The Anti-Bimmer BMW: This 1M Coupe’s Makeover Stole the Show

It’s hard to stand out in the car everyone and their mom has, but auto-whisperer Steven Dinan found the secret

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If ever there was a reliable generalization you could make about L.A. traffic, it’s the certainty of a strong peppering of black BMWs in our spicy automotive melting pot. From dentists to lawyers to CPAs (and every aspiring actor in between), the black BMW has become a four-wheeled cliché amidst the otherwise eclectic mix of Los Angeles cars, presenting a conundrum for those wishing to stand out from the crowd.

Answering the call of lead-footed individualists is BMW brand evangelist and longtime tuner Steve Dinan, who’s been sucking stronger performance out of BMWs like a Dyson vacuum since 1979. To demonstrate his mastery at coaxing more oomph from the Bavarian brand, Dinan took an already rare, off-the-shelf 2011 1M Coupewhich only saw 740 units imported to the U.S.—and performed major surgery to create a halo car for his Morgan Hill-based business.

 
 

The muscular donor car was transformed into an even more extroverted number through extensive engine mods including larger twin turbochargers, a beefed-up cooling system, and a freer flowing exhaust. The suspension has also been lowered and stiffened for greater responsiveness, while fatter and lighter wheels with sticky Michelin tires have been installed to better handle the engine and suspension upgrades. Despite the edgier performance, the car comes with a 4 year, 50,000 mile warranty that’s honored at BMW dealerships.

Net gain?

The already quick, already rare 1M becomes an even more unique and nastier little pocket rocket that packs an additional 109 horsepower (for a neck-snapping 444 hp), and heightened maneuverability that shoots it from the go-kart realm into race car territory. Think of it as the Bionic Man of sports coupes. That said, following my weekend spent careening through the canyons in Dinan’s mad creation, I’d like to retroactively apologize to the California Highway Patrol; any resemblance I bore to real race car drivers, living or dead, was purely coincidental.

Funny thing about Dinan’s 1M Coupe: its dramatic effect is lost on the pudgy middle of the bell curve of L.A.’s drivers, but recognized instantly by the segment of the population who appear to have dropped, tinted, and supercharged their pricey German sleds in their own backyards. While the heavily modded 1M may as well have been invisible to status conscious Westsiders, it was lauded as a minor automotive celebrity among the thin slice of motorists who obsess over spec sheets and performance numbers eliciting big grins, thumbs ups, and general delight from that backwards baseball cap wearing minority at stoplights and along high-speed stretches of the 101 that cuts through Hollywood.

So there you have it, the ultimate non-mainstream driving machine. The 1M, which had an official MSRP of $46,000 in 2011, was in such high demand that its market value puffed up by as much as $20,000 over asking price, simply because of its rarity. Add to that Dinan’s upgrades, which total another $20,000 or so, and you’ve got a premium ride that appeals to a small niche of drivers who are likelier to spend their weekends dodging cones at an autocross than hunting for parking at the Farmer’s Market.

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