Ireland Engineering: BMW Heaven
Ireland Engineering: BMW Heaven
We've made no attempt to hide the fact that here at StanceWorks, we are a diehard group of BMW fans. It can often be tough for us to deviate from German steel to provide our readers with content that is more appealing on a broad scope, but if you've been around long enough, you know that sometimes we fall back to our roots. Season after season, the S|W garage has gotten older and older, with an E10 parked in the shop and an E9 just outside... We've realized they just don't make 'em like they used to. Part of our mission here at StanceWorks is to embrace the classic car culture, and push the idea that new cars aren't always better. When Ireland engineering called and invited us to check out their shop in Duarte, California, it was an opportunity to take a glimpse into BMW part heaven.
Ireland Engineering does one thing, and they do it well. They build BMW race parts. I don't care what kind of car guy you are; chances are you see the appeal. Ireland, at its core, is one of the few places not only dedicated to keeping our favorite old BMWs on the road and running until the end of time, they are dedicated to making them faster. More than 40 years after these cars' debut, Jeff Ireland spends day in and day out ensuring that they won't be forgotten, left to rot away in the junk yard like so many other cars. He and his team see the heart behind them, just like we do.
The first thing we noticed when we walked in to Ireland's shop was the copious amounts of BMW parts... from cylinder heads and spindles to camshafts and connecting rods; hundreds. It was as though we had found where BMWs go to die. Then again, this is also where BMWs are reborn a little bit faster.
Strewn throughout the shop were what I can only assume are customer jobs receiving the Ireland touch. Preservation and restoration of the classic BMW powerplants that today's engines only wish they could be. The boys at IE would agree with us that there's nothing like the scream of an old straight six, a sound only comparable to a monster that eats children and rocks for breakfast and howls like a banshee when the loud-pedal is mashed. It's that sound cars dont can't make anymore.
Further exploring the IE shop, we find the stuff they're known best for. Race parts. Lots and lots of race parts. Every little goodie to make that old piece of metal do the tango through the back turns is found here. Aisles and aisles of boxes and drawers, filled to the brim with machined nicknacks and trinkets, much of which you only pray stuffs your stockings this Christmas; it is the bona fide BMW paradise. We'd be in serious trouble if we were let loose in the shop after hours. To reiterate, without guys like the ones at IE, enjoying these cars the way they were intended to be would have stopped long ago.
But there's more to the shop than engines and parts: as we said before, they see that these little old BMWs have a heart in them, and they're still willing to get their hands dirty to keep it beating. If I had a dollar for each of the "parts manufacturers" out there only around to gain a buck or two, I'd be a wealthy man. On the other hand, I only dream of the inability to count the number of shops out there who dont have dust on the tools in the machine shop. The corner of Ireland was occupied by the production of camber plates while we were there. Just like your grumpy grandfather always said, there's no substitute for "Made in America."
At the end of our tour, we realized a few things, but the most important was this: We're not alone in our desire to drive these old cars, to prevent them from being locked away in glass cases under bright white lights in climate controlled prison cells. These old machines were mean to be driven. It doesn't matter whether your car is corner-weighted and track prepped, or slowly wearing away at the edges of your tire entirely for looks. If you're driving these old cars, you're doing everyone a favor. Someday, they'll all be gone, there's no question. But thanks to shops like Ireland Engineering, they'll be driven, perhaps even driven hard, until their final drop of oil is spilled.
Their shop is only 45 minutes from here. I see us visiting quite often, and now I have the perfect excuse to purchase even more vintage BMWs.
While I'm there, I'll have to talk Jeff into letting me run the Formula BMW up and down the street. (That's a hint if you read this, Jeff.)