There I was, walking past supercar after supercar at the Unlim 500+ in Russia, when I noticed something unfamiliar and very intriguing.
It looked like it could have been made by Rolls-Royce or a company of similar stature, but the front grille logo proudly announced Bilenkin Classic Cars, which didn’t provide any answers to me.
But after talking to the guys who were showcasing it, I was told that I was actually looking at an E92 BMW 3 Series coupe, albeit one now wrapped up in modern Russian coach-built bodywork.
From my conversation, I learned that Bilenkin is a restoration workshop in Moscow, which often modernizes classic cars. The company was founded in 2002 by Kirill Bilenkin, and in the time since then, hundreds of beautifully restored classic cars have came out of its doors. This one is a little different, though, as it’s Bilenkin’s own creation.
The guys Bilenkin knew that adding modern touches to a classic car doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the sort of vehicle you could comfortably and reliably drive every day, so in finding a solution to that problem the design team came up with the Bilenkin Vintage. It looks like a 1960s grand tourer, but is as easy to live with as any other modern BMW.
The start point for one of these builds is a basic E92 coupe, but creating a Bilenkin Vintage out of an M3, a 4WD version, or even a diesel variant is no problem, because nothing is touched mechanically. Instead, Bilenkin puts all their effort into the bodywork and interior, and what they do here is really only limited by imagination and the client’s budget.
It was no coincidence that the Vintage was debuted at the Dubai Motor Show in 2015, as that’s the kind of audience it’s marketed at.
In creating a Bilenkin Vintage, every panel is reshaped, and completely new front fenders house a pair of round headlamps. There’s also a two-piece chrome bumper with integrated turn signal up front, chrome moldings on the side, and dramatic retro fins with taillights at the back.
What surprised me, was that not only did Bilenkin leave the mechanicals of the base car untouched, but the safety side of things as well. Yes, the interior has been totally reworked, but all the airbags are in place. BMW’s iDrive system is fully functional, too; the switch has just been redesigned for a more upmarket look and feel.
I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of retro-styled modern cars, but there’s no way I can deny the quality of the Bilenkin Vintage. Milled aluminum, real wood, real leather, and nacre are the sort of things you only find in very luxurious cars. Hence the price tag of $145,000, not including the donor E92.
Mind you, that’s only the base price…