The high neon content, instant weddings between men and cattle and the interpretations of the world’s greatest landmarks found in Las Vegas are all just a bit much for us in Blighty.
Of course the hopes and dreams and aspirations are nice, but the physical embodiment of Vegas has turned out cheaper than a sale at Poundland. Vegas may see the occasional white tiger rip out the permatanned throat of an orange faced magician, but save for witnessing such an example of paying the price for the pursuit of fame and fortune, the capital of kitsch is best avoided.
Luckily the Hamann Las Vegas Wings has about as much in common with the US gambling capital as Rotherham’s Mecca bingo hall. This machine has more substance than style and is, if anything, the opposing ideal of the Vegas dream.
Yes the 2002 M3 conversion is ostentatious, with the gullwing doors open, but with the scissor-action sidearms holstered, this one-off actually doesn’t look too loud.
Of course the liquid-silver paint that throws out dramatic shades of pink and green under sunlight is impressive, but lots of BMWs have been treated to nice cosmetic touches. Few have a €255,000 price tag, though, or a 485bhp engine. Luckily this one off - registered to Hamann as a manufacturer rather than BMW due to the amount of work that has gone in - is a little different.
Hamann Motorsport has been placing big engines in small 3-series BMW engines since the early 1980s, when even Keke Rosberg wanted one of his 3.5-litre 3s. Since then three-time DTM champion Richard Hamann has expanded his business to include Porsches, Ferraris and several other marques. BMW’s, though, remain his heart and soul.
This M3 was stripped down to the bare bones and reinforced, which assists in torsional rigidity and also helped them hang the heavy gullwings on the window frame.
With the doors closed this car is far less threatening, apart from the turqouise and black leather and Alcantara interior. Once installed inside the Recaro seats - which proved almost seductively supportive as the G forces built - the interior job with its smattering of chrome and aluminium didn’t look like the pimp’s paradise that the pictures suggested. It actuall seemed to suit the car’s sense of occasion.
The aero kit is clearly a little bit special, too, with a fat double-lip spoiler wrapping round to the side. Sideskirts help stave off the intrusion of air, which assists the rear venturi built into an entirely new panel, and the adjustable rear wing is a work of art.
The high-speed stability of this 1800kg rocket marks it apart from everyday supercars. It feels like a normal M3, at double the speed, which is a high compliment indeed considering the pace of the base car.
Round winding roads this car would kick the establishment off the edge, despite carrying a few extra pounds. Despite that weight figure, it has undergone a weight-saving programme that included replacing the roof with a carbon skin and using only one windscreen wiper!
In the corners it’s lightning fast due to its confidence-inspiring stance that allows the driver to press on without fear of the rear stepping out. It is this that provides a platform for the Hamann Las Vegas to clean out more established players.
Coilover adjustable suspension and anti-rollbars keep the machine seemingly horizontal and stuck to the floor. A modified rear axle and limited slip differential with 40% locking capability are there to help mop up any slides, but this car feels so neutral that it would take a lot to seriously unstick the 245/35 ZR 19s and 275/30 ZR 19s clothing Hamann’s own 8.5x19 front and 10x19 rear wheels.
The M3-based creation proved rock steady at speeds that would make the evening news over here, sweeping alongside the concrete barriers with absolute confidence. On a brief run before handing over the wheel, Chief Engineer Roland Pfaller chatted - one hand idly resting on the gearstick and the other holding the wheel with nonchalant fingertip control – at approximately 160mph. It was that steady; it is that good.
Hamann started with a simple idea: shoehorning a highly-tuned V8, M5 engine into the M3’s engine bay. The engine brackets, oil-pan and bonnet were all handcrafted to fit the new engine’s contours and there were other modifications required to the subframe and other items. Hamann also reworked the ECU, fitted high-performance headers, catalysts and exhaust to free 85 more horses from the five-litre powerplant.
To cope with the extra power Hamann commissioned the six-speed gearbox from Getrag and beefed up the rear axle. This is a car built to last, and not a flu-prone thoroughbred that requires a rebuild every 1000 miles like some of the special editions in this world.
The 0-60mph time of four seconds and the 196mph top end are just half the story. This car continues past 200kph in 12.1 seconds and just keeps going all the way to the top end. But it’s relatively easy to produce a bucking rocketship of a road-legal racecar, but Hamann had a far grander idea in mind. He wanted a stable and calm car that inspired the confidence to perform.
This is reflected everywhere: from the relatively long and comfortable throw on the six-speed gearbox and the insulated if aggressive note of the exhaust, to the way this car accelerates.
Hamann opted for a ram air system, rather than a turbocharger, because of the smooth power delivery. With ram air the engine increasingly gulps air proportional to the car’s forward motion, which prevents ugly spikes in the torque curve.
There is mild wheelspin when the car takes off, but there’s no ‘Hell breaking loose’ or other supercar cliché to describe the feeding frenzy of noise and gnashing of sharpened cog teeth that normally goes with a supercar that produces 485bhp at 6950rpm and 555Nm of torque at 4100rpm.
It just pulls in the horizon at a stunning rate of knots whilst remaining smoother than a silk milkshake.
Hamann has had enough experience behind the wheel to know that smooth equals fast when you’re driving. A smooth car, therefore, should be a fast car as give any driver a rock solid car and he will find himself pushing to new limits.
The brakes too fit in with the overall feel. Of course they’re substantial, with 355mm discs on the front, but numbers you might expect because these might feel a little snappy when cold, and would not help the overall driving experience.
These anchors do an admirable job of hauling off the speed in any case, with no bobbing or weaving from the chassis.
Refinement like this feels out of place in a car with this pace, but swerve suddenly or tramp on the accelerator and the car will remind you of its sporting capabilities. Hamann has spent more than a year tweaking this car – ironing out any problems and ensuring that the car soaks up every serious bump in the road. It will always be firm, and rides so low to the ground that we had to be careful to avoid scraping the spoiler on our test, but it was remarkably comfortable at speed.
Nobody has bought this car as yet, and it may be people paying this cash want a one-off bucking bronco that screams to the world how much it cost. They want a Las Vegas-style statement, which ironically is not what the Hamann car is about at all.
Of course it looks fast, but only M3 fast and not in the same league as serious machinery. Under the skin, though, is a bulging mass of muscle ready to rip the throat out of the glitzier supercar opposition, if not the local magic circle, with a casual flick of its paw.
If the capital of gambling kitsch really did mimic the spirit of the car, there’d be far more Britons marrying livestock in minutes and then heading down to Venice to play Blackjack on the Piazza San Marco. As it is Hamann has just chosen the wrong name for a stunning piece of engineering, which only a high roller could pay for.