It’s not what you think it is, this car. You’re probably looking at it and thinking ‘what have they done to a BMW Z8?’ But all is not as it seems here. This is not a BMW Z8 coupe so much as a greatest hits of BMW’s parts bin. It’s called the Smit Oletha and it’s the brainchild of two engineering-obsessed brothers from California, Willem and Kaess Smit. Both have mechanical engineering backgrounds, one in aerospace and advanced composites, the other in automotive with stints at both Tesla and Singer. But have they built the car BMW never would? We sent Magazine’s Ollie Marriage to California to investigate. Want to watch a bit of on the internet? Welcome to the most comprehensive collection of official clips you’ll find on YouTube. Whether you’re searching for a caravan challenge, Ken Block in the Hoonicorn, cars versus fighter jets, Stig power laps or the latest Chris Harris Drives, you can find all the iconic films here.Want to share your views with the team?
just gonna let the engine have a go again how good is that i really don’t know where to start with this what do you make of it here are a few options do you just see a bmw z8 coupe or what might have happened if bmw had decided to build a tribute to the jaguar e type or are you just thinking that it’s a shame that a bmw z8 has been sacrificed in a misguided resto mod cause come with me not a z8 in here is it confused that’s not the half of it listen to this just listen to that rumble and throb like an american v8 but listen much crisper up the top end put all of that together and i bet you’re struggling to get your head around it i was so let’s start here it’s called the smitalitha and i think you’re gonna like it the aretha is the brainchild of the smith brothers willem and case both engineers willem having worked for both tesla and singer and case with a background in aerospace composites in 2019 they jacked in their jobs to follow this passion project they had always loved bmw’s creations but in recent years had become a little put off by the stuff coming out of munich so decided they were going to build their perfect sporting bema that would have taken on the likes of the first gen porsche 911 gt3 and i think we can all agree we wish that is something bmw had done 20 years ago but of all the cars to mess with the bmw z8 is not it only 5 700 were made and today they’re worth more than they cost new so instead the smith brothers looked further down bmw’s model range for a donor car and when they reached the z4 they stopped yes this is a bmw z4 underneath congratulations if you’d already spotted that from the dash design but there’s not a lot of z4 left in fact outwardly the only thing that is carried over is the glass yes including this rear window which looks entirely bespoke what is bespoke though are all the body panels everything is carbon fiber including this little very well integrated rear spoiler down here 3d printed tailpipes in fact there are over 100 3d printed components on the car but 3d printing is everywhere these days and i want to show you something even cooler you see the wheels which look like an old bmw design they’re actually milled from a single piece of aluminium and if you think that’s cool let’s have a look under the bonnet look there’s evidence of your carbon body panels outer skin and inner frame bonded to each other but really look down here 4.4 liter v8 and no it’s not bmw’s in-house v8 instead it’s the e92 m3s 4 liter v8 with a longer stroke and now over 450 horsepower now the z4 and z8 are actually quite similar in scale at least only a few millimeters different in wheelbase and actually all the pickup points were very similar as well the angle of the a-pillar here the height of the belt line which made it easier to make a z4 look like a z8 but let’s not pretend this was an easy or straightforward job in any way the guy said that the engine actually fitted okay but everything else they had to do with it was a nightmare so they had to change the engine’s height in the car for various reasons which are just too complicated to go into it i don’t really understand but it meant that they had to put the scoop in but it’s been beautifully done and there’s only tiny bits of clearance under there and then that engine’s actual steering pump didn’t work properly so they had to look through the rest of the model range for another one that fitted within the packaging and did the job they needed to do so the steering pump in this actually comes from an e60 m5 the v10 m5 and it’s fine i mean possibly because you’ve got quite a heavy clutch and you’ve got a reasonably meaty gear change it’s maybe slightly light but actually for the sort of car this is this is sort of seen as a gt cruising spec if you like you can have it ramped up much more but this one is definitely a road going spec and it feels lovely it’s got decent steering feel good balance through corners it feels really tidy but mostly it’s just about that engine it’s just fabulous right listen down to second give it a bit okay it’s the reach of it that’s so incredible because you think this engine in your head because it’s a woofly low down you think that’s going to be it it’s just done all of that and it sounds brilliant but then you get it up and above 3000 so we’re at 3 000 revs at the moment and above 3000 it really starts to come on and then it sort of hardens and the whole tone and demeanor of the car becomes much more focused into this sort of point and off it wants to go but you’ve got so much of the rev range left that’s only six thousand this revs to eight and a half and actually on roads this twisty it’s quite difficult to get it to that those revs but really all you need is the mid-range because it’s muscular and sounds fabulous through there this will give you some idea of the level of attention to detail that has gone into it they ran the whole car through cfd for its aerodynamic computational fluid dynamics and what they discovered with the body shape was that it had 500 pounds that’s what 220 kilos of lift at the back axle at flat out maximum speed so high speed but it was getting a lot of lift over the back axle so they completely designed developed and engineered their own rear wing and yeah you have to manually select it yourself but then instead of having 500 pounds of lift you have 100 only 150 pounds of lift so they’ve given it relative to standard 350 pounds what’s that 150 180 kilos of downforce from where it was but really this is like a big front engine gt it feels almost it’s not quite ferrari-ish because it hasn’t got that scalpel sharp super quick turning because it’s a 20-year-old car underneath but what is nice about that whole frame that’s used is that bmw developed the zed which means that when they turned it into a coupe they already had a very stiff body shell and putting the coupe roof line in just made that stiffer much much stiffer so it’s a good platform for building everything from so around corners no creaking no sort of flexing in the chassis at all so it gives the suspension a nice platform to work from nor is it as snatchy and snappy as like a modern amg gt it feels the driving experience feels a little bit more period than that but not a lot because of course this is a resto mod that’s not really a resto mod in the way we understand it because it’s based on a car the z8 that was already designed to look like an even older car the 507 from the 1950s just gonna let the engine have a go again how good is that but as a drivable car at high sort of cruising speeds there you go stick it in sixth the engine dies away you’re doing 70 miles an hour at 3 000 revs and yet you’ve still got great response and torque and yet it just feels feels muscular it feels like it feels like a really well sorted 60s gt racer like an ac cobra or something it’s got that sort of a vibe about it not the sort of driving manners but the vibe of this car is very much that sort of i think it’s probably the exhaust and the engine that really do it but they give it that sort of tone and sensation and i love that the more i drive it you know i came up here earlier and started picking small faults in it i said you know there was a the spring and damper at the back aren’t quite talking to each other properly it’s all set up stuff and i think i’d say personally i’d like a little bit more camber on the front wheels just to really sort of make it feel a bit more aggressive almost but then i went back and thought no it doesn’t need to be aggressive it doesn’t it’s enough that it has that it looks like this wonderful period car and hits like a hammer and has fantastic suspension sort of composure and control it feels so complete and so well engineered and so nice it just yeah nice more than nice just thoroughly engineered and developed i know bmw gave them great parts to work with but they’ve done some cracking stuff with them so that whole thing about it feeling like a 911 gt3 as it’s set up here it doesn’t quite and actually i think it’s all the better for it i think if they’d made it really tight and tied down it would actually spoil it slightly as a sort of fast road package with that noise it’s exactly where it needs to be this isn’t a reston mod like any other i’ve driven because although it looks like an original z8 it’s not trying to recreate it in the way it feels or drives no it’s trying and succeeding in doing it better unsurprisingly it’s a fortune upwards of 330 000 pounds but there will never be more than 100 of these and yeah i’d absolutely have one over an original you