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Gerry Speechley's 850Worth the Weight

A Real Heavyweight of the BMW World.
It's a Two-tonne, 400 bhp, £90,000 V12 Coupe.

Don’t know about you, but I’d say that £89,000 was a reasonable sum of money. It would certainly buy you somewhere to live almost anywhere in the UK. Car-wise you could spend it on buying ten new Nissan Micras, a Porsche 911 Turbo or Aston Martin DB7. Or a BMW of course. Not just any BMW though, this is obviously very rare and very special. After all, when was the last time you saw a BMW E31?

An E what? That’s the E number given to the 8-Series and according to BMW figures only 1510 of these cars were ever built and only 44 were officially imported into the UK. That’ll be rare then. Just don’t confuse it with the slightly more common 850i which was regarded as overweight and underpowered – if you can ever say such a thing about a five-litre V12.

A few years ago Gerry Speechley, a 40-year old self-employed car technician, was running a 535i SE and wanted to exchange it for an 850 CSi because he really liked its muscle-car-with-class looks.

BMW 850 angle shotHis local BMW dealer told him they’d keep their eyes and ears open for one but “don’t call us, we’ll call you” – if they ever found one. “As they were so rare, it was basically a case of don’t hold your breath,” remembers Gerry with a laugh.

After a while he gave up all hope of ever getting his hands on one so bought an M5 instead. As you do. Then some 20 months after he had first asked, he got a phone call saying the dealer had located one and was he still interested?

Of course he was, and it was even in Avus Blue, Gerry’s first choice of colour and a match for his Yamaha V-Max. The price was a whopping £89,000 but the M5 was quickly exchanged and a deal was sorted in summer 1999.

Good things come to those who wait. This particular 850 CSi was one from the last batch ever produced and according to Gerry, these last few cars were sent straight from the factory to AC Schnitzer so they could work their magic on them, even before they reached the showrooms. The work included uprating the brakes, suspension and the engine but Gerry is a perfectionist and that simply wasn’t good enough for him.

The car is now fitted with BMW Motorsport 14 in and 14.5 in vented discs (£139 each) which Gerry drilled himself and then had nickel plated to prevent rusting. The four-pot Motorsport calipers on the front were at least up to Gerry’s high standards so they have been retained. Fair to assume the car stops as required? “No problems at all,” he confirms. “Even though it’s a two-tonne car I’ve never had anything to worry about, even when I take it out on the track.”

Image of a wheel.  "Gerry stripped the wheels and got a mate to paint the inside the same color as brake dust."Of course with an attractive brake set-up like this you’d be silly to hide it behind standard alloys. Enter £1300-worth of 18 in BBS RKII split rims. Gerry stripped the wheels, got a mate to paint the inside the same colour as brake dust so it wouldn’t show, then got the exterior painted in Audi pearlescent silver and then highly polished the rims.

The alloys were then reassembled with 80 Titanium spline bolts, BMW centre caps, BMW metal lapel badges, motorcycle valves and M valve caps – nicked on a regular basis by local kids for their BMX bikes. Roadwheel (01276 475577) were then trusted to cover the alloys in Pirelli rubber. Needless to say kerbs are now avoided like the plague.

BMW 850 side viewAlthough the car had already been fitted with AC Schnitzer suspension, that wasn’t good enough for Gerry either. He bought their race suspension package, at £400 for the springs and £2000 for the dampers. The car handled fine, but then it sat too low at the back for Gerry’s liking – almost as if he had several bags of cement in the boot. The rear springs were quickly replaced with a set built in Gerry’s own spec to give the car the higher-at-the-back stance that he was after.

Apart from fitting clear repeaters, and some M badges, the only other exterior modification is the carbon fiber front splitter. Whilst there might be a wide choice of styling parts for other BMWs, they are certainly in limited demand for the 850. That doesn’t worry Gerry, he just gets stuff made himself, spending £150 on a sheet of carbon fiber, making a cardboard template then cutting it to match and bolting it on.

engineWithout wishing to damage his warranty, Gerry’s engine tuning has so far been very restricted but he already has cylinder heads and cams ready for when the warranty expires and he can then up the stakes to around 500 bhp.

850 front viewIn the meantime, he’s removed the catalysts and wrapped the entire exhaust system in ThermoTec tape to ensure it keeps the gases hot enough to pass the MOT emissions test. He’s also opened up both of the rear silencers, removed the insides and then welding them shut again. Despite this, the car is still very quiet until you rev it, then it produces a nice rasp - just what Gerry was looking for.

At the moment he thinks the engine will be about 420 bhp – it should have been 380 as standard. What’s it like on the road, a bit of a handful? “I always leave the traction control on,” Gerry admits. Apart from during our photo shoot that is, when he managed to spin it! “And I leave the engine management on Sport rather than Comfort. That means that I can get full throttle, all the time. Even then it’s still so quiet and you can’t really hear the engine or exhaust.

 Images of caliper and billet oil filler cap “It’s surprisingly good on fuel, too – about 18 mpg around town and up to 28 on a long run. The speed limiter should cut in at 155 mph, but because I’ve fitted bigger tyres at the back and got a larger rolling radius and the car takes its speed information from the engine revs and the gears, it now doesn’t cut out until 172 mile-per-hour!” That figure isn’t a guess either, it comes from practical experience and he claims that even at that speed the car is as quiet and stable as at 70 mph. That’s what makes it so deadly.


Of course it doesn’t end there. Gerry wasn’t satisfied with the interior of the car and has made a few improvements. His mate, Gary at Spur Engineering(020 8844 0887) was responsible for producing the alloy bits from Gerry’s scribbled diagrams for items such as the door pins, handbrake and various underbonnet shiny bits as well.

Then there’s the ICE system. Everything was supplied by Unique (01276 474900) and then fitted by Gerry. The total bill came to about £10,000, and if you want to check out exactly what that involved then take a look at the impressive spec panel.

audio schematicsvideo scematics Fitting it himself meant that Gerry could come up with the exact spec and layout he wanted. “There’s nothing I’m not happy with,” he states proudly. “Everything I’ve done has always been thought about for a long time before I actually did it. That means I get it right the first time.”

Before he fitted the system, his two kids used to fight to sit in the front passenger seat, Now, they’re more than content to sit in the back and he doesn’t hear a peep out of them until they get to their destination. And with good reason. They have a choice of listening to music, watching TV or DVDs or even playing with the games console.

Exterior shot of BMW 850 CSiBoth of the rear screens can be used independently, and by wearing the headphones there’s no noise interference either. In fact the only display they can’t get in the rear is the voice activated satellite navigation system, that’s understandably only fed to the third screen, located in the dashboard. Once the car is parked though, Gerry’s screen can access the same range of entertainment that his passengers enjoy.

With the 850 CSi not exactly a common sight, a lot of people don’t know what it is and Gerry says it’s often mistaken for an Aston Martin or even a Ferrari. That’s like asking a Lamborghini Countach owner how easy it was to put his kit car together.

ENGINE

  • 5576cc, race-spec Magnecor 10 mm ignition leads,
  • Ramair filter,
  • Catalysts removed,
  • Rear silencer modifications,
  • Splitfire Triple Platinum spark plugs,
  • Anodised bolts,
  • Silicone vacuum and water hoses,
  • Braided coolant hoses, alloy oil cap,
  • Chromed bonnet catches and filters,
  • Max power approx. 420 bhp
TRANSMISSION
  • Standard six-speed manual,
  • Redline fully synthetic transmission oils,
  • ASC +T traction control
SUSPENSION
  • Lowered with custom-made rear springs and AC Schnitzer dampers,
  • Rose-jointed anti-roll bar links
BRAKES

Front:

  • 14.5 in. drilled/nickel plated BMW Motorsport vented discs,
  • BMW four-pot callipers,
  • BMW fast road pads

Rear:

  • 14 in. drilled/nickel plated BMW Motorsport vented discs,
  • BMW fast road pads, single-pot callipers,
  • DoT 4 brake fluid, stainless steel brake hoses,
  • ABS
WHEELS & TYRES
  • BBS RKII split rim wheels 8.5x18 front,
  • 10x18 rear with Pirelli P-Zero tyres,
  • 285/35 rear, 245/40 front.
  • Wheels painted and polished, with BMW lapel badges,
  • BMW Motorsport centre caps and motorcycle valves
BODY
  • Personalised number plate,
  • Custom-made carbon fibre front splitter,
  • M badges,
  • Rear spoiler,
  • Clear side repeaters
INTERIOR
  • Full electric leather interior,
  • Custom alloy door pins,
  • Carbon fibre handbrake.
  • ICE: Pioneer AVX-P7000CD,
  • 7 in color monitor,
  • Single CD player,
  • AVM-P9000R Dolby Digital 5.1 main system controller with RDS tuner,
  • Digital sound processor,
  • CDX P2000 12 disc CD multi-changer,
  • XDV-P9 six disc DVD changer,
  • AVIC-505 voice-controlled satellite navigation system,
  • GEX-P7000 TV tuner,
  • CD-VS33 audio/video controller,
  • 2 x rear 5.7 in colour monitors (in headrests),
  • 2 x polished Pioneer GM-3400 amps (2x180W),
  • 1 x polished Pioneer GM-4200 amp (2x240W), Perspex screen,
  • 2 x 12 in Rockford Fosgate Punch subs,
  • 2 x Rockford Fosgate 6X9s,
  • 2 x 8in subs in the front,
  • 1 in Pioneer mids and 1 in Pioneer tweeters in the doors,
  • 2 x Caliber competition crossovers,
  • Panasonic DVD-L10 single multi-region DVD player,
  • TV games console,
  • 2 x JVC headphones,
  • 2 x Mercedes Sprinter diesel van batteries,
  • 2 x 1 million Farad stiffening capacitors,
  • 2 x Monitor Adio Gold Fuse boxes,
  • 180 amp master fuse,
  • remote controls,
  • neons

- Article by Total BMW Magazine

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