The original replica.
"In this new Special Series, I document the greatest lip ever designed by BMW M and my experiences sourcing various replica lips across Europe, ultimately leading to the development of OE+ GTS front lip kit.
In this entry, I chat about what my experiences sourcing the fiberglass replica kit from Germany along with 60+ owners that embarked upon the original group buy."
The AZ connection.
Following up on my first group buy introducing the OE+ Carbon Plenum to the North American market, my second priority for my build was to source a proper GTS replica, non carbon lip.
Garrett had recently acquired an AW E92 M3 to complement his E46 M3. Known as @csl_dna, we knew what he was up to with his M3 V8 as he plated the car GTS_DNA.
After fitting the premium M3 V8 starter package of BBS E88s, KW Clubsports and a GTS wing, he managed to source an extremely rare 1:1 GTS replica with the lower splitter for his Alpine White E92 M3.
The man's got taste!
The German connection.
Garrett put me up to speed on where he sourced the front lip kit: Markus at 360Carbon GmbH in Germany. It was a relatively unknown brand to North America, and it didn't appear to be very active per their IG.
I reached out to Markus on July 31st 2020 to purchase a lip kit for my car and asked about potentially assembling a group of owners to buy in bulk.
The products they made all appeared to be must haves for M guys: they had various replicas of OEM GTS and GT4 designs, with little, important things such as weld-in bungs to properly install wings to the M3 V8's trunk.
He gave me a heads up is main focus was on a new brand called Zaero: aimed at mass produced, affordable sporty cars like Golf GTIs, Hyundais and the M2.
His product design philosophy was focused on ABS plastic as they were cheaper and easier to produce at scale, to sell at a lower price for more volume.
The original replica.
The 360Carbon lip kit for the E9x M3 was a product designed under Markus' now defunct way of doing things: it was a hand laid, fiberglass product created using fiberglass molds.
It had a lot going for it when considering the US market's previously limited access to these OEM replica products. Until that point, most V8 owners had to make due with the Alibaba specials: GT4 lips or GTS replicas that weren't replicas at all.
The complete kit featured 1:1 replicas of the upper lip, and lower adjustable splitter. It included the chassis mounted brackets, and horizontal bar.
The lip was quite literally provided with the BMW GTS installation guidelines with a few trademark edits.
It was painted and fitted extremely well.
Another key feature of the lip was the signature flat black, painted finish, mimicking the OEM GTS front lip, M359 wheels and rear wing.
It had optional carbon brackets.
Fiberglass is weak, carbon is stronger - but can still crack. 360Carbon offered an upgraded bracket kit in carbon.
I had the fiberglass (GFK/FRP) brackets on my kit.
The upper lip could also be purchased separately.
The 1 piece look is how BMW M mostly advertised the GTS lip. It's the ideal configuration for the street.
The OG Group Buy.
Markus was open to a group buy with a heads up about limited manufacturing capacity and a group buy was set up.
The initial reception was strong: we gathered over 60 orders within a few weeks before closing down access.
Markus was hoping to have 5x kits manufactured every other 2 weeks. We were in for a 6 months group buy.
360Carbon manufactured at best 2-3 lips every 2 weeks before major events stopped production intermittently in 2021.
In standard times, this would have approximately doubled lead time from 6 months to 12 months - but these were different times.
The Summer of 2021 brought major flooding in Western Germany, affecting the workshop and its ability to produce.
COVID was a big hurdle, with Markus' employees being affected by COVID' and being withdrawn from work to follow the government guidelines.
When production slows down within the framework of a group buy, it goes sideways fast.
This was a time intensive learning experience that I keep in the back of my mind on every group buy I organize with EuroConnnex.
The members' first impressions.
Most owners were highly satisfied with the fitment and aesthetics of their lip. It was a major departure from the Alibaba GTS lips we had seen up to now in North America.
With bumper off and a few tricks BMW used themselves, you could achieve a seamless fitment.
A few shops got on board as well. Matt from AutoCouture was supportive of the product.
Others blamed the lip for their shortcomings in DIY skills, and the lacklustre aftermarket undertray designs they had.
This particular owner was a bozo, trashing the product on M3post and priding himself on buying an alternative from AlphaN.
He was in for a surprise: it was the same kit. Alex @ AlphaN and Markus @ 360Carbon shared the mold. They were former partners in Edison Carbon Composites according to discussions with Markus.
My first impressions.
Back in September 2020, I was about the 25th owner to receive his lip kit. The word was out about fitment and aesthetics: I was excited to receive and fit the lip.
I pondered DIY'ing it, but changed plans seeing the required for cutting the bumper. It was off to Exclusiv Automotiv.
Fitment was OEM*
Jonathan took the bumper off to properly align the chassis brackets with the lower splitter and upper lip.
All in all, it was 4 hours of a professional's time.
The bumper needed to be cut, as on the original GTS lip. It cleared my MLT undertray.
The lower splitter had about 3 inches of adjustments.
This shows the most forward position of the lower splitter.
This is a trick used by professionals, and BMW M themselves, to reinforce the lip and plug any visual gaps.
It was windshield urethane.
This was OEM level fitment: no visible gaps anywhere.
The PPF lifted as we removed the M Performance splitters. This was fixed later on.
The common issues.
The product had proper design and finish, but unfortunately, a few corners were cut.
It didn't prove durable on the street, and evidently less on the track.
Markus cut cost and had the lips single stage painted. In layman terms; it had no 2 component clear coat to seal & protect the paint from daily wear and tear.
My lower splitter was scratched and stained as we extended it forward.
The temporary fix.
The good thing about fiberglass is the relative ease to repair it. A few dabs of bondo, fresh paint, and you're off. Some owners used PPF to improve overall resistance to wear & tear.
Every subsequent Winter, we sanded down both upper and lower sections, and repaired any scratches and gouges.
The black was now much deeper in appearances, similar to the OEM GTS. It would also endure weathering. I didn't apply a paint protection film back then.
As the lips started being used and abused by V8 owners, a few had to source replacement brackets from breaking the chassis upright mounts on rumble strips and road hazards.
It was most prevalent on fiberglass brackets [...] which I had. Carbon brackets would also break.
It eventually happened to me on a BMW cruise in the Summer of 2022. I hit a sizeable road kill; one bracket was cut clean off.
I had to stop by the side of the road and knock out the other side.
You can see the obvious difference in paint quality. The brackets were single stage painted and the lower spitter was resprayed properly.
All things aside, it probably saved my bumper by absorbing the shock. You'll also notice the lower splitter wasn't damaged from the impact itself.
Could this be fixed?
With stronger materials; maybe.
Up next, I document the complete carbon variant, the prototype metal brackets and the ABS mirage.