Just under a year ago, a fresh take on the BMW E30 debuted in Las Vegas ahead of the SEMA Show. The car took elements known to work on the E30 – box flares, aggressive side skirts and a lowered stance – and pushed them just that little bit further.
Instead of tucking straight back into the quarters the overfenders stopped short, and the gap between the body and flare was filled with horizontal slats. On the trunk lid an extra level was added to the spoiler before being topped off with a second aggressive Gurney flap. Window louvers borrowed straight from the ’80s adorned the back window, and the already aggressive lower front lip saw a splitter affixed to bring the car that much closer to the ground.
Painted satin black with a unique cyber punk-inspired livery on top, the end result brought several different elements together without looking too busy. It’s certainly a bold look, and one that made total sense when the designer was revealed to be the one and only Khyzyl Saleem.Second Coming
Khyzyl’s digital work has been unavoidable the past half decade, and the E30 is actually the second of his many ideas to enter the physical realm. The first was an F82 BMW M4 that debuted at Racesim in 2018.
That car, as Khyzyl puts it, “was unofficially; the first official LTO car.” The similarities are readily apparent between the two, and the motto ‘Live To Offend’ actually snuck onto the M4 – an intentional bit of foreshadowing for what would eventually come.
“It [the M4] set everything off; it gave me confidence that I could do this. Bringing my renders to life was always my ultimate goal,” Khyzyl explained via our WhatsApp conversation.The Visionary Meets The Executor
Creating in the digital space has been an incredibly rewarding experience for Khyzyl, but as described, with passion, how the E30 came together it was clear nothing really compares to creating something drive-able.
However, LTO didn’t begin to truly transition from idea to reality until Eric Penelow entered the picture.
“Like so many others, I knew of Khyzyl’s work and admired it,” said Eric, who brings to the partnership a wealth of both brand building and production experience. After his previous opportunity ran its course, he reached out to Khyzyl over Instagram. “He didn’t say ‘yes’ right away – he made me wait nearly a month,” Eric followed up with a laugh.
“For me the timing had to be right,” Khyzyl explained. First impressions are hard to top, but the last thing Khyzyl wanted to do was follow up a solid M4 jab with a weak E30 cross.Trust The Process
The path from digital art to physical product is far from linear, and it’s in this space that Eric thrives. “Khyzyl is the visionary, where I come in is the execution.”
Neither partner admits to one being more important than the other, and both acknowledge that each of their individual strengths is what makes the partnership work. “Every company needs a good recipe and we’re lucky to have created an exceptional one together,” says Eric.
The E30 was chosen as the pair’s first subject because of each party’s love for the chassis and the car’s popularity in general. Both also felt that the E30 market needed something fresh after showing slight signs of stagnation in recent years. The prototype LTO kit went through several revisions before its debut.
“At the end of the day we had to make something people would be willing to put on their car,” mentioned Khyzyl. “We also had to make something people could actually install on their car; there was a lot of back and forth in that process,” Eric added.
I’m sure we’ve all struggled with aesthetic products that were a nightmare to install, and LTO would rather you not toss the product out of your garage in frustration attempting to line up the body lines.
“The kits should be a walk in the park for any body shop, and well within the reach of an ambitious do-it-yourself mechanic. We’re also working on installation videos,” says Eric, clearly thinking a few steps ahead of where they are currently.
The process from pixels to atoms starts with Khyzyl who works in 3D Studio Max and KeyShot. Once satisfied with his design, it’s handed over to a CAD artist where a scanned model of the base car helps recreate the kit design in a way that it can be both reproduced and installed.
“A few things needed to be tweaked to make it work,” says Eric. “Side skirts pose a real challenge in how they intersect with the fender, and then you also have to think about overall length for shipping – it’s a lot to consider.”
Additions made in the CAD process involve crucial items like mounting flanges. At this point everyone involved also gets to see just how much the base car needs to be modified for the kit to be installed.
“I actually don’t want people to have to cut up half of their car to install our kits,” says Khyzyl.
In the end, the prototype E30 kit worked out to 16 pieces as ‘Stage 1′, and an additional eight totaling ‘Stage 2′ at 24 unique pieces. In comparison, most competitor kits work out to be about half that, but LTO kits include diffusers, Gurney flaps, splitters – everything needed to bring the complete vision to life.
Eric and Khyzyl are aware there’s a price ceiling for body kits, and doubled down on their challenge by commiting to offer a price-per-part ratio better than other options currently on the market.
In total, producing the E30 kit took six months. Two of those months were spent in CAD design and the rest on navigating production challenges.
After the renders were created, the molds to produce a consistent product in numbers needed to be created. To complicate matters even further, Eric and Khyzyl did the first kit entirely in carbon fiber.
Compared to FRP creating show quality carbon fiber is much more labor intensive. Good carbon fiber flows seamlessly from one panel to another, while a lesser job creates jarring transitions as weave collides from panel to panel.
The resin used to cover the weave is also important, if it’s not quite right the finish will be forever cloudy.
If you’re thinking at this point the pair are gluttons for punishment, I’d agree.
It’s here, in the production grind, where Eric’s previous experience developing body parts for the E36 chassis came into play. He didn’t describe the process as easy, but he did say it was somewhat familiar.
After half a year in the works, the car came together in a six-day thrash leading up to the 2018 SEMA Show. As with every SEMA crunch there were a few curve balls hiding in the dugout. One such curve ball involved Eric going on a mini road-trip for tires just so the car could make its deadline.
It’s safe to say that Khyzyl’s lead up to SEMA was also a little intense. Not only would he be experiencing American culture for the first time, he’d also be attending one of the largest shows in the world – again for the first time – and having a car of his own design there to boot.
“After landing in Vegas I was super-excited to see the car,” says Khyzyl. “I’d seen plenty of teasers along the way, but nothing compared to the final product. The feeling was surreal.”What’s Next?
If you can believe it, the E30 prototype is actually not nearly as wide as the original renders, so the production design has been tweaked again to better match the initial render art. The latest rendition of the kit will be on three different cars at 2019’s SEMA show. One built by Rebellion Forge Racing, another by e30sport member ‘mush’ and the third, pictured below, by Zach of Zwing films.
Eric and Khyzyl have also finalized their touring prototype for the e30 chassis.
Touring owners are typically left to McGuyver kits onto their cars so this should be a welcomed addition to the market.
After that, the M4 kit will be further refined before it too is released officially to the public.Function Forward
One of the biggest criticisms about aftermarket body kits in general is the fact that they’re typically non-functional. Khyzyl and Eric are both very aware of this.
“The largest next step for the brand and myself is to make the designs more functional. They’re art currently, but I’d love for them to work,” says Khyzyl. Eric shares a similar sentiment: “We would love to get into aerodynamics, get some wind tunnel time, really do race-bred parts for the street. That’s the future.”
If you follow Khyzyl on social media you may have noticed that recently he recently attended the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans race. “That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’m incredibly grateful for; it was extremely inspirational”.
After being exposed to some of the fastest race cars around, Khyzyl is excited to tackle the challenge of balancing function with form, without sacrificing his unique style.
While Khyzyl creates, Eric’s next challenge is continuing to scale the business and deciding which of Khyzyl’s extensive back catalog designs should be brought to life next.
Eric sees every failure he’s had so far as a stepping stone towards this company, and it’s not an opportunity he plans to squander. “With Live To Offend we want to invoke a reaction in people – hopefully one that inspires. To do that we will end up offending some along the way, and we accept that.”
As our conversation came to an end, I couldn’t help but ask Khyzyl what might be in store for his FD3S, which is currently pretty subdued in the looks department. “I have something designed for the RX-7 that’s really special. However It’s my only car so I’m taking my time, but there are plans,” he said.
My intent wasn’t to end this article on a cliffhanger, but currently the LTO team is holding the RX-7 plans close to their chest so we’ll all have to wait and see what the future holds.
However, I don’t think there’s any way it won’t be worth the wait.
Photos by Keiron Berndt