After seeing the M3 GTS I decided that I could probably build my own unique version and the cage in the GTS was not only very aesthetically pleasing to look at but also was very functional. And after one of my first track days with an instructor, he did say that I should probably invest in a roll-cage.
I didn’t really want to go the full hog as this was supposed to be my road/track car, so I started looking into the same half-cage rollover hoop that the GTS runs. The first problem was the price – it’s astronomical. Not only that but I knew that if I took the car off the road for a roll-cage then I would then probably miss most of a season of track driving and I had only just got the car to where I wanted it to be from a setup perspective. So I decided that I would wait to the end of 2015 until I took the car off the road.
This meant that I had some time to do my research, calling up all the big companies in an attempt to try and feel them out and see how good, reliable and honest they were. It seems that if I’m not driving the car, I’m researching what to do to it next! My investigations revealed that still being relatively new and quite an expensive car, the E92 was not so popular with many companies. A lot of them wanted to take the job on but I was either going to be the guinea pig for them or, as it turned out, a lot of them sent the cage work off to one of the usual cage manufacturers and just added their margin on top. I didn’t want that; I wanted to be in complete control of the project. This meant dealing direct with whoever was going to do the work.
In the end I realised that I had to go for a full FIA T45 multi-point cage. This again was a problem due to the fact that I wanted to keep the original pedalbox, ABS, all the wiring loom and many of the other standard features.
Most of the companies offering the cage fitting service only did this on proper race cars, which had none of these items. The more I investigated, the more I realised it was not going to be easy finding someone who could do it the way I wanted. I was even more worried to read horror stories about people cutting through wires in the wiring loom and then never being able to start the car again! More research later and I found a company in Germany that could offer a Pectel standalone ECU and loom, but for a hefty £12,000 – all so I could fit a cage. The project was spiralling out of control and was completely unrealistic.
I needed someone who could do the work and keep the original loom. This again became problematic when it came to wanting the full FIA multipoint cage as the fitting is so involved and requires some of the items that I want to keep to be junked to fit it.
I made numerous phone calls to different companies up and down the country and also in Germany and I was almost at the point where the only way of achieving what I wanted was to buy a cage and fit it myself with the help of my friend Dave and his trusty MIG welder. I happened to mention my intentions to one of my friends and he told me that I was crazy to attempt MIG welding a cage into a car of this calibre. Despondent that I would never get what I really wanted, I continued my research and discovered that it really did needed to be TIG welded to be of use. Fortunately this research also brought to light a UK company that I felt could give me everything that I wanted. However, to start with, they told me that the car would have to be stripped bare, including all of the wiring loom, and I’d even have to remove the engine. I didn’t really want to go down this route for the reasons already mentioned and told them I would have to back out if they insisted on this, as the engine and loom had to remain in situ to ensure that I would have no issues when it came to putting it all back together. After some considerable persuasion, they agreed to do it if the car was absolutely gutted of its entire interior, including all the glass, bonnet and doors.
With a plan in hand, Dave and I set about stripping the whole of the car back to a bare shell on the inside and, as you can see from the photos, we took the opportunity to remove all of the sound deadening, which had the added benefit of removing quite a bit of weight out of the car to compensate for the addition of the cage. While we were at it, we noticed that the rear shelf was just dead weight and as I had (in my hundreds of hours of research) seen the parcel shelf removed on other cars, it was consigned to the pile marked ‘scrap’.
At the same time, the loom (which must weigh in excess of 30kg) was gathered up and rolled into a ball as far forward and centrally as possible to enable the cage to be fitted without causing any damage to it. With all the glass removed I sent the car off in November 2015 and was told it would be ready in two weeks. Two weeks later I had a phone call saying it would be another two weeks, which then turned into another two weeks. I was starting to get a little worried. It turned out that a few promises made by an overly keen sales guy could not be kept. I wasn’t best pleased, but the car was there and part way through the process so there was not a lot I could do about it.
As you can see from the photos, the cage has some front bars that go to the turrets. This is part of the FIA cage, but I was told four weeks into the build that they wouldn’t be able to put them in as they would not clear the brake servo and ABS block (which race cars don’t have) or the box that houses the ECU on the other side (again race cars have the standalone arrangement mentioned earlier). After a few fraught phone calls back and forth the problem was finally resolved with them agreeing that they would remove the items and I would take responsibility for refitting these back into the car.
With that sorted, a week later and the car was ready for collection. I was apprehensive as to what condition the work was going to be. As you can tell by the amount of thought, time, effort and money going into the project, this M3 is my pride and joy and I had invested a lot of energy into ensuring that only the best people got to work on the car. However, once I arrived and was taken through the workshop to see the car and I was absolutely over the moon. In fact for once in my life I was actually speechless. I just had a massive grin on my face. I was even so quiet they asked me if everything was okay and if I liked what I saw. The welds were perfect – a work of art. Whoever carried out the welding on the car was not just a craftsman but an artist!
I was more than happy and Dave who is also a welder was very impressed and agreed it looked fantastic. One of the things I was very interested to see was how they tied the cage into the rear subframe and, true to their word, they had cut the floor open added a peg in place – welded to the chassis where the subframe bolts up to – and then tied the cage off from that to the rear turrets and a set of cross bars. I was also very impressed with the neatness of the floor and corner bars as the car’s carbon roof couldn’t be removed and refitted without making a mess, so the only way they could put the cage hoop and some bars in the car was to cut holes in the floor so that they could be dropped in through the floor and then lifted up and welded in position. Everything has been done so neatly – the symmetries of the cross bars and even the cross bar behind the cross for the main hoop are even perfectly aligned. I know I may sound like I am going a little over the top but take a look at the welds on cages in other cars the next time you are near a race car and take the time to look at the quality of the workmanship. I am happy to say this cage is perfect and, in case you didn’t realise, I’m a very happy customer.