Veteran LeMons BMW Team Classes Up the Track: Bavarian Brougham

According to Internet Car Experts, putting a General Motors V8 into a BMW 3-Series makes a car unbeatably quick, and the same experts will tell you that such a swap cannot be done cheaply. They are absurdly wrong on both counts, of course, but if you are going to do a Vortec V8 swap into your 3-Series, we recommend that you make the car look so incredibly cool that we will love it no matter what. This is the formula used by Black Iron Racing, a team whose 24 Hours of LeMons history goes back to the earliest days of the series.

Black Iron Racing picked up a BMW E36 3-Series, way back in 2012, before the prices of E36s crashed down to 400,000-mile-Tercel levels. The LeMons Supreme Court buried them in penalty laps, and so they asked how they might please the all-wise and scrupulously fair judges of the LCS. “Turn it into a proper Brougham Edition,” we told them, and that’s exactly what they did. Unfortunately for the Black Iron guys (who are very fast drivers), the E36 tends to be unreliable and hard to keep running in this kind of racing.

Fast-forward a few years, and the Black Iron squad decided to sell the fritzy BMW M50 straight-six and 5-speed transmission and invest the money in the engine out of a 2004 Suburban 1500. This is an engine that Internet Car Experts will describe as an LS, but is in fact an LM7 aka Vortec 5300, a truck engine that shares some dimensions and ancestry with the LS but not much else. Because the T-5 transmission is fragile garbage and the LCS judges know very well that the T-56 and TKO and ZF Black Tag transmissions are worth about a grand apiece, Black Iron picked up a nearly worthless Borg-Warner T-10 4-speed for their swap. Hilarity ensued and they ended up with a BMW 325 with 295 rumbling Detroit horses under the hood.

Naturally, the V8 upgrade— if adding 100 horses and several hundred pounds over the front wheels of a formerly well-balanced Teutonic sports sedan can be called that— was the sort of thing that would attract unwanted budget scrutiny from the Solomonically fair LeMons Supreme Court. For this reason, they opted to create Bavarian Brougham v2.0.

With the addition of blue Rustoleum, a Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue grille, lots of Bondo, and every Brougham and Landau emblem they could find at Pick-n-Pull, the car just reeked of class.

A visit to Jo-Ann’s Fabrics provided some very Broughamic lizardskin vinyl for the landau roof, and opera lights from a Chrysler Cordoba completed the look.

Was it fast? Hell yes! The Black Iron Racing guys are great drivers, and the added horsepower sort of made up for the tire-shredding understeer caused by the giant lump of GM iron under the hood.

Did it win? Hail no! GM pushrod V8s don’t hold together so well in LeMons racing, and Black Iron Racing had some reliability problems. The BroughaMW finished 64th out of 183 entries at the 2016 season-ender at Sears Point, though it did knock out some lap times within a second of the very quickest cars on the track.

We have instructed Black Iron Racing that they need to move up to full Bavarian Brougham d’Elegance status, complete with padded landau roof, Continental kit, diamond in the back, and gangster lean. Come to the Sears Pointless race in March and you could witness this historic racing moment!

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