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LK60129 - Part 1: Introduction

2001 BMW M Coupe in Imola Red over Imola Red

Let me introduce you to the very first non-monochromatic Project Coupe. Looking back, I realized all of our coupes have either been black, white or more often than not, silver. Even the Z3 Project Coupe is sterling gray. Apparently we've been stuck in a rut. It's also just our second S54 project, and it just so happens to be the lowest mileage one we've had arriving with exactly 34,001 miles.

We've learned a few things over the years, it's best to see the cars in person, and you should always get a PPI. Luckily for us, this coupe happened to be in the San Diego area which is a very nice place to visit a car. Tom, a local coupe owner, volunteered to check it out for us and take it for a quick drive (he also fed us dinner while we were in town, thanks Tom!). After his generally positive comments, Mark and I decided to go see it for ourselves since it was far and away our largest investment. Mark was already in northern California for a business trip, so we planned to meet in San Diego on a Friday afternoon. When Spirit Airlines had $42 round-trip flights, my wife Jenn got to tag along too (thanks for babysitting Mom and Dad!).

Jenn and I flew in early Friday morning, grabbed a rental car, walked through Balboa Park, had lunch by the bay, then drove up the coast to our hotel off Mission Beach. We picked up Mark at the airport in the afternoon, took a walk down the beach, and grabbed some dinner and amazing ice cream cookie sandwiches (The Baked Bear). These Project Coupes are tough work :-).

2001 BMW M Coupe in Imola Red over Imola Red

The next morning Mark and I were up early to go check out the coupe (while my wife met a friend for breakfast and sat on the beach). We went to Rex's house where he had it in his driveway for us. We had seen photos of the coupe previously, but I think it looked better in person. I think part of the reason most of the project coupes have been colorless is my personal preference (see my own steel gray), but there's definitely something arresting about a bright red coupe. Imola red seems to be the perfect shade for it. Well done product planners! We knew Rex would be a cool guy from his awesome personalized license plate alone, and he didn't disappoint. I'm sorry to report, we did promise to return the plate though. We gave it a quick walk-around then hopped in for the short drive to BMW Encinitas for our scheduled PPI.

Walking into the waiting room we were greeted by a Z8, a restored 3.0CS, and a BMW Isetta that had originally been purchased at that very dealership. Not a bad way to spend an hour. We requested during the inspection to go back to check it out on the lift personally. The tech came to get us after about a half hour. He said mechanically he couldn't find anything wrong with it but had noticed some overspray underneath it. Unaware of any paintwork, we went back to investigate. Sure enough we found some overspray around the front bumper, along the lower sills and on the wheel well liners. We searched the undercarriage and frame for any sign of accident damage but neither we nor the BMW tech could find any. After confirming the diff mount and associated areas looked good (they were perfect), we lowered it down to start checking body panels. Sure enough they were all original bearing matching VIN stickers. The seller was unaware of the paintwork and we can only guess as to its necessity.

2001 BMW M Coupe in Imola Red over Imola Red

After the initial disappointment of non-original paint, we started to think about what we had: a low mileage, beautiful, mechanically perfect, S54 M Coupe. While we knew we could no longer sell it at a collector car price, in reality it just made it a little more perfect. Now it is a low mileage S54 that a future owner can drive and enjoy, rather than another one to rot away in collector car storage as so many others have recently.

So you are probably wondering, how much of a project can a low mileage S54 be? It's definitely a different one for us, but it's interesting just the same. The goal is making this very, very nice car as close to perfect as possible. You'll see in the photos it has some aftermarket parts on it which we will be returning to stock, including chrome shadow roadstars. In some ways I think this project could be more difficult than making a relatively beat up project into a nice, reliable driver. There's far less room for error, average used parts from our normal sources aren't going to cut it, and for me, each small project is slightly more stressful making sure I don't scuff, damage, or break anything else while doing what needs to be done. In the end, I can already tell this is going to be a special coupe and will make someone very, very happy.

2001 BMW M Coupe in Imola Red over Imola Red


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Jon Martin
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