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    (NOT) GROWING UP Beautiful blue bagged E92 320d

    Deciding it’s time to grow up and stop modifying a car is easy, but actually doing it is much harder… Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Simon Ward

    There comes a time, we suppose, in all our lives when we will start thinking that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop modifying cars and start putting money away, sensibly, for the inevitable arrival of The Future and spending what spare money we have left on more grown-up interests, such as old whisky and expensive wax jackets or hand-crafted ethnic fair trade furniture. Perhaps that’s already happened, perhaps you’re sipping an 18-year-old single malt while wearing an expensive jacket, sitting on a chair made from Sheesham hardwood. What’s Sheesham? Exactly…

    Or perhaps it’s already crossed your mind while you were out shopping for your new car, or when you decided to spend three months’ wages on a new set of wheels, but you’ve not managed to commit yet. You can’t quit the grip of modding and you keep telling yourself that you’ll start being sensible any day now, but there’s just time for one last big score…

    That’s where Will Drayson found himself about four years ago, but we’ll let him tell his tale: “I’ve dreamed of owning a BMW since I first passed my test – something has always drawn me towards them. This was my first BMW; at the time I had just been promoted and began working in Sheffield. I had a modified Mk4 Golf and wanted something a bit smarter. I tried to be sensible and choose something with good economy as I was commuting about 300 miles a week. I went for the E92 320d as I loved how it looked and knew the running costs wouldn’t be an issue. It seemed like the perfect car for me.

    “I travelled to Leicester to get it. I’ve always been a bit OCD with my cars and paintwork and I’d spoken to the seller on the phone and told him that if it wasn’t perfect then not to waste my time, but if it was as good as he’d said I’d pay the full asking price. True to his word it was immaculate and when I pulled up to view it, before I even started the engine, I knew I wanted it. I was so happy when I bought it, I’ll never forget that day.

    “I originally told myself it was time to grow up, save money and take a break from the modifying scene… and then within four days had already painted the wheels a dark anthracite and ordered some coilovers. I couldn’t help myself – to me, modifying my cars is an expression of who I am. I don’t think it’ll ever be anything I can leave alone.”

    Will is most definitely a serial modifier and looking back through his case history it’s clear that nothing short of an intervention will be able to kerb his habit. After leaving school and starting work as a joiner, he modified his Astra work van. This was followed by a modified and financially crippling SEAT Leon Cupra R and then the slightly more sensible Golf GT TDi. This leads us neatly on to the 320d, the car that would not be modified, except is now probably more modified than all of the others put together. If we were mean, we’d go for a slow hand clap, but we’re sympathetic so we’ll opt for a consoling pat on the back instead. Not that Will needs consoling because his decision to go to town on his E92 means he’s ended up with a spectacular machine that turns heads wherever it goes.

    The reason for all that attention is simple: it looks absolutely spectacular. Will’s done a first rate job on the styling but what really sets it all off is that custom paint; it’s a gloriously bold blue, solid and striking and completely custom, conjured up by the mind of Will himself. We happen to know the ingredients that went into this unique blend but if we told you, we’d have to kill you, and then Will would probably come and kill us, so we won’t. All we can tell you is that it was created in a bit of a mad scientist moment of mixing, a Willy Wonka-esque colour mixing adventure with Will having no earthly way of knowing in which direction he was going, and when the smoke had cleared and it was all over, he’d conjured up his perfect shade of blue.

    But a blue E92 alone isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd. It needed to be sprayed over a body that’s deserving of all that love and attention: “I wanted quite an aggressive look while avoiding the M3 bumper/replica route,” he explains. “With it being a 320d the last thing I wanted was to ‘pretend’ it was an M3.” He’s certainly done a grand job of making his E92 look suitably aggressive without following the crowd. Will has smoothed the front bumper, removed the headlight washer jets, smoothed the bonnet, added NEM angel eyes with tinted internals along with tinted rear lights and then he’s gone to town on the carbon. There are carbon kidney grilles, front splitter, mirror covers that he skinned himself, Ericsson bootlid and a rear diffuser, which has been embellished with a pair of 335i tailpipes.

    Naturally, all that visual drama needed the right wheels and this too was an area where Will was keen not to blend in with everyone else and he wasn’t afraid of going off-piste in order to give his E92 a unique look: “The first set of wheels I put on were some Bentley Continental 19s,” he says. “I’d seen them a lot in the VAG scene and wanted to break the mould with the BMW scene. I’ve always liked how the VAG scene is about thinking outside-the-box, while on all the BMW forums everyone was just buying CSL replicas and it was bland in honesty. All modified Threes looked similar. I wanted to take a different route. Everyone told me it wouldn’t work and would look terrible but I hit up G23 Engineering for some adapters and put the Bentley wheels on and people’s minds were soon changed!

    “The car looked great – I miss that look to be fair. I ran them for a couple of years until I fancied a change and that’s when I spotted these concave Rotiform BLQs for sale with the exact same width and offsets as the Bentley wheels. They would be a straight fit onto my existing adaptors without any extra work so I thought it was a no brainer really!” Indeed, no brain was required for this decision as the BLQ is a great looking wheel, the concave profile really suiting the E92 styling and the black centres are the perfect match for the carbon elements scattered across the exterior.

    The perfect wheels need the perfect suspension setup and while Will’s first efforts were static, air was always an inevitability. “Originally I bought some D2 coilovers but they lasted about a year until they collapsed and went to an oily grave,” he says. “I then went with BC Racing coilovers, which were brilliant. I’d wanted air during that time but couldn’t afford it. I ran the BCs for about a year until I finally caved and went with the new #Air-Lift 3H kit. A friend of mine, Vick Nagi, mentioned I could be a guinea pig for the new kit through his company, Lowpro, so I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a kit as a test vehicle before the official release!” The 3H has been treated to a sexy floating boot install, comprising a single tank and twin compressors, complete with lighting and finished in satin grey to match his wheel lips.

    With the 320d having been purchased for its economy, Will has decided to leave the engine alone, bar the addition of a K&N panel filter and covering the air intake panel in carbon himself. “Even when I got to the point that I decided it was a show car and no longer a daily commuter I didn’t think it was worth spending money trying to squeeze more power from the engine. I’ve considered a 335i engine swap but it’s never really interested me; I love driving the car as it is and I’ve got nothing to prove, I don’t need 400 horses to enjoy it!” he smiles and that might be the most sensible thing we’ve heard him say all day!

    The engine might be stock, but the interior most definitely is not and Will’s made it a very nice place to spend time in.

    Gone are the stock M Sport front seats and in their place have been fitted a very sexy pair of leather-wrapped Recaro CS seats. “I’d seen an orange M3 on the internet with the BMW M Performance seats; they looked amazing and I was instantly hunting the web and eBay for a set,” grins Will. “They were like hens teeth to get hold of and at crazy prices whenever I found any. In the end I found a guy who stripped out Lotuses and made them into track cars who had taken a brand-new set of CSs out of an Exige. I bit his hand off when he mentioned selling them! I dismantled the original runners on the M Sport seats and fabricated some adaptors to put them onto the base of the CSs. I fitted the seats myself in about ten hours, doing the wiring and runners etc which I didn’t think was bad seeing I’m pretty much self-taught with vehicles!” With a pair of gorgeous leather seats up front the cloth rear bench really wouldn’t do, so this has now been trimmed in black leather to match. The trims have been painted in Land Rover Lago grey while after the shoot Will replaced the M Sport steering wheel with a flat-bottomed one complete with carbon trim panel. Finally, the audio has been uprated with a set of Focal speaker, tweeters and under-seat subs.

    While it may not have ended up being quite as sensible as Will might have initially wanted, his E92 remains a grown up car that’s the perfect blend of diesel frugality and jaw-dropping show car looks meaning he is both having his cake and eating it, which is about as much as you could ever ask for. Any future plans for the E92 that may have been brewing have currently been put on hold as Will has just bought a house, arguably the most sensible and grown up thing you can purchase, but that’s no big deal because at the moment he says he’s really happy with how the car looks and we’re with him on that one.

    “I love driving the car as it is. I don’t need 400 horses to enjoy it”

    “Before I’d even started the engine, I knew I wanted it. I was so happy”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE Air-ride #BMW-E92 / #BMW-320d / #BMW-320d-E92 / #BMW-320d-Air-Ride / #BMW-320d-Air-Ride-E92 / #BMW-E92-Air-Ride / #Rotiform-BLQ / #Rotiform / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E92

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel #N47D20 / #BMW-N47 / #N47 , #K&N panel filter, carbon air intake cover, 335i tailpipes, six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 9x19” ET41 (front and rear) three-piece forged super concave #Rotiform BLQs with gloss black faces and satin gunmetal lips on G23 adapters with 215/35 (front and rear) tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance-3H air-ride with performance struts, chassis modified for greater front end drop, grooved discs and pads (front and rear)

    EXTERIOR Full respray in custom mixed bright blue, smoothed front bumper with washer jets removed, smoothed bonnet with #BMW roundel removed, carbon fibre kidney grilles, #Ericsson bootlid, diffuser, splitter and wing mirror covers, #NEM-angel-eye headlights with blacked-out internals, tinted rear lights

    INTERIOR #Recaro-CS seats, flat bottom steering wheel with carbon fibre trim added after the shoot, internal trims painted in Land Rover Lago grey, rear seats retrimmed in black leather, Focal speakers, tweeters and under-seat subs, full floating boot install with single tank, twin Viair compressors, lighting and satin grey tank

    THANKS Adi Camm and Dave Shaw at A&D Autos for all your help and support over many years and allowing me to spend hundreds of hours generally getting in the way at your unit! Vick Nagi at Lowpro for all his encouragement and helping me achieve my goals. Phil James at The Install Company for the wicked install and hard work on getting that front end drop so low. My mum and dad for supporting me throughout all of this and letting me dismantle cars on the drive at 1am on multiple occasions! All my close friends for the constant wind-ups about my car – it spurred me on to do better

    “I love driving the car as it is. I don’t need 400 horses to enjoy it”
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    SCANDINAVIAN SLAM Air-ride E91 Touring
    Who says diesel Tourings need to be boring? In the land of outrageous turbocharging, one Norwegian cares more about the air-ride stance. Words: Iain Curry. Photos: Erik Berg-Johansen.

    Stance is everything, right? Feel free to lust after an M2, M3, M5, whatever, but get the stance right on any run-of-the-mill #BMW and you can turn just as many heads. This fact gives us all hope. We can’t all drop tens of thousands on a new M car, nor employ an expensive specialist to bolt on a giant turbo and associated upgraded parts to create a street weapon. But get a car sitting just right and for comparatively little coin you’re a show favourite.

    Which makes this Norwegian E91 something of a rarity. You see, our Norwegian cousins have not only an enviable quality of life, but most of them have a fair chunk of disposable income too. Sure, it costs a lot to live in this beautiful Scandinavian land, but locals are well paid to compensate. I’ve met plenty of 20- something Norwegian car modifiers who think nothing of owning both a city flat plus a holiday home by the lakes to retreat to each weekend.

    It means many have the money to drive around in new German cars, and often make their mark by adding top-end aftermarket body parts, chassis upgrades and engine mods. Think back to all the 1000hp+ BMWs we’ve featured and many will be from Norway or the equally bountiful Sweden. And just to complete your jealousy, these Scandinavians sure know how to drive too. A thousand horses through the rear treads?

    Wheels spinning in fourth gear? No problem. It’s as if they’re born knowing how to control it. Just check out the names of those who mastered the Too Fast To Race Group B rally cars of the 1980s. Yep, the Scandinavians. Showing there are more strings to their bows than just bonkers turbo beasts, Kim Arild Grindermoen has chosen pure stance over performance with his 3 Series Touring. It’s all about air suspension, something he insists is nothing to be afraid of in terms of ease of fitment and even practicality thanks to the easily adjustable ride height. Yes he’s a tad biased as he set up and runs a company called StanceShop – a dealership for Air Lift Performance suspension and AccuAir air suspension management – but he’s a man worth listening to when he can make a humble estate car look this damn perfect on the stance front.

    The 26-year-old from Otta in rural Norway is a welder by trade, and bought this totally standard 2011 320d Touring with an M Sport pack to make what he says is his “own statement; something I have never done before by taking it all the way with air-ride”.

    It certainly isn’t Kim’s first time at the rodeo. Modifying cars since the age of 16, he cut his teeth on an old Mitsubishi with the usual aftermarket wheels and lowering, before progressing to BMWs a few years later. He’s been very active since then. An E36 was first, then an E30 followed by five more E36s, four more E30s, two E32s and five E34s. Busy boy.

    While Kim is one for big power too – he’s currently at work creating a madman E34 Touring with turbocharged M50B25 turbo engine – the 320d Touring has to serve as a daily driver, so the frugal diesel engine has been left practically untouched. An updated ECU helps the four-cylinder realise 207hp now – up from the standard 184hp – which Kim says is “enough for the street to lose your licence.”

    Visual clout comes from the ride height, and Kim says the kit is “plug and play and fits without modifications”. We all like the sound of that. “It took a couple of days to get it up and running because of the wiring and air lines,” he explains, “but the struts are as easy as coilovers to install.” Kim says it’s all bolt on with no need for further modifications to the chassis or body.

    Slammed on the ground the Touring looks fantastic, and the rear end in particular looks far fatter with the back wheel arches seeming to nicely bulge with the deep-dish 10x19-inch ADV.1 three-piece rims swallowed up by them. But no, those rear arches are completely standard. Up front the 9-inch rims with skinny 225/35 Falken FK453 rubber are ideally placed in the front arches.

    Improving things are the 320d’s front arches making way for M3 items with the side indicators replaced by gunmetal stripes. It’s a subtle addition, but adds some front end sportiness to otherwise plain 320d sides. The exterior stays true to BMW’s original Touring shape with Kim going for subtle enhancements to the black body. Most obvious is smoked tape – from Norwegian company Fantasy Factory – to coat the lights around the car, once again this being most obvious at the rear which now looks very mean-looking in its darkness, complemented by a 335i diffuser. A pair of 335i-look Ragazzon exhaust tips pop out from the diffuser, but other than that the bumpers are just factory M Sport items.

    While owning an estate car means plenty of room for an outrageous air install, this has to serve as Kim’s practical daily, so that wasn’t an option, but what he has done is put together a very smart, simple install while still leaving plenty of useable room in the load area. He’s running a single, black tank, which ties in with the rest of the car’s mean and moody appearance and is running twin Viair compressors plumbed into an AccuAIr VU4 four-corner solenoid valve unit. In the boot’s side compartment Kim’s added a fibreglass eight-inch subwoofer box, backing up Rockford Fosgate speakers and updated head unit in the main cabin. He has also wired in a Rockford Fosgate 3Sixty.3 eight-channel interactive signal processor which works as an OEM integration ‘black box’ for much improved audio control. While the interior has been kept practically standard, the addition of an OEM Alcantara M Performance steering wheel is a rather welcome upgrade.

    The cabin-mounted AccuAir controller offers quick and easy ride height adjustment allowing for seamless transition from slammed show car to practical grocerygetter. Kim also says he’s given the Touring a bash on Norway’s Rudskogen raceway, reporting back that it handles just fine.

    Good modifiers are always looking to move on to the next challenge, and Kim says his air-ride E91 will soon serve as practical family transport as his first child is due by the end of the year. He says as a result he’ll be closing down StanceShop, also partly due to how difficult it is to get air-ride cars approved for Norwegian roads, which makes his creation all the more impressive. “I’ll be focusing more on the family life, but you’ll still see cars being modified in the future by me,” he says, reminding us that his E34 is going to be a boosted show special with plenty of fast road potential. So this airride E91 will soon be the official family wagon. Not only will it be the coolest thing rocking up at kiddie daycare, but just think of the endless hours of fun the kids will have raising and lowering this Touring via that control pad. Who needs babysitters?

    DATA FILE #Air-ride E91 / #BMW-320d-Touring / #BMW-E91 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E91 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E91 / #BMW-320d-Touring-E91 / #N47D20 / #N47 / #BMW-N47 / #BMW-320d-Touring-Air-ride / #BMW-320d

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel N47D20, #Ragazzon exhaust system, uprated ECU, six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 9x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) #ADV.1 three-piece wheels with 225/35 (front and rear) Falken FK453 tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance suspension and #AccuAir management

    EXTERIOR M Sport bumpers, E92 M3 front wings with side indicators replaced by gunmetal strips, Fantasy Factory smoked tape for lights all-round, OEM 335i rear diffuser, M tricolour stripes on kidney grille

    INTERIOR M Performance Alcantara steering wheel, updated head unit, twin Viair compressors, single air tank, AccuAir VU4 valve unit, fibreglass 8” subwoofer box in boot, Rockford Fosgate speakers, Rockford Fosgate 3Sixty.3 eight-channel interactive signal processor

    “[I wanted to make my] own statement; something I’ve never done before”
    Interior has been treated to an M Performance Alcantara steering wheel and the in-car audio has also been upgraded. Boot area houses the smart and simple air-ride install; 19” ADV.1 three-piece wheels look fantastic and really suit the E91 shape.

    2.0d engine may be nothing special to look at but it’s the perfect mill for a daily driver and a remap has resulted in a healthy 207hp.
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    BOLD BMW-123d Slammed and styled Austin yellow stunner

    SHOW GIRL Styled and slammed 123d

    With stunning Austin yellow bodywork and a whole host of dazzling mods, this 123d is a serious show stopper. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Matt Woods. / #BMW-1-Series / #BMW-1-Series-E82 /

    We’re calling it: 2016 is the year of the 1 Series. Okay, the 3 Series remains our most prolific feature car, as it always has done, but this year we’ve seen amazing 1 Series after amazing 1 Series, almost one an issue and there’s no sign of this influx of perfectly modified baby BMs letting up anytime soon. As far as we’re concerned, that’s a very good thing, as this gorgeous 123d Coupé perfectly illustrates.

    Regular show-goers will know this car very well as it can usually be spotted at most events throughout the year and often leaving with some kind of silverware, though owner Dee Barwick deserves at least some of the credit, she did build it after all. It is the latest in a long line of cars that she’s owned, which includes a Sharpie’d MX-5 (more of that sort of thing later…), a classic Mini, a Mk3 Golf GTi (the latter of which was replaced by her first BMW for reasons of child-based practicality) and an E46 320i. Dee bought the car completely standard but, after tinting the windows to keep her kids cool, her partner James, owner of the equally well-known E46 that we featured back in our November ’15 issue, suggested modifying the E46. So she did. The unsuspecting saloon ended up being wrapped in cream, with an M3 front bumper and a set of cross-spokes, and it looked good. Dee was happy, or at least until she saw a 1 Series Coupé at the Santa Pod show and decided that she needed one of those in her life. As luck would have it, James worked at MStyle at the time and regular customer, Jas Bassan, came in one day talking about selling his 123d and that’s what he did, to Dee.

    Judging by how the car looks now, having started off silver and pretty ordinarylooking, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Dee had gone into the 1 Series ownership experience with big plans. However the car was intended for daily duties, with James’ M3 serving as the toy but things clearly didn’t work out that way: “Within two days it had been dropped,” she laughs, “and then we fitted the carbon rear diffuser and carbon mirror caps.” And so it began. As with many projects it was necessity caused by problems that let to modifications instead of repairs; for example, soon after its purchase a puncture appeared which James said he would sort out at work: “The car came home on coilovers, with spacers and stretched tyres,” Dee says, laughing. “After two weeks James drove it into the back of a van,” cue more laughter from everyone except James at this point, “which was a good excuse for an M Performance front bumper,” and we’d be inclined to agree. The M Performance bumper is a great choice, blending perfectly with the rest of the car’s styling but its clean, aggressive design is very distinctive and it really makes the car look a lot wider and more purposeful. This was accompanied by a pair of very smart-looking Depo headlights, complete with angel eyes and dipped beam projector lenses, which really help to clean up the front end.

    While a colour change is something that many of us think about, it’s usually something that happens in the latter stages of ownership, once you’ve put in the work to get your car looking just right. Especially if you car’s already a decent colour, like the silver this 123d was to begin with. But while Dee may not have had much in the way of modifying plans when she bought her 1 Series, changing the colour was always on the cards. “The moment I bought it I knew I was going to be changing the colour,” she says and there followed a long period of indecision, with James Photoshopping the two front runners on to the car to help a decision to be reached.

    “It was either going to be Yas Marina blue or Austin yellow,” Dee explains. Both are striking choices and brand-new to the BMW colour palette having been launched on the M3 and M4. “I was struggling to decide between them so I went to see a couple of M4s in both colours and in the end it had to be Austin yellow.” We’re going to say good choice because while Yas Marina is very nice and distinctive, Austin has that wow factor. Its rich yellow blending into gold really makes it stand out and it looks glorious whatever the weather, whatever the light. It’s exactly the sort of colour you want for a show car and one that’s guaranteed to get you noticed.

    While the colour change is a big deal, Dee didn’t rest on her laurels and put in the effort with the additional supporting touches and that’s what really makes the difference here. Black and gold is a classic combo, so that the car’s been fitted with black grilles is a given. The mirrors and roof have also been sprayed black, but it’s not just any black. This is Subaru Java black pearl and what’s special about this colour is that it’s black with a yellow flake; it’s very subtle, you’d barely even notice it if you didn’t know, especially on a dull day but, when the light hits it, all those yellow flakes glow, and the end result is not only a little bit magical, but it’s a brilliant way of seamlessly tying those prominent black elements in with that blindingly bold bodywork.

    Additional exterior tweaks include smoothed boot and bonnet roundels, a Rhinolip front splitter, BMW M Performance rear spoiler and dark smoke window tints. Even the engine bay has been given the black and yellow treatment but it’s the interior where things get really special. The first step was getting rid of the textured M Sport interior trims and replacing them with a set of plain, smooth trims, ripe for modifying which, initially, involved wrapping them in a cityscape design. It looked cool and was definitely different, but once the car went Austin, it wasn’t right. That’s when Dee’s artistic streak kicked in and the legacy of the Sharpie’d MX-5 returned.

    The interior trims were removed, sprayed Austin yellow and then the Sharpies came out and, after going through countless pens and spending hours and hours on each piece, Dee had created a truly unique design for her trims. It looks absolutely fantastic, an incredibly intricate design that someone less talented would have inevitably ruined and someone less patient would have got bored with after five minutes, but Dee’s dedication definitely paid off and you’re not going to find anything like this in any other cars anytime soon.

    The attention to detail with the colour scheme continues in the boot where the warning triangle case, not something a lot of people are ever going to see, has been painted in Austin yellow and most of the capacious boot is taken up by a pair of JL subs mounted in a hefty enclosure. As far as wheels are concerned the 123d is on its third set now and arguably its best.

    “When I bought the car it was on Dare RSs,” says Dee, “so obviously they had to go. I started looking at 3SDMs and initially wanted the six-spoke 0.06s but they were everywhere and that’s when I decided to go for the 0.04s instead.”

    For those unfamiliar with these wheels they are concave directional multi-spokes, and they look good, really quite different to most things out there and they looked great on the 1 Series, finished in silver and running the large centre cap option. “I was really pleased with the wheels but then everyone started buying them,” laughs Dee, “so I decided to change them again. I saw these Ispiri CSR1Ds and liked them immediately. They reminded me of the Corvette sawblades that I had wanted for the car. I knew I was going to buy them, but I couldn’t decide whether to go for silver or gold…”

    As you can see, gold won and we reckon it was definitely the right decision. In fact, the colour match is so good with the Austin bodywork that it almost looks like a custom spray job on the wheels; even the outer edges of the lips are finished in gold from the factory. Dee also says that she reckons the dished design suits the look of the 1 Series better than the concave 3SDMs and we’re in agreement. The wheels sit on 12mm spacers to get the fitment just right.

    With a twin-turbo diesel mill under the bonnet that responds very well to tuning it’s no surprise that Dee has thrown some gofaster mods into the mix. The exhaust looks non-standard and sounds decidedly fruity, a result of the decidedly free-flowing custom system, which starts from the manifold and runs through a DPF and resonator. The latter, says Dee, will go, but the DPF will remain because it helps keep the 123d’s rear end relatively soot-free; important when your car’s such a bright colour and you’re a show regular. Under the bonnet sits a K&N panel filter for improved breathing while a Mosselman remap gives an impressive increase in performance, taking power up to 242hp along with 354lb ft of torque.

    A lot of work has gone into this 123d but, more than just that, there’s a lot of care, attention to detail and planning, none of the modifications you see before you have been added without some degree of prior planning. The end result is one of the most eye-catching Ones we’ve seen and this little BM gets a lot of love wherever it goes.

    Dee’s not done just yet, though, with immediate plans for getting the engine bay looking a bit more special and bigger, and long term plans that include a possible engine swap and seats and a cage once the kids are older and we don’t doubt that all of that will happen because this 1 Series isn’t going anywhere. It has to hang around anyway because, for now, the modifying has been put on hold as Dee and James are engaged and saving for their wedding, so congratulations are in order. As soon as that’s out of the way, though, the 123d will take centre stage in Dee’s life once more and we can’t wait to see where it goes from here…

    “The moment I bought it I knew I was going to be changing the colour”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E82 / #BMW-123d / #BMW-123d-E82 / #N47D20 / #N47 / #BMW-N47 / #Ispiri / #Mosselman /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo N47D20, #K&N panel filter, centre and rear box delete with twin tips, #Mosselman performance remap, #Sprint booster, six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 8.5x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) #Ispiri-CSR1D wheels in vintage gold with 12mm TPi spacers (front and rear) and 205/40 (front) and 225/35 (rear) Nankang NS20 tyres, fully polybushed, Supersport height and damping adjustable coilovers

    EXTERIOR Full respray in BMW Austin yellow with Subaru Java black roof and mirrors, BMW M Performance front bumper, Rhinolip front splitter, #Depo-V2 headlamps, yellow inner bulbs, BMW M Performance black kidney grilles, carbon fibre rear diffuser, #BMW-M-Performance carbon rear spoiler, smoothed bonnet roundel, smoothed boot roundel, dark smoke window tints

    INTERIOR ‘Sharpie art’ interior trims painted Austin yellow, twin JL Audio sub box and JL Audio amp

    THANKS James Barrett for finding me the car and Jas Bassan for letting her go, Mercury auto refinishing for the paintwork, Barrett Motorwerks for the wheels and mods, PBMW for this feature, but most off all James for the help, guidance and support!
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    LONGTERMERS F30 320d Sport / #BMW-F30 / #BMW-320d-Sport / #BMW-320d-Sport-F30 / #BMW-320d-F30 / #BMW-320d / #BMW /

    Punctures, MoTs, more sparkly bits and one of the fleet meets its maker… but in a good way!

    The mileage countdown to the next service continues on its merry way, and we’re 3500 miles from someone taking the wheels off and whipping out the rear brake pads for a fresh set. Followed shortly after by an oil change and vehicle check, plus the front pads too I think. I’m still undecided as to whether to go the whole hog and do it all in one go, saving on garage visits. I’m also undecided as to whether to go main dealer or specialist, as there’s a local garage with a good reputation which I could try. I’ll have to give them a call and see if they’re rigged up to accept the F30, but given the number on the roads one assumes this will be the case.

    Vodafone gave me a new iPhone about, oh I dunno, twelve months ago, and ever since then I’ve not been able to use the BMW Remote app as I lost the registration details as a consequence. So I’ve been through the process again this month and finally got it working, just as a new iPhone 6S Plus arrived (which I’ll be using to finally upload a 4K video review of KP12 to my YouTube channel – I know, it’s only taken about a year since I mentioned it…).

    Naturally enough, I again neglected to take all the details off the old 5S (there’s always something which gets missed with events such as these isn’t there) so I poured myself a drink and pondered whether it was worth the aggro. Onto the ‘phone again to a chap at a BMW call centre, and when we finally resolved the mine field which is its SMS and email-based password reset process, I was able to gain access to the app.

    Not sure why I bothered though, to be honest. Does anybody out there actually use these things? The ventilation function merely activates the fan operation, not the airconditioning, hence it makes about as much difference on a hot day as a particularly tired flea furiously flapping its wings on the parcel shelf. The lock/unlock function takes an age to transmit to and from the car (and good luck getting that confidence- inspiring ‘ok’ message if your ‘phone loses the 3G or 4G signal mid-way through the procedure) and besides, who the hell wants to remotely unlock their car anyway? And I can’t really see the point of the remote headlight flash either, because by the time you’ve searched that remote festival or stately home car park where this feature is presumably of any practical benefit and found your car, the time taken to do so roughly correlates to the time taken for the headlight flash signal to actually reach the car. The app’s a good idea, but the tech has some way to go before it works.

    At least the front nearside Bridgestone Potenza has finally been replaced, courtesy of those efficient people at, not to mention my preferred local fitment centre, carterton (01993 843987) who welcomed me on a chilly Saturday morning with a wireless code for the aforementioned 6S Plus (why are mobile ‘phones regressing to the size they were in the 80s?) and a comfy sofa whilst the 224/40 R19 was smeared around the alloy in a scant 20 minutes. Excellent service, highly recommend both outfits.

    Still on the subject of tyres, the morning after we had the front replaced, the dashboard lit up claiming that one of the tyres had a puncture. It took a few seconds for me to register that the tyre fitment not 24 hours earlier probably had something to do with it, and indeed a message then appeared on the iDrive, stating what should happen next but at the same time, opining that perhaps the pressure sensor needed to be reset. Which we duly did and all has been well since. I had this problem last time too, as I recall. I really must make a note of these things…

    Prior to receiving the aforementioned new tyre, KP12 again found itself dumped in North Oxford’s secure parking area this month as I had the use of the new X6 for a weekend, and yet again here is an SUV/SAV which drew a cool response upon first acquaintance, but which I badly wanted by the end of the loan. Tellingly, the length of time it took to talk me around on this occasion was but just a few miles. Heading west down the A40 towards home, left arm again slung out across the transmission tunnel, my mind went back to the E71 version I drove for April 2014’s issue of BMW Car magazine. I said then that the meek may inherit the earth but they won’t be driving X6 BMWs, and I stand by that statement. This is arrogance on wheels, a get-out-of-my-lane device. And I absolutely love it.

    The loan car was a 30d M Sport, complete with tasty options such as the driver assistance package, which drove me mad down the M11 with its constant ‘red alert’ warnings from the instrument cluster. Does an engineer somewhere in BMW assume that stop, start traffic continues forward at a regulation 100 feet? So that soon got turned off. But otherwise, a combination of the new interior architecture (which is utterly gorgeous, locating the driver low down with a high waistline and prominent instrument pod) seriously impressive refinement wedded to push-you-back surge and the amusing sight of the tsunami of spray kicked up by the 315/35 20s out back really found favour with me. Funny how your opinion of something can really change when you spend some serious time with it. Twice. We were again bound for Suffolk, and the X6 repeated its shrinking trick around the lanes. Grunty, grippy, and happy to be hustled. Then swing onto the A120 on the way home, warp to 80mph, ease the throttle and relax.

    Fields and towns slip by the side windows, the elevated driving position subconsciously lowers your heart rate and the excellent eight-speed auto discreetly sorts the ratios. Then you spy the journey computer and it claims this two tonne, two-storey motor is doing 34mpg. Alchemy achieved. And yes, I know, it’ll be crap off road. But it’s utterly pointless to score the X6’s off-road abilities as it totally misses the point. You may as well assume that porn stars make good lovers. Just because something looks like it may be fit for purpose, doesn’t mean it will be.

    BMW doesn’t make a bad car these days (although the hyperactive puppy that is the M135i is probably my least favourite of recent years). They make an awful lot of good cars, and I’ve heaped praise on pretty much all of them. This latest X6 though, crumbs it’s good. Quite what the next one will be like is anybody’s guess but for now, I’ll take an #BMW-X6-40d-M-Sport / #BMW-X6-F16 over them all, including icons such as the M5 and i8.

    So much so that I’ve been looking at used ones as yet another potential replacement option for KP12. They don’t depreciate with quite the same venom as something like an F01 7 Series (another seriously tasty option – how does £18k for a 48k mile 2009 750i with the full options list of night vision, radar, blind spot, lane guidance and HUD sound?) but nevertheless, low 30s seems to soon be the going rate for an X6 M50d, and that’s one incredibly grunty motor. In short, lots to go shopping for when 2016 dawns in January.

    In contrast to all this, a recent trip to Beaulieu motor museum almost seemed like an anti-climax. I hadn’t been in a few years (er…twenty five, actually) and was expecting a significant difference as a consequence, but that feeling never really materialised. The much-lauded Top Gear exhibition was pretty poor in my view and the food in the main canteen area was awful. The main indoor exhibition area was impressive enough, and the sight and (near silent) sound of a Rolls-Royce Ghost running whilst an engineer talked the crowd through its engine servicing and maintenance schedule was impressive, too. But that was pretty much it and more to the point, it’s all they really had twenty-five years ago, too. And never mind that BMW content seemed very thin on the ground. Worse actually, the enormous model railway they had in those days has apparently been repatriated Stateside at the request of its owners, so that’s not there any more either. It was nice to see the place, but we won’t be back.

    F30 320d Sport / #N47D20 / #N47
    YEAR: #2012
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 47,977
    MPG THIS MONTH: 47.7
    COST THIS MONTH: £187 (tyre)

    A new tyre was required this month and Black Circles and HiQ came up trumps; Mark wishes he’d remembered to reset the TPC though!
    THANKS TO: North Oxford #BMW 01865 319000
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    Perfectly Refined

    We take a first drive in the new 518d and 520d models /// #BMW-518d-F10 /// #BMW-520d-F10 /// #BMW-518d-F11 /// #BMW-520d-F11

    The best-selling four-cylinder diesel Fives were pretty good already but now they have been fitted with the new 2.0-litre engine they’re better than ever Words: Kyle Fortune. Photography: BMW.

    “Germans don’t do coffee,” says one of the journalists present. “Great at beer but terrible at coffee.” There’s nothing wrong with mine though; it’s strong, black and hot. It’s needed, too, after a 1.50am start to get to the airport. The occasion? The international launch of BMW’s new #BMW-518d and #BMW-520d , and the coffee discussion is at the lunch stop just outside Munich. No scrappy Moto or Extra service station here, but a proper Dinzler Kaffeerösterei stop, where the coffee is excellent and Germany’s reps and middle management are better catered for than the eye-wateringly expensive Costas and Starbucks that litter our motorway service stations in the UK.

    We’re not here to discuss the merits of crushed beans and hot water, though. We, like the target audience, have just driven here in BMW’s 5 Series fleet specials. The cynic in you could consider #BMW ’s 2002 introduction of EfficientDynamics as being timed a little too perfectly, the firm’s low CO² engines arriving at almost exactly the point in time when CO² -based taxation arrived on company cars. A candid conversation a few years ago with a BMW insider refuted that; BMW’s drive to efficiency was a curious and lucky quirk of timing rather than actually planned. Regardless, it has been at the top of the game since, though inevitably others have caught up. The new 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine that brought us here today is the firm’s response.

    In the UK last year the 5 Series took 14,445 sales, of which 11,296 were 520ds. That new engine is significant then, and the 518d is unlikely to make a huge impact on that, as its CO² rating of 114g/km is no different from that of its more powerful 520d relation. Economy is the same, too, at 65.7mpg on the combined cycle. That worsens to 60.1mpg and 124g/km if you opt for a larger wheel and tyre package. Opt for the eight-speed Steptronic automatic, as around 50 per cent of buyers will, and both achieve 109g/km in SE guise only and 65.8mpg – or 114g/km and 119g/km on Luxury and M Sport wheels respectively.

    Whatever way you look at it, those are some fairly incredible numbers. And they’re achieved without any sacrifice in performance; indeed, the 520d gains 6hp and 15lb ft (20Nm) of torque, yet returns around ten per cent better economy. The 520d delivers 190hp at 4000rpm, its peak torque of 295lb ft (400Nm) achieved between 1750-2500rpm, which helps a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox or 7.7 seconds with the automatic. Understandably, the 518d’s numbers are more modest: it develops 150hp at 4000rpm, while its maximum torque of 266lb ft (360Nm) is produced over the same rev range as the 520d. Although it’s slower than the 520d on paper, its 9.5-second manual (9.4-second auto) 0-62mph time underlining this, it doesn’t feel so outgunned on the road.

    Christian Hiemesch, Project Director Development Diesel Engines for BMW 5, 6 and 7 Series, explains that the new diesel engine family is already used in both the X3 and 2 Series Active Tourer. Designated B47, the 1995cc unit replaces the N47 engine. It’s a modular unit with 500cc cylinders allowing three-, four- and six-cylinder layouts. The B37 three-cylinder version will power the 216d Active Tourer for instance. The new engine is designed to be fitted transversely and longitudinally, for use in both MINIs and front-wheel drive BMWs.

    No such divisive drive in the 5 Series. Although xDrive four-wheel drive offerings mean some European markets will see power directed to the front, in the UK the 5 Series remains resolutely rearwheel drive. Like its predecessor, the B47 features EfficientDynamics technology to maximise economy.

    TwinPower turbocharging, Electric Power Steering and Brake Energy Recuperation all feature, while mapcontrolled oil pumps with variable vanes enable continuously adjustable control of the volume flow and pressure in response to the engine’s status. Thermodynamic efficiency is improved around the core of the engine, too, as has the starting characteristics of the Auto Start Stop function, the result being even less scavenging losses to auxiliaries.

    The variable intake ‘TwinPower’ turbochargers have been optimised with new roller bearings, while newly designed heat exchangers for the exhaust gas flow optimise cooling performance – to the benefit of a reduction in maximum combustion temperatures and efficiency. The common-rail injection system uses new solenoid valve injectors for more precise control of fuel flow, and allow increased injection pressure – of up to 2000bar. Friction reductions have been achieved thanks to thermally joined cylinder liners in the aluminium crankcase, while the stiffer case, along with balancer shafts, help to improve refinement.

    Those changes are obvious immediately; as in the 218d Active Tourer we’ve driven elsewhere in this issue (p28), the 2.0-litre turbodiesel’s refinement is exceptional, even more so when under the Five’s bonnet. There are absolutely no vibrations, so the smoothness and eagerness to rev are both very impressive, and the improved Auto Start Stop system is all but imperceptible in its operation – not least because of the engine’s near silence and lack of vibration. Choose Eco Pro via the Drive Performance Control switch and the earnest eco bias feels like you’re pushing an accelerator that’s attached vaguely to the engine, so the standard Comfort mode is preferable unless you value economy over all else.

    The dual-nature of BMW’s four-cylinder turbodiesels has always been their strongest point though. Even without much thought to efficiency they’ll return highly credible economy, and yet still produce effortless performance on demand. Ask for more and that keenness to rev is unlike the majority of BMW’s offerings, though it’s at its best when specified with the eight-speed automatic gearbox.

    That optional Steptronic transmission helps achieve greater economy and emissions figures over the sixspeed manual. It does this by a number of measures, including an rpm-linked damper with engine specific tuning that allows lower rev driving without the usual compromises in vibration and acoustic intrusion. The longer ratios assist, too, as does a sat nav-linked predictive shift. The gearbox talks to the sat nav – even when not routing – to allow the optimum shifting strategy for the driving situation, as well as a coasting function in Eco Pro mode.

    The 5 Series diesel has come a long way from its 1984 524td beginnings with 115hp and 40.9mpg. Now if only UK customers were offered somewhere as nice to stop for a coffee on the road all would be right with the world.

    TECG DATA BMW F10 518d SE & 520d SE #BMW-F10 /// #BMW-F11
    518d SE 520d SE
    ENGINE: Four-cylinder, 16-valve turbodiesel Four-cylinder, 16-valve turbodiesel / #N47D20 / #N47
    CAPACITY: 1995cc 1995cc
    MAX POWER: 150hp @ 4000rpm 190hp @ 4000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 266lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm 295lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
    TOP SPEED: 135mph (134) 146mph (144)
    0-62MPH: 9.5 seconds (9.4) 7.9 seconds (7.7)
    ECONOMY 65.7mpg (68.9) 65.7mpg (68.9)
    EMISSIONS: 114g/km (109) 114g/km (109)
    WEIGHT (EU): 1690kg (1700) 1695kg (1705)
    PRICE: £30,265 (£31,815) £31,965 (£33,515)
    Figures in brackets refer to eight-speed auto #ZF-8HP
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    Camo-wrapped and rocking air-ride and super RSs, this is definitely an E90 Saloon with attitude. Trust us, there’s an E90 on this page somewhere. And once you’ve spotted it, you’ll be glad you did… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Kevin Raekelboom.

    Camouflage is a tricky business. On the face of it, it should be a relatively simple thing; the first image that springs to mind is army fatigues, coloured in randomly-placed patches of green, brown, and fifty shades of beige, to allow a soldier to neatly blend into their bushy surroundings, perhaps with a twig or two taped to the head for good measure. Or perhaps various gradations of sand might be employed for desert combat. And look at the humble chameleon – hiding in plain sight is a simple affair if you’re able to harness any given colour for your own strategic benefit. Nature’s got this thing sussed.

    The tricky bit comes when you need to hide something quite large. Arguably the coolest expression of the medium emerged among the marine fleets of World War I, in the form of so-called ‘dazzle camouflage’. This is well worth looking up online if you have a moment, as it looks really cool – jagged black and white stripes, resembling something you might expect to find on a 1920s Soviet movie poster, which supposedly helped to disguise these massive warships among the waves. The complex, interruptive patterns of geometric shapes proved that you can hide anything, as long as you take enough care to disguise it (although, to be pedantic, dazzle camo didn’t hide the ships at all; it merely made it impossible to gauge how far away they were…).

    Nicky Knapen is a man who knows all about making camouflage work in the real world. Of course, ‘real’ is a relative term, and he exists within a mid-Nineties Nintendo game, as viewed through a blackand- white telly. So in his realm, this E90 3 Series is totally invisible – it’s merely the fact that you, dear reader, live in The Matrix that you’re able to see it at all.

    “I first saw this style of camo on Jon Olsson’s Audi RS6, and I just had to have something similar,” Nicky grins. For the uninitiated, Olsson’s wagon is a 1000hp road-legal scene legend, and thus not a bad benchmark to set for a project, even if purely on aesthetic terms. It’s a logical touchpoint for Nicky too, coming as he does from a VAG background; former projects for him include a Mk1 Golf and a Mk4 Golf, and he’s among a tide of people flooding from the VW scene to the BMW scene, hanging on to their imagery with both hands and eager for a fresh canvas to paint it all over.

    “I always had my eye on a BMW, the rearwheel drive was a big draw for me,” he confirms, accompanied by the nodding of countless scene veterans. “And I always wanted a special car – something that gets looks wherever it goes. So it took me about a year to get this car looking the way I wanted it to, but I’m proud of the fact that I did it all myself. And no, I stopped counting how much I’ve spent on it long ago…”

    So, that RS6 aside, where did the inspiration come from? “Oh, I never think,” Nicky smiles, brilliantly enigmatic in his modesty. “I just try new things. I do what I feel like, and I hope everybody likes it. But that doesn’t totally matter, I mainly do it for me.” Admirable sentiment indeed – while it’s nice to earn the adoration and accolades of your peers, your car is ultimately your car alone, and you might as well do it the way you want it rather than simply trying to appease a bunch of strangers, right?

    Backslapping and internet fame are merely fringe benefits of a job well done. Let’s get down to brass tacks, then. What we’re looking at here is a 320d. So what’s a repmobile-spec oil-burner doing in the hallowed pages of a magazine that proudly has the word ‘Performance’ baked into the title, you may wonder? Fear not, it’ll all make sense. The reason for choosing the model is that Nicky covers around 25,000 miles a year – his work as a Land Rover mechanic takes him all over Belgium and beyond – so he needs something that’s comfortable and, importantly, frugal. Hence the heavy oil. However, life really is too short to be lumbering along in the slow lane; no-one ever looks back on their life when they get to old age and thinks ‘oh, I wish I’d had less fun driving, I could have saved a bit of money on fuel’. So of course this 320d has been breathed upon a bit – that sturdy motor is now rocking a custom stainless steel exhaust, K&N induction and light remapping tickle to swell peak power to 207hp. Perfectly respectable, that.

    However, the key hook of this car is the aesthetics. You’d probably spotted that unless you inhabit the same monochrome retro video game world as Nicky, in which case you’ll be looking at a blank page and wondering what the hell we’re talking about). What’s most noticeable, aside from the vinyl wrap, of course, is the way it sits. “It’s running AP suspension, converted to air-ride with AccuAir SwitchSpeed control,” he explains. “I did it all myself, as I like getting my hands dirty and I’m keen to learn about the car by doing things in a practical way, and I really enjoy driving it now! The suspension was pretty much the first job I tackled after buying the car, it was important to get it low.”

    AccuAir’s clever SwitchSpeed system is a solid choice too; its three settings – Precise, Moderate, Full Speed – are all customisable by the user in terms of burst speed, and the controller gives full manipulation of each individual spring as well as the option of going up and down in pairs. Or ‘all down’, of course, when you need to deck it at the traffic lights to surprise passers-by. Central to a bagged aesthetic, as logic dictates, is rolling the correct set of rims too. Now, there are many schools of thought when it comes to wheel choice – for some it’s a classic BBS RS or nothing, others need to have the latest forged fare from a newly emerged I-liked-it-before-it-was-cool brand, many prefer a modern/retro motorsportaping design like, say, an HRE 505 or Rotiform BM1. For Nicky, though, it had to be the trusty RS; in this instance, the engorged mid-1980s evolution Super RS built in an 18” diameter with boisterous staggered widths. A simple and elegant design that’s aged very well… and certainly looks more appropriate in camouflage terms in the shade of sober grey you see here, rather than their previous incarnation. “The centres used to be bright yellow,” grins Nicky mischievously. He’s had VIP Modular VRC13s and XXR 527s on there too, it’s been a long road to the current setup.

    As he continued to wrestle with the relative merits of subtlety and boisterousness, Nicky’s interior found itself morphing into an interesting fusion of OEM+ and JDM. Tasteful details abound inside, such as the M3 steering wheel and smattering of carbon fibre trim. And then… BAM! Your expectations are subverted by a set of Bride seats, howling in drift chic and yet comfortable enough to massage the buttocks throughout all of those motorway miles. It really is cohesive; jarring to some, sure, but it works. And this train of thought thunders on across the car’s exterior too, with those sharp factory lines neatly augmented by the MSport package upgrade.

    The trim is shadowlined, the front bumper wears aggressive carbon fibre inserts, there’s more of the dark weave in the form of a bootlid lip spoiler – it’s just brawny enough to separate it from the everyday E90s without being too ostentatious. Oh yes… but there’s that vinyl camo wrap. That’s quite ostentatious, isn’t it?

    You see, this is a car of contrasts, of subtlety and boisterousness working in symbiosis, and that’s just the way Nicky wanted it. He’s not done yet, either. “Oh, I’ve got big plans,” he smirks. “Cars can always be made faster, can’t they? And I definitely want to try something from Liberty Walk. And I’d like to fit a roll-cage. And…” And it just keeps going. Some people just can’t sit still, can they? It seems that there are plenty of exciting things to look forward to on the horizon with this daily-driven four-door. But you’ll have to find it first.

    “Cars can always be made faster, can’t they?”

    DATA FILE #BMW-320d-E90 / #BMW-320d / #BMW / #BMW-E90

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.0-litre four-cylinder #N47D20 / #N47 , custom stainless steel exhaust, #K&N induction, remapped to 207hp, six-speed manual.

    CHASSIS: 8.5x18” (front) and 10.5x18” (rear) BBS Super RS wheels, AP coilovers converted to AccuAir air-ride with SwitchSpeed control, V-Maxx 330mm front BBK.

    EXTERIOR: M Sport package, camouflage vinyl wrap, carbon-fibre M Performance accessories.

    INTERIOR: Bride seats, carbon fibre trim, M Performance shifter, M3 steering wheel, Mosconi amp with Rockford Fosgate subs.

    Plenty of carbon to get excited about inside and out.

    V-Maxx front #BBK nestles behind a set of 18” #BBS-Super-RS / #BBS wheels while Bride seats spice up the interior.

    “Oh I never think, I just try new things. I do what I feel like, and I hope everybody likes it. But that doesn’t totally matter, I mainly do it for me”
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    AIR FORCE ONE BMW E82 123d

    If you want performance and economy, the #BMW-123d #N47 is hard to beat, and this sorted example is sitting on air-ride. What do you get when you cross a luxuriously appointed coupé with an aired-out show stopper? Er, this – Anton Harnie’s trick 123d. And it’s not your average oil-burner either… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Kevin Raekelboom.

    There’s something about the 1 Series Coupé that lends itself rather well to being dramatically lowered. The combination of that swooping, bowed coachline along the top of the sill, the chunkiness of the bumpers, and the inherently nose-downtail-up angles that the silhouette tricks your eye into, means that it looks ace when it’s squashed down on to the Tarmac.

    Now, we don’t need to reiterate here the perennial, raging arguments about how airride relates to performance – it’s a commonly-heralded factoid that ’bagged motors don’t handle as well as their more traditionally sprung counterparts (which is, of course, mere stuff and nonsense), but this car doesn’t altogether help its case when it presents its motive power credentials: it sips the black stuff, the Guinness of combustible fuels – it’s a dirty diesel.

    But again, dismissing the performance creds of heavy oil is a 1990s viewpoint. Check the stats of the turbocharged N47 under the bonnet of the 123d and you’ll find a box of tricks that kicks out something north of 200hp, allied to oodles of stumppulling torque. In this instance, owner Anton Harnie has had the sturdy unit’s brain massaged to the tune of 255hp, which is more than enough for a spot of mischief. So yes, the car proudly wears its ‘123d’ badge on its rump, safe in the knowledge that it fully deserves a feature in a magazine that has ‘performance’ baked right into the title.

    That’s the disclaimers out of the way, then. Not this car could ever need to make excuses for itself. But why this car, why now? “I wanted a BMW, and I like coupés,” Anton shrugs. Well, fair enough. It’s actually quite an unusual move for him, however. When asked what his previous projects have been, we find a distinct lack of Bavarian propellers. “My first car was a Ford Fiesta,” he admits, “and then there was a Puma, another Fiesta, an early VW Polo, a 1961 Beetle – you could say that my tastes are quite varied.” But a Beemer it had to be for the next project (did we just hear a heartwarming little cheer from out there in reader-land?), and a shiny new one at that, so after the excitable research was complete, he found himself at the #BMW dealer signing the necessaries for a fresh 1 Series. And, being a diesel, it could be justified as a sensible purchase. See? Not just a hat-rack, this guy’s got a head full of plans. “My original idea was just to change the wheels and lower the suspension,” he explains – and it’s probably safe to say that he’s delivered on that!

    Plan A – and, thankfully, the plan that was stuck to – was to go for subtlety above all else. You see, the thing about speccing a car from new is that you get to have a bit of fun with the options list, and Anton’s certainly been quite generous with the extras. You can see from the interior shots that he’s gone for a rather chic shade of milk chocolate-y leather, which looks so creamy and delicious that it’d be tempting to give it a little taste, were it not for the knowledge that that’s where people’s bottoms have been. But giving this touch of ineffable class a savage counterpoint is what’s lurking behind the wheels. Had you spotted those brakes? Crikey. We can only assume that there’s a tick-box on the spec sheet marked ‘Sodding Great Calipers’, as those yellow BMW Performance units curve around the vast discs like an Aerobie Pro. Just as well really, given the extra thrust he’s opted to throw past them.

    A number of other such tickboxes have been happily engorged by Anton’s wanton pencilling, with the BMW Performance flag being flown yet higher by a platter of carbon fibre goodies: we’re talking mirror caps, rear diffuser, and that slimline boot spoiler that’s ju-u-u-st cheeky enough to suggest some hints of CSL ducktail DNA. And it seems that he got further carried away by the lure of carbon fibre addenda, it’s become something of a theme. The front bumper wears a lissom splitter woven from the black magic strands, and have you clocked the bonnet? It’s a vented Seibon item, a quality piece that’s hand-laid in wet carbon fibre and gel-coated to showcase the artistry of the weave. Pretty neat, huh? It adds a little racer edge, it dissipates a little heat, it saves a little weight – that’s win-win-win. To return to the form of the 1 Series Coupé, it’s interesting how the arguably rather awkward-looking proportions of the #E81 five-door hatchback have been smoothed out and simplified to create a flowing and attractive two-door coupé. It’s got just the right amount of overhang, surface-to-angle ratio and sit-up-and-beg perkiness to convince any #E81 detractors that the #E82 really pulled things together. It’s also mildly diverting to note, in a ‘throw it into conversation in the pub’ sort of way, that the 1 Series Coupé is pretty much the same size as the E30 3 Series. Evolution, eh?

    And, as we were saying at the beginning, this shape is exponentially improved by giving it a severe altitudectomy. “This was all thanks to Kean Suspensions,” Anton chimes in. “We actually started with a set of KW V2 coilovers, which Kean converted to run airbags. The work they did was incredible – the car rides better than my daily driver (a VW up!) does, I can’t praise the air-ride enough. In an ideal world, I’d fit it with E-Level management, but that’s something I can think about in the future…” The sterling efforts of Kean Suspensions played a major part in the build, of course – and if you haven’t already, it’s well worth taking a peek at its website, there’s all kinds of incredible stuff on there – but this was the only company that Anton roped in to assist, everything else was done alone in his garage. A lot of people might be apprehensive about drilling away at a brand- new car that was still under warranty, but that just goes to prove the vision that this dude had in making his dream build a reality.

    Okay, let’s move on to the elephant in the room: the wheels. For a great many of you, the rims can make or break the build, and you’ve undoubtedly formed your own opinions about the choice here. “I have very clear views on wheel choice,” Anton asserts firmly. “They have to be three-piece splits, no fakes or replicas, it’s got to be something proper – BBS, Rotiform, HRE, a quality brand. And I’m also very keen not to have something that everybody else has, that’s the whole thinking behind this car, which is why I went for a set of Kerscher KCS in staggered widths.” You probably agree that he’s made a damn fine choice there, the über-shiny motorsport-inspired rims tucking exquisitely beneath those arches, a jaunty angle of camber leaning itself in as the car airs out.

    Let’s recap the salient points then: what Anton has pulled together here is, in a sense, a quality take on the spiritual successor to the #E30 two-door, which features both power and frugality. It’s rocking a badass set of wheels, and the air-ride exponentially improves the profile when it sits on the floor, while also offering exemplary handling and practicality; it’s jam-packed with racy carbon fibre goodies that just scream purpose and forthrightness, while the interior is like sitting in the leather-lined bosom of an elite private members’ club. All things to all men, then? Very possibly, yes.

    Of course, the fun comes from the facts that a) the 1 Series can be a polarising model, b) a lot of people are inexplicably anti-air-ride, and c) aftermarket wheel designs are like Marmite – they’re made of yeast, and are quite sticky. Oh wait, no – you either love them or you hate them. So Anton cruises the Western European show scene in the knowledge that not everyone’s going to get what he’s done. But he doesn’t care. He’s got a very cool ride, built on his own terms, and the key thing is that he did pretty much all of it by himself.

    In closing, as we often do, we ask Anton whether there have been any particular special moments with the car that he’d care to share. He luxuriates in an indulgent stretch and gives us a narrowed glance. “Yes. Private moments,” he says, a man of few and mysterious words. We thought it was probably best to leave it there. And as he growls off into the night with a distinctly undiesel-like burble from that Bastuck exhaust, it all makes perfect sense: this 123d is a Space grey vision in class and poise, with just enough artful tweaks to thoroughly personalize the build. On the one hand it’s a sensible, grown-up, well-appointed oil-burner; on the other, a show-stopping panscraper with a racy vibe. That original brief to ‘change the wheels and lower the suspension’ has been fulfilled, and then some.

    “I’m very keen not to have something that everybody else has, that’s the whole thinking behind this car”


    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.0-litre four-cylinder #N47D20 T0 , remapped to 255hp, Bastuck exhaust, stock manual transmission.

    CHASSIS: 8.5x18” (front) and 9x18” (rear) Kerscher KCS wheels with 215/40 (front) and 225/40 (rear) Toyos, KW V2 coilovers converted to air-ride by Kean Suspensions, BMW Performance brake upgrade.

    EXTERIOR: Seibon carbon fibre bonnet, carbon fibre front splitter, BMW Performance carbon-fibre boot spoiler, mirror caps and rear diffuser.

    INTERIOR: Air-ride install in boot, BMW #Harman-Kardon audio, #Coyote anti-radar.
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