The Wonderful Wizard of PA - Future Classic Visits Kassel Performance
There exists a place inside the far crevices of my mind that the Roundel calls home. It's filled with obscure BMW knowledge: part numbers, design nuances, motorsport achievements, and quite a nerdy archive of the aftermarket that evolved along with them. Never in my life did I think I'd be able to find a human counterpart to my strange mental database, until I stepped through the doors of Kassel Performance.
Entering the shop, you'd know right away that it's a shop made for BMW enthusiasts. A sea of street and race cars in various stages of tinkering stood in formation on the main shop floor. The lifts were occupied by a pair of E46 M3s and two E30s—it's tough to see from the photo, but the black example is an iconic M3 that had been religiously run on track for much of its life (as the good people of BMW M had intended).
At typical shops, this would be where the tour ends. This is what we, as car enthusiasts, most often think we'd run into during any shop visit. But behind all of this, bathed in blue light, there was much more to see.
Before I go any further, I'll have to admit that I was exhausted when I showed up. After a 800 mile slog from Chicago and a weekend of shooting photos and video, the return journey wasn't exactly a party. I had gone through an entire Starbucks coffee already—a fifth of my caffeine reserve a mere 1.5 hours into the 12-hour marathon.
But once I walked through that threshold, any sign of fatigue faded away faster than I could say Bayerische Motoren Werke.
Truth be told, there were a handful of outliers peppered in with the stable of Bimmers—a svelte 50's Jag, a 30k mile Yugo, and the oh so angular 80's Delorean which sharply contrasted against the curvaceous vintage Americana behind it. BMW or not, every car there had a story. Even that 90's Camry you see peeking out in the background, I kid you not.
When my eyes finally stopped scanning the room, I honed in on the first BMW in front of me: a beautiful E28 5-series. Underneath the hood of this car was a stroked Metric Mechanic M30 which was designed to provide M5-like power in stealthy fashion. Not a bad car to start with.
Right next to the E28 sat this incredibly clean Alaska Blue M-Sport E36 318ti. While many could walk right past this car with similar sentiment, a longer gaze would notice that there were plenty of tricks underneath its sleeve: an N52 engine filled the engine bay, E46 brakes hid discreetly behind M-Contour wheels, and the gas mileage indicator in the gauge cluster was replaced by an oil level reading. What? I always thought of myself as a sucker for details, but after looking at this little Ti, I felt a bit outclassed. And it was only the beginning.
Can you spot the relocated coolant reservoir filler? Look closely above the passenger front grille.
"In finding the right engine for this car, I wanted something that could replicate the intention and spirit of the Ti, but in a modern way. I felt like the N52 was the perfect choice: naturally aspirated, reliable, and not overwhelming to the chassis."
This Ti had electronically adjustable low beam headlights from inside the cabin
A little E53 X5 design cue carryover on the E46 Compact's fender
Spinning around, there sat a car I've never seen in person before—an E46 compact that called Japan home until it came to North America a handful of years back. It was cool to spend some time looking at this thing from every angle with its E36 counterpart so close by, especially since both were Alaska Blue examples.
BMW heads will recognize manual ZHP seats, cube trim, an E46 M3 steering wheel and Clubsport-esque door sills
Check out the cube trim on the composite door grab
Despite the car's minute stature, a look under the hood laid the biggest Roundel I've ever seen. The extras must've ended up on the X7. Roundel hubris aside, I couldn't help but admire all of the cool Japanese touches and I think my enthusiasm was pretty obvious. With my head still buried behind the viewfinder, I heard a muffled "want to hear the Japanese toll pass voice?"from the cabin. I obliged and with a turn of the key, a polite Japanese woman proceeded to deliver a delightful spiel.
My enthusiasm for all things Japan would be exalted by the adjacent E28 518i. I know, certainly not the most exciting trim (especially with an automatic gearbox), but it too was a Japanese import with sub-40K miles. Described quite casually as a "pretty clean car" by the previous owner turned out to be the understatement of the year. There wasn't a stitch wrong in the interior and even some tape in the engine bay that had yet to be broken since its application at the BMW factory.
Engine bay condition as delivered to Kassel Performance
I have a strong affinity for these cars (my dad owned a M12 535i when I was younger) and sharing that little nugget of info granted me an enthusiastic smile and a familiar olfactory experience in the 518's interior. The scent was spot on—I was instantly brought back in time thirty years. I stood up with a satisfied "sigh" and we spent the next ten minutes relishing in the E28's period correct door clang, a silence fell between us with each successive "thud" as the tone rung through our ears like a fine musician's tuning fork. I could've spent all day in that E28, but there was so much more to see.
No junk in this trunk: Euro headlights, euro trim, OE wheel centers, AND THIS MAGAZINE
Cool Japanese manual and service records in pristine condition
Despite sharing the E36 underpinnings, these two Alpine White cars couldn't be more different. The M-Technic—the success of which (in part) spawned the arrival of the E36 M3 in North America—is all factory through and through. The Ti (yes, another one), is a more drastic departure. Underneath the hood of this compact machine is a tuned M57Y engine from an E90 diesel donor that offers up over 500 ft/lbs of torque.
There's certainly a fun pattern emerging amongst this collection: a delicate balance between purist and mad scientist. Indeed, Kassel's clientele seems to reflect that duality as well—the cars that frequent here are all somewhere along that wide spectrum—all of which benefit greatly from Kassel's extensive expertise and creativity. All of the quirky engine swaps in the shop (there's another Ti with a twin-turbo N54 as well) were born out of a desire to push the envelope, but also the practical pursuit to tune reliable experiences for their customer base.
At this point, we went upstairs. Which is a good thing because my camera battery was threatening to cut me off completely. There were so many bits of BMW fandom throughout—a collection curated by time itself—each piece with its own story about what it was, how it fit into BMW's own history, and how it was obtained. I turned my camera off to just soak it all in.
I surrendered any notion of battery rationing once we entered the parts room. Walking through here was a little eerie, not because it was spooky in any way, but because the lot of it was like looking at my eBay search history, my PM inbox on Bimmerforums, and the parts archive hiding in my basement all organized onto shelves. Honestly, it's a good thing that none of it was for sale because I'm probably a box or two away from being a classified hoarder.
There were stacks of OEM head units, but I'd never seen this one