Famous Five - Iconic Group 5 BMW E21
If you haven’t yet heard of Qvick Motors, chances are you will soon as they are about to launch some seriously cool BMWs onto the classic racing scene. We went to Belgium to get a sneak preview of a pair of stunning Group 5 E21s… one of which is the original 1978 DRM-winning Schnitzer car.
Belgian-based Qvick Motors got its hands on a genuine Group 5 E21, and after restoring it, the team reverse-engineered it to start creating racing replicas.
The story of Qvick Motors began over 50 years ago in the forests of southern Belgium when company founder Erik was just five years old. Hearing some strange noises through the trees, he and his father made their way towards the screaming flashes of colour and happened to stumble across the 1970 Spa 24 Hours. Engrossed, they stayed to watch the race, and by the time Günther Huber and Helmut Kelleners had crossed the line in their BMW Alpina 2800 CS, they had become ardent fans.
The following year, they returned as proper spectators, and so began the Qvick Motors journey. BMW had an incredible record at Spa in the early ’70s, and in the era of ‘Race on Sunday, sell on Monday’, Erik’s father bought a 2002, which he modified himself to resemble the wide-winged cars he saw racing, while Erik himself took up karting. This he followed all the way up to full European Championship level in the ’80s, and, from there, he progressed through the ranks to take several class titles in the Belcar Championship in an E36 in the mid-90s.
A few years ago, Erik’s son Kenzi joined the operation to make it a three-generation enterprise. Also a keen racer, Kenzi’s earliest memories are from motor racing, such as following his father to races and cleaning tyres on his dad’s Britcar MINI when he was just four years old. While still at school, he built himself a race car E30. Not so unusual, as Kenzi loves E30s as much as anyone else, but he decided to be a little original and built a racing Touring! But, for the last three years, he and his father have been working on this new project. Qvick (this is actually their real family name!) Motors racing car preparation was doing great… until the advent of the modern GT3, GT4 and Cup cars. They could put together a competitive car for anyone, but the process of simply ordering parts and installing them didn’t really appeal to either Erik or Kenzi, as their passion is building race cars, not just tuning them. And so they turned to the thriving historic categories instead and are about to bring something very special to the series.
With Erik’s life in motorsport so intrinsically involved with the Munich marque, it had to be a BMW they prepared, but there are already countless E30s on Europe’s racing circuits, 635s are everywhere you look, and CSLs have recently become very popular. So what model of classic racing BMW was still enough of a rarity that they could specialise in preparing it? This question was answered when a client of theirs was reluctantly looking to sell a special car; Harold Ertl’s 1978 DRM-winning Schnitzer 320 Turbo 1.4 E21-R1- 26. At first, they couldn’t believe their luck at just being able to purchase such a historic car, but they knew that by using the original as a blueprint, they could reverse-engineer it to make a limited series of exact replicas. Their new project was born.
The first phase of the project was to restore the famous museum piece to display condition. Despite Ertl’s E21 being such an important car in BMW’s history, it had a racing career that lasted another two decades. After another couple of years in the DRM in the hands of several Schnitzer drivers, it was exported to Asia, where the turbocharged engine was replaced with a less highly strung, naturally-aspirated M12. To fit the exhaust, which now ran down the other side of the engine, unbelievably, despite knowing what a special car this is, someone made room by beating the floor pan into shape with a hammer. BMW Motorsport only made 32 kits that privateer teams could buy and fit to their bodyshell (four of which were IMSA-spec cars), so, over time, as original Group 5 spares became scarcer to find, understandably modifications to more readily available parts were made. When chassis No. 26 was wheeled into the Qvick workshop, it was very far from the spec that Schnitzer had raced it in 40 years previously. Fortunately, it came with a substantial inventory of collected Group 5 spares that the previous owner had spent years gathering but had never got around to installing. This included enough parts to make six complete engines. When they were raced, these 1.4 turbocharged motors were tuned to close to their limits and had a life expectancy of just a couple of events, so the Qvicks were more than happy that there were enough perfect parts left to make three working engines. But historic cars generally don’t race with original engines, and for the replicas, they have a brilliant solution. Before the legendary BMW tuner, Charlie Lamm passed away, he had planned to start reproducing the Group 5 Schnitzer 20-4 engines and, along with former engineer Hans Weitgassen, had bought the original casting moulds for the motorsport-spec cylinder heads, inlet manifolds, oil sump, and valve covers. Hans visited the workshop at the end of 2021 and, seeing the quality of the work being done, was more than happy to be involved in the new project. The new engine that Hans built with new parts from the ’80s was run-in up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where Erik and Kenzi had the inordinate privilege of running as part of the celebration of BMW’s 50th anniversary of its M division. But it wasn’t just the engines on these cars that were sophisticated. The Group 5 turbocharged monsters were thoroughbred race cars built to the absolute limit of the available technology, with rules open to ‘interpretation’, and shared nothing but most of the bodyshell, grille and lights with the road car. Kenzi muses that it’s almost as though they installed an F1 car of the day into an E21 body. Once the long process of getting the Ertl car back in the condition it deserved to be was complete, the next phase of the project was to use it as a blueprint for the first of the reproduction cars, and so they began reverseengineering it. At the front of the stripped-down E21 chassis, Schnitzer used the road car chassis legs, but behind the back seats, everything is gone, and it’s just aluminium sheets, which the Qvicks recreated with metal benders and pipe cutters. “It took a lot of time to do it all by hand,” Kenzi smiles. “But we probably did it just how the original engineers had done in the ’70s.” The most challenging part of the build was the bracing around the rear axle. It is a very unusual design with no subframe, as the differential is welded into the chassis. This was done so the diff could be mounted higher, therefore allowing the body to be set lower, and that is how they managed to fit the huge 19” wheels.
And the rear suspension arms are also mounted to the same brackets as the differential, so to have it done perfectly, it was a lot of work to make the jig for it. Making it even more difficult, the cars were supplied by BMW Motorsport with a differential, but Schnitzer replaced it with a smaller and lighter magnesium-cased one from the E9 CSL, saving a little over 10kg in weight. But it was a different size, so Schnitzer had to adapt it to fit and made some extra brackets, so it was quite a complex system. They put the donor chassis on the jig and recreated every reference point and suspension point to obtain an identical chassis to the original. The suspension of the Group 5 cars was also bespoke but used the same front hubs as the earlier E9 CSLs. The original lightweight magnesium parts had long gone from Ertl’s car, but it was an easy job for Arundel Racing in the UK to copy a pair of E9 ones in magnesium, just as Schnitzer engineers had done. For the lightweight suspension, they sent the trailing arms from the Ertl car to Rally Corsa Shop in Finland for them to copy, while a local BMW fan with a large CNC machine was happy to provide titanium wheel flanges and some front suspension links. Strangely, the pair of radiators mounted in the wide rear wings are from a Mk1 VW Golf, apparently, because it was one of the first plastic radiators available. “We found this out from the former owner who knew about it. It was also surprising for us!” A couple of clicks and they were ordered. Spare front wings and splitters came with the parts package, and using these as templates they made wooden frames to get them to the right shape, just as BMW Motorsport engineers had done. There are some slight differences in the bodywork between the ’78 and ’79 cars, so, for historical accuracy, the first replica, which sits resplendent in the Rodenstock-Würth colours that the original car was in when raced by Manfred Winkelhock for the 1979 DRM season, has the ’79 version front wing. The Ertl car will be put back in the Sachs colours of the 1978 DRM, but its competition days are over, and it will only be run at demonstration laps here and there. It’s far too precious to be raced anywhere. The replicas… not so much. The Qvicks have the parts ready for another four cars, so expect to see some spectacular cars on the grids of the Peter Auto Endurance class, joining the field of Porsche 935s, Ford Capris and Lolas very soon.
Iconic lightweight crossspoke wheels
The Harold Ertl E21
In Harold Ertl’s short 33 years (he tragically lost his life in a light plane accident in 1982), he was perhaps less known for his racing record than for being one of the heroes to pull Niki Lauda from his burning wreckage at the 1976 Nürburgring F1 race. In uncompetitive and unreliable machinery, he failed to qualify for more races than he finished, but a switch to saloon cars worked well. The premier touring car series had been the FIA World Championship for makes where Porsche, Ford and BMW had made monstrous cars to fit into the loose regulations. But, with shrinking grids and fading interest, the series petered out. The special cars, on the verge of being made obsolete, were given a lifeline when the DRM, the forerunner of the DTM, allowed the firespitting Group 5 beasts to enter. The mighty Porsche 935s pretty much had Division 1 to themselves with the fleet of much smallerengined BMWs in Division 2. The classes were awarded equal points, so teams from either division could win the overall title, similar to how the BTCC was run in the same period. In 1978, Ertl won five of the 11 Division 2 races to take the title ahead of Toine Hezemans in a Division 1 Porsche 935. The following year, the car was repainted in the Rodenstock-Würth colours, which the first reproduction car now wears, where it was raced by Manfred Winkelhock in the 1979 DRM season. With a pair of mid-season wins, he took third in the championship. For 1980, it was entered in three DRM races for Harald Grohs, but he didn’t finish any of them. In November of that year, the car was shipped to Asia, where it spent almost the next 20 years being raced. Fitted with a much easierto- maintain, naturally-aspirated, M12 engine, its first race there was the Macau Guia Race, which Hans Stuck won convincingly. It was sold to Francis Cheung, then found its way to Ian Grey, who raced in the South East Asia Super Saloon series, first in stunning black JPS livery, then in red Akai colours. The car was a front-runner for many years and was used in competition all the way until 1997 before it was brought back to Europe.
The original Ertl Group 5 E21 has been treated to an extensive restoration. The Qvick Motors workshop would be a dream garage for many a BMW enthusiast.
A massive amount of work has gone into the Group 5 cars what model of classic racing BMW was still enough of a rarity that they could specialise in preparing it? This question was answered when a client of theirs was reluctantly looking to sell a special car; Harold Ertl’s 1978 DRM-winning Schnitzer 320 Turbo 1.4 E21-R1-26
The Group 5 E21 replica was part of the 50 Years of BMW M celebrations at Goodwood in 2022