12 years of ownership have resulted in one gorgeous E46. It’s traditional after 12 years of marriage to celebrate your silk anniversary, so it’s fitting that 12 years of ownership have resulted in one super-smooth E46. Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Matt Petrie
Ah, the E46. What a great car, both to own and drive. It’s arguably one of BMW’s best efforts on all fronts. It’s also a great way to get your first taste of modified car life, a nice way to ease yourself into the scene gently and take things slowly while you find your feet, right? Well not for 27-year-old New Jersey resident Jorge Hernandez. Not only is this awesome build is his first BMW, or even his first modified car; it’s both of those things, as it’s his first ever car. It’s not that he’s just learnt to drive, though, he’s actually owned this E46 330i for 12 years!
“I was first made aware of how special BMWs were when my cousin came home with his brand-new car: a Techno violet E36 M3,” explains Jorge. It clearly made a big impression on the young man. “Since then I knew I had to have a BMW,” he says. However, as a four-door fan, with no E46 M3 Saloon available, Jorge ended up buying a blue E46 330i Saloon in 2004.
While he was well aware of the modified car scene at that time, he had no clear vision for his E46. Flick through a 2004 issue of PBMW and you’ll see that the modified BMW scene was a very different, and rather scary, place back then. It was full of outrageous body kits and dubious styling mods that have, thankfully, long since been forgotten about. It was a world that needed some careful navigation to avoid creating a car that would end up looking like a mobile eyesore. Luckily, help was at hand in the shape of the E46Fanatics forum and after some quality time spent online, Jorge soon began to form a clearer picture of the direction he wanted to take his E46 in.
One thing he’s not done much with over the past 12 years is the engine. “I always wanted to keep the motor semi-stock as I’m not a big speed freak,” he explains. “I just wanted to do all of the little bolt-ons to make a little quicker it and sound better.”
That sounds pretty modest but Jorge’s chosen some really choice mods under the bonnet and he’s definitely not scrimped on quality with his selection of engine upgrades. To start, there’s an extremely sexy GruppeM carbon fibre intake and a set of Technik Gen 3 equal-length exhaust manifolds, which most definitely give the E46 a bit more power and ramp up the volume level of that glorious straight-six.
And the whole lot is topped off with a Remus Powersound quad exhaust that really looks the part and sounds fantastic, too. The engine bay itself has been treated to a whole host of carbon fibre goodies, including a Radenergie strut brace and engine cover plus an EAS carbon ECU cover and oil filler cap.
On the styling front this E46 delivers big time. Jorge has done an awesome job here and he’s definitely achieved his goal of creating a car that looks both clean and aggressive. “I feel like everything has to flow in a particular way, and that meant mixing and matching the pieces from a bunch of different companies,” he says. PBMW regular, Autocouture Motoring, was entrusted to work its magic and fit Jorge’s array of parts.
We really have to talk about the bonnet, not just because it’s a Vorsteiner GT-R carbon fibre item, which makes it pretty special, but also because of the paint finish on it. Where some people might choose to leave their vents unpainted, exposing the carbon core of the bonnet, Jorge has had the whole lot painted but the slats of the vents themselves have been finished in a crazy rainbow flake blue that looks spectacular when it catches the light and which really makes the vents pop. The front bumper is an M Tech 1 item from the pre-face-lift Sport E46, and while it’s not as aggressive as the latter version it’s got a much smoother, fatter, fuller look that a lot of people prefer.
It ties in perfectly with the face-lift styling, too. The bumper has been enhanced with the addition of a Rieger front lip that’s been blended into the bumper for a cleaner look. The mirrors are genuine AC Schnitzer items and are complemented by a Schnitzer roof spoiler while the sculpted side skirts are Hamann GT-R items. At the back, there’s a Euro-spec carbon fibre CSL bootlid, which looks great on the Saloon, and an SRS-Tec rear bumper with a dual-ribbed diffuser plus space for the quad tips of that Remus exhaust. Jorge’s also had the body mouldings colour-coded and fitted Euro turn signals all-round.
The interior has been left alone. “I think BMW did it right,” says Jorge, but one area that has been improved is the audio as the stock system is pretty disappointing unless you or someone else ticked the Harman Kardon upgrade box on the options list. Up front, there’s a Kenwood double-DIN DDX371 headunit, while in the boot you’ll find a JL Audio 500/1 amp and 12w6v2 sub plus a Stinger capacitor, all mounted in a custom enclosure which has been painted body colour and features a suede-wrapped floor and side panels.
So the styling is well and truly sorted, but it’s no good having a killer car if you don’t have the wheels to match. Fear not, Jorge’s choice for the E46 is awesome. “I’ve always been a fan of having wheels that you don’t see often,” he says. “I was offered a sponsorship by Rotiform and it had exactly what I wanted: a set of SJCs.” This bold, intricate wheel is the perfect choice to sit alongside that strong blue paint and Jorge opted for the forged multi-piece design in a brushed finish and mirror polished stepped lips. The wheels – 9x19” and 10x19” front and rear respectively – really suit the E46 well and the decision to keep them unpainted was definitely the right one as they really stand out. Plus the brushed finish looks so good. The Rotiforms have been teamed up with a stud conversion kit which has been topped-off with a set of neochrome wheel nuts. Beyond the spokes sit some bright yellow Porsche 996 911 calipers and a set of CSL discs.
Jorge has also sorted the suspension and there’s actually a lot more going on here than meets the eye. The drop in ride height comes courtesy of a set of Broadway Static coilovers but then there are the H&R anti-roll bars, the Turner Motorsport adjustable endlinks, the Rogue Engineering rear shock mounts and, finally, the Bimmerworld camber arms. Jorge’s clearly put a lot more thought into his suspension setup than most do and this combination has not only given this E46 that all-important visual drama but also sharpened-up the handling no end, making it far more than just all about the looks.
It’s rare to meet someone on the modified #BMW
scene who has owned their car for this long but it’s refreshing to see. And aside from planning to swap the Steptronic gearbox for a six-speed manual, it looks like Jorge’s reached a point where he’s happy and the modifying will stop. For the time being, at least. And who wouldn’t be happy with this E46? It’s a fantastic-looking car with a lot of great details and it’s an incredibly satisfying point for Jorge to be at after over a decade of modifying.
Above: 19” Rotiform SJCs with brushed centres and Porsche 911 brake kit. Right: JL amp and sub add a bit more bass to musical proceedings.
DATA FILE #BMW-E46
/ Steptronic / #Technik
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six #M54B30
carbon fibre ram-air intake, #Radenergie
carbon fibre strut brace and carbon fibre engine cover, #EAS
carbon fibre ECU cover, air filter cover and oil cap, #Remus-Powersound
quad exhaust. Five-speed #Steptronic
CHASSIS 9x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) Rotiform-SJC wheels with brushed centres, 215/35 (front) and 255/30 (rear) tyres, Broadway Static coilovers, H&R anti-roll bars, Turner Motorsport adjustable endlinks, Rogue Engineering rear shock mounts, Bimmerworld camber arms, Porsche 996 Carrera Brembo BBK, OEM E46 M3 CSL floating discs
carbon fibre bonnet, M Tech 1 front bumper with moulded Rieger lip, #AC-Schnitzer
GT-R side skirts, painted body mouldings, Euro turn signals, AC Schnitzer roof spoiler, Euro-spec carbon fibre CSL bootlid, SRS-Tec rear bumper with dual ribbed diffuser
INTERIOR Brushed aluminium trim, Kenwood DDX371 head unit, JL Audio 12w6v2 sub, JL Audio 500/1 amp, Stinger capacitor, custom enclosure painted body colour with floor and side panels wrapped in suede