Arrived at the CEC showroom around 10 a.m. and immediately headed over to the cappuccino bar for a double espresso. Caffeine fix sated, we watched a good hour's worth of F1 racing on the plasma screen before actually doing anything resembling work. Leafing through the ACS literature, we found the aerodynamic kit, wheels, suspension and exhaust and ordered it through CEC's computerized system. CEC's gigantic warehouse in Gardena (40 minutes away) ensured the parts we wanted were in stock. No word is more painful than "back order," especially when you've got a deadline.
We had lunch at Houstons and by 2 p.m., George Friederici had sent the aerodynamic pieces to our people at WetWorks Garage in Newport Beach. We watched another hour's worth of F1 and left around 3 p.m. The first day is always the hardest.
Joe Delio at WetWorks cleaned, prepped and painted the parts before we arrived at 10 a.m. There are reasons we insist on using WetWorks and this is one of them. When you say you need it by a certain date, it is done before said date. Moreover, the workmanship of the WetWorks crew is exceptional. Although Joe prefers to test-fit aerodynamic bits, ACS product is different.
"The Schnitzer stuff is very good," he said. "I don't need to do anything to ensure a clean fit. It bolts right on, just like it should."
That Joe was satisfied was good news, and by 4:30 p.m. the parts were their way to the CEC Showroom.
Called in sick and played Forza and World of Warcraft all day. Advised my colleagues to do the same.
Arrived at the CEC Showroom (or Haus of Claus) around 9:30 a.m. and George had already begun fitting the parts to the body. The front and rear spoilers, rear deck wing and side vents are all bonded to the body with a special adhesive, no screws, no rivets. Although a person of moderate skill could most likely install this kit (me, for example), I'd hire a pro. That way if something goes wrong I can blame him. In any case, George is a pro and everything went well. To ensure the parts remained in position while the adhesive set, George used a series of suction cups and tape for positioning. During this time, he removed the factory springs and installed the struts and shocks (this is something I would not attempt). In a nutshell, the ACS sport suspension for the E63 is some 15% firmer than factory and nearly an inch lower. The best analogy is that of a bed: We went from a fairly compliant mattress to one a bit firmer.
By 4:40 p.m. I had to make perhaps the toughest call of the whole project: choosing the wheels. ACS has several models to choose from, and the problem is they all look great. However, I was drawn to the Type IV Racing for its solid build and two-piece design. Given this car was originally equipped with 19-inch rims, a plus-one fitment was in order. The fronts measure 9Jx20 and the rears 10Jx20. OK, that part was easy, but choosing a wheel finish was troublesome. I typically lean towards understatement and while I don't want to describe myself as conventional, I suppose in some ways I am. That said, a silver wheel is usually a safe bet. Except here. Both Claus and George placed me in front a monitor and showed me the 6 Series configured with black wheels. It looked so right on the black body it became difficult to imagine it in silver. So black it was.
By 6 p.m. we headed back out to Houstons (I could get used to this job).
The aerodynamics were firmly set in place so George began removing the supports. It was beginning to take shape. The ACS sport exhaust had arrived from warehouse as did the Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires. In terms of street performance, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better tire then the Michelin Pilot Sports. They do everything well and do it quietly (it's rare to find a tire that does both). Michelin Pilots have extremely high limits, both in the wet and dry and if you do manage to breach them, you have plenty of prior warning. Both predictable and communicative, the Pilot Sport ranks as one of my all-time favorites. Yes, they are a bit pricey but they are worth it.
One of the CEC crew began mounting the tires with a high-tech Corghi tire-mounter and balancer while George began measuring for the exhaust. George removed the factory cans by cutting 75mm from the bracket and installed the new, stainless-steel ACS unit using the factory hangers and mounting points. The sizable dual chromed tips required some minor clearancing of the rear valance but nothing major.
By 2 p.m. the BMW was finished and there was much rejoicing. That the car looked incredible was obvious-the CEC crew and I just sorta stood there and stared at it. The trance abruptly ended when George turned the key. Where was this delicious sound coming from? The best way to describe the ACS sport exhaust tone is that of an offshore boat and Norton motorcycle. Whatever engineer developed this exhaust deserves an entire truckload of Spaten.
I left the CEC showroom after another espresso shot and hit the freeway. Triple digits came up fast, probably because I was trying to enjoy the car's newfound voice and feel out the suspension. Although the 645i felt grounded before, it felt even better now. The previous tires tended to squirm on the grooved freeway pavement-the Michelins don't. Long, fast sweepers were taken with huge confidence. The entire car felt more alive, more sensitive and yet still comfortable. In general, driving the 6 Series feels different than driving other BMWs, largely because of its rather lengthy nose. There's an air of regality to the vehicle in general. I guess that's why previous BMW coupes have always been special. In any case, I arrived home, parked, and coned the car off in my driveway for fear of children crashing into it.
The Party (or, why Les is a bastard)
I arrive at my niece's birthday party on time and even manage to have a present tucked under my arm. So far so good. Jerry must have heard me pull up; the tone is so distinctive one cannot help but look. Pushing children and old ladies aside, he bursts out of the house and begins to dance around the BMW. I rev the engine a few times, setting off car alarms and neighborhood dogs. Although Jerry is squealing like a little boy, I hear louder screams coming from inside the house. In all the commotion, the birthday cake got thrown to the floor and grandma slipped on it, injuring her back. Meanwhile, the dog jumped on the grill and ate $100 worth of carne asada. Jerry takes off in a blaze of tire smoke and disappears for the remainder of the party. As I enter the house, I notice a few presents floating in the pool covered with dog hurl. Fire is coming out of my sister's eyes and I make sure she's not armed. She says... well, you know what she said.
The general consensus was I did in fact make the BMW 645i a more exciting car. Although one person stated it was largely because of the striking running gear, another said the car sounded spectacular. Ultimately, it was not one single thing but the combined effect that made the project successful. And to do such a thing in less than a week's time is remarkable. Part of me wants to put this vehicle in the "done" file (it is, in fact, complete in every respect). And yet I cannot help but think a few more ponies would be nice, maybe more brakes too. That said, we've embarked on a power program and begun to investigate several binder options.
2005 BMW 645i
Engine:4.4-liter, dohc, 32-valve V8
Power: 325 bhp @ 6100 rpm
Torque: 330 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
Weight: 3,792 lb
Wheelbase: 108.4 in.
Track front/rear (in.): 61.3/62.7
0-60 mph: 5.8 sec.
1/4-mile e.t.: 13.8 sec.
AC Schnitzer Program
Body: ACS aerodynamic package (front lip spoiler, side skirt insets, rear lip spoiler/valance), $3,597
Wheels: ACS Type IV Racing (front 9x20, rear 10x20), $6,996
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 2 245/35-20 (f), 275/30-20 (r) (est. $1,400 by The Tire Rack)
ACS sport exhaust: $4,350
ACS sport suspension: $3,292