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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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    E36 M3 values / TECHNICAL TIPS / #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3-3.0 four-door / #BMW-M3-3.0-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-Saloon / #BMW-M3-Saloon-E36 / #BMW / #BMW-M3-Cabrio / #BMW-M3-Cabrio-E36 / #BMW-M3-Coupe-E36

    Hot on the heels of the E30 M3 that celebrates its 30th birthday this year, the E36 M3 (itself almost 25 years old) is steadily increasing in value. I’ve seen minters advertised for 20 grand and they’re selling too. It’s odd that – whilst they were undoubtedly very quick and capable, they never really floated the boat of the motoring press. A lot of that was due in part to the fact that it was nothing like the old E30, itself a unique and irreplaceable car. But it was the similarity in appearance to a 325i Coupé that led to a lack of enthusiasm and once the 328i Sport arrived in 1995, that was even more so. Saloon and Convertible versions boosted the range but you can’t deny that it was the launch of the E46 M3 in late 2000 that reignited passion for the M3 – whilst it wasn’t really any faster than the old car, it looked as serious a car as the E30 was, and was certainly a better driver’s car.

    The trouble with the classic car market is that it too often thinks ‘it’s old therefore it must be valuable’ and all old cars get swept along regardless. The 1992-1999 car was a great E36, but was it a great M3? I think it was in retrospect – that howling straight-six, slick five-speed (I preferred the 3.0-litre) and excellent chassis… make mine a Cosmos black four-door with Contours and the tan leather. But when figures like 20 grand are involved… sorry, but the mintiest, low mileage Laguna Seca blue E46 is a long way in front as long as it’s fresh enough to avoid the boot floor dramas.
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    Railing against the established norm of modding M3s for track-focused naughtiness, Brandt Lahr has instead focused on ramping up the levels of luxury. After all, it’s boring to do what everyone expects you to do… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Anna Taylor.

    E46 CAB #Ultra-slick M3 / Slammed static E46 M3

    Familiarity, as the old saying goes, breeds contempt. This isn’t true in all cases, of course – it’d be a sad state of affairs if all the world’s elderly couples decided to ditch their decrepit spouses on the grounds that they were suddenly contemptuous of them. But in the car scene? Yeah, it’s pretty important to mix things up a bit, keep stuff fresh. Stagnation is the enemy.

    The internet fuels this to a large degree. It’s a difficult point to make without coming across as some sort of cretinous luddite with a Nokia 3310 and one of those old televisions with the fat back, but things didn’t used to be this frantic. In the old days, people would build their cars up over the winter and debut them in the spring show season, keeping an eye on the monthly modifying magazines to see what the current trends were and what they could do to shake up the regime. But now? We’re constantly connected – by the time you’ve got your head around a fresh new trend it’s probably already become old hat. You might spend your Christmas holidays facemounting your zero-lip #BBS rims, only to find that everyone else has done it on Instagram and moved on to something else.

    The key, really, is just to keep moving. Change for the sake of change? Ah, why the hell not? It’s very post-modern. Brandt Lahr is a man who understands this. As his Instagram acolytes will no doubt attest, a new post on his @b_coolin page will generally throw up something offbeat and surprising. That, as the cliché goes, is just how he rolls. So when we ask him what the initial inspiration for this project was, the response is hardly a shock: “I just thought it’d be fun to try something new.”

    And you can’t argue with that, can you? A little context, then. Brandt has a history of building some pretty fastidiously thoughtthrough Euro cars; his B6 Audi A4, for example, ran Air Lift bags with AccuAir ELevel management, along with a completely insane custom leather interior with suede headlining, and BBS RS wheels built up by Rotiform to measure 10x18”. This is a fella who gets things done. And he likes nothing better than to cruise, low and lazy, down the strip at H2Oi, becoming a minor Ocean City celebrity in the process.

    The key point to latch on to here is that these much-lauded builds have all been running air-ride, and that was the major turning point when Brandt was mapping out this M3’s future. “I chose this E46 because I wanted to do a super-low static car,” he explains. “Since my last two projects were on air, I wanted to change it up. And I thought a convertible would be fun!” Well yes, that’s very much the case in a country where it doesn’t rain for three days in four.

    And so the hunt was on for a suitable donor. Now, usually we’d be evangelising about the importance of sourcing yourself the best possible base car for a project, and how cheaper cars are never cheaper in the long run, and all that guff. But if you’re planning on changing everything anyway – and more importantly, if you’ve got the skills to solve a few problems by yourself without having to worry about forking out untold unspecified amounts to your local body shop – then you do have a little freedom to buy something a bit, er, grittier.

    “The car was in pretty rough shape when I bought it three years ago,” laughs Brandt. “It was silver, and hadn’t been looked after, and definitely needed work.” But this, as you’ve gathered, is a man unafraid of work. He relished the challenge.

    “I’ve basically been into cars my whole life,” he offers, by way of scene-setting. “My family owns a body shop, and I started working there when I was 15. I’ve had all types of different modified cars over the years, although this project was my first BMW.” He’s certainly hit the ground running though. The E46 M3 is always going to be a killer starting point; sure, the US-market version was a little stifled by legislation and had cats that strangled the Euro peak of 343hp down to a numerically artful 337hp, but who’s quibbling over six ponies? And 337 is a power figure that’d offer anybody a rollicking good time. Brandt’s thrown a Revo map and an active exhaust into the mix to further liven things up but, interestingly, this is an M3 that’s not all about performance.

    We’ll give you a minute to perform the necessary mental recalibration to take that in. But you see, Brandt’s approach is to focus on the details, to craft a piece of art that could be just as happy on a plinth in a gallery is it would rolling through Ocean City, or his hometown of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Remember what we were saying about familiarity? The approach here effectively takes the M3’s performance as a given and chooses to accentuate other areas.

    “The first order of business was the full respray,” he says. “It’s in a shade called Merlot red, all PPG products, and I did all of the body work and painting myself, including fabricating the custom pieces and pulling the fenders and quarters.” The Merlot is an inspired choice too, looking like a sober and almost subtle hue from afar, but transmuting before your eyes as you get closer into the sort of disco-fabulous glittery candy shade you’d find on fairground dodgems. It really is quite something.

    “The custom interior was done by Hellman’s Upholstery here in Chambersburg,” he continues, “with the accents colour-matched to the exterior Merlot.” It’s a brilliantly quirky approach for an M3; perhaps it’s the effect of being a drop-top, but there’s no hint of the usual buckets-and-harnesses stripped out vibe here. Instead the seats have been slathered in luxuriously soft grey leather, all diamondstitched for that posh Bentley aura. But don’t go getting too comfortable, as Brandt’s shaken it up yet again with a grippy Nardi wheel for race track mischief and canyonrunning monkeyshines. There’s more twists and turns in this labyrinthine endeavour than in a tank full of writhing octopodes.

    “Once the car was back together, I lowered it with Broadway Static suspension and added new wheels,” he concludes. “In the end this car turned out exactly how I had imagined it.” His economy of words here is impressive, as what’s going on under the reworked arches is more than worthy of note. The drop afforded by those coilovers is exactly what you’d hope for from a brand that bills itself as a ‘boutique operation offering custom, hand-crafted dampers for individuals looking to push the limits of their suspension’, and there’s abundant uniqueness in the rolling stock too, the wheels being custom units from the brainiacs at Infinitewerks, who build everything to order. This isn’t just an easy drop over some shiny rims, this is bespoke luxury to complement the fanciness of the interior. Not a VIP build in the JDM sense, but it’s very much a build worthy of VIPs.

    There’s a satisfaction in Brandt’s demeanour as he discusses the work he’s carried out on this E46, evidently his pride and joy: “I’m happy with it,” he smiles. “And everyone else seems to like it too – it’s quite a head-turner! It’s been my wife and I’s favourite car to cruise in, especially on the strip at H2Oi in Ocean City.” And there we are, back at the heart of it all, cruising down Main Street without a care in the world. Brandt’s content with his car, it’s exactly how he pictured it, that’s the end of the story, right?

    No, of course not. People like Brandt just can’t sit still for too long. Next time you see this car it will probably be luminous blue or running banded steels or something. Because doing what everyone expects is what dull people do.

    “I just thought it would be fun to try something new…”

    “Everyone seems to like it – it’s quite a head-turner!”

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

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #BMW-S54 / #S54 , #Revo-tune , full active exhaust system, six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 10x18” (front) and 12.5x18” (rear) one-off Infinitewerks #SS3 wheels in full chrome with 225/35 (front) and 245/35 (rear) Yokohama S-Drive tyres, Broadway Static coilovers

    EXTERIOR Full colour change to #Merlot-red , shaved antenna, bumpers, and foglights with custom carbon fibre covers, custom front splitter, custom cut and pulled rear quarters

    INTERIOR Diamond-stitched leather retrim colour-matched to Merlot exterior, custom console, Nardi steering wheel

    THANKS My wife Jes, my family at Amsleys Collision, Jaze at Broadway Static, Tommy at #InfiniteWerks , John at Service Tire, Hellman’s Upholstery, Anna Sorrel for the awesome pictures, and Lowell Slothour
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    Matt Ehrbar E36 BMW-M3-Convertible

    / #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-Cabrio / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3-Convertible / #BMW-M3-Convertible-E36 / #BMW-E36-Convertible / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-Cabrio-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-Cabrio

    We admire someone who sticks to their guns. Matt said he wouldn’t buy an E36 M3 unless it was Techno violet so when this car popped up for sale just five miles from him, he knew he had to make it his. Being in the US, his M3 has an auto gearbox, which we never got here in the UK, but a manual swap is coming soon. The car was one of three built with a Sand interior; however, as it was in bad condition, Matt swapped it for a black interior. During its time with him, the M3 has been treated to uprated cooling and steering systems, a respray, and a few choice mods. These include R1 Concept discs and Hawk pads, K Sport coilovers and 17-inch CCW Classic 5s with polished faces and gold ARP hardware sitting on 15mm spacers all-round.
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    The E36 M3 is fast becoming something of a modern classic and this bagged ’vert is as clean as they come. Alex Barnett’s E36 M3 proves that with simple, well-executed modifications and a clean base you can make your BMW a real modern classic… Words: Ben Koflach. Photos: Matt Dear.

    What makes something classic? It’s an almost unanswerable question. While BMW’s own parts computer now designates the E36 as a classic model, is that a label that can truly be assigned to it? Looking over Alex Barnett’s E36 M3, though, you’d be hard-pushed to deny it of its status as something of a modern classic. So many E36s are left in a poor state of fettle, demonised for the track, or have been modified just that bit too far that the original ’90s feel they left the factory with has been lost. The E36 M3 was a special car and fortunately 24-year-old Alex’s retains its original nature yet with his own twist on it. Here’s a car that’s more about what hasn’t been done than what has. It has ‘cool classic’ written all over it.

    “I’ve owned the M3 for around 18 months now,” explains Alex. “I had a 323i Coupé before which I was planning to turbo or S54 swap, but when I thought about what I wanted from a car in the long run, I thought an M3 might be a better bet. I looked at eBay and saw this M3 for sale at a good price in Colchester. I messaged the seller, Ross, and headed down there the same weekend to view it. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it.”

    One of Alex’s many talents is paint correction and detailing. He could see the potential in the M3 even though it wasn’t looking its best when he picked it up. “The car was in reasonable condition,” he says. “The paintwork was okay but really flat and the rear arches were starting to rot – which the E36 is known for. Other than being on some FK coilovers, it was standard. Once I’d bought it I got straight to work on getting the paintwork up to my standards.”

    In the end every panel apart from the doors and boot was repainted before Alex was completely happy with it but, as you can see, it was worth it. Alex’s trusted bodyshop Chappell Coachworks (near Brands Hatch race circuit) has done a sublime job. “The plan was always to stance it; if it had been an M3 Coupé I’d most likely would have turned it into a track car but, being a convertible, I thought the right path would be to stance it… which I received a lot of hate for!” laughed Alex.

    “I put my Borbet A wheels on the car, wound the coilovers right down and started attending shows,” he smiles. However, there was always a plan in the back of Alex’s mind. He didn’t want to ruin the E36’s undercarriage by running low and static. He knew air was the best way to go. “With it being an M, I think keeping it OEM+ is an investment so that one day I can turn it back to standard and sell it – not that I plan to do that just yet! After about a year of driving it static, Joey Hazell pointed me in the direction of Jamie Hitchcock, who was selling an E36 air-ride combo.”

    The air-ride combo system is simple but functional and ticks all the boxes as far as Alex is concerned. It’s a two-way manual setup with the pump and tank stowed in the boot. The struts, meanwhile, are #GAZ units with matching front bags and Air Lift rears. Of course, a wheel upgrade was what was needed to make the most of the newfound lows, and Alex chose an all-time classic – the #BBS RF, which he found in Germany and had shipped over. “The wheels I got in June 2014 from Germany as I couldn’t find a set I wanted in the UK,” Alex tells us. “They’re 8.5x17” and 10x17” with 2.5” and 3” dishes, which I stripped down before Players Classic this year for a freshen-up.”

    This reworking included the centres being powdercoated in the white you see before you, and the dishes were given a thorough polish, too. Finally, Alex consulted split-rim guru Dan Taylor at Wheel Unique for a complete set of gold spike hardware, black and red BBS badges and metal hex centre caps to replace the original plastic items.

    “Once I got the centres back I got straight on with building them back up in time for the all-important Players event,” Alex says. “The tyres were refitted and tested for leaks. They held pressure, which I was pretty stoked with, as it was my first time building split-rims and with all the horror stories I’d heard I was really worried in case I hadn’t done the job correctly.”

    E36 geeks will also spot that there are a few additions to the exterior aside from those wheels but it’s been very much Alex’s plan all along to keep it as BMW intended but with his own touch. Therefore the foglights have been blanked and the orange indicators have gone in favour of subtly smoked versions. The rears lights Alex carefully painted red and, aside from a gentle arch roll, everything else is original and as perfect as can be.

    “My favourite part of the car, I would have to say, is the air-ride system as I can have mad lows when parked up and still drive the car at normal height and keep the underside in good condition,” reveals Alex. “I still love the noise of the air releasing out of the solenoids and confusing people in traffic by making the car go up and down quickly.

    “I plan to keep the car looking pretty similar to how it is now in future but eventually doing a nut and bolt rebuild, making it nice and clean underneath and inside. The shell is rot-free which is great for a 20-year-old car, so first up will be small changes like new bushes and a good lick of Waxoyl to extend its life. As the M3 is now becoming a classic it’s really in my best interests.”

    Alex certainly considers the E36 M3 to be a classic, and with the way he’s treated his, it has every right to be titled as such. His masterful modifications have made it a car that draws attention for all the right reasons, even E36 purists will find plenty of details to enjoy, and yet the whole thing has been brought bang up-to-date with his own twists. This is a true modern classic.

    M3 Coupé Vader seats replace the standard items. Below: manual air-ride setup uses a single air tank.

    Far left: Milltek exhaust looks and sounds great.

    Left: Front fogs have been blanked. #BBS RFs look fantastic on the E36. Below: Adjustable front top mounts.

    DATA FILE #Air-ride #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-Cabrio / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3-Convertible / #BMW-M3-Convertible-E36 / #BMW-E36-Convertible / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-Cabrio-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-Cabrio

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six #S50B30 / #BMW-S50 / #S50 , #Milltek decat centre section and backbox, five-speed manual gearbox, #AC-Schnitzer short-shift

    CHASSIS 8.5x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #BBS-RF three-piece wheels (with white centres, red/gold caps, gold spike hardware and metal hex centres) with 205/40 (front) and 215/40 (rear) Nankang NS2 tyres, two-way manual air-ride using #GAZ-Gold shocks, #Gaz front airbags, #Air-Lift rear bags, adjustable front top mounts, #Powerflex trailing arm polybushes

    EXTERIOR Avus blue paint, smoked front and side indicators, all-red rear lights, foglights blanked

    INTERIOR Factory black leather interior with M3 Coupé Vader front seats

    THANKS My girlfriend Jess for helping me throughout the show season with the car and putting up with me working on the car near on every evening, Dan Taylor at Wheel Unique for fulfilling all my wheel needs, Gary Chappell for doing all the bodywork and always squeezing it in, Auto Finesse for all of the products I use to get the car to the standard I like

    I love confusing people by making the car go up and down quickly.
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    Supercharged, bagged and running crazy-wide 18s, this Stateside E46 M3 Convertible really stands out from the crowd. There aren’t too many M3s that can claim to use simple pressurised air to create a completely new standard in E46s – meet Keith Landucci’s supercharged, aired-out convertible. Words: Ben Koflach. Photos: Chris Umali.

    Belly scraping ride height, fag paper fitment, 493hp at the wheels… oh, and a drop top for the summer. The M3 has always been an everyday supercar slayer; a car that can be as comfortable driving to the shops as it is tailgating Ferraris at the Nürburgring or settling into a 160mph cruise along the autobahn, but Keith Landucci’s E46 is taking things to a new level.

    The 27-year-old New Yorker has owned this particular example for just over two years now, during which time it’s undergone quite a transformation: “I purchased the #M3 from Craigslist from a guy upstate,” Keith told us. “It’s been a car I’ve wanted since I was 16 – I’ve just always had a thing for M3s. It was completely stock bar a set of 20” Vossens.” Keith spends his days spannering for Lexus, but in the evenings and at weekends his services go out to all of the stance family in New York – fender rolling, coilover fitting and just about everything associated are what Keith really enjoys, and so it was obvious where his car was headed.

    “My work is all about dropping cars and rolling fenders to get that ideal fitment so my first big modification for the car was a set of Broadway Static coilovers with custom spring rates – it got the car sitting very nicely but just wasn’t ideal for New York roads and I always wanted more power out of the car. After getting over ‘static life’ I went for bags to achieve the perfect fitment and a supercharger to gain some more power.”

    Not one to do things by halves, Keith purchased a Bag Riders V2 air setup and took the M3 down to renowned fabricator on the VW scene, ‘Swoops’. As a specialist in hardline setups and many other forms of fabrication, the E46 benefited from a full hardline setup with a simple but perfectly executed boot build, housing a large colourcoded tank and twin #VIAIR compressors, along with a pair of Kenwood subs. “I just wanted it simple and clean,” commented Keith. “I did the air install, Swoops did the hardlines in the trunk and made the mounting board for it all.”

    With the suspension all dialled in to perfection and at this time riding on #BBS RSs, Keith could get that added performance hit that he had been after all along. Within a month of the suspension being changed to use pressurised air, the engine was modified to do the same with an ESS supercharger to force-feed it boosted air. The kit that he went for was the 550hp rated version which uses the tried and tested Vortech V3Si compressor along with the usual host of ESS goodies; larger injectors, a reconfigured breather system, CNC brackets and pulleys, a cast aluminium intake manifold and a chunky air-to-air intercooler. As well as all of this it comes with the necessary flash loader to put ESS’s own map on to the M3’s #MSS54 ECU.

    With Keith’s spannering skills, he soon had the kit fitted, and chose the transformation as a great opportunity to rework the exhaust system, too. US-spec E46 M3s came fitted with power-starving exhaust manifolds which housed catalytic converters, dropping them 10hp in the book figures and not doing any favours to the driving experience. These were first to go, and Keith fitted AP tubular headers in their place, with a Supersprint centre section bolted to the back of them. The final component was a Top Speed back box to seriously let the S54 scream; the noise really is quite something.

    “When I drove it after fitting everything there was a huge difference!” Keith grinned. “I had the car dyno’d shortly afterwards and it made 493 wheel horsepower and 326lb ft of torque.” For the initiated among you, let me save you breaking out the calculator – that’s approximately 570hp at the flywheel – impressive stuff for a supercharger kit that is rated at 550hp with Euro manifolds.

    The final step with Keith’s build was to get the bodywork looking flawless. His M3 was originally Alpine white and though he wanted to keep it white in colour, he had a bit of a twist in mind. “I’ve always been a fan of white, but I wanted something brighter that just popped,” he told us. “A shop around me called Impressive took on the work.”

    Keith’s wish list was lengthy, and included some challenging touches. First up, the front bumper was to be replaced with a Vorsteiner CSL version, with the CSL’s distinctive intake hole blanked out and the tow hook cover smoothed over, too. The rear end had already benefitted from a CSL diffuser, but this was to be smoothed into the bumper. Finally, the rubstrips were to be removed and smoothed and the Vorsteiner CSL bootlid was to receive a once-over too. And the colour? He went for Lamborghini Bianco white, which as you can see really does pop as he’d hoped.

    As you can imagine, with Keith being a such a stance king, he’s a bit of a wheel whore too. The M3 has had countless sets of rollers, including the aforemention BBSs along with Work VSS splits, Work Equips, CCW Classics, square 19” OEM wheels – you name it, Keith’s had it under his arches. His latest setup, however, smashes everything else out of the water. What you’re looking at are VIP Modular VXS610s, measuring a frankly ridiculous 11x18” up front and 12x18” at the rear, with offsets in the single figures. As you can no doubt imagine, squeezing these under even the M3’s bulbous arches was quite a task, but all part of the plan – Keith’s running some pretty serious stretch along with around six degrees of negative camber up front and a ridiculous nine degrees at the rear. It’s all part of the game, and the final result is something that understandably leaves plenty of jaws dropping almost as low as the car itself.

    Keith’s M3 may not be for everyone, but there’s no denying that he has covered plenty of the bases with his build. It has the looks to die for without sacrificing quite all of the practicalities, he’s got plenty of comfort and it also has the performance to kill just about any competition he comes across on the tough streets of NYC.

    That sounds pretty good to us but Keith, as ever, is far from done. “For next season I’m doing cams, redoing the interior with a roll-cage and of course, more wheels!” he grinned. This is one M3 project to keep your eye on…

    DATA FILE #BMW-E46 #BMW-M3 #BMW-M3-E46 #BMW-M3-Cabrio #BMW-M3-Cabrio-E46

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.2-litre straight-six #S54 / #S54B32 , ESS VT550 supercharger kit (consisting of #Vortech V3 Si-trim supercharger, front mount intercooler, cast aluminium intake manifold, high capacity bypass valve system, mandrel bent tubing, self tensioning belt system, #CNC brackets & pulleys, oil breather system, silicone hoses, #ESS fuel pressure system, Bosch injectors, #K&N air filter, ESS software with removed top speed limiter), AP cat-less headers, Supersprint midpipes, Top Speed back box, six-speed manual.

    CHASSIS: 11x18” ET8 (front) and 12x18” (rear) ET6 VIP Modular VXS610 wheels with in 235/35 (front) Falken and 285/30 (rear) Nankang tyres respectively. Bag Riders V2 air suspension with custom system and hardlines. CSL front brake setup using 345mm discs, standard rear brakes.

    EXTERIOR: Full respray in Lamborghini Bianco white, #Vorsteiner CSL front bumper with blanked/smoothed air intake and tow hook cover, one-piece carbon fibre CSL splitter, #Vorsteiner-CSL bootlid, smoothed-in CSL diffuser, shaved door mouldings, shaved tow hook covers, colour-matched hardtop, blacked out headlights with LED angel eyes.

    INTERIOR: OE tan leather interior, Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel, carbon fibre and chrome handbrake handle, AEM boost and AFR gauges, custom boot build housing air components and twin Kenwood 12” subwoofers.

    THANKS: All of my customers for their support in choosing to come to me to get their work done. Without them I’d be broke and wouldn’t be able to have the build at the level I have it at.

    Stunning VIP Modular 18s measure an outrageous 11” wide up front and 12” at the rear.

    Boot build has been beautifully executed, with hardlines and colour-coded tank, plus twin 12” #Kenwood subs.

    Interior is home to fetching tan leather and a number of Alcantara and carbon goodies.
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