2002 BMW M coupe

Somehow I didn’t have a BMW to drive on my annual hunting aspens run last month. The logical choice would be my Z3 M coupe, but it had given up its differential for the newest addition to the fleet: another M coupe. So yes, now there are two.

The BMW that started it all, my 2002 Imola Red M coupe.

My original 2002 Imola Red M coupe was the car that started it all for me. Well, sort of: My first BMW was a 1987 E30 325iS that I purchased sight-unseen from a shirtless man with a mullet (never a good idea), but the BMW that I always wanted was a Z3 M coupe. That day finally came several years later in the mid-2000s when I found my M coupe after months of searching; a dealer in Manassas, Virginia, had posted it on Autotrader, and I sent him a deposit within an hour of his listing it. He held it for me for a week, turning down higher offers, until I could get out there and close the deal.

It didn’t take long after I brought it home to Colorado for it to find its way to the race track. Now, some fifteen years later, it’s time for something that is a little less precious—something in which I can do some real racing.

Loki Dog and I loaded up in the old car-hauler van and headed to California.

Enter M coupe Number Two: My marriage with this M coupe has been several years in the making, but in January last year I loaded up Loki Dog in our old car-hauler van with the trailer and fetched it from California to Colorado. It is another 2002 M coupe, finished in Titanium Silver metallic over an Imola Red interior, that was built into a race car and campaigned in Grand-Am series of the early 2000s. It may have even had a little support from Spartanburg, although I have not been able to confirm that.

Its current configuration is built for the National Auto Sport Association Street Touring Class (NASA ST3), where it won its first race a few years ago. On the way home from California, Loki and I had a stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats for a stretch. As tempting as it was to do a speed run on the salt flats, the thought of salt raining down on me every time I worked underneath the car thwarted that idea. Instead, I opted for a quick photo shoot of the M coupe and flew my RC airplane for Loki to chase and have a proper stretch.

I was tempted to take it out for a high-speed run in the salt flats.

But instead I flew the RC airplane for Loki to chase.

Once we were home in Colorado, I turned it over the Sterling’s Customs for a 3.0CSL-inspired M livery that designer Stefan Rodriguez adapted into reality from my poorly drawn colored-pencil sketch. The end result was quite stunning; it pays tribute to some serious M cars that have worn similar liveries.

Stefan Rodriguez and Sterlings Customs turned my 3.0CSL-inspired M livery into reality.

Since then, the needs of my side business have sidelined any further development, but I was able to get the car out for an autocross and an open track day this summer. My impressions are that it is properly fast, but also properly twitchy—as any M coupe is near the limit. Fortunately, I have lots of seat time exploring those twitchy limits, and I can’t wait to do a little more.

A summer autocross and a track day were teasers for what lay ahead.

The future plans include a pair of “M Rain” OMP HTE-R seats, Motion Control Suspension triple-adjustable remote-reservoir coil-overs, StopTech brakes, and some of the many sets of Apex ARC-8 wheels that I have in my wheel locker. I’m not sure where I will class it, but hopefully this winter will provide an opportunity to build it and develop it next spring.

Meanwhile, the Imola Red M coupe will return to street duty, and I’ll have no more excuses for next year’s aspen run!—Alex McCulloch

[Photos courtesy Alex McCulloch.] 

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