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    CAR: #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E46 / #BMW-M3-Coupe / #BMW-M3-Coupe-E46
    YEAR: #2002
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 156
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 87,276
    MPG THIS MONTH: 26.9
    TOTAL COST: £167 (tyres & locking nuts)

    Clubsport? Lightweight? Race car? Well, not quite; but sitting inside, the M3 does have the look of a car midprep for an attack on a Nürburgring laptime. A couple of delays mean the M3’s interior is still missing a fair proportion of its trim, but the guys at Perfect Coating (www.facebook.com/ perfectcoating) will have that sorted by the next update, so I’m looking forward to photographing the interior in its shiny new glory in time for next month. Talking of next month, with good weather on the cards and some events in the calendar I’m planning to take the M3 to Wales with some mates, and if things work out just-so, a sojourn to the Nürburgring too. Throw in another visit to Bruntingthorpe for VMAX and I’ll have a chance to put some good quality bonding miles on the M3. Truth is, I’ve not used it as much as I’d like of late which may be good for the mileage (a relatively low 87k considering the 2002 year of registration) but this is not a car to be afraid of using – you only need to look at the amount of M3s deep into six figure mileages to know that if well looked after, there is nothing to fear. With the service indicator telling me I have 800 miles left before the next service, she’ll be well looked after very soon, most likely by Highams Park Motor Company in East London.

    It’s the perfect time for some routine maintenance, meaning I can look forward to summer fun with her! That’s not say I’ve not had fun in the dark months, and now I’ve had a chance to put some proper miles on the M3 with the 18-inch wheels I’ve really grown to love them. Unsurprisingly, after last month’s sideways fun the rear tyres were looking rather sorry for themselves. Lucky for me, my local tyre shop happened to have a pair of very lightly used correctly sized Pirelli P Zeros in stock; an absolute bargain for £150, and I had some new locking wheel nuts fitted at the same time. The old lockers were looking pretty sorry for themselves, and I had visions of being stranded with a flat, unable to change wheels due to a rounded off key. It’s a small thing, but it gives peace of mind. As I reported last month, initial impressions on the smaller wheels were a marginal trade off in ultimate grip in return for better ride quality and even more benign, playful handling characteristics when pushing on.

    With the new Pirellis, a good run on some of my favourite local B roads cemented that impression. I’ve never been one for chasing ultimate grip anyway – I’m not setting lap times – so I’d rather have a car which has grip levels well matched to the power output, with really enjoyable handling which can be exploited at sensible speeds. On the 18-inch wheels, the M3 delivers this by the bucket load. I’ve grown to love the look on the dark grey smaller wheels too; the polished 19-inch wheels always looking a bit bling for my taste.

    Despite sharing space with cars worth 50+ times what I paid for the M3, it still managed to turn heads and secure a prime spot at a local breakfast club meet. If you’re an Essex dweller, I’d heartily recommend a trip down to The Hare near Roxwell the first Saturday of most summer months (check its calendar to be sure). Get there early enough and there’s even free coffee. But more importantly an excellent mix of old, new, and sometimes hugely rare and valuable cars to have a look at… and a 15 year old M3 with half the interior missing. It was my morning jaunt to the last meet that gave me the chance to enjoy my favourite local roads, and driving back I was feeling pretty pleased with life. I think it’s fair to say my love affair with the M3 is going pretty strong…
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    / BMW / THOMAS’ E46 M3 / #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E46 / #BMW-M3-Coupe / #BMW-M3-Coupe-E46 / #BMW-M3 /

    This month has seen various areas of the ’46 progress well, with the rear subframe undergoing a complete overhaul, new brake lines being fitted, the cylinder head rebuild starting, and the crankshaft receiving a full re-grind and balance. Starting with the subframe, I was initially thinking of powder coating the whole lot, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to find something with a little bit more longevity to it. Although powder coat is reasonable hardy, I find it hard to believe it would really stand the test of time without flaking and/or peeling off. So instead I purchased some two-part epoxy mastic from Bilt Hamber – essentially it’s super glue that’s coloured black. With Zinc-phosphate embedded within the resin, once set it provides a supertough, corrosion-resistant surface that should help preserve and protect the subframe.

    The subframe was taken back to bare metal and a liberal amount of epoxy applied. Whilst the underside of the car was all apart, I discovered the hard lines for the brakes were close to corroding through, so replacements here were also produced. Once again, I wanted to make sure that whatever went back in the car would last, so Cunifer pipework was used. A copper-nickel alloy, Cunifer is significantly more resilient than steel or copper alone with the trade-off being a relative lack of flexibility – although this didn’t prove to be a problem in the slightest.

    By comparison, rebuilding the cylinder head has so far been a breeze. Valves, springs and retainers were the first items to be re-installed. With all the valves numbered on removal it was a case of fitting them in the correct port and giving them a quick lap. Lapping is done by applying a small amount of paste to the seat of the valve, then rubbing it back and forth on the valve seat for a few minutes. This process grinds a small layer of material off the mating faces, helping them to create a better seal with each other. Once the lapping process has been completed, it’s important to check both faces seat around the full perimeter. This was done using engineer’s blue, which was applied to the valve, then the valve was seated (with a fair bit of force) into the head. Once seated, remove the valve and check for an even coverage of blue on the cylinder head valve seat. All valves passed so it was onto the next step. This involved fitting new rockers and rocker shafts, with the former of the DLC (Diamond-like coated) variety. With the engine receiving a set of race-y cams (full specification to be revealed later), it seemed sensible to upgrade to the more slippery, harder-wearing DLC rockers.

    And so onto the crank, where a fair amount of head scratching and research has been involved this month. First and foremost, I need to thank Daren of Crosthwaite & Gardiner for doing a superb job of regrinding my crank. It turns out the crank was in a bit more of a state than it first appeared, yet after a few tense hours of careful measuring and grinding, it’s ready to spin in anger. Regrinding the crank was incredibly eyeopening for me. There’s a lot of discussion online about how marginal the big ends are on S54s, with numerous people (including myself) removing shells after ~100k miles and finding they’re in a terrible state. I knew I was in for a regrind on the big ends, but what became apparent was that the mains weren’t too great either.

    Despite the main journals looking fine, and measuring up OK at first glance, the crank was bowing considerably (0.125mm eccentricity was measured between the mains). After a bit of straightening and a light polish, the mains were running true again, although it became evident they weren’t so healthy, with noticeable scoring to the journal surfaces showing. How deep the damage went was very surprising – it was only when 0.2mm had been removed from the journals (of the 0.25 total) that all the scoring was removed. It was a similar story too with the big ends, with all of them requiring considerable material removal before cleaning up. On the big ends it was always the top and bottom side of the journal that showed the most damage, evidently from the combustion stroke and rod/piston inertia during the exhaust stroke.

    Considering the state of the crank, I decided it was worth doing a bit of research into the shell/big end issues on the S54 to see if a solution could be found. Reading back through information online, it was news to me that these engines originally shipped on a 5W30 oil, before numerous big end failures forced BMW to switch to a 10W60 Castrol (as used now). Unfortunately this appeared to make matters worse, and it was soon after that BMW increased the clearances in the big end shells (forcing a recall of many M3s). Looking at how tight the shell/crank tolerance is for the S54, to me there’s no doubt these engines were designed around the 5W30, with the change to 10W60 a knee-jerk reaction to try and solve the big end issues.

    It was from here that I started speaking to Driven, manufacturers of Joe Gibbs Racing Oils. Its range of oils are developed from research undertaken when trying to push the limits of highly-strung Nascar engines. These struggle to cope with incredibly high stresses on the camtrain, leading to premature wear and power loss. The Driven oils, therefore, focus heavily on reducing engine wear, as well as friction reduction for a competitive advantage. Upon discussing the S54 issues with the development team in the US, the first thing that became abundantly clear is that oil changes every ~15,000 miles in a performance engine is simply not OK. Like all products, oil has a lifespan, and when it’s being pushed hard in what’s essentially a road-going race engine, expecting it to last so long is very wishful thinking. To create oils that operate over a wide viscosity range, modifiers have to be added to the formula, and over time these break down, reducing the oils’ performance. To try and make an oil last 15,000 miles, its chemistry must also be heavily biased with detergents, leaving less room for anti-wear components.

    On top of this, levels of #ZDDP ( #Zinc-dialkyldithiophosphate ) in oil have been reduced considerably. This is an important anti-wear compound, but due to its slightly negative effects on catalytic converter performance, governments are restricting its use in commercial/OEM engine oils. Driven has worked incredibly hard to reduce wear, with all its oils having considerably higher levels of ZDDP. Driven even has extensive dyno results to back up its claims. I’ll be looking to run the DT40 5W40 from the Driven range; with regular oil changes (every 6000 miles or so) this should keep the motor running sweetly and ensure the crank doesn’t lose any more precious material from its journals. Regular oil changes can’t be recommended highly enough for M car owners…
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    Longtermers #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E46 / #BMW-M3-Coupe / #BMW-M3-Coupe-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #2002

    Plenty of action for the M3, Ben gets his German race licence, Elizabeth almost says goodbye to the 1 Series while the repaired E90 318i has more dramas

    After a couple of quiet winter months the M3 must be wondering what’s hit it! New wheels, interior in pieces… it’s even been on track alongside a couple of fun jaunts on local roads. Let’s start with the interior refresh. I’d been talking to the guys at Newbury based www.perfectcoating.co.uk for a few weeks about some options to revive the scuffed, scratched and scabby grey plastic interior trim in the M3. The interior of my car was in great shape overall when I purchased it – nice shiny seats with only mild bolster buffing, whilst the dash and remainder of the cabin trim was in excellent shape, perhaps even better than you’d expect of an 80k mile, 15-year-old M3. Letting it down though, were always the plastic inserts with their metallic grey finish. Given these adorn the door handles and electric window switch surrounds amongst others, they were in prime position to deteriorate from 15 years of contact with rings, nails and the natural oils from human skin.

    So a jaunt over to Newbury was arranged, where the guys at www. perfectcoating. co. uk had the relevant parts out of the car in short order. The individual pieces looked even worse sitting on a bench under bright lights, the door handles predictably being the worst offenders. The parts are sanded down to remove the existing paint and prepared for the black basecoat.

    Once this is applied, the clever part of the process happens, as the film is applied through hydro dipping (or water transfer printing as it’s known) to create a finish which looks almost identical to a carbon weave, with some golden colour showing through (we opted for this to better match my M3’s Phoenix yellow – many other finishes and colours are available).

    Once this has cured (a very quick process), the parts are sent to the bodyshop for a high quality lacquer to give a deep, lustrous and hardwearing finish. Having seen some completed parts earmarked for a Mustang I was blown away by the quality and can’t wait for the finished items to be refitted – pictures and in-depth report on the process next month. The fact that the process is just as suitable for external parts is highly compelling: carbon spoiler and mirrors anyone? My return journey from Newbury made for an easy drop in to Aldershot to pick up the set of original 18- inch wheels I sourced through the popular M3cutters forum. I’d been interested to try these and experience for myself if the ride and handling were tangibly different on the smaller rims and accompanying taller sidewall tyres. There is a marginal reduction in unsprung weight over the 19-inch polished alloys, shedding 1.4kg per front and 1.1kg from each rear wheel; of course this is mitigated by the slightly heavier rubber due to the taller sidewalls. In reality, it’s the latter which seems to make the biggest difference to the driving dynamics in the handful of miles I’ve been able to try them so far.

    Tyre footprint remains the same, with 225/45/18 up front and 255/40/18 at the rear as opposed to 225/40/19 and 255/35/19, but the taller sidewall has reduced initial bump harshness, whilst there is a trade off to steering sharpness when turning in. Perhaps due to less tyre deformation, it feels like the 19s have slightly more ultimate lateral grip, but we are talking fi ne margins here which would take an accelerometer to confirm. On the road, the 18-inch setup does feel like it works better, providing the M3 with an added degree of suppleness to deal with our imperfect roads. At the same time, the chassis feels a little bit less edgy on the limit, proving extremely friendly with the DSC turned off ; a feeling I was able to confirm on track recently where some pretty extreme corner entry styles had the M3 virtually on the lockstops in third, but feeling utterly benign and predictable in extremis, as well as sensational fun. Of course, much the same can be said of the wonderfully balanced E46 M3 chassis no matter which wheels you’re running, but there was a tangible and enjoyable difference to note. That the 255/40/18 rubber is significantly less expensive than 255/35/19 is a pleasing side benefit….

    This has freed up the 19s for a refurb too. They are thankfully free of kerb rash, but the lacquer is looking a bit second hand in places. If you have any recommendations of a place to have these cost effectively refreshed in Essex or London please feel free to message me.

    BMW E46 M3
    YEAR: #2002
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 622
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 87,120
    MPG THIS MONTH: 28.8
    TOTAL COST: £350 (wheels)
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    Thomas Koflach’s #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 /

    This project came about through a fair amount of luck on my part. An E46 M3 had been on the radar for a few months – the lure of the straightsix was well and truly calling and having been out in my brother Ben’s #S54 Touring on numerous track days I knew just how good the engines were. The difficult part was, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I wanted or what would fit the available budget.

    It was therefore fortuitous when Ben mentioned that a friend’s E46 had just thrown a rod in spectacular style, punching no less than three enormous holes in the block. The rolling shell was semi-broken for parts before being moved on as a whole. Aside from both front wings missing, the only real omissions were the engine, differential, wheels and exhaust system.

    So that’s where this project starts really: a rolling E46 M3 in need of a new engine. Having successfully purchased the shell, attention turned to finding a donor engine. From the outset I’d decided that I wouldn’t simply bolt in a replacement; whatever went in there would have to be a little special. A donor engine was quickly sourced, albeit one with a cracked piston, and a full strip down commenced. Further damage was found upon stripping the engine down, with scoring to the cylinder walls and a number of big end shells showing alarming levels of wear. The big end below the cracked piston was the worst, with a bit of damage showing on the crank. Problems already, but none that can’t be overcome!

    With the engine fully stripped-down anything that was remotely suspect was binned, whilst anything that looked usable received a thorough inspection. Whilst the oil pump was apart the engine received its first upgrade: a #VAC-Motorsport upgrade kit supplied by #Hack-Engineering . With a redesigned shaft, sprocket and fastening mechanism, the upgrade kit safeguards the oil pump from the two main failure mechanisms: the shaft shearing or the nut loosening off in operation. With a lot of time and effort going into the engine, oil pump failure certainly wouldn’t go down well and would almost certainly damage the engine beyond repair. The money spent here safeguarding the rest of the engine is money well spent in my book!

    Over the next few months the engine will be built back up, with careful component selection and detailed analysis taking place to ensure everything runs perfectly. Having spent most of my career working as a design engineer for a race engine manufacturer I’m hoping to share a little bit of engineering insight as I work through the project, including designing my own set of custom cams.

    / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E46 / #BMW-M3-Coupe / #BMW-M3-Coupe-E46
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    PANDEMMONIUM
    Sam Huggins is a clear thinker. He wanted an E46 M3 with the UK’s first Rocket Bunny Pandem kit, he wanted it to be the only one on Squared wheels, and he made it so. It’s a hell of a way to cause a ruckus. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Matt Woods.

    Rocket Bunny E46 M3

    Overthinking. It’s the modern curse. We have too much information available to us these days, we’re being constantly bombarded with reams of impenetrable data from all corners of the globe (not that globes have corners…), and we’re essentially spoiled for choice. We’ve reached saturation point; we don’t have time to absorb a new idea before a fresh one elbows it out of the way and starts jumping up and down yelling ‘look at me, look at me!’, and is then immediately bumped for something else. Previous generations never had to worry about this. In a world before smartphones, the internet, and all the other modern buzzwords that your grandpa still enunciates as if they’re spelled in all-caps, information arrived via word-of-mouth and the ten o’clock news.

    Everything today is just too fast-paced. Okay, we know what you’re thinking: we sound like relics from a bygone age. Get with the programme, fogeys. But thankfully we’re not alone in this quasi-despair at the pace of digital evolution. Sam Huggins is on board with this antiquated way of thinking. For while his E46 M3 may feature bang-on-trend additions, he hasn’t overthought it. It exists merely as a snapshot of what he wants it to be, no more, no less.

    Unpretentious, uncomplicated, and honest. “I’ve been a fan of #BMW s for about ten years,” he says. “I think they’re superior to other makes in that you can squeeze more fun out of them; in that sense they represent very good value for money.” Well, he’s on to something there. And an early sighting of a Phoenix yellow E46 M3 in a showroom was enough to light the blue touch paper for Sam. “I fell in love with it, the colour was amazing,” he enthuses. “I’ve since had an E92 M3 as well, but I came back to the E46 for this project because I decided that I preferred it.” See, there’s no mucking about here. He’s laser-guided, like the Terminator. “My first car was a Corsa,” he goes on, “but my dad wouldn’t let me modify cars at all. It was when he passed away that I started modifying, about five years ago.”

    This isn’t a mercenary act of rebellion, merely a statement of fact. You’ve probably gathered by now that Sam’s a goal-oriented guy; he identifies what he wants, then he makes it happen. So it is with this M3.

    “I found the car on Pistonheads,” he explains. “It was totally stock, and in mint condition, and I basically bought it because I wanted to learn to drift.” Such incendiary words are bound to reduce vast swathes of dyed-in-the-wool purists to quivering heaps of apoplectic grumbling, but he didn’t build this car for them – he was working to a checklist in his head, and the first thing on the list was the wheels.

    “At the time, these were the wheels to have,” he grins. “With hindsight perhaps it would have been nice to have some custom Rotiforms built so I wouldn’t have to run spacers, but…” [he ponders reality for a moment, then the light bulb above his head re-illuminates] “…no, these are definitely the right wheels for the car. I can say that I’m the only one running on #Squared SD2s.”

    They’re pretty mighty too. Forged threepiece splits with an acre of dish on the rears, artfully colour-contrasted to highlight how the inky black spokes seemingly plunge into a gigantic bowl of custard against the menacing black of the wide-hipped body. Naturally you can’t just bolt a set of 11”- wide wheels on the back of your E46 and expect everything to be sunshine and roses.

    The arches won’t thank you for it. So Sam had a decision to make – how does one broaden such a car to accommodate this new-found girth? The obvious answer, it seemed to him, was to make his own body kit: “I made it and fitted it myself,” he says, “although it started cracking before too long, so I decided to do things properly and go for a Rocket Bunny Pandem kit instead. And that’s pretty sick, as it’s the only one in the UK.”

    Sam was working on the car when he could over evenings and weekends, so it took around a year before the E46 rolled out on its new rims along with the exotically bulky new bodystyle, but the finished product really speaks for itself. Indeed, the choice of gloss black is a deliberately un-boisterous choice, in deference to the ostentatiousness of a lot of other Rocket Bunny cars, that makes the #M3 almost subtle. Almost, but not quite. It’s very wide and has yellow wheels, let’s not go nuts. And you’ve probably spotted the ducktail spoiler and the roof-mounted vortex generators from a Mitsubishi Evo too – this thing gets less and less subtle the more you pore over the details, it’s like a greyscale Magic Eye picture of a bullfight.

    “The car was way too high for my liking, and I couldn’t afford air-ride, so I went for some budget coilovers,” he continues, ticking a further item from the mental checklist. But don’t let the word ‘budget’ fool you into thinking it’s not a considered, quality chassis: just take a peep through the wheels and you’ll spot a K-Sport big brake kit at either end, and the way Sam’s got those coilies wound before the lens gets it sitting just right here.

    “I fitted a #K&N induction kit too; it only took about an hour, after I watched a tutorial on YouTube,” he says, again with a supremely focused air. “And I was thinking about doing a full race car interior, but to be honest I ran out of money at that point, so I just went with an extended shifter and a deep-dish steering wheel – all of the budget went on the exterior.” This is no hardship really, as it’s not as if the inside of an M3 is an unpleasant place to be, and that brutal exterior aesthetic really does deliver.

    What we have here, then, is a nononsense car built to a specific brief with no messing about. It’s a very efficient kind of fun that fits neatly with the M3’s German roots, with just enough Japanese zaniness to pop it onto the scene’s radar and keep it there. “The Pandem kit is definitely my favourite part of the car,” says Sam. “Just look at it, it’s amazing! And being the only one in the UK, that just makes it cooler.”

    He’s not wrong. And having worked methodically through his uncomplicated list of modifications, is Sam now ready to sit back and enjoy cruising around in his exotic new creation? “No, it’s for sale,” he deadpans, “I’m buying a VW Transporter.”

    Aha. Okay, we wouldn’t expect him to mince words about the realities of this build. The lesson to take away is that this car was never about following the herd of listening to received wisdom – it exists solely in its own snapshot in time. And that’s a pretty rare thing these days.

    “The Pandem kit is my favourite part of the car. Just look at it, it’s amazing!”

    DATA FILE #Rocket-Bunny / #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #Squared / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E46 / #BMW-M3-Coupe / #BMW-M3-Coupe-E46 / #BMW-M3-Rocket-Bunny / #BMW-M3-Rocket-Bunny-E46 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 / #BMW-S54 , #K&N induction, six-speed manual with short-shift

    CHASSIS 9x19” ET21 (front) and 11x19” ET20 (rear) #Squared-SD2 forged three-piece wheels with 235/35 (front) and 275/30 (rear) tyres, coilovers, #K-Sport big brake kit (front and rear)

    EXTERIOR Gloss black, Rocket Bunny Pandem wide-arch body kit, ducktail spoiler, Mitsubishi Evo roof-mounted vortex generators, fibreglass front wings

    INTERIOR #OMP deep-dish steering wheel, extended gear shifter

    “These are definitely the right wheels for the car. I’m the only one running on Squared SD2s”
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    The origin of BMW’s Frozen paint / #BMW-Frozen / #BMW-Frozen-Black / #BMW-Frozen-Paint

    Shane O’ Donoghue chats with BMW’s design boss, Adrian van Hooydonk, who reveals the story of the company’s distinctive ‘Frozen’ paint finish.

    Sitting in Munich, informally discussing the design of the new #BMW-5-Series-G30 with #Adrian-van-Hooydonk , Senior Vice President, #BMW-Group-Design , he murmurs agreement when we suggest its subtle new design details are probably at their best when in one of the ‘Frozen’ colours. He then revealed for the first time the history behind the stylish matt finish.

    At the time, van Hooydonk’s daily driver was a metallic black #BMW-E92 / #BMW-M3-Coupé / #BMW-M3-E92 / #BMW / #BMW-M3 , and he was very keen to introduce a matt paint to BMW buyers. However, he was met with resistance from his sales and marketing colleagues – they told him it couldn’t be done in series production as it required a skilled painter to apply the finish manually. That didn’t dissuade the affable Dutchman. He visited the factory paintshop for himself and talked to one of the more experienced painters on the line, asking him if he’d paint his own M3 to demonstrate it could be done. What van Hooydonk didn’t realise was that the painting robots were ‘taught’ various painting techniques by watching a skilled human and repeating the motions. His car was duly painted and, in the process of doing so, the painter trained the robots how to do the task. Still the powers that be were not convinced. They worried about longevity and how the finish could be matched in the case of a crash repair. It turns out that polishing and scrubbing the Frozen paint is a non-issue, as it’s a ‘clearcoat’ finish like any other, but van Hooydonk went as far as bringing his (now matt black) M3 to a local BMW dealership and asking it to respray a front wing. Bemused they may have been, by the incongruous job of spraying a perfectly good and undamaged component, but they did the work and van Hooydonk says it was impossible to tell which wing had been resprayed.

    His colleagues were finally convinced and following a successful introduction on various limited edition models, Frozen paint is now part of the standard mix of options on BMW’s latest models. Indeed, buyers of the new 5 Series can choose from four standard Frozen colours, or, through the Special Request option, pay for any colour they wish with or without the matt finish.
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    The hottest E36 – the brilliant M3 R White Gold.

    One of the rarest of all E36 M3s, and some might say the best, came from Australia: the brilliant M3 R. The very best E36 M3 didn’t come from Europe, or America… it came from a land Down Under. Words and photography: Chris Nicholls.

    Mention special E36 M3 derivatives and most people’s minds will inevitably go to the M3 GT or Lightweight. After all, these sold in relatively large numbers and, thanks to being designed for BMW’s two largest markets (Europe and the US respectively), got the most media exposure. However, the rarest, most powerful E36 M3 ever made (GTR aside) didn’t come from either of those continents. It came from the relatively tiny market of Australia, where, in #1995 , a highly talented group of people from both within and outside the company came together to build 15 very special M3s. These came to be known as the M3 Rs.

    Now, some of our regular readers may already know about the M3 R, especially as we featured another one back in (March 2006), but given the time gap, we thought it was best to look at it again because it is without a doubt one of the best factory M3s ever made.


    The M3 R story first dates back to mid-1993, when BMW Australia investigated the possibility of building a near race-spec M3 for the road, the idea being that they could be sold to enthusiasts who tracked their cars on the weekend or even competed in state and national events. The payoff for BMW Australia being a homologation special that it could develop for Australian GT Production car racing.

    Having been given the green light, the local BMW team worked closely with the legendary Paul Rosche, then M GmbH’s head of motorsport, and team members from the famous Australian Frank Gardner’s outfit, who ran the Australian M Team at the time, to help design, develop and spec the cars. It’s worth noting before we go any further that one of the Gardner staffers was Ralph Bellamy, whom older readers and F1 nuts may remember as chief engineer at Brabham, McLaren, Lotus (where he, along with Colin Chapman, Peter Wright and Martin Ogilvie invented ground effects), Lola and Fittipaldi, before moving onto BMW M to work on the international Super Tourer programme. So, as you can see, when we said a highly-talented group of people helped make this car, we weren’t lying.

    As for the car BMW Australia ended up producing, it really was a road-going racer. The air conditioning and stereo were removed (although, as usual, owners could refit them) and sound deadening, central locking, foglights, rear seats and the on-board tool kit all went, too. Even with the standard twin fire extinguishers (although obviously not the optional bolt-in roll-cage) the end result was a car that weighed nearly 200kg less in its most hardcore form than a stock M3.

    Of course, the modifications didn’t end there. The engine gained more aggressive camshafts, shorter intake trumpets and a different cold air intake that drew from where the driver’s side fog light used to be, as well as a Motorsport-designed sump and dual oil pick-ups to avoid the common S50 30B starvation issue. On top of that came a lighter flywheel (matched to either an AP Racing 7.25-inch sintered twin-plate racing clutch or a cerametallic twin-plate for road use) and new management software to yield an overall output of 325hp – more than any non-GTR E36 M ever sold elsewhere. It goes even harder than the weight and power would suggest, too, thanks to a shorter-than-standard 3.25:1 final drive ratio.

    Unsurprisingly, the brakes also copped significant upgrades in the form of AP Racing four-piston callipers, two-piece vented rotors, Pagid RS 4-4 pads and front cooling ducts that ran from holes next to the now-deleted foglights. As for the suspension, almost every part was replaced with Group N Motorsport parts, right down to the hubs, which run different length studs (not bolts) front and rear to hold the unique 17-inch staggered BBS wheels. To ensure the looks matched the potential, the team also fitted the M3 GT body kit in its entirety, plus the Super Touring dual-level rear wing and a sliding front splitter. The whole lot was assembled at the BMW Australia Performance Driving Centre under the close supervision of M engineers and Ralph Bellamy himself. Three completed cars went to the local M Team for competition use and the remaining 12 were made available to the general public.

    However, in keeping with the whole ‘race car for the road’ thing, only members of the general public armed with a CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motorsport) racing licence could buy one, unless they were willing to undertake the relevant training and tests before delivery.

    As you can see, the M3 R is thus a rare and incredibly desirable special edition. One designed to maximise driving pleasure both on road and track, and in the sole colour available (Alpine white III), quite the stunner.

    The owner of this particular example (number 14 of 15) is very well aware of just how special it is, too. Ian Burke has been a BMW enthusiast for many years, starting with an E46 323i in 2000, before moving up to an E46 330i three years later. These two impressed him enough that he bought an E92 335i sight unseen before they arrived in the country when the lease on his 330i expired, after which he upgraded to an E92 M3, which he still owns. Burke also has an original M Roadster, has done a factory tour and visited BMW Welt and would have bought an F80 M3, too, until a test-drive convinced him it was “a bit too boy racer-ish” for him. Thus, when he says it provides a special driving experience, you know he’s not wrong: “It’s a treat to drive. I would say on the open road it’s got better shock absorption and handling than my E92 M3. When you go over a bump the shocks absorb everything – they’re quite amazing. It handles extremely well, too. I’ve had it around Sandown Raceway a couple of times, and the performance is not like a modern-day car, although it’s still pretty quick, but the point is that it’s good around there because the braking is so superior to a modern saloon car. You can get the brakes red hot and really stamp on them into a corner and the whole suspension is race-tuned.”


    How Burke came to own this car is a lovely piece of father-son serendipity as well. Burke isn’t really a tech guy – he has no social media accounts at all – but his son, Andrew, like most people his age, is on the web a lot. And unsurprisingly spends a large portion of that time looking at cars. Thus, a while after purchasing his M Roadster, Burke got an email from his son telling him about this example, which at the time resided in Sydney, complete with a link to the advert. “I looked at it and thought it looks pretty cool and that it could be a reasonable investment and a nice car to get around in so I went up to Sydney to see it,” he says.

    The shop selling it was called Classic Throttle Shop, a renowned establishment which houses a huge number of special cars at any one time. Upon visiting, Burke senior was impressed enough by the car that he bought it on the spot and had it shipped back down to his home in Melbourne.

    Not that the car was perfect, of course. The steering wheel leather had a small cut in it, which necessitated refurbishing, and many of the rubber seals were in such bad condition that they had to be replaced. This perishing and the fact the car had only done 17,000km at the time of purchase suggested that the car had previously spent a lot of time in a garage but as it ran fine and all the other components seemed alright Burke wasn’t bothered.

    Once freshened-up, Burke made a couple of small changes to suit his personal taste and needs. First was swapping out the intake system for a lovely Gruppe M carbon number, purchased simply because he liked the noise. Second was the clutch. Apparently the original race-spec version was “virtually undriveable in the city”, so he changed it to a UUC model with a solid lightweight flywheel and an E34 M5 sprung disk.

    Now, keen-eyed M3 nuts might also spot the car came with some non-standard modifications that Burke didn’t make, namely the Remus exhaust and an unknown brand thick alloy strut bar, as well as the original radio/cassette player and air-con, but all of these are minor changes and should he ever desire, Burke can always swap everything back to stock-spec pretty easily, especially as every component on the car has an official BMW part number.

    Rather amusingly, there is one extra part Burke does own that he’d love the put on the car more regularly, but certain family members won’t allow it: a custom numberplate. “I’ve actually got a Victorian licence plate ‘E36 M3R’ but I’m not allowed to put it on because I’d look too much of a tosser,” he says. That said, Burke readily admits that “you’ve got to fly under the radar when you own a car like this”, so he isn’t too fussed – especially as he is allowed to bolt the private ’plate on when he attends the odd #BMW Car Club of Victoria meet.

    “The BMW people know what it is without the ’plates,” Burke grins, “and, of course, when you lift the bonnet up, their eyes pop out of their head when they see the originality of the engine. It’s even got all the original stickers.”

    Remarkably, given his penchant for regular spirited drives, Burke has only put about 4000km on it in the three year’s he’s owned it, but then he also has his M Roadster and E92 M3 on offer as toys, and his daily driver is a VF Holden ute (“it’s so damn convenient to throw all your rubbish in the back”), so perhaps the low number of kilometres travelled are less surprising in that regard.

    As for the future, Burke says he plans to “just sit on it”, especially as S50 engines are so hard to come by these days, and eventually he’ll pass it onto his son. No doubt Burke junior will enjoy driving it as much as his old man.

    “It’s a treat to drive. I would say on the open road it’s got better shock absorption and handling than my E92 M3”

    TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3-R / #BMW-M3-R-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-S50 / #S50 / #S50B30 / #BMW-M3 / #Getrag / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-M3-Coupe / #BMW-M3-Coupe-E36

    ENGINE: 2990cc, DOHC S50 30B straight-six, cast iron block, 24-valve alloy head, 10.8:1 compression ratio, 264-degree inlet cam, 265-degree exhaust cam, oil restrictor in head, Motorsport sump, twin oil pick-ups, Motorsport air filter and intake pipe, Motorsport lightened flywheel (currently UUC solid lightened), Remus exhaust, updated engine management software

    MAX POWER: 325hp @ 7200rpm

    MAX TORQUE: 258lb ft @ 4400rpm

    DRIVELINE: #Getrag-420G six-speed manual, #AP-Racing CP2961 7.25-inch twin-plate sintered (road/race) or #AP-Racing-CP4112 cerametallic twin-plate (road). Currently fitted with #UUC Stage 2 Ultimate clutch with E34 M5 sprung disk. Standard clutch master cylinder with travellimiting stop, E34 M5 driveshaft, 3.25:1 final drive ratio

    SUSPENSION: Motorsport Group N Bilstein dampers, Motorsport Group N springs, Motorsport Group N upper and lower spring plates, Motorsport Group N struts (f), Motorsport Group N upper and lower wishbones (r), Motorsport Group N adjusting sleeves, Motorsport Group N damping sleeves, Motorsport Group N hubs with studs (f&r), aftermarket strut bar (f)

    BRAKES: AP Racing four-piston front callipers with twopiece vented rotors (f&r), Pagid RS 4-4 pads (RS12 optional), front brake cooling ducts

    WHEELS AND TYRES: 7.5x17-inch ET37 (f) and 8.5x17- inch ET41 (r) #BBS mesh wheels with 225/45 (f) and 245/40 (r) Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 tyres

    INTERIOR: Anthracite M cloth/Amaretta suede trim, aircon delete, radio/cassette delete (both since re-installed), rear seat delete, central locking delete, sound deadening removed, twin fire extinguishers (driver’s side removed for convenience), spare wheel delete, jack and wheel brace delete, toolkit delete, boot floor mats and trim delete, limited edition plaque under handbrake

    EXTERIOR: M3 GT body kit, Motorsport sliding front splitter, Motorsport Super Touring dual-level rear wing, foglight delete (driver’s side replaced with air intake vent)

    “Their eyes pop out of their head when they see the originality of the engine. It’s even got all the original stickers”
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    CUSTOM E36 Wide-body and #S50-swap

    With its custom, handmade, wide-arch bodywork, the eye-popping Unique Customs E36 certainly lives up to its name. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Andy Tipping.

    BODY WORK Custom wide-body S50-swapped E36

    Not all enthusiasts are hands-on enough to get down and dirty when it comes to modifying their BMs. But there are some who really build their projects, assembling the whole thing in a driveway or garage and being personally involved with the entire project. However, for some people that’s still not enough; people like Chris Pattrick, for example, owner of Unique Customs (www.unique-customs.co.uk). When it came to building his E36 M3 project car, he went the extra mile of actually making his own body panels!

    We first spotted Chris’ E36 at the Santa Pod BMW show back in 2015 and it really stood out from the crowd, mainly thanks to that, appropriately enough, unique widebody kit which was not only a pretty outlandish thing to behold but also exceptionally well-built and finished. That was before we even spotted the wheels, the interior or realised that there was an S50 under the bonnet, making it as much about performance as it is styling. It’s a comprehensive package for sure and one which has the added appeal of being a unique build, which is not something many people can say about their car.

    Chris has spent plenty of his 25 years playing with various cars, including a Saxo and a Peugeot 106, along with a spate of VWs. That was going great until a Caddy project which had got right up to the paintwork stage before Chris realised it must have had a significant front-end shunt at some point in its life as none of the panels would line up. “I stormed out of the bodyshop,” he says, “and, having recently bought an E90 320d as a daily and liking how it drove compared with VWs, I decided to get myself an E36 as a toy and new project.

    The car started out life as a 323i and I found it online; it was in good condition with no rust and nice wheels and just needed paint really. It was exactly what I was after and perfect for what I had in mind.”

    Most of what Chris had in mind was in regards to bodywork, which is what took up most of the work that went into the project as a whole. “We started working on the body one panel at a time. I just had a vision of what I wanted it to look like. We handcrafted everything from start to finish which took us around ten months in total. The main problem I had when it came to doing the body was deciding what would actually suit it. It’s all well and good spotting parts on another car and deciding whether or not you like them, but when you’re actually starting from scratch and making body panels by hand, you’re putting a lot of time into them and so you’re constantly thinking ‘is it enough?’ or ‘is too over the top?’ and trying to reach a happy medium.”


    If you prefer your BMWs leaning towards the more subtle, standard end of the styling spectrum then Chris’ creation probably won’t be for you but in terms of making an impact and showing off what Unique Customs is all about, it definitely hits the spot. The most attention-grabbing elements are without doubt the wings, the front ones being a two-piece design with those aggressive vents, and all four are significantly wider than stock – 30mm a side up front and 50mm each at the rear, which equates to an extra 10cm, four-inches of total width at the back.

    The front bumper has been fitted with a deep chin splitter and there’s a vented bonnet up front along with a set of modified headlights sporting a Unique Customs shroud kit, which looks great. Side skirts and flair blades beef up the car’s flanks and the rear has undergone extensive restyling, with Unique Customs rear bumper extensions, rear diffuser with fins and a pronounced ducktail spoiler. Additional exterior finishing touches include gunmetal grey trims and a matt grey roof wrap, both of which make a nice change from black.

    Obviously with that sort of visual heavy artillery on board Chris needed to make sure his E36 sat right and had the right wheels to fill out those massive arches: “I went for HSD coilovers, which offer up a nice but firm drive and with the polybushes the car drives really well. I also added E46 bottom arms as I love the way they kick the wheels out but keep them really flat on full lock.”

    Speaking of wheels, there was only one choice here as far as Chris was concerned: “I’ve always loved the Z3 M Style 40 alloys, but only the rears, so I knew I had to get a set of four rears for this car. It took some doing as the wheels are getting rare, so I had to buy two sets to achieve the look I wanted.” It was definitely worth the effort, though, as they look awesome and, most importantly, do a fantastic job of filling out those fat arches.

    When it came to the interior, stock certainly wouldn’t do and it needed to tie in with the exterior styling. “I decided that the stripped-out look would be perfect,” says Chris. “The roll-cage was a pain, though, as it needed painting and fitting in the car before the car itself could be painted as we did not want the car getting damaged while fitting the cage. John at Unique Customs painted it and it came out amazing.”

    The cage in question is a six-point OMP item finished in white with extra door bars and an extra rear bar, while the pair of Cobra Monaco leather seats, which are fitted with TRS harnesses and sit on Sparco subframes, are the only ones you’ll find in the car as the rears have long since been disposed of, along with the rear alloy bulkhead. Other interior modifications include an alloy passenger footrest and Total Dynamic Motorsport doorcards.

    So that’s all the style taken care of, but what about the substance? Now that’s where that 3.0-litre S50 swap comes in because as good as the 323i’s M50 is, it’s not as good as the M3’s spectacular ’six. “I bought an M3 engine and running gear and switched everything over into the E36. While I was doing it I also gave the engine some new parts, seals and removed the secondary air pump. There were also a lot of split air pipes around the engine so we changed those as well as having the Vanos rebuilt and changing all the sensors around engine.”


    Suitably refreshed, the engine was dropped in along with an aluminium rad, a set of Samco hoses, a K&N air filter and a stainless steel exhaust, finished off with a pair of suitably large upturned tips. The fivespeed gearbox, meanwhile, has been fitted with an uprated clutch and braided clutch hose and lightened 4kg flywheel. With the E36 finished, Chris is planning to move on to either a 1 Series or an E30 and, judging by this E36, we can’t help but wonder what the next build is going to look like. Purists and those of a nervous disposition won’t be fans of this E36, but in terms of making a statement and getting noticed it’s the perfect machine and, most importantly of all, Chris has built the car he wanted and it is something truly unique.

    “I bought an M3 engine and running gear and switched everything over into the E36”

    DATA FILE Unique Customs E36 / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-S54 / #BMW-M3-Coupe / #BMW-M3-Coupe-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #S50B30 / #BMW-S30 / #ZF / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW / #BMW-M-Style-40 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six S50B30 , #K&N air filter, stainless steel exhaust system, #Samco hoses, alloy radiator, #ZF-Type-C five-speed manual gearbox, lightened 4kg uprated flywheel, uprated clutch, braided clutch line

    CHASSIS 9x17” (f&r) BMW Z3 M Style 40 wheels with 215/40 (f&r) Nankang Ultrasport NS2 tyres, HSD coilovers, E46 bottom arms, front and rear strut braces, fully polybushed, EBC RedStuff pads (f&r), drilled and grooved discs (f&r), braided brake hoses (f&r)

    EXTERIOR Unique Customs vented bonnet, vented two-piece front wing kit 30mm wider per side, front deep chin splitter Evo lip, side skirts and flair blades, rear overfenders 50mm wider per side, rear bumper extensions, rear diffuser with fins, rear ducktail spoiler, modified headlights with Unique Customs shroud kit, LED light upgrade and xenons, gunmetal grey tims, matt grey roof wrap

    INTERIOR Six-point OMP roll-cage with extra door bars and extra rear bar, Cobra Monaco leather seats on Sparco subframes, TRS harnesses, alloy passenger footrest, alloy rear bulkhead delete, Total Dynamic Motorsport plastic doorcards

    THANKS John at Unique Customs for all the paint work and Joe Graver for all the mechanical work

    Custom exhaust is finished off with a pair of suitably-sized tips; rear bulkhead has been removed and an extra brace has been fitted.

    Interior is now home to a pair of Cobra seats and an OMP cage.
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