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    ’CHARGED Z3 M Track-focussed monster. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Patrick Lauder. From bone stock to supercharged autocross monster, this Z3 M Coupé has spent 14 years becoming the best machine it can be.

    Supercharged / #BMW-Z3M-Coupe / #BMW-Z3M-Coupé-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3M-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3-E36/8 / #BMW-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3M / #BMW-Z3M-Coupe-Supercharged / #BMW-Z3-Supercharged / #BMW-Z3M-Coupe-Supercharged-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3 / #BMW-Z-Series / #BMW-Z-Series-E36/8 / #BMW


    In America they call it the clown shoe; in the UK we call it the bread van but whatever you choose to call it the Z3 Coupé remains an incredibly special and unique machine. #BMW attempted to recapture the magic of its quirky miniature shooting brake with the E86 Z4 Coupé and while it was arguably a better car, it was also a lot more conventional and lost a lot of the appeal of its quirky forebear. Being unconventional may have caused people to fall in and out of love with the Z3 Coupé throughout its life but standing out from the crowd has most definitely worked in favour of the eye-catching machine and that is exactly why Grant Gillum ended up buying this car.

    “I wasn’t a BMW guy per se,” Grant begins, “but I knew they made a quality product. As college was ending I began researching nice used cars to purchase after graduation. I wanted a front engine, rear-wheel-drive car that could be modified and used for autocross and track days. It would also be my daily for a while. After considering several cars including Corvettes, Camaros, Porsche 944s and 928s, the Pontiac GTO (not a used car at the time), Datsuns and Nissans of many years and models, I decided on an E36 M3. I liked the styling, the daily sensibilities and the aftermarket availability. They were also uncommon and more exclusive. All that changed the day that I saw a Z3 Coupé in traffic,” he says. “I had seen a million Z3 Roadsters and wasn’t really interested in a convertible. But this was different and I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at. I certainly didn’t recognize it as a Z3. It had a BMW logo so I started researching all their models, eventually finding information on the M Coupé. All the engine of an M3 but lighter, with a factory wide body, staggered wheels and a look that was comparable to some exotics. Sold. I had to have one,” he smiles. “It took nine months of scouring the internet to find the right one.

    I bought a 22k mile example, bone stock but for a Dinan CAI and a stage one tune and still under warranty. I bought it sight unseen except photos and had it shipped cross country. I realized right away too that the M Coupé was a limited production run vehicle and so would be a cheap way for a blue collar guy to own something special. I bought the car knowing it would be a lifelong project car. I’ve known plenty of grey haired dudes that sold the hot rod of their youth and regretted it the rest of their lives. Not me. Hopefully,” he adds.

    Unlike other owners who buy their cars and start out with no plans for modifying, Grant knew he was going to mod the Z3 and knew exactly which direction he wanted to take it in. “I wanted to race it right away and joined an autocross club soon after buying it,” he says, and his passion for autocross is shared by his wife. “Six years ago she came with me for a day at the track. She rode along on a couple runs and decided to give it a try. Except when pregnant, she’s raced in nearly every autocross event that I have since then. Averaging our times to a 60 second run, she’s about a half second off me. She’s been as close as a tenth second off my time. I’m much more of a fundamental driver, she drives much more by the seat of her pants. As soon as she tightens up her fundamentals, she’ll beat me,” he says. While you can take any car to an autocross event, if you’re serious about this particular form of motorsport, as Grant is, then your car will need to be modified and in a focussed way that will enable you to get the most out of it, which is why virtually everything he’s done to his Z3 has been all about making it a more finely-honed, precision autocross instrument.

    It’s also why the supercharger that you can see strapped to the side of the engine came last and everything else came first as the chassis, handling and dynamics were the priorities here.

    Wheels and tyres were the first items on what would become quite an extensive shopping list and while aesthetics do obviously play a part, lightness was mostly the deciding factor as far as wheel choice was concerned. “I went online and found the lightest wheels I could for the car,” explains Grant. “I bought a set of OZ Alleggerita HLTs in 8x17” and 8.5”x17”. They were light at less than 17lbs (7.7kg) per corner and dropped considerable unsprung weight over the stock wheels and I converted to wheel studs too.

    I ran those wheels for a couple of autocross seasons before switching the rears to the front and widening the fronts to 10” and putting them on the rear. Now they weigh 16.8lbs (7.6kg) and 17.9lbs (8.1kg) front and rear; they are light, strong and handsome,” and what more could anyone ask for from a wheel? “I also run a set of 8x18” and 9x18” ASA AR1 wheels with black centres and 2” and 3” polished lips front and rear on the street,” he adds. The 17s really suit the Z3, as you can see in the photos, especially with the fat sidewalls of the super-sticky BF Goodrich g-Force R1 tyres filling out the arches and those tyres let you know that this M Coupé means business.

    With lightweight wheels and track tyres taken care of, the next item on Grant’s to-do list was the suspension, and while he started off small, things quickly escalated. “I started with H&R springs and kept them for a few years until they sagged,” he says, “then I switched to Ground Control coilovers and adjustable spring perches. But not before modding the anti-roll bars with reinforcements, adding differential reinforcements, rear shock mounts, sub frame reinforcements and rear camber and toe adjustments. Then I poly bushed it followed by aluminium control arms.

    “Disaster struck at the autocross one day when the diff pulled away from the subfloor and the rear end went squishy,” says Grant. “I thought that one of the rear anti-roll bar end links had given way. That’s how I got a tube frame rear subfloor that is way stiffer than the stock car ever thought of being. I love the coilovers, of course, but the single greatest suspension mod was poly bushing the rear subframe. It really changed the way the car transitioned weight in-corner to being much more predictable,” he says. As is often the case when it comes to modding, when things go wrong, break or fail, rather than just replacing them you upgrade them so, as with his boot floor, when the clutch started to slip Grant fitted an F1 Racing stage two clutch and 14lbs chromoly flywheel as well as a stainless steel clutch line and then added a UUC short shift kit and double shear selector rod plus a Z3 2.3 steering rack. Further drivetrain upgrades include a poly differential bush, UUC aluminium engine and transmission mounts and a rebuilt diff with four clutch zero preload and 80/60 ramping, polished ring and pinion gears and a 3.64 final drive in place of the standard 3.23 item. “Before the supercharger, lowering the final drive was a really dramatic NA mod. It went a long way to help pull me out of slow second gear turns,” explains Grant.

    With the suspension and drivetrain taken care the Z3 was a far sharper machine but now the car’s stopping abilities needed to be addressed. “When I started doing a lot of track days it was apparent that the stock brakes were not up to long days of abuse,” he says. “That’s when I did the brake conversion and ducting. What a difference and zero fade. I didn’t go too big on the disc diameter as I was concerned with reducing as much rotational weight as possible, as autocross is more of a low speed competition.” The Z3 now wears Wilwood six-pot Superlite front calipers with 330mm GT-48 floating discs and Wilwood Dynalite four-pot rear calipers with 312mm lightweight discs and Wilwood B pads allround, while the ducting ensures that the brakes receive plenty of cool air to deliver peak performance at all times.

    Having carried out all the groundwork to make sure that all aspects of the chassis and drivetrain were at peak performance, Grant could now turn his attention to extracting more power from the engine.

    Unlike our Euro-spec Z3 M models, the US cars were fitted with the S52B32 engine, based on the M52, which had to make do with 240hp and 236lb ft of torque so it’s no surprise that Grant wanted to up these numbers. “I started with keeping the engine NA and wanted to let it breathe better,” he says. “I upgraded the cooling system with a rad, water pump thermostat and cover immediately. I kept the CAI and did the M50 intake manifold exchange and I also did the BBTB at the same time. A cat-back exhaust followed and a year later came exhaust manifolds and a mid-pipe. In general I would wait until OE parts needed replacement and would upgrade at that time; that way the financial hit of modifying was lessened by taking the money I would be spending on OE parts and putting that towards upgrades.

    I replaced all the water hoses throughout and the oil cooler followed when I started doing more track days, as I live a 40 minute drive from Thunderhill Raceway here in California. While on track there one day the bottom radiator hose slipped off and started spewing out coolant; I realised it had happened within seconds but even though I coasted into the pits the water temp gauge showed hot and that’s how I got the new head and I went to under-driven pulleys then as well.

    “After the rest of the car was pretty modified I bought the supercharger kit. I had become a dad and my wife wanted me to do less high speed track driving and just drive autocross, so after close to two dozen track days at Thunderhill my focus changed with regard to driving. I needed just a little more low-end torque to pull me out of slow second gear turns when I didn’t want to shift to first gear at autocross,” and the supercharger kit has certainly given Grant the grunt he was after. It’s an Active Autowerke Stage 1 kit with a Rotrex C38-92 supercharger and is accompanied by numerous supporting mods. “I removed the air con, replaced the alternator, installed the power steering cooler, did the oil pan/pump upgrade and fitted an ATI Super Damper, crank pulley and carried out a CCV delete with the supercharger kit,” he says. “The baseline dyno when I bought the car was 205hp and 203lb ft of torque at the wheels; the NA mods took that up to 230whp and 222lb ft and it now makes 312whp and 262lb ft at the wheels on the same dyno. Active Autowerke claims that this kit makes 360hp on a stock car; I’ve done a lot of other work to the engine, so if they want to claim 360hp I want to claim somewhere in the 380hp range,” says Grant. “That seems excessive, though, and I usually just quote my dyno numbers,” and that’s still plenty to enjoy both on road an track, and a huge increase over stock.

    While Grant has focussed mainly on the performance and dynamic elements of the car he has not forgotten about aesthetics, both inside and out. The exterior as been enhanced with Motion Motorsports front splitters and aluminium undertay, a one-off AC Schnitzer rear diffuser centre section, the roof spoiler has been raised by 8mm to enhance the roofline and Grant’s also fitted black kidney grilles, black lower mesh grilles and carbon-look roundels among other things. The interior, meanwhile, has been treated to a Momo Competition steering wheel on a quick release hub, chrome handbrake handle, E46 M3 short shift gearknob, black leather gaiter with tricolour stitching and M Tech pedals and dead pedal. There’s also a H3R black HalGuard fire extinguisher, but this was added as a necessity following a scary incident…

    “While testing the car after installing the M50 manifold a fuel hose wasn’t secured completely and popped off and sprayed fuel over the exhaust manifold,” says Grant. “Thank god the car wasn’t warmed up all the way and only billowed white smoke. I pulled over immediately and ran. It continued to smoke for a long, heart-pounding five minutes. I fitted the fire extinguisher after that,” he says.

    Grant’s Z3 is a focussed build that’s been taken in a specific direction and the results speak for themselves. While it looks great it’s the changes that you can’t see and that we can’t experience or appreciate that make this car. It’s the vast amount of chassis work, the brakes, the hundreds of seemingly minor secondary mods that are so important for the success of the whole and which all add up to make a such big difference. This Z3 has evolved hugely during the 14 years that Grant has owned it, from autocross machine to track monster and back to autocross beast but this time with the wick turned way, way up, becoming more and more focussed at each stage and it’s not reached its final form just yet…

    “In the not-too-distant future this car will retire from competition after nearly 80,000 miles that saw it driving to almost monthly autocross events (10 months a year). I have a pile of class win trophies adding, in my small way, to BMW’s racing heritage. I’ll paint and mount the new bumper and splitters I have waiting. I’ll delete the fog lights and the antenna for a cleaner look. At that time I’d also like a nice set of multipiece step-lipped wheels,” he nods, painting an attractive picture. At that point it’ll become a different animal altogether but whether or not that will be its final stage of evolution will remain to be seen…


    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Supercharged E36/8 Z3 M Coupé / #Active-Autowerke-Stage-1 / #Active-Autowerke / #Rotrex / #VAC / #Dinan /

    ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 / #BMW-S52 / #S52 / #S52-Supercharged , #UUC engine mounts, Active Autowerke Stage 1 supercharger kit with #Rotrex-C38-92 supercharger, CAI, 3” MAF, High flow Bosch fuel injectors, supercharger oil cooler, AA stage 1 programming for BBTB and M50 intake with 7k redline, polished supercharger bracket, #ATI-Super-Damper , #VAC-lightweight crank pulley, #Dinan big bore throttle body, M50 intake manifold and fuel rail cover, intake runner heat shields, Dr. Vanos stage 2 kit with cam gears, timing chains and solenoid, Turner shorty ceramic coated exhaust manifolds, ARP header studs, fiberglass manifold and exhaust wrap, SAS Racing dual 2.5” mid-pipes with stock cats, dual 2.75” Supersprint stainless cat-back exhaust, #BMP design exhaust tips, #VAC oil pump upgrade, VAC oil pan baffle, #Behr S54 E46 triple row radiator, 80° thermostat, power steering cooler, Stewart high-flow water pump with steel impeller, polished aluminum thermostat housing, polished aluminum water pump nut, 80/88º fan switch, Spal 16” electric puller fan, clutch fan delete, new overflow tank, BMP brass water bleeder, VAC 5x7” oil cooler with polished Euro oil filter housing, stock head gasket, #ARP head studs, head polished and gasket matched, new valve guides, lashes, locks and retainers, valve job, resurfaced head, hydraulic belt tensioner, CCV delete, new Valeo 115 app alternator, AC delete, radiator baffle.

    POWER and torque 312whp and 262lb ft wtq

    TRANSMISSION #ZF-Type-C / #ZF five-speed manual gearbox, #F1-Racing 14lbs chromoly flywheel and stage 2 clutch, stainless clutch line, UUC short shifter and double shear selector rod, poly differential bush, UUC aluminium transmission mounts, rebuilt diff with four clutch zero pre-load and 80/60 ramping, 3.64:1 final drive, polished ring and pinion gears

    CHASSIS 8.5”x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #OZ-Alleggerita-HLT / #OZ wheels with 255/45 (front and rear) BF Goodrich g-Force R1 tyres, #Ground-Control front coilovers with Koni adjustable shocks, Eibach 500lbs front springs and 600lbs rear springs, Ground Control adjustable rear spring perches, Ground Control front camber and caster plates, #Racing-Dynamics 21mm front and 19 mm rear anti-rolls bars and end links, SAS Racing rear anti-roll bar reinforcements, #SAS-Racing differential reinforcements, SAS Racing rear shock mount reinforcements, Turner Motorsport aluminium and poly rear upper shock mounts, Ireland poly control arm bushes, #Turner front subframe reinforcements, Ireland poly rear trailing arm bushes, Turner rear camber and toe adjustments, 90mm rear and 75mm front lug stud conversion, E30 M3 polished aluminum control arms, Turner front hub extenders, Ground-Control bump stops, SAS Racing tube frame rear sub-floor, Z3 2.3 steering rack, #Wilwood sixpiston Superlite calipers with 330mm GT-48 floating discs with aluminium hats (front), Wilwood four-piston Dynalite calipers with 312mm lightweight discs (rear), Wilwood B pads (front and rear), stainless brake lines, Turner front brake backing plates and duct work, SAS Racing vented rear brake backing plates, new master cylinder and reservoir

    EXTERIOR Arctic silver, Motion Motorsports front splitters and aluminium undertay, #AC-Schnitzer one-off rear diffuser centre section, OEM fog light kit, rear roof spoiler adjusted up 8mm and colour-matched, polished wiring harness brackets, door jamb stickers removed, carbon-look roundels, passenger wiper delete, HID headlamps with side markers and corner lamps colour matched, stealth turn signal bulbs, tinted tail lights, colour-matched wiper nozzles and hatch latch, black kidney grilles, black mesh lower grilles, rear wiper delete, clear front corner markers, front plate holder delete, new windscreen and exterior mouldings

    INTERIOR Black and grey two-tone leather interior, Momo 350mm Competition steering wheel with hub, 15 mm spacer and adaptor, carbon-look roundel, Snap-off Industries steering wheel quick release hub, chrome handbrake handle, E46 M3 short gear knob, M Tech pedals and dead pedal, front and rear M logo floor mats, E36 M3 window button surrounds, black leather gaiters with tricolour stitching, windscreen and window tints, sun visor stickers removed, glove box facelift, carbon horn pin adapter, H3R black HalGuard fire extinguisher, poly seat bushes, custom rear hatch parcel shelf

    Thanks My wife, for her all patience and participation. Jerard Shaha at SAS Racing, my 30-year mechanic and friend. He rebuilt my El Camino in 1987! SAS Racing has done all the work on this car over the years. Their specialty is racecar setup but they perform all mechanical work and fabrication to an expert level as well as engine building and auto transmission rebuilds (sasjerard@gmail.com). Jason Shaha, my childhood best friend and Jerard’s brother. Thanks for planting that competitive seed from your family into me. See you at the next race? The long-standing crew at Trinity Touring Club. Thanks for your loyalty to our sport and dedication to our club. If I didn’t have to drive 90 minutes each way I’d be at all the club meetings (trinitytouringclub.com)
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    THE ONLY ONE

    Japan definitely does things differently and that most definitely applies to cars, as this Far Eastern 135i illustrates.

    Japan does everything differently, including modifying its cars, and this Far Eastern 135i has a look you won’t find anywhere else… Words and photos: Chris Nicholls.

    The Japanese do ‘unique’ better than most. Anyone who’s ever been to the country or even just watched their TV shows will tell you that. From all sorts of bizarre toys and manga to TV shows where they do things like finding out which type of tyre flies farthest off a ski jump, or testing how long game show contestants can stand being immersed in a pool of eels, Japanese culture is about as far removed from Western norms (even today) as it gets. Their modified vehicles are often similarly ‘out there’. From the extreme wings and exhausts of the kaido racers to the utter insanity that is the decotora scene, you are more likely to find off-the-wall cars, bikes and trucks in Japan than almost anywhere else. Even in the #BMW ranks, you can find stuff that plenty of Western folks would maybe consider weird. Like a brown, camo-wrapped X6 complete with matching camo green AC Schnitzer wheels, or itasha examples of various models.

    Of course, the majority of tuned BMWs, like the majority of other vehicles in Japan, are fairly subdued, but there are ones that tread that fine line between the extreme and the subtle and achieve uniqueness of another kind – instant, eye-popping greatness because they’re tasteful, but in a way no one has managed before. K. Watanabe’s 135i ‘Kai’ (Kai meaning modified in Japanese) is one of those examples. Like many things in life that are more than the sum of their parts, the basic ingredients for this daily driver are nothing new. Unusual paint colour, nice wheels, big brakes, decent drop, and a funky body kit make up the majority of the talking points, but it’s the way they’ve all come together that makes this work.

    Perhaps the fact Watanabe-san is an architect has something to do with this success. Visually-minded and highly trained from the get-go, Watanabe-san is probably less likely than most to turn out an ugly dinger. But, then again, plenty of architects have designed buildings that many hate, so perhaps it’s not that. Maybe it’s just the fact Japan itself, despite the often eye-searing extremes it produces, is generally one of the more educated and aesthetically aware societies out there. Whatever the reasons behind his choices, though, Watanabe-san’s 135i is a stunner.

    Obviously, it’s hard to get past the paint as it’s one of the key focal points here. Possibly the main focal point. Starting out as a black 135i when he bought it, Watanabe-san eventually had the whole car repainted in BMW Individual Atlantis blue, and the effect is remarkable. Deep, shimmering and with metal flake that picks out the light just so, it’s one of the best car colours available, in this writer’s humble opinion, and unsurprisingly, it’s also Watanabe-san’s favourite part of the build. It makes you wonder why more BMW customers don’t order their cars like this from the factory. The next major point is the 1M body kit. Studie AG, the tuning house behind the build, has a history of fitting factory widebody kits to its own demo cars, but its customer cars are often more subtle, so it’s nice to see Watanabe-san err on the more extreme side and go with these excellent genuine body panels on his car.

    Accentuating the ‘big brother’ bodywork are a Varis vented carbon bonnet, carbon mirror covers, carbon front and rear lip spoilers, an AC Schnitzer roof spoiler, a dry carbon wing and a customised rear diffuser, each element carefully selected to make the most of the already muscular 1M shape.

    However, nice paint, a 1M body kit and a few custom touches don’t a unique street car make. Watanabe-san wanted to make one other change so his machine stood out. “Before I purchased this, I wrote-off my E46 M3 on a wet mountain road after being a bit too enthusiastic. At the time, I wanted to replace it with a 1M, but couldn’t quite afford it, so I thought fitting the 1M kit to my 135i was a nice idea. However, I thought that just fitting the kit as-is would make it a 1M clone, nothing more, so I wanted to customise it. Having talked to the guys at Studie, we decided a one-off, centre-exit Arqray muffler coming out through the rear bumper would be the best way to do it.” And so came arguably the most unique part of this 135i. The twin chrome tips draw the eye like little else on the back of the car (some feat considering the wing) and make it go from regular street-racer-style to actual racer-style in one hit.


    The remarkable thing, as no doubt you’ll have noticed, is the fact no paint damage has occurred around the tips. No browning, no blistering, no nothing. This again is down to extensive planning and Studie’s usual high level of workmanship. “I knew having the tips exit the bumper like that would prove a risk in terms of paint damage, so I made it very clear during the design phase that I wanted no damage at all to occur. Thanks to Studie’s expertise and skills, it was able to design and install multiple heat shields to ensure no damage occurred. Despite many spirited drives since, there’s not a single singe or burn mark anywhere.”

    Having been privileged to sit alongside Watanabe-san as he pushed the N54 hard, I can report the new exhaust sounds pretty nice, too. A burbling thrum builds to a raspy howl as he moves through the rev range, the AFE pod filters adding some lovely intake noise to the mix as well. When he lifts, the Active Autowerke blow-off valve adds that wonderful trademark ‘chuff-chuff’ for maximum turbo enjoyment.

    Given there’s only a small number of other engine mods (Okada Projects’ Plasma Ground secondary spark control and Plasma Direct coils, plus an Active Autowerke AP2 tune), the grunt itself is not ‘smash your head into the seat’ huge but with the N54 in factory spec managing sub-five second 0-60mph times in the right conditions, the extra few horses mean you’re still easily looking at ’90s supercar levels of acceleration in low gears. Perfect, really, given Watanabe-san says a love for supercars is what got him into tuning in the first place. On the handling side are a set of JDM-only 3D Design coilovers and an ARC rear stabiliser bar. While the drive to and from the shoot location didn’t really give us a chance to enjoy any nice corners, it quickly became clear from the few bumps we encountered that the 3D Design coilovers and their relatively soft (especially by Japanese standards) 8kg/mm front and 12kg/mm rear spring rates at least did a pretty decent job of masking any minor road imperfections. Clearly designed for road use more than anything else, that hasn’t stopped Watanabe-san from dreaming about hitting the track, though, even if it’s not something he’s quite got around to. “I have all the gear – spares, helmet, clothing and everything else – but I’ve never actually got around to hitting the track. At least my equipment preparation is perfect!” he laughs.


    When Watanabe-san finally does find the time for some circuit fun at least his brakes will also be up to the task. The six-pot front and four-pot rear Brembos, hiding behind Advan RZ-DF wheels, clamp down on twopiece slotted rotors (355mm front and 345mm rear) and will happily slow the 135i down from even Fuji Speedway front straight speeds. Fine for the street as they may be, Watanabe-san may want to think about upgrading his current Advan V105 rubber if he ever wants to attack his local tracks in earnest, though.

    Inside, the 135i remains largely stock apart from a driver’s side Recaro RS-G CL seat and a Sportster CL 100H seat for the passenger. These look almost factory, such is the serendipitous colour matching. For those wondering about the things hanging from the wiper stalk, they’re omamori or good luck charms. Available from pretty much any Shinto shrine, they’re a staple of Japanese life and can be bought with prayers inside for various specific purposes. From good study results to an incident-free pregnancy, you can ask the local gods for pretty much anything. Unsurprisingly, given Watanabe-san’s lust for speed and previous accident history, these omamori contain prayers for a safe drive.

    Having already had plenty of safe fun in this 135i, though, Watanabe-san’s next step is to give all the mechanical parts a bit of a freshen-up. From the engine to driveline, brakes to the suspension, it’s time to treat this unique machine to a bit of all-round TLC. No doubt that this (together with the omamori) will help him enjoy this very Japanese #BMW for many years to come.

    DATA FILE Japanese #BMW-135i / #BMW / #BMW-135i-E82 / #BMW-E82 / #BMW-135i-Active-Autowerke / #BMW-135i-Active-Autowerke-E82 / #Okada-Projects-Plasma / #Advan

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six twin-turbo #N54B30 / #N54 / #BMW-N54 , #AFE pod air filters, #Active-Autowerke-AP2 tune, #Active-Autowerke blow-off valve, one-off #Arqray centre-exit muffler, #Okada-Projects-Plasma-Ground -Plasma-Ground secondary spark enhancer, #Okada-Projects-Plasma-Direct coils, stock six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 8.5x19” (front) and 9.5x19” (rear) #Advan-RZ-DF wheels with 245/35 (front) and 265/30 (rear) Yokoham Advan V105 tyres, JDM-only 3D Design coilovers front and rear, #ARC rear stabliser bar, #Brembo six-piston brake calipers (front), Brembo four-piston calipers (rear), two-piece Brembo discs front and rear

    EXTERIOR Full factory 1M Coupé body kit, Studie customised rear diffuser section, Varis vented carbon bonnet, dry carbon rear wing, wet carbon front and rear lip spoilers, AC Schnitzer roof spoiler, carbon mirror covers

    INTERIOR #Recaro RS-G CL driver’s seat, #Recaro-Sportster-CL100H passenger seat, omamori
    Fitting the kit as-is would make it a 1M clone so I wanted to customise it.
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    BIG IMPACT #BMW

    With a whole lot of everything going on, this supercharged #BMW-E93 M3 on slick wheels with custom interior is a killer build.

    Words: Patrick Holness / Photos: Anna Taylor With big wheels, bold looks and plenty of supercharged power, this E93 M3 makes a big impression wherever it goes.



    There is a palpable level of excitement that gets you every time you see a well-executed car that has been meticulously sorted and modified. A car so well fashioned the minor details have details. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or you’ve managed to refrain from using social media, Danny Pessoa’s E93 M3 is that car. It begs the question, is it possible to improve the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine?’.

    Affectionately referred to by Danny as ‘Anna-Bella’ (Anna named after his wife, bella the Italian word for beauty, which both of his ladies possess), this car is absolutely splendid. Danny has crafted his E93 M3 to be nothing short of stunning, picturesque, and a work of art.

    Perhaps if you live Stateside you’ve seen her in the metal – Danny has taken every opportunity to show it off at just about all the major shows in the north east. The car has certainly lived up to the hype taking first place in multiple categories at each show. Regardless of the trophies and accolades he does it out of love for the scene. He is one of the cool guys, not afraid to share wheel specs or quote the price of a car part. His laid back and humble attitude makes him approachable and creates the basis for endless car talk. Perhaps this would explain why he has so many followers on IG.

    Let’s shift gears a bit to see how Danny got here. Like many of us the car bug bit him as a child. Growing up, Matchbox, Hot Wheels and the like were some of his favourite toys and his folks jokingly say ‘carro’ was amongst his first words. Once he reached driving age there was one brand and one car in particular that did it for him, the E46 M3. The power, the look, and the straight-six soundtrack lured him in and he vowed that one day he’d be an M owner. Fast forward some years later and Danny was able to purchase an Alpine white E46 M3. Ownership started off simply with wheels and suspension, and before you knew it he was a happy camper. Fueled with passion for modifying cars, Danny soon found himself chasing the next piece of machinery. A little reluctant he decided it was time to part ways with his E46 M3. With cash in hand, Danny was on the hunt for a new project, something more modern.

    He test-drove an E92 335i and was sold. This car started its life like his first project, with wheels, suspension, exhaust, M Sport bumpers, and other custom pieces. “I enjoyed the car, it was great but I missed the M3,” Danny admits and he soon found himself surfing the internet in search of an E93 M3. He had specific requirements this time around; this time it had to be white with a red interior, convertible top and manual transmission. Criteria set, Danny found himself glued to his smart phone searching numerous car sites every free moment he had. This went on for six months and while many examples popped up, they weren’t right. As luck would have it his search eventually led to a 2009 example that met his requirements. A phone call was made to the dealership and Danny found himself making the five-hour drive from New Jersey to West Virginia and wasted no time making it his.


    With his new car and a big grin on his face, he stopped by to see friend and owner of AMS Autowerks, Diogo Azevedo. Danny was looking for a set of Rotiform wheels to fill the M3’s arches, initially planning a fresh set of rims and suspension and leaving things there… On the wheel front he treated the M3 to a set of 19” TMBs, measuring a mighty 10” up front and 12” at the rear, initially in a brushed finish, followed by brushed red and finally black.

    For the suspension, Danny turned to Air Lift for an air-ride kit. Attempting to squeeze the massive rear wheels under the E93’s arches, even ones as ample as the M3’s, is no mean feat. Diogo and his crew had to pull the rear quarters out by 2” to get the perfect stance and allow them to tuck under the arches when aired out. As you can see, the TMBs are gone and in their place are a set of gorgeous 20” INDs finished in rose copper, though they’re the same width as the 19s so no further arch work was required.

    The body received a Mode Carbon front lip, side splitters, rear diffuser, side vents and Motorsport wing on the OEM bootlid, but Danny couldn’t make his mind up about the spoiler so Anna-Bella currently has a carbon fibre CSL bootlid and he alternates between the two different sets of wheels and bootlids. Headlights and tail-lights received attention as well, the former being sent to Lightwerkz for a blacked-out finish while the tail-lights were swapped for all-red items: “The car was looking great,” says Danny, “but I wanted more power…”

    With this in mind, over the winter a complete exhaust system from Active Autowerke was installed before he purchased a Gintani Stage II supercharger kit. This intercooled setup uses a Vortech V3 Si Trim blower fed by a sexy carbon fibre intake and runs at between 7-7.5psi to whip up a 650hp storm, backed up by 420lb ft of torque, giving Danny all the performance he could want. “The first time I drove it, it felt like a race car!” he grins. “I said ‘oh s**t this car is fast!’” he adds with a chuckle.

    With the engine work done, Danny focused his attention on the interior and boot. He commissioned Ryan from Exact Art to sort out the interior details and he has covered nearly every inch of the car in Fox red leather or Alcantara. The result really is a work of art.


    The steering wheel was also upgraded to a carbon fibre item, and the front factory seats were replaced with Recaro CS Sport seats which were also trimmed in matching Fox red leather. Carbon fibre was integrated into the doorcards, dash, and rear passenger headrests while a custom harness bar was fabricated and colour-matched by AMS Autowerks to accommodate the Sabelt harnesses. The doorcards received attention as well and they include the same hex arrow stitching that is inlaid in the seats. The roof has been lined with Alcantara and the floor mats have been trimmed in white to match the exterior.


    In today’s scene a proper boot install is almost a must, and Danny’s M3 delivers on that front. The air tank for the air-ride has been colour-matched to the car and custom Fox red leather straps add the finishing touch, while leather and Alcantara adorn pretty much every surface. New factory stickers were also ordered to replace those that had to be removed and special homage was paid to Johnny Walker with a crafty Blue Label setup. In total the interior and boot work took over 200 man-hours and deprived Danny of his car for nine months, but it was most definitely worth it. So, is it possible to improve the Ultimate Driving Machine? Unequivocally the answer is yes. Danny’s car is nothing short of a modern masterpiece and one that both he and everyone else can get an immense amount of pleasure from.

    Stunning custom interior and boot build took over 200 hours and nine months to complete but was worth it.

    This project is not all about looks – #Gintani Stage II supercharger kit makes 650hp and 420lb ft of torque.

    DATA FILE BMW Supercharged #BMW-E93 M3 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E93 / #BMW-M3-Supercharged-E93 / #BMW-M3-Supercharged /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 #S65B40 / #S65 / #BMW-S65 / #S65-Supercharged / carbon intake, #Gintani-Stage-II supercharger, #Active-Autowerke exhaust, six-speed manual gearbox.

    CHASSIS 10x20” (front) and 12x20” (rear) #Rotiform IND threepiece splits in #Rose-Copper , #AirLift Performance airride with V2 management, carbon strut brace.

    EXTERIOR Mode Carbon front lip, side splitters, Motorsport wing, side vents, and rear bumper diffuser, CSL carbon fibre bootlid, rear quarters pulled 2”, #LightWerkz custom headlights, all-red rear lights.

    INTERIOR OEM M3 carbon steering wheel, dash, doorcards, centre console and rear headrest trimmed in carbon fibre, Fox red leather dash, seats, doorcards with hex arrows stitching, Alcantara roof and convertible top cover, custom harness bar for Sabelt harness, Recaro CS Sport seats, floor mats trimmed in white, colour-matched air tank with custom leather straps, boot trimmed in Fox red leather and Alcantara, bottle of Johnny Walker Blue and glasses in boot.

    THANKS My wife for all of her love and support.

    The first time I drove it, it felt like a race car! I said ‘oh sheet this car is fast!’ Danny Pessoa.
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    Double your money. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery than Peter Manolis has every right to be pleased with himself. Words: Joel Newman. Photos: Matt Barnes.

    At 27 years of age, young Cypriot Peter Manolis has achieved a great deal. He owns and runs Cougar Power Motorsport, professional tuning outfit for European and Japanese performance cars. Through Cougar, Peter has built such a beautiful Phoenix yellow E46 #M3 convertible that he inspired a fellow #BMW enthusiast to not merely take a few of his ideas, or to utilise a similar set of wheels or audio install: no, Peter’s car was so good that George Papadopoulos wanted it lock, stock and carbon bonnet. Sadly for George, it wasn’t for sale.

    There was only one thing for it – George went out and bought his very own E46 M3, albeit a coupé, and approached Peter with the words, ‘Build me one’. Not being one to upset his customers, Peter promptly agreed to get the project rolling.

    But before getting to George’s build story, let’s rewind to how Peter and Cougar began development of that gorgeous M3 drophead. Amazingly, Peter sourced his vehicle from London! It may seem crazy, especially as George sourced his coupé from a local Cypriot dealership, so we’ll let Peter explain: “I wanted the perfect base car with the perfect factory spec. Importing the car meant I could get my hands on one earlier, it gave me far more choice and it was, even with import taxes, cheaper than purchasing a new model here. If you buy from a local dealership you take what they have, and the options are rather limited. For me finding the ideal base car was extremely important.”

    With so much time and effort ploughed into sourcing the perfect project car, I assume Peter is one of those types; you know, the ones who spend thousands on body mods and forced induction, only to park their car up and look at it. So I ask him what he did when his car arrived at the docks and am taken aback by his response. “I turned the traction control off and went drifting. I’d been waiting for that moment for such a long time and I was so excited I just couldn’t help myself.” Maybe I misjudged you Peter…

    As a distributor for major tuners such as Vorsteiner, iForged, CCR Racing, and Active Autowerkes Peter wasn’t short of contacts for sorting out mods for his M3 project. As luck would have it, Vorsteiner was keen to tap into the Cypriot tuning market and with no base in the country decided to work together with Cougar: Peter’s M3 was to become the demonstrator for its carbon E46 product line-up.

    Ticking his way through the catalogue, Peter had soon ordered a new Vorsteiner carbon GTR bonnet, rear diffuser and side skirts, as well as a VRS front lip and CSL-style bumper. Nice work if you can get it! Once all the carbon kit was fitted, the car’s suspension needed revision, especially in light of the planned 20” rollers. Tuners’ favourite, KW Variant 3s, fitted the bill perfectly, enabling Peter to drop the car more than 40mm all round. This would prove essential to compliment the forthcoming performance boost and help highlight the gigantic diameter of the 20” gold iForged deep-dish rims. Carbon styling and Phoenix yellow paintwork; they look so good together that the transformation was an immediate success. But there’s something not quite right about an M3 dripping with the world’s finest aftermarket wheels and body parts that still goes like any other M3.

    “To me performance is the most important factor, and having been involved with the tuning of everything from turbocharged 355 Ferraris to Mazda RX-7s I wanted my new German love to get some similar treatment.”

    With the help of UK-based CA Automotive, Peter got hold of an Active Autowerke Stage 4 supercharger kit which, alongside new engine management, realises 525bhp from the standard engine. Peter popped in a Sachs racing flywheel for peace of mind and out back fitted an Eisenmann exhaust and decat pipe. He also slapped on a set of oversized brakes from TWR Racing that feature 410mm discs and eight-pot calipers. Holy mother of God! Now for journalistic artistry I wish the installation had had its headaches; things going bang, punches being thrown. But Peter tells me it all went without a hitch and has proven totally reliable, the ’charger coping with the blistering heat of Cyprus in its stride.

    With Cougar’s demo car now built there was nothing left to do but show off all the hard work. But no one would have predicted what an impact this car would have, especially on one Mr George Papadopoulos. “I met George at a show and he was just fascinated by the car,” reveals Peter. “We spoke and he told me about his previous Japanese projects, such as an RX-7 and #Mitsubishi GTO. With my experience and workshop there was a great deal of common ground and after a quick blast in the passenger seat, his smile said all I needed to know.”

    The smile to which Peter refers was swiftly followed by an audacious sentence, “Can you build me one?” George was instructed to find the donor car and eventually attempted to differentiate his project by opting for the solid-roofed E46 M3. “We live in a beautiful climate, so I felt buying the convertible would have been cool, but Peter did just that, and besides, a coupé should be quicker on track, too!”

    Unlike Peter, George travelled just a few miles to find his Phoenix yellow motor; a dealership in Limassol had the car he yearned for, and after handing over – wait for it – €50,000, it was his. A spot was booked at the Cougar workshop and now it was down to Peter to reproduce the full glory of his own car on George’s new-found motor!

    As with his own project, Peter’s first job was to put in a rather long call to Vorsteiner. A carbon GTR bonnet, CSL-style bumper and front lip, side skirts, rear diffuser and bootlid were soon winging their way across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean paradise. And because it was for the coupé, Vorsteiner could also offer its carbon CSL-style roof skin, a part that Cougar would seamlessly integrate and one that takes this motor into unchartered territory. There are very few #E46 M3’s sporting genuine carbon roofs, and even fewer that can match this level of fit and finish.

    With the Vorsteiner carbon in place, wheels were on the agenda and having fallen in love with everything on Peter’s convertible, George had an easy decision to make. “I wanted the same iForged wheels only in polished aluminium. I also opted for 20” but i planned on slammng the car even further.”



    With the car dropped 50mm all round, it was time to deal with performance. Unlike Peter’s convertible, the coupé would take a new direction and utilise a different kit, one from CCR Racing.

    The CCR Racing kit is known to us: we featured an #E39 #M5 running one of its systems that produced just under 600bhp, so be assured this is no cheap alternative. In fact, on the dyno these cars both produce very similar numbers, at 515-525bhp. Again, by choosing respected manufacturers who pride themselves on thorough and extensive testing, the kit bolted straight in, and with its bespoke software ran perfectly first time. Although not necessarily required, Peter also persuaded George to fit a superior Sachs racing flywheel, and to differentiate the vocal tones of the two cars, a Supersprint back box.

    Big brakes were the next stop, so to speak, with a D2 big brake kit featuring 365mm discs and whopping six-pot calipers slotted in behind those gaping rims. In their own right each car is impressive. They are both more around 50% more powerful than their standard counterparts. Their tweaked chassis are now honed and more than able to cope with devastating accelerative surges and even more severe braking. By using only the very finest suppliers, BMW factory fit and finish has been maintained. And although most of us can only dream of building such cars, it’s nice to appreciate the work of a couple of men who actually have.

    Put these M3s together and the sight is nothing short of spectacular. On the road, heads don’t merely turn: people stop and stare. By utilising the same styling cues these two can amplify the interest in their vehicles simply by driving or parking alongside one another. It’s a modifying trick I’d never thought of, and credit goes to Peter. Rather than draw the limelight away from his stunning convertible, the identical Phoenix yellow coupé ramps up the intensity of attention they receive. On their own each owner can enjoy the plaudits heaped on a glorious and bespoke feature car. Together they’re an indulgent expression of good taste.

    DATA FILE - E46 M3 CABRIOLET

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.2-litre in-line six #S54 , #Active-Autowerke Stage 4 supercharger system and ECU software, Eisenmann 76mm quad exhaust system, custom decat pipe. Sachs ZF clutch kit and racing flywheel.

    CHASSIS: 8.5x20” (front) and 10x20” (rear) gold iForged Aero wheels shod in 245/30 and 285/25 Toyo T1R tyes respectively. KW V3 coilover system. TWR big brake kit featuring 410mm discs and eight-pot calipers.

    EXTERIOR: Vorsteiner carbon GTR bonnet, VRS front lip, V-CSL front bumper, carbon diffuser, side skirts.

    INTERIOR: As standard

    DATA FILE - E46 M3 COUPÉ

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.2-litre in-line six #S54 , #CCR-Racing supercharger system and ECU software, Supersprint 76mm quad exhaust system, custom decat pipe, water meth injection system. #Sachs #ZF racing flywheel.

    CHASSIS: 8.5x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) polished iForged Aero wheels shod in 245/30 and 285/25 Toyo T1R tyres respectively. KW V3 coilover system. D2 big brake kit featuring 365mm discs and six-pot calipers.

    EXTERIOR: Vorsteiner carbon GTR bonnet, VRS front lip, V-CSL front bumper, roof skin and bootlid, side skirts.

    INTERIOR: As standard

    THANKS: Vorsteiner, iForged and CA Automotive.
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