On acquiring “El Diablo”, Black M5/Discovery Automotive über-beast!
This week I completed the purchase of El Diablo (http://www.discovery-automotive.com/portal/modules.php?name=Static_Content&id=30). I wanted to give everyone a taste of my experience because I think it says a lot about of the wonderful people that have been involved in this car and in my decision to acquire her.
I first became aware that Abdulla (Black M5) was putting his car on the market last April during the Chicago M5 meet. Josh (PhillyM5) was telling me about his car and Abdulla’s black Discovery twin that had basically the same power train set up. I was intrigued, due to my growing interest in supercharging my beast, but at the time Josh’s car (originally Rob ‘S/C'd Kellener’s car) was still at Discovery. I spent some time studying the cars on the Discovery website, and it was clear that the ‘DA twins’ were unique in the world due to their genesis, history, and of course, engine mechanicals.
Five weeks ago, the Chicago M5 group had another gathering. This time Josh had his blue DA beast on hand. I was quite enthralled to say the least. The engineering from Bill (‘Shadowman’) and his team was stunning. From the aquamist injection system, to the self-adjusting belt tensioner, to the relocated pumps, to the beautiful integrated intercooler, to the generous use of carbon fiber elements and braided stainless steel lines… it just doesn’t get any better. Josh took a few of us for a ride and I felt like a wide-eyed kid. When he hammered it a few times it felt and sounded extraordinary. We went on the prowl for a 500hp Z06 that was in attendance at the meet and was in the vicinity on a test drive, and we just happened to come up to it at a red light near the freeway. An offer for a run was declined by the Z06, but the drama and timing of that moment felt surreal. Later Josh reminded me that El Diablo was back in the country from Bahrain, and that she was for sale. He hinted how nice it would be to have both DA twins reunited and in the same vicinity. I was hooked. I tossed and turned that night and couldn’t get the site and sound of Josh’s race version T1 Vortech s/c out of my mind. It became clear to me that night El Diablo would be in my life, even if it meant dragging my left-brain kicking and screaming.
Josh lives a few hours away from me on the other side of Lake Michigan. I asked Josh if he wouldn’t mind if I paid him a visit and look over his beast a little more closely and perhaps took her for a spin. Josh readily agreed, and we got together the following weekend at his lovely home in Grand Rapids. His daughter offered us freshly baked cookies while we spent a couple of hours talking about his car and his experiences with it. One thing was absolutely clear: Josh loves his DA beast. Loves tinkering with her. Loves driving her. Then he suggested we go for a spin. We ended up checking out the local Southside Street Racers club scene in Grand Rapids. After we parked at the local meeting locale, Josh trustingly tossed me the keys and suggested I take her out on my own. I felt honored to be the only other person that has driven his gorgeous car since he acquired it from Rob. I think my heart was beating noticeably faster as I cranked her up and pulled out of the parking lot. I was surprised to find how docile she felt tooling around at low speed. I already knew how strong she pulled at full boost, so I didn’t feel any need to push her. The Vortech T1 sound was a distinct presence that was not unpleasant, and most certainly created a sound that indicated that this car was unique.
When we returned to Josh’s house, we talked some more about questions concerning Diablo. Josh suggested that we give Bill a call and have a conference on the spot. One thing that I have found to be very impressive about Bill and Discovery is the degree of attention and follow-up he gives to his clients. Even though Josh is not Bill’s original client on the blue DA twin, Bill and Josh still maintain regular contact. During lunch at the August 26 Chicago M5 meet, Josh took an unexpected call from Bill who wanted to ship Josh a replacement electric fan (no charge I understand) after it was determined that Josh’s fan was not working. (Aside: even though Josh’s fan had been down for some undetermined amount of time, he at no point experienced an overheating problem even during the Midwest heat wave this summer). Bill and I talked for some time on El Diablo’s history and mechanicals, and not only were my questions answered, but it was a pleasure conversing with Bill. On my drive back to Chicago, it was clear my next step would be to book a flight to San Diego to look at El Diablo as a serious buyer.
When El Diablo was shipped from Bahrain to California, it first went to Discovery to be checked over by Bill. It must have been an interesting moment for Bill and his group when Diablo rolled up to Discovery again. Bill looked her over, performed a few tuning tweaks, drove her, gave her a clean bill of health, and she was ready for the streets again. To give her a bit more exposure, she was transported to BMW San Diego and placed in the care of Noe, the original assembler of Diablo’s remarkable engine. Prior to my arrival at San Diego, board member Dan (‘drm64099’) offered to meet up for lunch on Saturday. In addition, he would be able to make arrangements for me to drive Steve Dinan’s S3 (now owned by Martin Christensen, owner of All German Auto, San Diego). It would have made for an interesting comparison, although my heart was already intent on Diablo. As it turned out, the timing of the lunch and S3 drive did not quite work out, as my viewing of El Diablo took most of the day.
My excitement and anticipation were growing exponentially as we walked through BMW San Diego to where El Diablo was in temporary residence. Finally I saw her. My first impression was that the car looked every bit as menacing as it does on the Discovery website. The Hamann rear bumper adds a unique look, and the side skirts, front lip, and rear window spoiler, combined with BBS LMs, make it look like a road warrior on a mission to devour anyone who dares challenge her. Unfortunately the vented CF hood didn’t fare so well; it was apparently damaged during shipment to the US. A rather severe semi-circular crack was apparent around one of the hinges, perhaps by someone aggressively opening the unexpectedly light hood during export/import inspections. Bill’s original intention was to have the hood repaired in San Diego, but a subsequent opinion was that the crack would likely require a fiberglass patch and thus would lose the natural CF appearance at the site of repair. The other option would be to repair and paint the hood black, but the texture of CF makes it difficult to obtain a smooth finish, particularly in black. I told Noe my preference would be to go ahead and replace the CF hood with a new OEM unit.
Noe put the car up on a rack and we inspected the underside in detail. He pointed out two of front bushings that were replaced upon receipt of the car in San Diego. The bushings were probably still good, but looked a bit tired to Noe, and Bill wanted everything perfect. Noe also pointed out some of the underbody modifications made at Discovery, such as the custom rear wind pan, and the re-routing of the exhaust. The body fared very well in Bahrain; I was almost expecting to see evidence of sandblasting from Abdulla’s high-speed runs across Bahrain, but even the plastic headlight covers looked almost new. There were some abrasions on the front bumper where the Abdulla’s front license plate was mounted, along with the front mounting holes of course. Other than that, her exterior was perfect.
Noe and I sat in the car and we explored some of the car’s electronics. Naturally, I was curious about that fabulous sound system Abdulla put together. Abdulla was even kind enough to leave a couple of CDs in the CD changer, which we were surprised to discover ; ) The sound system was magnificent. We played around with the Nav TV tuner and the rear-mounted camera. Noe also explained the three additional gauges mounted in the leather-wrapped gauge pod. I peppered Noe with question after question, and he cheerfully provided complete answer after complete answer. As one of the original ‘co-conspirators’ in the DA twins project, he was very familiar with the car and its features and capabilities.
I was time to take her out for a spin. I already knew what to expect from having driven Josh’s car. The engine roared to life and the s/c made its presence known. Just like Josh’s car, when these beasts are running, you know there is something special under the hood. Noe took the first turn driving and did some spirited pulls down the freeway, then pulled off and let me take over. The UUC clutch felt light and easy to use, just like Josh’s. These DA beasts are remarkably tame at low rpm. They feel OEMish, and the UUC clutch is a pleasure to use. My first impression upon driving Josh’s car was that his car was actually easier to drive and obtain smooth up-shifts/down-shifts on than my stock M5. When tooling around streets and stoplights, you are not dipping into boost and you are running off the OEM injectors, so the car is as economical as a stock M5. Abdulla was interested in high speed with Diablo, so he retained the 3.15 gearing. In contrast, Josh’s car has the more aggressive 3.64. Out of curiosity, re-set the on-board computer while we were on the freeway, and sure enough I was seeing ~25 mpg (US) at modest cruise speed.
When we returned to the dealer and pulled up, I decided I just didn’t get enough. I told Noe I wanted to pull her back out and drive some more. I think the guys in the shop were wondering what the hell we were doing coming in and then pulling right back out again! I had come a long way to see El Diablo, and I just felt I wanted more road time with her. Noe was happy to accommodate me, offering to let me go alone if I liked. I preferred to have him in the car so I could keep asking whatever questions came to mind, as well as to just get to know him better and pick his brain a little about the Discovery operation. I settled into the optimal seat position, put on some of Abdulla’s tunes, and we just drove around. Maybe 50 miles total. At one point we had to stop for gas. I took a few photos and some stranger came up and was asking about the car. Adbulla tells me this is a common occurrence with this car. Josh told me he gets lots of attention from strangers in his car. We also got stuck in some freeway traffic. It was a warm day in San Diego, and through stop and start traffic the temperature gauge never moved.
Upon returning to the dealer, I peppered Noe with questions and then more questions. I’m not sure I would have been as patient as Noe was. I also asked if this were his car, would he back off on the tuning somewhat for reliability reasons. Without hesitation, he said he would not touch it. He loved it the way it was, and assured me that the car’s bottom end is ridiculously strong with the Carillo rods, ceramic/Teflon coated pistons, Darten steel sleeves, balancing/blueprinting specs, etc. I think he remarked on at least several occasions that this car is a truly a beast (with a glint in his eye). Finally I felt that I had taken up enough of Noe’s Saturday and that I should wrap it up. We agreed that the hood would be replaced, the front bumper would be re-sprayed, and a compression/leakdown would be performed for peace of mind (we were unable to set up a dyno pull). I gave Noe a deposit, and he shook my hand and congratulated me on deciding to buy this magnificent car.
Before driving back to my hotel, I stopped at Mission Beach for some skating. The weather was gorgeous (of course) and the sun was setting. I was experiencing an acute case of buyer’s anxiety when my cell phone rang. It was Bill. I think the first words out of his mouth were something like, “so you are on pins and needles right now, right?” I said “You are reading my mind Bill!” That was the first of a series of lengthy follow up conversations that Bill and I had. Bill sensed that I was nervous and went to every length to walk me through each and every one of my concerns and anxieties, and all with air of patience and good humor. One of the over-arching impressions that I got in dealing with Bill, Noe, and Sean at Discovery was that these guys really love and are passionate about the cars that they build, and are really interested in making sure their clients love the cars too. After spending literally hours on the phone with Bill, there is no doubt that above all he values integrity. I was also impressed with the high regard and admiration the Discovery guys have for one another. Discovery has a remarkable collection of talent and connections with the best specialist in the business. It became clear to me how it is that Discovery is able to do just about anything creative with cars. As with many successful enterprises, it is all about connections and it is all about relationships. Discovery had no direct financial stake in the sale of Abdulla’s car, yet Bill and Noe jumped all over every little thing that was needed to make the car perfect and the new owner happy. From a pre-sale tear-down inspection of the injector system, to tweaking the A/F and timing, to updating the engine management software, to swapping in fresh bushings and a new OEM battery, to spending the better part of Saturday with me during my visit, these were all things that were not required, but were done nonetheless on Bill’s and Discovery’s dime and initiative. At one point, in response to a question I had about the compression/leakdown results, Bill immediately got on the phone with the owner of VAC Motorsports (builder of BMW race engines) to bring an expert third party voice to the discussion.
It has been six days now since I saw El Diablo. During my final ‘anxiety’ conversation with Bill earlier this week, we were on the phone until ~1:20 a.m. On my return trip to Chicago on Sunday, I had jotted down a full page of questions about El Diablo. One by one, Bill went through each question with me. Frequently he reassured me that he was more than happy to answer each and every question that I had, big or small, and that I could call him anytime if any more came to mind. Keep in mind that this was after I had already committed to the purchase. During that late night conversation, a light finally went off, and the uneasy little gremlin in my left-brain was finally happy and content. Ever since that that conversation with Bill, it has been nothing but euphoria and lack of sleep for me as I await delivery of El Diablo. Since last weekend, I’ve been getting a taste of how Bill and Discovery operates with project in the works. Communication with Discovery is incredibly transparent. This is evidenced by their highly detailed reports on various projects (including problems encountered) on their website. Josh told me that while his car was at Discovery, he received very regular progress reports and photos. I’ve been receiving daily communication from Bill about the preparation of El Diablo and her shipment to Chicago. Noe managed to shoe horn Diablo into the crowded BMW body shop schedule and has been personally involved in the repainting to make sure that it is the very best. The car is scheduled for delivery to me on or about October 12. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to sleep any better after I take possession of the car than I have before its arrival!
In closing, I would like to give a hearty ‘thank you’ acknowledgement to Abdulla for creating this masterpiece with Bill and Discovery. Abdulla and I have been exchanging PMs almost every day, and it is a great pleasure to have made this association. Abdulla took a great interest in making sure the car goes to the right new home, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to be El Diablo’s new caretaker.
I would also like to sincerely thank to Josh. He first planted the idea of El Diablo in my head last April. While at the time I was looking to s/c my own car, the more the idea incubated, the more intriguing it became. Josh was very gracious having me over to his house and tossing me the keys to his gorgeous car. And he has been wonderful answering whatever questions I have. Thanks Josh!
And, as is obvious from this post, I can’t say enough good things about Bill and Discovery Automotive. In my biz, a large part of what I do is build relationships and partnerships, often long-distance. Getting to know Bill and Noe has been a great pleasure, and I look forward to continuing a rewarding relationship with Discovery for years to come.
__________________ Mods: 91 octane with occasional 100 octane
"Illegitimus non carborundum"
" Despite its supercar attributes, the M5 still doubles as a soberly practical, spacious saloon - only with the ability to scare four passengers in comfort all the way to the local coronary unit". Top Gear
Last edited by Laidback; 30th September 2006 at 02:03.