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Monday 20th March 2006

Hartge H1

Nick Hall opens the bonnet of this astonishingly quick hatch


5.0-litre Hartge H1
5.0-litre Hartge H1

Sometimes words fall short. In this instance that open-mouthed came down the back straight of a small test track in France at an indicated 145mph, V8 roaring under the bonnet, in what looked for all the world like a BMW 1 Series. It was truly nuts.

This car might look like a 1 Series with a lairy bodykit, but those Merzig numberplates are a dead giveaway for the tuning connoisseur. This is a Hartge and lurking under that unassuming bonnet is a monster of an engine: a 5.0 litre V8 from the E39 M5 to be precise.

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Now if you’ve already dismissed this as a tuned piece of garbage, you’re wrong. Hartge does tune cars, but this one is such a comprehensive piece of work that it comes with full registration documents and a new name, the H1. Hartge, like Ruf, 9ff and a few other elite spannermen, get full approval as manufacturers, that’s a badge of honour they’re rightly proud of.

And their signature dish is a large engine jammed into a small BMW. They’ve been at it for more years than Herbert Hartge cares to remember, but this was one of the hardest conversions to date.

Forget wedging the M5 engine under the bonnet, it’s surprisingly roomy under there and, though the powerplant looks like its pressed against the steering wheel when the bonnet’s up, the V8 fitted comfortably. No, the real problem was one that’s becoming all too familiar for tuners everywhere: marrying the electronics.

Rocket-powered bread van

It was worth the effort, though, as this bread van is now near rocket-powered. Not only will it blast to 60mph in a borderline stupid 4.8s, that brute force under the bonnet will propel this aerodynamic brick wall all the way to 188mph. In gear acceleration is intense, too, thanks to 480lb/ft of torque heading through those rear wheels. The rear axle started life in the M3, and still needed reinforcement.

And the noise, courtesy of those centrally mounted twin-exit pipes, is immense, like a rolling thunder that left bystanders with that same vacant, open-mouthed confusion as we rolled through town.

Like the roundel from whence it came, though, this machine only slips when you ask it to. Kept under 4,000rpm on the public roads the Hartge is docile as a big dumb dog, thanks to the duality of BMW’s double VANOS timing system. You can soak up the carbon-fibre splashed interior, bucket seats, gloriously precise short shift, you can even listen to music and relax, a bit.

But push the throttle that little bit further towards the redline and it’s like flushing the car’s system with rabies, leaving the driver frothing at the mouth.

It can slide all the way through the first four gears, even in a straight line, and it shimmied on me down the main straight at this short track at speeds of up to 140mph as the 19-inch front wheels hit puddles. A quick correction, which possibly wasn’t even necessary, the car regained its composure and took off again for the next apex.

Miles of smiles

But it’s in the corners this machine leaves the realms of the reason. Radicals may leave it half a lap behind and an Exige would probably destroy this comical little car on track, but if smiles count for more than bragging rights, then this is the outright winner. You can take this thing into bends backwards.

See Hartge knows not all of its customers have as much skill as they’d like, or even believe they possess, and so their craziest cars come with a margin of error normally afforded only to Labour ministers. It’s a limited slip differential, with a 0-99 per cent locking mechanism.

Which was lucky, because as we headed across the French border the heavens opened and dumped a swimming pool on the tarmac. A magazine that is now a customer, and so will remain nameless, turned up with an M6 and didn’t venture outside until early afternoon, but in the H1 it was game on in standing water.

Out of the hairpins the H1 is perfectly happy at 45 degrees, with half a turn of opposite lock and the rear wheels spinning up a treat. On a dry track we’d have cooked the tyres in a few laps and even in the wet the sheer balance and adjustability of this 450bhp go-kart defied belief. It’s a driver’s dream, and reminiscent of one of the all-time great BMWs.

The H1 is just 20cm longer than the almighty Z3M Coupe, 1cm wider, weighs 20kg less and boasts more than 130 extra horses. And anyone thinking weight distribution will be in for a pleasant surprise.

Think about the layout of an inline six in the original 1 Series and the heavier but shorter V8.  Despite adding close to 200kg to the overall package, the bigger M5 unit doesn’t screw the weight distribution so you’re left with 52:48 front to rear. Yes it’s ever so slightly nose heavy, but it’s hardly difficult to cure that with a hefty dose of power and, with the LSD, you don’t need to be The Stig to catch it..

Not a bad recipe really, and one that has previously worked with devastating effect on their Z4 conversion.

Not quite faultless

Having driven that mental machine, it was no surprise the Hartge can hang it out with the best of them and you can’t help thinking that, freed from all constraints, these are the cars those M Division men would be making themselves.

There’s no pitch and wallow in the suspension, this car sat 30mm lower than the 1 Series thanks to Hartge’s in-house system. It’s firm, but Hartge’s kit is amazingly forgiving on the open road. In fact it’s almost the perfect car, almost.

The engine could go forever and this car could take the abuse, but it has just one nervous habit that takes it beyond the remit of an everyday driver. You need to match the revs on the downchange when pressing on with the largely forgotten art of heel-and-toe.

Fail to do this and the back axle locks, sending the H1 into a slide. You can stay off the engine braking and rely on the massive eight-pot front callipers working with 380mm cross-drilled floating rotors, but pushing the H1 V8 to its limits requires racing skills.

Mid-way through the project I contacted Hartge who were convinced, due to spiralling costs, they would not sell a single one of these cars. Before they’d even finished this one, though, there were three sales in the offing.

It’s a fantastic car, but then the real world intrudes. Hartge’s H1 might just be the most fun with clothes on, but you’ll have to drive in a brand new 1 Series AND hand over €70,000.

That much cash can put a smile on your face, take your breath away and leave you gaping and vacant in any number of ways. It doesn’t add up as a rational purchase, but it’s more fun than should reasonably be allowed.

And next time you’re pulling out to decimate a 1 Series BMW with a lairy bodykit, just remember to check the plates. What lies beneath could be about to tear you apart.

Nick Hall
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Author Discussion

_VTEC_

Original Poster:

2,176 posts

128 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
Excellent report, thanks Nick.

Made for some interesting breakfast reading.

Raify

6,469 posts

131 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
That was one of the pace cars at a Brands Motorvision track day I went to recently. The noise is unearthly. Made me laugh out loud every time it passed me (while spectating at the side of the track).

crbox

442 posts

116 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
OK - It's an intersting and amusing bit of kit. But so is an Audi RS6 that costs the same, has more features, is more practical and just as quick.
I would be doubtless surprised and dissappointed in just how many customers exist for high tech hot rods like this, whose main claims are surprise and over enginneering, which really serve as headliners for the company.
True the world would be duller without them, but anybody can engineer anything given enough cash. Real achievements are offered by companies like Subaru who offer envelope pushing performance,within the achievable aspirations of most people.

shadowninja

55,072 posts

165 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
5 litre V8 RWD hatchback?

Me want!

r988

7,494 posts

112 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
crbox said:
OK - It's an intersting and amusing bit of kit. But so is an Audi RS6 that costs the same, has more features, is more practical and just as quick.


Probably quicker actually, but far more dull, give me one of these everytime, I dont need practicality

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dinkel

22,289 posts

141 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
Well, since they are space wizards: when will they drop this mill in an effing MINI?

I'll have the 343 hp Z4 M . . . and keep some change.

Nice write up Nick

Nick Hall said:
A magazine that is now a customer, and so will remain nameless, turned up with an M6 and didn’t venture outside until early afternoon, but in the H1 it was game on in standing water.


I like those compact and full of info sentences . . .

>> Edited by dinkel on Monday 20th March 15:25

r988

7,494 posts

112 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
dinkel said:
Well, since they are space wizards: when will they drop this mill in an effing MINI?

I'll have the 343 hp Z4 M . . . and keep some change.

Nice write up Nick


Remember some clowns put an S52 M3 engine into a new Mini, so I guess if that longer engine will fit, then it shouldn't be too hard, maybe they should put it in the back and show Renault how to do mental hatchbacks properly

hussein

45 posts

105 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all

Swoll

4,899 posts

141 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
I'll take the new M5 and listen to that screaming V10 thanks.

suryade

57 posts

103 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
Great read Nick! I would so get this car if I had teh greenbacks. I would strip off all possible badges and so on and when an unsuspecting dude comes by at a stop light, and snickers, they will be in for a treat!

imissmym5

11 posts

104 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
i thought my M5 was awesome, then I've always wanted an M5 engined M3, but this, this is just fantastically outrageous. Love it to death.

As for Audi RS whatevers, Mercedes will put any engine in any car that will fit if asked, BMW official tuners will do the same, Audi, even though they go on about thier race history will do nothing like this!

R988

7,494 posts

112 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
hussein said:
Video Clip.


That sound...

papercup

2,231 posts

102 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
Saw one of these parked in the car park of the 'ring last August. No lairy bodykit, just chunky wheels, wider, more purposeful. Oh, and a Hartge badge on one side of the tailgate, and a '5.0' on the other. Subtle, but mental.

Me want.

therushden

4 posts

103 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
i'd have that thing in a ditch within 5mins lol
nuttermobile.

FestivAli

970 posts

121 months

[news] 
Monday 20th March 2006 quote quote all
Good write up. I'd love to know what kind of people commit to these cars - I'd personally love one, but even if I did have a 1 and 70 thousand euro's I'd be tempted to shop around a bit. Even so, Hartge get a thumbs up from me - such a car is quite individual, not a typical choice, and apparently a ball of fun. At first I was thinking "how big can the market be for chavved up beemers, especially at that cost" because I doubt your average pimply youth (maybe being a bit hypocritical here, but I'd like to think I have some taste) can fork up the dosh (or insure it) but reading on has made me a convert.

Bigs Up Hartge fo schizzle or whatever

Ali.

stub

5,488 posts

122 months

[news] 
Tuesday 21st March 2006 quote quote all
I'm waiting till I see one on e-bay!

r5gttgaz

7,897 posts

103 months

[news] 
Tuesday 21st March 2006 quote quote all
DO you have to take the engine out to change the plugs ?

paddy27

1,698 posts

117 months

[news] 
Tuesday 21st March 2006 quote quote all
Swoll said:
I'll take the new M5 and listen to that screaming V10 thanks.


i believe they have put that v10 in a 3 or 1 series already.

Paddy

225

1,234 posts

109 months

[news] 
Tuesday 21st March 2006 quote quote all
Cars like this are great! Obviously for people who have enough cash that the odd 70k here and there is trivial and want new toys. Long may they continue and for me to afford them one day!

slowly slowly

2,474 posts

107 months

[news] 
Tuesday 21st March 2006 quote quote all
I am probably missing the point here but you buy a 1 series for about £23000 then drive it to Mr Hartge and give him another £70000 and he gives you this H1, and he gets to keep the 1 series engine which he will then put on Ebay.

I`v got another idea, you and the misses go down to your local BMW dealers and give them about £23000 for a 1 series, then get in touch with cars4u and buy a M5 from them for £69995.
She gets the 1 series, you get the M5.

Sounds good to me.
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