- Post is under moderationKARMA CHAMELEON #M52 BMW
Last year, Lewis Maher won our Air Lift competition and he put the kit to good use, building this slick #E46 . Lewis Maher didn’t even want an E46 but some intangible attraction to this #BMW-323Ci-E46 along with some good karma has led him to build this unique brown-green dream machine… Words: Daniel Bevis Photos: Mathew Bedworth.
The chameleon is nature’s greatest trickster. Rather than running away like a cowardly gazelle or hopelessly trying to fend off attackers like those butterflies that have evolved to look poisonous, the chameleon casually hides in plain sight by simply altering the manner in which predators and prey perceive it. Well, I say ‘simply’, it’s probably taken the glacial pace of evolution quite some effort to develop colour-shifting cells that can be altered at whim but it’s a neat party trick, isn’t it? This Pantone chicanery has been aped by car manufacturers ever since they figured out that holding the spray gun at a different angle can alter the colour scheme depending on where you’re standing. #TVR became obsessed with the technique in the 2000s, and even the humble Nissan Micra and Primera were offered with flip paint, much to the facepalming of countless accident repair centres. And arguably the crowning achievement of this paint-based tomfoolery is the shade of brown you’re looking at here. Which, as logic dictates, is named ‘Irish green’. It looks brown from afar but morphs through a wide palette of green before turning gold in the sunlight.
As you can imagine, having this Volkswagen-sourced Irish Green paint slathered across the #BMW-E46 that you see before you, this is not so much hiding in plain sight as it is rubbing everyone’s noses in it. Look at all the other cars on the showground, all one-dimensional in their single-colour paint jobs. Yes, your mile-deep black or sumptuous burgundy may be polished to the nth degree, but does it change colour when you walk past it? No. You should really get some Irish Green in your life, it makes everything better.
“It’s a mind-boggling name for a shade of brown,” concedes Lewis Maher, the man with the keys in his hand. But this is all part of the fun, of course. Boggling minds is precisely what helps you stand out from the crowd. In the land of the ubiquitous, the double-take is king. “The car actually originally belonged to my mate Brendan Tillbrook, who’s in the paint trade,” Lewis explains. “He got the car in Topaz blue and decided to try out Irish green ready for the #2013 Players Classic show. Back then it sat on Porsche twists in a #Mercedes cream colour. That was the state I got it in and I wanted to keep the colour; unfortunately I got crashed into in December 2013 shortly after buying the car. The guy didn’t pay out and I didn’t want to go through the insurance so I ended up funding the repairs myself.
Luckily Steve Denton and the guys over at Stylehaus in Northampton were on hand to repair the damage and give the car a good tidy up all over for the #2014 show season.” What’s interesting about this stage of the story is that Lewis didn’t actually want an E46 in the first place. “I was never really a fan of them,” he shrugs. “My original plan was to buy an #E36 , or maybe even a Nissan S14, but one day Brendan came along offering me this car and there was just something about it. To this day I can’t tell you exactly what it was that drew me to it, it just has… something. It’s the first BMW I’ve actually had on the road, too! I briefly owned an #E30 project when I was a teenager but I had to get rid of it and, prior to this car, I mostly had VWs.” This makes sense.
The VW scene is arguably one of the key driving forces in the stance movement (there’s no point seeing it as a rival to the BMW stance scene, they’re such wildly different offerings that happen to intersect here and there), and it certainly explains his enthusiasm for that weird paint shade. But anyway, back to the preparations for the 2014 season. “I left the car with Steve and Ash Hinton from Allstance in January, before I went back to phase one training in the army,” says Lewis. “I was going to be away for a while and just said to them that I wanted it all sorted. And it was around this time that I entered Performance #BMW ’s competition for the Air Lift suspension kit… and I won!” This radical change in the very being of the #323Ci provided just the impetus and momentum that Lewis and Allstance needed to progress the car to the next level. After all, it’s one thing to buy someone else’s show car, but it’s quite another to make it your own.
At this point, however, it’s probably important to point out that the phrase ‘show car’ only relates to one facet of the E46’s function. “The car’s used for daily commuting. I run around wherever I need to go as well as getting to shows in it,” Lewis explains. Which is just the way it should be, and is all the more impressive given the aggressive chassis mods and super-spotless rims he’s running.
“I couldn’t have been more excited about winning the Air Lift suspension and got straight on the phone to Ash to get it fitted,” Lewis continues. “I was actually on the train home for a long weekend break from training when I got the news, so that weekend I popped over to Stylehaus, with the help of my mate Travis Price, to go and see Ash and Steve and share the news. It just so happened that Ash introduced me to a guy named Aaron who knew of a set of wheels that [Players linchpin] Carl Taylor was getting sent over that he thought would work. This set of wheels happened to be the VCEs…” The Rotiform VCE, to the uninitiated, is a forged design that evokes the motorsport rims of retro rally cars and homologation specials (think Delta Integrale or Escort Cosworth Monte Carlo, that whole Compomotive/Speedline vibe) while ballooning the dimensions and adding a frisson of shimmer that shifts the race look into somewhere between VIP and OEM+. And they look pretty badass, do they not?
“I saw them in a picture on Aaron’s phone and immediately knew I wanted them on my car,” Lewis recalls. “I had no clue what they would look like, I just wanted them! So the wheels and air-ride arrived a month or so later and Ash and Steve began cracking on ready for April when I was due to collect it. They quickly realised that the Rotiforms wouldn’t fit without some arch work but, naturally, I said ‘just get them to fit!’ which they did!” And what a cracking job they’ve done. But let’s not forget that behind the glitz and glamour, we’re still looking at a daily driver. With this in mind, Lewis sourced a complete M-Sport interior in cream leather from eBay, along with complementary steering wheel. It’s important to have these little luxuries when you’re spending so much time hammering the thing to work and back. The Eonon double DIN stereo helps here, too, while the full wooden trim provides a touch of class to sit neatly alongside the cream cowhide. “I always thought wood was for granddads until I saw how it looked in this car!” Lewis laughs.
This holistic approach spreads to the exterior as well. Sure, the paintwork is unique and alluring but there’s more to this build than simply slapping a wacky hue on a stock body. While the arches have been inevitably massaged to squish the Rotiforms under there – rolled and smoothed, with the rears subtly widened by 10mm apiece – there are myriad details to discover; the more you look, the more you see. Both bumpers have been fully smoothed, along with the wings and bootlid. You’ll spot a glistening gloss black finish on the wiper arms, scuttle panel, grilles, and wing mirror back plates, while the carbonfibre BMW roundels are counterpointed by chrome window surrounds. The devil, as they say, is in the detail.
Lewis’s thinking behind this build is very much like the eyes of the chameleon. The big lizard’s peepers move independently, meaning that it can keep an eye both on predators and prey; similarly Lewis can focus on what’s right for the car’s aesthetics while also retaining its usability. The fun part is when both of these approaches align: for the chameleon, it means stereoscopic vision; for this E46, it’s a win-win fusion of delectable aesthetics and practical rearwheel drive thrills. And that’s very good karma, isn’t it?
DATA FILE #BMW-323Ci
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.5-litre straightsix #M52TUB25 , #Getrag #323i gearbox and stock diff.
CHASSIS: 8.5x18” ET35 (front & rear) #Rotiform VCE wheels with 20mm adaptors, 215/35 (front & rear) #Nankang NS2s, Air Lift Performance digital air-ride with camber-adjustable top mounts, stock 323i brakes.
EXTERIOR: VW Irish Green paint, fully smoothed bumpers, wings and bootlid, gloss black details (wiper arms, scuttle panel, rear bumper grille, front grilles, wing mirror back plates), chrome window trims, carbon-fibre BMW roundels, rear arches widened 10mm, arches rolled and smoothed all-round.
INTERIOR: Cream leather M Sport interior, M Sport steering wheel, Eonon double DIN head unit, wood trim.
THANKS: A massive thanks to my mum and her partner for putting up with the car, and also helping me with all the little things getting done on it! My dad for helping with the clutch when I needed to change it and all we had was a jack and two axle stands (for a 50-year-old he still has the knack of working on cars!), Ashley at Allstance, Aaron for helping us get it running for Players, Carl Taylor, Steve and the crew at Stylehaus, all my friends that have helped in every way with the build, Travis Price for holding me to my word and making me build this epic car, Josh and Dan for helping lift the engine when I needed to get it out, Jason Manton for all the valeting work, and Matthew Bedworth for the images and keeping me going with this car. And finally, a huge thanks to my girlfriend Samantha for putting up with me and my addiction to the car. If it wasn’t for her the car wouldn’t have got to where it is now!
18” Rotiform VCEs look fantastic on this E46, especially when combined with the Air Lift kit.
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- Post is under moderationSUPER BADASS
You can’t go wrong with an #E90 #M3 and when there’s an ESS supercharger under the bonnet making 508whp, all the better. You can’t go wrong with a supercharged E9x M3 and this one goes very right indeed… Words: Seb de Latour. Photos: MoreThanMore (Sam Dobbins).
Saloon or coupé? It is a big decision and one faced by most people interested in buying a 3 Series (ignoring convertible and estate options). BMW has always gone the extra mile to make its 3 Series Coupé variants a little, shall we say, sexier than their Saloon counterparts. They’ve never shared more than a handful of exterior parts and have pretty much always followed the mantra of being longer, lower and wider than the Saloons. Personally I prefer coupés but I can totally see the appeal of a stout, sorted saloon, like this Stateside M3, for example.
Based in the other Aberdeen in North America, this E90 belongs to one Eric Kuehn, who is also the custodian of no less than seven other BMWs. That clearly means his profession as a sports uniform designer is a far better choice of career than you might ever have believed.
Eric has been into cars ever since he got his licence back in 1997 and, going by his current collection, we can forgive him the 1989 Ford Probe that served as his first car. “After only three months, I sold that car and purchased a 1994 Acura Integra,” says Eric, “and that is where it all started. I stopped by a friend’s house and he gave me a DC Sport front window banner and I never looked back. That was the beginning of my car craze. I almost had that build complete but it was stolen and stripped down to the frame. It was a sickening sight to see it sitting there stripped bare in the junkyard.
“Needing a car, I ended up finding my first BMW, which was a 2000 #323Ci that I purchased in 2003. I had that car for about a year or so and then bought a #2005 #Nissan-350Z . After two years of owning the Z, I came across a smoking deal on a 2002 BMW M3 in Alpine white. After owning the 323Ci, I knew I would end up back in a BMW at some point, I just didn’t know it would be that soon…
“I picked up the M3 and sold the 350Z. Going through many different looks/builds on the E46 M3, I got in contact with Federico at Racing Dynamics and we built it up as a full RDSport #BMW-E46-M3 . With this car completed, a friend of mine who had to get out of a lease on a #2008 #BMW-E90 #M3 contacted me and wanted to know if I was interested in buying it. After running the numbers, I found it was great deal! So I sold the E46 and moved into the E90. This build is the most detailed build I’ve done to date…”
Eric got his hands on the E90 in September of 2011 and it was in good condition but a spot of TLC certainly wouldn’t go amiss. “It needed some work on the exterior. It was normal wear and tear and not kept up to the standards that I like my cars to be at,” says Eric. “This is not a criticism of the previous owner but more a relection on the way I like my cars to be. So the first night I took possession, my friend Jason and I stayed up until 3am doing a full paint correction. It completely changed the car’s appearance.”
Next Eric threw on some spacers and fitted his RDSport RC-8s from his #BMW-E46-M3 and then set to work on the rest of the mods. “You really don’t see many four-door M3s, especially ones that have been modified. To me, they are a rare car,” Eric explains. Despite admitting to not being a huge horsepower guy, instead preferring the cosmetic side of builds, Eric decided that for this project power was most definitely going to figure. He had a number of around 500whp in mind. “We ended up at 508whp so I was very happy with that,” he says with a smile.
Pop that bonnet and you will be greeted by the sight of an ESS supercharger kit complete with sexy intake plenum. ESS is clearly doing everything right because this is most definitely the ’charger of choice for E9x M3 owners the world over. The kit here is the entry-level VT550 variant, being the least powerful of the four kits available for the E9x M3. The appeal of the ESS kit is easy to see because it’s arguably one of the best-looking supercharger kits on the market and makes a hell of an impression with that intake plenum stacked on top of the V8. Eric’s had it painted Estoril blue and it looks devilishly sexy. “The ESS supercharger was installed by Autocouture Motoring in New Jersey and all the other modifications I did in my garage,” Eric says. “I installed everything that I could on my own and if it was too complicated for me or I didn’t have the right tools, I would take the two to three hours drive to ACM. The guys there are top notch. The blower install took a couple hours to fit and the full exhaust around an hour or so. It took more time wiring up the electronic valves then actually installing the exhaust.” The exhaust in question is an Innotech Valvetronic catless system which makes plenty of noise, and then when the valves open up it makes even more. Lovely stuff.
The underbonnet business is certainly impressive but aesthetically Eric’s #BMW-E90-M3 is on-point in a big way. The paint is flawless – mirror reflective, glass-smooth levels of flawless – thanks to the fully wet sand project. The what now? “I had a high-end detail company completely wet sand the factory paint to remove as much orange peel as possible. The finished result was breathtaking. It looks like a sheet of glass. This is the main compliment I get no matter where I am. It’s so clean.” A mere printed picture in a magazine can’t do the paint justice, we’d need PBMW in available in HD to fully convey the sheer depth and lustre of the paint.
And then there are the wheels. God damn these are some sexy rims, but then you’d expect nothing less from HRE really. “I’ve reinvented this car over and over,” says Eric. “I’ve had around four or five different looks of this build, and around eight to ten different wheels. I decided I wanted the best of the best products on the car so when it came to wheels, so I reached out to HRE and we both decided the car needed their new S101s. At the time it was one of their most desired new styles and the end result was near perfection!”
The tinted brushed finish on these 20” forged three-piece wheels is stunning and they fill the M3’s arches to perfection. They also means that we can all bask in the glory of Eric’s BBK, a Brembo Gran Turismo kit, front and rear, that features custom gold calipers with blue lettering, six-pots up front and four-pots at the rear, with 380mm discs all-round. It looks spectacular and performs even better. A KW sleeve-over kit, which retains the factory EDC, has been fitted along with a set of RDSport front and rear anti-roll bars.
To make his M3 stand out further still, Eric has splashed out on a selection of seriously tasty styling mods that combine to deliver a visual haymaker of awesomeness. Up front there’s a Mode Carbon carbon fibre splitter, Platte Forme AG carbon side splitters and an Arkym full rear carbon diffuser, which Eric is particularly proud of as this was only ever designed for the E92 so had to be modified to fit his Saloon. It was certainly worth the effort because it looks fantastic. Other additions include a Challenge USA carbon bootlid that’s been painted, BMW Performance kidneys and painted side grilles, custom dual projector headlights and an LCI rear light cluster retrofit. Eric’s not scrimped on the interior either, throwing in a set of BMW Performance Recaros, a BMW Performance LED steering wheel, a P3cars/ACM digital vent gauge and a trio of Stack gauges located where you’d normally find the ashtray. He’s also splashed out on some serious audio, with Rainbow component speakers, Helix amps and a boot install that makes the luggage compartment as nice to look at as the engine bay. Almost.
“I built this car over about two-and-a-half years. The final look took about three months to complete. It’s my favourite look to date,” says Eric. We agree that it’s certainly one damn fine M3.
To conclude, we ask Eric if money were no object what would he change about the car? “Hmmm, that’s a tough one,” he replies. “I don’t think I would change a thing. To me, this car is perfect, exactly how I wanted it to turn out.” This is refreshing to hear as not many people build their perfect car.
Sadly, though, since the shoot Eric and his M3 have parted company, but not before giving the car a dramatic, if unexpected and unintentional send-off. “While doing a burnout for one last time to try and get a great shot of the car in a smoke cloud the car shut off and would not start up.
Unfortunately, after towing the car to ACM the next morning, we came to terms that the motor had blown! So from that point on we stripped the car back to stock and, after replacing the motor, the car was sold. It was a sad ending to such a beautiful build!” But every cloud has a silver lining. “I’ve since ordered a new 2015 M3 and it’s already arrived,” says Eric. “And, yes, the modifications have already started! So far these include: full Safety Car theme graphics including full lighting, HRE wheels, KW suspension, Eisemann exhaust, ONEighty custom blacked-out headlights, OEM performance front splitters and lip and a full audio upgrade.” So it sounds like his new M3 is already shaping up to be a bit of a beasts and, if his E90 effort is anything to go by, it’s going to be one hell of a build.
ENGINE & GEARBOX: 4.0-litre V8 #S65B40 , #ESS Tuning #VT550 supercharger kit, inlet manifold painted Estoril blue, Innotech valvetronic catless exhaust system, six-speed manual transmission.
CHASSIS: 9.5x20” (front) and 11x20” (rear) three-piece forged #HRE S101 wheels, tinted brushed with polished lips with 255/30 (front) and 305/25 (rear) #Falken FK452 tyres. KW sleeve over kit retaining factory EDC, RDSport front and rear anti-roll bars, Brembo Gran Turismo big brake kit with custom gold calipers with blue lettering, six-piston with 380mm discs (front) and four-piston with 380mm discs (rear).
EXTERIOR: Mode Carbon front carbon splitter, Platte Forme AG side carbon splitters, Arkym full rear carbon diffuser, Varis rear undertray diffuser, Challenge USA carbon trunk (painted), BMW Performance kidneys, #BMW side grilles (painted), 80% ceramic blue tint, ONEighty custom dual projector headlights retrofitted with LED angel eyes, BMW LCI taillights retrofit, full wet sand of factory paint to remove as much orange peel as possible.
INTERIOR: Recaro BMW Performance seats, BMW individual dash and centre console in Bamboo leather, BMW Performance LED steering wheel wrapped in factory black leather with M tricolour stitching, illuminated gear knob, M tricolour stitched shift/handbrake gaiters, Bamboo leather handbrake handle, P3cars/ACM digital vent gauge, Stack gauges located in factory ash tray area.
AUDIO: 2013 OEM CIC upgrade including Combox, Rainbow Audio 4” Profi components, Rainbow Audio 6.5” mid woofers x 8 (three per door, and one under each seat), Rainbow Audio Amboss 10” subwoofer, Helix Competition four channel amplifiers x2, Helix Competition two-channel amplifier, Helix PP50DSP processor, Jehnert Custom door speaker enclosure, Musicar NW subwoofer enclosure.
THANKS: I’d like to thank my wonderful wife Stefanie, Sal and the whole crew at AutoCouture Motoring, Tito at HRE wheels, Artem at ONEighty Custom, Dustin at Mischief.tv, Ian at Falken Tyres, Sam at Mode Carbon, Brian at Reflected Images Detailing, Shorty and Alex at Enterprise Upholstery, Don at Unexpected Creations, Jason at Immaculate Detailing.
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