I like museums – especially automotive ones. They’re very special places to just be; to soak up history and examining certain periods in time which have been perfectly encapsulated by the items on display. But there’s always a touch of sadness when I see a race car lifted up for all to admire – it’s once cutting-edge suspension and brakes now redundant as it poses for photos. Maybe there’s a video wall nearby acting as a constant reminder of its great achievements, or a soundtrack that loops engine noise through the space. You know the drill…
Then there are the renegades – the escapees – the ones that got away into the wild. Left to fend for themselves without factory or big team support, old race cars can often mutate into the most incredible creations. The sort you’d never dare even consider when looking at a factory-produced race car.
But when you find one a couple of decades down the line it’s a wonderful thing. You’re probably thinking this can’t be a real DTM car, right? But that’s exactly what it is – one that strayed from the party line a long time ago. If you’re cringing a little bit already, you probably don’t want to know that it’s also had a Chevy V8 mounted between the chassis legs in the past.
From this angle you can see why people sometimes wonder if the engine is mid-mounted, as the large alloy ducting that helps air escape from the cooling hardware is so deep. The truth of the matter is that the race series the M3 competes in allows the furthermost part of the engine to be mounted no more than 200mm back from the bottom edge of the windscreen.
So the BMW-sourced V8 can now sit way back, with that lovely stiff cross-bracing demonstrating how far behind the centre of the wheel line it actually is. I’m told it was a crazy squeeze to get it in there, as witnessed by that air intake pipe which snakes into the front of the custom plenum. To get to it and administer any sort of maintenance requires dislocating limbs and removing half the hardware, but every misplaced kilo in a race car can make the crucial difference between well-balanced handling and a pitchy, unwanted and unmanageable setup.
So what we have here is a rough and ready mix-up of factory-backed magnificence that’s been taken into the darkness of some uniquely talented minds and morphed into this. It’s like an Olympic athlete that took a load of drugs, or maybe an old boxer who has mental power on his side after years in the ring.
The more mechanically-minded amongst you will have worked out by now that there’s also a turbo feeding the V8, which is mounted inside the alloy box you can see in the background of this picture. Yup, right where the passenger would normally have their legs. But then again, the logo on the side of the BMW is for GIK Turbo, one of Sweden’s longest established, premier turbo specialists.
The alloy box is another reminder that this isn’t a converted road car – it’s a gen-u-ine straight-up race car that has never had a passenger seat, so why would it matter if a turbo was placed where a useless bag of bones might perch?
I’m a fan of old race cars in all shapes and forms – from immaculately preserved and maintained examples to these war-torn veterans. Neither is better – all have their own qualities that draw me in. But I have a special respect for this BMW and no matter how you feel about it, the fact is it’s out there kicking ass on the track rather than staring out of a glass box at tourists all day… Which would you prefer?