Not exactly the greeting I expected from my beloved sister. With a trembling upper lip she tells how I ruined yet another family get-together.
The "plan" to spoil my nieces' birthday party hatched nearly three years ago, spawned by an old issue of european car. My brother-in-law and I were gushing over a 1970 BMW 3.0 CS in Alpina gear, commenting on how the car's overall design was a true classic. We started wondering which modern cars are destined to become future classics. It's a great question and although I don't have the answer, I love discussing it.
Like me, my brother-in-law loves European cars, loves their unique exclusivity, loves their looks and performance. A few years ago, he asked what I thought about the Porsche 911 Turbo. I said they were great, he bought one. Last March he asked what I thought about the Mercedes E55. I said they were great, he bought one. Six months ago he asked what I thought about the new BMW 6 Series. I said they were great... and you guessed it. He bought one.
While it would be easy to hate a guy with this kind of financial ability, I can't. He's a genuinely good guy who hasn't always been on the top of the monetary barrel; in fact, he's been at the very bottom. I remember a desperate call from Las Vegas: "Dude, could you wire me a hundred bucks to get home?"
That was then, this is now.
So we were speaking of future classics. Could the BMW 6 be one of them? Who knows? It certainly seems to have the right stuff: great engine, handsome styling, classic BMW handling. But, as a few of Jerry's partners pointed out (and I agree), it lacks the "edge" that makes it exceptional when parked among a Porsche GT3, Jaguar XKR, Audi S6 and Mercedes E55. I bet these guys I could transform the 6 Series in less than a week. I could give it the edge that made it truly stand out from a distinguished crowd. Challenge accepted, terms agreed, I left in Jerry's car and headed off.
They say it's immoral to bet on what you know is certain. If that's the case, I'm going to hell, right after I visit the CEC Showroom in Beverly Hills. I knew CEC was the North American connection for AC Schnitzer hardware and I knew its program for BMW's 6 Series was stunning. So yes, this was an immoral bet. I knew I'd win. Crank up the heat boys, I'll be heading South soon.
I've known Claus Ettensberger of CEC for 15 years. Claus has a knack for finding quality brands and bringing them to market. In addition to AC Schnitzer, CEC is the distributor of TechArt, Novitec, Antera, AZEV and Oettinger. It's all high-end, quality stuff that has passed the rigorous European TÜV certification process. That means it's capable of withstanding autobahn use where speeds routinely exceed 130 mph. While few North American cars will see that type of use, it's important to remember most European cars are build to exacting specifications. Start changing things and it's possible to throw the entire car out of balance. It happens, we've seen it, it's not pretty. TÜV ensures European O.E. quality, a standard domestic manufacturers are not compelled to follow.
We've been a fan of AC Schnitzer for nearly two decades, not so much for its European racing involvement (and there's lots of it) but more the cars CEC brought to America. Astute readers will remember the ACS CLS II M3, a lightweight variant of BMW's own factory version. Then there was the ACS 3.0 318ti, a car that redefined what a hot hatch could be. We remember those cars because we spent considerable time in them and left with the impression that this was the type of thing BMW's own skunkworks might create. Factory correct, powerful, fun-perfect. We wanted the same thing for our BMW.
AC Schnitzer is the product of Willi Kohl, one of Germany's largest BMW dealers, and Herbert Schnitzer, a hardcore racer. In the mid '80s, they decided to utilize Schnitzer's technical know-how for more than racing victories. The concept was straightforward: Let's bring some of our race technology to the street.
The terms "racecar" and "street car" have a fairly broad gap. We like performance as much as the next guy but not at the expense of daily drivability. Luckily, ACS offers levels of tune to fit our style. As much as we love looking at the ACS Tension, we wouldn't want to live with it.
The ACS program for the E63 6 Series coupe touches on every aspect of the car's systems: aerodynamics, handling, interior and performance. Normally, finding all four requires driving all over hell. We found them under one roof.