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

    Art Attack E9 and E21 resto-modded Art Car replicas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    INTERIOR E36 interior blended with original E21
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    BLUE STEEL #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW /

    Valencia Motorsports’ beautifully built, hardcore E36 track machine packs an S38 swap. Valencia European’s E36 M3 racer fuses raw power with immaculate presentation. And that’s probably not the M Power engine you were expecting to find, is it…? Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Eric Eikenberry.

    It’s a classic idiom: ‘you can’t put a quart in a pint pot’. It means, in essence, that you can’t do the impossible; there’s a finite amount of space in a pint glass – well, there’s a pint, isn’t there? – so logically you can’t squeeze a quart in there. A quart is two pints. You’ve been greedy, your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

    This is all so much half-hearted vintage nonsense, of course – nothing is impossible in the 21st century. We’ve got hoverboards, Skype, sat nav, er, Rubik’s cubes, it’s all good. If something seems impossible, humanity has evolved to think around the problem. There are no hard tasks, simply some that take longer than others. Want a pet unicorn? Bone-graft a horn on to a pony. Yearning to fly unaided? Strap on a squirrel suit. Fancy confounding your elders and squeezing a quart into a pint pot? Pour half of it in, drink it, then pour in the other half. Easy.

    Valencia European of Santa Clarita, California, demonstrate this modern thinking rather neatly with the gleaming blue race car you see before you. The E36 M3 is the pint pot, the massive E34 M5 engine is the quart. ‘Sure, it’ll fit’ was the ethos. The team just had to have a bit of a headscratch and figure out how. No biggie. So who are these guys, and what are they up to with this outrageous baby-blue racer? “Valencia European is an auto repair and collision repair shop in Valencia,” says head honcho Sean Salvino. Well, that cleared that up. He’s a matter-of-fact sort of guy, isn’t he?

    “We specialise in BMWs,” he continues, “and the main objective for this build was to market the shop and to show how passionate we are about what we do. My business partner, Bjorn, and I share the same passion for the M line. He’s more into the older-generation engines, as he believes that they were simpler in design yet have lots to offer.” So these are fellas who’ve made a business out of a hobby that they’re passionate about, and there’s no small amount of enthusiasm for the old-skool flowing through the place. That’s good, that makes sense – we can see why they opted for the E36 M3 as a project base, it’s a model that’s rapidly becoming the connoisseur’s choice.

    “This E36 M3 was actually my track day car for about two years before we decided to build it up into a race car,” Sean explains. “Bjorn and I wanted to merge our ideas of how we thought a race car should be done! There were two cars in the shop at the time that we contemplated using for the project – this E36 and an E34 M5. But since the M3 already had a basic roll-cage and race suspension fitted, it was a step ahead. The next question was the powerplant…” Now, there aren’t any bad M3 engines; they all have their own charms, competencies, capabilities and potential.

    But the E36 generation has been a bone of contention for some enthusiasts; namely those in North America. While the European-spec M-car enjoyed the 3.0-litre, 286hp S50 motor for the first few years before swapping to the 3.2-litre, 321hp S50, the USA received rather strangled engines: initially a 240hp version of the 3.0-litre S50, then a 3.2-litre variant of the M52 developed specifically for US-market M3s – the S52, still with 240hp, albeit torquier. A good engine, but not a great one, compared with what the rest of the world was enjoying. American BMW enthusiasts tend to simmer about this a bit, Sean included: “You and I know that E36 M3s here in the States got short-changed with the S52 not having individual throttle bodies and so on,” he fumes. “So we decided that instead of using that motor, the E34’s engine was the clear choice.”

    This is where we arrive at the amusing quart-in-a-pint-pot scenario. The hand-built wonder that was the E34 came bulging with a muscular 3.6-litre straight-six, the S38, producing somewhere north of 300hp out-ofthe- box. But, of course, any physics fans among you will have spotted that the M5 is bigger than the M3. “Being that it wasn’t your typical build, it challenged us more and more,” Sean admits, although not grudgingly.

    We get the feeling that he relished the challenge, that he and his team genuinely enjoyed the work. “The main issue that we had with it was the height of the S38 – the oil pick-up was sitting right on the engine and suspension crossmember, with the intake manifold up against the hood. We attempted to move it back at first, but we agreed that it was going to adversely affect steering geometry, so we left it alone. We ended up redesigning the oil pan for it to sit lower and maintain the same engine position in the car as how the BMW engineers had designed it, while shaping the hood to allow for the extra engine height.” This is a solution that makes itself glaringly obvious from the outside, particularly when you view the car in profile – that vast power bulge in the bonnet is a none-too-subtle harbinger of the furious power that resides within. It looks rather like the bulge you’d find on an Aston Martin V8 Zagato, which is pretty good company to be in.

    It’s a fairly spicy interpretation of the venerable S38B36, too – Valencia has kitted it out with a massive custom air intake, an Ireland Engineering race-spec aluminium radiator, and the pulleys from a later 3.8-litre S38, while the spent gases are forcefully exhaled through a fancy straight-through exhaust. It really does sound the business. “After hearing it on track, people always comment on how good the car sounds,” Sean grins. “They always say it’s how a BMW should sound! I’ve also encountered people following me to the race track to see what the car was about, drawn in by the noise…”

    The fact that it has not only squeezed the vast engine in there, but made it work effectively is something that should be applauded. And equally impressive is its approach to the interior; with a dedicated track car, it’s so easy just to strip the cabin of everything superfluous and leave it at that. But Valencia’s E36 is truly a sight to behold once you’ve swung open the lightweight driver door. The roll-cage is staggeringly hardcore, the gussets and hollowed-out door skins speak of singleminded purpose, but it’s the clinical icewhiteness that truly catches the eye. They really have done this properly. Furthermore, peering back from where the passenger seat would have been, you get a glimpse into the book where the struts for that towering rear spoiler are chassismounted.

    It’s a Bimmerworld race wing with custom high-rise uprights, and it’s not exactly subtle. Neither are the arch flares, custom-fabricated in steel to wrap around those square-setup 10.5”-wide Apex ARC-8s, and it’s all hiding a thoroughly sophisticated chassis that begins with an hors d’oeuvre of Ground Control coilovers, serves up adjustable ARBs for the main course, and tops it all off with a dessert of brake upgrades, before enjoying some seamwelding over brandy and cigars.

    What’s the upshot of all this effort, then? A trophy or two, perhaps, or just some good ol’ rough-and-tumble track fun? “We took first place in the Global Time Attack Limited RWD Class at Chuckwalla Raceway in 2013,” Sean beams. “Then there was the Redline Time Attack at Willow Springs Raceway, where we again took first place in the Modified RWD Class, and won the Super Session – something we went on to repeat at the Redline event at Buttonwillow Raceway.” It seems, then, that the plan has worked.

    With either Sean or Don Pastor behind the wheel, this mighty M3 is kicking butt all over the West Coast, and doing a damn fine job of showing the spectating public what Valencia European is all about – sure, it can hammer the dents out of your 1 Series or figure out why your dash is full of warning lights, but its skill-set goes far beyond the everyday. These are a bunch of guys who know a thing or two about building race cars, and that’s a very useful reputation to have. The fact that the car is as immaculately presented as it is devastatingly effective is a sizeable cherry on a very delicious cake. Redefining what’s possible is something they take in their stride – to hell with physics, this quart of engine sits very happily in its shiny blue pint-pot.


    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.6-litre straight-six #S38B36 / #S38 / #BMW-S38 , #S38B38 cam gears, #Kempower Speed sensor delete, custom harness, Ireland Engineering race aluminium radiator, electric cooling fan, custom 4” intake and #K&N filter, E34 M5 oil cooler, custom engine mounts, custom 3” straight-through exhaust, E30 M3 #Getrag-265 / #Getrag gearbox, custom transmission mounts, six-paddle racing clutch, custom propshaft, 4.27:1 LSD.

    CHASSIS: 10.5x17” (front and rear) ET25 #Apex-ARC-8 wheels with 18mm spacers (front), 275/40 (front and rear) Nitto NT01s tyres, 90mm Motorsport Hardware extended lugs, #Ground-Control race coilovers, Ground Control camber/castor plates, #Eibach 550/650 spring rates, #H&R adjustable anti roll-bars (front and rear), Ground Control race trailing-arm solid bushings, SPC rear camber arms, front lower control arms, #Delrin bushings, ABS delete, manual brake bias controller, custom steel braided brake lines, Raybestos race pads, tubular front bulkhead/radiator support, seam-welded front shock towers.

    EXTERIOR: Dzus-fastened bumpers and bootlid, Alumalite front splitters, Alumalite drive planes, custom metal wide-body flares, deleted door handles, frame-mounted Bimmerworld race wing with custom uprights, sunroof delete, custom fibreglass bonnet, Racequip tow strap.

    INTERIOR: #Sparco steering wheel, #Sparco-Pro-2000 racing seat, Crow Industries harness, Longacre rear view mirror, I/O Port window net, full gusseted roll-cage.

    This may be a stripped-out track car, but it has been finished to an exacting standard. Interior is finished in white with a full gusseted roll-cage and the bare essentials.

    S38 is a bit of a squeeze but Valencia managed to make it fit and gave it a few upgrades for good measure.
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    Everyone loves an E28 and this unassuming 525e has been transformed by an S38B36 swap.

    Take one #BMW-525e-E28 . Garnish with an obscure colour. Stir in a vast engine. Sprinkle over a few unique touches, and infuse with a piquant fusion of childhood dreams and heartfelt tributes. That’s the recipe for a delicious E28… Words: Daniel Bevis Photos: Andy Tipping

    There’s a perennial and enduring problem with motorists in the world today: misplaced ‘M’ badges. Every day we see BMWs with erroneous badging glued to their rumps in a haphazard and higgledypiggledy manner, fooling no-one and diluting the specialness of true M-ness for everybody else. Bone-stock 520i saloons with M5 emblems, M-badged E46s with 320d motifs still in place, chunky SUVs wonkily rebranded ‘MX5’, despite that being the name of a rather different kind of car. It seems that everyone wants to tap into that hallowed motorsport heritage, regardless of such frivolous fripperies as honesty, logic, or appropriateness.

    Sometimes, however… sometimes it’s acceptable. Bear with us on this, it’ll all make sense. You see, the E28 you’re looking at here is, in fundamental DNA at least, a #BMW-525e . And yet it’s wearing the fabled M badge, and we’re perfectly okay with that. How can this be? Fear not, all will become clear…

    But let’s start with the who rather than the how, shall we? Jim Mountain is the name to note down, and he’s a man who’s been perving over Beemers since you were in short trousers. “I’ve been into BMWs as long as I can remember,” he reminisces with a smidge of whimsy. “I did an apprenticeship in the bodyshop of the local main dealer and stayed there for ten years or so before moving into the family business. As a kid I remember pictures of M1 Procars in my uncle’s MotorSport magazines, and a photo of an airborne 3.0 CSL at the Nürburgring – I was hooked from then, and knew I had to have an E30 as soon as I could insure one!”

    Sure enough, after rolling the dice with fate in a protracted bout of ‘the waiting game’, Jim found himself with the keys to an E30 318i two-door in his hand, a car he wasted no time lowering over some oh-soperiod MiM rims. The scene was set, the passion was firing on all cylinders, and it was only a matter of time before more blueand- white propellers followed: an #1986 325i introduced his right foot to the torquey swells of the straight-six, quickly usurped by an engine-failure 318i that Jim and his mates hoiked the motor out of before spraying Dakar yellow and slathering in Recaros and 17” Hockenheims, before moving on to another 325i and a bona fide E30 M3 Evo 1 on BBS RSs and Konis. It’s fairly safe to say, then, that he’s a man who knows what he likes. And what he likes is modifying BMWs. We’re in good company.

    “I also had an #BMW-E28 520i, largely thanks to Mike Burroughs,” Jim recalls. Funny how the name of the ubiquitous Stanceworks founder crops up so often in our E28 features, isn’t it? The dude has a lot to answer for. “It was rough, but fun,” he continues, “but I wanted to find a better one – something more solid, but still cheap enough that I could modify it without feeling too bad about it! And when I saw this one on eBay – in Akazien green, which I hadn’t seen before – I knew it had potential, despite being a 525e auto. It was in pretty good condition, in fact – all original paint, with a few age-related marks and dents, and it’s still like that today. I like its timeworn look.”

    That said, it wasn’t a car that wanted Jim to just jump in and enjoy. In addition to the usual front footwell and inner sill rust issues, it wasn’t all that keen on starting up and letting him take it home. “It wouldn’t fire up at all when I went to view it in Nottingham,” he says, “so I left it and went to look at another one in Derby. That one was quite a rare manual 525e – but really rotten. Then I got a call from the guy with the green car, which he’d got running; we made a deal, and I drove back to Norfolk in it.” So far so good, then. But where does the M badge enter the story? Patience, reader, patience – we’ll get there in due course. Jim’s just got his car home, let’s see what he does next…

    “The modifying didn’t actually start for another year,” he says. “I took the car over to my mate Spen’s, and he pulled out the old 2.7 lump and autobox after I had stripped the interior. It then spent about six months on blocks on his shingle drive! I’d wanted to put an S50 in it but Spen convinced me to fit the S38B36 for strength and reliability reasons.” And there we have it, ladies and gentlemen: a logical rationale for stuffing an E34 M5 engine in there. Strength and reliability. Sure. And there’s the fringe benefit of having enough horsepower to knock the Earth ever-so-slightly off its axis, of course.

    Jim was sufficiently enthused by the idea to dive into buying the first S38 he came across, complete with transmission, and Spen set about wriggling the oily bits into the appropriate position while Jim busied himself with fabricating various mounts for the engine, gearbox, and assorted ancillaries, including a setup to relocate the coil. “Spen dealt with the loom mods, which was no easy job as E34 ECUs live on the opposite side of the car to the E28’s, but he sorted that,” he says. “Then we tackled the brakes, fitting the E34 M5 setup along with a Clio servo custom-fitted to clear the plenum. When Spen was happy with all the work so far, he took the engine out again and I took the car over to another mate Terry’s workshop to take care of the rust issues, while Spen took the head off and rebuilt it.”

    It was all looking rosy at this stage, with the mods progressing well and the car not really fighting back to any great degree, and with the refreshed engine back in situ it was treated to a custom Pro Alloy radiator and a Fritz’s Bits manifold and exhaust system to keep everything functioning at maximum efficiency. At least, that was the theory. You know how annoying it is when your grandma says things like ‘patience is a virtue’, and ‘everything comes to he who waits’? Yeah, she’s right. You should always listen to your grandma, no matter how deranged she may appear. Jim shouldn’t have bought the first M5 engine he found. It turned out to be a bit of a pig.

    “It was all running, just… not well,” Jim grimaces. “Spen spent a few weeks swapping bits on and off from his own M5, testing everything for weak links, trying to identify what was wrong. He unpicked his loom mod and then refitted it, but it still wouldn’t run properly. The head came off for testing but there was nothing amiss there. We were mystified.” What would you do in this situation? Persevere with a relentless programme of trial-and-error testing, ultimately stripping the whole thing back to first principles? Or would you take the ‘sod it’ approach? Jim opted for the latter. “Time was slipping away, we’d been at it 18 months, so I just bought another engine,” he says. And guess what? That one didn’t want to play ball either. “It was pulled apart, rebuilt, refitted, but it didn’t run well. We just couldn’t get the emissions down.

    After chasing problems round and round, we finally deduced that the brand-new lambda sensor we’d bought was faulty – having replaced that, everything was fine!” A merry dance, then, but it all came good in the end. The upshot of all this enduring endeavour is a healthy 315hp coming from a legitimate M5 motor, with an M5 gearbox, running through a modified E12 propshaft to an M5 LSD. That M badge is fully justified after all then, right?

    Of course, you can’t just throw a load of 1990s supercar-baiting grunt into a 1980s chassis and expect everything to be sunshine and lollipops. We’ve already touched upon how the lads grafted in the E34 M5’s beefier brakes, but there was more to be done under the skin in order to make a car that was as competent as it was cocky. Suspension is key to a build like this, and Jim had charged the coil-toting eggheads at Gaz with the task of building up a set of bespoke coilovers to be fit for purpose. And with the stopping and the handling taken care of, it was time to tackle the aesthetics. Just what would be the right thing to do with the revered ol’ sharknose?

    “I knew I wanted to keep the original paint, it’s such an unusual colour,” Jim enthuses. “Aside from the wheels and stance, I wanted the whole car to look as original as possible. I did initially remove all the trim, ready to prep for a respray, but I quickly changed my mind and put it all back together again so it could wear its 30-year-old paintwork with pride! It’s got a slightly nosedown stance, and I wanted the rims pushed right to the edge of the arches, so the rears have been rolled to accommodate.” The rims in question are a set of staggered #BBS RCs, which Jim originally sprayed with bodycoloured centres, although the gold that they’re rocking now is certainly more of an eye-catcher on the showground. There’s also a set of Schnitzer Type 1 Racing three-pieces that appear on the car from time to time, just to mix things up a bit. The interior enjoys plenty of this keenness for detail, too, with the black-and-charcoal houndstooth fabric from the seats of Jim’s other E28 having been liberated to re-cover the Recaros that are now in place here. It’s little details like this that really make a build, isn’t it? “I had to leave the Harry Moss motion sensor on the dash, too, as a tribute to the ’80s!” he grins.

    “My favourite mod is the engine, for sure,” Jim assures us, and it’s pretty obvious why that is. “It makes me smile every time I’m behind the wheel. But when I park it up, I also love looking back at the car as I’m walking away, seeing my dad’s old numberplate on there that I fitted as a tribute to him when he died.” This has all been a very personal journey for Jim, with the help of his buddy Spen and a whole cast of extras, and you can be damn sure that his dad would be proud of the achievement. And Jim’s not finished yet, not by a long shot. “Air-ride is a possibility,” he says, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “And a V8, naturally.” So yes, we can forgive the M badge here. It actually fits rather nicely.

    “Aside from the wheels and stance, I wanted the whole car to look as original as possible”

    “Spen convinced me to fit the S38B36 for strength and reliability reasons”


    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.5-litre straight-six #S38B36 #S38 (from E34 M5), Fritz’s Bits stainless steel manifold and exhaust system, #Ramair filter, custom alloy radiator with Spal electric fan from Pro Alloy, Mocal oil cooler, custom mounts, brackets and fittings, 5-speed E34 M5 gearbox, E12 propshaft, E34 M5 LSD.

    CHASSIS: 8x17” (front) and 9x17” (rear) #BBS-RC009/010 wheels with 205/40 (front) and 215/40 (rear) Yokohama Parada Spec 2 tyres, custom #Gaz coilovers with adjustable rebound, 550lb front springs, 275lb rear springs, Whiteline anti-roll bars, #Powerflex bushes in front suspension arms, #BMW E34 M5 brakes.

    EXTERIOR: Original #Akazien green paint, rolled rear arches.

    INTERIOR: Black and charcoal houndstooth interior with recovered #Recaro-Speed front seats, #AC-Schnitzer steering wheel, 160mph speedo.

    THANKS: Spen (now set up in business as BMP Conversions), my mates Terry and Ray for workshop space and their help, my mum and dad for garage space, Guy’s mum for upholstery, and Patty for precision machine work. And my girlfriend Nic for her love of cars!
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    Retro road test – rare #Ferrari-Testarossa vs. #BMW #M5 #E34 #S38B36 - engined – #1990 - Can BMW build a four-door Ferrari ? #BMW-E34 vs. #Ferrari #Testarossa 1990 giant road test. BMW has just launched, in Britain, the fastest saloon ever made. The #BMW-M5-E34 can accelerate as briskly as most mid-engined supercars, could do a genuine 170mph if it were not for a speed governor, and can lap racing circuits more energetically than just about any road car, period.
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