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BMW 850CSi - The Great Eight

exterior view of 850CSiAfter the failure of BMW to develop an M8 version of the 8-Series, the consolation was the M-badged 850CSi. Boosted 80bhp from the standard 850i to 380bhp, the M-powered V12 shot the two tonne beast to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. 42-year-old Gerry Speechley from Surrey waited a very long time for a secondhand CSi to come his way. So, after handing over his £54,000, the car mechanic set about installing one of the greatest ICE systems in the land, as well as upgrading many of the already exceptional features on this luxury muscle car.

Gerry's degree in Aeronautical Engineering and Design came in handy when building engines for racing bikes in his younger years. Being the winner of the 1983 Brighton Speed Trials on his turbocharged and Nitro'd CBX Honda, if you were to trust anybody with modifying such a rare machine, Gerry is your man. But modifying an 850 CSI is a bit different to tackling your E30 316. "I had the tricky task of trying to improve on the best," Gerry explains. "You can't really better this car, you can only make it more specific to yourself. I've simply try to put on the best of everything."

BBS RK2 Split Rims and interior photo shotsOnce the car was collected from Barons BMW in Farnborough, Gerry's first aim was to replace the 17 inch wheels with some serious 18 inch rimmage. BBS RK2 split rims were the choice, but even they were not good enough in standard form. The wheels were completely stripped and the centre hubs and spokes painted Audi pearlescent silver metallic, the rims highly polished on the outside, and the insides painted the color of brake dust. This method ensures those tricky-to-clean inner bits never looked dirty with brake dust remnants. Very clever. The alloys were rounded off with BMW centre caps, and even BMW-logo valve covers. "I carry a spare set of valve covers in the boot, though," Gerry says, "as the local kids like to nick them two at a time for the mountain bikes."

V12 egineCosmetically, the only other exterior features are the window tinting, the clear side repeaters and the front splitter.

"The problem is, nobody does any kits or aftermarket bits for the 8 series," Gerry says. "The repeaters are actually very embarrassingly from Ford, and I had to create the front splitter myself using £250 worth of genuine carbon fiber."

With his racing background, Gerry, used his knowledge to remove the cats from the exhausts and wrap them in Thermotec race insulation all the way from the down pipes to the rear silencers. Even after some serious cutting and gutting to the rear silencers, the noise is surprisingly inoffensive. Instead, a satisfying rasp is the reward for Gerry's innovative labour. In our little test drive, the sound was fantastic, as we hit the midrange revs. There's nothing quite like the engine note from a healthy V12.

BBS rimexhaust tips

When we come to the brakes, Gerry presents us with his 'do it right, or don't do it at all until you can afford to' philosophy. The 14.5 inch front discs and 14 inch rear discs are fully floating, drilled and ventilated. The addition of nickel plating in the holes and vents prevents any rusting as well. BMW Motorsport pads have been put into place, all fitted with stainless steel bolts - such is the man's desire for ultimate quality. In fact, anything that has the potential for rusting, such as bonnet clips and engine bolts, have been replaced by non-corrosive alloy parts.

front license plate reads, "BMW 850V"
The suspension has also been altered with quality in mind. All the original 850CSI’s came with AC Schnitzer Road suspension. But, wanting to drive a bit harder, Gerry ordered a Schnitzer Race suspension Kit from Germany. After a bit of cutting and customizing, the back sits at standard ride height, but the nose sits aggressively down an extra inch and a half.

These sorts of mods are not just for show either. Gerry is not afraid to take this beast out on the racetrack. "People expect the driver of these things to wear a flat cap and smoke a pipe," Gerry enthuses. "But the CSI is so different from the 850. That extra 80 brake has shocked many sports car drivers. Also, with all that traction and Automatic Stability Control, it's very hard to get into trouble on the track."

850CSiThe car is not just the balls-out racer by any stretch of the imagination, though. In fact, it's far from it. The multimedia system is nothing short of spectacular, with Gerry reliably informing us that the ICE system has nine times the computing power of Apollo 11 - and that landed on the moon! The ICE was supplied by Unique Car Sounds of Lightwater, and consists of - wait for it - a Pioneer voice activated satellite navigation and global position system, six-DVD video system with a 7 inch widescreen colour in-dash monitor, two 5.6" color monitors fitted into the front headrests, a games console, TV tuner, AM/FM tuner, CD and multi-CD players, digital surround processor, some high power amplification, and 12 speakers!

trunk shot of audio equipment. "This car's ICE apparently has nine times the computing power of Apollo 11 ... first BMW on the moon??This sort of install unsurprisingly requires a bit of extra boost. Two Mercedes diesel Sprinter van batteries have replaced the standard BMW batteries, while twin stiffening capacitors with 2 Million Farad potential ensure there's no way the ICE will ever lose power.

A control panel is situated on the centre console, where the passengers can select DVD, TV, CD or games console functions independently for each screen. The back-seat passengers also have separate super comfy headphones to ensure nobody is disturbed by anybody else's choice of in-car entertainment. Gerry says, "The kids used to fight over who would be sitting in the front; now they're more than happy stuck in the back!" If all that wasn't enough - the Speechley family enjoys its in-car entertainment from the comfort of sumptuous, silver grey leather seats.

BMW 850CSi in motionEven with his hefty ICE install, Gerry still boasts of some pretty spectacular performance figures: "the car was limited to 155 mph, but because it now sits on 18s, the ECU is confused. The limiter uses the RPM and what gear you were in, not the wheel speed, to cut off acceleration at 155 mph. The larger wheels mean that the cut-off point is now 172 mph."

With the unrestricted American 850CSi hitting 185 mph, there is still potential for some extra speed after that limiter kicks in as well. "This car is perfect," Gerry says. "It looks great, but, when you want to be a hooligan in it, you can be."

With performance figures like these, engine upgrades aren't really necessary. Gerry is confident he could easily get more than 500 brake from the 5.6 litre lump, but refuses to jeopardize his BMW warranty by making any engine mods at the moment. And at £18,000 for a new engine, who can blame him? Anyway, with the ultimate production 8-series in his hands, he thinks he's gone far enough in transforming the stylish muscle car.

Like Gerry says, he was set the near impossible task of trying to improve on the best. We think he's done just that.

Article and Photos by: Performance BMW Magazine


Gerry Speechley

There were only 44 M850 CSis brought to Britain and in Gerry Speechley's modified minter, we think we've found the best.


  • 5.6 liter V12, producing 380bhp


  • Customised 18 inch BBS RK2s shod in 245/40 and 285/35 Pirelli P Zero tyres.

  • ACSchnitzer Racing suspension,

  • ventilated, drilled, and nickel-plated fully floating brake discs with Motorsport pads


  • Avus blue metallic paintwork,

  • custom-made carbon-fibre front splitter,

  • white side repeaters,

  • tinted windows,

  • personalised 'BMW 850' plates


  • Full silver grey leather all around


  • AV9000 Dolby Digital/DTS amp/processor master unit,
  • front 7" widescreen monitor,
  • two 5.5" headrest monitors,
  • Avic 5 voice-activated navigation system,
  • Panasonic DVD player,
  • Pioneer PDV9 multi-DVD changer,
  • Pioneer P2000 multi-CD changer,
  • TV tuner, games console, GM3400 480W amp,
  • 4 x 180W speakers, GM4200 680W amp,
  • Two 12" Rockford Fosgate,
  • Pioneer tweeters in doors,
  • Two stiffening capacitors


  • Barons BMW Farnborough
    (01252 518185)

  • Unique Car Sounds
    (01276 474900)

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