BMW 330IS EDITION — let us tell you the real legend. And ask why BMW is shy to race today?
So BMW has just launched a really cool new car based on its South African race successed. Pity that history is over 30 years old!
First allow me to indulge you in a little history. Stannic Group N was all about racing showroom standard cars in South Africa. Good old win on Saturday, sell on Monday stuff. BMW was involved in Group N from the get-go — initially racing a 528i in the top class A.
A couple of years in, the big Five Series was finding it difficult to deal with some of its nimbler front-wheel drive rivals. No problem. BMW went out and developed the road-going 325i Shadowline to enable it to win on track. Now to be able to race a car in Group N, 500 identical cars had to be built — and sold as street cars first.
THE PERFECT GROUP N WEAPON
So under intrepid racing leader, the great Tony Viana, BMW developed the perfect Group N weapon in the new BMW 325i Shadowline. It planned to sell the 500 necessary to qualify, and went racing. The iS controversially arrived in Class B to take on VW’s new Golf GTi 16-valve. But the new Shadowline even embarrassed the Class A Mitsubishi Tredias, only to be thrown out for failing to meet homologation requirements…
By the beginning of 1987 however, the Shadowline was fully homologated. Up a class to A and seven of them were racing in the Inland series alone. Nobody could stop Viana from taking the Inland and Roddy Turner the Coastal Class titles in his Shadowline. Viana’s Winfield machine would also prove unstoppable among the horde of Shadowlines. Right through to mid-1989.
That’s when perennial bridesmaid Opel responded with the Kadett 16V. It immediately trounced the BMWs. But BMW had none of it and upped the ante yet again when it turned up a year later with another homologation special. Privateer Farouk Dangor turned the balance of power back toward BMW on the new 2.7-litre Shadowline’s debut and that car dominated the rest of the 1990 season.
Then Opel cooked up the Superboss to commence among the finest eras in all South African race history. The Shadowlines and Superbosses fought an epic duel for top honours and bragging rights. Never more than a couple of tenths of a second apart, Viana and the BMW gang and Opel’s Mike Briggs and company went on to swap paint, panels, race wins and titles for a few more seasons to come.
NEW 330IS CELEBRATES AN ANCIENT WEAPON
Now neither BMW nor Opel are involved in local motorsport any longer. Sad. Yet the former still finds reason to celebrate its ancient SA racing successes and that great Shadowline legend.
The car is good though. In fact the new 230-off limited-run BMW 330is Edition is built exclusively for the South African market. Just like the legend it salutes,
It’s based on the 190 kW TwinPower Turbo 2 litre four-pot 4-cylinder 8-Speed Sport auto 330i. Auto recently tested one at 4.96-seconds 0-100 km/h and a 13.3 second quarter mile at 168 km/h. It gets an M Sport package with front splitter, side skirts and boot spoiler and 20” M Performance wheels.
Add 10mm lowered Adaptive M suspension and a variable sport steering. And large disc four-piston fixed blue calliper M front and single-pot floating calliper rear M brakes. Driving Experience Control adapts the car to the drivers every wan, from comfortable to athletic.
330IS GETS FULL SHADOWLINE TREATMENT
330is gets BMW Individual high-gloss Shadowline trim inspired by the original ’87 325iS, a black grille and darkened headlamps and a unique iS boot badge. It comes in the choice of silver, red and white or black.
Inside, decoratively stitched black leather M seats and multifunction steering wheel, ambient lighting, and anthracite roof lining, a glass sliding sunroof, Edition doorsills and Harman Kardon Surround Sound system. That all above the standard generation 330i tech from full gesture control infotainment to park assist, live cockpit pro, and the rest. The BMW 330is Edition is on sale from R899 000.
All it misses is the sort of under the hood wizardry that was the real ethos of the legend is salutes. And it leaves us wondering how BMW, a company so integral with South African motorsport needs to rely on a 35-year old legend to push those buttons?
Surely BMW SA should rather be hanging these modern cars’ potential off their own racing legend?
Come on, BMW. Is it not time to play the proper game again? – Michele Lupini
*Author Michele Lupini raced competitively throughout the Group N era.
Period images: Kees van der Koolewyk