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  • Post is under moderation
    Seems spring has arrived early

    CAR: 1989 BMW 320i Convertible
    OWNER: Glen Waddington
    PHOTOS: Robert Hefferon

    / #1989-BMW-320i-Convertible / #1989 / #BMW-320i-Convertible / #BMW-320i-Convertible-E30 / #BMW-320i-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-M20 / #M20B20 / #BMW-320i-E30 / #BMW-320i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet / #BMW-E30-M20 / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet-M20 / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-320i-Cabriolet / #BMW-320i-Cabriolet-E30

    This Time last year we had snow. My 944 had just recently blown its rep by blowing out its own electrics, and the Beemer was tucked up safely in my garage. Where it spends too much time. But I don’t like taking it out on wintry roads, because it’s nearly 30 years old, factory-original and in damn fine fettle.

    As I write this on the last day in February, I’m looking out onto a sunlit garden, daffodils swaying gently in the breeze, birdsong drifting through an open window. Two record-breakingly warm days preceded this one. But tomorrow it’s back to normal. Whatever counts for normal in 2019.

    Anyway, I’ll stop wittering, because my point is that this is the first winter during my eight-year tenure of the BMW – today is its anniversary – during which it’s been driven with anything like regularity. I was even out giving it an early spring clean last weekend, ahead of driving it to Bicester Heritage for an editorial meeting with the #Drive-My team. And I drove home with the roof down. That has rarely happened this side of April. I’m generally an advocate of use rather than storage, although I admit that when the BMW crept past 50,000 miles last year, I fleetingly wondered if I should mothball it. Winter hibernation can cause the odd issue: I’ve lost count of the new batteries I’ve fitted (even if the last one was terminally discharged when I left the bootlid slightly ajar – can’t blame the car or the weather for that one), plus I’ve been through a master cylinder, a clutch slave cylinder, a heater blower motor and a seized brake caliper. All these failures occurred within the first post-hibernation drive.

    There have been no such problems this year, and I’ll count my sunburnt forehead as a freak of the highly unseasonable weather. We’ve had a lot of frosty nights, mind. Frosty enough to make the 944 a tardy starter one morning. Rather than drain the battery, I reached for the Energizer 400A jump-starter kit I got late last summer. It wasn’t cheap at around £100, but it’s about the size of a large smartphone and can be used to charge one of those so you can cycle its battery between boosts. Connection is easy – it’s great not having to lug something heavy around – and the 944 sprang instantly to life. Indispensible for any car that is parked up for just a touch too long.
    So I’m glad I’ve got it, ready for when we have snow in June…

    Above and below: BMW bowls along at Bicester; it was joined by editor Elliott’s Triumph not-2000 – and a McLaren 12C Spider.
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    Rest and recuperation
    CAR: 1981 BMW 323i BAUR CABRIOLET
    OWNER: Sanjay Seetanah

    / #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic / #Boxd

    It’s been a few months since I last wrote an update on my Baur Cabriolet, but it has been in regular use and pretty much my everyday car. Since I bought it in August 2015 I have added around 10,000 mies to the 106,748 it showed then, even though it spent most of 2016 being restored. It’s certainly getting more use than it had with the previous owner.

    Post-restoration snags carried on into 2018. We had to get the boot repainted because it was patchy in places, and the rear quarter panels started to show signs of rusting, as did a small area around the rear quarter windows, the battery support plate came away altogether and had to be bolted back into place. Maybe they didn’t get rid of all the rust...

    With everyday use, things are likely to go wrong at some stage with a 38-year-old car. During restoration we reconditioned and re-used as many mechanical parts as possible, but more work was soon needed. A whining noise from the front, like a quiet jet engine, turned out to be the wheel bearings so I had all of them changed, front and rear. Next was a horrendous clicking noise underneath from a disintegrating exhaust downpipe. Exhaust parts for right-hand-drive E21 BMW's are like hens’ teeth, but a pair of new-old-stock downpipes showed up on eBay only an hour away, in Marlborough - sorted!

    Next, a grinding clutch release bearing, replaced along with the rest of the clutch. And then, towards the end of the summer, I started having to top up the coolant more frequently. All seemed well on a compression test, so it’s probably not a leaking head gasket. Finally, the oil-pressure light started to glow when idling.

    I met up with Sam Lawrence, at Boxd in South-east London, a new and very popular storage facility. Boxd offers a maintenance service, too, so while your car is in storage they can, for a fee, tinker with it during the winter so it’s niggle-free when you have it back in the spring.

    With that oil-light problem I didn’t want to risk driving the BMW, so I had it transported to Boxd for the technical staff there to assess, they found plenty to keep them busy, the clonks on braking and cornering were from a poorly fitted alarm, found rolling loose in the scuttle area, there was a smell of petrol, requiring a check of hoses and clips around the tank and pump, they will check the whole cooling system for leakage, and fix an oil leak by replacing the sump gasket while carrying out a service. As for the indication of low oil pressure, they’ll start with the warning light’s switch.

    What else? A new seal should stop the major water leak past the offside rear light cluster, the rear silencers will be renewed, blown dashboard bulbs will be replaced with LEDs, and the heater fan made quieter, the non-responsive lever for cold air will receive a new cable, if necessary. Reinstating missing washers in the (loose) wiper mechanism should fix a leak into the scuttle, and the bonnet needs a new torsion spring, the headlights are dim, too - might they deserve an upgrade?

    I’m hoping there will be time to tackle most of the above by spring but, with such a mild winter to date, I am missing it already. Worse, I’m surfing the net to find more Baurs for sale. I must be mad.

    Top and left: BMW has luxury transport, by Classic Automotive Relocation Services, to its winter retreat and health spa at Boxd.
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    Time for the autumn chill-out

    1989 BMW 320i Convertible Glen Waddington

    / #1989-BMW-320i-Convertible / #1989 / #BMW-320i-Convertible / #BMW-320i-Convertible-E30 / #BMW-320i-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-M20 / #M20B20 / #BMW-320i-E30 / #BMW-320i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet / #BMW-E30-M20 / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet-M20 / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-320i-Cabriolet / #BMW-320i-Cabriolet-E30

    As I write this the sun is shining outside. It’s bloody cold, though. Autumn is setting in quickly and suddenly and it’s only just over a month since I spent a balmy late-summer evening with a whole bunch of BMW convertibles near Henley-on-Thames, as regular readers might remember. I had a fantastic time piloting such beauties as a BMW-328-Roadster , a #BMW-507 , a #BMW-Z1 and a #BMW-Z8 (see right), before sunset called a halt to proceedings.

    Thing is, I’d already had a fabulous drive down there in my own #BMW-Convertible . And no matter what the charms of those other cars were - only one of which I could even imagine owning, if you bear their market values in mind - mine more than held its own. In fact, it was rather enjoyable to have some of the other assembled journalists take a look over it; one or two of them even assumed it had been brought down as part of BMW’s own fleet!

    The journey was a hundred miles or so, much on trunk roads plus a spell on the M40. But the scenery turns bucolic in a major way on the stretch south from Stokenchurch, narrow lanes winding and plunging through dense woodland with the sun barely filtering through at times, thee leafy smell and the birdsong make a convertible a real treat to be in - quite a different effect from the more usual roof-down/howling exhaust scenario.

    A few hours later I had to think about my route home, those thread-like lanes could easily hide the occasional inebriated local, lurking in a 4x4 without thought to a delicate 1980s soft-top, so I headed out of Henley towards Nettlebed and Watlington and was treated to some fabulously sinuous B-roads, perfect for the innate balance and modest yet useful power of my 320i. Even the roundabouts on the A43 past Brackley did their bit to make this a properly life-affirming high-speed late-night trek. One I’ll remember during the winter evenings ahead.
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    Shark Hunting
    CAR: 1981 BMW 323i TOP CABRIO
    OWNER: Sanjay Seetanah

    / #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic

    Have you heard classic BMWs described as ‘sharknose’? Sharknose-era BMWs were manufactured from the 1960s through to the late ’80s and represent a crucial period in BMW’s history. They can be as different as they are similar. Some were built for racing, some were built for families.

    Some featured cutting-edge technology, others were a little more basic. What brings them together is a common design aesthetic. They range from the Neue Klasse models of the ’60s through to the M1 and E28 (the second-generation 5-series), taking in the CSA, CS and CSLs and the earlier 3-, 5-, 6- and 7-series along the way.

    Now the #BMW-Car-Club has introduced a new umbrella group called the Sharknose Collection, and I was delighted to be asked to attend a gathering of cars from this collection to produce a video for the club’s website. As club secretary Richard Baxter says: ‘These cars are now becoming sought after yet finding parts and specialists can be difficult. The Sharknose section of the club aims to give cars and owners a collective platform at shows, to help with parts and accessories, to share technical days, and allow networking with fellow owners.’

    The pressure was on to get my Baur looking as good as possible, given the company that it was going to be with. I contacted Joseph Crowe, owner of Knowl Hill Performance Cars in Maidenhead (www.knowlhill. com), and he obligingly ensured that the car was machine polished to look its best.

    Gathered together for the shoot were some of the very best examples of sharknose BMWs in the UK. In the picture, above, from left to right are Stu and Lizzy Blount’s grey #BMW-E28 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW-M5-E28 , Tony Wilkes’ beige #BMW-E3 , Georg Champ’s red #BMW-2002 , Sam Lever’s blue #BMW-3.0-CSL-E9 , Trevor Gude’s white #BMW-E12 / #BMW-M535i-E12 , my own BMW-323i Baur Top Cabrio and Kos Ioizou’s beautiful red #BMW-635CSi-E24 . I was amazed at the depth of knowledge and passion for the cars shown by all the owners – the future of these classics is safe in their hands.

    The Club is looking for ownership and restoration stories to share in its monthly publication Straight Six and hopes to attract owners of cars not yet known about. Cars from the Sharknose Collection will be on show at several events this year, including Masters at Brands Hatch on 26-27 May; Sharknose Europe at Rosmalen, Holland, on 23 June; Silverstone Classic on 20-22 July and the club’s National Festival on 12 August at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon. There’s more info at www.bmwcarclubgb.uk and I hope I will get along to at least one or two in the Baur.

    Above and below Sharknose Collection members lined up some of the UK’s finest examples, including Sanjay’s 323i Baur cabriolet.
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    A question of #safety

    CAR: #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic

    OWNER: Sanjay Seetanah

    Winter came and went and I haven’t carried out all the improvements on the BMW that I’d hoped to. But there’s a major incident to report. We came back from holiday in early December and there was a strong smell of petrol throughout the house. It was coming from the garage and – specifically – from the BMW.

    I took the car to Automo (www.automo.co), where it had been restored, and it turned out that there were several problems to fix. Later six-cylinder E21s were fitted with an extra fuel tank, connected by a link pipe, plus extra venting, an expansion tank, connectors, clamps and so on, which means a host of possible weaknesses. Access to most can be gained only via a hole in the bodywork under the rear seat base. Automo traced a leak to the connecting pipe between the two tanks – and also the fuel cap, which I had not fully closed…

    Even with the problem diagnosed and fixed, there is still a distinct smell of fuel around the car, especially on a full tank, so further investigation is required.

    The other improvement I managed to complete was to fit new seatbelts. The old ones were difficult to pull out, did not fully retract, and were prone to catching in the doors. The rear belts were covered in red paint overspray too, so I was keen to get them sorted.

    I called on the help of Stuart Quick at Quickfit SBS (www. quickfitsbs.com), a family-run business created by Stuart’s father Bill Quick, which has been fitting seatbelts to cars since the early 1960s, well before they even became a legal requirement. Of course, if your car was originally manufactured without seatbelts, you are not required by law to have them fitted. However, passengers under 12 years of age must be strapped in whether your car was manufactured with seatbelts or not. And if you’re planning to use your classic on a tour or long trip, seatbelts are a worthwhile safety upgrade.

    Quickfit can retrofit periodlooking seatbelts that will not look out of place.

    In making the Cabrio, Baur adapted the rear seatbelts of the E21 saloon. The saloon’s mounting points are fixed to the rear pillars but, in the Cabrio, the belt housings were moved to a position in the boot, under the rear parcel shelf. This required parts to be made specifically for the Baur, and they are now extremely hard to find. Quickfit also advised that the webbing itself needed to be changed, as well as the reels and mechanisms.

    The result is that all the seatbelts now work perfectly.

    Above and left #Quickfit-SBS made up new seatbelts from scratch to fit the Baur, which has unique mountings in the boot space for the rear belts; Baur’s red paint glows against the backdrop of a WW2 hangar at Bicester Heritage.
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    Time to get the rot sorted

    CAR: 1981 BMW 323i TOP CABRIO
    OWNER: Sanjay Seetanah

    / #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic

    The original pitch from the advertising agency that proposed BMW’s now legendary slogan was made back in 1974 and was therefore used in the various campaigns for the launch of the new E21 in 1976. But is there any truth in it? Was it really the #Ultimate-Driving-Machine ?

    The Baur is a fantastic little car and such great fun to drive, with oodles of power. I have enjoyed using it so much that it has become my everyday car; there is only one set of keys I look for whenever I go out (without being disloyal to the DB7, of course). It is so perfectly at home on modern roads and motorways that it is hard to believe that this is a car designed in the early ’70s; it feels so comfortable in all conditions. The driving position is excellent with good visibility all-round, and on motorways the car is very quiet inside the cabin, unbelievably so for a convertible built 35 years ago. This car must have been so over-engineered in its day.

    BMW even had an ad campaign claiming that, with the top down and driving in the rain, the design of the ‘targa’ roof meant that you would still stay dry inside the cabin, as the rain would be deflected away. I will put that to the test in due course.

    As you can see, I am full of praise for the 323i and rightly so I think. What other five-seater convertibles were there in the early ’80s that boasted disc brakes all-round (vented at the front), a 143bhp six-cylinder engine with five-speed gearbox, 0-60mph in 8 seconds, a top speed of 120mph, and driver comforts such as central locking, electric mirrors, three-speed windscreen wipers and even headlight wipers. This car was so far ahead of its competitors that I think BMW had every right to use that ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ slogan.

    At £12,000 new it wasn’t cheap but it meant you were driving what was probably one of the most well-engineered cars of its day. That price also meant that it appealed to owners who could afford to maintain them. I am lucky to have found one that I know has been very well looked after and garaged for much of its life. That said, the model suffered from corrosion and, although mine looked OK, it was impossible to tell what was lurking beneath. There was superficial rust all over the bodywork, not terrible but I could see that some work needed to be done. As winter approached I was faced with a dilemma: should I face up to it now or wait another year?

    A chance meeting with Chedeen Battick, owner of Slough restoration company Automo (www.automo.co), set the cat among the pigeons.

    Chedeen and I met at the launch of a car he had designed for a Jaguar re-creation manufacturer. The work that he had engineered was impressive, so when he said that he had been let down on a job and could get my car in to take a closer look at the paintwork, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

    The plan is to strip it down to see what needs to be done. I’ll report back next time but I am very excited about the prospect of getting the bodywork sorted out.

    THANKS TO BMW Classic Group, www.realoem.com.
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    Renewing the vows

    OWNER: Glen Waddington

    CAR: #1989-BMW-320i-Convertible / #1989 / #BMW-320i-Convertible / #BMW-320i-Convertible-E30 / #BMW-320i-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-M20 / #M20B20 / #BMW-320i-E30 / #BMW-320i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet / #BMW-E30-M20 / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet-M20 / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-320i-Cabriolet / #BMW-320i-Cabriolet-E30

    Sometimes I find it difficult to believe that the Beemer is 28 years old. The body’s in such fine (and still original) fettle, it’s such a vivacious drive, and it’s still got less than 50k on the clock. I love it to bits, but I use it sparingly.

    A little too sparingly over the last year, though. Life got in the way, in exactly the manner described by John Simister in his How to reconnect with your classic piece in #Drive-My . The 320i had languished over winter yet flew through its MoT in April, though when I wanted to press it into service for a rare romantic weekend away with Mrs W, a shudder through the steering the night before we headed off put paid to that. And I’d already been putting up with a non-functioning heater blower for 14 months or so. So I booked it in for a once-over with my mate Stuart Templeton.

    The night before it headed off to Templeton’s Garage (www. templetonsgarage.co.uk) I washed and buffed the bodywork: step 1 of the reconnection. And it came back a few days later, following a short service and with the maladies rectified (step 2).

    The shaky wheel? A seized brake caliper was the culprit, as Stuart had diagnosed on the phone. With that replaced (on exchange), plus a new blower motor, the Beemer was back to singing along. Just in time for the early-June heatwave.

    And so step 3 of the reconnection was suddenly there for the taking: get back out and enjoy the car, reminding myself what it was I always loved about it in the first place.

    This is our seventh summer together. I always said it’d be a keeper. And that remains true, especially now it’s running that little bit sweeter – amazing what fresh oil can do, even if it’s all in the mind. And yes, I’d swear it’s that little bit faster too.

    As a family, the four of us headed down to the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the Beemer, roof-down for the stretch across the Downs from Winchester. Reconnection complete.
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    Fine tuning 1981 BMW 323i

    TOP CABRIO SANJAY SEETANAH

    / #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic

    Most of the saga of getting my Cabrio back on the road was covered last month. All except the story of its fuel injection. And #Bosch K-Jetronic is notoriously difficult to get right. There was a strong smell of fuel and the car was running rough and revving high at idle. Then, during the early summer months, it started to run hot.

    The temperature gauge needle should sit exactly in the middle of the dial when the engine is up to temperature, but it was creeping over the ¾ mark. I tried to diagnose the fault myself, and changed the sender unit – but no difference. So I changed the thermostat, but no. Could it be the water pump? No, that was fine too. Could it be the head gasket? Gulp! I took the car to #Munich-Motors in Wokingham, where Clive Sanchez has been specialising in older BMWs for several years. He soon had the Baur running smoothly again.

    The overheating turned out to be a faulty new thermostat! And fine-tuning the K-Jetronic injection was a relief, as the car had been guzzling fuel, but it was now returning a respectable 28mpg. Felt quicker with it, too. There have been several other minor problems, such as the alternator which I replaced (from #Linwa-Motors in Lancashire). I drive the car every day, but I don’t want to continue using it throughout the winter months and it’s too nice to be kept outdoors so I think I will store it until spring.

    There are many things that I want to improve, though some parts are near-impossible to find, especially in right-hand-drive form. The seats are creaky and could do with re-padding and springing. I have managed to source some original seat fabric from #BMW-Group-Classic which was an absolute find: a project for the winter.

    Above With the fuel injection sorted and a faulty thermostat replaced, the Baur Cabrio is now a star performer.

    THANKS TO Jeroen De Laat at BMWE21.net; Benjamin Voss at BMW Group Classic, realoem.com; Clive Sanchez at Munich Motors, munichmotors. co.uk; Ian Thompson at Linwar Motors, linwar.com; Chedeen Battick at Automo, automo.co.
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    LAGUNA E46 M3 Lush UK air-ride Cab

    A schoolboy dream has become reality in the shape of a Laguna Seca E46 M3 Cab, with a few mods for good measure, of course. Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Matt Dear.

    DREAM WEAVER Air-ride E46 M3
    Achieving your dreams, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant they may appear to some people, is an incredible feeling. From dream jobs, to dream weddings and, obviously, dream cars, these items, events and experiences fill us with sheer joy and make our lives better. Whatever your dream may be, achieving it, making it happen is a special moment; for Bally Hanspal this car was that dream and, as you can plainly see, it’s most definitely become a reality.

    “BMWs have been a big part of my life,” begins Bally as we ask him to tell his tale, “with my late grandfather, dad and uncle all owning BMWs through my childhood. It always made me want one and, also, with how amazing they are to drive nothing else can come close to them. For me they really are the ultimate driving machines; despite owning other brands of cars I always seem to have a soft spot for BMWs,” he smiles, and that’s something we wager most of us can relate to.

    Bally has dabbled with VAG in the past, ticking off the wheels, suspension and audio boxes along the way before moving towards the performance end of the modding spectrum, all of which served as perfect preparation for the inevitable purchase of his dream car. “When the E46 M3 was released, back when I was still in school, I promised myself I’d own a Laguna Seca blue one, one day. Many people laughed, but it was a dream I had to make come true,” he says and that steely determination is what made it happen. Bally kicked BMW ownership off with an E46 320Ci Sport, the biggest engine he could insure at the tender age of 20, but it was just a stepping stone until he could get his hands on the full-fat, M-powered 3 Series of his dreams. “I remember the day when I bought the car so clearly,” he smiles, “a friend of mine phoned me up – it was a warm Saturday afternoon – and he phoned me asking if I had found any cars for sale. I mentioned I had seen this one for sale on Autotrader, not too far from me. He said ‘Let’s go down and take a look’ so we headed over and after just walking around the car and checking it over I knew this was the one for me. The condition of the car was tip-top and it was so well-maintained that I would have been kicking myself if I hadn’t bought it.”

    There were, says Bally, no plans to mod the car when he first got it, and he actually thought that was going to leave the car alone but here we are, it’s in a modded BMW mag. It wasn’t long, he says, before he started ordering parts for his M3 and he didn’t mess about. Wheels came first, with a set of CSL 19s chosen and to go with those he picked out a custom set of BC Racing coilovers to deliver the required drop. With the E46 M3’s natural good looks now nicely enhanced, Bally turned his attention to the audio system and fitted an Alpine double-DIN head unit along with a set of MB Quart component speakers front and rear, which made it into the car’s current build state. So too did the amber corner lights, which look great against that bright, bold blue bodywork, and Bally has also fitted a seriously sexy set of K-Sport brakes, with monster eight-pots up front wrapped around 365mm discs and four-pots at the back, and the red calipers really pop against the body and wheels.

    All was going well, but Bally wasn’t in a good place with his suspension. “The BC coilovers were pretty awesome I must say, but with the car not being practical with the way I wanted it the next step was air. After speaking to many people and reading many reviews I went for Air Lift’s 3P setup and I also added Powerflex wishbone and anti-roll bar bushes just to tighten-up that awesome drive.” Now Bally can enjoy all the lows he can eat, so to speak, while still being able to actually drive the car and we like the fact that he’s also done a little bit more than just the bags alone, to allow him to really get the best out that awesome chassis that the E46 M3 is blessed with.

    With air on board, Bally decided it was time to up his wheel game but with so many good-looking wheels available for the car, this was not an easy task. It was helped slightly by the fact that he’d always had his eye on the wheels he’s ended up, that being a set of Schnitzer Type II Racing three-piece splits, and they are gorgeous, the metallic grey centres really suiting the whole colour scheme on the car. Where people often go big on diameter, Bally has stuck to a sensible 18” but he’s gone wide; the fronts are a reasonably large 9.25” but the rears are a monster 11.25” across and they fill the arches to bursting, and with it aired out the fitment is perfection.

    As far as styling is concerned, Bally has had the front bumper smoothed and it’s been enhanced with the addition of a full carbon fibre CSL front splitter, which not only adds a healthy dose of visual drama but also drops the car even further towards the Tarmac. Moving inside, that vibrant interior didn’t start out life this way and the original seats have made way for a striking red ensemble; “I wanted my M3 to stand out from the rest,” he says, “and after looking at many options it had to be the red Nappa leather, giving the car the Super Man look,” he grins and now it all makes sense. But here too there’s more than meets the eye, and where you might, perhaps, expect to see carbon on a car like this you will instead find that all the interior trims have been finished in Alcantara. “The trims are my favourite mod on the car and they were something I had in mind for a while, but it was a big problem getting them done, with so many companies saying they couldn’t do it and that it couldn’t be done. In the end my dad and I, along with my grandmother, did them together,” and the end result is absolutely unique and wonderful with it. Finally, in the boot, you will find the single air tank and Viair compressor that make up the air ride and, a neat touch, is that with the boot lid being de-badged, the air tank now wears the M3 badge instead.

    As far as performance mods are concerned, Bally has so far just added a gorgeous GruppeM carbon intake up front and a de-catted Scorpion exhaust system but it sounds like the next big mod on the to-do list is a supercharger and going by his determination and refusal to give up with any part of the build so far, you can be sure that’s going to happen before too long. There’s no rush though, Bally has no plans to let his dream car go anytime soon; “After now owning the car for two years I’d say it’s an on-going going project that will probably never end,” he chuckles. Bally’s built himself an absolutely beautiful M3, one that’s packed with neat, unique touches that really make it stand out and it’s a car he can truly be proud of. Dreams can come true.

    GruppeM carbon fibre intake the only performance mod, for now…
    Gorgeous 18” AC Schnitzer Type II Racing splits.
    “I wanted my M3 to stand out from the rest and after looking at many options it had to be the red Nappa leather, giving the car the Super Man look”
    Alpine double-DIN head unit and custom Alcantara trims.
    Red Nappa leather looks fantastic against bodywork.
    Custom-mounted Air Lift controller.
    Air install has been kept simple and the air tank now wears the M3 boot badge.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-M3-Cabrio / #BMW-M3-Cabrio-E46 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E46

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 / #BMW-S54 , #Scorpion exhaust system with de-cat, GruppeM carbon air intake, six-speed manual gearbox, short-shift kit

    CHASSIS 9.25x18” (front) and 11.25x18” (rear) #AC-Schnitzer-Type-II-Racing three-piece wheels with 215/35 (front) and 245/35 (rear) tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance-3P air suspension, #Powerflex wishbone and anti-roll bar bushes, #K-Sport #BBK with eight-piston calipers and 365mm discs (front) and four-piston calipers and 330mm discs (rear) / #AC-Schnitzer-Type-II / #AC-Schnitzer / #Air-Lift-Performance

    EXTERIOR #Laguna-Seca-Blue , smoothed front bumper, amber corner lights, gloss black front and side grilles, carbon fibre full CSL front splitter, CCFL angel eyes

    INTERIOR Red Nappa leather seats and door cards, Alcantara-trimmed dash, door grab handles and centre console, #Alpine double-DIN head unit, #MB-Quart components front and rear

    THANKS A massive thank-you to my family for the support and help putting it all together, Adam and Dav down at Autobahn for the fitting of many parts, Ryan at Ryandetails for the amazing job on the detailing of the paintwork
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