Breaking Records with the Solo Motorsports 624HP Time Attack BMW 135i

by Erik Jacobs


Solo Motorsports brothers, Harold and Tony Marulanda, have been in the automotive scene in Atlanta since the mid-'90s, and have always been car freaks. They learned the trade from their dad and uncle, who used to own German and muscle cars. Like many performance shops, this one also has humble beginnings. It all started in Tony and Harold’s garage at home in the Atlanta area. Through a set of random circumstances (aren’t they all), Tony and Harold were introduced to now-partner Boris Jovanovic. At the time, Boris’ car had some less than quality work done by another area shop, and Boris was looking to right the wrongs.

The relationship grew more business-like, and Tony and Harold ended up doing so much work out of their Dunwoody garage that someone called the city to complain. The line of cars in the driveway was a little more than the neighbors could bear. At this point, the trio knew they needed to make a change. Boris had experience running front-office operations for a trucking business that he was involved in, and Tony and Harold had the time on the wrenches. They thought it was worth a gamble, and so they went all in, seting up a small shop in Lawrenceville, GA in 2003.


Solo Motorsports 135i / Tony Fuentes / Global Time Attack Road Atlanta 2017

Boris, Tony and Harold would continue to work day jobs, while trying to run the evolving and growing shop during the evenings and weekends. 7PM-4AM thrashes at the Lawrenceville location were not unheard of. Over the course of a few years, they managed to put a decent book of business together, and realized that they could continue to grow.

They moved onto Pleasantdale Rd. in Norcross, to a location where they had a single bay of an automotive complex. The location was less than ideal, and the shop was not really on a main road, but it offered room for growth. While Solo has demonstrated that they can do the performance work, maintenance had been and continues to be their bread and butter. It’s hard to run a maintenance shop that’s hidden.


Solo Motorsports 135i / Tony Fuentes / Global Time Attack Road Atlanta 2017

The one bay outfit eventually grew to two bays, then three. Their hard work seemed to be paying off, and the first three years of taking no salary and working two jobs looked like it was worth it. Finally, they tried to get the landlord to lease them the entire block of bays, but the landlord had no place else to go and politely refused. With a need for more space and to continue growing, Solo decided to make a move to yet another different location.

This new location, right off Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross, gave them the very visible frontage that they wanted, while offering a large number of double-deep bays to do the work in. In fact, things have continued to go well enough that Solo has opened a second location in John’s Creek, GA. This new new location in John’s Creek has been open almost 1.5 years, and it handles maintenance work, while the JCB location is where the performance work gets done. The JCB location, too, does mostly maintenance, but you can usually find a car on the four-wheel Mustang dynamometer or getting some kind of performance upgrade. Solo continues to focus on German automobiles, with the majority of the things sitting in the lot being BMW, Audi, and the occasional Mercedes.


Solo Motorsports' Jimmy Carter Boulevard location

So how did their E82-chassis 135i come into the picture? Solo Motorsports had tried to enter into an arrangement with a turbocharger company to produce upgraded components for the N54’s twin-turbo plumbing. Solo purchased the car, but the arrangement didn’t work out, and they were left holding the bag of German bits. What to do? Enter Tony Fuentes.

Tony Fuentes is the wheelman (or one of them) at Solo Motorsports, in addition to being a general and alignment tech at the shop. He has a long history of winning things. Born in Anaheim, CA and originally from Cypress, Tony F. came to Atlanta looking for a change of scenery. He also brought a network and potential sponsors into the picture when he came to town. The ATL car scene may not be Los Angeles’, but it is still a thriving community serving all different niches. It’s also small, in the grand scheme of things, so one connection lead to another and soon Tony F. and the guys at Solo Motorsports got to know one another.

While maintenance is how the shop earns its keep, reputations are built and solidified on the track. Solo has had a number of race cars throughout the years, and with Fuentes' driving prowess, Solo’s technical capabilities, and a willing chassis in the 135i, the four gentlemen decided to give it a go, with time trials as the target venue. And, give it a go they have, with numerous track records and even more wins in the Global Time Attack series.

Page 1 of 13 Next Page
Posted in: Feature Vehicles
Bookmark and Share
Monday, June 26, 2017 11:50 AM
Nice build, although it is a bit puzzling that they went with a top mount single turbo kit like the DOC race kit instead of a bottom mount one like the Motiv. Can't imagine the heat from the manifold and turbo is good for the plastic valve cover and the sub-par valve cover gasket on these cars.
Monday, June 26, 2017 2:23 PM
I like it. A little rough around the edges, but a no frills grassroots build with a go-fast goal. And it works. Though 1 exhaust tip is lighter than 2.

Monday, June 26, 2017 7:12 PM
Nice build!
Monday, June 26, 2017 7:15 PM
whats the point of helper springs if you're just gonna leave them dangling around?
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 12:12 AM
Those helper springs are looking pretty useless if its not supporting anything at full droop.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 7:36 AM
Wow, I hate to join the bandwagon, but that Front Suspension is on another level of not setup correctly. Seriously, get a longer tender spring, it shouldn't cost much. I can't imagine the amount of noise that makes when you hit a bump in the corner.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 7:47 AM
"They feature a 40mm piston, but in the case of the 135i, there is not much in the way of compression stroke. This has caused the Solo team some headache, and they may be making a change in the future."

Wait, let me tell you from that pic, you are using up all the compression because the springs aren't setup properly and you have 'zero preload' on the spring. That's why you're having problems. Fix, that and then you won't have to get new $4000 coilovers!

Sometimes, it's the simple stuff.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 11:53 AM
Yea, looking at it again ginsu is right. Just start with adding some preload! Jesus. Look at the bump stops on the front! Whoever setup the suspension should be fired. The rear tender looks to be in good shape but again not even remotely setup with any preload. The front helper looks to be sagging. These guys have been riding on bumpstop probably this whole time.

That would be shame if this would've been another case of "oh nitron sucks, what a waste of soo much moneyy blah blah blah...go buy ohlinsssss" how about you set it up properly instead! Some idiot race team did this not too long ago with some motons and bad mouthed the whole company over m3forums and all the while had zero idea it wasn't even remotely setup. They had the both the compression and rebound set to full stiff and zero preload like this and complaining about how it handles like shit... Then had the nerve to have fatkats motorsport test them to see if there was something wrong, and on top of that, those idiots didn't have the nerve or understanding to ask the guys how it was setup in the first place.

I hope you go back to these guys and tell them to fix that before they go complaining about how Nitron is garbage. I bet those endlinks aren't setup right either.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 12:13 PM
And why aren't the rear endlinks adjustable either! There is no excuse for that! They 0completely changed the geometry of the suspension and still have factory length endlinks on the rear? How's that working well? Nevermimd any associated weight jacking.

Their global time attack competitives is all the more impressive with these issues. I'm going to go out on a limb to say they are leaving a full second on the table given this suspension setup.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 5:16 PM
Alright, after looking over this again, it seems that the car is is in mid setup changes as i noticed there were a few screws loose beyond just the spring perches. Either way, this doesn't make for a good look to have photos of the car in this state without making note of it. And it also doesn't explain why they are having there current issue.

"There is not much in the way of compression stroke. This has caused the Solo team some headache, and they may be making a change in the future."

If this was actually an issue with the car properly setup, then i guess calling foul on the suspension is justified. But if the car was driven as it currently sits in the photos, then the "headaches" are warranted due to the bad setup.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 7:20 PM
I think someone at Solo is hiding in shame right now. But they shouldn't be scared off, I mean, we all make mistakes, trust me. But, it's a real opportunity to become a 'suspension wiz'...because there's only so many things that can go wrong with setup, it's not that complicated.

I looked up the Nitron R1 Coilovers, and they are some seriously nice pieces of kit, HANDMADE IN THE UK! So, I sincerely doubt there is a problem with the coilover. If you are still considering 'getting rid of them' please, let me know first!
Monday, July 03, 2017 4:26 PM
I asked Solo on Facebook what the issue was last Thursday and didn't get a reply back. This just seems sketchy to me that they are advertising custom work and bespoke tuning services and to see this without explanation. To be honest the whole build is a bit sketchy. Beyond the suspension there are a few other red flags like that jagged edges on the body work modifications and strut towers. That to me is just unacceptable.
Monday, July 03, 2017 5:26 PM
Well, I thought they would chime in about now. I guess they don't care about how their business looks.

Honestly, if I was running a legit shop, I would've personally answered for these mistakes by now. They are simple enough. Every piece of exposure on the web is an opportunity to show your knowledge and skills, and you can take it or leave it. By leaving this thread unanswered, you are doing your business a serious disservice.

Solo, is both ignoring the chance to improve their customer experience, and the opportunity to advertise their excellence. It's a shame they declined to do both.

Another sad aspect, is that this type of automotive journalism may not be allowed in the future, as shops don't want their 'prying eyes' exposing shoddy worksmanship. But, IMO, this is the underlying problem. The people that run Solo simply don't care, and we saw that in the pictures, and we see that behavior again by leaving this thread unanswered.
Monday, July 03, 2017 5:31 PM
I doubt they are checking this thread, but i posted a comment directly to their FB account and didn't get a reply either. I really don't want to heckle them anymore, purely because i don't care that much and they aren't event remote to me. I just don't llike the idea of Nitron's name to be tarnished for poor reasons.
Monday, July 03, 2017 5:55 PM
Last update, they did get back to me just now and Tony will be following up when he can.

Problem solved.
Thursday, July 06, 2017 3:29 PM
Haha wow, aggressive guys.

As far as i can tell this is not a customer car so I wasn't going to get after them.

The no adjustable endlinks was a real head scratch though. Not being able to properly corner weight means pretty much throwing darts for a lot of other tuning.
Friday, July 07, 2017 6:01 PM
It being a customer car or not doesn't mean much. At the end of the day, it's a showcase of the work they do. Someone at Solo responded to me (not Tony) saying they were aware of "whatever issue" but no details on the matter. They have the upmost confidence in the cars capabilities, so i doubt they are seriously concerned.

But it's hard to let a complaint like that slip through the cracks with glaring issues surrounding it. If what we see really isn't a actual problem, then it should have been stated by someone by now. Erik, Tony or anyone else at Solo has clarified it yet. We know forsure Erik is working on his own stuff, but we can't attest for what Solo is doing.

Someone can easily take this issue and go out and make criticisms about Solo all over the internet and racing communities and tarnish their name. Even if it doesn't make any difference to them, it can still spread. It has happened before with several tuners and companies.
Monday, July 10, 2017 8:48 PM
I love all the enthusiasm around this article. Thanks for all of the comments and your concerns. Let me take a moment to clarify a few things.

In the context of writing for MotoIQ and these types of features, I am a journalist. The job of a journalist is to report on the facts. I try to be pretty matter-of-fact when it comes to feature cars, and minimize my opinions unless I have a clear nit to pick. For example, my comments on the location of the exterior fire system pull, electrical cut-off, and so forth. And, even when I do have an opinion, I try to be respectful of the builder in the grand scheme of things.

As it specifically relates to the suspension setup in question, I paid Solo Motorsports professional courtesy and let them know that people were concerned and had comments. But I do not have any responsibility to speak on Solo's behalf or to clear up questions about the suspension setup for them. It is not really my place to chase those things down.

When it comes to misrepresenting the facts, it is my job to retract, edit, apologize, and update. I have done these things before, and I will continue to do so. I'm not perfect, and I get things wrong on occasion. I try to make those occasions happen less and less often.

I know that doesn't give people the answers they are looking for, but hopefully it helps people understand why I am not trying to get involved outside of notifying the builder/owner.

And, no matter what, thanks again for being great and dedicated readers.
Monday, July 10, 2017 9:48 PM
well one thing you can attest to is whether or not they were in the middle of suspension changes as you were documenting the car?

If they lifted the car and showed you the car as is. Then the problem falls directly on their door step and know one else. That is the only question that needs to be answered.

Was this car documented "as is" or among further development and changes. If it was the later, we can dismiss any foul claims. But you took these pictures, most likely submitted them to solo for review and they gave the ok without making notifications of glaring problems. None of this is your fault, you took the notes and made good observations as is and didn't over blow or falsify anything they claimed to what we know.

The person i spoke to on FB said Tony was in control of chassis and suspension along with driving. He has yet to get back to anyone. If he hasn't spoken to you. Then this clearly isn't of much importance to him. But throwing Nitron under the bus with the glaringly improper setup needs to be resolved.
Post Comment Login or register to post a comment.

MotoIQ Proudly Presents Our Partners:

© 2018 MotoIQ.com