Wowed by sparkling blue paint and a pair of shapely legs protruding from a short skirt (the stack of trophies, not so much), I fell hook line and sinker for this BMW E30 M3 touring custom that showed up on eBay a few weeks ago.
On the internet, the car looks great, but multiple Jalopnik readers told us that there's more to this this particular Bimmer and its builder, the infamous Vlad. They say he's driven their cars without permission, over-promised on cars and under-delivered.
Are his critics right, or are they just haters who used to lick his balls, as Vlad contends? We talked to the man himself and his legion of detractors.
According to reader testimony, the guy who sold the car (the auction ended June 29, topping out at $45,000) has a less than stellar history as a restorer of BMWs. His name is Vladimir Kravets, and he works at a body repair shop — Young's Collision Service in Maplewood, N.J.
About 95 percent of Vlad's work is comprised of run of the mill insurance repairs, he says, but he also builds custom M cars on the side, for fun. He's pissed off a few BMW enthusiasts and several people in the BMW community have been pretty vocal about bashing his workmanship and crying foul on his business practices.
Here are a few words from Yan, a BMW forum poster who said that not only did Vlad do a crappy job painting his car, he took it to an auto show (the picture above is proof, apparently) against his express wishes. Yan said he told Vlad not to drive it while he was deployed in Afghanistan because it had bad brakes.
I deploy for another quick in and out mission (June-mid August), get back, and to my surprise I see photos of my car at SIGFest (June 24-26) with Vlad in the car! (photos can be seen below) DRIVING MY CAR WITHOUT PERMISSION TO A CAR SHOW!? AND ON BAD REAR BRAKES!!! You can imagine how I felt. I am half way around the world and Vlad is driving my car to a car show.
Then, when he got back and wanted to collect his car, Yan said he got a bunch of excuses about why it wasn't ready. Vlad allegedly lagged. But eventually, he got his car back. One day, Yan said a flatbed driver dropped the car off at his office of all places, bad brakes and all. Yan was not stoked.
When I arrived home, I noticed the paint finish, the runs, the orange peel, [the] sanded off a part of my VIN sticker in the door jam, missing one vin sticker off a fender, overspray on windows, exterior trim, overspray on BLACK BBS RK wheels, and on my DASH!!! The sunroof liner is now sagging, shadow bent as if a roof rack was installed (or maybe swapped our for another e30), electrical tape was used on the bumpers, the Evo bumper gasket was improperly aligned/installed, trunk was misaligned, as were the rear bumper and sunroof.
So I reached out to Vlad to see what he had to say about it. It took a while to find his number — the first two White Pages listings I called were answered by bewildered sounding Russian ladies who didn't seem to have a good grasp of the English language — but someone finally connected me with his shop. Vlad was more than willing to talk about all of this, and said that Yan had originally wanted to go to the show, but couldn't while he was deployed.
"He's a big enthusiast, and I wanted to show off this car so that people he knew could see how beautiful it is," Vlad told me in a classic New Jersey Russian guy accent. "I wasn't trying to hide it, otherwise I wouldn't have put the pictures online. He wasn't pissed when he found out, but some people put him up to it."
Others also complained of professional work-priced, Maaco-quality paint jobs. But who hasn't heard such tales of automotive scumbaggery? Perhaps less talked about is VIN swapping, which is a federal crime.
Several of our readers swear that the donor car for this coupe-to-wagon upgrade has been subject to an illegal VIN replacement, although chapel976 told me that Vlad wasn't the one who actually did the legwork. He allegedly bought it like that, but if you sell a car that you know could be confiscated by the government at any time for $45,000 on eBay, that's shady.
Vlad denies the claim, saying he bought the car from a BMW SCA club member. He said that someone had tried to flag the auction on eBay, but that eBay declined to remove the listing.
"eBay looked at it and didn't take down — the car is completely legit," Vlad said. "All these people are basically haters. No matter what you do or what you say, they twist your words and keep hating. All these guys got nothing to do. Before, they were all licking my balls."
Some of Vlad's detractors also said that his method of grafting M3 fender flares onto a non-M3 body isn't quite kosher. Instead of cutting out the old fenders and welding the new ones in their place, he's been seen welding new fenders right on top of the old ones, which adds extra weight to the car.
Vlad contends that he knows what he's doing, and has been building custom cars for years. He disagrees with chapel976's assertion that he was the one who put in high bids on the car's eBay auction in order to drive up the price. He said that someone put in the $45,000 bid to sabotage the auction, and that he has called his attorney and the FBI to figure out who it is. The proof, he said, is in a forum post by someone bragging about the scam (although what Vlad sees as bragging could be someone suggesting that Vlad was the one who placed the bid).
"It's illegal to mess with an eBay auction," he said, adding that he's not sure if he'll relist the car. "I like it so much, I haven't decided what I'm going to do with it."
Whatever the case is, Vlad's inquisitors are a vocal bunch. Do a quick Google search for "Vlad BMW M3" and you'll see a bunch of posts for "Vlad's House of Horrors" and "Look What Vlad Is Doing!" and the like. But there's also a contingent of forum posters who think enough is enough and that people should stop picking on Vlad, who doesn't even seem to care much about the negative attention anymore.
"I stopped responding to them," he said. "The more I respond, the more they fire back, so I just ignore all the haters."
Photo credit: r3vlimited.com