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Frozen in Time South Africa didn’t get the #BMW E92 M3 GTS so it made its own limited edition performance model.
BMW made a plethora of special edition of E92 M3s but this one of the most exclusive, the South African Frozen M3 Edition, limited to just 25 examples. Words: Johann Venter. Photography Mahomed Abdulla.
Come on feel the noise.’ Those words uttered by Quiet Riot couldn’t be more appropriate as the M3 charges down the straight, the shifter being blipped in quick succession, the noise incessant, the speedo racing towards 240km/h.
Then it’s hard onto the brakes, the nose digging into the Tarmac. The rear feels like it wants to pole vault to the sky. The turn-in to the hairpin is sharp. Full throttle on the exit, creating the perfect power-slide. Thankfully the electronic nannies have retired for the day. Quick counter-steer is needed, though, to make sure it doesn’t all come undone. Then it’s onto a short straight, then a left kink, requiring just a slight lift off the throttle, into the next hairpin, followed by another short straight and a swooping left-hander onto the pit straight, that thunderous F1 noise of old returning, as the right paddle is relentlessly tugged. Hard onto the brakes again going into a left hairpin, blip the throttle for the short straight that follows and then a full power-slide through the 90-degree right hander. Get the nose straight long enough to make the last hard right turn, onto a flowing section with one swooping right turn, clip the right apex on the final straight, and finally we’re back on the long straight where we started. Hopefully we set a new lap record on this short 2.6km Midvaal Raceway track. This is heartpounding stuff. Get it right and you feel like a Top Gun ace; get it wrong… well, we don’t even want to think about it. This is the allure of the E92 M3, dialled-up to 11 if it is the limited Schnitzer Frozen Edition. Quiet Riot was right, it did get rather wild. We’re sold. Where do we sign?
How is it, though, that BMW SA was once again able to have a model specifically developed for the South African market? In 2010 South Africa was deemed the seventh largest M market for BMW and local M enthusiasts were therefore understandably cheesed-off when the E92 M3 GTS, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the M3, did not come their way. Fortunately BMW SA was able to convince BMW AG that it should have its own unique commemorative M3 for the South African market. Not a new feat by BMW SA as developing unique models for the South African market had already reached legendry status with the likes of the E12 530 MLE, E23 M-powered 745i, E30 333i and E30 325iS all garnering plenty of aficionado followers.
So what made this Frozen Edition so special? For starters, BMW for the first time offered an M3 with blatant Schnitzer badging on the outside (underneath the right tail-light) and even under the bonnet (the Schnitzer crest found on the carbon fibre intake manifold). This was no ordinary Frozen Edition, though. To the rest of the world a Frozen M3 means an exotic paint finish and some stitching on the seats.
This Schnitzer package, on the other hand, comprised a high performance exhaust, including a de-cat, a carbon fibre Schnitzer intake manifold, and the DME (Digital Motor Electronics) was reprogrammed to ignore the de-cat and allow for a top speed of 180mph (290km/h). The 0-62mph dash, achieved in 4.5 seconds, shaves off a few tenths from the standard M3’s time. Power was up by 29hp (21kW), with a maximum of 449hp (330kW) reached at a hefty 8400rpm. The torque band was also increased by 15lb ft (20Nm) to 310lb ft (420Nm) which peaked at 3900rpm. What is significant is that the cars were not imported from Germany with the Schnitzer upgrades. Instead BMW SA entered into an agreement with JSN Motors, the sole importer and distributor for AC Schnitzer on the African continent, to carry out the conversions at the Rosslyn plant.
We caught up with BMW/Schnitzer technician, Shaun du Plessis, from JSN, who was responsible for carrying out the conversions at the VDC (Vehicle Distribution Centre) at the Rosslyn plant. He explains: “The M3s were imported just as they rolled off the production-line in Germany. All Schnitzer components were shipped separately. A colleague and I removed the rear exhaust boxes and carried out the de-cat. We swapped the intake manifold for the Schnitzer carbon fibre item and removed the DME.” Sounds rather straightforward? “Yes, except for the fact that we had to ship all the DMEs to Schnitzer to be reprogrammed.” We would have thought that BMW AG could have arranged that, and du Plessis concurs: “You and I both. That was the lengthiest part of the conversion. Our colleagues at Rosslyn only assisted with welding on the rear Schnitzer exhausts.
“This special SA Frozen Edition was limited to 25 cars to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the M3. There was one additional car for the press that most people don’t know about. It took two weeks to complete all the conversions. Eight lucky owners took delivery in late 2010 and the rest were delivered early the following year.” These Frozen M3s were only offered in two colours – 20 were black (including the lone press car) and just six in grey.
Du Plessis is obviously a fan of these cars he helped to create and gives us his impressions of the car: “Stavros Neophitou, the dealer principal and owner of JSN, owned one for a short while. My most lasting impression is the noise, it was proper! So loud that it would rattle your neighbours’ windows. Start it cold and it exploded. The throttle response was definitely sharper than the standard M3, the power gains were down to the manifold, de-cat and rear Schnitzer exhaust and not really the DME. The top speed was raised to the limit, and I can testify to that, the 290km/h (180mph) is genuine!” Definitely a collector’s item then? “Without a doubt! The only fly in the ointment is that BMW SA never issued limited edition plaques to authenticate each car as a limited edition and to specify the number, which I think will lower the values of these M3s somewhat.”
When sold new in 2010/11 it retailed for R1,180,000 (£114,563) – a whopping R215,671 (£20,939) premium over the standard M3. Let’s put that into perspective. The M3 sold new in the UK in 2010 for £51,000 and some change. The M3 GTS sold for £117,630, so in essence South African buyers were paying just £3000 less than the cost of a GTS for the Schnitzer and also almost double for the standard M3 over UK buyers.
So what did your £114k buy you? A 10mm lowered suspension, 19-inch high gloss alloys (unfortunately not the Y-spoke CSL-style rims) wrapped in 245/40 ZR19 Pirelli rubber in the front and 265/40 ZR19 at the rear, and contrasting fiery red brake callipers. Electronic Damper Control came as an optional extra. Damn that is cheeky. Wasn’t the price high enough already? Fortunately, all the other goodies came free, which included the seven-speed M Dual Clutch Transmission, dark chrome kidney surrounds, matt Shadowline exterior trim, carbon-like central insert in the dash and vibrant red stitching on the leather. Unfortunately the Alcantara steering got left out of the equation… pity.
Turning to the grey example adorning the pages in front of you, it is one of only six in this hue. With only 24,000km (14,913 miles) on the odometer, it is in superb condition. The grey, in our opinion, is the better colour option over the black, achieving that frozen (frosted) look much more convincingly, and accentuating the lines, curves and creases much better. Truth be told, the Frozen Silver is the one that gets our hair to stand on end. Although this M3 does not get much road time, it is very practical as an everyday steed. The award winning, naturally aspirated V8 engine (the last of its kind) is capable of dealing with traffic, blasts through the countryside and the occasional track day, so quite versatile in all respects. This M3 is best enjoyed on a charge, though, the freerevving engine making it easy to keep it in the sweet spot, with the flexibility to either have all of the drive aids fully switched on, or just enough to burn rubber as you power-slide or, for the brave, the option of no safety net whatsoever. The steering is well weighted with a precision that allows you to tackle S-bends and hairpins with confidence. The cross-drilled ventilated rotors and single-piston callipers provide neck snapping deceleration. All of which is achieved in a comfortable, luxurious, Germanic cockpit with worldclass ergonomics and a sizable luggage compartment to boot.
The matt paint finish on this M3 has been perfectly preserved, unlike a large number of the remaining 25 that were sold. Most have succumbed to the blotchy gloss effect that is caused by cleaning the cars with exotic shampoos and by applying waxes and polish. Only regular shampoo (naturally BMW recommends its own brand) is needed; no sealants, waxes and polishes are to be used. Even a microfibre cloth is a no, no. Residues such as tar and bird lime is to be removed immediately. We’re not sure if the initial owners were given a thorough enough briefing with regards to cleaning or if they simply ignored it. By now the cars are in the hands of second or third owners and we doubt if they were alerted to the dos and don’ts. BMW, however, seems to be on a roll with the Frozen paint effect and has extended it to a wider range in its line-up. It all started with the M3 in 2010 and, according to BMW, all 30 units of the grey M3 Frozen Edition sold out within 12 minutes. The Frozen effect is achieved by applying a different clear-coat mix ratio, in terms of hardeners, reducers, application methods, and drying options. Different panels of the vehicle require different clear-coat ratios. A Frozen finish reflects about 20 percent of the light that penetrates, so make sure your air-con is working.
All rather complex, and what self-respecting car-nut doesn’t occasionally want to apply some wax or polish to his pride and joy, and buff it until a mirror finish has been achieved?
BMW caught on to the limited/special edition trend with the first generation M3 and has not looked back since, with the highly anticipated M4 GTS now available in Europe and North America. South African M devotees are rejoicing, as this time around the GTS will be gracing their shores. However, only 25 customers were invited to the GTS party, with a price tag of R2,134,500 equating to £99,510 at an exchange rate of R21,45 (the exchange rate is more than double what it was in 2010). In the UK, however, the GTS is priced at £121,780 (who’s laughing now?).
Clearly South Africa has become an M market that cannot be ignored; indeed it’s now ranked fifth in the world in terms of overall M market share. It doesn’t hurt that on the 7 April 2016, Dr. Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Sales and Marketing and former boss of BMW SA, unveiled the second largest standalone M showroom in the world: Zambesi Auto in Pretoria. We have mixed feelings about the GTS, and the M4 in particular. We much prefer the four-door M3; it’s a much better balanced and cohesive shape as far as we’re concerned. It all goes horribly wrong aft of the B-pillar on the M4; the rear wing is way too long and the tail-lights disproportionally large. In my opinion the previous E92 M3 Coupé hits the spot. It is a rather handsome devil that cuts a suave figure, its design well balanced and proportioned.
Cosmetically the Schnitzer Frozen M3 Edition is a bit of a mixed bag; some key elements, such as the Y-spoke CSL-style rims and Alcantara steering, were omitted. But it is a cracking limited M3. And even though it doesn’t have a plaque declaring its rarity, it will definitely increase in value over the years. BMW made a plethora of limited edition E9x M3s; whether they will all be worth the investment, only time will tell. What is certain, though, is that we’re all suckers when it comes to these M limited edition runs.
THANKS TO: Ron Silke
“The noise was proper! So loud that it would rattle your neighbours’ windows”
“It took two weeks to complete all the conversions, eight lucky owners took delivery in late 2010 and the rest were delivered early the following year”
THANKS TO: Midvaal Raceway or the use of the circuit. / Web: www.midvaalraceway.co.za / Tel: +27 82 774 4285