The great mod debate. Let’s all go on Twitter and have a big row.

Social media is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Where else can you go to hear the strongly worded opinion of thousands of angry people, revved up and looking for someone to pick a fight with? Where else can we hear hundreds of different perspectives, funnelled through a narrow pipe into a melting pot of unsolvable arguments, all carried out in the glare of public scrutiny. Through this minefield, Munich Legends must gingerly navigate, fearful of triggering an endless discourse that may possibly result in losing the faith of a swathe of customers. Or of course we might win big, trouncing the nay-sayers with our wisdom and eloquence. Or, we could stay silent, become irrelevant and invisible, standing back with our arms folded, shaking our commercial heads. Classic Hobson’s choice.

But, fortunately, I have this place to hide. I can voice my views, you can read them, and decide if you think I’m an idiot – quietly, and in the privacy of your own home. If you’re really angry, you can write a letter to the editor, and if its polite, the mag may even publish it. In my head, I’ll thank you for your opinion (or something like that), and we’ll move on. So, I’m going to talk ‘mods’. I’m doing it here because its safe, civilised, and if you don’t agree, I won’t be hounded until I’m forced to quit my job.

But seriously, as showroom manager, and charged with running our social media account, I’ve watched with interest the growing enthusiasm for mods, resto mods and the whole fashion for customising your BMW. I’ve got a personal opinion, and a professional one, and they aren’t necessarily the same. Put simply, most mods ruin a car, from a showroom perspective. It narrows your audience when you come to sell it, and our job is to find the widest audience we can. BMW have spent millions developing your car, so I think its unlikely you’ll improve it with a couple of grand. And, mostly, one ‘improvement’ nearly always means a compromise somewhere else. Nine times out of ten, the money you’ll spend not only disappears, but it may even lower the overall value of the car when it comes to selling. Most importantly, remember, mods are a subjective thing. One man’s dream mod is another man’s ruined gem. I’ve had this discussion with many a customer. Do they listen to me? Of course not. Why should they? Its their car and their money.

Of course, there are exceptions to the ‘rule’ – AP brakes on an E46 M3 spring to mind (missed opportunity for a suspension-based gag there) – my own 3.0 CSL has 16s instead of the standard 14s and it rides all the better for it, but that’s the perfect example. Half of the ML team think it looks over-wheeled. I think it looks the nuts.

It’s with so-called resto-mods that the real controversy starts, and its often a generational/cultural thing. Social media is a great place to find like-minded people, a chance to share the joy of your project, find inspiration, and show off to the world what a beautiful machine you’ve created. But if your dream E9 CS has the sort of look where polished 19” rims disappear half way into the arches, the gleaming violet paintwork offset against deep tinted windows, with the interior from an E46 M3 complementing the boot full of specialist audio and an engine from an E36 M3, then be prepared for the backlash. My personal opinion is that it’s your car – do as you please and nuts to the world. As a showroom manager, you’re going to make my life difficult. As a private individual, it may not be to my taste, but I’m going to respect the care and effort you’ve put in, and I’ll die on a hill to protect your right to mod. Yes, even if you take a concours E9 and ‘ruin’ it.

With the know-alls from social media you’re just as likely to get grief if you go the other way. You only have to check the Munich Legends Instagram account to find a perfect, super low mileage, factory standard E30 M3 Sport Evo coming in for a hail of abuse. Their beef? Owning a car like that, and not using it enough. These things are meant to be driven, and it’s a crying shame – even a crime – for it to stay locked away and not taken out to perform for the hungry public. I’m serious – some people get into a proper lather over this stuff. The team at ML even get dragged in to the debate – shouldn’t I have something to say about this? As a matter of fact, I do. Thank you to the owner for giving me the car to sell on his behalf. I’m grateful for the business. The next owner can do as they please.

The most recent – and I suspect growing – controversy, is electric mods. Basically, taking a classic car, and converting it to electric. Social media is awash with the debate. Some accounts, with religious fervour, believe what you’re doing is the automotive equivalent to flag-burning, or insulting God. You’re ruining the spirit of the car, selling out to the electric devil, and generally committing blasphemy. Others see it as a clever way to preserve the longevity of the car, as the world begins to frown on smoky, old fashioned machines that fewer and fewer people know how to maintain – if you can buy the bits.

You won’t be surprised to hear I have an opinion on this. I love the innovation. I love the idea that some under-powered, unreliable, carburettor 2.0 Citroen DS – that probably never starts when you want to use it and breaks down every other journey – can be given a new lease of life, and make it useable and enjoyable for the next generation. Not only will it be reliable, but the drivers following you will not be suffocated with oily black smoke as you drive along. The electric motor suits the gliding, smooth nature of Bertoni’s classic design, and you can probably burn off an E46 M3 from a standing start at the lights. It will work whenever you want to drive, and it will be repairable if it ever goes wrong – which it probably won’t.

So, as my wife pointed out (possibly playing devil’s advocate), what about an electric M1? Why not take out that cumbersome M88, with its irreplaceable sodium-filled pistons, the noisy, gas guzzling, awkwardly expensive, planet ruining lump, and replace it with a silent, smooth and equally quick electric replacement?

Not on your nelly. That’s blasphemy. I’ve been triggered. I’ll see you on Twitter.

Dan Norris, Straight Six Magazine by BMW Car Club GB (September 2021 issue)

Straight Six Magazine September 2021