As BMW turned firmly towards sports car racing and aimed its cross hairs directly at Stuttgart, it was the Big Coupe – the E9 – that would first carry their fledgling Motorsports division to the victory circle in large-scale international racing. While the 2002 had been champion in support series – Dieter Quester in ’68 and ’69 Division 3, for example, the E9 moved BMW up to directly challenge the fastest sports cars in the world. Victory laurels in some of the most significant races followed: The European Touring Car Championship (’73, ’75, ’76, ’77, ’78 and finally ’79 – some years out of E9 production!) and class victories at Le Mans, Spa and Daytona. These racing efforts had coincided with the growth of some of BMW’s most significant tuning partners; Schnitzer Motorsports and, of course, Alpina.
At the launch of the E9, Alpina would still be a long way from becoming the factory partner and full-fledged manufacturer we recognize today. However, prior to their first official model launch, like AMG the company was active in producing aftermarket parts – especially, motors – for the BMW range. Early Alpina-modified cars are hard to come by, and often lack the full documentation of the later VIN-specific models. However, once in a while a very original and significant one pops up such as today’s late production E9 apparently with all its ducks in a row. Originally a 2.5CS, this car underwent thorough modifications in the 1970s including installation of one of their hottest motors:
Update 1/17/19: Blast from the past! After nearly four years, this Hamann-modified Technoviolet E36 M3 (originally Arctic Silver Metallic) is back on the market. It is listed as having only 400 more miles than in 2015, and the price is up from $20,000 to $24,595 today.
Out of the box, the BMW E36 M3 offered almost everything a serious motorist could want. A lusty inline-6, slick manual gearbox and beefed up body cladding to differentiate itself from the lesser models on which it was based. But there’s always customers out there who want just a bit more or prefer to tinker with their ride a bit to stand out from the crowd. This 1997 BMW M3 comes to us from our friends at Sun Valley Auto Club and is equipped with a Hamann body kit and Hamann PG3 wheels, along with Sparco seats and H&R springs. Added in to the mix is a hue of purple that will certainly grab your attention.
Welcome back to Wednesday Wheel Roundup. Today, I wanted to check out a few sets of wheels that differ quite a lot in size and taste. First up are a set of 19” Mercedes-Benz Monoblock wheels. They are a 19×8.5 and 19x.9.5 that let you run some really wide tires if that is the look you are going for. These are seen as the ultimate wheels for the W140 or the R129. Next are another set of 19″ wheels but this time from Brabus, followed by a hard-to-find set of BMW Style 38s. These 3-spokes are now back in style thanks to the resurgence of everything 80s and 90s now. Speaking of, Carter tracked down a few sets of DP Motorsports wheels following up on yesterday’s DP935. Carter also threw in one of his favorite 911 wheel designs – the Speedlines from the 993 Targa. The last two sets are great options for the cars who want to upgrade from their stock 14″ wheels into a 15” set, but keep the OEM look. A very clean set of ATS wheels that look identical to the factory 14” Bundts open up an entirely new world of tire choices and if you want to keep your hubcaps, a set of 15″ steelies with the ultra-rare 15″ hubcaps that were on the W100 600 and some ambulances in Europe.
Update 1/17/19: The E30 sold for $4,200.
Continuing on the custom theme, today’s post comes thanks to some unusual chassis combinations. Of course, BMWs – and particularly the 3-series – are no stranger to swapped motors. I’ve covered just about everything, from a M62’d E30 to the outrageous S85-powered Hartge H50 and, of course, the ubiquitous S50/2 swaps in E30s or E36s.
But today’s power overhauls come in the form of American V8s stuffed into the noses of Munich’s finest small sports sedans. While their personalities are quite different, both manage to pull off the swaps as relative sleepers despite the crazy changes underneath. So which is the winner?
Update 1/13/19: After failing to sell in October 2017 for $8,500, this very rare and special E32 has been relisted for $8,100 today.
The 7-series never really developed the cult following of some of its countrymen or the rest of the BMW lineup. It wasn’t as luxurious as either the W126 or W140 Mercedes-Benz competition. It wasn’t as clever as the Audi V8 quattro. It wasn’t as good a driver as the E30 or E34. There was never a Motorsports division version, and it wasn’t quite as good-looking as its successor, the already legendary E38. As a result, the E32 was – in many ways – a disposable luxury car, much like some of the Audis of the period. They’re mostly gone and forgotten, but every once in a while a really neat one pops up and is worth a look.
I grew up in my formative driving years with a 5-speed 735i E32 in the family stable, and it was a wonderful car. It rode well, it was comfortable, the 3.5 liter M30 was turned up over 200 horsepower and so it was plenty quick. Generally speaking, the U.S. spec 5-speeds are the most highly sought E32s here and it’s easy to understand why. But this particular E32 turns the desirability up a few notches:
We’re on a bit of a modified car kick, so I wanted to continue with a superlative BMW. In this case, it’s not a classically modified example, but rather a very recent one. For a long time, modifying cars was relatively easy – they came from the factory usually in a pretty tame form with a lot of potential – from aerodynamic tweaks to suspension overhauls and, of course, more power. But when you consider the E9X BMW M3, you have to really wonder if an aftermarket company could improve upon the design. After all, with the S65 4.0 V8 that revs to 8,400 RPMs and generates nearly 420 horsepower in completely stock form, how much better could you really make it?
That hasn’t stopped companies from trying, and relative unknown IND took on the task of making a Nürburgring-inspired E92 M3 the ultimate dual purpose street/track weapon. Did they succeed, and how have the mods held up?
Update 1/1/2019: The seller has relisted this M1 now at $695,000 – nearly $200,000 down from last Spring, but probably still ahead of the market.
Update 7/29/18: After listing in May at $875,000, the seller has dropped the price to $725,000 – still high for the model, but not as far out of line. Will it sell this time around?
I give Audi a lot of credit for bringing the R8 to market. It took a fair amount of gall for a company best known for mid-range all-wheel drive luxury sedans to up and produce a supercar-beating mid-engine road car capable of being used year-round and every day. It’s a feat nearly without precedent. Of course, I said “nearly”.
That’s because BMW pulled off a similar trick the best part of thirty years before Audi did it. And arguably the development of what would become BMW’s fledgling Motorsports division was even more impressive than what Ingolstadt pulled off. The M1 burst onto the scene at a time of economic austerity, global oil crises and came from a company who not only didn’t have a history of producing such cars, but didn’t have connections to others who did (unlike Audi’s corporate Lamborghini partnership).
Speaking of Lamborghini, because of BMW’s lack of expertise in supercar design it was the Sant’Agata firm that was employed to produce the M1. But because of Lamborghini’s lack of expertise at being…well, a company capable of producing something on a schedule, BMW engineers had to first liberate the early molds from Italy and then find someone who could produce the car. Ultimately, it was a combination of ItalDesign in Turin, Marchesi metal working in Modena to build the frames and Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart that stuck the M1 together. Though it doesn’t exactly sound like a match made in heaven, and indeed the M1 was a relative sales flop, it has nonetheless grown to cult status as one of the most user-friendly supercars of the late 1970s:
The natural comparison point to the 135is Convertible I just looked at is, of course, the same year 335is. Indeed, since the two share a fair amount of architecture and a similar recipe, on paper it’s a bit strange that they were offered at the same time. But though the 335is and 135is looked similar, there were actually quite a few differences between the two packages.
For starters, though they were both turbocharged and rated at 320 horsepower, the 335is package retained the N54 motor to do so. I’ve never quite understood BMW’s logic on this one, but clearly there was something about the N54’s power delivery that they felt was superior to the N55 single-turbo. The reserved the higher-output N54s in late production for the 1M (335 horsepower), the Z4 sDrive3.5is (335 horsepower) and the 335is (320 horsepower). The N54B30TO also got a 7 second overboost of 40 lb.ft of torque on top of the 332 that was rated in this car as stock. As I described in the 135i post, the easiest identifier for these cars was the wheels, and on the 335is you got massive yet delicate Style 313 M Double Spoke wheels, 8″ in front and 9″ in rear, with more aggressive offsets than the E8x got. Hunkered down on M-Sport suspension, the 335is also got a unique M aerodynamic body kit, and the transmission was borrowed from the M3, along with additional cooling for the engine. They carried a less restrictive exhaust system. Coupes went so hardcore that, like the 135i, they dropped the foglight option. The convertible variant was apparently judged to be a little less track-ready, as so like today’s Le Mans Blue Metallic example, you could retain the foglights:
Recently, I’ve looked at two BMW 135i M-Sports. It’s a bit easy to be confused by the monikers of various models over 135i production. All 135i models came with most of the sport features that you’d associate with what BMW traditionally had labeled “M-Sport” models, but in the case of the 135i the actual M-Sport name was only given to models with option code P337A, which gave you Style 261 wheels and an anthracite headliner. Making it even more confusing is that when you decode VINs on non-M-Sport models, the term M-Sport pops up in S704A – the suspension – of all 135is.
Ready to be more confused? For its last model year, the M-Sport was dropped and replaced by this model – the 135is denoted by code P7MFA. The 135is had few changes from previous models; outwardly, they are virtually identical to the prior year’s M-Sport. Or, for that matter, they’re basically identical to any other 135i. There are two ways to identify the 2013 outwardly; one is the single “s” added to the back, and the other is the wheels. Like the M-Sport, one main difference was the new S2NFA M Double Spoke Style 313 wheels shared with the 335is. While they were 19″ on the E9x, they were 18″ on the 1 and carried the same size 215/245 tires as the prior years. Dynamically, there was a small change. Still carrying the N55 single-turbo inline-6, the last model year got the bump in power that was optional on 2012s. The remapped ECU gave you 20 more horsepower and 17 lb.ft of torque – not a big gain, but a gain nonetheless.
So here’s a 135is to consider, and since we’ve looked at Coupe 6-speeds the last few rounds, I went for a E88 Convertible equipped with the 7-speed DCT this time:
I’ve been accused of ignoring the E30 325ix. True enough, I’ve flatly declared that I’m much more an Audi fan from the period. But the BMW was a pretty interesting development from Munich, and as these are still market darlings, it’s certainly worth taking a look.
While BMW wouldn’t launch the U.S. spec ix until 1988, Europeans were introduced to the concept in 1986. Unlike Audi’s quattro system which utilized a rearward driveshaft tacked on to a front-wheel drive transmission output shaft, BMW mated a transfer case and two viscous couplings, which effectively were front and rear limited-slips. This was very different from Audi’s contemporaneous system, which relied on the driver to lock the rear and center differentials that were otherwise open. The 325ix was able to be mated to an automatic transmission long before Audi would do so in the small chassis. BMW’s system was also more rearward biased, with 67% of the power being sent to the back wheels. While still more prone to understeer than a standard 325i, it was less so than the Audi.
Then, of course, there was the power difference. Because of suspension and other changes between the front-drive and quattro Audis, the system added about 225 lbs to the curb weight, while BMW claimed the ix system added around 150 lbs. Since both cars made use of otherwise standard engines, the advantage was again with the BMW. The M20B25 cranked out nearly 170 horsepower, some 40 more than the NG 2.3 inline-5 shared in the 80/90 quattros. The only real external differences between the 325i and 325ix were the addition of the color-matched fender flares and rear spoiler, slightly higher ride height and 15″ BBS mesh wheels, and the simple addition of one “x” behind the normal designation. Weren’t times so much more simple?