The Discovery of Forgotten Treasures

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-January 16, 2013-

The Discovery of Forgotten Treasures

Mike Burroughs

Imagine, for a moment, that in an undisclosed location, there is a locked room. Inside of the room, shelves are stocked with the rarest and most desirable parts for the cars of the make of your choosing. Whether you're a Corvette fan, a Nissan guy, or even one of the oddballs that has a thing for those late-'80s "Shelby" badged Dodge Shadows - behind that door lie parts you can only dream of. Race engines, suspension components, brakes, and transmissions. Body parts, intakes, lines, and hoses: everything is there, begging to be used. Some parts are decades old - collectibles to the vintage race car enthusiasts; others are rather new - hubs and centerlock spindles, backups for last year's cars.

It's a fantasy every car builder has dreamt of: that somewhere, a "forgotten" stash of parts lies waiting for discovery. Perhaps whoever owns it has no idea what they have, or maybe they know, and have simply stopped caring. For Andrew and myself, this dream became a reality: we entered the back room of a race shop, only to find what is likely one of greatest treasures we will ever encounter. The parts collection, belonging to BMW directly, consisted of many of the remnants of their racing past, acquired by chance and left to be forgotten.

Like kids in a candy shop, we began digging through boxes, seeing what we could find - and to sum it up with one word, we found "everything." As BMW fanatics, we had found heaven; this was the Rapture. Boxes labeled "320i Turbo Parts" housed manifolds and turbochargers that could easily be equated to gold. The parts to build a Group 5 car were here, in front of us, begging to be put to work. Motorsport magnesium valvecovers were stacked on shelves; the ultimate "cool" piece for any street car, and I can almost swear I heard them saying "take me!"

Atop the shelves sat an original airdam for the batmobile CSL - I yearned to get my hands on it; to put it on my own E9. Underneath it were several steering racks: the E46 GTR, the E21, and even parts for the PTG E36 - more parts I would have killed to snag for my own. In every corner sat something I had to have; each new discovery more important than the last. And then finally, we found it: the vintage BMW end-all. A BMW M12.

To those familiar with the engine, forgive me while I share a few tidbits that make the M12 one of the coolest engines ever built. Based off of BMW's M10, a very successful and widely-used inline-4 with a displacement ranging from 1.5 to 2.0 liters, the M12 was essentially a racing version. Over it's near-30-year history, the engine became one of the most successful in racing history - and for good reason. In it's 2.0L configuration for Formula 2, the little engine pumped out more than 300 horsepower. The turbocharged 1.4L variant built for DRM (Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft), pumped out 350 horsepower with such reliability that BMW began thinking about entering Formula 1. That is where the M12 grows into one of the most spectacular engines ever.

The M12 won the Formula 1 World Championship in 1983, powering Nelson Piquet in the Brabham-BMW to the finish line. The engine continued to grow in power until 1986, when in turbocharged qualifying guise, the 1.5L pumped out an absolutely earth-turning 1,500 horsepower, the highest ever in Formula 1. To achieve this number, the M12 ran a staggering 80PSI of boost and revved to a screaming 11,500 RPM. However, the M12 was outlawed in 1988 when Formula 1 banned turbocharging, leaving the M12 to the history books.

And thus, there we were in a legend's presence... Not only one M12, but two, with spare parts to go around. It is the ultimate in BMW performance - the perfect engine for a StanceWorks build. Which begs the question - could any of these parts be had? What would it take to get our hands on anything in this room? It's always surprising how quickly dreams can turn in to nightmares; how one moment, all is right in dream-land, and the next moment, you're fighting for your life... or you're naked. We've all been there. As Andrew and I sifted through the boxes with dreams of BMW greatness one day gracing our own projects, the sad truth came forth.

These parts did not belong to a person, but instead, a company. They weren't kept for any reason - instead, they were acquired over time and simply stockpiled. While they perhaps lie in wait for a chance to replace worn out components on BMW's vintage collection, they're simply frozen in time, stuck inside the room, waiting for an unknown demise. The parts are not part of any inventory of BMW, stuck in an awkward limbo of "we'd let you take them, but we can't." They're off the radar, and they can't be bought. We were even warned that at some point, they may simply get thrown away.

And so the best we can do is simply share - and perhaps hope that we'll get a phone call saying "boys, the parts are in the dumpster out back. Don't get caught!" Until then, the dream will continue - it's guaranteed there's more than one closet full of parts. Keep searching!

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