BMW took a big leap at the end of the 1980s and introduced some pretty extreme design language. First was the E31 8-series, a seeming quantum leap from the outgoing 6-series. That chassis pioneered, for better or worse, a tremendous amount of technical and electronic innovation for BMW. The 8s relied on a bevy of computers to control its chassis, electronic suite and engine. Side by side with the more famous Grand Tourer though was a diminutive roadster BMW produced based heavily on the E30 chassis. Instead of a heavy reliance on computer technology, the futuristic (hence Z for the German word for future – Zukunft) plastic bodied Z1 looked like a supercar even if it didn’t go like one. Park one next to a E30 convertible and you’d never know the two are related!
The Z1 was a complete departure for BMW; while they were not strangers to small cabriolets, their previous efforts were in the 1930s with the 315/1 and the 1960s with the 700. BMW went away from the idea of an integral body and frame to a separate chassis with removable, plastic body pieces. The idea was that the owners could replace the panels themselves to “repaint” the car with minimal effort. It was something the Smart car would be notable for – a car that launched a decade following the Z1. To get the paint to adhere to the bodywork, BMW had to partner with AZKO coatings to develop a flexible paint which they termed ‘Varioflex’, while the bodywork had to be attached using a unique elastic joint technique. The doors didn’t open out – they slid down into the supporting chassis structure. The underbody was flat, not only for aerodynamics, but the tray turned into a diffuser towards the back, assisting in sticking the rear to the ground as speeds rose. In front was nothing new: the venerable M20 from the E30 popped up here, too – but in the rear the Z1 was new with a multi-link rear axle of its own. This new design would later be incorporated into the E36. It’s interesting that with the Z3 BMW opted to go the opposite route and incorporate earlier E30 pieces into the rear of the /7 and /8. While performance was relatively leisurely, the Z1 nevertheless garnered praise for its innovation, unique design and great looks. They never made it to U.S. shores and only around 8,000 examples were ever produced, but a few have crossed the Atlantic now that they’re old enough to be more easily imported:
I do love a good automotive ‘What if…’. What if Volkswagen brought all its cool models here. What if Audis were reliable. What if Porsche followed through on the promise of the 968 Turbo. Well, today’s example questions what would happen if BMW slotted all of its E9X M3 bits into the lighter, smaller chassis of the E82.
That was partially done with the 1M Coupe, though it retained ‘only’ a turned-up version of the N54. Auto Source Group decided that just wasn’t enough, and commissioned a build with the full assortment of M3 bits, including the EDC suspension and…more importantly…the 8,400-rpm 4-liter V8. And then they refinished in it San Marino Blue. The result? Wows throughout, including the pricetag.
For those who aren’t immediately familiar with iDing Power, you’re forgiven.
The M3 GTR launched in 1994, and the United States did (technically) see it in the form of the Prototype Technology Group-run team in IMSA race series. The same year in Japan, iDing Power revealed the plans for their turned-up E36 M3. They had acquired an early production second generation model; production started for the E36 M3 in February, 1992 – and the particular example you see here was produced on February 3, 1993. iDing then added a plethora of unique touches, from upgraded suspension, wheels and brakes, special interior items, and some body modifications. By “some”, of course it’s hard to look past the W201 190E-Evo inspired rear wing and massive tacked-on flares. iDing also took the S50B30 European motor, rated at 286 horsepower stock, and modified it to a claimed 330 horsepower. iDing widebodies are pretty rare finds, with a claimed 17 produced.
Today’s car we’ve seen before; I wrote it up back in 2017 when it was still in Japan. It was also the prototype test car, apparently, and is highlighted on the company’s history page.
Tuner Tuesday: 1993 BMW M3 iDing Power S3
Well, it’s traveled across the sea to Wyoming and an additional 1,500 miles since we last saw it, and it can now be yours again…for a price.
Following up on the M760i, it seems relevant to look at an M535i. There’s a huge disparity in the “M” branded models between the E24 and E28. While the M6 and M5 co-existed in the United States market, they did not in Europe. This left the M635CSi to be the equivalent of the M6, as the latter was only marketed in North America and Japan. But the same was not true of the M535i. This model was sold as a more affordable alternative to the M5 in Europe: most of the look of the Motorsports model but without the bigger bills associated with the more exotic double overhead cam 24 valve M88/3. Instead, you got a 3.4 liter M30 under the hood just like the rest of the .35 models. The recipe was a success, selling around 10,000 examples in several different markets – but never in the U.S..
Instead, the U.S. market received the 535iS model. The iS model was specific to the North American market and gave you the look of the U.S.-bound M5, with deeper front and rear spoilers, M-crafted sport suspension and sport seats. It, too, was quite popular – between 1987 and 1988, just over 6,000 examples sold in the United States alone, and of those, a little more than half were the preferred manual variant. One of the nice aspects of the 535iS was that if you enjoyed colors other than black you were able to order the lesser model in any shade you wanted, unlike the North American M5.
Today I found an M535i that popped up in…well, shall we say an unusual setting. Let’s take a look:
Back in June I took a look at the roadgoing version of the CSL ‘Batmobile’ – well, at least a replica of one:
1971 BMW 2800CS ‘Batmobile’ Replica
I talked about the race exploits of the FIA and Touring racing cars, and today we’re looking at a replica version of one of those.
Introduced towards the end of E30 production, the M Technic II package brought a lot of special revisions to the convertible version of the venerable benchmark. Option 771 included the M Technic body kit, special Sport Evo upholstery and M Technic badging, M Sport suspension, 15″ BBS wheels, and a few other treats. These were only available in Brilliant Red, Sterling Silver Metallic, or Macao Blue Metallic, and the claim is that perhaps less than 250 were made. A $4,700 option when new, it was a serious premium on top of your already quite dear E30.
As a result, there was a second M Technic II package – option code 770. This was the M Technic appearance package, and it offered most of the same look at a much more affordable $1,800. You got the M Technic body kit and painted 14″ BBS wheels, but you gave up the special suspension, special upholstery, and most of the special badging. These cars were available in either Alpine White with Lotus Nappa leather or Diamand Black Metallic with black Nappa leather, so if you see one of those two colors with the body kit, you’re looking at an appearance package car, as we are here today. However, as you can get the bulk of the special bits that made the full M Technic package super special, many of these cars have been modified to look like their more expensive siblings:
Just in case the many special editions of the M3 and M4 didn’t strike your fancy, in 2020 BMW launched yet another limited-edition of the outgoing F82 M4. Dubbed the Heritage Edition, it was effectively a Competition model in one of three exterior colors mimicking the Motorsport logo. You could choose from the shades of Laguna Seca Blue, Imola Red II, or today’s choice – Velvet Blue – and you got a special M-striped carbon-fiber roof panel, special interior trim, and the choice of a six-speed manual or the seven-speed DCT transmission. Production was limited to 750 units worldwide, and so collectability is almost assured for the future:
BMW’s Individual department really hit its stride in the F8x series cars, with a tremendous amount of custom-painted M3s and M4s streaming into our country alone. A claimed 1,193 M3 sedans were specified through BMW Individual before making their way to the US; to give some perspective, that’s only slightly less than the entire North American E28 M5 run. 96 of the F80s run through Individual were finished in today’s shade of Ferrari Red, but this one also has a special surprise inside:
The E24 was an amazing survivor; consider, for a second, that like the R107 this was a child of the 70s that was still sitting in showrooms at the dawn of the grunge era. The E24 was initially based upon E12 bits and produced by Karmann, but in 1982 updated components from the E28 series were introduced. Finally, a second round of updates were introduced in 1988 as the E28 was phased out, and the E24 received components shared with the E32 and 34 models. New were body-color corner trim caps on the bumpers, ellipsoid headlights, and an airbag steering wheel. The rear air conditioning console, which had been a neat feature on the L6, was now standard. But the big news was under the hood, where the newest version of the venerable M30 – the B35 variant – was now found. The E24 now had over 200 horsepower on tap and freshened looks to see out production:
Recently I looked at a post-War oddity, the EMW 327.
1953 EMW 327
Although it was the BMW that wasn’t a BMW, the company itself was busy with its first post-War offering – and it was an unusual one in many ways. In 1952, the company launched the large 501 models. Under the hood was the 326’s inline-6 powerplant, but the new bodywork, ornate details, and large scale gained it the nickname “Baroque Angel”. In 1954, BMW introduced an all-new 2.6-liter V8, which increased horsepower to nearly 100; about a 40% increase over the initial 501 offering. The alloy V8 would be the first of the company’s history, but wouldn’t last long – BMW used it in the 50X series cars, but reverted to four and six cylinder engines until the M60 was introduced in the 1990s. At the same time as the new motor was rolled out the company introduced the 502, which was essentially an upscale version of the 501 with additional chrome and equipment. Improvements continued to stream in; a 3.2-liter V8, disc brakes, and even a late run ‘505’ upscale limousine carried the model into the early 1960s. The V8-powered versions were also claimed to be the fastest German production sedans in period. 501s and 502s were also built in multiple configurations, including sedans, coupes, and convertibles. Today’s sedan example comes from the middle of the run, and these are rare enough to see that it’s worth a look: