As I gingerly pulled the M Coupe up to the garage, Andy B. chuckled at the confused look on his 11-year-old son's face. "He's wondering what you're doing in his car." Turns out AJ had never seen anyone except his father drive the sapphire black BMW. With only 3,100 miles on the clock, even he hadn't driven it very far.
"Other than the Alpina V8, this is the rarest of modern BMWs," said Andy. His 2001 S54-powered M Coupe is one of roughly 150 cars built for the U.S. in what was supposed to be the model's last year (a handful of 2002s were delivered). That didn't stop him from ordering everything that Dinan and AC Schnitzer offered for the car (claiming, in his own defense, that there is really not that much available).
The double VANOS dohc 3.2-liter inline six (shared with the M3) breathes easier thanks to a much lighter than stock 304 stainless-steel Dinan cat-back exhaust. "I used to do shows, but I got older; now it's more go. This is my tribute to the 'ricers'," he laughed. "Those are cannons and loud as hell, but there is so much more motor sound." From inside, those cannons' raspy voices sing a sweet song and, combined with Dinan's Stage Two Software, boost torque 11 lb-ft to 286 at 5000 rpm and horsepower to 336, a gain of 21 hp at 7500 rpm. A Dinan aluminum and carbon-fiber strut tower brace rounds out the underhood modifications.
The car's look is dominated by custom 18-in. Kinesis K58 wheels. While the polished rims (9.0-in. wide in front and 10 in. at the rear) were readily available, Andy waited a year for the body-colored, one-off centers to be manufactured. He also waited patiently for the AC Schnitzer rear wing and front splitters to arrive stateside. After fruitlessly asking American importers for the bits, he finally found a friend of a friend stationed in Germany willing to ship them over. Turner Motorsports installed the giant 13.8-in. free-floating Brembo front rotors and six-piston calipers-with carbon pads-behind the stunning wheels.
Seated inside the chrome-bezeled retro, red and black interior, the only evidence of the AC Schnitzer short-shift kit is the logo on the shift knob, a mark seen again on the pedal set and e-brake handle. Lest you forget who supplied the extra power and wonderful sound, Dinan logo floormats keep the stock carpet clean.
Along with various other pieces, Jeff Proposki (remember his Saab from ec's June 2002 issue?) installed a trunk-mounted HMS four-point harness bar that "tightened the rear of the car quite a bit," noted Andy. "There was minimal flex in this car; now there is none." Which makes the H&R Carrera coilovers, set at about a 2-in. drop, even more effective. Somewhat stiff at slow speeds, the suspension comes alive when the Coupe is pushed. Turn the wheel and the big Michelin Pilot Sports respond instantly.
But, without a doubt, Andy's favorite modification is the Dinan 3.38 limited-slip differential installed by Dinan dealer BMW Gallery Norwood. Going from the stock 3.15 rear end to 3.38 equaled a torque gain of about 7%. "Off the line, you can smoke the tires like you wouldn't believe. The car just flies, an amazing improvement. This Coupe has become known as 'the donut machine.' Turn the DCS off, and this car, with so much power, is a wild beast," said the owner with a gleam in his eye. "Even for a bald guy, it raises the hair on your head!" Dinan is on notice to call as soon as the cold air intake (worth 18 hp in the M3) and any other engine goodies are ready to ship.
When the M Coupe came out in '99, I wanted one really bad; the style is unique," said Andy. "But, I had so much time and money in a supercharged VR6 Golf show car, and I wasn't ready to sell it. When I heard that 2001 was going to be the last year and BMW was putting the brand-new M3 motor in there, I was like, 'Done!'
"My mother knew my dream was having this car. When you're single, you have a pie. Then you get married and have half a pie. Kids take a quarter each, and before you know it you're a dad with no pie! I couldn't pull it off. I had the minivan payment and put every spare cent into the Golf. My mother was gong to help me finance the BMW, kind of her way of making the whole '80-hour work week, kid drill' palatable. She was going to give me my weekends.
"It started off with a $100 deposit my wife didn't know about [disapproving spousal glare]...okay, it was $500. With the engine change, the dealer didn't know if he was going to get the allocation after I went through all the pain waiting for it. It was a wild 6-month ride, going to the dealer and being told one week you weren't getting the car, one week you were."
Sadly for Andy and his family, the ride got even wilder. His mother, an accomplished and well-known pilot, was lost over Iceland on her way to London for the start of a year-long round-the-world flight that was to begin with the Sydney Air Race 2001. "A month later the car came in," he said. "Needless to say, this car is extremely sentimental and will never be sold. When I did my estate planning, I put it in AJ's name. This was my first exotic car and the biggest deal in the whole world at the time. It still has that magic for me."