- Post is under moderationBMW’s iconic #BMW-Art-Cars have been setting hearts a-flutter since #1975 but your chances of actually owning one are pretty much zero. There is, however, little stopping you from building your own… Words: Daniel Bevis /// Photos: Patrik Karlsson / #BMW-Art-Car /
Art Attack E9 and E21 resto-modded Art Car replicas
The BMW Art Car series is something that’s been capturing the imagination of motoring enthusiasts for generations. It all began in 1975, when French racing driver Hervé Poulain commissioned American artist and friend Alexander Calder to paint the 3.0 CSL that he was to drive at Le Mans. Using bold primary colours, Calder transformed the already eye-catching form of the #Group-5 E9 into something that looked like it was rapidly swishing through the scenery even when it was sitting still. It turned out to be one of the last art pieces Calder produced before his death, and in the mid-seventies it was actually a pretty astonishing move to present a car to the world as a work of art; it was, as you might imagine, even more astonishing that the flawless museum piece was then entered in the Le Mans 24hr.
The Calder Art Car sparked off a chain reaction that resonated through the decades. The following year, Frank Stella painted an E9 CSL; the year after that, Roy Lichtenstein had a go at a Group 5 E21, then it was Andy Warhol’s turn with an M1, with the snowballing project building momentum until it all came to a head with the recently unveiled John Baldessari M6 GTLM, the 18th official #Art-Cars Car .
Now, there have been quite a lot of other BMWs to be decorated by artists in unusual ways over the years, but these core 18 are the official ones, the bona fide commissioned #Art-Cars . They haven’t all been race cars (David Hockney’s, for example, was an 850CSi and Matazo Kayama’s was an E34 535i), but they have all been devastatingly beautiful and incomparably desirable.
To BMW’s endless credit, the collection isn’t kept safe and secure in a hermetically sealed and top-secret location – they get toured around the world from Goodwood to Pebble Beach and beyond, and the PR bods even took them on a sort of world tour in 2012 which included a brief but comprehensive exhibition in, er, a multistory car park in Shoreditch (which was very weird, but an utter joy to attend – BMW didn’t publicise it widely, so very few people turned up; those of us that did got to enjoy some rather special alone-time with these magnificent creations).
But just having a little look-see at the occasional show was never going to be enough for Swedish retro race enthusiast Jonas Nilsson. He had a dream, an all-consuming aspiration, to possess an Art Car of his very own. But obviously BMW would never sell him one, they’re far too valuable, so he was left with just one option: to build his own tribute to these iconic slices of history.
As you can see here, he got a bit carried away. He hasn’t built one Art Car, but two – and that’s just about pushing the very limits of awesomeness that our brains are able to cope with. So let’s try and piece it together in as logical a way as possible, without our minds dribbling out of our ears at the sheer magnificence of it all…
“BMWs have been special to me ever since I was a little boy, and our neighbour came driving home in his brand-new E21,” Jonas recalls. “I’ve always thought that they have very nice car models and very good performance.” Yep, no arguments here. And that early infatuation clearly planted a seed, as things have gone a bit nuts in the intervening few decades.
“The first #BMW I owned was an E36 318iS,” he continues. “It was white, with a subtle body kit – just right for a guy in his twenties.” It wasn’t, we must point out, all about the BMWs for Jonas though, as he’s also pretty keen on Opels. His first car was a Monza GSE, and over the years he’s built some fairly impressive modified examples including a twin-turbo Monza with nitrous and a ’caged, supercharged Kadett GSi on slicks. It’s this passion for brutal performance and race car thrills that ultimately informed what you’re seeing here, allied to that early passion for BMWs. It turned out to be the perfect recipe.
“It had always been my dream to build an Art Car, so when the opportunity to do it came up, I had to take it,” he says, matter-of-factly. “The Roy Lichtenstein E21 tribute was the first one I built, and when that was finished I felt ready to tackle another one, so I attempted the Frank Stella E9, which was the one I’d really wanted to build all along.” Blimey. He makes this deranged behaviour all sound so normal, doesn’t he? What’s arguably most impressive is that Jonas built up everything you see here himself, as you can’t just nip to Halfords and pick up a Group 5 body kit for an E21. “All the bodywork is made in steel and cannot be bought, so I made it all by myself to a plan I had in my mind,” he explains, like some kind of automotive voodoo shaman.
“To create these two Art Cars, I actually used four cars,” he goes on. “I took two cars and cut the body from the base, then I took one base and welded it together with the other body, and to make everything fit I had to adjust the length and trim the base car to make everything match up.”
Looking inside either one should give you a bit of a giveaway as to what resides beneath their respective skins; the E21 is all E36 inside, while the sharknose E9 has an E34 M5 hiding down there. It’s all utterly bonkers, and phenomenally impressive that he’s made it work.
“I found the E21 at a friend’s place,” says Jonas. “It was in okay condition, but the engine didn’t work.” And what better remedy for a misfiring first-gen 3 Series than to slice the body off, plonk it on to an E36 325i chassis, and bolt on some outrageous retro racer bodywork?
You’ll spot that the E36’s M50 engine is nestled beneath that colourful bonnet, while the 1990s underpinnings have allowed a little flexibility in upgrading things, which is why you’ll find some serious D2 coilovers in the mix along with 19” wheels. On the whole, though, the spec is relatively mild when you look at just how extreme the E9 ended up becoming.
“I found the E9 on a car sales website, almost in mint condition,” Jonas grins, plainly unconcerned about chopping the thing up. “Whereas the E21 took about a year to build, this one took more like 18 months as there was a lot more to do.” Part of the reason for this is that he opted to complement the forthright race car looks with some appropriate power in the form of an S38 engine from an E34 M5 (which is the donor car beneath, remember) to which he’s added a Rotrex C38-81 centrifugal supercharger. It’s an astonishingly quick machine, which is just what you would hope for when you look at its angry angles and pointy aero.
“Every detail and measurement of both cars were made from a model in 1:18 scale, including the wrapping,” Jonas explains, again shrugging off an incredibly complex engineering endeavour as if it’s all in a day’s work, and reducing us to shimmering pools of jealousy in the process. “The Art Car livery is vinyl-wrapped though if money were no object then of course I would have them painted on! And there’s not a part of either car that hasn’t been taken out and perfected before being put back in. I try to do as much as I can by myself, because I love a good challenge!” Well, yes, evidently. The work here really does speak for itself, and while Jonas’ bread-and-butter lies in the mill industry, he hopes one day to transition into building cars like this for a living; a passion that’s currently being fuelled by his new project, a race-inspired, street-legal 635CSi. If all goes well, he could one day be commissioning famous artists to adorn his creations with their colourful daubings… but for now, this pair of Art Car tributes is a fabulous showcase of his skills. BMW may take the official ones out and about, but they don’t tear around in anger like Jonas’ do. As dream two-car garages go, this one really is a work of art.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE BMW #Frank-Stella / #BMW-E9 / #Rotrex / #Rotrex-C38 / #BMW-E9-Frank-Stella / #BMW-E9-Art-Car / #BMW-E9-Art-Car-Replica /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.5-litre straight-six #S38B36 / #BMW-S38 / #S38 , #Rotrex-C38-81 centrifugal supercharger, chargecooler, race aluminium cooler with Evans waterless coolant, Nuke Blackline linear FPR, Nuke fuel rail, #Nuke-Blackline filter, #ECUMaster management, five-speed #Getrag-280 manual gearbox, Tilton racing clutch, modified cardan shaft, 40% locking diff, 2.87:1 final drive, 210 diff housing, forged CrMo driveshafts
CHASSIS 10x19” (front) and 13x19” (rear) HRE 508 wheels with 265/30 (front) and 345/35 (rear) Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, E34 D2 coilovers, D2 Racing big brake kit with eight-pot calipers and 380mm discs (front) and six-pot calipers and 380mm discs (rear)
EXTERIOR Custom handmade all-steel Group 5 bodywork, Frank Stella Art Car tribute livery
INTERIOR E34 M5 dash, Cobra Misano Anniversary seats, custom-trimmed matching rear seats and doorcards
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Roy-Lichtenstein / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-E21-Roy-Lichtenstein / #BMW-E21-Art-Car / #BMW-E21-Art-Car-Replica / #BMW-Art-Car-Replica / #Art-Car-Replica
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M50B25 / #BMW-M50 / #M50 , five-speed #Getrag manual gearbox
CHASSIS 9.5x19” (front) and 11x19” (rear) #Rennsport wheels with 265/30 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo (front) and 325/30 Dunlop Sport Maxx Race (rear) tyres, E36 D2 coilovers, #Powerflex bushes
EXTERIOR Custom handmade all-steel Group 5 bodywork, #Roy-Lichtenstein-Art-Car tribute livery
INTERIOR E36 interior blended with original E21Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationTHE HERETIC
Sticking a supercharged Honda-S2000 engine under the bonnet of a 2002 might sound like heresy, but it makes for one hell of an awesome machine. Classic looks with a modern heart make Elliott Norris’ supercharged 2002 the ideal track day warrior to drive round the Alps… Words: Mike Renaut. Photos: Matt Richardson.
We heard Elliott Norris’ 2002 approaching before we saw it… and that’s quite a trick with a car this brightly painted. So, why a 2002? “I’ve always loved them,” replies Elliott. “I love the shark nose and the profile – it’s a perfect little car. It’s also the first car you drive in the Forza 4 Xbox game.” Curiously, that’s more or less the way this car developed. In the game you put in a different engine, add performance parts, make the car lighter, then paint it a bright colour. Elliott has turned that armchair build process into reality.
His garage contains immaculate, stock examples of a 1974 2002 Turbo, a 1988 M3 Evo II, a 1987 M635 CSi and a 1973 3.0 CSL. He’s also got an M2 on the way, so it’s a slight surprise to learn this BMW sports Honda power. “I spotted the car on eBay in 2012,” explains Elliott. “It’s been changed pretty dramatically since then though. I bought it for fun and I paid about £8000. It’s a genuine 2002 and it came with the Honda S2000 engine and gearbox in factory tune part-fitted.
“I wanted a car I could drive to the track, race, then drive home again,” explains Elliott. “It will never go anywhere on a trailer. It’s already been round Europe twice – that’s how I develop it. It’s a perfect size to drive around the Alps. But then I took it around the Spa circuit and it turned out a temperature sensor wasn’t working so the engine was detonating the whole time. Of course, being a Honda it didn’t break but it was obvious it would need a rebuild. I thought that, as we were stripping it, I might as well add a supercharger.” Well, it makes perfect sense to us… Although, on opening the bonnet, we have to question the presence of the Magic Tree air freshener in the engine bay. “I kept getting fumes leaking into the interior,” laughs Elliot. “I bought four different flavoured air fresheners to attempt to discover the source of the leak!”
But back to the serious business of power. “With the standard S2000 running gear it was putting out about 220hp,” Elliott continues. “Now we’ve added the Rotex S2000 supercharger on a full-race engine with a slightly smaller blower pulley it’s currently got 382hp and 306lb ft of torque. It would be nice to go to 400+ brake with a bigger pulley.
When it was mapped it had 388hp at the wheels but I’ve since fitted a more restrictive exhaust – the old one was basically like a bit of old drainpipe.”
A custom-made Hayward and Scott stainless steel exhaust now resides under the car, connected to a bespoke manifold. The change was to quieten the beast a little, since race tracks weren’t happy with decibel readings of 110 or more! “I had a Decibel Devil fitted to get on the Nürburgring but half way round it spat it out onto the track…”
In the nicest possible way, this car is an odd mix. It’s loud and raw with dizzying acceleration but there’s also a comfortable interior with a heated windscreen (it genuinely does get used all year round) and a USB port on the dashboard. It’s got quality carpets and custom-made doorcards. There’s also hand-made brushed aluminium inserts and a roll bar that’s mainly an anchor for the race harnesses. “I’d like a full cage but I think they’re dangerous for road driving if you’re not wearing a helmet,” Elliott says.
We suggest that the car reminds us of those limited edition, lightweight race versions that Porsche or Mercedes are always releasing, and Elliott agrees: “That’s part of the feel I was after.” To get the car like this he sought a lot of expert advice along the way, as he explains: “Hanger 111 managed a lot of the initial build, particularly the interior and suspension work. The suspension it came with was shot. The front dampers were so poor it constantly locked the front wheels. My research led me to Ireland Engineering in the US and we fitted its full race dampers and spring strut braces.
“The body was shabby when I got it so I stripped it down. It had 2002 Turbo arches and front spoiler but we fitted a Group 2 body kit after we widened the wheel track.”
The paintwork was tackled by the man who Elliott trusts to do all of his car’s bodywork: Robin Middleton of RJM Body Repairs in Stowmarket. “Fitting the bonnet pins was tricky,” remembers Robin. “I only had one chance to drill them but I had to take account of the way the front-hinged bonnet opened. The wheels also took a lot of time as at first they were touching the arches with the steering on full lock. I bought two new front wings then cut them up to fit the wide arches. At once point I all but begged Elliott to let me raise the front by just two millimetres for extra clearance but he wouldn’t let me.
“I also blended in the rear valance around the exhaust pipe and cut the front spoiler to fit the intercooler. Elliott wanted the beltline trim removed so I filled the mounting holes. He gave me a tight deadline and I worked through a bank holiday to get it done on time. Elliott wanted Inca orange paint from the 1973 BMW palate so I scanned it to get the exact shade and then finished it in lacquer. The car came out really nicely. I’m still waiting for Elliott to give me a ride in it though!”
When Elliott first installed the supercharger he immediately noticed the original S2000 gearbox was crunching when shifting between first and second. “Basically it couldn’t handle the power of the supercharger,” he explains. So it was pulled out in favour of a quick-shift Quaife 69G sixspeed that was built to cope with 750hp and allows shifts without lifting off the accelerator – meaning you’re hurled forward without any break in momentum. “It changes gear in 0.3 of a second. However, it’s since been fitted with helical gears as, much as I love the sound of straight-cut gears, they’re difficult to use in traffic and I’m also keen to keep my hearing,” grins Elliott. “Thanks must go to Lee at Auto Shack who has a great mind for altering things. He fitted the Quaife gearbox and put up with my constant crazy schemes.”
The steering column from a Vauxhall Corsa mates to a Quaife quick rack originally intended for a Peugeot 205, but with an ECU kit from DC Electronics the electric power steering is now fully mappable and changes the amount of assistance offered according to torque input and output. It even has a super-light mode for parking in tight spaces – see what we mean about it being a roadfriendly race car?
The custom ‘Ketzer’ badge on the bootlid is the German for ‘heretic,’ while those Honda badges on the front wings came from a motorbike and are a relatively subtle hint that things are no longer standard underneath. More obvious are the BBS E50 wheels. “They were originally highly polished until I drove it round the Alps,” admits Elliott. The wheels were narrowed recently from eight-and-a-half inches on the front down to seven, and nine inches on the rear to eight-and-a-half, meaning the car now turns-in a lot better. “Since the BBSs are true split-rims we just moved the front inner barrels to the rear and replaced the front inner barrels with new ones. The main issue being the larger width was reducing the steering lock due to clearance. Running a narrower wheel has meant we now have the full lock back.” Although it’s cured a lot of the understeer Elliott mentions, it’s made the 2002 a lot harder to drift. However, surely Elliott hasn’t spent all this time building a fast road/track car only to now use it for drifting? “It was built to handle but not necessarily to grip,” he tells us. “It was designed to be a driver’s car. It’s purely about entertainment and having fun in any race event, but it was certainly never about setting lap times.”
An E30 325i rear axle with an E30 M3 differential puts down the power, although Elliott has to be careful, as he explains: “The rear squats massively under hard acceleration – it actually hits cat’s eyes in the road.” Wilwood disc brakes on all four corners haul the 2002 down from those supersonic speeds.
“A fully-mappable Emerald ECU means I can alter the engine map for regular fuel, race fuel, and ‘big flames from the exhaust on liftoff’ mode.” Of course, the upgrades meant the engine’s thirst for fuel has increased dramatically – so much so that a full race fuel system was required including a baffled tank with a swirl pot. The tank is now topped up via a cap in the boot. “I often get announcements over the tannoy at petrol stations because they think I’m pouring petrol straight onto the floor of the car,” grins Elliott. That means the original fuel filler in the rear wing is now redundant. “I was toying with putting a comedy springy snake in there in case anyone ever opens it…” he chuckles.
The body is all steel with the exception of the fibreglass bonnet, although Elliott says: “I might go back to a steel one. The fibreglass tends to vibrate at speed.” The latest addition to the car is a genuine new old stock Autoplas rear window louvre. “They’re super-rare. I found it in Latvia still in the original box.”
One of the few standard parts remaining is the handbrake mechanism. “I haven’t changed it but I should – it’s rubbish.”
Also not quite up to par is the speedometer, which decided to break on the way to the photoshoot meaning we couldn’t get any performance times. But Elliott knows 60mph comes up in under four seconds and, having experienced the car’s wall of acceleration, we completely agree. We hit 60mph in less time than it took to write this sentence (and I type with four fingers!). “It will outrun a new Porsche GT3 on a track,” says Elliott.
Generally the car has been very well received, although not by everyone. “I took it to a BMW Car Club meet and two guys told me it was the most horrible car they’d ever seen,” he laughs. However, given that Elliott already owns some quick cars including a Plymouth Superbird (go on, Google it), a Noble M12, and a 2011 Caterham he built himself (and in which he has recently won a race series), is he impressed with his 2002? “It’s an on-going labour of love, most of the modifications had to be done twice. I’m not sure I’d do it again – as I’ve spent well over ten times the original purchase price. If I was going to change it then I’d alter the look of the rear arches – there’s too much space between the tyre and the arch – but I’m not going to lower it since it sits just right. The suspension still requires some tweaking. I want the handling perfect for track use and it’s not quite there yet. With the supercharger fitted it needs more damping but currently they’re not adjustable and heat ingress is still a problem. But on the plus side it’s the most frightening car I’ve ever driven.”
Interior has been trimmed by Corbeau and fitted with a half cage and GT8 front seats with TRS harnesses.
DATA FILE Supercharged S2000 / #BMW-2002 / #BMW-2002-Supercharged / #BMW / #Rotrex / #Honda / #BBS / #BMW-2002-E10 / #BMW-E10 / #BMW-2002-Honda-S2000 /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 1997cc #Honda-F20C engine from S2000, #Rotrex-C38-81 supercharger, #TTS mounting kit with eight-row poly vee pulleys, #CP-Carrillo 10:1 comp pistons, #Brian-Crowler steel con rods, #Deutsche-Werks 1000cc injectors, #Rotrex-supercharger oil system, reservoir, filter and radiator, #Emerald-ECU with dash switchable mapping, custom-made #Hayward-and-Scott stainless steel exhaust manifold and exhaust, pro-alloy baffled fuel tank with swirl pot and pumps, #Quaife-69G sequential ’box, E30 325i rear and M3 large case diff. 382hp, 306lb ft
CHASSIS 7x16” (front) and 8.5x16” (rear) #BBS-E50 three-piece magnesium wheels with 195/45 (front) and 215/40 (rear) Toyo Proxes TR1 tyres, #Ireland-Engineering race dampers, springs, strut braces and anti-roll bars, #Quaife Peugeot 205 quick rack with #DC-Electronics mappable electric #PAS
EXTERIOR Inca orange paint, Group 2 body kit, 2002 turbo front spoiler, Autoplas rear window louvre
INTERIOR Smiths gauges in custom dashboard, custom centre console, interior trimmed by Corbeau, GT8 front seats with TRS harnesses, BMW 635 rear seats, colour matched stitching and upholstered in Alcantara, half cage
THANKS Hanger 111 (www.hangar111.com), RJM Body Repairs (www.rjmbodyrepairs.co.uk / 01449 771962), Auto Shack (01394 548675)
Custom-made Hayward and Scott exhaust manifold connects to custom exhaust system; Magic Trees helped trace the source of fumes leaking into the interior.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.