2022 Automotive Engineering Named Oletha First Drive Review: BMW Dreams

Upon meeting up, I immediately spotted the 2022 Smit Vehicle Engineering Oletha. So far, I’ve only seen Oletha in pictures, and they simply don’t do it justice. This car is so beautiful, it takes elements from the BMW Z8 – and BMW 507 by extension – and combines them into a more compact and purposeful shape. It’s a coupe, though inspired by a roadster, and the result looks in every inch as if it were designed by BMW itself.

But the ultha is actually the result of “what if?” Reflections. It helps that Kaess and Willem Smit, the founders of their namesake company, are engineers and BMW enthusiasts. In fact, if you’re looking to build a car yourself, it’s no doubt beneficial that your previous job included stints at Tesla and Singer—as in Willem’s case—with Kaess engineering experience coming from advanced aerospace vehicles. Some minor damage to the E86-generation BMW Z4 M Coupe from Willem after a day off the track showed the two brothers that it was relatively easy to remove the bodywork from its mounts. After that, the idea began to gain momentum.

2022 Outer front quarter named Ulitha

Dreams of Z8 Hardtop

“We started with some frame drawings and asked if this was possible from a dimensional perspective,” explains Willem. The E86 Z4 worked for their purposes because while its lengths are shorter than the Z8’s, the wheelbase is nearly identical. Built as a roadster before it was converted into a coupe, the Fastback Z4 is also much stiffer than the Z8 (about three times as much, if you believe the brothers are named).

It suited their goals as to the way the Oletha would drive, because despite the Z8’s presence and performance, it was not widely seen as an accurate and attractive driver’s car. The Z4 coupe’s much more readily available, as well as being much cheaper, didn’t hurt either.

2022 Outer front quarter named Ulitha
2022 Renamed Ulitha Outer Rear Quarter

The design is largely the brothers’ work, but they admit they have a surface design specialist finalize the look (although they’re not free to decide who). The undercover expert has clearly done an exceptional job as Oletha’s proportions are predictable, and the shape exudes elegant elegance that blends retro and contemporary to stunning effect.

Only the donor car’s glass is left, and every body panel is made of carbon fibre. Explore the brothers’ US suppliers before hopping on a plane and choosing one from the UK. The finish is incredible, the panel gaps are exceptionally narrow, and glimpses of exposed carbon around areas like the trunk lid reveal the tough finish that Smit demanded.

2022 named Ulitha exterior front view
2022 named Ulitha carbon fiber details
2022 Smit brings engine bay

matching performance

And it’s not just a BMW Z4 M coupe, because under the hood is a 4.4-liter V8 engine of the E90 generation of the BMW M3 (which we recently drove in a rare Lime Rock Park Edition variant). It’s not quite standard either. The Smit claims over 450 horsepower at 8200 rpm – 300 rpm before the red line – and 342 lb-ft at 3700 rpm. forged crankshaft, pistons and connecting rods; Doubled valve springs and a custom carbon fiber intake manifold support that grout higher than the stock.

The wider V8 required a great deal of engineering to allow it to fit into the narrow-body Z4, which meant custom exhaust manifolds were designed and manufactured, through which the steering column was precisely woven. Smit’s attention to detail is that he designed those manifolds to allow them to build the car for either left- or right-hand drive. The engine mounts, like the 100-plus other custom components required under the hood, are 3D-printed, although Willem reveals that BMW bushings are used to ensure noise and vibration are kept to an acceptable level.

2022 renamed the outer Olitha
2022 Smit Oletha Exterior Suite
2022 Renamed Ultha External Exhaust

Aerodynamic tests revealed that while the Oletha was nice in shape, it did lift about 500 pounds at the rear axle at about 200 mph — well above top speed but still alarming. A quick solution was to add a fixed spoiler, but that wouldn’t work. Instead, Smit borrowed the pop-up mechanism from the current production car and installed a custom flange. To be absolutely sure that their solution was the right one, a platform was built for the mechanism, and Willem’s girlfriend did 10,000 step-by-steps to load the spoiler cycle. passed.

The end result is that the car is more stable at high speed, not that we’re going to get close to 200 mph today. The valley roads here meander nicely around the terrain, throwing everything from occasional bends and long off-camber sweeps to short trails covered in the kind of undulating runway that will quickly reveal any flaws in the structure’s setup. The brothers admit that their dynamic target was the 996-generation Porsche GT3, a high-performance car, but the reality is a little different. Oletha offers a broader mix of ability that is both engaging and fun, without any obvious compromises.

2022 Smit Existing Interior Dashboard

The suspension uses fully adjustable KW coils, which do a beautiful job of mating road connection with composure. The ride is flexible, ignoring bumps and pressure but retaining precise control as you increase speed and start to squeeze. A set of custom-made monobloc aluminum wheels — 18 x 9 inches in the front and 19 x 10 in the rear — wear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. The brakes use AP Racing hardware, with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers working with repeated force throughout a day of hard driving. The pedal still feels reassuringly stable and provides an ideal platform for impressively low gear shifts.

The gearbox is the same manual six-speed ZF found on the E92 M3, and is connected to the rear wheels via a mechanical limited-slip differential. You could leave it third all day, that’s the easy rendition of a V8, but doing that would be a real disservice to yourself — and Brother Smit’s hard work. The gearshift is beautifully weighted by its short throw, and the positive clutch action gives Oletha body about it, inviting and engaging when you want it to be. However it retains an easy nature when the roads are less interesting or when you are not in a hurry.

2022 renamed the outer Olitha
2022 renamed the outer Olitha

There are rich rewards that you can get when you engage the gear stick, not the least of which is the change of engine in the character. The S65’s engine is morbid, retaining a relatively decent Germanic V8 note at lower revs before turning more sinister as it speeds toward its red streak. Its pace accelerates, from just under 4,000 rpm to just above it staggeringly high. This is a drive that never runs out of ideas.

Chassis balance helps, as does the precision of the front axle. Delivery of the vehicle is quick and straightforward, with a communicative and confidence-inspiring feel at the wheel. What might disappoint some is the fact that the steering wheel (and much of the interior) is stock, a degree of pragmatism here on the brethren’s part. The thing is, they even realize that at north of $450,000, depending on your specs, most will want the option to change things up, so they’re working on doing exactly that with customer cars.

Described simply as “the car we wish BMW could make” by the engineering brethren, that characterization is hard to argue after driving the Oletha. Stunningly designed and featuring the BMW 507’s cool, modern lines, the Smit coupe appears poised to honor the ranks at the 2075 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Driving as it is to look at. The first time you see one in person, you’ll understand how complimented it is.