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    Sports family #Lancia - Thema-8:32 vs. BMW-M535i-E28 / TEXT José Ricardo Gouveia / IMAGE Pedro Lopes

    The truth of the lie. The demand for two super-saloons 80s, led us to the discovery of some undeniable truths. But also to demystify legends embodied by time. This is the story of a titanic battle between BMW M535i and Lancia Thema 8:32.

    The preparation this comparison could not have started more clinical form: the goal was to join two superberlinas 80s, equivalent in terms of performance and pedigree. There is much in the sights of Motor Classic, the choice of Lancia Thema 8:32 was based on its mechanical exceptional V8 Ferrari and pure appeal of driving a luxurious Italian - other than a Maserati - with the ability to get the better of very sporty the war of the traffic lights.

    As a counterpoint, the apparent sedated BMW E28 M535i, simple and discreet body inside, only reached the final choice by presenting a six-cylinder in line with similar power (218bhp BMW against the 212bhp of the Lancia). But if the role models close - themselves as magnet and iron, on the road to their separation could not be more drastic.

    Aesthetics

    Angular and well defined, with an elegant waist line and front grille typically Lancia Thema revealed in their ways why the Italians consider true masters of car design. No major frills, the saloon of Turin is still immensely enjoyable to look at, revealing details exquisitely placed each time we approach such as the dual support of mirrors, the sculpture of the bonnet or the design of bumpers.

    Since the BMW is pure menir German: geometric and sturdy with a back which seems to have been cut out of a steel block and a front in which only the double rim and the four round headlights stand, this is a well achieved evolution of the first 5 series, lending strength and muscle to the design of the masters Paul and Pietro Frua Bracq. But before the elegant Italian forms, loses luster.

    Technical

    Conservative in approach, #BMW-Motorsport GmbH delegated to division - responsible for the preparation of the most coveted sports - the transformation of saloon 5. lower chassis and firm a six cylinder in-line 3.5-liter "vitaminized" to the 218 horsepower and limited slip 25 percent to try to put the power down, the BMW is nonetheless quite conservative, with its head eight valves and one camshaft.

    By contrast, the Lancia is to equip a V8 Ferrari with three-liter, four camshafts head, 32 valves and 216 horsepower. Least six horses than the BMW, but exotic and impressive, idling or skim the redline.

    Life on Board

    As in the technical chapter, here the Italian back out benefited by genetic taste of its designers. The dashboard lined timber open tone and we pronounced the magnificent armchairs lined with fabric reminiscent of a mix of alcantara and velvet, the Lancia is worthy of the most demanding mobsters. Too serious and gray, the interior of the BMW in little or nothing is distinguished from the remaining range "Five", using logos simple ones "M GmbH" to stand out. In the midst of such shyness, only the excellent bucket seats saved the model of dishonor. Solid and warm, each more pronounced curve these remind us that we are sitting in a sports true.

    Benefits

    With over 210 horsepower available, both sports saloons still worthy performances of note. In the case of BMW, 218 horses announced for its six-cylinder engine feel something asleep, but still allow the model that weighs 1414 kg accelerates from 0-100 kmh in 7.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 230 kmh. But the Lancia feels more immediate, with its 212 horses ignite immediately the front tires, hell-bent on fighting the lack of traction of a model that weighs 1405 kg and has announced an acceleration of 0-100 kmh of just 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 240 kmh.

    Comfort

    Probably the only parameter in which there is a dead heat. In terms of rolling comfort, both the BMW and the Lancia are excellent, isolating the cabin from the drudgery of surface irregularities. Thanks to independent suspension and high-profile tires (something unthinkable in sporting-day) both saloons meet perfectly the luxury purposes for which they were created. In addition to the comfortable cushioning, an appropriate allocation of equipment covering items such as electric windows, power steering or air conditioning, it makes the driver and passengers life easier.

    Driving

    States for similar potencies and weight, in theory both the BMW M535i as Lancia Theme 8:32 should provide a level of enjoyment to the driving wheel. But could not be more different. Blessed with an eccentric Ferrari engine, the Lancia is one of the rare cases where the enthusiasm fades from the time that the eight cylinders are filled until we started walking. Theater in the roar that sends idle, the block does not give up in impressing the hearing, which prima - owner that warms the throat before his great performance. Helped by a smooth and precise gearbox, the engine is felt all of its 212 horses at once, flooding the interior with a bright cacophony. But we are quickly restrained the momentum of the right foot by a lack of traction threat of extinction rubber of front tires, no matter what the speed is. Subvirador is a mild adjective for a car that, with dated suspensions, can not digest the spontaneity of the accelerator.

    However, stealth M535i six cylinders is at least disarming. Doubt in the pattern of capacity remains even when printing more pace on driving. Direct yet lightweight and conveniently assisted steering commands, the "M" runs quietly and without fuss. However, just a curve in realizing excellence and balance of your chassis. Superiorly gifted, the BMW makes it easy to describe the trajectories in expressive power-slides, raising anyone traveling to your steering wheel Heroes recognized grace. Never losing his composure, the German sedan maintains a steering assistance that communicates the precise angle of the front wheels, while the rear axle takes the most out of limited slip prepared by the sports division of the brand.

    Economy

    In the market of the classics, both the BMW and the Lancia themselves in terms of price with the German to be worth 16,000 euros and the Italian to reach 15 000 in very good condition. But when it comes to maintenance, things are quite different. Like so many other Italian models, the Lancia has the scarce stock of the main defect replacement parts. And we're not even talking about the precious Ferrari engine, on which all eyes seem to be focused when it comes to profligacy.

    In the case of BMW greater availability of parts and mechanical simplicity are only opponent in the price of some items. But when it comes to restoration, it is always better when the pieces are the same.

    Verdict

    Fabulous in its time, both BMW M535i as the Lancia Thema 8:32 still make heads turn, but for different reasons. In the case of the Italian exotic engine that hides it gives it a pedigree far above its dynamic potential. But the German, with his quiet personality, conquers our hearts every curve described artistically, winning this comparison by the way can communicate what the mechanics will doing every second.

    We appreciate the collaboration to Classic Care Center (Tel 214 693 072), with the #Lancia-Thema-8:32 and Manuel Mascarenhas (Tel 962 793 114), with the #BMW-M535i . Both cars are for sale.

    Sports details donated by division sporty #BMW Motorsport GmbH make unlike the interior of the 5 Series E28.
    The five-speed gearbox is smooth and the Lancia relatively precise, especially at low speeds and when not asked too much engine.

    Aesthetically the M535i's body is distinguished from others by the use of a small rear spoiler, side sills deeper and specific bumpers, sports and more pronounced.

    Distinguished in appearance, the Thema only reveals the pedigree of his Ferrari engine in the logos "8:32" in yellow and bumpers painted in body colour. The interior features a number of useful tools...

    With its electrically adjustable seats, upholstered type alcantara, the interior of the Thema 8:32 is higher than the BMW.

    Lined with the finest materials, the interior is luxurious Lancia

    Kids, do not try this at home. Bending aside does not come naturally to Thema

    TECH DATA #Lancia-Thema 8 / 32 #1986 - #1989
    Number built 4000
    Engine V8-cylinder engine, front transverse position / #Ferrari
    Distribution 4 camshafts to the head, 32 valves
    Bore x Stroke 81mm X 71mm
    Displacement (cm3) 2927
    Power electronic injection #Bosch-Jetronic-KE3
    Max power (DIN bhp / rpm) 212/6750
    Torque max (Nm / rpm) 285/4500
    Suspension front, MacPherson type, helical springs; rear, rocker arms, coil springs; telescopic shock absorbers and bars stabilizing;
    Transmission Front, from 5-speed manual gearbox
    Steering Rack and pinion, with power assistance
    Brakes front ventilated discs; rear disks; #Bosch-ABS ;
    Unibody chassis, bodywork steel, four doors and five seats
    Fuel tank capacity 70-litres
    Wheels / Tires 15 '' / 205/55 VR15;
    Dimensions Length: 4590 mm
    Wheelbase: 2660 mm
    Width: 1750 mm
    Weight (kg) 1405
    Acceleration 0-100 kmh (sec. 0-62MPH) 6.8
    Top speed 240 kmh


    Spartan but coated with materials quality, the inside of the M535i stands up well over the years.

    Worked by Motorsport GmbH, the brilliant chassis 5-series #BMW-E28 is revealed in curve.

    Banks kind Bacquet has demonstrated remarkable strength, sin only the slight sway in the pipeline (BMW defect of this season)

    TECH DATA #BMW-M535i-E28 #1984 - #1987
    Number built 9483
    Engine 6-cylinder inline, front longitudinal position / #M30 / #M30B35
    Distribution 1 overhead camshaft head, 12 valves
    Bore x Stroke 92 X 86mm
    Displacement (cm3) 3430
    Power electronic injection #Bosch-Motronic-DME / #Bosch-Motronic / #Bosch
    Maximum power (bhp DIN / rpm) 218/5500
    Maximum torque (Nm / rpm) 310/4000
    Suspension front, MacPherson struts, springs Helical; rear swing arms, helical springs; shock absorbers #Bilstein and stabilizer bars;
    Transmission, 5-speed manual gearbox with limited slip differential (25%)
    Steering Recirculating Ball, #ZF
    Brakes with assistance ahead ventilated discs; rear disks; #ABS
    Unibody chassis, bodywork steel, four doors and five seats capacity
    Tank 70-litres
    Wheels / Tires 15.5 '' (R390) / #Michelin-TRX 220/55 VR 390
    Dimensions length: 4620 mm
    Wheelbase: 2625 mm
    Width: 1710 mm
    Weight (kg) 1414
    Acceleration 0-100 kmh ( 0-62MPH sec.) 7.2
    Top speed 230 kmh
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    Bob BMW
    South African Special Taking a look at the #BMW-E12/8 #M535i , a rare model unique to the South African market. Just when you thought you knew all about the unique South African #BMW models another one comes to light, the unusual E12/8 M535i Words: Johann Venter. Photography: Oliver Hirtenfelder.

    Internally known as ‘model 4709’ this hybrid #BMW-E12 M535i comprised E28 components before the E28 was even manufactured in South Africa. Sounds like going back to the future. Today the word hybrid is all too common in motoring diction. In #1982 it was almost unheard of in motoring circles, but what we see in front of us today is exactly that: a hybrid. Was the #BMW-M535i-E12 the first mass offering by BMW’s M Division? In a word, no. That honour was reserved for another South African special: the #BMW-530MLE (Motorsport Limited Edition). Regular readers will be familiar with the four models unique to South Africa as documented by then deputy editor Sebastian de Latour on his visit to South Africa in 2012. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, the height of the Apartheid era in South Africa where world isolation was the order of the day, BMW South Africa was producing some of its most sought-after models.

    How and where did BMW get a foothold in a country positioned on the southern tip of Africa? Like in all corners of the world immigrants bring along their culture to the new frontier they settle in and South Africa is no different. A German immigrant was so attached to his motorcycle he brought it with him to South Africa and so it became the first BMW vehicle to land on South African shores, in 1928.

    Another German, #Gunter-Ludwig , started a small garage in 1931 named Club Garage, which later went on to become Club Motors. In 1932 Gunter acquired the rights to become the sole importer of BMW motorcycles to South Africa. By the late 1950s Club Motors imported the first BMW car, the Isetta, and continued to import a range of BMW vehicles until 1968. Club Motors would go on to become one of the biggest independently owned BMW dealerships in South Africa. So what has all this to do with the E12 M535i? Indulge us, if you will, and let us elaborate briefly on how South Africa started a trend of developing unique BMW models.

    In the mid-’60s BMW was firmly on the mend; expansion was on the cards, and it set its sights on acquiring the Glas factory in Dingolfing which had been hit by financial difficulties. Glas was relatively well-known for its Goggomobil, somewhat of a rival to the Isetta. The sexiest thing to leave the Glas production-line was arguably the 1700GT designed by Italian Pietro Frua which BMW continued to produce for a short stint as the 1600GT. Glas also produced a 1700 Saloon (also penned by the Frua design studio in Turin) which would have been in direct competition to BMW’s 1800.

    And so with the constellations aligned a path was set in motion in 1968 whereby Pretoria businessman Hannes Pretorius, together with Gunter Ludwig (of Club Motors), his son and several other shareholders formed Euro-Republic Automobile Distributors (Pty) Ltd. This is the very company that would assemble the Glas-bodied 1700 into the 1800 SA and 2000 SA under license at the Rosslyn plant just outside Pretoria. BMW AG shipped the four-door bodies and tooling it inherited from the Glas outfit to Rosslyn where they were fitted with the M10 1773cc and 1990cc motors. Brazil was the only other country in the southern hemisphere that these cars were exported to. In 1972 BMW AG took complete ownership of Euro-Republic Automobile Distributors (Pty) Ltd which became a subsidiary of the German company, by which time the operation was also assembling the larger E3 2500 and 2800 saloons, followed eventually by the 3.0S.

    In 1974 the SA models were updated (by raiding the parts-bin of other models) and brought closer inline with the look of BMW models of the time. The taillights from the E12 were installed upside down, the front received the grille from the E3 and front indicators from the E9 Coupés. At last, sporting the BMW kidney in the centre of the grille, these models were renamed the 1804 and 2004.

    Talk about hybrids! After it took complete ownership, BMW AG invested 9 million Rand (approximately £5.6 million) on tooling and assembly setup for the E12 5 Series which was launched in South Africa in 1974, two years after it had made its European debut.

    In 1972 BMW was brimming with excitement as it was in the final stages of constructing its four-cylinder headquarters and BMW Museum in Munich, a stone’s throw away from the Olympic Park where Germany hosted the 1972 Olympics. It also launched the E12 5 Series, named as such either because it happened to be the fifth in the range of the Neue Klasse or because it fitted in the middle slot in the new range/series… you decide! The Five was, however, the car that started the naming ‘Series’; penned by Paul Bracq with more rounded edges, a sloping rear and front indicators integrated into the bumper. It definitely was a more modern automobile, with a more driver-focused instrument layout; it consisted of a safety cell, reinforced sills and strengthened frontal structure. The introduction of the E12 5 Series, however, made BMW less of an exotic and more of a mainstream car manufacturer.

    One can’t possibly talk about the South African M535i without mentioning the 530 MLE, developed as a homologation special in South Africa to go racing in. The initial production figure was 100 but demand was such that over 200 were produced. This is truly the first car to make it out of the M stable – even relying on Schnitzer expertise with the development. The 530 MLE is probably the most significant of the unique BMWs produced in South Africa, a race car offered in race trim to the road-going motorist – designed for the track and sold to the public in order to qualify to go racing. It is the closest BMW came to producing a track car for public roads prior to the M3.

    It would also have a consequential outcome on the development of the #BMW-M535i . Let’s make a very brief acquaintance. Exterior: deep front spoiler and boot spoiler, made of fibreglass with extended wheel arches. M tricolour stripes adorned the shoulder of the car as well as the front and rear spoilers. Lightweight construction: body fabricated from aluminium and lighter gauge steel, drilled boot hinges and foot pedals. Interior: Scheel front bucket seats, foam base rear-bench and special Motor Sport steering. Engine: #M30 3.0-litre overhead cam motor tweaked by Schnitzer, with twin Zenith down-draught carburetors, special cam, competition flywheel plus an engine oil cooler. Running gear: close-ratio five-speed dog-leg ‘box with a limited-slip diff, Bilstein dampers, stiffer springs and thicker anti-roll bars. This all resulted in the MLE achieving 197hp at 6000rpm and 204lb ft of torque at 4300rpm.

    The 530 MLE achieved tremendous success on the track in South Africa over a short racing career but it was the most successful E12 racer in the world and in no small part thanks to Eddie Keizan and Paddy Driver behind the wheel. In his book, Unbeatable BMW Jeremy Walton attributed these cars as the closest to a works 5 Series BMW achieved in a road car. Sebastian de Latour did a feature on a replica 530 racer in the 2011 September issue of BMW Car and as part of his South African trip did a full feature on the 530 MLE in the 2013 March issue of BMW Car.

    After the 200 odd 530 MLEs sold, BMW SA continued to produce the 530 as the flagship in the 5 Series range. These cars, however, were far removed from the homologation special, still sporting a 3.0-litre M30 motor. They had little in common with the original and were really just sporting luxury saloons. It is significant to look at the M535i when it was launched in Europe as the car that was introduced in South Africa two years later was slightly different. At the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1979 BMW unveiled for the first time a car that would be mass produced that would wear the Motorsport badge. The E12 M535i was available in European markets from 1979 to the end of May 1981 with a total of 1410 being made, of which 450 were right-hand drive.

    The engine was the same unit used in the E24 635CSi which had been developed from the in-line six-cylinder found in the Batmobile and closely linked to the #M88 motor which powered the M1 supercar. The 3453cc engine has a bore of 93.4mm and a stroke of 84mm with a SOHC iron-block using Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection resulting in 218hp at 5200rpm and 224lb ft of torque at 4000rpm. The suspension geometry was similar to that of a regular Five with Macpherson struts in the front and semitrailing arms in the rear. The M division did, however, provide uprated springs with Bilstein dampers. Brakes comprised the standard four-pot brake callipers but with 3mm thicker ventilated discs up front. To put the power down a five-speed close-ratio Getrag gearbox with a limited-slip differential was fitted.

    What really got pulses racing were the embellishments: the deep colour-coded air dam, a chunky rubber boot spoiler, and BBS 6.5x14-inch cross-spoke alloys. Ice white cars got the tricolour BMW Motorsport stripes running down the side (by now made famous by the 2002 Turbo). In keeping with the sports theme Recaro Sports seats and an M1 steering were also on offer.

    You could, however, order a sleeper devoid of the trimmings which even meant excluding the M badges. The M535i was the fastest Saloon car on the planet, a trend which BMW still tries to uphold today with the Five. At the time it was good for 0-60mph in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 138mph.

    The South African M535i was launched in 1981, two years after the European version. It was to be the replacement for the more civilised 530 that had been sold after the departure of the MLE. The South African M535i was not offered with the front air dam, rear spoiler or M tricolour stripes of the European model, which was pretty strange given that just a few years earlier BMW SA had offered the 530 MLE race car as a road-legal vehicle with all the fireworks including the war-paint to anyone with the right amount of cash. The MLE literally paved the way for the M535i, demonstrating what could be done with a big block six-cylinder in a medium-sized saloon. BMW SA also did not see the need on launch to offer the close-ratio gearbox, instead a normal H-pattern ’box with overdrive was fitted.

    Other than that it pretty much was standard fare, on the outside with just the usual smattering of M badges. Also standard were the 7x14-inch #BBS crossspoke alloy wheels with the centre caps bearing the BMW Motorsport logo.

    Underneath it again had the M30 3453cc engine with #Bosch-L-Jetronic injection, strengthened stabiliser bars front and rear with Bilstein gas dampers and a ZF 25 per cent limited-slip diff. On the inside there were Sports Recaro seats, an M1 steering, a Pioneer radio/tape deck with amp (European markets mostly got Blaupunkt), electric windows, air-con, electric mirrors, power-steering and central-locking all as standard. An electric steel sunroof was a cost option. The M535i produced 218hp (160kW) at 5200rpm and 228lb ft (310Nm) at 4000rpm and was good for 138mph (222km/h) at the top end. Wheels magazine compared it to a Porsche 928 and Car magazine in South Africa had the following to say: “The new M535i is difficult to categorise. It’s not a pure sports sedan like the 530, nor is it pure luxury car. To some extent it combines the best elements of both to produce a really fast car with a high standard of comfort and equipment.”

    While the rest of the world in 1982 was gearing up to become acquainted with the E28 5 Series, South Africa continued with its hybrid philosophy. With manufacturing volumes too low and retooling deemed too expensive the entire E12 5 Series model range received instead the new E28 5 Series dashboard (which became known as the E12/8) and fuel-injection also became standard across the range. With the new E28 dash the cockpit inside the M535i definitely became more driver- centric with the instrument cluster and controls focused on the driver. New technological marvels were introduced equipping the car with a service interval indicator, fuel consumption indicator, and active check control above the rear view mirror in a padded safety panel – checking seven key functions.

    Unfortunately, the South African M535i was once again deprived of the M aero-kit but for the first time the close-ratio Getrag five-speed dog-leg ‘box was available as a free option. Both gearboxes (five-speed overdrive) were paired with a taller 3.07:1 final drive. The M535i also had a unique set of tyres and wheels: metric-sized 165x390mm alloy wheels, as used on some European E28s fitted with 200/60VR390 #Michelin-TRX tyres. When Car magazine South Africa tested it, it concluded: “It’s a great car – developed specially by the Motor Sport Division of BMW A.G. for the motorist who wants exceptional performance in a luxury sedan.” Only 1416 examples of the Model 4709 E12 M535i hybrid were assembled in South Africa until production ended in December 1984. It was then replaced by the E28 M535i in January 1985.

    Enough with the #BMW-SA history lesson, let’s get acquainted with this M hybrid. It’s hard to believe that the M535i in front of us is 33 years old and yet this is a very honest car that gets driven regularly. It is definitely no show queen; the odometer shows 110,203 miles (177,355km). One definitely gets the sense that BMW’s philosophy at the time was to build cars that would stand the test of time. The Polaris silver paint works well with the chrome accents. The #Alpina shovel-spoiler in the front suits the car much better than the standard air dam that was fitted to European models as the lines are just so much cleaner and sharper. Step to the back and the spoiler found on the boot is also from Alpina. It’s smaller in size than the M article and again cleaner, in my opinion. Sometimes less is more. The stance is perfect thanks to a set of BBS cross-spoke rims 7x16 inches in the front and 8x16 inches at the rear as found on the E23 745i. It is rounded off with ContiPremiumContact 2 rubber (205/55R16 in the front and 225/50R16 at the rear) which fills the arches nicely. As I open the door I am transported back to my youth, the E12 is the very reason for my fascination with BMW. I remember there was a car that I drooled over almost every day. I could not miss it as it was on my way home from school. It was a Petrol blue E12 528i. A few years later a friend bought an E12 M535i in Henna red. It was my first experience with a dog-leg ’box, it went like a bat from hell. Then being inside the M535i was like being inside the Starship Enterprise, with an orange glow from the instrument binnacle and the red lights from the check control. Such fond memories!

    Once inside I am completely gobsmacked; it is immaculate. There is not a crack or a blemish on the dash, it virtually looks new. The Recaros, covered in Marine blue velour, do not even have a scuff. The M gear lever perfect and the biggest show piece has to be the four-spoke Alpina Sports steering.

    One turn of the key and the engine sparks to life and in true BMW fashion of cars of this era it quickly settles down into a big block six-cylinder hum. I find these dog-leg boxes still tricky today and the clutch is quite heavy. Drop the clutch and flatten the loud pedal and, exactly as I remember, the M535i squats down on its haunches and the nose reaches for the stratosphere. The exhaust lets off a mechanical growl that’s much different to BMWs of today. This car still feels quick today. Then again it only weighs 1465kg.

    The ride is compliant but the trade-off is the body-roll, which is more prevalent than in more modern Bavarian metal. Turn-in is good but not sharp as it relies on a recirculating ball setup but this car feels as solid as when it was new. The fit and finish is perfect. There are no rattles or vibrations. The four-pot brake callipers make easy work of dissipating high speeds and the Bilsteins ensure the wheels stay planted. The owner of the M535i, Shaun Sing, is a BMW Master Technician who started Tune Tech 20 years ago. It’s one of the most reputable independent BMW workshops in South Africa. Tune Tech not only services BMW products it does tuning and performance upgrades and builds race cars. Strangely enough Shaun qualified as an aircraft mechanic but found BMW far more appealing and in 1987 joined the Stuart Bromfield BMW dealership. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Ten years ago the original owner brought the car into Tune Tech to have the brakes looked at. Shaun somehow convinced him to part with this rarity. Shaun received the car with all the books/manuals, including the original brochure and a file with all the receipts for work that had been carried out. Since then very little has been done except that the fuel tank has been replaced, as well as all four headlamps, and the Bilsteins have been refurbished. Thankfully Shaun also removed the foglights, got the front spoiler and rear spoiler from Alpina, fitted the Alpina steering and the 745i BBS rims – all cosmetic enhancements that really set off this magnificent piece of South African motoring history.

    BMW set the trend for building the fastest Saloon cars in the world and the M535i really is the benchmark from where it all started. The BMW Rosslyn plant continued to build a variety of BMWs which included the E28 M5 and E34 M5, which was also the last in the 5 Series range made at the plant. Today Rosslyn is referred to as plant nine in BMW’s global hierarchy and only manufactures the F30 3 Series Saloon, 330 a day or one every four minutes; 85 percent of production is shipped to about ten markets worldwide. It’s a far cry from the days of the E12/8 M535i.

    SPECIAL THANKS TO:

    Ron Silke and Ulrich Thieme of www.e12.de

    The M535i was the fastest Saloon car on the planet, a trend which BMW still tries to uphold today with the Five.


    These three cars above can be viewed as the forefathers of the ‘South African Special’. The white car at the top is a 2000 SA which was built in South Africa using the shell of a Glas 1700 with BMW mechanicals. (This particular example hails from Rhodesia and was originally known as a Cheetah). The green machine is a post 1974 2000 SA with a BMW grille and upside down E12 rear lights while the E12 below it was the 530 MLE – a locally built homologation special.
    Drop the clutch and flatten the loud pedal and the M535i squats down on its haunches and the nose reaches for the stratosphere.
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    FIVE ALIVE #Alpina-B10-E28 #1985

    The 5-Series B10 E28 is a near-perfect Q-saloon, a little less refined than the M535i, but gloriously quick.

    Alpina's B10 engine is essentially a #M30B34 BMW 92x86mm 3,430cc six doctored by Herr Bovensiepen's merry men to produce 260PS at 6,000rpm and 254lb ft of torque at 4,000rpm instead of the standard engine’s 218PS at 5,500rpm (DIN) and 229lb ft at the same 4,000 engine speed. Those figures represent 19 per cent more power and 11 per cent more torque, to propel what is essentially the same body assembly as you would find in the production #BMW-E28 #M535i-E28 , which has just started to come on to the British market.

    There are other changes compared with the #M535i #E28 tested in Autocar, 16 January. That car was fitted with the relatively wide-ratio, overdrive top five-speed #ZF gearbox, allied to a 3.07 final drive, and ran on 220/55VR390 #Michelin-TRX tyres on 165mm (6 ½ -in) rims. The same car can be specified with the closer ratio sports-five- speed Getrag gearbox found on the Alpina test car, which also had a higher (numerically lower) final drive (2.93 to 1) and slightly different tyre sizes front and rear — 205/55VR16in front. 225/50 VR16in rear. Tyres are #Pirelli P7s on 7in and 8in wide rims respectively. What that array of figures boils down to is that the Alpina car is geared overall at 24.52mph per 1.000rpm in fifth — perfect for its apparent maximum speed when measured against obvious tyre losses on the 2-mile circumference Millbrook banking - where the standard M535i’s nearest comparable gear, fourth, is slightly lower geared, at 23.49 mph per 1,000.

    Alpina, which is not prone to the unwisely immodest claims of some conversion firms, says that the 5 series #Alpina-E28 B10 is capable of an absolute mean maximum speed, measured properly as the average of runs in each direction on a clear level road, of around 155mph. The Millbrook banking’s fast lane has a hands-off maximum speed of 100 mph — in other words, in windless conditions, you can lap it at 100 mph without having to hold the steering wheel. The faster you go, the more you have to push the car up to a non-existent steeper-inclined lane of banking - and the more of the engine’s power is lost overcoming the energy used by the tyres in supplying the necessary side force.

    So it was that, in spite of a 12 to 17 mph wind at Millbrook, we recorded a timed lap speed of 146.9 mph. with a best speed during the lap of 148. Since all three #Alpina cars tested are particularly quick, it had been planned to take the trio to Germany for a proper autobahn measurement of their respective true maxima, but the last bout of traditional February weather put paid to that, most irritatingly, until after these exclusive Autocar reports had to be written. In our experience, 147 mph round Millbrook is equivalent to something appreciably higher in level road maximum speeds, so we are more than inclined to believe Alpina here.

    Returning from the general to the particular, the 5-series #B10 is a near perfect O-saloon. The normal #BMW-M535i-E28 doesn't feel quite as fast as it is, partly because it is pretty refined. The Alpina is very little less refined, but it does feel quick, most gloriously quick. The engine’s power delivery is extraordinary; you perceive this most dramatically not in full-blooded start acceleration — although even in the slightly damp conditions in which we figured it, that is more than dramatic — but when measuring the acceleration in one gear. The engine has all of the usual delightful #BMW flexibility. so that in fourth gear it is not difficult to take figures from 10 mph (500 rpm) and it pulls well from 1,500 rpm (30 mph). The power comes in extra strongly a little earlier than you expect, from around 55 mph (2,800 rpm) — but almost as if one of the more mildly tuned turbochargers suddenly started working, there is a perceptible
    extra boost at around 4,000 rpm (close to 80 mph, the torque peak in fourth). You can see the effect of this interesting power curve by looking at the 20 mph interval times for any of the intermediate gears; normally, certainly in a highish gear like fourth, the interval times are shortest in the upper middle speed range, as they are here, but appreciably longer before. In the Alpina case, they begin to drop below six seconds between 40 and 60 mph (2,000 to 3,100 rpm) and stay that way right up to 100, in spite of the cubically rising requirement of power to overcome drag.

    The standing start advantage over the normal wide-ratio M535i is best shown in the table; when looking at the getaway to 30 mph, it must be remembered that the Alpina had to be tested in not quite dry conditions, so that in spite of its 25 per cent limited slip differential, its power had to be limited carefully to reduce wheelspin.

    All this is done with such ease and, relatively speaking, considerable refinement — even if after the 2.5-litre 3-Series C2 Alpina #E30 , one is reminded that the first of BMW’s modern sixes (the 86x71.6mm, 2,495cc 2500) was the smoothest it ever made, the subsequent enlargements being progressively a little less so. Fuel consumption overall was measured during generally less demanding conditions than for the #M535i , so not too much should be deduced from the fact that we recorded 17.7 mpg for the normal car, and 22.5 for the Alpina. Generally, we would expect no penalty for the extra performance of the Alpina if both cars were driven identically, but a small advantage in the latter’s favour.

    The stiffer springing of the Alpina is obvious in a more choppy low speed ride which however smoothes out highly acceptably as the speed rises; one is never uncomfortable in the car, partly but not entirely because of the superbly locating driving seat. Flandling benefits usefully; the Alpina is, as usual, not such a handful as the standard car, even if you obviously have to be careful with such a power-to-weight ratio at low speed and in the wet. It sticks very well, with initial understeer — not much, in typical BMW fashion — and its change to oversteer is less severe and easier to control than normal. Stability is excellent in a straight line.

    Overall, this is the ideal conversion — entirely complete, as its brakes are up to the job, and everything is done properly. A big, well-tuned engine for the size of car is always far, far preferable to any turbocharger job, and the Alpina B10 5-series E28 is a perfect example of how to make such cars.

    Standing start acceleration (secs)
    Standard Alpina
    BMW B10
    Mph M535i 5-series
    0-30 2.8 2.8
    40 4.2 3.7
    50 5.7 5.5
    60 7.4 6.8
    70 10.4 8.6
    80 12.9 10.4
    90 15.8 12.6
    100 19.5 16.0
    110 24.4 19.5
    120 30.8 24.2
    130 42.2 31.3
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    Car #BMW-E24 #M635CSi

    The MINI departs for pastures new, the #M6 gets a new set of alloys and the #135i has come in for a dose of heavy tuning.

    YEAR: #1988
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 48
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 161,454
    MPG THIS MONTH: 21.9
    TOTAL COST: £415 (wheels and tyres)

    Having put a few miles under the M6’s wheels since I got it I had come to the conclusion that the metric rims and #Michelin-TRX rubber were going to have to go. On the one hand they do look absolutely perfect on the car and I’ve yet to see a Six on alternative rims that looks so quintessentially ‘right’ as a TRX-shod machine. The flip side of the coin is that the tyres are ferociously expensive, hard to come by and offer about as much grip in the wet as worn-out trainers on sheet ice. While this can be quite entertaining at times it does limit one’s progress and if you happen to forget what car you’re driving as you negotiate a roundabout it can be a little unnerving having to apply a liberal dose of opposite lock to keep things on the straight and narrow.

    Thus the search for a set of nonmetric rims was on the cards. The original wheels are about 16.3 inches in diameter so as far as I’m concerned the best wheels to fit are a set of 16s as to my mind this wasn’t a car that was designed with bigger rims in mind. 17s might fill the arches better but I’m more concerned with ride quality and handling balance than the ultimate in aesthetics. And perhaps most crucially so many E24s now run on the 17-inch cross-spoke threepiece Style 5 wheels, as fitted to the #E31 8 Series and the #E39 Five, that I wanted to do something a little different while still aiming for a vestige of originality in the looks department. I toyed with the idea of Alpinas but in the end decided these look better on a pre-Highline Six than the later cars. #E28 M5 16-inch cross-spokes would be perfect but are as rare as unicorns and as expensive, too. I spent ages on the bigcoupe.com wheels and tyres forum looking at what other folk had done but every time I clicked my browser window shut I felt I hadn’t got any closer to alloy nirvana for F570.

    And then I had my epiphany in Munich Legends’ car park. Sitting there was an #E24 #BMW-M635CSi sitting on a set of 16-inch cross-spoke alloys that I was pretty sure were from an E38 7 Series and also one of the optional wheels fitted to the #E39 Five. Some research confirmed that the wheel had been available on both cars – 8x16- inch on the #E38 and 7x16-inch on the E39. Whichever one I went for I would need to fit lower profile rubber in order to keep the speedo reading correctly and while the E38 rims have the correct centre bore their offset is ever so slightly wrong for a 6 Series. After some digging it transpired that some owners who had fitted these reported that the tyres could foul the front suspension leg. E39 rims bring their own problems in that the centre bore is the incorrect size, although this can be easily solved with a set of spigot rings.

    Now I’d decided what I wanted it was a case of trawling the classifieds and keeping a close eye on eBay. Being a bit of a skinflint I missed out on a couple of sets but eventually a third set popped up on my daily eBay search. What made this set particularly attractive was that they already had tyres of the correct size fitted as the seller had used them on an #E34 #535i Sport when he’d ditched the metrics. They were originally from an E38 and the seller confirmed that while they were pretty close to the front suspension leg when fitted to the E34 there wasn’t any fouling. It seems that depending on the brand of tyres fitted the shoulders of some makes bulge out further than others and it’s the tyre rather than the rim that can foul the leg. I felt I’d done my due diligence and determined not to miss out I put in a fairly high bid and waited somewhat impatiently for the auction to end. I was pleasantly surprised a week later to discover that I was the winner for the sum of £415 which wasn’t too bad, especially given the Falken Ziex 225/50 rubber fitted had only done 200 miles or so and were effectively brand-new.

    I sallied forth to Gloucestershire to pick them up and while not unmarked they did seem to be in very decent condition and the tyres were, indeed, almost brand-new. Once I’d got them home I needed to pop them into the Six so I could pop over to BM Sport (bmsport. com or 020 8304 9797) to have them fitted. This was easier said than done as I could only squeeze two of the wheels into the boot and had to pop the other two on the back seat with old coats protecting the leather.

    I could have fitted the wheels myself with the aid of a trolley jack but I wanted to have a detailed look at how close they were going to be to the front suspension leg. And when the car was up on the ramp it would also give me a chance to have a look at the ghastly exhaust that’s currently fitted as I wasn’t sure on exactly how much of the original system remained. As ever the chaps at BM Sport were fast and efficient and it seemed like only a matter of minutes before the metrics were off and the new Style 5s were on the car. They are quite tight by the front suspension leg but don’t actually foul and I’m really rather pleased with the way they look. On the road they’re a bit of a revelation being a lot quieter and significantly grippier than the TRXs. Obviously the Falkens don’t offer the ultimate grip of Pilot Sports or Conti SportContacts but by my reckoning you don’t want anything too grippy on an old chassis like the #BMW E24 as it wasn’t designed with this sort of grip in mind. And a bit of slip is entertaining, no?

    Just not too much. Overall I’m really very pleased with the new wheels and tyres, although Mrs H is less delighted about storing the TRXs which will be kept for the purposes of originality. Studying the exhaust when up on the ramp was less pleasing, though. I’m effectively going to need to find an original manifold back system as the new centre and rear sections just don’t look or sound quite right. I’ve yet to feel brave enough to find out exactly how much a new original system will cost – I know it’s going to be eye-watering – so I’m currently looking out for a decent used system, or perhaps thinking of having a bespoke system made up for the car. Decisions, decisions…
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