Circuit Breaker Hardcore E46 M3 track car. Transformed from stock E46/2 into a full-on track beast, this M3 is a sublime hardcore machine. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Emma Woodcock.
HARDCORE E46 M3 Full-on, stripped-out track monster / BMW 3 Series Coupe E46/2
The E46 M3 is an awesome machine, the entire BMW world is in agreement about that, and if you’ve always fancied one now is an excellent time to buy. It might not be the best time as they have been a whisker cheaper in the past but, with price starting at around £6500, you’re getting a hell of a lot of M car for your money. It’s also worth noting that the E46 M3 is rapidly approaching the point in its life where it becomes a collector’s item and prices are only going to climb from here on out, In fact, they already have. You could buy Scott Bonsor’s awesome track-prepped E46 M3, for example, but someone else has already beaten you to the punch, in-between our photo shoot and the feature in fact. That makes this a tale of one car and two owners; one has enjoyed an incredible three-and-a-half year adventure with it and the other who is just starting out on his journey with it. While there might be 17 years separating Scott and the car’s new owner, Harry Hooban, the undeniable and irresistible appeal of the E46 M3 is able to span generations with ease. We reckon this might be one of the happiest M3s about because, you see, Scott really knows what he’s doing behind the wheel of a car and that means he could really drive it properly and enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed. Scott earns his crust as a supercar instructor for Everyman Racing driving experiences and that means he has to be pretty handy behind the wheel of some seriously fast machinery on track and we reckon that might be one of the coolest jobs about.
While he gets to drive lots of exciting exotic machinery for his job, it’s BMWs that get his blood pumping in his spare time and he has been a huge fan of the Bavarian brand for a while now. “I’ve been interested in BMWs for 12 years. My mate is a BMW technician and he purchased an E36 328i; after I had been out in it I fell in love with them and wanted one myself,” says Scott with a smile. “My first BMW was an E36 328i Sport as I couldn’t get insurance on a M3 at the time because of my age (25),” he says but that didn’t stop him from modding his E36, and in a big way. “This is when I met Roy at CA Automotive. The car was supercharged using an ASA kit and a lot of work was done to the car and it was featured in the March 2007 issue of Performance BMW,” so Scott has the rare privilege of having two PBMW features in his lifetime, which is something to be proud of.
Having originally wanted an M3 it was only going to be a matter of time before Scott would get his hands on one, though almost 10 years passed before he finally bought the one you see before you. “I always liked the look of the E46 M3 and always wanted one. This one was a lower spec than I wanted but it only had 42,000 miles on the clock when I purchased it. It was completely standard and my intention was a few subtle changes, and a few retrofit items such as navigation, but nothing like how it looks now,” laughs Scott and the ensuing three-and-a-half years have resulted in him building a spectacular track-focused machine.
Scott’s first mods were a set of CSL-style wheels and a CSL carbon fibre diffuser, both M3 staples that look great, before he set about lowering the car with a set of Intrax springs and added a Strassentech front splitter as well as ditching the car’s chrome grilles and replacing them with black items, all of which got his M3 project off the ground nicely. With his car now looking decidedly sharper than stock, Scott turned his attention to the S54 and began to hunt for more power.
“Originally I fitted an Evolve Eventuri intake but wanted more and I didn’t want to follow the norm of the CSL air box so, after numerous conversations with Pete Sidwell, owner of PSDesigns, after having seen his E46 M3 in Performance BMW, I went for his velocity stacks. The stacks were painted Phoenix yellow as I was going to replace the brakes with BMW Performance ones so wanted the stacks to match and have a colour scheme. An AC Schnitzer back box was fitted along with a de-cat pipe and the secondary air pump was deleted so that I could fit the oil catch tank in its place. Once the stacks were ordered from Pete, the car was taken to “The Works” so that my mate Podge (Ian Sutton), who did all the mechanical work on the car, could fit the parts for me up on the ramp,” says Scott. “I ran the car for a few months using Alpha-N before I had a custom map done by Frank at TTFS in America. The map was a remote one so Pete supplied the relevant software and cable,” he explains. It took a couple of goes before the perfect custom map was put together for Scott’s car and it also brought with it the removal of the top speed limiter, the addition of sport button memory and the burble pop for enhanced aural satisfaction. “After speaking to Roy about his old supercharged M3 I decided to add some cooling to the engine cover to cool the coil packs as they are prone to fail,” Scott continues. “Roy cut the hole in the cover for me and supplied the ducting for the cold air feed. A Moroso aluminium header tank was also fitted as the OEM plastic ones are prone to cracking,” and that rounds off a seriously comprehensive selection of performance mods. The velocity stacks look spectacular and the Phoenix yellow colour-coding of both those and the engine cover adds a touch of under-bonnet flare while the headlight-fed coil pack cooling setup looks suitably racy.
With the engine sorted, Scott turned his attention to the chassis because, capable as it is, there is certainly room for improvement and he had lots planned aside from that BBK. “Subframe reinforcement plates were fitted when I first purchased the car to prevent the rear floor from cracking. At the same time as fitting the Intrax springs a set of Rogue Engineering rear shock mounts were fitted along with Rogue Engineering transmission mounts and Powerflex bushes all-round. As the car was lower, I replaced the original plastic under tray for an aluminium Motion Motorsport one,” says Scott, “and BMW Performance 135i calipers and E46 CSL discs were fitted with custom brackets and braided brake pipes.” The CSL-style wheels he originally fitted have remained on the car and that’s not surprising as they look so good and they sit on an 80mm titanium stud kit with 15mm Bimecc spacers up front for a more aggressive fitment.
Despite how the car looks now, it was not Scott’s original plan to turn his M3 into a track machine and so his initial interior mods revolved around retro-fitting some nice options that his bare-bones M3 was missing. “The car came with a basic Business radio so I purchased the retrofit navigation loom and all the parts to fit OEM navigation, Bluetooth and digital TV with the help of forum member ccfj1 on M3cutters,” he says. “Then I managed to get hold of the electric blind and spoke to ccfj1 again who made the wiring up for me and sourced the full switch panel,” which added a nice couple of options to the E46 M3 but then Scott decided he wanted to change things around rather drastically.
“Towards the end of 2016 I decided to convert the car to road/track use,” he says, and so began the process of stripping out the entire interior. “The interior is a combination of CSL parts and I wanted to go with the theme of the M4 GTS with the stripped-out rear. The interior had to be comfortable but I also wanted the track car look,” he explains. “The front door cards were replaced with some GRP gloss black CSL-style inserts and I fitted a Status Gruppe carbon CSL centre console with the mirror controls moved from the door to the console, with extended wires running behind the dash. The interior was stripped-out so that SW Motorsports could fit a bolt-in rear cage and the rear panels were cut and retrimmed in black carpet to go around it. This was a very time-consuming job and took a lot of trimming and cutting to get it to look neat around the cage. The cage was firstly powder coated in yellow and then painted in Phoenix yellow to match the car’s colour scheme. The original B-pillar trims were retrimmed in black carpet to hide the holes that the seat belts came through. The rear seats were removed and a rear seat-delete was fitted using 8mm plywood covered in black carpet and aluminium finishers painted black to finish the edges of the carpet as a similar design to the M4 GTS interior. To finish it off, a PSDesigns M4 GTS-style fire extinguisher bracket was fitted,” says Scott.
“The original seats were replaced with a pair of Cobra Imola Pro bucket seats mounted on VAC Motorsports plates. Speaking to Roy at CA Automotive I decided to go for the Schroth ASM Autocontrol harnesses, as they are ideal on the track and on the road as they work similar to a seat belt system, allowing you to move forward freely to reach the radio and heater buttons.” In addition to all that, the steering wheel was retrimmed in Alcantara with yellow stitching and both the gear and handbrake gaiters were replaced with Alcantara items with yellow stitching to match. A Storm Motorwerks titanium handbrake and sat nav buttons were added along with a pair of Hard Motorsport RS-style door pulls in order to achieve the track car look while the final interior element that has been added is an RTD mini non-locking shifter. That’s a hell of a lot of interior work and the results speak for themselves, with Scott’s cabin looking impressively hardcore. Everything just looks so well-done and there’s so much attention to detail in here, it’s seriously impressive.
Finally, we come to Scott’s exterior mods, because no self-respecting E46 M3 track car is going to turn up to a track day looking stock, and while Scott had already applied that CSL diffuser and Strassentech lip, there was plenty more to come. “Another subtle mod I did was add some E90 puddle lights to the door handles, and then I managed to find an OEM CSL boot lid for sale on M3cutters. I couldn’t make my mind up if I liked the Strassentech splitter so I spoke to Roy at CA Automotive and a replica CSL bumper was ordered. As I was going for a tracklook car, a pair of PSDesigns headlight carbon cooling ducts were added, one for extra cooling to the stacks and one for the coil pack cooling,” says Scott. “Going with the track-look, AGT side skirt extensions were fitted in gloss black along with gloss black mirrors. To finish off the exterior, a Geoff Steel Racing carbon roof was fitted by Rob at Autobahn servicing. Originally I purchased some aluminium N15 Design vents to fit to my standard bonnet, but after putting a wanted ad on M3cutters a carbon Seibon GSR bonnet was purchased and fitted which was in Titan silver already,” and it’s the finishing touch on an extremely tasty line-up of exterior additions. Scott’s M3 strikes the perfect balance of measured aggression; this is not a subtle or shy car by any means but it’s not completely outrageous either, and the overall effect is one of enhanced muscle without being too excessive and we think it looks fantastic.
“As I was going for a track-look car, a pair of PSDesigns headlight carbon cooling ducts were added, one for extra cooling to the stacks and one for the coil pack cooling”
Normally at this point we’d touch on the owner’s future plans for his car but, as we know, there’s no point doing that as Scott has sold his M3 so, instead we turn our attention to new owner, Harry. “I’m 20 years old and I am starting university this year in Nottingham, studying business management, finance and accounting,” he begins. “I have been involved with cars and motorsport pretty much all my life, things like competitive karting, working as a supercar driving instructor and racing in the Classic Sports Car Club. I had seen the car before as Scott worked for the same company I used to. I remember we finished work one evening and headed to the pub; at the time I had a 2014 Fiesta ST and Scott was in his M3. We got talking about how he was debating selling it as he doesn’t use it that often so I thought okay, this could be the car for me. I told him I was very interested and the next day I called an insurance company to see how much it would be and although it was very pricey I thought why not? So I had it off Scott and gave him my ST,” he smiles and this is one hell of a car to be driving around in at just 20.
“The car is unlike anything I have driven before. The sound from the straight-six is pure bliss as it screams its way to 8000rpm and the feel you get through the wheel is truly unique. I am fairly unsure what to do for future plans as I am still taking in its brutality. A track day is for sure on the calendar at some point when I get time in between my studies, but for now I am just enjoying every moment of it,” he grins and we can imagine he’s going to have an amazing time with this car. As for what the future holds for this M3, who knows, but one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be enjoyed and driven properly and that’s the most important thing.
DATA FILE Track BMW M3 E46
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six S54B32, PSDesigns velocity stacks painted Phoenix yellow, ITG sock filters, RamAir idle control valve filter, custom carbon fibre heat shield and air temp bracket, custom oil catch tank and carbon bracket, Hack Engineering secondary air pump delete kit, TTFS custom map, PSDesigns carbon Kevlar front air scoop, engine cover painted Phoenix yellow with cooling for coil packs, custom M badge on engine cover, Rogue Engineering coolant line, Hack Engineering gold Vanos oil line, Hack Engineering option 3 power steering braided lines with push-on fittings, Moroso aluminium header tank, polished aluminium oil filter cover, stainless steel de-cat pipe, AC Schnitzer back box. Getrag Type D six-speed manual gearbox, RTD mini non-locking shifter, Rogue Engineering transmission mounts
CHASSIS 8.5x19” ET40 (front) and 9.5x19” ET27 (rear) CSL-style wheels in Hyper silver with 225/40 (front) and 255/35 (rear) tyres, 80mm titanium stud kit, Bimecc 15mm spacers, Intrax lowering springs, Powerflex bushes, Rogue engineering rear shock mounts, PSDesigns subframe reinforcement kit, Motion Motorsport aluminium undertray, BMW Performance 135i six-piston brake calipers with 135i brake pads and CSL discs (front), Goodridge braided brake lines (front and rear)
EXTERIOR Titan silver, CSL replica front bumper with carbon splitters, PSDesigns carbon fibre headlight cooling ducts, CCFL angel eyes, Seibon carbon GSR vented bonnet, black side grilles, gloss black mirrors, A.G.T. Styling side sill extensions painted gloss black, E90 puddle lights in door handles, Geoff Steel Racing carbon roof, OEM CSL roof trims, OEM CSL boot lid, CSL-style rear diffuser with exposed carbon, LED lights all-round, custom monochrome and Phoenix yellow M badges all-round, carbon fibre bonnet and boot roundels, motorsport tow hooks
INTERIOR Cobra Imola Pro Series fixed bucket seats, Recaro universal seat runners, Cobra side mounts, Schroth ASM Autocontrol II harnesses, VAC Motorsport floor mounts and lap belt brackets, Status Gruppe carbon CSL console, mirror switch moved to CSL console, CSL-style front door card inserts, SW Motorsport bolt-in rear cage painted Phoenix yellow, CSL-style rear quarter inserts covered in black carpet, rear seat side bolsters modified to fit around cage, GTS-style rear seat-delete covered in black carpet and aluminium finisher trims, boot release switch in driver’s footwell, aluminium foot pedals and foot rest with custom M badges, PSDesigns M4 GTS-style fire extinguisher bracket and 2kg fire extinguisher, Hard Motorsport RS-style door pulls, custom sill entry plates with monochrome and Phoenix yellow M stripes, re-trimmed steering wheel in Alcantara with yellow stitching and yellow stripe at 12 o’clock, carbon fibre steering wheel badge, monochrome and Phoenix yellow steering wheel M badge, Storm Motorwerks titanium handbrake handle, handbrake and gear gaiters in Alcantara with yellow stitching, M3 logo floor mats, electric rear blind retrofit, Storm Motorwerks titanium sat nav knobs, LED interior lights, facelift heater panel, OEM sat nav retro fit with updated firmware, M logo splash screen, amber night mode, OEM Bluetooth retrofit, BM54 Stage 2 upgrade, digital TV tuner retrofit, Kenwood KFC-WDA69RC 6x9” speakers in HK baskets, Focal speakers
THANKS I’d like to thank Roy at CA Automotive, Pete Sidwell at PSDesigns, Frank at TTFS, Martin Holland at MS Motorsport, Jack at Royal Steering Wheels, Ben Koflach at Hack Engineering, Shaun Woods at SW Motorsport, Steve Taylor (M3cutters) for the custom badges, Teddy at SSDD Motorsport, Geoff Steel Racing, Rob Meredith and Andy Marston at Autobahn Servicing for various work, Podge (Ian Sutton) for fitting most of the parts on the car and Rich The Works BMW and Mini specialist for the use of his workshop and ramp
“The interior is a combination of CSL parts and I wanted to go with the theme of the M4 GTS with the stripped-out rear. The interior had to be comfortable but I also wanted the track car look”
One seriously purposeful front-end. Moroso aluminium header tank. CSL boot lid and CSL-style diffuser. Custom-trimmed steering wheel. Headlight intakes cool the coil packs and feed the stacks with air.