Ever since BMW stopped importing the 318ti, and possibly even before that, there's been a cry from enthusiasts for a fun and affordable BMW. Well, the German manufacturer answered those calls with the introduction of the BMW 1-Series back in 9/04. However, it failed to reach our shores. The reasons given were numerous, involving the dilution of BMW brand values and the currency exchange rates, which would force the price of the small car into big car territory.
Finally, it appears that BMWNA has relented and will be introducing a version of the 1-Series, though it probably won't happen until a two-door version arrives. This will give the now slightly awkward looking five-door sports hatch a little more sporting cache to justify the price.
While enthusiasts in North America have been twiddling their thumbs waiting for the right 1-Series to come along, the Europeans have been busy building it into something worthy of the propeller badge.
Perhaps the most blatant indication of this is BMW Motorsport's racing program, that includes events like the Nurburgring 24-Hour Race. We covered the '06 race in detail last month where a 120d entered by Schubert BMW finished fifth overall and first in class. The Little Diesel That Could beat rivals from company's such as Porsche and Lamborghini, even shaming many competition M3s. The victory was explained by the car's clockwork reliability that meant it required no unscheduled stops. The team only changed drivers, tires and fuel in the entire 24 hours.
More than the car's incredible success, most people are amazed at how good the car looks. Resplendent in its widebody Motorsport clothes, the 1-Series has presence beyond its diminutive stature.
What's more, those clothes are available to anybody. We showed you the street version of the Schubert Motorsport 120d from the Essen Motor Show (et 3/07). The company was offering a version of the carbon widebody to the public, capable of swallowing 19x8.5" BBS in the process.
After a pilgrimage to Germany, Yasuaki "Bob" Suzuki, was inspired to build one of these menacing 1-Series for himself. The CEO of Japanese BMW tuner Studie sold his AC Schnitzer Tension M6 to fund the purchase of two cars, a 130i and a Z4 M Coupe. His intention was to give both the Motorsport widebody treatment, starting with the 1er.As we've already mentioned, we came across the Studie 130i during a visit to Tokyo with Yokohama Tires. The rubber company had organized a track day at Tsukuba circuit and the little blue meanie was on-hand to demonstrate the impressive abilities of the new Yokohama S.drive tires (et 4/07).
The day before, our Yokohama hosts had taken us to visit Studie's main emporium in Yokohama City (see p50) and we'd stumbled across the 130i being prepared for the track day. It was still shiny and new, having never been put through such an arduous test, so as we watched the Bilstein coilovers being tweaked by the techs, we were warned that the settings were a "best guess".
The Studie techs should be poker players because the guess was spot-on, making the 130i the most entertaining car at Tsukuba. It's combination of three liter power, nimble chassis, powerful Brembos and predictable Yoko tires made it an addictive pleasure. We kept returning to the track in the BMW like a crackwhore after another fix. But when a car turns in so well, grips hard through the corners and then has the power to drift out of the bend, who can resist one more lap?To be honest, we only know part of the story of Bob's 1-Series because our Japanese is very poor. However, we did learn that the two bumpers and four fenders are all genuine BMW Motorsport parts. What's more, they're constructed from dry carbon for incredible strength and lightness. He claims the parts are available from BMW to anybody, and are the same as the ones used by Schubert for its street 120d.
Once the precious panels were fitted, Bob selected this unique paint called Image Of Nurburgring. It's a color he saw on a BMW M3 GT-R during his visit to Germany. He's used it to create amazing impact wherever the car appears, and it contrasts nicely with the black wheels and graphics.
The wheels in question are 18x9.5" with a 23mm offset. From 3D Design, they are forged Type-2 wheels; the tires are obviously 245/35-18 Yokohama S.drive.
The suspension uses Bilstein coilovers with anti-roll bars and a strut brace from Arc. The brakes are 355mm drilled, two-piece front rotors from Brembo, along with Ferrari F50 four-piston calipers. The rear brakes use equally meaty 345mm Brembo rotors and Ferrari 360 four-piston calipers.
The free-revving 3.0 motor that made our track day so enjoyable had benefited from a Gruppe M Carbon Ram Charger intake with a K&N filter element. There was also center and rear exhaust mufflers from Japanese company Arqray.
The motor also had Plasma Direct from Okada Project, a product that provides the ignition coil with an amplifier said to produce four times more spark energy than stock, and generate a multi-spark discharge of 10 sparks at the highest rpm. The spark amperage is also doubled, allowing it to accelerate the combustion process. Overall, it's said to increase power, torque and fuel efficiency.
Furthermore, Studie had installed a Hyper Sprint Booster, which works on the drive-by-wire throttle. This device opens the throttle valve quicker than stock by making the ECU believe the car is at full throttle. Therefore, the motor responds quicker to throttle inputs and the car feels like it's faster off the line. However, it doesn't increase power, and wasn't noticeable at the track where the throttle was either fully open or closed.This combination of parts, along with the lightweight body panels certainly made the car feel very responsive. It would have been interesting to compare it to a stock 130i to see exactly where the gains were.
Inside the car was a pair of Recaro TS-G seats that may only be available in Japan. They were trimmed in Connolly leather to match the stock interior. The 130i also boasted a Rogue Engineering short shift, which certainly helped on the track.
While Bob has built an incredible 1-Series, he's not finished yet. He also plans a similar transformation for his new Z4 M Coupe. It will get the BMW Motorsport carbon widebody conversion, only this time it'll be painted a bright green. You can see photos of the work in progress In The Garage on p24 where you'll notice he's taking no half measures. We'll have more photos of this incredible car once it's completed.
2006 BMW 130i
Owner: Yasuaki Suzuki
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Occupation: CEO, Studie
ENGINE: three liter six cylinder 24v with Gruppe M Carbon Ram Charger intake and K&N filter, Arqray center and rear exhaust mufflers, Okada Project Plasma Direct, Hyper Sprint Booster
DRIVETRAIN: six-speed manual with Rogue Engineering short shift
SUSPENSION: Bilstein coilovers, Arc anti-roll bars and strut brace
BRAKES: 355mm drilled, two-piece Brembo front rotors, 345mm rear rotors, four-piston calipers all round
WHEELS & TIRES: 18x9.5" 3D Design Type-2 forged wheels ET23, 245/35-18 Yokohama S.drive tires
EXTERIOR: dry carbon BMW Motorsport front and rear bumpers plus four fenders, painted Image Of Nurburgring blue, PIAA 6000k low beam, LED angel eyes and Super 6000k HIDs
INTERIOR: Recaro TS-G seats trimmed in Connolly leather, stock aluminum pedals
CONTACT: Studie (www.studie.jp)