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Schnitzer’s show stars
Europe’s most prolific BMW tuner has built some sensational motor show cars over the years… here’s our run down of the top 11.
AC Schnitzer has been fettling, modifying and improving BMWs for over 30 years and if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to garner attention to its product range – wheels, styling, suspension and engine upgrades – it’s a swanky and dramatic motor show car.
Since its Frankfurt debut with an E32 7 Series back in 1987 it has produced a stunning selection of one-off machines during its reign as Europe’s premier BMW tuner. From mild to wild, here’s our selection of the 11 best BMWs to have emerged from AC Schnitzer’s Aachen headquarters.
As BMW was revealing its M2 Schnitzer unleashed its ACL2, an M235i Coupé with a serious dose of steroids. Featuring a tuned M4 twin-turbo ‘six it developed 570hp and had a better power to weight ratio than a 458 Italia or a GT3 RS! And yes, it was astonishingly rapid.
With blistered wheel arches and some serious aero addenda it was finished in British Racing Green as a nod to the AC Schnitzer CLS II it made 21 years earlier. With M3 carbon ceramic brakes, fully adjustable Schnitzer Clubsport suspension and a fully retrimmed interior it was quite a weapon and could run a 7:25.8 minute lap of the iconic Nordschleife.
V8 Roadster: 1997
While BMW was busy fettling its slightly bonkers Z3-based M Roadster Schnitzer went the whole hog with its wild V8 Roadster. Based on a Z3 2.8i the straight-six was ditched in favour of the V8 from the 540i, suitably tuned to develop 310hp and 325lb ft of torque. The wider body featured searing orange paint and plenty of chrome accoutrements. A short shift-equipped six-speed manual and a LSD completed the mechanical changes and helped the V8 Roadster hit 62mph in 5.4 seconds and gave it a 165mph top speed.
Big brakes, wider chromed rims and AC Schnitzer suspension completed the package.
A brief glance and it’s a well-specced 1 Series sitting on some aftermarket wheels. Look at the 150d badge though and you get an inkling there might be something a bit special here, and you’d be right. Nestling under the body is the complete drivetrain – engine, eight-speed auto and xDrive four-wheel drive – from the M550d 5 Series.
Just in case the standard triple-turbo 3.0-litre engine was a little flacid in the 1 Series shell Schnitzer upped its power and torque to 400hp and a 590lb ft! Performance was phenomenal – 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and with four-wheel drive it had the traction to put the power down whatever the weather. The ultimate Q Car?
Star of the Schnitzer stand in Frankfurt this 335i-based machine caught the eye for its mint green paint and unusual styling, but it was also a serious performer. Out went the turbocharged ‘six to be replaced with the M5’s V10 converted to run on LPG. Thus equipped Schnitzer took it to Nardo and recorded a 318.1km/h (197.7mph) – a world record for an LPG-powered machine.
Brakes and suspension were fully fettled and it featured Schnitzer’s new 20-inch Type VI wheel design. The interior was a wild mix of race seats and brown and mint green leather with plenty of funky detailing.
CLS II: 1995
Disappointed with the E36 M3 after the iconic E30 incarnation? Not if you’re looking at Schnitzer’s E36-based CLS II. Behind the British Racing Green paintwork was a wide body kit constructed from carbon Kevlar along with aggressive aerodynamics including an electrically adjustable rear wing. ECU fettling, balanced conrods and crankshaft along with a carbon air intake saw power swell to 350hp, good enough for a 5.1 second 0-62mph time and an unfettered top speed of 180mph.
Uprated suspension, bigger brakes and 18-inch wheels finished the mechanical changes while inside there were lightweight seats, carbon and alcantara trim and a Stack dash.
The names might have been taking a dodgy turn, but the M6 based Tension was a proper record breaker. It made its debut in Frankfurt in 2005 and a scant few weeks later it went to Nardo and recorded a top speed of 331.78km/h (206.2mph) on the high speed bowl thanks to its 552hp version of the M6’s 5.0-litre V10.
At the time it was the fastest road-legal BMW in the world. Schnitzer’s test driver, Manfred Woolgarten, also managed to drive the Tension from the top to the bottom of Germany in 5 hours 14 minutes… not bad given any speed limits he encountered were adhered to.
ACS3 A.R.T.: 1999
While the E46 M3 is a true M-Powered icon AC Schnitzer got there first with its ACS3 ART that it presented at the Frankfurt show in 1999. Power came from a freshly developed E36 M3 engine that produced 370hp and 280lb ft of torque, good enough for a 4.7 second 0-62mph time. As you’d expect the ART also received a LSD, revised brakes and suspension along with 18-inch Schnitzer alloys.
The interior sported carbon-backed race seats and harnesses while the exterior was given the Schnitzer aero treatment and a funky livery which featured the telemetry data from a Class II FIA Touring car which gave the car its Advanced Racing Technology moniker.
AC Schnitzer i8: 2015
While the i8 by AC Schnitzer has graced motor show stands the world over it’s unique in this company as it’s the only car here that you could buy today. Despite having been with us for nigh on five years the i8 still looks suitably futuristic and with some Schnitzer carbon fibre body addenda it really looks the part.
There are no upgrades to the engine by a new suspension spring kit and a set of forged Schnitzer wheels – 8.5×21- and 9.5×21-inches front and rear respectively – reduce unsprung weight and lower the centre of gravity leading to a more focussed drive.
At Geneva in 2011 AC Schnitzer moved away from top speed records and went down the eco route with its Z4-based 99d. Its name derived from its CO2 emissions figure of just 99g/km which was achieved by installing the 2.0-litre diesel from the 320d EfficientDynamics model while putting the Z4 on a serious diet thanks to ditching the folding hardtop and fitting a carbon fixed roof. Lightweight wheels, tyres and suspension components and carbon seats completed the package. It might have been an eco warrior but it could still hit 62mph in less than seven seconds and had a top speed of 146mph yet returned 74mpg on the combined cycle.
ACZ4 5.0d: 2014
Bar its show cars AC Schnitzer doesn’t really do one off builds but when a good customer, inspired by the 99d, asked Schnitzer to build a special Z4 it happily obliged. It fitted the M550d’s triple-turbo 3.0-litre diesel with the wick turned up to produce 430hp and 620lb ft of torque.
To ensure it could put the power down the entire rear axle from an E92 M3 was installed and suspension, brakes and wheels and tyres were uprated or replaced. It was quite a performer and when tested by Auto Bild Sportscars at the Sachsenring it turned out to be the fastest ever diesel it had timed round the track.
V8 Topster: 2003
With BMW’s styling changes and the arrival of Chris Bangle’s infamous ‘flame surfacing’ AC Schnitzer’s show cars took on a new look too, perhaps slightly less universally appreciated, but the company’s engineering integrity was undiminished.
The V8 Topster turned the Z4 Roadster into a fixed head coupé sporting an orange and cream paint job… and a 450hp version of the E39 M5’s V8 under its bonnet. Unsurprisingly it was rather rapid, knocking off the 0-62mph sprint in 4.5 seconds on its way to a 190mph top speed. It sported Schnitzer’s brand new Type IV wheels, bigger brakes and a nine-way adjustable Schnitzer suspension set up.
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