famous at the Ace Café? Best of Show. Players? First out of the top 20. Santa Pod BMW Show? Best of Show, which, as we mentioned, he’d already won with the car in its previous incarnation back in 2012. Then there was the time he went along to VAGRoots for fun and, despite it being a VW Audi event, he also won the show. But Marsel said he had set out to build a showwinning car, and that’s exactly what he’s got.
“I believe that I might just have built something extra special. An E28 with a great character and amazing features, fine definition and desirable styling. A powerful, black, mean, luxurious, classic BMW E28 from the ’80s had to be the car for me. Building a car like this has not been easy. I’ve had a real love/hate relationship with the car. Throughout the build it has tested my patience many times but I never gave up and, having spent nearly ten years building it, I have had the opportunity to meet some great guys along the way that have become good friends.”
Ultimately, it’s all been worth it and the results speak for themselves. It’s an astounding build, technically outstanding and finished to a very high standard. More than anything, it’s fantastic to see someone pouring this much love into an E28 and helping to preserve one of these classics in such spectacular fashion. Furthermore, with no intention of ever selling it, this E28 will always remain part of Marsel’s family.
ENGINE: 3.4-litre straight-six M106 ( #M30B34MAE also called version M30 engine with turbo and pistons), new H-pattern con rods, Mahle forged low compression pistons, Glyco race bearings, ARP full bottom end bolt kit, lapped fully balanced crankshaft, flywheel, clutch and front vibration damper. #S38 clutch and non-dual mass flywheel, E34 535i modified oil pump (50psi idle) crown cooler spray oil jets located at the main block housings, M5 engine relocated oil cooler, ported and polished NA cylinder head, forged M106 turbo camshaft, titanium double valve springs, sodium filled exhaust valves, new stainless steel valve seats and new re-cut inlet valves, titanium rockers and rocker shaft lockers from PPM, custom head gasket made by PPM, full engine gasket kit, new water pump, customised aftermarket #E36 M3 60mm core radiator, #E39 #M5 viscous clutch and blade, 41mm Samco top and bottom hoses, new expansion tank and level sensor, Omex standalone 710 ECU, Bosch lambda sensor, Vauxhall V6 Vectra coil pack, new custom cut and made to suitable lengths 8mm silicone high performance HT leads, #NGK heat range nine spark plugs, 3bar map sensor, Omex TPS, fully stripped and rebuilt polished alternator and fixings, new Bosch starter motor, twin Bosch 044 gravity fed fuel pumps, fuel cooler, 1000cc Bosch EV14 injectors, Aeromotive A-1000 FPR, AN-8 Aeroquip teflon supply and AN-6 return fuel pipes, modified E34 535i inlet, 3” original reversemounted throttle body, 3” aluminium and Samco pipe work, 5.5” core aftermarket chargecooler, Bosch EVT water pump, 55mm twin core 500x630 chargecooler radiator, AN12 Aeroquip feed and return water pipes and fixings, modified #BMW-M106 turbo manifold, custom stainless steel flange top mounted neck, original M106 stainless #M10 exhaust studs x 12, GT4202 Garrett turbo, HKS 60mm external wastegate, 4” downpipe reduced to 3.5” by the bulkhead, 5” by 300mm flexi joint then split to 2x2.5” pipes all the way to custom turbo Fritz’s Bits back box, 4x M10 rose jointed supportive custom alloy bars.
TRANSMISSION: Fully rebuilt five-speed dog-leg gearbox, custom short clutch master cylinder and relocated fluid container, M535i driveshafts and propshaft, restored 3.07 M5 LSD, diff cooler and pump AN-10 Aeroquip fixings and braided teflon hoses, upgraded race-spec Motorsport diff mount, all bolts and mountings replaced with stainless spec and chrome plated items.
CHASSIS: 8.5x17” (front and rear) Fomb wheels with 235/45 Bridgestone tyres, GAZ gold race coilover kit with 550lb front springs and 250lb rears, fully adjustable front upper top mounts rose jointed, fully adjustable rear top upper mounts rose jointed, rose jointed rear lower shock pin mounts, all suspension components replaced or reconditioned, all steering linkages renewed, new front Motorsport anti-roll bars 25mm front and 19mm rear, Powerflex bushes all-round, reinforced front lower alloy brace under the bumper, #E31 #840Ci four-pot #Brembo calipers (front) with 324x30mm discs, E28 M353i calipers (rear) with 300x15mm discs, Goodridge braided hoses all-round, E32 master cylinder, all original hard pipes re-powdercoated green.
EXTERIOR: M5-spec body styling, new wings doors and bootlid, Shadowline bumpers, custom turbo bonnet, Motorsport rear spoiler with carbon fibre top section, green tinted cabin glass with blue front windscreen upper sun visor, Moon roof glass panel with purple fibre wind deflector, new headlights and chrome rear lights, original rear number plate, window trims and door handles polished and rechromed by Ospreys metal finishers in Borehamwood, all window rubber weather strips were replaced.
INTERIOR: Front seats retrimmed by B-Trim, rears recolonised, new dashboard, original carpet, doorcards and headlining, new gear knob colour-coded in interior leather, new Motorspost odometer, new tachometer, new M Tech 1 steering wheel.
THANKS: All the people that have contributed to the build and to maintaining this vehicle: Daryl, Paul, John and Ryan at Osprey Metal Finishers, Rob, Miles and Chris at Hartoms Engineering, Alex Austin at Torques UK, Richard and Dave at Fritz’s Bits, Guy Higgs at Omex UK, Neil, Adam and John at BTrim, Sam and Mark at TDI, Simon, Eldwin and Dave at EMP Exhausts, Richard Ryan and Carlos at Manor Body in Enfield, also thank you to my family for their support and to Drive-My.
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- Post is under moderationCAR #BMW #F10 #M5
MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 1096
TOTAL MILEAGE: 41,422
MPG THIS MONTH: 21.4
COST THIS MONTH:
£120 (Connected Drive renewal)
I have been away with work and on a family skiing holiday this month and, as a result, the #BMW-M5 has spent a lot of time stationary in a car park. It started first time after a couple of weeks of inaction and has run without any problems since. It did demand a litre of oil, though, and this was added by the good folk at BMW Swindon under the Service Inclusive pack.
The odd small flurry of snow has, so far, offered no challenge to the winter tyres with the M5 driving through the cold weather and snow with ease. Thanks to good quality screenwash, and effective airflow I have never struggled to clear the windscreen although I do sometimes wish that a heated windscreen had been on the options list. I have it on other cars and it does dramatically cut down the time it takes to clear away ice on a cold morning.
The car is now coming up to three years old and the reminder of this arrived on the doorstep in the form of a renewal form for the Connected Drive. Although I collected the car on 1 March 2012, the Connected Drive was registered in February so that was why the polite request for £120 for the next 12 months arrived in January. £10 per month for a data connection does seem quite strong but it does allow me to send routes and data to the car from the BMW website. It also enables the Google local search functions and the very effective traffic data. I therefore signed up for another year. I pay less than this for the 3G data on my iPad, so it does seem pretty expensive given the amount of data that the service uses. However, as not having the Connected Drive functions active would be a bit of a pain, and I do use them fairly often, I coughed up.
Next month is going to see the #BMW-M5-F10 on a winter road trip across Europe. We shall see if BMW’s reputation for poor winter driving characteristics survives the reality of the Alps in winter, or if fitting the right kit makes the car usable in any conditions that it is likely to encounter, short of going off-road that is.
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- Post is under moderationDouble Trouble. A pair of #BMW-E30 #M3 s over in Australia that are modified in very different ways to do very similar things. We meet two owners in Australia with a pair of modified E30 M3s for the track and road that follow very different paths to achieve similar goals… Words: Simon Holmes. Photography: Brodie Butler.
If there was ever an automotive example to best capsulate the expression ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat’ then it’s this pair of E30s. These two Australian-based cars are both genuine M3s and both are heavily modified to be hugely effective on both the road and track. But their owners Phil Peak and Scott Lockhart have taken very different approaches and their cars are as different as chalk and cheese, or black and white to use a more accurate analogy. Exterior-wise they may seem similar, aside from the polar opposite Touring Car liveries, but inside and, more importantly, under the bonnet they are very different machines.
We’ll start with Phil’s car, the Diamond black example that perhaps represents the more orthodox side of M3 tuning. Powered by a heavily breathed upon S14 engine that’s pumping out 217hp at the wheels, with the rev limit set to only 7200rpm, it certainly suits the Touring Car theme! As you might expect, Phil is no stranger to a #BMW , particularly an E30, although he admits he was actually an avid VW enthusiast before making the transition over to BMWs. It began with an #E30 #325is he purchased in 1997 from a friend but he admits he’s been fond of them for much longer. “I’ve always liked BMWs really,” recalls Phil. “I was in my late teens living in West Germany when the E30s were released. They had an M3 at the local dealership and I remember looking at it every time I went past thinking ‘one day…’.”
He’s since owned several rather fine E30s over the years including a convertible fitted with an S50 engine from an E36 M3. But his boyhood dream to own a genuine M3 took a little longer to fulfill as other commitments had always posed a problem and it wasn’t helped by the fact E30 M3s are rather difficult to find in Australia. So when the right chance came up at the right time to own this car he jumped at it. “I was lucky enough to know the previous owner,” tells Phil. “He had just imported the car from Japan after buying it blind at auction and after taking delivery he got a job offer he couldn’t turn down. He didn’t want to take the car with him so I knew he had to sell it before he moved. We came to an agreement on price and I bought it off him.”
Finally, the elusive E30 M3 was his, except this particular car was in what Phil describes as “fairly average condition”, having been fitted with an aftermarket front fibreglass bumper and a mismatched interior. The car had also received a poor quality blow over respray in Japan for the auction and then there was the small matter of mechanical health. “The performance was a big let down after driving the #S50 -powered convertible. Even though this only had 114,000km on the clock the engine most definitely needed a freshen up but I knew I could sort all that out,” he explains.
A mechanical fitter by trade, and not one to do things by halves, Phil developed a plan to thoroughly restore the tired M3 and rebuild it into a usable and capable all-rounder for both the road and track: “My intentions with the car have always been to bring it back to its former glory no matter how long it takes, as this car is a keeper. And I wanted to drive it on the track as I don’t believe in garage queens.”
Initially, Phil intended to address the bodywork first but after testing the water with the car at a track day he decided it would be best to sort out the mechanical side of things before anything else. “The engine was lacking a bit of power so I decided to tear the whole thing down and do a full rebuild with the aim of improving things along the way,” he says. “I set about finding all the various parts for the rebuild and once I had them I sent the block away to be rebored and the cylinder head went to VAC Motorsports in the USA for one of their Stage 3 head builds.”
The block was treated to a 2.3-litre competition spec rebuild with heavily uprated internals. Ready for the head’s return, Schrick cams and a carbon fibre DTM-style intake were put aside along with plenty of other tasty bits. The engine build actually took nearly two years to complete from start to finish due to other commitments, or “life getting in the way” as Phil puts it. In the meantime, with the engine build at least started Phil began on other areas that required his attention and the interior was next on the list.
First of all he sourced the correct front seats and then got hold of a full retrim kit from Germany, along with an M3 Sport Evo steering wheel, gear knob and footrest. “I like to have a few creature comforts. I didn’t want to gut the interior and stick a cage in as it’s not a dedicated track car, plus it’s illegal over here to drive around in a stripped-down car with a cage.”
With that covered, next came the exterior. Not wanting to deviate too far from the M3’s iconic look, Phil chose his additions carefully in the shape of an M3 Evo rear wing and matching front lip spoiler along with smoked headlights, tail-lights and indicator lenses. The look is finished off perfectly with the 8x16-inch BBS three-piece split-rims that closely mimic the original style. However, it’s the livery that makes the biggest visual impact and it was fitted in an effort to brighten up the Japanese blow over paint job, which certainly seems to have worked. “Of course, the car is the wrong colour for the original Warsteiner graphics but I thought they looked okay in reverse colours so decided to go for it,” Phil reveals. “The graphics don’t look too out of place. When I eventually get the paint done I will be happy with the black-on-black look as I think that’s the best exterior/interior colour combo but I think it will be like this for a while as I want to enjoy the car a bit before getting it painted.”
When the engine was eventually back together it was time for the first drive and thankfully it proved to be everything he had hoped for. “The first real drive after the rebuild was great,” Phil grins. “On the dyno we set the rev limit to 7200rpm to be safe and got 217hp at the wheels with it still pulling really strong at the limiter. It’s not far off my cabriolet in terms of power but so much better to drive.”
The rebuild took three whole years to complete and Phil tells us the hardest and most frustrating part was actually sourcing bits and getting them delivered, as virtually everything had to be imported. The car isn’t completely finished yet but Phil is understandably pretty happy with what he’s achieved since owning it as the M3 already puts a lot of bigger power cars in their place on track. “Over here they are all into big V8s and muscle cars and it certainly holds its own,” Phil says. “The noise from the carbon fibre intake is my favourite part – it just screams and puts a huge grin on people’s faces. The suspension needs improvement now the power is sorted but this build still has a long way to go to get the car where I want it to be. But as it’s a work in progress I’m really happy with the way things are going.” Future plans also include a revised engine map so then the rev limit can be raised to the untold reaches of 8500rpm and that should release a bit more power, too.
Speaking of more power, now seems like a fine time to introduce Scott’s Alpine white M3. Whereas Phil has gone to town on the original S14, Scott’s car is a little less conventional, having been fitted with an S50 six-cylinder that happens to be turbocharged to produce a huge 480hp at the wheels. Fair to say it’s a beast, but it’s just at home on a track as Phil’s car is and that was always the intention.
Much like Phil, Scott’s interest for BMWs also developed some years ago and it began with an E30. It started in 1995 when he was lucky enough to stumble across a rare John Player Special E30 323i Coupé at an upmarket car dealership in Perth. A very limited number of these special edition cars were built to celebrate BMW’s victories at the famous Bathurst race in Australia during the 1980s. The cars featured iconic black paintwork with gold pinstripes, Recaro seats, an LSD and gold JPS insignias on the C-pillars. Scott was still at uni at the time but it was love at first sight for him and he had to have it.
He bought the car and then lavished his time and money on the car over the next few years, spending nearly every pay check he had upgrading the engine, suspension and wheels. It rewarded him with a lifelong appreciation for the brand, though. “That car, and the shear ease with which it connected me as a driver started my obsession with BMWs and it’s been a love affair ever since,” he states.
That’s not an understatement either as he’s since gone on to own a vast array of interesting BMWs. He still owns a fine fleet, worthy of a What’s in your Garage? feature, comprising an #E60 #M5 , an #E24 #635CSi , an #E28 #M535i and an #E30 #323i Coupé. “I love collectible BMWs, preferably with some sort of motorsport connection,” he says. His dream car is a #BMW-M1 but the E30 M3 is a close second, and that’s the one we’re interested in – for now, at least.
For Scott, the M3 has always been an iconic car and when it came to eventually replacing his first E30 love there was only one suitable choice, as he explains: “I never got over having to sell my E30 JPS when I left Australia in #1998 to further my career in London. While I owned that car I always wanted an M3 but couldn’t afford one. I’m lucky that my wife, Marissa, is also a huge car fan and when I told her I was considering adding another BMW to our fleet she immediately took to the shape of the E30 M3.”
However, as Phil found, finding an #BMW-M3-E30 in Australia is tricky and Scott had to use all his resources, both near and far, to locate one. “I had friends looking in the USA and the UK for me, while I spent most nights glued to my computer screen checking out VIN numbers, history and pictures,” he explains. “After about a month my wife asked, ‘why haven’t you looked locally?’ to which I replied, ‘well, honey there aren’t very many of these cars, so finding one in Perth would be a longshot.’ At that point she had already found one for sale, 20 minutes from our house, and in Alpine white no less. With only a very small handful of these cars in Australia, I was amazed, and now I listen intently when my wife talks BMWs,” he admits.
The car was not exactly what you would call a perfect standard example, though. Far from it, in fact. The original S14 motor was long gone, apparently having made its way into a 2002. In its place was the S50 conversion complete with turbo already fitted. This wasn’t an issue for Scott as it happened to suit his overall plan for the car as the #M3 was destined for heavy track use. “I wanted something that was able to produce more power than the S14 with track car reliability. S14s can create great power but they can become quite fragile on long events. The newer #BMW-M3 engine with a little boost added for a bit more of a surprise was the way to go for me,” Scott tells us.
Having competed in club level events for a few years in a modified R32 Nissan Skyline GTR, the intention was to introduce his love of BMWs into his competitive racing. But with the likes of heavily modified Mitsubishi Evos and Nissan GTRs to compete against, the more modern engine helped level the playing field in terms of power. However, there was work to do before it could start battling on track with tuned Japanese machinery as although the turbocharged S50 engine was in place it was barely running, largely due to electrical issues. There were also plenty of other problems to address. “It looked great when I purchased it but it needed time spent on it to deal with the electrical gremlins. It also needed new wiring, brakes, wheels, a livery and a decent tune,” Scott states.
On the plus side, the paintwork was in good condition having recently been resprayed to a high standard. Influenced by the Touring Cars he watched when growing up, Scott decided the Warsteiner livery would suit the car well. The 1980s Touring Carinspired theme extended into the cabin and although the car was already stripped of an interior when he got it, Scott had it blasted, cleaned and painted Touring Car-style glossy grey inside. The DTM gearshift knob will soon be joined by a full DTM dash to replace the current Stack unit, too.
The build to bring the car up to a good, working standard took nearly a year and plenty was changed in that time. The work was entrusted to Galvsport in Perth and the guys there spent many hours on the car. Scott remembers the first time he went out in it as it was actually Josh from Galvsport who first took me for a spin. “It was in the Warsteiner colours, numbers on the doors, no bonnet, race tyres, race seats and harnesses and all in peak hour traffic, it was a blast. I was stunned how quick it was from the passenger seat, and it wasn’t long before I got a chance to drive it on the track,” he enthuses.
Scott reports that the car does, in fact, handle the power very well on track and on occasion it’s also driven on the road, usually to and from events or for a spin up and down the coast. But wherever he goes it gets a great reaction. “Everyone young and old loves it and it gets a lot of attention. Nobody knows what to expect from it and not only is it rare, it is well balanced and easy to drive, it puts a smile on your face every time,” says Scott. “They say that a good track car drives terribly on the road and while my M3 certainly is no M5, it still drives very well. The power delivery is like a light switch in low gears but if you cruise in fourth or fifth it is very enjoyable to squeeze on some of that boost on the open roads.”
Future plans for the car involve improving grip further as there’s more development work to be done on the suspension setup to improve what’s there. There’s even talk of a bit more boost and Scott would like to enter the car in Targa road rallies once the suspension has been fine tuned to deal with the bumpy roads.
So there you have it. Two very different ways to effectively achieve a very similar impact. We would happily take either one.
Phil’s Black M3
ENGINE & GEARBOX: #S14 2.3-litre producing 217hp @ 7200rpm at the wheels, VAC Motorsport Stage 3 cylinder head, 1mm oversized valves, balanced and blueprinted, VAC valve springs with titanium retainers, Schrick 284 intake and 276 exhaust cams, VAC adjustable cam sprockets, 48mm throttle bodies, Volvo green injectors, carbon fibre DTM-style intake plenum, 50/50 headers mated to full stainless steel Supersprint race exhaust, Miller MAF Conversion with WAR Chip engine management, fully rebuilt /balanced bottom end by Galloways race engineering using CP 2.3 competition spec pistons (11:1 compression), OS Gieken clutch and lightweight flywheel, Dogleg gearbox 3.7:1 differential with LSD.
CHASSIS: Tein coilovers all round, AC Schnitzer front and rear anti-roll bars, polyurethane bushes throughout BRAKES: Standard M3 callipers with uprated discs and pads all-round, braided brake lines, uprated pedalbox WHEELS & TYRES: 8x16-inch BBS RS three-piece split-rims with 215/45/16 Toyo R888 tyres.
INTERIOR: Original seats retrimmed black leather, Sport Evo steering wheel, gear knob, footrest and centre armrest, Hartge centre console gauge holder with AEM data logging.
EXTERIOR: Diamond black paint, colour reversed Warsteiner livery, smoked indicators, tail-lights and crosshair headlights, carbon fibre front splitter and brake ducts, Sport Evo rear spoiler with carbon fibre wing.
THANKS: Simon Gunson at GTI Performance Centre (service @ gtipc.com.au), David at Galloway Race Engineering (08 9531 1366) and VAC Motorsports sales @ vacmotorsports. com.
Scott’s White M3
ENGINE & GEARBOX: S50 3.0-litre producing 480hp @ 7500rpm at the wheels, standard crankshaft, Carillo steel conrods, custom-made forged pistons with 7.5:1 compression ratio, custom turbocharger with Tial 50mm external wastegate, custom-made tubular exhaust manifold, standard inlet manifold with uprated injectors and billet fuel rail, PWR front mount intercooler, custom downpipe and stainless steel exhaust system, custom alloy radiator with electric fan, custom alloy breather and header tanks, Bosch 044 fuel pump, Haltech ECU, standard E36 M3 five-speed gearbox, one-piece propshaft, 4.3:1 differential with LSD.
CHASSIS: Bilstein coilovers all round, Racing Dynamics front and rear antiroll bars, Ireland Engineering adjustable camber top mounts, strut braces, OMP rollcage, #BMW-Z4 close ratio steering rack, polyurethane bushes throughout.
BRAKES: Front: StopTech four-pot callipers with 330mm discs. Rear: Standard E30 M3 discs and callipers, Pagid yellow pads all-round, braided brake lines, AP Racing pedalbox with remote reservoirs.
WHEELS & TYRES: 8x18-inch and 9x18-inch Compomotive TH18 wheels with a range of track or road tyres.
INTERIOR: OMP fixed back bucket seats, OMP steering wheel, Stack dash, M3 DTM gearknob and footrest.
EXTERIOR: Alpine White paint, E30 M3 Evo spoiler and splitter, Warsteiner livery.
THANKS: Josh Gardner & Gav Jones at Galvsport.com, Gavin Fairchild at GT-graphics.com.au, Brett Airey at ExecutiveTowing.com.au, Jim Black at Performancefriction.com.au and Barry Dixon at Compomotive. com.
“I wanted to drive it on the track as I don’t believe in garage queens”
“Not only is it rare, it is well balanced and easy to drive, too”
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The ballistic GKD Legend Six. With 330hp in a 700kg body, the #GKD-Legend-Six is a ferociously fast road machine.
We’ve previously covered the GKD Legend that utilised E36 #318iS mechanicals and we were mightily impressed, but with #E36-M3-Evo power under the bonnet, this version is even more spectacular. The machine we have here, built by owner Jason Spencer, was the first Legend Six that’s been fully assembled and registered on the road but if our driving experience is anything to go by, it certainly won’t be the last.
The Legend Six is ferociously fast. Not fast like an #F10 #M5 , fast like a Lockheed Lightening jet. With around 330hp in a car that weighs a little over 700kg, think 0-62mph in less than 3.5 seconds and a 0-100mph time of less than eight. But perhaps what’s most impressive is the way that it delivers its performance – by all means go chasing the headline figures by using all the #M-Power ’six’s revs, but even if you knock it back a notch and short-shift at 4000rpm you’re still going to be travelling faster than most supercars. And the lack of a windscreen in Jason’s example makes it seem ten times faster than it is.
Where this kit car really scores is that with a kit from #GKD and a donor #E36 or #E46 the vast majority of the build is plug ’n’ play and as the standard ECU is used it makes the tricky electronic side of this much easier for the amateur builder. How far you go with the spec is up to you, but Jason’s machine here has been assembled to a very high standard and features Racelogic traction control, comfy yet supportive seats, a removable steering wheel, Stack instrumentation and a Stack data logger.
With a power-to-weight ratio of somewhere in the region of 450hp/tonne it should come as no surprise that the GKD is devastatingly quick. Twist the key, hear that BMW ’six erupt into life and there’s a sense of drama even when sitting still, especially as the glorious exhaust exits just below your right elbow. Slotting the stubby-machined gear knob into first (and this is a five-speed unit as it saves around 17kg over the six-speed version) and pulling away is strangely undramatic. All the controls have a nice BMW-esque feel to them and you can easily potter about in a high gear letting the torque do the work as you get used to the driving experience.
Dropping a couple of cogs and flooring the throttle elicits a howl of approval from the #S50 up front while the rear Toyos dig deep and somehow find the grip to launch you at the horizon. Straight-line speed is all well and good, but what’s going to happen when you hit the twisties? The Mintex/Black Diamond brake combo washes off speed without any drama and the GKD simply turns in and goes where you point it. You try again, but with a little bit more speed and the effect is the same – grip levels are huge. I’ve never driven a machine with such brilliantly adjustable handling – it flatters your driving, whether you choose to drive slow-in, fast-out, or play the hooligan and chuck it sideways at every opportunity. In short the GKD will do exactly what you ask it to do and this must be testament to the quality of the kit, but also Jason’s attention to detail during the build that included having the car corner weighted for the perfect setup.
The GKD is hugely entertaining, ballistically quick, yet can also be docile and comfortable – it even rides the B-roads very well. It’ll return over 30mpg and if it had the optional windscreen and some weather gear it would be practical, too. Jason spent around £13k assembling his high-spec example, GKD reckons you could build a lower spec one for £9k. That’s massively tempting…
2015 GKD Legend Six
Engine: 3.2-litre straight-six #S50B32 (M3 E36 3-series #BMW )
Transmission: Five-speed manual
How many: There’s a few about
What is it: Ballistic British Bavarian-powered kit car
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