It was the Monday after Monterey car week, and my crew and I left early in the morning to head from Pebble Beach to Morgan Hill. Morgan Hill is about an hour and half south of San Francisco. We drove through the blink-and-you'll-miss-it main avenue on our way to the industrial park where the Dinan main research and development center is located.
The building was nothing special on the outside. Your regular grey industrial building with glass doors and windows. If it wasn't for the big "D" decal in the window we would've been driving around in circles trying to find the place. It was early, probably around 5:45am and the place was locked. We started unloading our gear onto the sidewalk when we heard the sound of a tuned exhaust and screeching tires coming up the street.
A bright blue BMW M5 came barreling into the parking lot and stopped right by our van. "Is that Robert?" a faceless voice boomed out of the BMW. I leaned over and saw a grey haired gentleman with a pair of sunglasses and a huge grin on his face. Then asked, "Are you ready for a drive?"
I've never been a huge fan of BMW cars, I was always turned off by their interiors mostly. They seemed a bit generic for a German car… maybe it was the dashboard and switches or the way you adjusted the seats or the bits of plastic here and there. Not to mention the way you adjusted the heater/AC with a weird hot cold dial on the dash and one on the instrument panel. Don't get me wrong I love German cars (I've owned Porsche, Mercedes and Audis in the past), so I didn't have it out for Dinan BMW I just had lower expectations than usual.
Those expectations were blown away by stepping into Steve's personal car. I guess I haven't been in a BMW for quite some time as the interior felt comfortable and very European. For me the cabin is definitely a major factor in enjoying or disliking a car. So far so good with the M5. We fired up the engine and the Dinan exhaust roared to life. Pressing on the throttle unleashed the butterfly valve, opening up the pipes to flow freely and loudly. Such a pleasant sound, very German and fitting for a tuned BMW. We clicked the gear lever into "D" and off we went to find some open road.
Once we got to our designated closed stretch of road for the test drive Steve opened it up and hit the slalom course in front of us. He was reaching speeds far over what I felt was capable from the 4300lb V8 wielding beast. The car just hugged the road with minimal screeches coming from the super sticky Michelin tires. The G-force thrusts out of each corner were getting more and more intense and like most passengers in a car going that fast I was counting the seconds until I had a chance behind the wheel!
Now I've met a lot of really cool car guys in my life but after meeting Steve Dinan I can say he's made my top ten. Let me explain.
First of all, he is one of the most passionate car guys I've ever met. He loves to drive (fast), tune and race his cars. Secondly, I believe he is a bit bat-shit-crazy! Most importantly, he is a guy on a mission. His previous mission was to become what AMG is to Mercedes for the BMW brand. He never realized that goal, although he does supply BMW powered teams with race engines. His current mission is to make the most bad-ass BMW cars on the planet, and after riding in his latest model I can say that he has achieved that goal.
Throughout his 30 plus years racing, tuning and building cars he has created what I would call a boutique car company. The facility is enormous and houses a full engineering staff, fabricators, software engineers, rooms for 3D printing, prototyping parts, dyno machines and a whole host of other high tech machines that probably cost more than my house. While super impressive and clinically clean it still has a friendly vibe to it. All of the employees were easy to talk with and were happy to show us what they do and why their way is better than the "others".
For now Dinan focuses all their energy on souping up BMW M series cars with reasonably priced packages that include a cold-air-intake, performance exhaust, custom-tuned software, in-house ECU and a full suspension kit. But in the future Steve and his team are looking to start building turn-key cars and possibly branching out to other brands beyond BMW.
My visit with Dinan was incredible! It's refreshing to see an American company putting so much passion into their products. I'm looking forward to following up with Steve and team in the future and can say that they've converted me to a BMW enthusiast for life.