If you're anything like us, you probably don't have the greatest luck. We've never won the lottery, not even had a couple of numbers come up. We've not won a car in a TV game show or been the winner in the Publishers Clearing House. And David Smit from Scottsdale, AZ was just like the rest of us, or at least he was until winning Bilstein's "Just Add" Sweepstakes where he walked away with a fully modified BMW 335i!
The Sweepstakes gave entrants the chance to vote for the car they'd like to win. With a Ford Mustang GT and F150 among the three possible options, we didn't see the BMW winning.
For our part, we'd been asked to assist with the build and would again be working with GSR Autosport to complete it if the BMW was chosen. But with the two Fords having a strong following, we were confident we would sit this one out on the sidelines.
As it happens, the Bilstein "Just Add" entrants were far more discerning than we'd given them credit. They eschewed the domestic iron in favor of Bavaria's finest, so we had to scramble to find some parts pronto. With only a few weeks before SEMA 2013, when the car would be presented to David, there was no time to lose.
Fortunately, part of the selection process was done for us, with Sweepstakes contestants also being invited to choose the wheels, suspension and graphics for the car.
Obviously, the suspension was easy, with Bilstein being the sole supplier, but you could choose between different set-ups. Unsurprisingly, the vote went to Bilstein's advanced B16 IRC system with Ridecontrol. This is the German company's most advanced product, allowing the driver to select different handling characteristics on their iPhone, preset them onto in-car buttons and change them on the fly. With everybody having a chance to win the car, the entrants were specifying the best possible equipment...
Similarly, there was a choice of HRE wheels, with attractive 19" P40SC rims being selected. And finally, there were three possible graphics packages, with the vote going to the most conservative option, which we had to agree was the best of the bunch.
GSR Autosport would build the 2011 BMW 335i at its facility in Lake Forest, CA. We'd previously worked together on the eBay Challenge, creating a rally-themed Porsche 911 for a charity auction at SEMA 2012. So we knew they could work under pressure but were surprised they'd volunteer to put themselves under so much stress again.
"After the way the eBay Challenge went, we didn't think the BMW would win, so we had a shock when we discovered there was only two weeks to build the car," explained Michael Essa from GSR.
"Fortunately, the voters had done a good job choosing the right parts. They selected the best wheels, most subtle graphics and the most sophisticated suspension, but we still had to assemble a package we'd be proud of and David Smit would enjoy driving," continued GSR co-owner, Nick Richards.
The car in question was a 2011 E92 335i bought from rust-free Bakersfield, CA. Because of the nature of the sweepstakes, and the time when the car was bought, it had an automatic transmission because nobody knew who the eventual winner would be and if they could use a clutch. That placed a restriction on subsequent engine mods, but GSR didn't want to go crazy in that department anyway.
"We wanted to build a civilized track car," Michael told us. "Something that would be comfortable and reliable enough for daily driving, but that would be competitive on the track. So we put a lot of time into the chassis, using loads of high performance parts and M3 components to achieve our goal."
Although the Bilstein B16 coilovers would be at the heart of the chassis, GSR ensured any driver could fully exploit their prowess. Since they needed to loosen the rear subframe to fit the UUC Motorwerks rear sway bar, GSR decided to drop the subframe completely and replace the bushings, upper wishbones and upper guide rods with replacements from the BMW M3. GSR also fabricated a pair of toe-links for the rear to increase geometry adjustability.
Up front, they installed a second UUC sway bar with UUC drop links as well as M3 wishbones, uppers bushings and tension struts. "We wanted to solidify the chassis in order to showcase the Bilstein coilovers," Michael explained.
So the dampers and springs were fitted, then the ride height and damper settings were finalized after a brief track test. A single button was installed inside the car, which the driver uses to select Comfort, Normal or Sport. The base settings were determined by Bilstein's engineers but the driver is able to study the damper performance in each mode thanks to data screens in the iPhone app, and then alter the damping rates using the same app.
The app gives you access to an array of information that affects the damper performance. You can then adjust them in real-time and save the settings, to be used at your convenience.
Of course, chassis upgrades involve more than just suspension, and Dave's 335i was equipped with Brembo's Gran Turismo braking system that used six-piston calipers up front and four-piston on the rear. These bite onto 355mm and 345mm cross-drilled rotors, respectively, ensuring plenty of stopping power when it's needed.
At each corner are the aforementioned HRE P40SC wheels finished in matte grey and measuring 19x9" at the steering end and 19x10" at the driving end. These were equipped with 245/35 and 275/30 Falken FK453 tires, respectively.
The engine modifications would give GSR a new set of challenges - how to improve the performance without affecting reliability. The route they took was tried and tested, helping to ensure everybody was happy.
The new components would include a Juice Box from Burger Tuning to intercept the ECU signals and raise the boost without triggering any check engine lights. It would be assisted by a cold-air intake from aFe and a cat-back Magnaflow Touring exhaust to improve the engine note. The latter would receive custom brushed steel tailpipes from GSR to differentiate it from the norm. Most importantly, the 3.0L N55 straight-six also got an Evolution Racewerks Competition Series intercooler and Synapse Engineering blow-off valve.
"It's a genuinely quick car now," enthused Essa. "In fact, it needs a limited-slip diff to help it get the power down, but it feels well balanced on the track. It's predictable at the limit and allows you to have fun, without it being a purpose-built racecar. Then you simply press a button and the suspension returns to Comfort for the drive home. It couldn't be a better solution for road and track use."
"I was also impressed with how the car hooks up off the line and its stability exiting a corner," added Richards. "I have a similar car of my own but it doesn't handle as well as this one. Our modifications really paid off."
"We knew the car was getting its graphics package so didn't need to go over the top on the exterior," Michael told us. As a result, they restricted themselves to genuine BMW M Sport bumpers - painted by Bell's Autosport in Huntington Beach, CA - before adding a carbon fiber front splitter and trunk spoiler from JL Motoring.
Accessory specialist Bimmian would be responsible for the details, adding carbon fiber front grilles and rear diffuser. They would also supply all the bulbs, including LEDs for the signals, DRLs, license plate and interior. Bimmian would even provide head- and tail light tint film to darken the lenses slightly.
The graphics were applied by GI Design, which also covered the mirror caps - one of the hardest parts of the project because of the curved surfaces. And GSR would complete the exterior with billet Bilstein badges from a company called Billet Badges.
Inside, the dash was laser-etched to read "Exclusively built for Bilstein," and has Essa's signature alongside it. There's also a set of pedals from bmwpedals.com and a wrapped steering wheel from Stitch Crafters, which also covered the shift and e-brake boots in matching alcantara, all with blue stitching.
Other contributions included Mothers cleaning products, Royal Purple lubricants and oil filter, plus Denso spark plugs.
So all told, Dave Smit received his BMW 335i bought and tuned for $50,000, as well as tickets to attend the 2013 SEMA automotive show where he would receive his prize from Michael Essa before driving it home to Arizona.
We had to ask if Dave intended to keep the car or throw it on eBay and he admitted to being not only a BMW fan, but also a regular reader of european car magazine. "An SUV would probably be more useful to the family, but I love the car and can't wait to drive it," he enthused. "I'm going to drive it around and see how I get on with it. I just can't believe I won it. When they called to tell me, I thought they were joking, and then assumed I'd won a suspension kit. It's taken a while for it to sink in that the car is mine!"
Clearly delighted with his BMW that cost him little more than the time to enter the Bilstein Sweepstakes, Dave will be the envy of all his friends and most of us. We just hope he had the good sense to play the lottery the day he found out he'd won!
2011 BMW 335i
Engine 3.0L N55 straight-six 24v turbo with Burger Tuning Juice Box, aFe cold-air intake, Magnaflow Touring cat-back exhaust with GSR brushed steel tailpipes, Evolution Racewerks Competition Series front-mount intercooler, Synapse Engineering Synchronic blow-off valve, Denso spark plugs, Royal Purple lubricants and oil filter
Drivetrain stock automatic
Brakes Brembo GT six-piston calipers, 355mm drilled rotors f, four-piston, 345mm r
Suspension Bilstein B16 coilovers with IRC Ridecontrol, UUC Moterwerks sway bars and front drop-links, GSR rear toe-links, BMW M3 rear subframe bushings, upper wishbones, upper guide rods, front wishbones, uppers bushings and tension struts
Wheels & Tires 19x9" f, 19x10" r HRE P40SC wheels, finished in matte grey, 245/35 R19 f, 275/30 R19 r Falken FK453 tires
Exterior BMW M Sport bumpers, JL Motoring carbon fiber front splitter and trunk spoiler, Bimmian carbon front grilles, rear diffuser, LED turn signals, DRLs, license plate bulbs, yellow foglight bulbs, tinted headlight and tail light film, GI Design graphics, billet Bilstein badge
Interior alcantara steering wheel, shift boot and e-brake boot with blue stitching, pedals covers, laser-etched dash, Bimmian LED lighting
Thanks gsrautosport.com, bilsteinus.com, Burger Tuning, Evolution Racewerks, Advanced Flow Engineering, Magnaflow, Denso, Royal Purple, Brembo, Bilstein, UUC Moterwerks, HRE, Falken, JL Motoring, Bimmian, GI Design, Stitch Crafters, Billet Badges, Mothers