Making up for the missing M Car

With styling and performance modifications from 3D, one Z4 enters M Roadster territory.

November 26, 2011
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It’s really too bad that BMW has no plans to build an M version of the current E89 Z4 roadster. An M version topped the model lineup of the first-generation E85 Z4 and the Z3 before it, and both cars were nothing if not entertaining. There’s nothing quite like a roadster with a rip-roaring engine under the hood, but as fast as the current Z4 35is may be it doesn’t quite reach M territory.

To bridge the gap, 3D Design North America has built a Z4 35is that offers M-class speed along with some unique features that recall the classic roadsters of decades past.

Established in Japan in 1998, 3D Design built a strong brand in its home country before starting to sell its products in the U.S. a few years ago through WSTO Wheels. WSTO and 3D Design NA now work out of the same shop in Palatine, Illinois, which they share with IND, the North American distributor for Eisenmann exhausts. Though WSTO and IND are separate companies, they have a strong partnership and work together on projects, as evidenced by the tuned BMWs I see when I visit the facility in Palatine.

3D Design focuses on the design and manufacture of aerodynamic and body components, letting the other partners handle the performance tuning. 3D’s body pieces are manufactured by the company’s partners in Japan using tooling developed by 3D to its own quality standards and fitment requirements; the company produces parts for all current BMW and MINI Cooper S models as well as previous-generation E46 3 Series and E60 5 Series cars. These include front and rear spoilers, rear diffusers and side skirts, most in carbon fiber. 3D also makes its own floor mats and aluminum pedal sets and works with Stack to design additional gauges for the cockpit.

Carbon fiber and retro design elements spice up the look

3D Design North America’s wholesale manager Ilia Smolov told us that 3D started this particular project on the basis of the already potent Z4 sDrive 35is, which the company intended to make more visually exciting without departing too much from BMW’s in-house style. At first glance, the 3D Design car struck us as the most stunning Z4 we’ve ever seen, so clearly they nailed that aspect. 3D also wanted to give the car more of a classic roadster feel, but finding the details that recall the classic roadsters of an earlier era would take a closer look.

As your eyes fall on the 3D Z4, they are drawn first to the significantly lowered stance and BBS wheels. Smolov wouldn’t tell us how much this Z4 has been lowered, but he does say that 3D had a specific ride height in mind when the project began. The company also wanted to use BBS’ forged aluminum GT4 RE race wheels, which are the same wheels used on BMW Motorsport’s M3 GT4 race car. On the 3D Z4, they measure 9.5 × 18 in front and 10.0 × 18 in the rear, with 25mm and 30mm offsets. That’s a big jump from the stock widths of 8.0 inches front, 8.5 inches rear, and it took some finagling to make them fit on the lowered roadster.

“The 9.5-inch front wheels are a very tough wheel size to fit on the E89 Z4,” says Smolov. “We had to use Dinan camber plates from an M3, which we retrofitted on top of the standard strut hats. It also took some negative camber (around 2.8 degrees) to get them to fit.”

Also from Issue 104

  • Mano Agulian's 2002 Turbo Replica
  • First Drive in the 2012 F10 M5 sedan
  • First drive in the 1 Series-based ActiveE
  • AC Schnitzer MINI Eagle prototype
  • 535i Gran Turismo vs. Honda Accord Crosstour
  • Market Update: E39 5 Series
  • Cooling system preventive maintenance
  • Tuned 7 Series: Hartge H7S
  • Saratoga Automobile Museum BMW gathering
  • BMW racing glory and James Clay interview
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