AUTOcouture Motoring

Features

Sobieslaw Zasada 2002ti Tribute

Photography by Matt Petrie @crosshair_nightmare

The World Rally Championship is the modern benchmark for staged, all-terrain competition. It’s predecessor, however, the European Rally Championship, predates that by two decades. Since 1953, the ERC took place across the continent, pushing the limits of manufacturers and drivers from all over the world. One of those drivers, Sobieslaw Zasada, brought three championship titles home to Poland starting in 1966. Each of the three championships had their own significances, but the last was a multifaceted victory for driver and manufacturer.

In 1967, he was awarded with both the ERC title as well as being honored with the prestigious commemoration of “Poland’s Sportsman of the Year”. No stranger to podiums or championships, he won dozens of other tournaments and races all over Europe throughout the mid to late 60’s. A few years later in 1971, despite an alleged sabotage during one of the rally stages, Sobieslaw won his third and final ERC championship. Not only did this complete the hat trick of ERC titles for Sobieslaw, but the significance was important for BMW as well since it was their first and only ERC title.

While this is not the original 1971 championship title car, this 2002 was built by a Polish motorsports enthusiast named Piotr in 2012 as a tribute to the legend’s final title year. When the time came to restore his 2002, building a conventional street car was out of the question. Instead, he set out to alter the restoration into a performance-oriented, track-ready 2002. He spec’d out the commission for both the chassis and drivetrain to be based on the 1971 championship winning 2002ti. In paying homage to the Polish racing legend, he also earned a Polish National Historic Motorsports Pass upon its completion.

The engine was completely rebuilt from the bottom up using new BMW pistons (9:5 compression), Schrick 292 cam, Ireland Engineering hardened valve springs, and Weber 45 side draft carbs. The car was fitted with an E21 five speed transmission and 40% locking differential, which leads out to 13x8 Compomotive wheels stuffed under the flares. Gaz Shocks coil overs and full polyurethane bushings throughout the chassis tighten up car. The steering is much more responsive and the snappiness in rear can easily kick out if those Avon tires aren’t warmed up properly.

Of course, we can’t talk about stiffening the chassis and not mention the OMP homologated full roll cage. The interior also houses the matching OMP Legend sport seat pair. A Terratrip Classic 202 Halda tripmeter is fixed above the center console, but in true, vintage rally fashion, a cage mounted lamp and pen holder over the dash provides the navigator with the resources needed to guide the driver through the stages.

Piotr sourced the correct Alpina pig cheek flare kit for the project and he told me “the wide body is my favorite part of the car . Stickers or not, I love the appearance, but installing it proved to be one of the most difficult tasks of the project.” It took the body shop a few attempts to get it perfect, but the perseverance paid off.

During the build he had briefly seen Sobieslaw a handful of times, but it wasn’t until after he completed the car that he had a formal sit-down with the rally driver. It was there that Piotr revealed to Sobieslaw that he had built a spec tribute car to his former championship BMW some decades ago. Delighted, Zasada, said laughingly, “nice BMW, looks very much like mine.” Reminiscing on his championship car with a clean revision before him, he signed the hood and dashboard before they parted ways. Piotr went on to participate in rally events as soon as the car was completed until 2017.

Fast forward a couple of years later, where a customer of AutoCouture Motoring in New Jersey was on the hunt for a 2002. For months she had searched for all types of 2002’s across the spectrum. From ratty, original project cars to fully built race cars, nothing was ruled out. She test drove a few different examples and then this car popped up on ‘BaT.’ Winning the closing bid when the electronic hammer came down, she had Piotr’s tribute rally car purchased and shipped from Poland to the states. As soon as it arrived, she had Sports Car Restoration in Connecticut prep it to make sure it was ready to hit the streets of the greater tri state area. The car then briefly made a stop at AutoCouture where we buttoned up a few extra maintenance items while she dropped in to show us her latest acquisition. Even in a shop overflowing with modern M cars, Mclarens and GT Porsches of different varieties, the Polish rally car was a fan favorite by the majority of the customers who came in for those few days.

That is just the effect this car has on people. The color combination and aggressive stance is enough to attract people old and young. Piotr said that his favorite part of this car are the wide arches and for the right reason. The appearance and sound match the car’s performance in perfect harmony. Even while I was shooting this set, as remote as this location was, people still approached me to get a closer look and discuss the details around it. That is exactly what the current owner is looking forward to the most. She is embracing this car as a driver, but more importantly she loves passing on the history and what this car represents.

Features

Sam Van Heest's E90 M3

Photography by Matt Petrie @crosshair_nightmare

It is hard to believe that the E90 M3 is rounding out the tenth year since it’s production. Yes, ten years have gone by already and it is being celebrated by ill fitting bolt-on wide body kits and flame shooting, burble tunes that bounce off the rev limiter. Sorry for the spoiler alert, but you won’t find that in here. No, instead Sam chose a cleaner approach. The phrase that comes to mind and best describes his E90 is “elements of traditional ways”. Each of these individual components are not contemporary by any means, but he carefully chose each aspect and perfected them uniquely, reintroducing excitement for the chassis a decade later.

When it comes to suspension, there are so many ways to lower the car. Despite all of the possibilities, there was only one option for Sam. The Ohlins Road and Track coil overs were selected to ensure that his ride remains smooth and capable to tackle the tri-state roads while sitting tightly over the wheels. It is no secret that BBS is synonymous with BMW. Although you need to count on your toes for E9x’s with BBS wheels, Sam still manages to keep the bar elevated. The wheels are not the standard, concave face that is more commonly seen. His are the rarer, flat face RSII’s, which gives the wheel more of a traditional RS appearance. It allows the wheels to be built wider while clearing enough room for big brakes. On the other hand, something that is rarely seen on this platform, are the velocity stacks. Even though trumpets have been married to independent throttle bodies since their conception, his 8000+ revving V8 is packing a little more than just the orchestra horn section. His design and execution with factory functions are what etch its rank in velocity stack comparison conversation, but we’ll get to that in more detail later.

The use of color is so crucial in any build and a three-color pallet requires a specific eye, but more importantly, the right taste. Although white is a neutral pallet to work with, it is Sam’s use of the red and brushed silver that solidifies the execution. Throughout the car, the coordination is so seamlessly integrated, that one can miss the cues or just simply take them for granted.

Against the Alpine White slick top, the contrasting interior is merely a glimpse away.  This car was originally equipped with black leather, but it was since fully replaced with the more desirable Fox Red leather.  To take it a step further, he completed the conversion with the fold down rear seats, which were previously affixed in the back of the cabin. Along with the color swap, he updated the navigation system to the LCI spec, which changes the screen and menu format as well as the better idrive control unit in the center console. Also occupying the center console are the F10 M5 shift knob and an AEM gauge cluster to monitor vitals. Even their silver bezels were kept in mind to tie in with the silver accented components around the interior.



The red on the outside of the car is minimalistic, but extremely effective. Red StopTech ST60 calipers hover millimeters below the brushed BBS faces. On those brushed faces, sit custom height hexes that house red BBS center caps.  When the hood is opened, his valve covers, dressed in wrinkle red, provide a vibrant base for the trumpet display.  Another item that is not normally red, nor in the S65 for that matter is the physical dipstick.  Those of you unfamiliar with the S65 and wondering why a dipstick is being written about, is because these cars only have electronic ones that read on the instrument cluster and are hardly accurate at that.  Sam’s S65 oil pan had been given the VAC treatment of baffled channels and a good ol’ fashion dipstick to pull out and wipe down. He made the swap during his upgraded rod bearing replacement.

Of course, we can’t pop the hood and only talk about the red valve covers or a silly dipstick.  Matching the brushed finish of his wheels are the 2M Autowerks machined velocity stacks for the S65’s independent throttle bodies. The sound of throttle bodies grabbing the open atmospheric air before you is glorious and intoxicating. All you want to be doing is driving the car two gears below where you should be, but simply running the machined trumpets was not Sam’s end goal.  His thought process was thorough and very definitive. On a functional side, it had to mimic the factory plenum plumbing to keep the car happy and have no irreversible modifications to make it work. While brainstorming the layout, he did not want to incorporate any covers or trays around the trumpets. “I don’t want to loose the mechanical feel of this, I want the engine to look like an engine” he said adamantly. No disagreement here. Although succinctly stated, he’s completely right. Seeing the fuel rails and linkage along side the newly introduced oil air separator AN lines or the bullet shaped oil catch is a beautiful thing.

He drew up some sketches for the cylindrical oil catch and then handed it over to his friend and local machinist, Eric of Tribal Iron Customs. Carrying out the brushed finish, the bullet shaped conversation piece also integrates the factory drain mount in the same location below the plenum. Focusing on the details, he even made a little bracket to hold the filter in place above the valve cover. Equally as impressive as it looks and sounds, is that attention to detail. He is not finished with this project either as there is still more to come.  The plan is to utilize the factory air ducts from the bumper and kidney grills by having filtered channels 3D printed to his specifications in order to feed it with as much clean air as open ITB’s can get.

Rather than removing the chrome accents around the car like the headlights and the grills, Sam kept them to compliment the polished lips of his wheels. A European inspired shaved front bumper and NLA original Challenge diffuser are just more examples of how little details go further than radical aero and body work.

Sam did not rewrite ‘the book’, he just pulled a few chapters out, added some vibrant illustration, and put them back in to show the rest of the community how it’s done.

Events

MPACT 2018

Features

John Long's E92 M3

Photography by Matt Petrie @crosshair_nightmare

The root of our automotive passion varies as greatly as the interest in the types of cars we fall in love with.   For John, his roots stemmed from his Uncle Artie, who had quite a car collection.  It consisted mostly of iconic muscle cars from all manufacturers as well as a handful of various sports cars.  A stable with that assortment would be enough to get anyone excited, let alone a child John’s age.  As impressive as his collection may have been, it wasn’t until one distinct moment that solidified it for John.  It was Easter Sunday, 1992 and John and his uncle were on their way to lunch to meet up with the rest of the family.  What was the vehicle of choice for a beautiful Sunday you may be asking yourself?  Well it just happened to be his brand new, (quintessential) red Dodge Viper, in all of its three-spoked-wheel glory, of course.  Just a beautiful day for a cruise, it was something that many of us can relate to, but it meant more to John.   

During the drive, a stretch of road ahead of them shaped John’s future forever.  As the highway opened up, his uncle laid in on the "go pedal."  Changing the gears and beaming forward steadily like a bullet, John was overwhelmed with excitement.  Now, deep into triple digits and not letting off, John’s adrenaline was firing as ferociously as all of the Viper’s ten cylinders.   Without him truly understanding it, there would forever be a void in him if this emotion could not be replicated.  You can say it was burned into him...literally climbing out he scorched his leg on the lake pipes.  Puns aside, although he was a burned flesh-Viper exhaust statistic, that still wasn’t enough to take the moment away from him.  Telling the story as vividly as the day it happened, there's no doubt in John’s mind this was that turning point. 

Over the years, his passion grew stronger.  Month by month, John would collect automotive magazines.  He memorized the statistics of each make and model while taking notes on their styling cues.  By the time he was in high school his knowledge for cars had sharpened from the periodicals and when his driver’s education teacher told the class to bring in photos of their dream cars, the next day John walked in with a photo of an E46 M3.  His love for BMW was evident and the M3 was his ultimate goal.  When he graduated college, the latest M3 was unattainable, but a LeMans Blue 335i wasn’t a shabby tradeoff.  That car was very fast and it fulfilled his speed addiction, but even the full bolt-on, E85 drinking, N54 didn’t totally complete him.  While he was coming to this realization, work was about to move him out of Long Island and into Manhattan.  New York City’s mass transit is one of the largest and most efficient in the world, many natives go without vehicles, some never getting their driver's licenses at all.  Owning a car in New York City is one thing, but maintaining a nice car in the city is nearly impossible.  Depending on where you’re parking, you can be spending nearly a month’s rent just to keep it safe and covered.  Bittersweet, the time came for John to part ways with the 335i, but he promised himself he’d be back in another BMW when his living situation allowed.  

Four years later, a new job opportunity came up moving him out of the city and back onto Long Island.  After his daily driver was situated to get him to and from work, it was time to scratch that weekend car itch and figure out what to enjoy on his free time.  He looked at a bunch of F80 M3's.  Despite their addictive power, their sound and lack of connection to the road deterred him from buying one.  With his youthful experience lingering in his subconscious, John found himself hunting for V8’s.  The love for the M3 and hunger for displacement narrowed his searches down to the S65, BMW's second eight cylinder offered for M cars. 

Like most diligent car searches, time (and a little bit of luck) is crucial to find the right one.  It took John six months to locate his dream car.  He found this Interlagos Blue M3 up in Michigan with only 26k miles on the clock.  He bought the car sight unseen and had it shipped back to New York as a Christmas present to himself.  As excellent as that was, he was far from being done with just the purchase alone. He wanted to modify it, but more importantly, he wanted to address the dreaded rod bearing issue and preserve the four-liter power plant.  With the correct mindset of maintenance preceding modifications, he began to do some research.  He was looking for a reputable shop to do the invasive work.  Familiar with ACM's reputation on the forums during his ownership of the 335i, the volume of recommendations praising ACM for the work cemented his decision to bring the car over to NJ.  He reached out to Jeff at AUTOcouture Motoring and a week after receiving his Christmas present, he booked himself an appointment at the shop to go under the knife.  While this was in the works, he also inquired about getting a replica part installed that he was supplying. 

Dozens upon dozens of emails back and forth with Jeff extracted the true blueprint that John had drawn up in his head for the car over the years.  Jeff's collaboration took John's ideas and dialed them into a tangible work of art.  Always craving the execution of a setup of this nature, in the matter of just two stages, John was well on his way into exceeding those expectations. 

During the first round, all fluid services were performed to baseline himself and keep track for his records.  The upgraded rod bearing job was performed along with Ohlins R/T coil overs and an Akrapovic slip-on muffler paired with a Borla quad resonated X-pipe.  After receiving the car upon completion, he reached back out to Jeff immediately to get the ball rolling on round two in order to prep parts that would take weeks to get in.  One of the bigger items is the supercharger.  His supercharger of choice is ESS Tuning's highest trim level for the stock block - the VT2-650 kit.  It was shipped directly from ESS to IND Distribution in Illinois to get custom paint work done.  Rather than ESS's standard wrinkle black plenum, John’s was done in gloss black with an Interlagos Blue stripe.  To slow the car down as quickly as it goes, a StopTech 60/40 big brake kit was installed.  Not the standard StopTech kit, the finish reveals that these are their lightweight Trophy kit.  Not only an improvement in performance, but the finish was perfectly subdued and worked well against the color of the car.  HRE Classic 301 wheels in their brushed dark clear maintains that classic appearance with a slight twist on the factory setup and almost a direct match to the brake calipers. 

BC Carbon front lip with IB paint matched lower, makes the carbon fiber front lip look as though it is stuck into the body.  An RKP diffuser and M Performance spoiler finish off the rear end with a touch of perfectly woven carbon fiber.  GTS DCT transmission software from AlpineMS sharpens the shift points and changes the attitude of the driving experience.  The Awron gauge is tapped right into one of the intake runners for the most accurate, real time readings while a vivid, high-resolution screen displays various functions including one of my favorite features - the active line graph of torque and horsepower. 

John’s M3 is already a monster, but he is still not finished with it yet.  Although rapid, he is enjoying the build process almost as much as the car itself.  For sure, this won’t be his only dream car.  As his stable continues to grow in his Uncle Artie's footsteps, you can be certain he is not going to be parting ways with this one.  I can already see the warm spring day coming up when John takes out his nephew into triple digits and carries on the torch of excitement and passion to the next generation.  

Features

Felix's i3

Photography by Matt Petrie @crosshair_nightmare

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The i3 is BMW's answer to the affordable, electricity wave.  Designed for city commuting with spatial awareness in its compact size and efficiency, the i3 is great at what it does, but it’s not unanimously loved in terms of its styling.  Since the i3 styling cues veered from the mold of the common BMW or any car for that matter, Felix knew he had to give the i3 a little more attitude when he bought his.

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A couple of years back, Felix's i3 was the first that I had driven.  While I was a bit skeptical, it turned out to be a blast buzzing around town in.  Anyone who has been behind the wheel of one will tell you that the brake re-gen feeling in the accelerator pedal does take quite a bit of getting used to, however, you can minimize your overall braking if driven correctly.  My enjoyment behind the wheel of his, led me to driving it to Bimmerfest to unveil it in the Autocouture Motoring booth.  

Los Angeles to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California is approximately 140 miles round trip.  While this is not a significant distance, now may be a good time to emphasize an important statistic - BMW's claim for the RE version i3 is 150 miles.  Remembering one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes when Kramer tested the range limits of the car down past "E", I accepted the challenge and attempted to go for it on one charge.