With the tub stripped down to bare metal and in pieces, Piper Motorsport found itself in a unique position as far as the roll cage was concerned. Instead of leaving bare tube throughout the cabin, the team decided to integrate tubing into the car's chassis. No matter how close you look, it's nearly impossible to pick the cage out from the interior. The team cut and sectioned both the A and B pillars, inserted the cage tubing, and stitched it all back together. The same went for the rocker panels, though they swapped the tubing for substantial box steel, thereby tying the front and rear halves of the cage together. Instead of seeing a jungle gym of tube and welds inside, the only visible portions of the cage are the rear "X" bar and the harness bar. It's the perfect combination of functionality and safety for which so many street cars reach and so few achieve.
From here, Piper Motorsport worked closely with another guru-Neel Vasavada of Apex Speed Technology in California. Like Piper, Vasavada is the kind of guy you only call when you're really ready to get serious. And just like the rest of the car, the electronics go well beyond the bare minimum. AST decided to go with a Pectel SQ6M12 engine management system, and the result is a rash of technology you wouldn't expect to find anywhere near an E30 M3.
For starters, there's an advanced traction control system with four settings. The very bottom is Off, which Vasavada says "smokes the tires from first through fourth on dry pavement. Fun for burnouts." Things get more civil from that point. Setting Two limits slip to about 20 percent, and is great for drifting, allowing a greater level of fine control than no traction control at all. Map Three is designed for street driving. The goal is to optimize forward acceleration. If that sometimes means minute wheelspin, it's allowed. Finally, setting Four is for slippery conditions, and thus is the most conservative, reigning in any slip in a hurry.
Even if you're still sitting there thinking, "So what, my car has traction control," we'll quote Vasavada again: "The traction control system can factor in throttle position, speed, gear, rpm, lateral acceleration, steering angle, and even suspension travel. It is capable of limiting slip via cylinder cuts, ignition retard, closing the throttle, or any combination of the three. It's also fully integrated with the ABS system, so it does have stability control. However, it is much more sport oriented than you'll find in any street car, and I've designed it so you can partially override the system with a heavy enough right foot."
Perhaps even cooler, though, you can pair your traction control settings with engine mapping settings. Map One is designed for everyday driving. Throttle sensitivity is gentle, but as Vasavada puts it, "If you romp on it, it gets up and goes!" Good for traffic, and good gas mileage, too. Setting Two is designed for canyon carving and track work, with a more aggressive throttle and richer fuel mixtures. Map Three: linear throttle. Read: If e-throttles were never for you anyway. Last, map Four, what Vasavada jokingly calls the stock E30 mode, but you can call it valet mode. It's very easy to drive and is good for about 200 hp, with the throttle bodies never opening more than 30 percent.
Aside from traction control, AST also fitted the car with a number of engine controls, including variable cam adjustments for all four cams and full electronic throttle control for both sides of the mighty V10. Speaking of the throne of power, AST fitted the car with a Digital Pi OMEGA dashboard. This allows the driver to thumb through a number of pages with vital information on the car's performance and function.
So it's clear that the critical controls work incredibly effectively, but the devil is in the details. Some examples we found to be exceptionally cool:
-Turn signals turn themselves off if left on for a preset time.