If the 1997 BMW M Coupe was a clown shoe, then a new third-party, fixed-head design inspired by the 2000 Z8 is an elegant cap-toe oxford. Named the Oletha, the car is described as an infusion of American ingenuity and passion into German engineering and precision by its builders, Smit Vehicle Engineering. The Z8 coupe is also beautiful in a way BMW's own Z8 roadster didn't quite nail.
Under the Oletha's carbon-fiber composite skin is all-BMW running gear. According to the company website, power stems from an S65B44, a naturally aspirated 4.4-liter V8 plucked from an E92 M3 GTS. Output is pegged at over 450 horsepower with an 8,500-rpm redline. However, instead of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as on the M3 GTS, a six-speed manual transfers power to the rear wheels.
SVE's website doesn't disclose what the platform donor was, but based on the doors it appears to be an E85-generation Z4 or, more likely, the E86 coupe variant. The de-Bangle-ized coupe takes a few liberties with the Z8's design. The kidney grilles taper on the outer ends and lack the Z8's inset fog lamps. Gone too are the slit turn signals flanking the grille below the headlights. The addition of a slim hood scoop gives off a 1950s Italian flavor. The original Z8 roadster had an awkward notchback profile with a hardtop fitted to it, while the Oletha has a graceful, sweeping fastback roofline that ends in a electrically actuated decklid spoiler.
Delve deeper into the Oletha and one finds a smorgasbord of aftermarket parts, such as a KW 2-way adjustable suspension and AP Racing brakes. Forged aluminum control arms and tasteful split-spoke wheels reminiscent of past BMW rollers were custom-fabbed. 3D-printed plastics, composites and metal bits abound to fill in the non-OEM gaps of this bespoke two-seater.
SVE is offering commissioned builds of the Oletha. Customers will get to choose materials, colors, and textures. If you missed out on your chance to own one of the 400 Z8 roadsters (well, 399 since the guy from "Friends" crashed his), or simply prefer the coupe look, you now have options.
The Smit brothers who founded SVE call it "the car [they] wish BMW had built" and a "love letter to the BMW of our childhoods." Often third-party creations have a cobbled together look that doesn't quite match the quality of an OEM design, but we think most casual bystanders would be hard pressed to identify the Oletha as a non-factory concoction.
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