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Norman Goes European With The R/T Marine Prepared BMW


Norman Goes European With The R/T Marine Prepared BMW

By Mark Humphrey

Adelaide, SA/Aus. 16th June 2017. 2015 Australian Super Stock champion Steve Norman will debut his new ride this weekend at the Adelaide Drag Race Promotion’s Sunday Funday at Adelaide International Raceway. Having been out of the racing seat for the past 15 months, Norman is itching to get some seat time in the R/T Marine built BMW coupe which had been in the pipeline for about 5 years.

I dropped a line to Steve to find out a bit more on the vision he had with the BMW, “Well I noticed the BMW sitting in the Perth Motorplex pits at a Westernationals 5 years ago and straight away thought about debuting a Super Stock version” he said. Norman went on to say “I got the boys (Ryan & Reg Lee) to measure it up and here we are 5 years later with an unbelievable version of European motoring”.  Norman added, “we embarked on the project less than 2 years ago with Ryan Lee from R/T Marine responsible for making it happen. Along with his father Reg and the help of others, the team has put together a race car that is as good as anything I’ve had in the past” he said. Norman went on to say “the attention to detail is simply unbelievable and I cannot fault any part of the build at all. I had enormous trust in the boys to get the job done and they certainly haven’t let me down” he said.

The history of the car is quite chequered with the car originally part of a divorce settlement in the USA. Legend has it that the ex-wife snatched the BMW, poured acid over the boot and then proceeded to drive the car into a dam. The Norman camp found the car at a salvage yard via a friend in the USA and the rest is history.

The guy responsible for the unique transformation was Ryan Lee who owns and operates R/T Marine SA, a business that had its roots in boat repairs but has now expanded into fibreglass auto products, vehicle modifications and of course complete race car builds. I caught up with Ryan and his father Reg to find out more on this simply stunning build and started by asking Ryan his thoughts on the BMW build “absolutely over the moon. The team has done a fantastic job on the car with the end result being an amazing BMW Super Stock car”. Ryan added “ we took possession of the car from the US and completely gutted the car in order to get it ready for the build. Originally, we looked at a Jaguar but because it had an aluminium body it was going to be too expensive to put chrome moly bar work through the car. It then come down to transforming either a Mercedes or BMW car into a MP Super Stock car. We measured up a BMW in the pits at the Perth Motorplex and found that everything would fit and the rest is history” he said.

After being stripped back to a bare shell the car was sent to interstate chassis builder John Lang to get the bar work installed along with some tin work. Ben Seal was then called in to complete the tin work which included all the necessary bracketry, front end and 4 link suspension points. Ben worked solid for 3 straight weeks and then dropped in after hours on more than half a dozen occasions to complete any alterations that were required. Also helping out on the tin and aluminium work was Doug Elsworthy from Elsworthy’s Chassis Shop.

The running gear was fitted up to see what alterations if any were required. The running gear for this project come out of the championship winning Chevy Cobalt and consists of a 312ci Bob Book small block coupled to a 3 speed Pro Flight transmission. Power is transferred down to the JRI sprung titanium housed diff via a carbo fibre tail shaft. Lamb front struts work nicely with Lamb carbon fibre disc brakes to provide plenty of stopping power.

Next it was the job of brother Bryce with help from good friend Matt to prep the body and bar work for paint. Bryce spent a solid 3 weeks straightening the panels alone before prepping the car for paint which in the end was coated with Electric Orange. I asked Ryan what the most difficult part of the build was and he mentioned choosing the paint color. “I first suggested orange to Steve but that was rejected with a pearl white looking like the color. I liked black but in the end, it was Steve’s decision and after some deliberation Steve decided that it would be Electric Orange” he said. Ryan added “I think the color choice was spot on as it certainly showcases the car”.

Once the car was painted it was time to fit out the car and that’s when Reg took over. The car was completely re-wired starting from a bare shell and color coded to MSD color codes. Every wire was color matched to components with all original hinges used. The boot retains its electric opening operation keeping some originality with the car.

The interior was completely re-trimmed by Vicki in the color of their choice still incorporating the woodgrain in the dash and door trims. The attention to detail with the trim is unsurpassed with Steve Norman noting how the interior trim was altered to incorporate bar work encroaching into the door armrests. The choice of trim color certainly adds to the build and compliments the vision the boys had when they first set out to build the car. Asked what the most pleasing part of the build was, they both responded simultaneous with “today”. “Having the car 100% finished with nothing to do but turn the key is definitely the most pleasing part of the build” said Ryan. The car is built to 25.5 C SFI specification as a MP car and will initially be running in Gas.

Now that the car is 100% completed the next thing to do is get some laps into the car. As noted, the team will head out this weekend to Adelaide International Raceway to put down an installation pass testing out things like brakes, tracking, parachute and the like. They hope to get at least a second pass in which with all things being equal will be under full noise. The fact that they are using the running gear out of the Cobalt, takes away the uncertainty of how the drivetrain will go and leaves the team with one less thing to worry about. The team hope to run a private test next weekend and provided they meet all parameters will debut the car for competition in round 3 of the ANDRA Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series at Sunset Strip Mildura in late September.

Obviously to put together this masterpiece the team relied on some outstanding help with Steve Norman thanking Ryan and Reg for their commitment with this build. With regards to the workshop activities Ryan and Reg would like to thank Bryce and Matt for the paint, Ben Seal for the fabrication, Doug Elsworthy for additional fabrication, John Lang for bar work, Vicky from Vicki’s Trimming Shop, Motorsport Connections, Craig at RCE, BMW Adelaide and Brett Henley from Henley Chassis for all his advice.

For race fans, keep an eye on the ANDRA website for details on the 2017/18 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series dates which will feature the likes of Steve Norman, Competition champ Craig Geddes, Super Stock champ Jamie Chaisty among others duking it out in Super Stock/Comp.

Click on the link for more details

All images supplied by Reg Lee


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