Some families have unequaled skill in particular areas of work or sport that simply defies logic. This inate mastery of a subject isn't learned, taught or picked up, it's just there. Nascar has the Earnhardts, football has the Mannings and BMW has the Azevedos.
Diogo Azevedo, owner of this '96 BMW 318ti, runs Azevedo Motorsports with his older brother, Rui. For those of you who don't know, this is one of the most prolific shops on the East Coast and its work has been featured here more than a few times. Rui's own E30 M3 remains one of the most incredible of its kind anywhere. They're also responsible for Eddie Farcon's 325i that appeared in 12/06, to name just two examples.
The last time we saw Diogo's 318ti it looked slightly different, with white paint and a normally aspirated motor (et 4/05). Actually slightly different is an understatement, so when Diogo had the recently finished Bimmer shipped out to LA for Hot Import Nights, we didn't hesitate grabbing a few photos.
"Every single panel on the car was changed from front to back," he told us. "The only thing that remains from the last setup is the hood and, of course, the roof."
The parts that draw you in are the wide, boxy fenders and the rear quarter panels, which almost seem to be a combination of E30 M3 and Porsche 944. However, they weren't taken from any other car; these metal units are custom. "Every panel on the car was handcrafted: fenders, bumpers, quarters, skirts, everything." Mario Coimbra, Azevedo's in-house painter and bodyman extraordinaire, spent many late nights ensuring a perfect fit and finish.
Although practicality isn't the first thing that comes to mind when looking at this baby Bimmer, it was very much on the minds of its creators. "We made the car as practical as possible. Every panel is removable. My fenders come off, the side skirts come off and everything's accessible on the car. On a project like this you often see everything molded," Diogo said. "But accidents happen. You lift up a car and there goes your side skirt. If it's all molded, what are you gonna do? That's the main reason I didn't paint the car a candy color - you can't blend a candy... God forbid anything should happen, I'd have to spray the whole car. I don't want to deal with that so I just painted it a base color that I can re-spray as often as I need."
Diogo chose to dip into the BMW color pallet, selecting the distinctive E46 M3 Phoenix yellow paint. It may not be candy, but it's certainly not subtle.
"It's not a trailer queen. I do all my stuff in-house, so if anything goes wrong I don't mind re-spraying a bumper or a skirt every once in a while," he continued.
The factory 318ti bumpers were never going to match up to the boxed fenders, either in style or fitment, so the Azevedo crew took action. They used a combination of OEM covers and fiberglass to achieve the look they wanted, finishing off the rear with a custom, handmade carbon fiber diffuser.
A car this outrageous doesn't work without some balance, so an aggressive rear spoiler keeps the car in its element. A wing similar to those used on the Porsche 930 RSR racecars was cut down and modified to fit the hatch. However, it's not Diogo's favorite part of the car. "I'm not a fan of big spoilers but the car was too off the wall for a baby wing," he confessed.
Although the widebody looks great, and certainly makes this one of the most unique Compacts around, the main reason for the extra inches wasn't looks alone; it was power. "I was gonna put a lot of power down so was at the point where I didn't want to stick with a 10" [wide] wheel. So I've got 12s on the back now." Those extra wide 18x12" DPE R16 three-piece wheels are wrapped in 315/30 Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, while the fronts measure in at 18x9" with 235/40s.
Peeking through the powdercoated spokes is a huge 14" Brembo Gran Turismo brake kit, with four-piston calipers. A similar set was installed on the rear. "The rear is custom. It's Brembo's Lotus caliper with a 13.5" two-piece Euro E46 M3 rotor on our bracket."
As Diogo said, those super-wide wheels are there for a reason, and after popping the hood you can see all 580 reasons staring back at you!
The most striking aspect of the engine bay is its cleanliness. Everything was removed, hidden or smoothed and coated in Phoenix paint. "There's nothing in that engine bay, even the wiring sneaks through the rails. That's one thing I'm really big on - I like shaved engine bays... I'm all for it," Diogo said.
The wiring harness may be hidden, but the motor obviously isn't the tiny four cylinder the car originally came with. The bay now houses an S50B32 motor from the European spec E36 M3, and is force-fed 8psi of boost from a Garrett GT40R turbo through a custom Azevedo intercooler system. Spent gases exit the vehicle through a 4" turbo-back, side-exit exhaust system. As you can imagine, the sound is anything but subdued.
The fuel system has seen a complete overhaul as well. A fuel cell from ATL resides in the hatch, with a Dash 10 fuel feed and a Dash 6 return lines replacing the stock parts. The Aeromotive A1000 pump can flow up to 600 lb per hour, and ensures the Azevedo fuel rail with 880cc injectors gets every drop of fuel they need.
A programmable Electromotive TEC-3 management computer is currently handling fuel and spark duties, but an upgrade to an AEM standalone is in the works.
The ATL cell fills through a custom gas cap, mounted in place of the BMW badge in the hatch. "It's precisely placed so when you close the trunk the fuel neck locks into the tube sticking out of the fuel cell. It's pretty cool." That may sound simple enough, but getting it to work was something else: "It was a mission," Diogo stated.
The result is a stock block making a solid 580whp on pump fuel, something Diogo feels strongly about. "I'm a big fan of squeezing as much power as you can from a stock motor. It's a motor nobody boosts, especially in the US, so now you have a motor that's 11.5:1 compression [with boost]... and that's why it was making so much power. At 8psi we got 580hp and I was backing off at 6500rpm!" he continued. "I'm not a fan of making power on race gas. If you get caught out, what are you gonna do? Run home and get race fuel or change your maps? It's kinda dumb. So I try to make as much power as I can on pump."
All the grunt is channeled through a Clutch Masters twin-disc clutch and six-speed European M3 gearbox. A Bilstein PSS9 coilover kit and Eibach sway bars handle the difficult task of keeping the power under control, allowing the tires to fit snugly inside the fenders. Very little of the original suspension remains, having been upgraded with BMW M parts, including subframes, control arms and more.
Diogo's process of upgrades and simplification didn't stop at the exterior, but continued inside where nothing, not even the wiring, is as BMW intended. "I have no harness in the car. I ripped it out and have a Painless Wiring kit now, so it's all pretty much toggle switches. There's no ignition, none of that stuff," he informed us.
The instrument cluster was changed to a race-spec Stack Dash. "I have the whole Stack cluster, so once again I didn't need the original wires and I ripped them out too."
Beige interior parts wouldn't work with yellow paint, so Diogo kept working. "I did a full dash swap 'cos the ti didn't come with a regular E36 dash. So mine has a '95 M3 dash, center console, the whole nine yards."Complimenting the newly black interior are a pair of Recaro SPG race seats with 3" Sparco harnesses.
The stock pedal box was changed to a Tilton set, something usually seen in racecars. "They're kinda like floor-mounted Porsche pedals, but the reservoirs are inside the master cylinder. I have a bias valve where I can adjust front to rear pressure, as well as a hydraulic handbrake; it's tee'd into the back line so you barely tap it and it'll lock the rear wheels instantly."
With a nod to safety, a six-point Autopower rollcage was installed and color-matched.
For audio, Diogo decided to let somebody else have a go, so dropped the car to Design Tech where Dave Hary could work his magic. "Everything was made so I could pull it out in five minutes. It's all fiberglass and super-light. [Dave] knew I wasn't crazy into audio, I just wanted something simple. That's why there's only one sub. " A combination of Kenwood, MB Quart and JL Audio components comprise the simple but effective system.
The transformation took 18 months and was finished days before our photos. "As unbelievable as it sounds, it's something of a daily driver. Honestly, I spent way too much money on that car to have it sittin' in my garage!"
Tech SpecDiogo Azevedo
Location: Linden, NJ
Occupation: Owner of Azevedo Motorsports
1996 BMW 318tiEngine: 3.2 liter, 24v Euro Evo swap with custom turbo kit using GT40R with 108 housing on custom exhaust manifold, intake manifold, piping, 4" turbo-back side-exit exhaust, 44mm Tial wastegate, Tial BOV, 880cc injectors, custom intercooler and side-mounted oil cooler, ATL fuel cell, Aeromotive pump and regulater, -10 fuel feed and -6 return, Electromotive TEC-3 management
Drivetrain: European Evo M3 six-speed gearbox, Clutch Masters twin-disc clutch and flywheel, stainless steel braided line, custom driveshaft, UUC short shifter
Suspension: E36 M3 front spindles with aluminum control arms, Bilstein PSS9 coilovers, Eibach sway bar, Treehouse solid control arm bushings, adjustable sway bar links, KMAC camber plates, BMP strut bar, Z3M rear suspension using subframe, diff, axles, control arms, solid control arm and subframe bushings, modified rear diff mounts, TC Design E36 M3 rear diff cover with the dual mounts supported by custom rear strut bar, Autopower six-point rollcage
Brakes: 14" Brembo Gran Turismo M3 front kit, 13.5" custom rear kit using a Lotus caliper on a custom bracket, Tilton floor-mounted manual pedal box with brake bias valve, hydraulic handbrake, stainless steel braided lines
Wheels & Tires: 18x9" front, 18x12" rear DPEngineering R16 wheels, 245/40-18 front and 315/30-18 rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires
Exterior: fabricated metal widebody, custom bumpers, hood and E46 side, Rieger roof spoiler, 4" side exhaust with stainless steel surround, shaved molding, GSXR gas cap in trunk, carbon rear diffuser, Porsche 930 banana wing with custom mounts, carbon mirrors, ZXW headlights, shaved engine bay
Interior: E36 Coupe dash conversion, black headliner, carpet, door panels, trim, Painless wiring kit, Stack Dash, manual window conversion, Recaro SPG seat, Vac seat brackets, carbon dash bezel, cluster and center console, mustard suede inserts on seats and custom door panels, Sparco 3" five-point harnesses, Auto Meter gauges, PLX wideband, Teknic quick-release steering wheel and hub
Audio/Visual: Kenwood 7" in-dash TV, Memphis Belle amp, 12" JL W6 sub, MB Quart Q series components, custom door panels with 6.5" mids and tweeters, quick-release fiberglass panels
Thanks: Mario Coimbra, Rui, Dave at Design Tech, fiance