autocouture motoring

Features

Frank Brearley III's V8 E30

Photography by Matt Petrie @crosshair_nightmare

When it comes to grass roots drifting, the ‘Club Loose’ name carries a tremendous weight.  Well known across the country,  their home track resides in Old Bridge Township, NJ; better known to most as Raceway Park.  Setting up dozens of events during the season, Club Loose draws a large amount of novice and experienced drivers alike.  It's also frequented by Formula D pros during their off weekends or when they take extended stays around the Formula D circuit stop at nearby Wall Speedway.  Level of expertise aside, there's one thing they're all doing - burning through rear tires.  Frank, being in the tire industry and a savvy businessman, saw an opportunity to contribute to this community directly.  His company, BC Tire, became the provider of tires for the Club Loose events, literally trucking container loads in to feed the addiction at an affordable price.  

Spending more time at the track as a vendor stirred up the desire to have a dedicated car to go out and enjoy for himself.  At the time he had just finished building a show oriented full OEM 1M converted 135 on air ride, but he was looking for something a little more suitable to bash around.  He wanted a chassis that was more simplified and rough around the edges compared to the E82.  He found himself a very modest, garage kept, 325e owned by an old lady in upstate NY.  Underpowered, but a solid chassis for its age, Frank decided to reach out to AUTOcouture Motoring to improve it 'slightly'.

 

This is when I had first met Frank.  It was a well over a year ago when he contacted me about this little project he had in mind.  He informed me that his intentions were somewhat nefarious, so naturally he had my undivided attention.  More displacement by means of a factory V8, full suspension conversion, brake overhaul, widened fenders, the list went on and on and the more he explained to me, the more I knew I was going to have the opportunity to be a part of something very exciting.  The most enjoyable aspect about this project was that he was building this car for the sole purpose to go out and play with it.  Not being an experienced driver, both Frank and the car would improve together.  After dozens of emails, the day finally came and the E30 was dropped off.  We began stripping the car and preparing it for the transformation.  He had a plan in mind for the heart of the project and shortly thereafter he told me he sourced an M60 from California. 

A couple of weeks later, there was an M60 on the back of the tractor trailer outside of the shop.  After a 3,000-mile journey,  the tailgate swung open and we come to find it strapped to a pallet on its oil pan solely with the transmission affixed to the valve covers above.  A sandwiched M60, sitting naked on it's oil pan was exactly what we didn't want to see.  Unsure of the damage done to the internals, I attempted to get a hold a Frank to let him know of our discovery.  Unresponsive and in a time crunch from the delivery driver, I was in a pinch.  If we signed for it, the mystery package was our problem.  If we sent it back with the delivery service, Frank had no engine.  Finally after multiple attempts, Frank responds….his wife was in labor....how about that for timing?  He gave me the OK to refuse the engine as he was leaning our way of conservatively not rolling the dice. 

Conveniently however, we had recently finished performing a manual trans swap for a California customer who bought an E39 touring on the east coast.  We swapped the transmission weeks before and that customer flew out here to drive the car back to his home in northern California.  That donor car, sitting outside of the shop, provided the prospect of an M62 that was ready for its new life in a smaller chassis, pending on Frank agreeing to it.  As long as the M62 passed leak down and compression test Frank was in.  He knew that the weight of the E30 and with the help of a welded differential out back, he wouldn't need to go crazy with an S62 or building out an M60/M62.  Instead, while it was out of the car the plan was to focus on the reliability of the engine.  We replaced the head gasket, timing chain, timing chain guides, all seals and hardware, full cooling system including water pump and thermostat to name a few.  During the disassembly and maintenance overhaul of the M62, many of the engine components were powder coated orange.  While the entire shop had a part in the build, the primary mechanic and fabricator behind it was Charlie Cisek.  He was able to make all of Frank’s requests a reality and even some things Frank didn't know he wanted.

This E30 is littered with details, more hiding around this car than can be mentioned.  It would be too easy to point out the orange full cage that was designed and made by Charlie, but rather the fact that a nearly 100 percent stock interior still remains with it.   Full rear seats, headliner, door cards and functioning sunroof are in tact, even the door card armrests were slimmed down to fit flush above the side bars.  Small riveted panels follow the contours of the dash to clean up the cuts made to accommodate the additional A-pillar area.  We could mention the floor boards and how they were cut, bent and gusseted individually by hand as well as a dead pedal made from scratch to mimmic the rest of his aftermarket pedal assembly.  The reinforced trans tunnel is the backbone for his right hand as the Samsonas shifter and the ASD hydro handle both mount securely there.  The force of shifting gears and pulling on the hydro creates too much pressure for the thin sheet metal of the trans tunnel alone,  leaving Charlie no choice, but to beef it up with thicker metal.  The removal of the center console left no place for the window switches so he relocated them up top on the dash board.  With the heat in tact, but air conditioning removed,  the 'snowflake a/c' button has been reassigned to power up the auxiliary fan. 

Amongst the cooling fan, behind the kidney grills lies a power steering cooler and external oil cooler.  The source of the oil cooler is a European S62 oil filter housing chosen because of its inlet and return line ports.  Charlie showed his affinity for older Japanese cars by exposing the oil cooler lines in the front bumper running from the custom mounted oil filter stand to the cooler itself.  With the removal of the M20 and most of its corresponding components, the engine bay received a minor shave.  The lack of room due to engine size, required many of the fluids to be relocated to Chase Bays reservoirs or Wilwood tanks.  The wiring was severely slimmed down from the conventional E39 540i.  Thanks to the combined expertise of Shaun Bruno, the shop foreman, the harness and connectors were carefully re pinned to utilized only what Frank needed. 

Along with sorting out the wiring in general, they were able clean the engine bay up further by changing the engine wiring harness location.  Typically, the engine harness leads out of bank two, across the engine bay, and into the driver footwell, but instead a block off plate was made in place of the original exit.  An access panel was cut facing the firewall and the shortened wiring harness now dumps directly out of the back into the glove box area.  To fit the M62 engine, the Garagistic front subframe was used.  To fit it properly, the  motor mount bracket on the M62 had to be modified slightly to fit.  Mounting modification was also done to the transmission well.  Charlie fabricated a new transmission mount to hold the 6 speed gear box underneath. 

The trunk houses the ATL fuel cell on top of the deleted spare tire tray.  Below the trunk floor is the perpendicular reinforcement bracing for structural rigidity and is the receiver for the custom made fuel cell brackets. This provides maximum strength to the frame and protects the E30 structurally in case he gives the wall or another car, a love tap.  The other item sharing space with the fuel cell is native to the trunk, however has been relocated and reinforced as well.  Charlie fabricated a battery tray and shock tower brace to combine added stiffness and for weight distribution, keeping it all neutralized and centered over the differential.  With all of that extra room below, Charlie cut an access area in the quarter panel in preparation for the side exhaust.  Made to be serviceable in sections, the exhaust comes off the headers with only a couple of resonators in place.  The car fires up with a ferocious bark, and although it idles surprisingly quietly, the blip of the throttle is enough to make you jump even while you're prepared for it. 

 

A reinforced and powder coated rear subframe holds a welded 2.91 differential with custom reinforced mounts and upgraded bushings.   A shortened driveshaft in orange (naturally) accommodates the new length of Kassel tuned M62 to the rear end.  CA Tuned coil overs were installed to keep the car flat and planted, bestowing confidence as the car gets tossed from left to right.  The car has enough torque to throw itself in either direction with the tap of his right foot, but when he needs to lock up the rear wheels, he does it with the help of a Wilwood dual caliper setup.  

This winter has brought on the second iteration of the M62E30.  This season, Frank will continue to get more experience under his belt and push the car further towards its limits.  This project is not over as Frank has continued plans for the future, but the important thing is that whether he's locking in lines or breaking it, he's shredding tires and putting a smile on his face. 

For more photos of the build, click on the gallery below for some of AUTOcouture Motoring's documentation. 

Features

Jeff Couch's 635csi

Photography by Matt Petrie @crosshair_nightmare

“Every possible reason you could think of, is why I absolutely love driving this car.  The way it looks, the way it sounds, the way it performs; it strikes all the right chords” said Jeff with a smile on his face and a Stella in his hand.  “But one thing I really enjoy is when people stop to tell me a story about an E24 that was in their life.”   While this is not an uncommon occurrence for classic car owners, unlike the average car such as VW Beetles, Ford Mustangs or 2002s, the E24 was a financial accomplishment.  During the height of Reaganomics stateside, the E24 was in the ‘I made it’ car category. 

People stop Jeff to relive stories of how their fathers or uncles acquired one when their business or practice finally did well.  “That’s the part that always gets me.”  No different from today, except for more options available, there are power coupes from all over the globe.  As car competitors go, Italy, Germany and England were renown for their performance, beauty and comfort,  but there was something so alluring about the 635csi.  The appeal was that the styling cues, power, and reliability were just as good as its more expensive competitors.  Even more so, those aforementioned combined with the reality of a spacious and practical four-person interior transformed the purchase from more than just a weekend trophy.  Not only did they have something to show for what they had accomplished, but it was equally as useful on a daily basis.

Jeff’s E24 carries a great story with it too.  It was 2012, and at the time Jeff had just acquired his third consecutive E46.  A reliable, mildly modded 325 manual seat, stripper was about to be replaced for daily duties by an Oxford Green M3.  With no use for two daily type vehicles, he and his best friend, Tyler, decided to make a trade.  At the time, the E24 was being daily driven by Tyler, but he wanted something a little newer with more creature comforts.  Needless to say, the E24 was not in the current shape you see here.  On the opposite hand, Jeff’s interest was heavily leaning towards a restoration project.  He wanted to pull it off the road and make it a project car he could enjoy for years to come.  With the equal benefit of both parties met, they agreed on the trade and off she went into Jeff’s garage.  Week in and week out Tyler and Jeff would wrench on the car replacing each part on their own.  Conveniently for Jeff at the time, he worked for a BMW dealership so he had the tools and access only employees had to find the obscure parts necessary to get her back to what you see here.  “Why did I buy a trim piece for $270.00 that has been sitting on a parts shelf in the middle of nowhere for seventeen years and that is one of three left in the world and to put on my car even when it wont increase the value? I did it because the car [expletive] deserves it." Every week, a little piece of paycheck was put aside to go towards the NOS parts off the shelf.

This car started out its life in Texas and eventually made it up the east coast making stops in VA and CT throughout it’s ownership.  Having past experience working at a bodyshop, he saw first hand how uncontrollable rust can spread.  Having said that, as Jeff got deeper into the restoration he noticed the lack of rust anywhere on the vehicle.  He realized he did in fact choose the perfect candidate for a long term restoration project.  Cleaned and prepped, Jeff took care of the full underside of the car with underbody coating.  The shell was repainted in the factory Zinnorot, but unlike the original finish, the car is now two-stage with a proper clear coat.  While it is not factory equipped or correct any longer; that deep, dripping, wet red looks like you can jump right in.  All new OEM trim was installed around the car along the outside of the car as well as on top of the trunk with the spoiler.  The front bumper shocks were altered to tuck the nose in slightly and give the shark front a more aggressive demeanor.  

The body is not the only area of the car that was updated.  Mechanically this car received a full overhaul from Jeff and Tyler.  An M30 B35 head was sourced, then decked and port matched for the IE headers and was hot tanked to clean completely. A fresh 292 degree Schrick cam was installed to give Jeff the ‘stop light rumble’ he was looking for.  The Supersprint exhaust took seven weeks and thirty emails to get, but the notes it produces anywhere in the power band paired up to the Ireland headers makes the wait and troubles worth it.  To keep her cool in the hot, summer, traffic months, a Wizard Performance radiator was installed with a Spal fan set thermostatically to kick on and pull air through the radiator at 180 degrees.  While he still retained the earlier motronic fuel injection and barn door, they routed a cold air intake to help cool everything down.  Most parts were powder coated in wrinkle black to keep the engine bay looking clean factory, without drawing any unwarranted attention.  Along with the cooling system components, new OEM gaskets and hoses were also replaced.  Upon installing the Ellipsoid headlights for better nighttime visibility, other wiring was rerouted and corrected for improved power and ground. 

The entire drivetrain has been refreshed.  The shifter linkage and bushings, rear axles, guibo and center support bearing were all brand new along with a resealed differential.  To give the car a better stance, Jeff and Tyler installed a set of Bilsteins all around paired with custom rate springs and IE height adjustable kit.  Increasing the stopping power with new pads and rotors,  stainless steel brake lines were also added.  The interior remains original as a whole with the front seats, rear seats and dashboard untouched.  The gauge cluster has been fixed and updated due to previous failure while some other little bits like the rear deck speaker trays have been replaced with NOS pieces.  Although the woodgrain steering is the only non factory item in the interior, the classiness of it far outweighs the originality lost.

Jeff’s 635csi falls on the fine line of restoration and modified.  A four inch thick binder with complete service history from time of purchase in Texas, 1985, throughout Jeff’s detailed build, the car’s life has not only been restored, but thoroughly documented.  The updated parts only improve the car as a whole and take zero away from its essence as a shark nose power coupe.  His execution was perfect by not only in bringing a car back to life, but making it relevant to today’s power and performance standards.


Features

IND M4 GTS-Plus

Photography by Matt Petrie @crosshair_nightmare

IND is a household name in the BMW community.  From minor cosmetics like painted reflectors and custom trunk badges, to all metal wide body projects, OEM carbon fiber roof swaps, and full interior transformations, there is no task too big or small for the great folks out in Illinois.  On top of that impressive résumé as a distribution center they are responsible for brands such as Challenge, RKP, 3D Design, and Eventuri, just to name a few.  The list of greatness could go on, so upon its tenth anniversary this year, how does a company celebrate?  By creating a mobile trophy culminating all of their strengths into one flowing art form in the shape of a F82 M4.  It is a daunting task to find a way to out perform previous SEMA builds and project cars that have graced the pages of well-known BMW and European sports car publications.   With a fantastic color, incredibly rare and exclusive parts, and a well thought out plan, the IND “GTS-Plus” was executed flawlessly with the hard work and dedication of many individuals.   

The GTS-Plus started off its life as a Yas Marina M4 built around the aftermarket community highlighting all of the latest parts being designed and developed for the next generation BMW, more specifically the brand new introduction of the F82 M4 to BMW’s lineup. Sporting the highest caliber pieces front to back, there was no doubt this car stood out and did its job of showing what is available for the community.  It wasn’t until it underwent its Porsche Ultraviolet transformation that it became an iconic poster car, surpassing any expectation anyone could have held.

With the release of the limited production M4 GTS in its infancy and only a handful of people currently receiving them around the world,  the excitement of seeing one in person and the delivery to their owners has enthusiasts eager with anticipation.  Since the M4 GTS is not yet readily available and replacement parts only being available to those with their VIN numbers even remotely able think about getting backup parts, certainly you won’t find a car sporting any GTS components just yet, right?  Not quite, IND found a way to get their hands on the OEM GTS wing, half cage, and hood.  Where they didn’t get authentic GTS parts, they delivered alternative ways to impress.  They “settled” (insert proverbial air quotes and eye rolling in jealousy) for the last existing new set of genuine E46 M3 CSL buckets from a Motorsports warehouse in Germany.  Rather than the double staggered, acid orange wheels of the GTS, they chose the new BBS FI-R in double staggered sizes with a custom hand brushed finish.  BBS center caps were also custom machined to match the high luster finish of their FI-R’s.  The regular skinny and extremely strong spokes of the FI leave no where for Brembo GT’s to hide.  Add in the 5-axis procedure that the FI-R requires during production and now the holes in the windows add for another dimension of visibility and weight savings.  

Upholding their stellar reputation of their paintwork, there is not an inch of the previous Yas Marina Blue left to be found.  The car looks as though it was painted from the factory as an Individual car and it basically was.  The entire car was disassembled inside and out.  Along with the respray, 3D Design full carbon fiber bumpers were added to the front and the rear with matching 3D Design side skirt extensions along the bottom of the rockers.  An adjustable carbon fiber lower aero tray is much like the GTS’, but much larger to fit the shape of the 3D Design bumper.  Also identical to the M4 GTS,  KW Club Sport coil overs are dialed in, inside each wheel arch of the Ultraviolet M4.

The purple accents are continued into the interior of the car.  Most noticeably on the OEM GTS half cage sitting over custom made carbon fiber dead panels.  It is also found in the stitching along the doors and across the entire dashboard, that happens to be fully reupholstered in alcantara.  Lightweight components were brought into the car to replace areas like the center console and door cards.  Competition seat belts out of Germany run the Motorsports stripes down the length of belt with identically matched door pulls.  Pop the GTS hood and below the large weave pattern on the underside, you’ll find much more Ultra Violet matched pieces and trim work.  The color coordinated bits are all around the upgraded intercooler, which is one of many of Fall Line Motorsports’ newest performance upgrades this car is sporting.  On the business end of the car, Fall Line Motorsports also designed front spherical bearing conversion bushings, sway bar end links, rear toe adjustment arms, rear upper arm bearings, an oil cooler guard for the F8x chassis.

I had the pleasure of receiving this car when it first arrived early one warm summer morning a few months ago at AutoCouture Motoring.  It arrived and stayed at the ACM home base to be used for a couple of shows during the 2016 show season.  All of the hype and excitement on social media and the forums took nothing away from the experience and presence this car commands.  Even to the point that we caused mini traffic jam the first morning it was sitting out in our parking lot.   Inside ACM, all of the mechanics and sales office enjoyed it day in day out, as did customers who excitedly embraced the surprise when they dropped their car off for work.  There were also those from the Tri State who migrated there just to see it for themselves in person.  The more time you spend around the GTS Plus, the more detail can be seen.  You can really see the thought and hard work that went into every detail and why IND is ‘IND.’  It is currently in the BBS Wheels booth at SEMA 2016 so if you’re lucky enough to be out in Las Vegas enjoying the show this week, be sure to navigate your way to their booth to have a look at it for yourself. 

Events

MPact 2014

Photography by Ryan Lee

For the past couple of years MPACT has been held in Baltimore, Maryland, but this year it was hosted at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. The decision to move was to break away from the standard car show and offer attendees various activities to participate in throughout the day. There was NASA High Performance Driver Education on the road course (track day) which allowed drivers to take their cars to the track with zero experience and provided an instructor to assist them on their first time out on the track. One of the sponsors Ratchet Head Racing offered ride-a-longs in their full race-prepped E46 M3. A Drift Taxi in the form of a a supercharged 5er equipped with 4 race seats was also there giving spectators drift rides around the track. 1600' side-by-side rolling start racing was held on the Tri Oval. Anyone with a tech inspected vehicle could pay and sign up to hit the professional Nascar track. There was a burnout contest, a dyno (which had technical difficulties), a judged car show, vendors, games, and give-a-ways. The day ended with an afterparty at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Casino sponsored by Ideas Machine Group, AUTOCouture Motoring, Ratchet Head Racing and Euro Touring Car Challenge Series which gave attendees a chance to mingle with the sponsors outside of the event. Open bar was provided for everyone that attended.

The show has definitely come a long way and evolved into a very unique event. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it there this year, but will make sure to go to next year's event.