The Ultimate Driving Machines: Top 5 BMW Cars From Past & Present

This magic badge lets the world know that you drive like a horse's ass.
One of the world’s top premier automotive marques is Germany’s Bayerische Motoren Werke or, for those ausländer die kein Deutsch sprechenBMW. Whether it’s in terms of innovationstyleluxury, or performance, many automotive journalists and enthusiasts alike consider the BMW brand among the finest automobiles in production today. Even for people who aren’t necessarily into cars or don’t know the slightest thing about them, they tend to associate BMW with poise, refinement, and elegance. It’s a corporate brand identity with over a full century of history and legacy behind it, as well as one of the most imitated.

The Focke-Wulf FW 190 and Messerschmitt Bf 109 were some of the most popular (or unpopular, depending on who's side you were on) fighter planes in World War II.
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger powered by the BMW 801 aircraft engine.

But before they created ‘ The Ultimate Driving Machine’, the company that started life as Rapp Motorenwerke was an aircraft engine manufacturer that supplied the Luftstreitkräfte (German Air Force) during World War I. After the fall of the Central Powers, the Treaty of Versailles forced Rapp Motorenwerke—now christened as BMW—to cease all aircraft engine production. BMW then took to manufacturing farm equipment, small household appliances, and railway brakes in order to prevent corporate shutdown. As the Treaty of Versailles started to wane, BMW reentered the motor vehicle business with their first motorcycle, the 1923 BMW R32, and 9 years later, the BMW 3/15, their very first production car to be designed entirely in-house. World War II saw BMW join the Nazi war effort by once again building military aircraft engines for the Luftwaffe and Waffen-SS. Ultimately, Germany’s second consecutive defeat and the elimination of the Nazi regime left the automaker completely decimated and in shambles. The resulting fallout of both World Wars, penal sanctions imposed and enforced by the Soviet Government and the United Nations, and a rapidly evolving motor vehicle landscape had BMW on the brink of extinction in December of 1959. Just as it seemed apparent that all hope was lost, BMW miraculously received increased financial support from Germany’s largest investment firm, the Quandt Group. This was the turning point that effectively prevented a corporate buyout by rival manufacturer Daimler-Benz, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, and the beginning of BMW’s resurgence as a viable and profitable company. Riding the wave of success brought upon by the 1960 Neue Klasse (New Class) product revamp, BMW would spend the next 4 decades establishing themselves as the one of the world’s leading manufacturers of luxury sport sedans and touring saloons with their iconic 35, and 7-series models. The creation of the revolutionary M1 supercar in 1978 coincided with the founding of their own in-house performance shop, the BMW M Division, which has provided the foundations of all BMW models ever since. Today, BMW reigns as one of the world’s foremost names in luxury sport performance. With their illustrious background in international motorsports, their groundbreaking approaches to engineering and cutting-edge design, and their ever-growing influence over the auto industry, BMW looks to continue their tradition of automotive evolution well into the future for eons of generations to come.

Let us now take a look at 5 landmark models from the chronicles of BMW’s long and storied history.

 

Even in 1958, anyone with a BMW parked like a knob.
1955-1962 ISETTA

The car that’s credited with making BMW an internationally-renowned presence isn’t the postwar 501 luxury saloon or its V8-powered variant, the 502. It’s is the quirky, egg-shaped Isetta that lived from 1955 to 1962. 

TRIVIA: Steve Urkel's 1957 BMW Isetta is currently owned by none other than Steve Urkel himself, actor/writer Jaleel White.  He even had it fully restored back in 2013.
A 1957 BMW Isetta featured in the TV show, ‘Family Matters’.

The subcompact Isetta (in essence, a covered motorcycle originally built by Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A. of Italy) gave birth to the microcar craze of the 1960s which then experienced a renaissance in the early 2010s with models including the MINI Hardtop (the MINI marque has been owned by BMW since 2000), Fiat 500, and Daimler-Benz’s smart fortwo. The Isetta was a game-changer for not only BMW, but for the entire industry as a whole. It was the very first car to achieve a fuel consumption rating of 3 L/100 KM or 94 MPG (Imperial), 78 MPG (US). Fast forward to today, over 50 years since the very last Isetta left the factory, manufacturers such as Nissan, Fiat, and Toyota are still trying to figure out how to recapture the success of the BMW Isetta.

 

The BMW M1 body was penned by famous Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro.  Giugiaro's designs include the Maserati Ghibli, Lotus Esprit S1, and the DeLorean DMC-12.
1978-1981 M1

Initially conceived as a collaborative joint-effort between BMW and Lamborghini, the M1 was BMW’s first and, arguably, their only exotic supercar (until 2015, but we’ll talk about that later).

BMW's M1 Procar Championship touring series lasted only 2 seasons (1979-80).  In reality, it was less a legitimate racing league than it was a self-indulgent advertising campaign.
A pair of 1978 M1 Procar race cars in the BMW Procar Championship series.

Failure to have a production model approved for motorsports homologation, BMW sold the M1 to the public for a limited time between 1978 and 1981. The M1 was the debut effort by the fledgling M Division and is one of the rarest BMW models ever made. It was an experiment in creating a race car for the street; using a mid-engine layout, low-slung and wide body proportions with track-oriented chassis dynamics, and a motorsports-inspired dual overhead cam inline 6-cylinder that was based off of BMW’s M49 racing engine. The M1’s motorsports accolades prompted the BMW M Division to start creating performance versions of current regular production models and in 1979, BMW’s M Division built the E12 535i, the genealogical ancestor of the M5.

 

It wasn't that European cars like the BMW 3 Series were undeniably superior to American cars during the Malaise Era.  It's that American car companies just simply gave up.
1982-1994 E30 3 SERIES

Coming off the heels of the original E21 3 Series 2-door (1975-1983) was the new-for-82, 2nd generation E30 program comprised of coupes4-door sedansconvertibles, and estate wagons. The previous iteration was a handsome, yet relatively modest compact car but it’s growing popularity helped change the American public’s perception of small European imports in the wake of the notoriously-unreliable and problematic Italian entries from Fiat and Alfa Romeo. The E30 was also a breakthrough for BMW as it that laid down the groundwork for the 3 Series as we know it today. It combined luxury appointments, state-of-the-art engineering and technology, and an emphasis on driving performance into a range of unique models all tailored to suit the preferences of many different types of prospective buyers. For the first time ever, the 3 Series offered an available diesel engine, optional all-wheel drive, and a choice of special edition performance variants including the Alpina B6 and the original M3. The 3 Series went on to become BMW’s most popular model in their entire lineup and it’s a distinction it still holds today in the current 6th generation, the F30.

 

Not even BMW themselves have been able to build a better sedan than the E39 M5.
1998-2003 E39 M5

Considered to be the greatest BMW sedan ever made, the E39 M5 was heralded as the gold standard for which all other sport and touring sedans were to be judged.

A low drag coefficient means that you can quickly and more efficiently wrap the car around a telephone pole.
The E39 M5 had a drag coefficient of .29.

The Bavarian beast was powered by the 400 horsepower S62 DOHC V8 engine that featured dual intakes, double-VANOS variable valve timing for both the intake and exhaust camshafts, electronic throttle bodies for each of the individual 8 cylinders, 2-mode driver-selectable throttle response, hollow camshafts, and a semi-dry sump oiling system. Power was sent to the rear wheels VIA a Getrag Type D 6-speed manual gearbox and an aluminum-intensive chassis with MacPherson strut front/4-link rear suspension and optimal 50/50 weight distribution kept the vehicle planted to the ground during high-speed maneuvering. Classy and sophisticated for a dinner date, raw and uncompromising on the street; the E39 was the ideal blend of modern technology and classic BMW style without being sullied by the artificial electronic driver aids and unnecessary accouterments that detract from the purity of driving enjoyment.

 

The 2014 BMW i8 is one of those rare exceptions where the production version does not differ entirely from the original concept car.
2014-PRESENT i8

As dependency on foreign oil and concerns about the environment continue to shape the direction of the automotive industry, auto manufacturers have taken to hybrid technology as the logical course towards the future. Hybrid technology, once exclusive to subcompact economy cars, is now appearing in anything and everything from mainstream family sedans to full-size pickup trucks and SUVs. Even dedicated performance cars and supercars are applying hybrid technology, just as in the case of Honda’s reimagined NSX; Porsche’s follow-up to the Carrera GT, the 918 Spyder; the British Thoroughbred McLaren P1; and the absolutely insane 217+ MPH Ferrari LaFerrari.

The i8 uses a lightweight chassis, sustainable materials for the interior, and is produced in two factories that operate by wind-turbine (Leipzig, Germany) and hydroelectricity (Moses Lake, Washington).
The i8 represents BMW’s commitment to innovation and sustainable, Earth-friendly manufacturing.

A spiritual successor to the M1 supercar, the i8 is BMW’s first foray into hybrid sports cars and the brand’s first mid-engine vehicle since the M1. It was an effort that paid off greatly for BMW as the i8 ranks as the world’s #1 top-selling plug-in hybrid sports car—and for good reason. The i8 boasts track-worthy performance with real world drivability; a turbocharged 1. 5 litre inline 3-cylinder engine supported by a 7.1 KWH lithium ion battery pack and a pair of electric motors makes for a whopping 357 horsepower and 420 lb. ft. of torque with a combined average travel range of 336 miles. 0-to-60 happens in 4. 4 seconds and top speed is an electronically-limited 155 MPH. That’s quicker than the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 and its gasoline-only twin-turbo V6. The i8 is the absolute pinnacle of BMW design, innovation, and engineering; a marriage of art, science, and technology and a glimpse into an optimistic future full of unlimited possibilities.

How long do you think it'll be before someone tries to do BMW butterfly doors on a Honda Civic?

The first production car to feature color-selectable interior ambient lighting was the 2005 Ford Mustang, but BMW and Mercedes-Benz will never cop to it.

It might not be as extreme as the McLaren P1 or carry the racing pedigree as the Ford GT, but the BMW i8 specializes in performance that you can use in real world situations.  That is, if you're willing to spend $160,000 to get it.

Review: 2018 Honda Civic Type R

After 2 decades, the 2018 Honda Civic Type R is FINALLY on American shores.
Well, boys and girls, it’s finally here. The new Honda Civic Type R, which was first revealed at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, has finally hit dealer showrooms and is on sale now in the U.S. of A. 2017 marks the 5th generation of the Type R variant of the Honda Civic and the 10th generation overall for the Civic, which has been in continuous production since 1972.

 

The 1973 Honda Civic epitomized the practical, affordable, environmentally-conscious, and budget-friendly economy car. Driving it was just as fun and engaging as walking or taking the bus.
A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON…

The original Honda Civic made its debut on July 11th, 1972 (as a 1973 model), replacing the N600 as the subcompact economy entry in Honda’s vehicle lineup. It was an immediate hit right out of the box in its native Japan, overtaking its domestic rivals from Nissan and Toyota. The Civic also achieved international success in both England and the United States as it specifically catered to motorists who were affected by the 1973 Oil Crisis and had grown jaded of the increasing banality of traditional, full-sized land barges. The Civic’s mass appeal as an inexpensive, fuel-friendly, and reliable (albeit, boring and uninspired) commuter car, combined with Honda’s growing reputation for hardiness, legions of Civic aficionados and Honda brand loyalists were formed as a result. In 1997, Honda’s famed Type R performance treatment was finally applied to the Civic, granting the little economy car to oin the legendary NSX supercarDC2 and DC5 Integra, and CH/CL Accord in the Honda Type R stable of high-performance vehicles. The Honda Civic Type R remained unavailable in the North American market since its initial release but now, just in time for the first Civic Type R’s 20th anniversary, the newest iteration of the Civic Type R has finally made its way to American shores to do battle against other performance-oriented “hot hatches” such as the Volkswagen Golf R and the Ford Focus RS.

 

This instant rice cooks in just 5.9 seconds.
SO, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

The Type R badge indicates the ultimate level of Honda-bred factory performance. Akin to BMW’s M-SportMercedes-AMG, the Lexus F Sport brand, and (to a lesser degree) Cadillac V-Series and the Chevrolet SS designation, Honda’s Type R incorporates advanced factory modifications to production cars in the name of performance. Optimal engine tuning and suspension setup, weight reduction, and enhanced braking and handling capabilities are the ingredients that go into breeding a Honda car that’s worthy enough to wear the exclusive red Honda H emblem. The Honda Civic Type R was already long available in the Japanese Domestic (JDM) and European markets, but was always restricted from entering the North American market. Reasons for this include the differences in structural architecture for North American-spec and the Japanese/European versions, US government-imposed crash safety, emissions, and fuel-economy regulations, and possibly an effort by Honda themselves to eliminate any potential product overlap with their own Acura brand. To compensate for their own refusal to sell the Civic Type R in North America, Honda positioned the Si (Sport Injected) trim level (which began with the 1985 Civic CRX) over time to incorporate an increasing blend of performance and comfort amenities, but not to Acura-esque levels. That’s not to say that the Sis were Zonk prizes. Sis have went on to amass their own devoted following across the worldwide Tuner landscape. But for the JDM enthusiast in America, the Civic Type R remained an unattainable treasure, much like the Australian-only duo of the FPV GT-F and HSV GTSR for Muscle Car fans.

 
My, my. We certainly have come a long way, haven't we?
Unlike Honda Civics of the past, the current 10th generation now utilizes a single globalized platform on which it is built. The term ‘globalized platform’ means that a specific model (or models) built in multiple factories across the world use the same architecture as opposed to separate, regionalized constructs. In the case of the Honda Civic, they’ll all have the same bones, regardless of whether they come from Canada, the US, or the UK. The Honda of the UK Manufacturing plant in Swindon, Wiltshire is the birthplace of the new Type R, as well as all 10th generation Civic hatchbacks and the Civic-based CR-V compact crossover SUV.

Appearance-wise, the 10th generation Honda Civic (also known as FC/FK) is a polarizing vehicle. It’s one of those ‘love it or hate it’-type designs that attracts as strongly as it repels; a stark contrast to the comparatively sedate and almost-comatose styling of the 8th and 9th generations from 2005 to 2016. Depending on your point of view, the Type R either builds upon or grossly exaggerates Honda’s current design philosophy which is clearly inspired by the reborn NSX. The chrome brightwork found on the base model’s grille and window trim is replaced with solid black accents. REAL carbon fibre—not the fake stuff that can be bought in THAT AISLE at THAT STORE—can be found as it makes up the side skirts, front splitter, and that cartoonishly ridiculous-looking rear spoiler that, according to Honda, actually serves an aerodynamic purpose. There’s even a finned row of vortex generators on the roof that smooths airflow coming out the back, a functional inlet scoop on the new aluminum hood to extract engine bay heat while adding front downforce, functional front bumper air curtains and front side fender vents, new widened fender flares that coincide with the larger 20” black alloy wheels, and topped off with a questionable triple tailpipe exhaust (more on that one, later). The interior is typical FC/FK Honda Civic fare, save for all-new racing-style front bucket seats, Alcantara faux suede inserts along the interior touchpoint, and the juvenile red accents and carbon fibre-look trim that’s all part of the trademark Type R look. Exterior paint colors include Crystal Black Pearl, Rallye Red, Aegean Blue Metallic, Polished Metal Metallic, and Championship White; a Honda hallmark since 1992. And, of course, that iconic red Honda H badge.

 

More than just decals and stick-on plastic bits and bobs.
We’ve discussed this skin. Now, let’s talk about the guts. This is what separates the Type R from lesser Civic models. In addition to the structural improvements Honda incorporated into the FC/FK Civic in the name of smooth airflow and chassis rigidity, the Type R replaces the entire front end suspension with extensive use of lightweight aluminum and a new system called Dual-Axis. Like GM’s HiPer Strut and Ford’s RevoKnuckle, the Dual-Axis front suspension is designed to help quell the bane of wrong-wheel drive vehicles: torque steer. Front-end twist is suppressed while fortifying ability and steering feel. Out back, the multi-link rear suspension that replaces the previous torsion beam (dead axle) improves ride quality and at-speed stability. 20” black alloy wheels with 245 width tires grip the road while the bespoke Brembo high-performance brake setup brings it all to a dead stop. Integrated brake ducts from the front end to the wheel wells prevent the Brembos from overheating. The standard Civic’s electric power steering has been retuned and revised with a new variable ratio to deliver a more direct steering feel and response. An electronic adaptive suspension features G-sensors and four-wheel continuously variable electromagnetic dampers while Honda’s optimized Agile Handling Assist stability program keeps the Civic Type R planted in high-speed turns, plus adds selectable driving modes to suit the driver’s preference. Under the hood resides the heart of the Type R; the 2.0L VTEC TURBO K-series engine named K20C1, the first Honda Type R engine to be built in America. Churning out an unbelievable 306 horsepower and 295 pound feet of torque, this little 4-cylinder—with the help of a massive turbocharger and other assorted engine programming hocus pocus—makes more power than many V6 engines and some V8s from not too long ago. An air-to-air intercooler, 2-piece water-cooled cylinder head manifold, and internal cooling channels in the engine block keep rising temperatures in check. Power is delivered VIA a 6-speed manual transmission featuring a helical limited slip front differential and an auxiliary transmission oil cooler. A lightened flywheel and special gear ratio optimized for performance connects the driver to the machine with greater throttle response and speed control. Spent gasses are sent through the previously-mentioned custom triple-exit exhaust that terminates at the rear of the vehicle and placed within the center of the rear diffuser. The two main pipes expel exhaust fumes while the smaller center pipe controls the tone and volume of the exhaust. It works in a similar fashion to cutouts and the active butterfly valves, only using exhaust gas pressure versus electronically-controlled solenoids.

That red 'H' emblem lets 'em all know that YOU MEAN BUSINESS! Unless, of course, the car next to you is wearing an M-Sport, AMG, GT3, GT-R NISMO, F Sport, V, Z06, SS, 1LE, Shelby, or SRT badge. Oh, Well. If it's any consolation to you, at least you paid less and get better gas mileage.
Together, this formula of new sheetmetal, new bones, new guts, and new brain(s) is what gives the Honda Civic Type R the credentials to sit atop the Type R ladder as the most powerful model in all of the marque’s storied history.

 

With a Nordschleife lap time of 7:43.80, the 2018 Honda Civic Type R is officially the World's Quickest Grocery Getter.
WHO CARES?

By now, most auto rags and every fanboy on the Internet has waxed poetic about the Civic Type R’s record-setting lap time of 7:43.80 at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. That’s faster than some of the world’s most decorated entries in the upper echelon of performance, including the Porsche 911 GT3Audi R8Pagani Zonda SFerrari 599, and the Lamborghini Murciélago LP640. Perhaps, most shocking of all, is that this feat was accomplished through the front wheels which, typically, is not an ideal drivetrain layout for true performance cars. Some of the world’s greatest supercars were beaten by a daily beater on the grandest stage of them all, the “Green Hell” of Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife. But what does that mean in the real world of daily commuting to and from work, going to the grocery store to pick up milk and eggs, or driving across state lines to spend a weekend with the relatives? Absolutely nothing. Sure, the stats all look good on paper and you’re bound to stir up some kind of pointless argument in the comments section of any car video on YouTube, but in all reality, it means nothing.

 

I'll bet you dollars to yen that this thing will never see track time and is destined to spend its entire life hardparked outside of Starbucks.
Remember: this is a still just a daily commuter, not a full-blown race car. It’s purpose is to live everyday life, not to compete against GTS Aston Martins, GT Le Mans Ferraris, and Daytona Prototypes on the banks and infield twisties of the Daytona International Speedway sports course. The 2018 Honda Civic Type R stickers for around $35,000. That is, of course, after you eliminate all those greedy, dishonest, bloodsucking dealerships who have the gall to charge up to an 80% premium over the MSRP.

$35,000 can buy you one of the most highly-anticipated new car releases in the past 10 years and a long-desired model that was never-before offered for sale in the United States. In comparison, the base Civic sedan starts at $18,840. The coupe, oddly enough, commands a 2.17% increase over the sedan for a base price of $19,250. The hatchback tops the Honda Civic hierarchy for a starting price of $19,900. Start adding options and moving up the list of available options packages and the price balloons up into the neighborhood of over $30,000. $5,000 more nets you the Type R. That’s quite a bit of coin for what is, at its very core, a basic front-wheel drive economy car. If looking at price alone, $35,000 can let you drive home in your choice of a new, 2018 base model Audi A3BMW 3-SeriesMercedes-Benz CLA-ClassCadillac ATS, or Infiniti Q50—all of which carry higher brand prestige and curb appeal than the lowly Honda Civic. On the other hand, absolutely NONE of them offer anywhere near the amount of raw power as the Civic Type R. None of them boast the same blend of performance and practicality as the Civic Type R, and none of them will be as cheap and inexpensive to maintain as the Civic Type R.

 

Against the AWD Ford, VW, and Subaru, the Civic Type R is the proverbial knife in a gunfight. But with 306 horsepower, it's quite a big knife that should be handled very carefully.
If you’re cross-shopping the direct competition, the top-dog Ford Focus RS commands a $2,000 upcharge against the Civic Type R. Hefty, but what you’re getting for the money is best-in-class power in an overall superior performing machine that, depending on your personal preferences, might be just a bit too extreme and downright violent for the everyday commute. The 2017 Volkswagen Golf R asks for only $600 over the Civic Type R, but offers legendary German chassis engineering and and the only dual-clutch DSG transmission of the lot while the current Subaru WRX STi (only $200 more than the Civic Type R) carries Subaru’s reputation for diehard reliability and is also the only competitor to feature the unique flat “boxer” engine design. The Focus RS, Golf R, and WRX STi all come standard with all-wheel-drive while the Civic Type R has to make due with putting its power through the same set of wheels that also steer the car. Ford and Volkswagen have available two lesser variants of their high-performance hatchbacks that also compete in the same segment as their beefier brethren; the Focus ST and Golf GTI, respectively. Both models are significantly less pricier than the Honda Civic Type R, nearly $10,000 less, but are also far less capable than the Honda and, at this point, probably far less desirable.

 

Granny shiftin' not double clutchin' like you should.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you, to decide what’s right for you and what you’re in the market to buy. Not your friends, not the musings of some self-absorbed writer in an overblown manufacturer-sponsored advertisement in any of the big name car magazines, not what the anonymous basement dwellers and social media trolls comment and post about on the Internet. It’s up to you, the shopper. The Honda Civic Type R is an automotive engineering marvel; a marriage made in Heaven between Japanese engineering and English-style sport driving dynamics, and a gift to the JDM Honda fans who kept the faith for so long while others across the globe got to enjoy what was never before accessible until now. Try one out for yourself and you be the judge. Tanoshinde kudasai, mates!

Classic Imports : 1982 Toyota Corolla Coupe E70

1982 Corolla Coupe yellow Yellow classic corolla
 

The Toyota Corolla was first imported to the US in 1968 and in 1997 Corolla became the best selling nameplate in the world after selling its 35 millionth car. Today we’re taking a look at the 4th generation Corolla, the last generation to have all RWD models. This post was inspired by Chris Peterson’s restored 1982 2 door coupe shown above. These cars are incredibly rare these days so seeing one still on the road in such good condition is extraordinary. Chris has done a nice job with his Corolla and has created a great example of a classic Japanese car.

The fourth generation Corolla was produced from 1979 – 1984. It came with 9 different engines world wide in 7 different models. From a 2 door coupe pictured above to a 5 door van, the Corolla lineup proved to be versatile. Over the short production run, the E70 received 2 front end changes that involved reworking the headlights from 4 round, to 2 rectangular lights and then finally to wrap around headlights in 1982. The 1982 model also got re styled tail lights and new bumpers.

The thing I personally like about this generation of the Corolla is the split rear quarter windows. It’s a unique thing to see on a car and it’s one thing that really stood out to me when I saw Chris’s car. I had never seen windows like that on a Corolla before and was eager to find more info on the car. Upon doing some homework I realized that not many of these cars still exist with split quarter windows making Chris’s Corolla a truly unique restoration.

Check out the gallery below for some other great examples of 4th generation Corollas. This is the first of many Classic import show cases we plan on doing. If you own or know some one that owns a classic foreign car let us know and we’ll feature it on our site.  Thanks!