Words & Pics by Thashen Naidoo
Most people in the arts seem to depict heaven as a place that has clouds for a floor, a set of pearly gates and a man with a big book. Sometimes even, there might be a sort of stairway involved.
What I can tell you is that the artists managed to get the man and the stairway correct, but I really can’t vouch for the other things. The St Peters of this story doesn’t deal with books; this heaven uses HP Probooks and Lenovo Thinkpads to operate. The staircase? Well, instead of leading upwards, this one goes down and its entrance is guarded by a door clearly stating Strictly NO unauthorised admittance. The place is run by the gods of speed, their favourite colour is orange and in my short time there, they appeared to be satiated only by torco fuel and biltong. The best thing however, is that you don’t actually have to meet your maker in order to visit this heaven; all you have to do is pull up to the shop with your beloved carriage and say those three special words: I need power.
The men I referred to are the brothers Rob and Steve Green who came together in 1992 to form my heaven on earth, the acclaimed RGMotorsport. Having quickly qualified as a technician for BMW, Rob worked at a dealership. In this role he was exposed to the specialist BMW tuning firm Alpina which really piqued his interest in modifying. This led him to start his own brand and tuning house specialising in increasing the performance and drivability of new models and delivering the best service to the owners of said vehicles.
So what keeps a place like this going strong for 22 years with a track record of some of the fastest vehicles in SA and one of the best customer track records including being AA’s business of the year in 2007? As I walked through the shop, I could see how well things are run. Rob is clearly a perfectionist and he knows everything about every square foot of the workshop. It’s not only the team’s desire to ensure complete customer satisfaction, but also the foresight, vision and fearless desire to be ahead of the curve. During my visit, Rob took time out of his busy day to take me around the entire workshop and show me all the current projects and the toys he uses to make them go as fast as they do. The workshop is absolutely meticulous, well it was, before I drooled over the machinery before my eyes. M3’s, M6’s, RS4’s and even a fully kitted out GTR (courtesy of GReddy and Veilside) waited patiently for their time with the master craftsmen of RGM.
All the while I was having a look around, Steve was busy assaulting the asphalt of Randburg with the RGM RS3 test mule. He even took the opportunity to show us a drama free launch courtesy of the quattro system. Such a contrast to the launches Rob performed in a recently completed M135. These brothers clearly love what they do but they also have a keen business side. To materialise RGM’s goal of providing quality workmanship, service and conversions to premium brands, the company has separate divisions (see side bar) to simultaneously work on multiple projects.
The company is based in Randburg, JHB on Hammer Avenue. What a fitting name for a road where the hammer gets dropped so often. Although they are located in Gauteng, they have customers from all over SA that were drawn to RGM by the quality of their work along with the warranty that comes with their conversions. RGM offers a service to have the cars brought into the workshop for servicing when needed which really removes the uncertainty of having them work on your non-GP car.
After a look around the shop, it was time to hit the streets to see the outcome of all the hard work that goes on in the workshop. I was in for a treat as both the M3 and 86 were available and I thought we’d put age before beauty and start with the M3.
When a vehicle is referred to as the Thing it makes me ask questions like, “How many children has it consumed?” “None” laughs Steve, next up is how much does it cost to transport the rocket fuel it runs on from NASA’s Launchpad in Cape Canaveral to Randburg.
More laughs, followed by a gesture to a gallon of Torco race fuel. My last query revolved around the M3’s exterior where I just had to confirm a rumor I heard. “Tell me Steve, is it true that when washing the car you have to wear lead-lined underwear to make sure you don’t get over exposed to the radiation emanating from the paintwork?”
Steve leaves the room, questioning my sanity, but not before handing me the keys so I can survey the interior. A few thoughts ran through my mind at this point, first being whether anybody would notice if I took if for a drive and didn’t return and secondly, how fast could I actually get away without damaging the 86 and FJ cruiser the M3 was snugly parallel parked between. After considering the excellent hospitality extended to me by RGM and my, erm, poor parking skills, I decided against shenanigans and instead went quietly along with the shoot.
So lets get some nomenclature out the way; in RGM speak the car is called the GTRS 3S, which, in normal English is directly translated to crazy-aggressive-widebody-M3-with-power-to match-its-looks. Yes, power is the key word. The number 63 is usually associated with Affalterbach’s finest but today it represents the percentage power increase over the already capable standard high-revving S65 4.0L V8 motor. The new power output of 560 kW comes via a Vortech V2 SI-trim counter clockwise polished supercharger. The compressed gases are then channeled through an RGM 1650 CFM high flow liquid charge cooler to lower the boost temps before piped past the RGM-EXCEL Duel recirculating/dump valves and then into the intake plenum. Once combustion is complete, the exhaust gases leave the car via an RGM stainless steel performance exhaust which creates a unique booming rumble. In fact, during the shoot one of Steve’s mates actually recognised the sound from inside his house and came out to say hi! The M3 renders intercom systems useless; if you go out visiting in this beast, you just have to rev the motor outside your hosts’ house and they know it’s you. Who said a supercharged M3 isn’t practical?
Providing the aggression is a full carbon composite GTRS 3 kit with the V308 20’’ satin black forged rims, all by Vörsteiner. The wide body kit is a very necessary component, needed to house the massive 285 and 325 width front and rear tyres. The car is brought lower to earth via an RGM/KW Variant 3 suspension kit. On Kyalami those 560 000 Watts of power need to be brought to down to a snails pace very quickly, and ensuring this happens reliably is a set of colour coded Brembo Gran Turismo brakes for the front and rear.
As much as the car is an absolute beast, the Art of Performance is vividly evident when Steve demonstrated to me the car’s user friendliness and ease of drivability. The car responds so intuitively throughout the rev range to the drivers input and can behave (read: not melt tyres) if you want it to. This is all down to Steve’s finesse in the tuning department where he spends hours tweaking each modified car to his exact specifications. Its amazing to hear that at some stage he may have up to four laptops busy reporting data to him as he tunes a car on the dyno. This level of perfection is not just what he puts into his own cars but what goes into every vehicle wearing the coveted RGM badge. It’s no wonder that the vehicles are bulletproof and the customers so happy.
So why the decision to go with a Vortech Supercharger?
The decision was actually made 17 years prior when Rob found them to be one of the best manufacturers around. RGM soon became the official agents in SA and since then favoured using them for their supercharging requirements. The supercharger itself is a centrifugal unit that starts off feeling like a supercharger and then imitating a turbo higher up in the rev range. Rob also likes catching people out with the unit’s looks, with some people referring to it as a turbo unit!
When’s the last time you were kidnapped and thrown into the boot of car and driven around town? Last week, last month, never? Well if you ever find yourself in such a position, for your sake, I surely hope your captors car is fitted with an RGM-Öhlins Road &Track kit! Yes, before I even begin to describe the difference the supercharger makes I have to mention the absolute brilliance of the suspension on the 86.
To put you in the loop, Jacques kindly allowed me to use the 86 as a chase car to get rolling shots of the M3, and out the boot I was happily shooting while being pleasantly comfy! Just impressive as the extremely comfortable ride, the car is much more capable around corners as Jacques was very happy to show me. Even when launching, the car doesn’t squat as the suspension is already quite aggressively lowered. Needless to say, along with the spacers fitted, this gives the car much more presence being lower to the ground.
The supercharger is the biggest game changer on the 86. Boost comes through the Vortech V-3 H67BC centrifugal blower. The system fits so neatly into the engine bay that you’d be mistaken for missing it! The power delivery, however, is not something that can go undercover. The shove in my back was a direct result in the newly found 315Nm of torque compared to the stock 206 Nm. Besides providing a highly entertaining drive, keeping up with M3 was not an issue for the lighter 86 between the traffic lights.
When tuning a Jap machine I found it odd that a supercharger would be used instead of a turbo. One glance back at Toyota and Subaru’s history (Supra, STi) will quickly reveal a bias toward turbocharged aspiration. RGM preferred the supercharger route, as they are much simpler to connect to an existing NA motor. Simpler is better as it more reliable, neater and faster to install. All of these are critical elements in providing the customer with the best solution possible.
The 86 also featured RGM’s Techniflow 63mm stainless steel exhaust, which gave the 86 that growl that makes you push your boundaries further. All the extra ponies created by the upgrades were more than adequately controlled by the RGM Brake upgrade, which brought stop after predictable stop.
Altogether, the upgrades on the car make it a lot more confident in its abilities, which naturally make the driver all too happy to explore his or her own limits. What more could you want from a car? I think RGM is definitely keeping up the spirit that Toyota had when they created the car. It’s all about that true driving experience from a rather small engine; nimble 2 door all they did now is to add dash of Tabasco.
My favourite part the visit (and yes, this was after being in a crazy M3 and a wild 86) was when I got to hear Rob explain to me the Art of Performance which goes into everything that RGM handles. Like a little boy showing off to me his favourite Lego masterpiece, Rob deconstructed the term for me, explaining that anything he or his staff touches has to be special, it has to ooze finesse and the last person to hand it over must have full confidence in the product. For him, making a car more powerful is not just about throwing bits together but its rather an art and passion that’s so clearly evident in everyone of their products. Who better to entrust with the keys to your baby?