Greg Miller sent me an awesome email detailing memories he's made with his steel gray M Coupe in the last 15 years. It was too good not to share.
I grew up with racing heroes who drove Maseratis, Astons and Jaguars. Both my parents and my wife's parents had Jaguars back in the day. As time went on, I realized that while they looked very different, they were, under their beautiful bodies, all built to a golden formula of wheel base and track width. The straight six was the engine of choice for nearly every one of these cars, except for Enzo and his Ferrari. But even Enzo built his 250s on dimensions that closely followed the formula. The 70s saw cars get larger and this trend has continued. As I looked at the Z3 specs it became clear that the engineers had taken the numbers for the Zed 3 right out of the parameters for the famous 1960s exotics. An M Coupe is heavier due to modern safety rules, but it is literally to the inch an Aston or Maserati dimensions under its modern bodywork; and the power to weight is quite similar to the 1960s competition cars. I suppose that is why the M Coupe is so special. It is the very last car that was built to the classic specification for a gentleman's race car. In a time when classic exotics sell for seven or eight figures, the M Coupe is as close as a common man can ever come to the experience. With its 60s-style trailing rear arms, long nose, perfect 50:50 balance and high revving straight six; the experience of sitting far back in the chassis with a race exhaust and air flowing through open windows is still pure 1960s exotic.
To me, however, the S54 M Coupes are forever mixed with unimaginable sadness. For every one of us who bought one in late 2001 and early 2002, the joy was tempered by the agony of 9.11. I bought my coupe from a dealer after the gentleman who had ordered it did not come to pick it up. He would have ordered it before 9.11 and the dealer is just outside of NYC. To this day, I do not know whether the story of the car is tied to the tragedy of that day. What I do know is that in 2001 I had just finished a record year for my technology company, but post 9.11 my business was in serious trouble. I should not have bought the Coupe in those horrible financial and emotional times, but with my wife's support, we did. As we come up on the 15th Anniversary of 9.11 I still feel so blessed to have been allowed to own this car. Each time I drive it, I remember those we lost. For me the S54 represented everything good about America, during a time when all of us struggled with the shear evil of what had occurred.
The years that would follow with the Coupe have been a huge part of my life. A few pictures from the Journey are described below.
1. People rib my wife and I about the funny hatch in back, and of course the answer is the same as for any other proper European shooting brake design; that is where the hounds ride. Our Bella was the ASFA 2014 Northeast Iron Dog, beating all comers from all sight hound breeds over three days of National level lure course racing. She is a purebred Portuguese Podengo Medio. Lying beside her is her best friend, Anja the current number one ranked whippet in AKC Rally. My wife trains sight hounds, and as we could not possibly leave them at home, they have a little pad that fits perfectly in the back of the Coupe. They love riding in the Coupe.
2.[above] A picture from early 2004 of the Coupe before the roll bar or suspension work. The car is coming through the downhill diving turn at Limerock. The roll bar which was installed shortly after this picture has a story of its own as it came out of Ryan Cattucci's "Ultimate Beast", one of the first M Cars to run the One Lap of America. Ryan had supercharged his S52 Coupe, and after the race he sold me the custom made bar as a new owner did not want it in the vehicle. It is a wonderful piece of engineering that is more than it appears. The Tubi competition exhaust came out of PBFut's old California S54 M Coupe race car (when he decided to go with a V8). A wonderful sounding set of cans. Not too loud at idle and they just roar at 8k RPM with that mellow Italian sound. They were a one-off from the Tubi race shop. All good Karma.
3. This must be around 2006 with my wife beside the Coupe at Pocono Manor (the host hotel for Celebration of Speed & Design) which was held over the Memorial Day weekend at Pocono Raceway. CSD is an event for Exotics and we were the only invited BMW. I once asked the promoter why he let us in, and he laughed and told me it was fun watching little Coupe beating up on the traditional exotics. In those days we had the use of an ancient British Racing Green trailer with a Scottish Dragon painted down the side, and we pulled the trailer behind a hard riding Red & Black two tone chipped V10 Dodge truck. The truck roared as it went through the mountains while the gas gauge would tremble at the 4 mpg up the hills. The car has two sets of numbers on the windows as Jan and I would both drive the car at that event. My wife had some health issues post 9.11. This would be the last time she would drive on a race track.
4. This shot is me at CSD in 2007. We would gain ground on the Ferraris by throwing the Coupe in hard and just lifting. The Coupe, graceful as a little ballerina, would rotate through the hairpin at Devil's Elbow. I could then nail the throttle to straighten her up while sliding all the way to track out. It was not the conventional line, but it was fast.
5. Got this one out of order. This is early 2003 at one of the Coupe's first track days on slicks. The track is obviously Lime Rock and this is in the A Paddock.
6. This is 2007 and a gathering of the "Coupers" from the old RoadFly forum at the Limerock Vintage Festival. The picture was taken at the famous racer hangout, the Interlaken hotel. Coupes coming in from out of town would rent a big lodge and all sleep there on sofas or floors after a "few" drinks.
7-8. I believe this is early 2008 running at New Hampshire International Speedway from my in car video camera.
9. Then my wife was just terribly sick, followed by Wall St imploding. Life was once again on hold. But, somehow we found a way, and Jan is now out of her wheel chair and recently drove the Coupe for a few miles on the street. The economy through smoke and mirrors recovered and here we are.
10. In 2015, as the Coupe patiently rested, a client called up and bet me a glass of scotch that his Ferrari was faster than my Coupe. The Coupe may be retired, but it is still an M Car. So, we accepted the Challenge and returned to Pocono. The forum for the match would be the roll on drags at Pocono Raceway during the Exotics Rally's Battle of the Beasts 2015. You come through the gate at 35mph, and it is full throttle for a half mile. The talk stops when you cross the gate, and first man over the finish line wins. No rules, run what you brung.
The Ferrari was a pristine low mile 1999 Ferrari 355 F1 Spyder with the sequential paddle shift and a competition free flow exhaust. The car was tuned by a Ferrari shop to run on 103 Unleaded Race fuel. The 355F1 is a 3.5 liter V8 with 5 valve heads and is rated at >395hp on race fuel. The Coupe got some updated Dinan software, had its custom made Tubi Design competition mufflers with some engine bits from Mr. Turner and the roll bar is tied to the rear suspension. The car is sound mechanically thanks to our good friends at Autotechnic Racing in New Milford, CT. While the Coupe has never had any accident damage, my friends at Town Line Auto Body have kept the car finish to show car condition. Still, in theory the Ferrari was more powerful, lighter and had paddle shifts. The Ferrari sounded serious, and I figured I would lose by a car length or two, but the bet was made, and we were there to run.
In the first run the M Coupe was fast out of the gate and beat the Ferrari by more than a car length, but the owner was shifting at 7,500 RPM as per the advice from the dealer. The second run the Ferrari owner was racing for honor and the 355 was making the sorts of noises Enzo would be proud of. It was closer, but still after a half a mile of nothing held back, it was M Coupe over Ferrari. A picture is worth a glass of scotch. A good time.
11. The Coupe as she looks today. She had votes for best in show at the 2016 BMW Bring More Wax show in CT and at the Memorial Day Limerock Show (both are people's choice judged). These days she just needs to look pretty. But, when the moon is full and the roads are clear, every now and then she still gets to be an M Car. As all of you know, tires have improved tremendously over the past 15 years and the wide 18" Direzza2 Star Specs on Apex wheels do a great job. Race pads are noisy but stop hard. And the S54 has required nothing but routine maintenance. I just had the entire engine looked over by a specialist a few months ago, and it is within factory spec. Amazing.
Almost 15 years and I still enjoy this little car. The journey continues. Anytime around, come by as have a good bottle of scotch I had bought in case the Ferrari won. And, should Steve Dinan ever make it to CT, I owe him an entire bottle. Car ran like a tiger on the race fuel through the Tubi exhaust. Through all the track days, this car has never let me down. Priceless. I have driven everything from a 1926 Bugatti Type 37 race car to 1960s Ferraris to modern Ferraris at track days, to Formula and Rally Cars. I get to drive modern supercars, but mostly they either leave me cold or sticker shocked. Still nothing that brings a bigger smile to my face then a beautiful day with the wife and a picnic basket plus a couple of hounds back in the hatch. There are worse things in life.