With a turbocharged S52-swap and custom Group 4 racer bodywork, this incredible modified BMW E9 is one of the most awesome cars we’ve ever seen.
We feature a lot of amazing cars but occasionally something so special comes along that it leaves us truly breathless and Willy Izaguirre’s modified BMW E9 CSL tribute with a turbocharged S52 is one such car. Every year SEMA is full of absolutely incredible builds but even among such god-like creations there are a few cars that manage to stand out and elevate themselves to the absolute zenith of modified car culture, and this E9 is one such machine. It was without doubt the modified BMW of the show and one of the cars that everyone was talking about, regardless of where their modifying allegiances might lie. It’s just awesome, that’s the only way to describe it, an incredible build with near-universal appeal that leaves you in awe and we’re kind of in love with it, if you couldn’t tell.
It’s hard to know where to even begin with a car like this, which has undergone such a complete and absolute transformation, but really it all starts with owner. So, who is Willy Izaguirre? A legend of the modified scene? Owner of his own modifying empire? Well, no; he’s just a car guy, but one with a bit more vision and drive than most of us. He’s originally from Guatemala but these days resides in New York; he’s an electrician by trade but quit his job two years ago to start doing CNC work, laser-engraving and making some of the most unique gear knobs we’ve ever seen (check them out at
@nostalgic_grains); and this is hist first Euro build. We’d say he’s done a pretty good job with it… Throughout his motoring life it’s been Japanese machinery that has been Willy’s focus, from his first a car (a 1988 Toyota MR2 ) to his fully-restored 1968 Datsun Fairlady running an SR20DET swap, which he currently owns alongside this E9, but the seeds for what would blossom into his full-blown love for BMW were sown when he just a boy. “I’ve been interested in BMWs since I was a kid back in my home country circa 1990. Next to my house was a BMW repair shop and I always spent lots of time after school at the shop,” he says and he got the taste for BMW ownership with a 2002 and an E30 before he went big with his E9 build.
Clearly Willy has an interest in the classics and that’s what drew him to the idea of this project; “I decided to get to the roots of BMW’s racing history by building a resto-mod of the iconic 3.0 CSL. A good friend sold me the car, a 1973 3.0 CS, and it was a rust bucket… The floors were rotted straight through, you could see the road underneath!” he exclaims and having seen some pictures of how the car looked when he bought it we’re even more amazed with the end result. “I drove it for two months and fell in love with it… however it was quite slow and needed major surgery to get it repaired, that’s why I decided to do the resto-mod,” he explains. “At SEMA 2016, Jon Sibal made a render of a CSL and I reached out to him to ask if I could use his render to build a SEMA 2017 project. He gave me the green light and the madness began,” he grins.
Willy didn’t waste any time and got stuck straight into the build but unfortunately it didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts… “The project started about 18 months ago when I brought the car to a shop not too far from me to do the engine swap,” Willy tells us. “After a long eight month period they called me to tell me that it was ready. When I got there I saw the car and was very disappointed; the engine was crooked in the engine bay, they had ‘hockey pucks’ as motor mounts, the transmission and intake manifold did not fit. I took the car out of that shop and brought it to Redline Restorations to fix everything,” he says, and fix everything they did. “We made custom engine and transmission mounts, the whole engine bay was stitch welded and the bottom of the car was reinforced with a 2×4 steel beam,” Willy explains and that did the job of bringing the car up to standard and sorting out all the maladies.
You can’t have missed the engine swap that Willy mentions because there’s no bonnet on the car and it’s one of the first things you notice and that smoothed, stitch welded bay really shows it off at its very best. The engine itself is an S52B32 from a 1998 E36 M3 and Willy says that it’s had some minor mods carried out, though we get the feeling his idea of minor might be slightly different to most people’s… Everything is built around that turbo (because why wouldn’t you turbocharge your S52?), which is a Precision 62/66 with a T51R mod by OCD Works and it’s bolstered by an uprated head gasket, ARP head studs, uprated injectors and an uprated fuel system, an aftermarket intake plenum and VAC Motorsports oil cooler. The exhaust manifold, exhaust, screamer pipe and intercooler piping were all fabricated by hand from titanium and the the exhaust and turbo have been ceramic-coated. You might also have noticed that there’s no rad in the engine; cast your eyes to the rear of the car and that’s where you’ll spy the cut out in the boot lid that feeds air to the boot-mounted radiator, with all the pipework for this having also been fabricated by hand from titanium. An incredible amount of incredible work has gone into this engine and engine bay and it’s all just, well, incredible really. That engine bay might well be one of the cleanest we’ve ever seen and the engine is spectacular, it’s dream build stuff, really. This car would have been utterly spectacular regardless of what was nestling in the engine bay, but the fact that Willy has gone for a full-on performance engine build makes it even more awesome. In case you were wondering, it does have plenty of performance; once tuned Willy is expecting to see 500-600hp, which should be enough to make things interesting…
Dragging ourselves away from the engine bay we have to remember that this car started out life as a narrow-body E9 and that’s when you learn that almost all the body panels you see before you have been custom-made. “I always like to build something unique; my friend Lance Medina at Clason Point Collision did all the body work and paint,” says Willy and he’s done a hell of a job creating the custom Group 4 wide-body kit, which looks absolutely perfect and just utterly spectacular. The CSL Batmobile is one of the widest, wildest BMWs ever built and Willy’s tribute captures and recreates every aspect and element of the original racer perfectly and then takes it even further. You’ve got your period-correct details, such as the wind splitters up front and the classic BMW badges but then you’ve got all the carbon aero elements that Willy has added, which not only look fantastic but work so well with that custom minty paint. The roof spoiler is made from carbon as is the aerofoil of the rear wing, then there are the carbon headlight covers and even the vents mounted on top of those massive rear arches are fabricated from carbon and are fully functional – look closely and you’ll see the rear tyres and tarmac through the slats. Every scoop and vent is fully-functional and not just for show, apart from the side grilles which are simply attached to the front wings, exactly as they are on the actual CSL racer. The whole thing is so good that it doesn’t look like a resto-mod tribute, it looks like the real deal which someone has lovingly restored and that speaks volumes about the quality of the work involved and the attention to detail that’s been lavished on this build.
Now, we have to talk about the wheels; obviously we were going to anyway but just look at them. They are the most perfect wheels imaginable for this car and those rears are just insane, so wide, so much dish, just incredible. “Since I was building my own version of the Batmobile I wanted to use period-correct wheels,” says Willy, “so the decision for a set of BBS magnesium centre locks was made,” and this was unquestionably the right decision. Racing BBS wheels are so iconic, so desirable and so sexy, they work so well on the CSL and in magnesium centre lock form they achieve absolute wheel perfection. Willy’s got 17s on the car and they measure 9.5” wide up front and – brace yourselves – 15.5” wide at the rear; they’re almost as wide as they are large! Seeing them on this car, with those gold centres, massive widths filling out those arches so perfectly, you become acutely aware of the fact that choosing anything else would have been sacrilege. Perfect wheels need perfect suspension to complement them and here Willy turned to CAtuned for a set of the company’s coilovers, which offer 30-way damping adjustment alongside their height adjustment and here they deliver the perfect drop.
The outside is outrageous but when it came to the interior Willy also had some serious plans in mind. “I wanted no interior at all,” he says, “just two carbon fibre seats and a carbon fibre dash made by my buddy Tony Spitaleri at Carbon Fiber Element,” and that really is it, there is basically nothing else in the cabin of this CSL, which is wholly appropriate really and ties in perfectly with the whole racing car tribute concept. While there might not be much there, what there is is to die for. You’ve got those two sexy single-piece carbon buckets complete with M tricolour stitching, which dominate the otherwise barren, fully-stripped and grey-painted metal interior; that lush Nardi wood-rimmed steering wheel and one of Willy’s own custom gear knobs, finished in a blend of wood and mesmerising resin. Then you’ve got the carbon dash which is simply sensational; it’s this big slab of glorious black weave that is draped across the entire width of the interior and features a double gauge cluster pod that houses the custom Speedhut gauges for oil temperature, water temperature and boost pressure as well as the speedo and rev counter, set in a brushed metal plate and between which sits an AEM AFR gauge. All of it is simply stunning.
Considering that this car has just been “finished” it is, of course, not finished. Willy has plenty more plans for it but with the SEMA deadline and having lost eight months of build time at the start of the project to the company that first had a crack at the car and failed to deliver, it wasn’t 100% done at the show. We jumped on it straight away because we simply couldn’t help ourselves so we can’t show you the custom aluminium panels that Willy will be fitting inside or the custom roll-cage that will also be installed. Those are the short-term plans that were on the to-do list all along, but the long term plans are rather more grand. “We have plans to add a sequential transmission, APR race jacks and a BBK,” says Willy and those additions will take this build to the next level, if there even is a next level above a build like this…
With this extraordinary CSL tribute, Willy has built his dream car, achieved everything he wanted to do, the way he wanted to do it and the results speak for themselves; you can’t build a car like this without passion and that is the very essence of this entire project.
Tech Spec: Modified BMW E9
Engine & Transmission:
3.2-litre straight-six S52B32, uprated head gasket, ARP head studs, uprated fuel system and injectors, ceramic-coated Precision 62/66 turbocharger with T51R mod, titanium exhaust manifold, aftermarket intake plenum, intercooler with titanium pipework, VAC Motorsports oil cooler and cap, rear-mount radiator with titanium pipework, RK Tunes map. ZF five-speed manual gearbox
9.5×17” (front) and 15.5×17” (rear) BBS magnesium centre lock wheels with gold centres and 255/40 (front) and 315/35 (rear) Toyo R888R tyres, CAtuned coilovers
Custom blend paint, custom Group 4 wide-body kit, wind splitters, carbon rear roof spoiler and boot spoiler aerofoil, carbon rear arch vents, carbon head light covers
Carbon single-piece bucket seats with M tricolour stitching, vintage Nardi wooden steering wheel, custom Nostalgic Grains gear knob, custom carbon dash, custom Speedhut gauges for oil temperature, water temperature and boost pressure, AEM AFR gauge
Feature taken from Performance BMW. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Viktor Benyi