(by Zerin Dube speedsportlife.com 4-26-06)
(Story and Photos by Dubspeed Driven Contributor, J.F. Musial)
In recent years, the Gumball 3000 has sparked a renewed enthusiasm for road rallys, that were originally made famous through the big screen in such films as The Gumball Rally in 1976 and The Cannonball Run in 1981. In recent years, the Gumball 3000 has sparked a whole new generation of road rally enthusiasts. The annual event has continued to be a showcase of exotic and unique cars driven by celebrities and passionate drivers alike. These are the type of people who wish to push themselves and their cars to the absolute limit. Thanks to the internet, I have been able to keep track of the event since the year 2000. Over the past six years, it has been incredible to see just how popular and well known the Gumball has become. Each year it is more unique and extravagant than the previous thanks to the diverse participants who spend an enormous amount of money just to attend. When I think of the rally though, I always think of the veterans who have shaped the event into what it is today.
Alex Roy is just one of the few who have tremendously impacted just how successful the Gumball 3000 has become. Though the drivers bring the character to the event, it goes without question that the cars always steal the spotlight. When will you ever see such an assortment of cars driving in packs through small villages and traffic plagued cities? To most people, the only time such cars can be seen is at the closest International Auto Show.
Last year, I was doing just that; attending the New York International Auto Show. While there, I bumped into New York resident and Gumball veteran, Alex Roy. He and I kept in contact and some months later, I was able to catch a ride in his modified Polizei M5 through the streets of Manhattan. You can read the article describing the events of that fall afternoon within the DubSpeed Driven archive. Recently though, on March 31st, I received a call from Sir Roy asking if I wanted to see the new and improved M5. How could I resist? I made the 30 minute drive up to Ai Design, an establishment owned by Matt Figliola located in Tuckahoe NY. Alex had been filling me in ever so often about the progress of the M5 since the past fall. I honestly didn’t know what to expect as I walked my way up to the Ai garage. I walked in and there I saw it, the Polizei M5; naked of all its stickers.
At first glace, the car didn’t look like it had any changes done to it, but obviously looks can be deceiving. The M5 has always been a luxury sleeper; a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” as Tiff Needel from 5th gear has always said. When I approached it from the rear, I began to notice the slight differences in the car. Rear laser jammers built directly into the rear bumper moldings; neat stealth trick I must say. The only way I noticed them is because the sun glare hit the gloss finish at just the right angle as I walked closer. The next, more obvious change that I noticed was that there were now four antenna and two satellite receivers directly hard mounted to the trunk and roof of the car. I would later find out that there was enough radio equipment to make any state trooper cruiser look ill equipped. The next change was one I had not expected – a rearward looking camera connected to the lower rear tow hitch. I then began to walk around the car, and once I took a look inside, my jaw nearly dropped. Honestly, I don’t even think my words can depict the scene; the pictures tell the story. While I was staring in awe at the M5, I noticed Alex in a corner office within the garage. I made my way over and I immediately could tell he couldn’t wait to show me all the new gear.
Back at the M5, Alex went on to discuss how it was crunch time in the garage as the team was trying to prep the car for this year’s GB. It was about two in the afternoon and the car had a little over 24 hours to get ready to be put on a ship and transported to Europe. For the most part, all seemed well and it looked like the car would make that deadline. There were only a few problems which needed to be addressed such as the rear tires rubbing and a few electrical gremlins related to the interior equipment.
A great addition that I am sure you will not see on any other M5 is the addition of a 16 gallon fuel cell. The new fuel cell gives the M5 a range of close to 800 miles, Alex claimed. I’m sure that’s true if you keep the car close to the speed limit. Either way, it certainly doesn’t hurt to double your fuel capacity. One thing that stood out with all the modifications that I had seen so far was just how clean and stealth it all looked. Looking in the trunk, I would never believe that there was an additional fuel cell. The trunk looked like a normal trunk; just with a few cubic feet of space missing. The trunk lid antennas were all cleanly drilled and very professional looking. The same could be said about the rear laser jammers built into the rear bumper.
Back in the cabin, I took the helm in the driver seat with Alex in the passenger seat. We went over all the controls and new gadgets. A new control panel discretely hidden in the ash tray area could now control every aspect of the electronics and police light system. Also, one of the craziest modifications I have ever seen in a car was the new heads-up unit for both passenger and driver. This heads-up unit gives a thermal image of the road ahead. Remember, this is not the standard system that you can now buy as an option on newer cars. This thermal night vision system is fully customized for the Polizei M5. Another obvious change was that there were now three police scanners. Two digitally trunked base units as well as a digital handheld unit near the gear shift. Each scanner was connected separately to one of the several antennas which are mounted on the rear trunk. In the headliner near the sunroof, there was one of the first modifications to the Team Polizei M5: a CB radio with a PA system. The install, once again is top of the line and very clean. Looking forward at the instrument cluster, I was once again stunned. The Team Polizei M5 only had 37,000 miles on it. Alex told me that he only drives the M5 on rare occasions; I didn’t think that meant only during Gumballs. I then noticed right below the instrument gauge, one of the simplest but most important road car modifications: the Valentine 1 stealth display.
Overall, the car is absolutely insane. I really don’t know why I am writing this article because I know that no matter what I say, I can never express the true glory of the car. The car itself has been to more countries and states than I have in my entire life. Evidence of this can be seen at the front of the car. The rock chips and scratches just add to the character of the car. I asked Alex what he plans on doing with the car when he decides to get rid of it. The response was one of mystery because it seemed that Alex never intends on parting with the Team Polizei M5. He stated that if he were going to sell it, he hopes that it remains as dirty as possible in a museum or collection. Though, in my opinion, the car doesn’t belong in a collection or museum, at least not yet. The car is a true highway cruiser and that’s where it should always be; eating one mile after another. I do agree that no matter where it ends up, it better be dirty and road beaten.
I left Alex and Ai Design that afternoon expecting to see the Team Polizei M5 in photos and videos from the Gumball start. But the next morning I called Alex to see if the car was ready to be shipped. Astonishingly, Alex told me a horrifying story. Just a little while after I left the evening before, the team took the M5 on a short test drive up in West Chester County NY. They were driving the car when a major problem unraveled. There seemed to be an O2 sensor or catalytic failure. It seemed as if the Team Polizei M5 wasn’t going to make the boat for the trans-Atlantic crossing. I would later find out that the problem happened again after the replacement part was installed. At the time of writing this article, it is still uncertain as to when , if at all the Team Polizei M5 will ever make the start of the Gumball. If it is going to make it, it means that that the Team Polizei M5 will be air-lifted from New York to London. I guess we will all need to just wait for the start to find out if it makes it or not.
I think one of the major misunderstandings that people have about Team Polizei is that it consists of only the efforts of Alex Roy. In reality, there are many people whom are associated with the M5 and its preparation for any event. In my estimation, there are well over 20 people who are directly involved with getting the M5 prepped and ready. I have full confidence in the ability of Team Polizei to fix any problem which may arise. This team, which is comprised of Alex Roy, Ai Design, and countless others, has changed the way we think of road rallies. Tens of thousands of dollars have been invested into making the Team Polizei project as successful as it is. The amount of preparation and planning which goes into each event is unbelievable. Even today, I can not believe what Alex Roy has started. But what else is there in store for Team Polizei? Well, I’m not really sure, but I can tell you this. The story of Team Polizei is not over. In the months to come, the Team Polizei M5 will make several appearances around the world. You may even just spot it cruising down a New York Avenue like many have. The Team Polizei M5 has become almost like a brand image; it is one of the most recognizable and unique cars on the road today. In fact, everything about the car is perfect. Every modification has a purpose but there is still one thing the car needs; it needs to be painted flat black like a stealth bomber.
Note: All exposed wiring was tucked away after testing.
Team Polizei M5 Specifications:
2000 BMW E39 M5
Kelleners Sport Exhaust
Uniden PRO520 XL CB Radio in custom overhead mount
Specterguard Anti-Photo License Plate Covers (Front and Rear)
Dinan Stage 1 Chip
Brembo GT Brake Kit (Front and Rear)
L3 “Night Driver” Thermal Camera (Front Bumper) with twin Alpine 7″ displays custom installed for driver and co-pilot
V1 Laser/Radar Detector with concealed Display
Blinder M40 Xtreme Laser Jammers (Front and Rear) with display integrated into V1 concealed Display
3x Antennex Custom-Tuned Scanner Aerial 2′ long each
1x Antennex CB Aerial 4′ Long
UUC Short Throw Shift Kit
Garmin 2650 GPS Unit with Dead Reckoning and Roof Mount Antenna
Garmin 2730 GPS Unit with XM Radio NavTraffic, Roof Mount Antenna and
Internal XM Antenna
Nav-TV Integrated in OEM-Dash display
Whelen Pro Siren/Lighting Control Panel
2pr Whelan LED Strobes (Front Bumper) (Red/Blue/Green/Yellow)
4 corner Whelan White Strobes (headlights/brake lights)
2pr Whelan LED Strobes (Rear headliner) (Red/Blue/Green/Yellow)
14 12V power outlets (8 Front, 6 rear)
Uniden BC796D Digital TrunkTracking Scanner (Dashtop)
Uniden BC396D Digital TrunkTracking Scanner (Handheld) with “Close Call” Proximity Alert
Uniden BCT8 Analog TrunkTracking Scanner (Dashtop)
Rear Floor Mounted Fire Extinguisher
Mount for Air-Ground Handheld Radio
Dash-mounted speedometer GPS-verified and slaved to wheelspin
SPEC Racing Clutch & Flywheel
Recaro Seats with 5-point harnesses
Uniden BC796D w Digital Trunking, 1000 channels manually programmable
BTC8, Analog Trunk Tracking with 250 channels manual programmable, and built-in highway patrol frequencies, searchable by state, and with audible and visual alert
BC396D handheld, 6000 manually programmable frequencies and Digital trunk tracking, and “Close Call” Proximity Alert
All three have external trunk mounted antennas, custom tuned for maximum reception range using Antennex brand antennas.