680whp turbo S54 BMW M3 E46


The E46 M3 is considered by many to be the best M3 ever created – while other incarnations are perhaps more iconic or faster, there’s just something so right about the E46 generation. The S54 is a gem – it sounds glorious, loves to rev and delivers instant response; the chassis is sharp, the whole car feels solid and seriously well-screwed together and it’s the perfect size, too, just right and never feels too fat or wide, allowing you to really enjoy taking it by the scruff of its neck and just driving the living daylights out of it. If you’re a motoring Goldilocks looking for automotive nirvana, the E46 M3 might just be your perfect porridge, chair and bed all rolled into one.

Of course, good as the E46 M3 may be there is still room for improvement; even BMW M’s engineers are restricted by budget and so there’s plenty of scope to take this M3 and make it harder, better, faster, stronger, which is exactly what Ivan Garcia has done and the end result is nothing short of spectacular.

You can tell this build is something special just by looking at it, but you also instantly know there’s going to be a lot more going on beneath the surface and you’d be right. This E46 M3 has a turbo bolted to the side of its S54 making a spectacular 680whp on E85 fuel and, what’s even more impressive, is that this is Ivan’s first BMW. Start as you mean to go on, and all that… More than that, though, this is a special build for Ivan because this is the fulfilment of a lifelong dream to own an E46 M3, but we wager that even in the wildest of those dreams he never pictured himself driving quite such a machine as the one he’s built.

Many California residents would no doubt be shopping for something a little more laid back or perhaps something more American but not Ivan, who always had his heart set on something Bavarian. “I have always been into cars my whole life, and grew up having the E46 M3 as my dream car. The car is so aggressive-looking and has beautiful lines, such a balanced chassis and is such a well-rounded car,” he says and three years ago he made that dream a reality when he picked up his very own E46 M3. “I had a Mitsubishi Evo 9 with basic bolt-ons – intake, exhaust, intercooler, fuel pump, boost controller, coilovers and 400whp and I was ready for something different. I grew up watching videos of turbo M3s built by HPF,” says Ivan, which suggests to us that the idea if building a turbocharged one was always there. With the Evo following on from a modded, 300whp Toyota MR2 Turbo, boost is clearly in his blood and having got a taste for that heady turbo hit we’re not surprised he couldn’t keep away.

“I found the car at a local dealership in Huntington Beach,” Ivan says as we chat about his pride and joy. “The car was bone stock and in great condition with exactly the package i was looking for: six-speed manual, slicktop, lightweight package, no navigation. Racecar,” he laughs and it was the perfect starting point for the project that was to follow.

Ivan wasted no time with his M3 build and got stuck into the mods pretty much straight away, kicking off with chassis and engine upgrades. “Initially when I bought the car I did all the basics: coilovers, headers, full exhaust, intake and Evolve tune. Then I got bitten by the mod bug and had to go full turbo and supporting mods,” he grins and we’ve all been there – modding is a slippery slope but one we’re all too happy to slide down. KW V1 coilovers were the first mod for the E46 and Ivan has dialled-in a seriously nice drop that makes all the difference to the M3’s looks. He couldn’t go too low, mind, because he is running a seriously meaty set of tyres and that means arch space is at a premium. A big-power build like this needs serious rubber to be able to actually use everything at your disposal, and serious rubber demands serious wheels.

“The first wheel choice for me was actually a squared set of Apex Arc-8s, then I got tired of the look and i went for the Volk TE37 RTs for a while, then I went back to the Apex Arc-8 with smaller wheels in the rear and taller tyres for better traction,” explains Ivan and that’s the wheel that we find the M3 wearing today. Apex makes some seriously tough, seriously light wheels built with performance in mind and the Arc-8 is one of the company’s most popular offerings and arguably one of its best-looking, too. Ivan is running 9.5x18s at the front and 10x17s at the rear, which is not the sort of staggered combo we’re used to seeing, but by going for less wheel and more tyre he can maximise traction and he’s not messing about with his tyre choice, either. Up front you’ll find 245/30 Toyo R888Rs while at the back sit fat 275/40 Mickey Thompson ET Street R tyres, designed to deliver maximum traction for big horsepower builds. Now we come to the meat of the build, that turbo. “The turbo install in itself took about five months to have everything figured out and the car tuned to be happy and make good power,” says Ivan. “My plan when starting was to just make a fun turbo street car that I can enjoy and drive like any other car,” and it’s absolutely mission accomplished on that front.

One glance at the spec sheet tells you exactly why the turbo conversion took five months, because one does not simply strap a turbo to their S54 and be done with it – a lot of work goes into a build like this. The engine itself has been bolstered with ARP head studs, rod bolts and WPC treated rod bearings, an important piece of preventative maintenance on an S54 and absolutely essential on a turbo build. The turbo setup itself uses a Precision 6766 Journal Bearing turbo rated for 935hp – which gives Ivan some headroom – mounted on an NFA (more about them later) manifold, with a Turbosmart wastegate and 50mm Tial BOV, and a 4” NFA turbo-back custom one-off exhaust system. The turbo breathes through a 4” NFA intake with air passing through a custom 4.5” NFA intercooler with custom piping and into the engine where it’s fed delicious E85 by a suitably serious fuel system. We begin with a single in-tank Walbro 450lph fuel pump, which sends fuel into a Radium Engineering surge tank where a further two Walbro 450s live and feed the massive FIC 1100cc injectors under the bonnet.

Hardware will only get you so far, though, and then it’s up to the software to make sure you’re making the most of what you’ve got and Ivan is running some seriously impressive computing power on-board this build. An AEM Infinity 8 standalone ECU oversees everything that’s going on under the bonnet and it has more than a few tricks up its sleeve: there’s two-step and traction control, flex fuel, four different boost maps, rolling anti-lag and a no-lift-shift system, which all adds up to make this machine absolutely insane. “The rolling anti-lag means it can build boost from a roll and slingshot, it’s crazy-fun!” grins Ivan. “With the two-step it spits flames and the flat shift system holds boost between gears so I can keep up with all these DCT cars,” he laughs and that’s something he has no problem doing considering how much power this car is making. As we mentioned earlier, on E85 this M3 makes 680whp but not every day is an E85 kind of day and, when Ivan can only get hold of 91 octane gas, he has to make do with just 480whp – we’re honestly not sure how he copes… Of course, serious engine mods are only a small part of the equation and you need to make sure everything down from the engine can cope with your newfound power and torque outputs. This M3 is running a one-piece chromoly propshaft, Driveshaft Shop axles, an OS Giken LSD, full aluminium diff bushes and 3.62 gearing. Going fast is one thing but you also need to make sure you’re able to stop just as fast and that’s why Ivan has fitted a StopTech BBK up front running snazzy blue four-pot calipers clamping 355mm two-piece discs.

Of course, a build like this can’t be all work and no play and so Ivan has also turned his attention to the exterior styling and interior appointments and while he says he’s kept things simple there’s still plenty to enjoy here. What you’re likely to notice first of all on the outside is that ultra-aggressive GTR-style vented bonnet, which looks awesome, and then there’s the CSL carbon boot lid, LED rear lights and carbon rear diffuser, all of which combine to make sure you know that this M3 means business. Inside, meanwhile, Ivan has given his M3 a road-racer flavour, leaving it nicely-appointed but adding an element of the hardcore to the cabin. Both driver and passenger get to enjoy Sparco Fighter bucket seats and then there’s the angular and intimidating Carbontastic carbon fibre steering wheel, CSL carbon fibre centre console and shorter ZHP gear knob which is connected to an Autosolutions 30% reduction short-shift kit.

Ivan’s M3 is an absolute monster machine and this is a serious build. He has paid attention to every aspect of the build and has cut no corners at any stage. “My main shop that does all the work for my car is NFA in Rancho Cucamonga, California and NFA stands for No F****n’ Around! It is exactly that, no f****n’ around; when we plan to decide to do a modification on the car it is the best of the best and we do not mess around – if I cannot afford it at the moment then I will wait and save for it but the car has the best of the best everything,” says Ivan. Despite that, he’s not finished with the build just yet. “The next thing that will be done on the car will be some aero to make sure it is balanced and a motor build in the near future,” he says, which answers the question what do you do after building a 680whp turbo E46 M3: you make it faster, of course. Ivan is truly living the dream with his turbocharged monster M3 and it really doesn’t get much better than that.

DATA FILE Turbo E46 M3

ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six S54B32, ARP head bolts and studs, WPC treated rod bearings, Precision 6766 Journal Bearing turbo, 4” NFA intake, 4” custom NFA turbo-back exhaust system, Turbosmart wastegate, Tial 50mm BOV, custom 4.5” NFA intercooler with custom piping, FSR intake manifold, Walbro 450lph in-tank fuel pump, Radium Engineering surge tank with twin Walbro 450lph in-tank pumps, full hardlines, FIC 1100cc injectors, NGK Iridium spark plugs, AEM Infinity 8 standalone ECU with two-step and traction control, rolling anti-lag and no-lift-shift. Getrag Type-D six-speed manual gearbox, Autosolutions 30% reduction short-shift kit, Driveshaft Shop one-piece Chromoly propshaft, Driveshaft Shop axles, OS Giken LSD, full aluminium diff bushes, BMW Motorsport 3.62 gearing

POWER E85: 680whp, 91 Octane: 480whp

CHASSIS 9.5×18” (front) and 10×17” (rear) Apex Arc-8 wheels with 245/30 Toyo R888R (front) and 275/40 Mickey Thompson ET Street R (rear) tyres, stud kit, neo chrome wheel nuts, KW V1 coilovers, StopTech BBK with four-pot calipers and 355x32mm two-piece discs (front)

EXTERIOR GTR-style vented bonnet, black grilles, CSL carbon fibre boot lid, LED rear lights, carbon fibre diffuser

INTERIOR Sparco Fighter seats, Carbontastic carbon fibre steering wheel, CSL carbon fibre centre console, full LED interior lighting, ZHP leather gear knob


A huge thank-you to my shop owners and great friends from The NFA Garage, Jason Magana and Adam. They have always been very welcoming and friendly, they are very fast and have great quality work, they always help me find the best mods for my car, and the car has proven to work and actually broke the standing half-mile record for a stock block E46 M3 at 174.22mph. I also want to thank Steve and Robert at European Auto Source in Anaheim, California – since I got the car in 2013 EAS has helped me get any parts I need the same day and have always had the best customer service and are always willing to help. Also I would like to thank Eric and Aaron at FSR Motorsports for helping me first turbo my car and allowing me to dyno tune at their beautiful shop. Last but not least the master tuner behind it all, my good friend Ian. He is a great tuner and is a great person; anytime I need help with anything he is ready to remote tune at all times and is just an email away! Anyone else that I did not mention thank you for being involved in the project and we are just getting started!

“The turbo setup itself uses a Precision 6766 Journal Bearing turbo rated for 935hp – which gives Ivan some headroom”

“Both driver and passenger get to enjoy Sparco Fighter bucket seats and then there’s the angular and intimidating Carbontastic carbon fibre steering wheel, CSL carbon fibre centre console and shorter ZHP gear knob”

Turbo S54 makes 680whp on E85. FSR intake manifold. 18s up front, 17s at the rear with fatter tyres for more traction. Carbontastic carbon fibre steering wheel. Sparco Fighter seats for driver and passenger Rear seats have been removed.

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Jean-Claude Landry
Jean-Claude is the Senior Editor at eManualOnline.com, Drive-My.com and Garagespot.com, and webmaster of TheMechanicDoctor.com. He has been a certified auto mechanic for the last 15 years, working for various car dealers and specialized repair shops. He turned towards blogging about cars and EVs in the hope of helping and inspiring the next generation of automotive technicians. He also loves cats, Johnny Cash and Subarus.