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    TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED Wild supercharged E90 M3

    Karel Silha’s M3 has been evolving for a few years, getting ever madder and more frightening. As he teeters on the cusp of his next round of innovations, we pin down his green monster to see just how deeply this lunacy has spiraled… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Patrik Karlsson.

    840HP E90 M3 Supercharged wide-arch beast

    The most fun cars are the ones that do surprising things; ones that subvert your expectations and lead your preconceptions down a hitherto uncharted path. We’re not talking about sleepers here – that’s a well-documented area, and a whole textbook in itself. No, what’s flicking our switch today is the idea of using a novel base to build something devastating. Like when Top Gear commissioned Lotus to build a trackslaying Lada, and the Norfolk spannertwiddlers ended up throwing £100k at it. Or when Volvo entered the BTCC in the 1990s with an 850 estate. These are not the logical cars to choose for such endeavours, which is what makes the whole concept so eminently desirable.

    So it is with Karel Silha’s M3. He wanted to build an unstoppable and terrifying car with which to distort reality in the otherworldly and near-mythical amphitheatre of the now-world-renowned Gatebil events, so he chose to go with an M3. Fair play, sound reasoning, we can see why you’d do that But, just for the sake of waving two fingers at the rest of the paddock, he didn’t take the obvious route and buy himself an E92 coupé. He chose the sensible, dad-spec E90 fourdoor saloon.

    Alright, we’ll immediately retract ‘sensible, dad-spec’, that’s a moronic way to describe a machine as formidable as the E90 – but you have to admit that the act of deliberately choosing a car with extra doors you know you’re never going to use is something only a belligerent and confrontational person would do. It’s Touring Car rules; you’ve got four doors so that people spectating can relate your car to their own salesman-spec diesel commuter. Karel’s just cranked things up a notch, simply to be mischievous. Oh, those effervescently zany Swedes…

    “My first car was a Toyota Starlet,” he explains, which is actually something we hear a lot. A surprising number of skilled helmsmen cut their teeth in that balletic Japanese poppet, it must teach its drivers an awful lot about car control. “I’ve been working with BMWs for about 12 or 13 years now though. My first was an E30, which I wanted to turn into a bit of turbocharged weekend fun. Most of my BMWs have been E30s in fact; the most recent one was making 982hp and 887lb ft on an old M20 engine.”

    It’s probably safe to assume that this fella knows what he’s doing when it comes to perving over BMWs then. However, the E90 is a world apart from the E30 (just look at the maths, it’s 60 #BMW Top Trump points adrift), so this little race car project was always going to be something of a challenge, right? No, not a bit of it. Karel’s the sort of chap who just knuckles down and gets on with it and there’s no half-measures here. Allin or nothing.

    “I wanted to do fast lap times and the goal was to be quick,” he says, with hilarious modesty and masterful understatement. “With that in mind, there was only one chassis that was suitable for this: the E90 M3. So I bought the car from a friend – it was in really good condition, aside from the engine, which was trashed. One of the rods had found its way out…” But with the plans that Karel had made, a blown motor was an irrelevance. Stock engines aren’t Gatebil fodder. It was always the gameplan to tear the motor apart and beef everything up like Meat Loaf in an Angus Steakhouse.

    “Yes, the whole build was fully mapped out from the start,” he assures us. “We even drew up 3D renderings of how it would look when it was finished. The plan was always clear.” Oh, and what a plan it was. With ruthless efficiency and the sort of clockwork dominance of the to-do list that you normally find in school staff rooms, Karel and his crew set about ripping the E90 to shreds and building it back up as an apex-humiliating, spectator-arousing beast.

    “In the first year, we dealt with the chassis,” he says. “KW three-way competition suspension, and also a big brake upgrade from Endless, to get the chassis fully dialled-in. We’d initially talked to a local company about our suspension options, and the support was terrible, so we ended up talking to KW suspension in Germany. They answered all of our questions in one email and the support was just above and beyond, so it was a no-brainer to go with KW! They made a custom three-way competition kit for us, and those guys have been a strong partner ever since.”

    With the chassis tested and thoroughly proven, the second year of the E90 build threw up some proper mischief. “In year two we did the forged engine,” says Karel, “and then we supercharged it – and this was no off-the-shelf kit, it was the biggest setup ESS could make for us. We ended up with 840hp, and we also upgraded the ECU to a full Motec setup, with PDM [Power Distribution Module], dash and ECU. We fitted a Samsonas sequential gearbox with paddleshift too.” Phew. Time to take a breath, drink in the magnificence of the spec, and just have a little think about our own life choices. Stick the kettle on for some pondering time, we’ll see you at the next paragraph.

    Better? We know, it’s a lot to take in. But brace yourselves, as there’s a little more to come. You see, it would have been amusingly stealthy to jam all of this sweaty grunt into a stock-looking four-door shell, but stealth has never been the Swedish forced induction enthusiasts’ watchword. So what you’re seeing here is a searing vision in Snakeskin Green, a Dodge Viper colour no less, and to prove that this build isn’t just about dumb horsepower there’s a frankly staggering aero setup. Just look at the frickin’ size of that rear diffuser, for goodness’ sake! And the front splitter’s big enough to stand a family of six upon, let alone allowing them all to have a little nap on the rear wing. This thing may have enough horsepower to make a Bugatti owner think twice, but it’s also glued to the track by the crushing inevitability of downforce. It’s actually kinda frightening. Another hugely impressive element of this build is just how stock that S65 motor is, aside from the comically large blower. It’s got forged pistons and rods from Pure Performance Motorsport in Australia, and a suitably juiced-up fuelling system feeding through a Weldon 2345 pump (which is good for 1300hp!), but aside from that it’s pretty much as the M Division intended. Talk about over-engineering, eh?


    Still, there was a global vibe developing in this Swedish-honed, German-built car with Australian engine upgrades and Japanese interior addenda, so it only made sense for the rolling stock to come from somewhere unexpected too. That’s why you’ll find a set of Work VS-XX wheels under those widened carbon fibre arches – custom-built wheels from Japan. And the rears are a spanking 12.5” wide, which allows for some seriously dirty contact patch. “We wanted a wheel that could match the rest of the car,” Karel reasons, “and Work Wheels were the only choice for a quality wide wheel.” Having hand-crafted his own bruising arches, we’ll happily take his word for that.

    “Function over form was the overarching idea,” he continues. “The look has always been secondary to the act of going fast. The chassis’s actually being modified for a Version 3 that we’ll be debuting soon, but yes – the capability has always been more important than the look.” This statement, of course, writes a very large cheque, as the car looks absolutely phenomenal. Thankfully, we know that the setup can cash it with ease. “I’d say my favourite element of the build is all the carbon fibre,” Karel grins. “When you start with carbon, you kinda get the fever and it’s hard to stop! For 2017 most of the car will be in carbon fibre, and for 2018 a new chassis is being built with even more mods and 100% carbon.” Blimey. 100% is a big percentage. We’ll report back as the news filters in.


    “It took some five-to-six months to build the first version of the car,” he says, “then it evolved over the off-season; 2015 Version 1, 2016 Version 2, and 2017 is Version 2.1. Just wait – 2018 will bring it up to Version Badass.” We can’t wait to see that. But for now, let’s just bask in the unutterable lunacy of Version 2.1 – the as-yet ultimate evolution of your neighbour’s four-door 3 Series, built to tear up Gatebil and atomise any rubber that may stray into its workshop. The fact that it’s not a coupé just makes the flawless victories all the sweeter. ¬

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Supercharged / #BMW-E90 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E90 / #BMW-M3-Supercharged / #BMW-M3-Supercharged-E90 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #ESS-supercharger / #ESS / #BMW / #Work / #MoTeC-ECU

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 #S65B40 / #BMW-S65 / #S65 , fully-forged, custom #ESS-supercharger-kit , 1000cc injectors and uprated fuelling with #Weldon 2345 pump, #Motec engine management. #Samsonas six-speed sequential gearbox

    CHASSIS 11x18” (front) and 12.5x18” (rear) #Work-VS-XX wheels with 305/35 (front) and 335/35 (rear) tyres, #KW three-way competition suspension, #Endless race brake setup with six-pot calipers (front and rear) with 355mm (front) and 345mm (rear) discs

    EXTERIOR Dodge Viper Snakeskin Green, wide steel rear wings and plastic-welded M3 front wings – now remoulded in carbon fibre, Gatebil-sized custom wing, splitter and diffuser

    INTERIOR Sparco seats, Takata harnesses, OMP steering wheel, custom cluster by Karel S Motorsport, paddle shifters, full painted FIA rollcage

    THANKS All of my friends who helped, especially to Tim and Jens, and also all of my sponsors last year and also the new ones for 2017 – it would not have been possible without them

    No air-ride here, just air jacks.
    The rear view is dominated by that custom diffuser.
    Fully-painted FIA roll-cage.

    “Function over form was the overarching idea, the look has always been secondary to the act of going fast”

    MOTEC engine management keeps things running right.
    Sparco seats with Takata harnesses up front.
    MoTeC C127 Race Display behind OMP steering wheel.
    Custom ESS supercharger kit makes 840hp.


    “In year two we did the forged engine and then we supercharged it [with] the biggest setup ESS could make for us. We ended up with 840hp”
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    Safety First 650hp supercharged E90 M3.

    Safety cars are always in front – they have to be, they’re there to back the pack up. But in the case of this raucous tribute, it’s in front because nobody else can keep up… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Speedyshots.

    THUNDERSTRUCK 650hp #G-Power supercharged E90 M3

    Safety cars, or pace cars, have always been a little bit naughty. This makes perfect sense, as they need to be inherently fast and capable machines if they’re going to have any hope of taming a pack of wild racing machines. Sending a farty old Lada out into a field of DTM tearaways would be the very antithesis of ‘safety’.
    On the face of it, they’re a necessary evil in motorsport; they break up the action, they slow things down. They’re sent out to haul up the pack when there’s debris to be cleared up or a surprise monsoon has suddenly presented itself, and there’s a natural perceptual bias against them in the eyes of the fans in that, no matter how fast or formidable they may be, they are – by virtue of why they exist – the slowest things on the track.

    This, of course, is all rather unfair on the poor beleaguered safety car. But fear not – there’s a groundswell subculture that celebrates these often-iconic creations, championing them for their mighty performance as much as the vital role they play in keeping motorsport ticking. This kind of thing’s been going on since the first appearance of a safety car in the Indianapolis 500 in 1911, while the first example in Formula One – a Porsche 914 – appeared in 1973. Classic NASCAR pace cars have taken on a life of their own as collectors’ items, and arguably the most popular safety cars of recent times are the BMWs used in MotoGP. 2016’s weapon of choice was the shiny new M2, and the series has variously used the M5, M6, X6 M and numerous others; each one has offered aggression in spades and, as you’d expect from an M car, blistering performance. All you need to keep a bunch of wildheart racing drivers safe!

    This E90, then, is a tribute to BMW’s keenness to push the envelope of safety car desirability: a four-door missile, caricaturised in all the right places to create something that’s frankly rather quicker and scarier than quite a lot of race cars – or, indeed, race bikes. This project is the brainchild of Karl Jungmayer, who regular readers will remember as the mastermind behind our January 2017 cover car – a 1 Series with a V10 violently shoved into it. The third Karl in line within a #BMW garage in the sleepy enclave of Geiselhöring, southwest Germany (his grandfather, Karl, set it up; he passed it down to his son, Karl, and it then transferred to the incumbent Karl), he spends his days doing unseemly and frankly unhinged things to powerful cars with Bavarian propeller badges. And as bases for project cars go, you can’t really miss the target if you’re starting off with an E90 M3… You’ve got 420hp right out of the box, a sublime chassis and more ingrained passion than you could possibly know what to do with.

    Unless you’re someone like Karl, that is. He knows exactly what to do with it. Refract it through a filter of insanity, collect the ensuing scattered beams of light, compress them into a diamond of pure retribution, and throw it full in the face of the tuning scene. “BMW is my life, my family, my hobby, that’s why they’re so special to me,” he says. “I’ve owned a lot of them, and they’ve all had modifications. And for this project? Well, I’m a big fan of the MotoGP, and I’m also a big fan of the E90 M3, so it made sense to combine the two.” There you are, that’s about as complicated as it needs to be. “It’s effectively my interpretation of a MotoGP safety car, with more power and bigger wheels!,” he grins.

    That, we reckon, is the best kind of safety car, so let’s look at that power issue first. You see, while the formidable S65 4.0-litre V8 would be mighty enough for many, Karl merely saw this as a starting block, and got on the blower to G-Power to chew over the perennial carnival affair of forced induction. The result was the acquisition and subsequent modification of an SK II CS supercharger kit, a Stage 2 setup that requires its own chargecooler system as well as, of course, plonking a hilarious mass of orange mischief right there on top of the engine like some kind of malevolent jellyfish. characteristics of BMW’s own work, rather than to radically alter and transmogrify, offering (on paper, at least) a broadly similar feel to a standard car, but amplified by several orders of magnitude.

    This, however, wasn’t enough for Karl. Too much is never enough. So you’ll also find another mischievous embodiment of modern high-octane lunacy under that freshly-stickered bonnet, in the form of a Snow Performance water/methanol injection kit. The science of this is to reduce inlet temperatures by up to a 100ºC, markedly increase fuel efficiency, eliminate detonation, and ultimately increase peak power by around 20%. Which is all good fun. It basically achieves this by squirting a finely atomised mist of water/methanol mix into the combustion chambers at just the right time in the fuelling cycle for tiny rabbits to be pulled out of hats and all manner of fi reworks to go off. So how does 650hp grab you? By the lapels, that’s how, and it shakes you around all over the place like a damn ragdoll. Just look what it’s doing to Karl’s rear tyres, for goodness’ sake.

    You’ll be pleased to note that all of this effervescent combustion tomfoolery is being channelled through a manual gearbox – six on the floor, maximum attack – and the interior has come in for a racy makeover. “It’s got the BMW M Performance seats, pedals and steering wheel,” Karl points out, “and there’s also a Wiechers rollcage, which has been colour-matched in Alpine White.” The insides are neatly fused with the exterior aesthetic, and what an exterior it is; the E90’s lines are naturally brutalist, masterfully combining four-door sensibleness with the sort of cartoonish proportions that make it look like a bodypumped bouncer in a slightly-too-small suit, and Karl’s taken all of this to the next level with an authentic-looking set of MotoGP Safety Car decals. It is, for all intents and purposes, the real deal. Well, the real deal plus 50% or so, really. And it does make for a hilariously imposing presence on the road – think about it: if you’re dressing up a project car in a tribute livery, it is – for fairly obvious reasons – unlawful to mimic the look of a police car or, say, an ambulance. But a motorsport safety car? Sure, that’s pretty much fair game. And no-one will be suspecting the utterly, unspeakably vast quantities of extra horsepower that this canny tuner has shoved into it. At least, not until the lights turn green.

    “The car is so powerful,” he muses, thoughtfully, “I like this car.” Coming from a man with a V10-powered 1 Series in his stable, alongside heavily tweaked F11s, E46s, E61s and a whole lot more, this is a stirring (if modestly stated) sentiment. “It does need more power though,” he adds, decisively. “And more boost.”

    But of course. We couldn’t expect anything less from a man like Karl. Just remember – however nuts this car becomes, it’s a safety car, it’s there for your protection. If you see him up ahead of you, you’d better not attempt an overtake – although the reasons for that on the road may be very different to those on the race track…

    “As bases for project cars go, you can’t really miss the target if you’re starting off with an E90 M3”

    “BMW is my life, my family, my hobby, that’s why they’re so special to me”

    DATA FILE #Supercharged / #BMW-E90 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E90 / #BMW-M3-Supercharged / #BMW-M3-Supercharged-E90 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #S65-Supercharged / #G-Power / #Breyton-GTS / #Breyton-Race / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-M3

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 #S65B40 / #S65 / #BMW-S65 , modified #G-Power-SK-II-CS supercharger kit with #Snow-Performance water/ #methanol-injection , custom home-made exhaust system. Six-speed manual gearbox

    POWER and torque 650hp, 485lb ft

    CHASSIS 8.5x20” (front) and 10x20” (rear) #Breyton-GTS-Race wheels, 15mm spacers, 245/30 (front) and 295/25 (rear) Continental ContiSportContact 5P tyres, #Brembo eightpot #BBK (front), stock E90 M3 brakes (rear)

    EXTERIOR M3 CRT front spoiler with carbon fibre flaps, carbon fibre rear spoiler and diffuser, E90 LCI taillights, Safety Car livery

    INTERIOR #BMW-Performance seats, pedals and steering wheel, #Wiechers rollcage
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    Josh and #Oli-Pittis #BMW-E93 / #BMW-330i-M-Sport / #BMW-330i-M-Sport-E93 / #BMW-330i-E93 / #BMW-330i / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E93 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E93 / #BMW / and #BMW-E90 / #BMW-330d-M-Sport / #BMW-330d-M-Sport-E90 / #BMW-330d-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #BMW-330d-M-Sport-Saloon-E90 /

    Is this a case of brotherly love or sibling rivalry? We’re not sure but we do know that brothers Josh and Oli have built a pair of very nice E9x Threes between them. Josh was the one who got in touch so it’s only fair that he goes first with his E93 330i, which he’s owned for over two years. This black beauty has been enhanced with, among other things, M3 mirrors, a smoothed front bumper with an Arkym carbon splitter, gloss black kidneys, allblack BMW roundels, an LCI rear light upgrade and a carbon high kick rear spoiler with a set of X5 wheels to finish things off. Inside, he’s carried out a red interior swap, which looks fantastic, and a carbon gear selector, white M3-style speedo and a 10” Alpine Type R sub completes the ensemble.

    Younger brother Oli has chosen diesel propulsion and his monochrome creation is the yin to Josh’s yang. The outside has been slathered in carbon, with a carbon bonnet, CSL boot, 335 aero diffuser, front splitter and door mirror covers, while the car has been dropped on coilovers over a set of black Rotiforms. Inside, there’s a full M3 interior swap with a full white LED lighting conversion plus a paddle shift conversion. This being a diesel, Oli’s not been able to resist getting more power out of it – he’s carried out a DPF and EGR delete and has added a hybrid turbo, a Wagner front mount intercooler and a straight-through exhaust with #BMW-335d -style twin pipes. A mighty fine pair.
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    It’s not who you know… / #BMW-318i-E90 / #BMW-N46 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #BMW-E90 /

    Knowledge is power as they say, and a recent timing chain job on an #N46-engined #BMW-E90 / #BMW-318i has taught me two things. Firstly – the N Series four-cylinder unit likes to leak oil. Secondly, you may have been told that the E46 cam cover does not fit an E90 unit. Well, yes it does. These plastic covers can occasionally crack but more commonly they can warp. Used E90 cam covers are rare but E46 ones are 30 quid on eBay. The actual difference is that the E90 version has an extra locating tab on the back for some cable routing – easily sorted with a couple of neat black tie wraps. And that’s it – the breather pipe location is the same. When refitting, take extreme care not to dislodge the (very strong) Valvetronic shaft tension spring – quite easily done. The other discovery when doing this job was that the inlet Vanos unit was knackered. It was clean and it looked fine, but when it was tweaked with a 16mm socket, the unit wasn’t locked up as it should have been but moved, even when the cam locks were fitted. Luckily I had a good used one in stock and the fault was corrected. Finally, cheap N Series cam lock kits can be absolute rubbish and mine, a cheap Amazon special, needed modifying with a grinder before the inlet lock would fit and was so loose that perfect cam timing was impossible.
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    E90 and 1 Series #diffs / #Type-168-differential / #BMW-Type-168-differential / #BMW / #BMW-E90 / #BMW-E87 /

    It’s quite well-known now, but the small casing (Type 168) #differentials used on the small engined E87/8 cars such as the 116i, 118i and #BMW-M47 engined 118ds are pretty fragile – as are the same diffs when fitted to the E90 318i and some 320i cars. Why is this? It’s down to two or three things – firstly, the lack of a drain plug means that the oil is in there upwards of 50,000 miles when really, it should be drained and refilled. Secondly, the ‘correct’ oil is quite thin and is intended to reduce drag on the final drive gears as much as possible to improve economy. Thirdly, the diff bearings that would probably be alright with decent oil changed regularly aren’t really up to this – but it’s a lottery. I have a 100,000 mile 318i with a singing diff, and a 200,000 mile 118d whose final drive is completely silent (for now).

    Specialists reckon the change in diff bearing design may not have helped. In the good old days, pinions ran on two taper roller bearings as did the main differential unit but on these diffs, BMW fitted ball bearing races – again no doubt to reduce friction.

    The situation with supply and demand on these units is so bad that breakers can (and do) ask and get £600 for a good used one, which seems like a ridiculous amount of money. Instead, companies on eBay sell diff rebuild kits with new bearings and seals for around £170. No, removing and rebuilding a diff isn’t like changing a set of plugs but if you have a decent workbench and toolkit and have changed a clutch, you can do this. In the meantime, look after your diff. Drain the old oil by loosening the rear cover bolts after you’ve warmed the oil up with a spirited drive, and refill with a good brand name 75W/140… £20 and an hour’s work tops. You know the alternative…
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    The Everett Fleet: repairing a #damaged-E90 / #BMW-E90 / #BMW / #2017

    You’ll all be aware that after the many thousands of car accidents every year, a large proportion of the cars involved are written off by the insurance companies. This is normally when the cost of repair is too great in relation to the value of the car – the more valuable the car, the greater the damage needed to write it off.

    For the last few years, cars have been categorised for resale via salvage auctions – Category A cars are ones that have been destroyed by fire for example and are crushed whole with no parts removed. Category B are ‘break only’ meaning they cannot legally go back on the road. They are to be broken up for parts and the shells crushed – however, it’s not unknown for buyers to apply for the V5 and DVLA will sometimes let it slip through… the car will be absolutely uninsurable though. Equally, many Cat B cars are bought by European buyers, repaired and reimported if the value is high enough.

    Category C cars are generally older and are ones where, whilst the damage is bad, is deemed fixable. These cars can be repaired and used but the V5 will carry the ‘substantially damaged and repaired’ marker. Finally, Category D cars – these are lightly damaged and normally quite easily repaired and apart from the inevitable HPI alert they’re saleable whereas Cat C stuff is viewed with suspicion.

    There are so many caveats when buying salvage cars. Firstly, unless it’s a lower value car that you can fix for peanuts and you’re not bothered about resale value, it’s best to avoid Cat C stuff. Seriously, it’ll be worth so much less. It could be a way into a newish car but it could be a millstone. Secondly, try to buy only direct from an insurance company. Why is the car missing the headlights and bumper after an accident? It could be that it’s been auctioned before, the damage has been far worse than imagined and the buyer has re-entered it. Don’t ever buy anything ‘previously repaired’ as the chances of it being proper fixed and without problems are approximately zero.

    Thirdly, get an idea of what an equivalent car is worth ‘straight’. Forget regular car auctions – they’re bordering on a waste of time these days due to silly fees and the amount of old rubbish being fed through. If a car is worth £3500, you want it on the road for £2000 after all your efforts. Fourthly, try to view the car before bidding – there will always be more damage than you think. Make sure the car runs, the handbooks are present and that the car wasn’t a tired old shed before the accident. Start replacing tyres, exhausts, knackered seats and missing radios and the cost starts to add up.

    Fifthly, overestimate the cost of repairs. If that front-ended E92 has got adaptive Xenons, you’re going to be in trouble. Similarly, don’t assume frontend parts for anything F Series will be available new because the stuff is like gold dust.

    Finally, the newer and more valuable the car, the greater the savings. Fixing a 2001 E46 318i is probably a waste of time because the car is only worth a grand on a good day. But when you can buy a damaged 2014 420d Coupé for £8000 and repair it yourself for £4000, the many hours involved are worth it.

    So why am I talking about all of this? Well, I was aware of how old and rusty my 1998 E36 Touring was getting underneath – it was a great workhorse but I thought it’d be nice to have something from this century. E46s are just too old now and are every bit as rusty and tired as the previous E36. That leaves the E90.

    Early ones in decent condition are still £2500 and horrid ones are just under £2000 now but we don’t want one of those. For economy and cheap tax, I singled out a 318i or 320i petrol, or a 320d if cheap enough. I was avoiding the direct injection N43 engine due to the litany of injector and coil pack issues, and sticking to the N46 – not a great engine but more reliable in theory, although any N Series four-cylinder will need a timing chain kit past 80,000 miles to be on the safe side.

    After surfing through various cars, bidding and not winning anything, I put a preliminary £1100 bid on a 2007 318iES. Black Sapphire with black cloth, 100,000 miles and a runner, it had two damaged doors on the driver’s side and was wearing an 04 plate… nothing iffy though as it was a private plate added by the previous owner. Whether this misled other bidders or not I don’t know but the auction started, attracted no bids and ended with me as the highest bidder – I’d won it! However, the reserve had been set at £1350, and whilst the fees on an £1100 would have resulted in me paying £1263, paying £1350 would have meant a total close to £1600 – no thanks. A few hours of faffing about with an online counter bidding ensued and getting fed up, I called Copart directly and said that my £1100 bid stood, and not a bean more. After a minute of waiting I was told the company had caved in – £1263 with fees it is then. After a trip to the bank to collect £1300, we set off up the M1 to York to collect the prize but I was nervous. I hadn’t followed my advice and seen the car – was it a wreck? Would it pump out blue smoke and resemble the Titanic underneath? After paying the £1263, the car was brought out on a huge forklift and carefully placed on the back of the truck. Well, it was certainly shiny. The passenger side was super straight, both bumpers had very light scuffs that will flat and polish out.

    Both driver’s side doors were indeed knackered but the wings, sill and B post were perfect. It started on the button and sounded fine although like 90 percent of N46 engines it was leaking oil from every orifice… as well as the chain kit. It will need a full set of gaskets and O rings as well as a serious steam clean and probably a new CCV valve too. No biggie though – it’ll take a day to do the lot.

    The alloys were undamaged, the tyres were all good (with very newlooking Mohawks on the back) and a very clean underbody with none of the usual rusty bits like suspension arms and fuel tank straps. It’s had two new driveshafts fitted recently, no doubt due to the E90 ABS rings rusting and splitting. It was a clean car though – smart inside, with everything working including the air conditioning and inside the owner’s handbook pack was a full V5 logbook and an MoT with six months left to run!

    So far, the gamble appeared to be paying off – if I could find two perfect (or very close) black Sapphire doors for a couple of hundred quid, this would be a seriously cheap E90. However, ringing every breaker known to man drew a blank – it’s such a common colour that doors and wings are sold very quickly. Rather than wait a few weeks for a car to turn up, I bit the bullet and bought a pair of straight doors from Quarry Motors in Carbon black. The same morning, I took them straight down to my local bodyshop who do all my work and spent a couple of hours removing the door handles and upper moulding strips before rubbing them down, filling any stone chips with high build stopper. As they are door shells, I’ll need to swap over the window regulators and door locks but even so, with the doors and painting, the damage to this £1263 E90 will cost less than £400 to repair plus a few hours of swearing – don’t forget, this is a £3500 car when fixed.

    Should we paint the doors on the car? In theory yes but the car has factory paint and once the wings and the newly painted doors are flattened and polished it should look fine. You show me an eight- or nine-year-old car that’s never had any paint…

    That was Saturday and by Tuesday the call came that my two doors were painted and ready for collection.

    Resplendent in gleaming black Sapphire metallic, The Bodyshop in Sheffield had done a superb job and even painted the insides. It’s not just a case of swapping doors over though – there are locks to swap over and given what a cow they can be on the E46, an E90 should be even harder. After all, cars don’t get simpler….do they?

    Next month we’ll fit the replacement doors, give the car a thorough clean-up, replace the timing chain assembly and give it a first run out. Will it be okay? Fingers crossed…
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    M3 CRT 4.4-litre V8, 450hp, 180mph, £120k. We drive the ultimate M3 on UK roads for the first time

    The E90 M3 CRT was the last of the naturally-aspirated M3 Saloons and now we’ve finally driven one in the UK we can’t help but fall for its considerable charms Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Gus Gregory.
    Last Action Hero

    The last of the normally aspirated M3s, the glorious #CRT was an appropriate swansong.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I had a little bit of a downer on the E9x generation of M3 during its lifetime; not that there was anything in particular wrong with the car, but for the plethora of special editions that it spawned. Indeed, when I returned from the international launch of the Coupé I was initially raving about the car, while it seemed that much of the rest of the motoring world seemed to be less enthused. I’m not quite sure why, perhaps it was because it didn’t feel quite as special as the E46 CSL, but to me its wonderful V8 combined with its staggering pace and poise and everyday practicality had me lusting after one.

    Timing though, is everything, or so they say, and unfortunately for BMW the E92 M3 erupted on to a world on the brink of a recession and after the initial early-adopters had bought their cars, sales struggled big time. For the company directors and the like who were the target audience it just wasn’t seen as the done thing to be arriving in the company car park in a howl of V8-awesomeness when the workforce were being told there was no money for pay rises and the like. So BMW embarked on a series of Edition models to try and tempt buyers back into the showrooms.

    This was more or less a worldwide phenomenon and in the UK we had a plethora of machinery being kitted out with additional equipment and unique colour schemes to part potential customers from their hard earned cash. During the car’s life we saw the arrival of the Edition, the Edition 500, the Frozen Silver Edition and the Performance Edition and while they all offered value for money (bar the latter machine which weighed in at a frankly ludicrous £74k!) I was concerned that BMW was diluting the M3 brand too much.

    Back in the day, M3 special editions were made to either enhance the racing experience or to honour success on the race tracks of the world and to me the plethora of V8-engined M3s with some special paint and black alloys (argh, this is where the rot really set in – regular readers will know my feelings on black wheels!) just didn’t cut the mustard.

    I was more pleased to see the arrival of the Competition Pack-equipped M3. Here was a machine that actually had some appreciable performance upgrades – the power might not have been boosted but subtle suspension tweaks and a set of sexy CSL-style alloys (thankfully in silver) made it an option box worth ticking. In total BMW offered around 25 different special editions worldwide but it saved the best for last when it announced the E92 M3 GTS and the E90 M3 CRT (Carbon Racing Technology) in May 2010 and June 2011 respectively.

    These two models made BMW look like it had just been toying with us for the past three years or so and here were two machines that really were worth writing home about. We’ll talk about the CRT here as that’s the machine we’ve driven, but mechanically both models were virtually identical. At its heart was a meatier version of the #S65 V8 with a longer stroke (up from 75.2mm to 82mm) to give a swept volume of 4361cc which endowed the GTS with 450hp at 8300rpm and a torque peak of 325lb ft at 3750rpm – gains of 30hp and 30lb ft, and that torque figure was developed a smidgen lower down the rev range, too. Performance was up, with the CRT’s 0-62mph time of 4.4 seconds beating a DCT-equipped ‘regular’ E90 Saloon by 0.3 seconds, while the CRT had its limiter removed too and was good for 180mph flatout.

    We’re not too sure that economy and emissions would have been too high on most potential owners’ wish lists but the larger engine did drop economy from 25.2 to 22.2mpg while emissions rose from 263 to 295g/km… but the CRT was never about saving the planet was it?

    The V8 was hooked up to the rather excellent seven-speed M dual clutch gearbox (there was no manual option) but for the GTS and CRT applications it was modified with increased oil capacity and had different software to endow the ‘box with even quicker changes. The CRT’s suspension followed the path set by the more overtly track-orientated GTS by adopting a full coilover setup with adjustable compression and rebound. Ride height was dropped slightly (16mm at the front and 12mm at the back) and there was solid bushing in the rear axle mountings too.

    To ensure the CRT would stop as well as it went the brakes were given a comprehensive going over – front discs were upgraded to 32x378mm drilled items while the rears were 28x380mm clamped by six- and four-piston callipers front and rear respectively. Even the brake lines were upgraded, showing the car was intended to be driven hard and not found wanting in the stopping department.

    But that’s enough of a history lesson for now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. With the CRT being the rarest of the rare (just 67 production examples were manufactured) and never listed as a UK market machine I’d always thought that the chances of driving one over here were minute to infinitesimal.

    But then I received an email from the owner of the example you can see here urging me to come and have a drive in his. Even better, the car wasn’t based in Germany or some other far-flung corner of the globe, it was in the very next county at specialist seller, Millennium Heroes, who were selling the car on his behalf. I must admit to feeling rather excited as I hotfooted it over to Surrey before the owner changed his mind.


    After having exchanged pleasantries with the everhelpful chaps at Millennium Heroes and taken a couple of minutes to drool over its veritable smorgasbord of mouth-watering stock, it was time to fire up the CRT and head off to meet up with snapper Gus Gregory in the Surrey hills. As soon as I’ve hit the starter button I know this is going to be something considerably more exciting than the stock E90 M3 as its lightweight titanium exhaust system shouts its approval at being awoken from its slumber. I spend a minute or two getting the seats and mirrors to their correct positions and familiarising myself with the lefthand drive layout while allowing the #V8 to gently warm through.

    Initially the drive is dominated by me being super careful while threading the M3 through the narrow lanes to the shoot – the last thing I want to do is leave a set of horrendous scratches down the side of this super-rare machine and the fact that it’s the only one in the country keeps nagging at the back of my mind. With some miles under my belt I become more familiar with the car and while the E90’s not exactly huge it does take a few miles to become properly accustomed to its dimensions before I feel comfortable exploring the performance.

    With the engine now fully up to temperature and some fast A roads that cut through the rolling hills unbelievably almost completely deserted it’s time to play. Those roads might be nearly empty but they’re unexpectedly poorly-surfaced too, with coarse Tarmac that has great divots cut into it in places as well as some tricky cambers in the quicker corners. The CRT almost feels at home here but every now and then it feels slightly wrong-footed and can skip from bump to bump, with the tyres never feeling fully keyed into the surface.

    Despite the fact that I know Gus is waiting for me I decide to give it another go, so I turn around and drive the section of road again, but this time at full chat – no dilly-dallying this time. With the throttle and ‘box in their most aggressive settings and the traction control in its halfway house mode, the CRT really comes alive – the suspension now responding as I had expected, the engine revelling in the full use of its rev range and the DCT ‘box swapping cogs with blink-and- you-miss-it alacrity. Understeer is conspicuous by its absence – I can really feel the rubber keying into the surface now and there are superb levels of feedback and a smidgen of oversteer as I exit some corners, but not so much that the electronic nanny is called into play. It’s a mesmerising performance and one that seals the CRT’s place in my mind as one of BMW’s true greats.

    Tempting as it is to do it all over again for a third time I head off to get some pictures in the bag and continue the history lesson on the CRT – snapper Gus get’s the full works when he stupidly asks what’s different about it. Having run him through the mechanical changes I move on to the body and from where the car’s name is derived. As previously mentioned, its moniker is short for Carbon Racing Technology and, in part, the CRT was used as a test bed for BMW’s CFRP (carbon fibre reinforced plastic) manufacturing skills that it was looking to perfect for the i brand. Raising the bonnet shows that this panel is manufactured from CFRP as it feels very light and was manufactured from cast-off CFRP parts that were then fashioned into the bonnet panel.

    BMW used a similar process to construct the delicate front CFRP spoiler extension and the simple lip spoiler on the bootlid (far preferable to the huge wing on a GTS to my eyes) and both of these items have a sliver of Melbourne red paint along their extremities, as do the air intakes on the bonnet and the side gills behind the front wings. The rest of the exterior is finished in Frozen Polar silver metallic and in the autumn sun the effect is rather stunning.

    Inside BMW also went to town on the CRT with the front seats being replaced by CFRP-backed sporty numbers that give more support than the standard seats as well as looking absolutely stunning with the carbon weave visible on their backs. The rear bench has been replaced by two sculpted seats and the whole interior is decked out in a combination of Black and Sakhir orange extended Novillo leather, although in the flesh the Sakhir orange actually appears significantly more red than orange. The only fly in the ointment is the black wheels, but I can almost forgive the CRT this minor misdemeanour…

    And that’s because it goes like no other E90 I’ve had the pleasure to drive before, or since. It feels monumentally fast and the extra slug of torque is very welcome, even if keeping the V8 on song is absolute child’s play thanks to the recalibrated DCT. On our lumpy roads the suspension can feel a little less than sharp when you’re not fully on it, but up the pace and it really comes alive, and no doubt this could be further tailored to your specific requirements as it’s a fully adjustable coilover setup.

    Overall the CRT has left me feeling a little foolish. Back when it was new I didn’t really ‘get’ the car, and I was all too ready to dismiss it as another of the surplus of M3 special editions. Now I’ve sampled it, though, I absolutely love it. It’s a full-on M car that has to be driven, and driven hard to be really appreciated. I still think it was too expensive when new, and wish that BMW would offer something in between the Comp pack offerings and the ultra-limited production GTS/CRT type machinery but as a glorious swan song for the normally aspirated M3 Saloon this CRT will never be beaten.

    CONTACT: Millennium Heroes / Tel: 01483 338 902 / Web: www.millenniumheroes.com

    It goes like no other E90 I’ve had then pleasure to drive before, or since.

    TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-E90 / #BMW-M3-CRT / #BMW-M3-E90 / #BMW-M3-CRT-E90 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-Sedan / #BMW-3-Series-Sedan-E90 /

    ENGINE: V8, 32-valve, quad-cam
    CAPACITY: 4361cc
    MAX POWER: 450hp @ 8300rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 325lb ft @ 3750rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.4 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 180mph
    ECONOMY: 22.2mpg
    EMISSIONS: 295g/km
    WEIGHT (DIN): 1580kg
    BRAKES
    FRONT: 32x378mm drilled and vented discs, six-piston fixed callipers
    REAR: 28x380mm drilled and vented discs, six-piston fixed callipers
    WHEELS: Black 19-inch M light alloy Y-spoke style #359M
    FRONT: 9x19-inch
    REAR: 10x19-inch
    TYRES : Michelin Pilot Sport
    FRONT: 245/35 R19
    REAR: 265/35 R19
    STEERING: Hydraulic rack and pinion, M Servotronic
    TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed #M-DCT
    PRICE: €130,000 (2011), £124,995 (today)

    With the throttle and ’box in their most aggressive settings and the traction control in its halfway house mode the CRT really comes alive.
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    Cheap #ELV-fix / #ELV / #BMW

    The electronic steering lock that made its debut around 2004/5 with the 1 Series and #BMW-E90 (E65s are similar) can cause trouble as it gets older. If you’re unlucky you’ll see the orange light of worry followed by the red light of doom resulting in a locked column and the engine won’t start.

    In the past this has meant a lengthy strip-down to clean up and regrease the unit if the standard reset doesn’t work. Some owners have even removed the column (not that bad a job), removed the ELV locking unit and cut off the actual locking pawl that engages with a slot in the column before filling the slot with liquid metal and smoothing off the newly cut edges with a file – so the steering lock will never actually be able to lock again.

    Check with your MoT guy first, though, as the MoT wording is slightly ambiguous: “It is acceptable for a steering lock to be missing or inoperative provided the vehicle has an engine immobiliser, or permanently installed immobilisation device, which acts on either the steering, brakes or the transmission.” So, as the cars all have an immobiliser, you should be okay and, of course, autos have ‘Park’ that locks up the ‘box.

    Sometimes, though, a repair can be too costly. Assuming your 2005 E90 #BMW-320d-E90 has done 200,000 miles and is worth £2200 – are you really going to buy a new column assembly for £600 or £700, plus fitting? Of course not. But there is a neat little device that plugs into the cable that plugs into the ELV wiring plug. It’s as nifty as the little boxes that plug into the wiring under an E46 seat to sort that airbag light. Like the aforementioned airbag light gadget, this tiny circuit board tells the car that, actually, everything is fine, so put that light out and start the engine please. You can find details here including a short video in German: www.tek-tronics.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=185. It’s clever stuff and shows that no matter how clever car makers think they are, someone equally clever can come up with a solution.
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    / #BMW-N47 / #BMW swirl flaps / #N47 /

    Just when you thought the diesel swirl flap issue had gone away, it looks like it’s returning again. It’s not as bad as last time when steel swirl flaps could fall into the cylinders and cause a major catastrophe, but it’s a new problem nonetheless, albeit a rare one. The issue is happening on older higher mileage N47 diesels from 2007 onwards. On the previous M47, the swirl flaps had their own pivot and an operating rod, but on the N47 they have utilised the idea Ford used on the 2000-onwards Mk3 Mondeo petrols where the flaps are all operated with one common shaft that goes through the manifold a bit like a skewer in a shish kebab.

    That’s all very well but as Ford found out, the metal rod can wear into the plastic manifold body and even break, resulting in swirl flaps being ingested. BMW has used a brass shaft, but it still has wear issues. I first saw this problem when Parkside Autos in Worksop (01909 506555) had a 2008 #BMW-E90 BMW-320d in with a recurring EGR fault and a loss of boost. After doing the usual jobs of cleaning everything up, repairing a few other bits and resetting fault codes it was noticed that under boost, exhaust gas was appearing from behind the actuator for the swirl flaps.

    Basically, the brass shaft had worn the manifold holes oval and pressurised exhaust EGR gas was leaking. The team removed the manifold, took the swirl flaps out, blocked the hole with a suitably hard resin and reassembled it – result, no more EGR faults and much better performance. Give them a ring if you want to get yours deflapped because another possible scenario is that the brass shaft breaks and one of the swirl flaps jams shut – that will result in diesel going into a cylinder without any air and that won’t end well.
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    David Harrison #BMW-E90 / #BMW-320d / #BMW-320d-E90 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #BMW-3-Series /

    There’s a lot to like about David’s E90 and he’s put a lot of work in to get it looking spoton. On the outside there’s an M3 front bumper, the grille’s been wrapped in tinted dark chrome, and there are US-spec amber sidelights, LED smoked rear tail-lights and a 335d rear diffuser. It’s been given a 45mm drop all-round via a set of fully adjustable Pro-Sport coilovers and sits on a set of Fox MS007 19” gunmetal wheels with 15mm spacers up front. The engine’s had a stage one remap and EGR and DPF delete, resulting in 186hp and 307lb ft of torque. He’s also fitted a 335d-style twin-exhaust with 5” tips and a back box delete. The interior features leather heated seats, while red trim along the dashboard, centre console, front and rear doorcards adds a flash of colour. Future plans include painting the calipers silver and adding smoked side repeaters.
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