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    BMW never offered an E46 M3 Touring, that’s just an unfortunate fact of life. But if you saw Marc Norris’s Touring rolling down the road, you might find yourself re-evaluating what you think you know… Words: Daniel Bevis Photography: Darren Maybury.

    “When I build something, I want it to look like it just came out of the factory”

    Stunning E46 M3 Touring / Estate of the Union BMW never made an E46 M3 Touring but if it had, it should have looked like this one.

    If you want to whip 3 Series fans up into a lather, try tossing the phrase ‘M3 Touring’ into the conversation and just standing back to see what happens. It’s a conversational grenade. You see, everyone with more than a passing interest in the Bavarian propeller badge wants a longroof version of the M3 to exist, and to have existed. Everyone. It’s just a fact of nature, as real as the tides and the inevitability of Monday mornings. Watch in amusement as they reel off phrases like ‘missed opportunity’ and ‘the best car that #BMW never built’. This is not without precedent, of course… the money-men at BMW HQ saw fit to greenlight a Touring variant of the M5 back when the E60 was doing the rounds, so what was wrong with the idea of shoehorning an #S54-Dinan motor and some beefed-up chassis componentry into a 3 Series shell that was happy to swallow a wardrobe? Well, it’s just one of life’s mysteries.

    Thankfully, for a miniscule but dedicated clique of enthusiasts, the question of ‘what was wrong with the idea?’ can bullishly be answered by the phrase ‘nothing at all, so I’m going to make one’. And that’s exactly what’s happened here: the car you’re looking at may not have rolled off the production line as a bona fide M3 Touring, but it’s about as near as you’re ever going to get to happening across the genuine article. And it’s all down to the skills and dedication of a fella by the name of Marc Norris.

    Now, Marc is an interesting guy to know. The powerhouse behind Bavarian Workshop in West Hills, California, what he doesn’t know about enhancing and enjoying BMWs probably isn’t worth knowing. “My friends call me ‘the mad scientist’,” he grins, “so that should give you some idea…”

    Seasoned readers may recall the M2 that Marc built a few years back, fusing a 2002 with the running gear from an E30 M3. “I modify everything I own,” he laughs. “I’ve built some fun cars, with that M2 being a prime example. I’ve built turbo cars, engine swaps… an S54 into an E28 M5, an S52 into an E30 sedan with six-speed and five-lug conversion… My big thing is subtlety – when I build something, I want it to look like it just came out of the factory.” Admirable sentiment indeed, and you can see why Marc is the ideal candidate to hand-craft ‘the best car that BMW never built’.

    A little background, then, to see where this whole legacy of lunacy stemmed from. Bavarian Workshop, the hub of all of this Teutonic mischief, was founded back in 1978, and Marc purchased the company 21 years ago. It’s primarily a service shop, although his entertaining modifying proclivities are neatly catered for by virtue of it being an official Dinan Engineering dealer too. “Modifications have always been a part of our DNA,” Marc eagerly confirms. “Along the way there have been many projects, big and small, as people found out about our capabilities. And this particular project was started here at the shop with the engine and trans swap, before I took it home and stripped the interior and some other mechanicals. I have a full shop at home, and am trying to expose my nine-year-old son to my madness!”

    Okay, so why an E46, why now? “Well, I just love the E46 M3,” he says. “I mean, I love all M3s, as my garage would attest, but I’d sold an E46 a few years ago to get into a new house, and it stuck in my head – along with a comment a friend made years ago about the idea of an M3 Touring. It kept rolling around in the back of my mind. Something made me start doing some research, and then I found the pictures of the BMW Touring in the underground garage,” he says, referring to BMW’s own one-off M3 Touring Concept that lives in the mystery bunker beneath BMW M GmbH at Garching. “My wife’s Touring’s transmission had given up the ghost a couple of years ago, and I got her an X1; I kept the E46, as the idea was there.” And there you have it, the kernel of a project. But it’s one thing to conjure up such a strategy – it’s quite another to spirit it into reality. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of work involved.

    Still, Marc’s not afraid of a bit of hard graft. You have probably gathered that. And with the idea blossoming in his mind, he set about finding a donor, which soon arrived in the form of a #2002 M3 Coupé on Craigslist. The car had hit a pole, which took out the radiator and condenser, but on the whole it was in remarkable condition and presented itself as the perfect donor. The cherry on the cake was that its production date was only two months adrift from his Touring; for a man who prizes authenticity, this made it a no-brainer.

    “So, the car’s sitting here at the shop, and I decide I’ll stick the drivetrain and suspension in while it’s here and then trailer it home,” Marc recalls, luxuriating in the story with the slippery ease of the seasoned raconteur. “That bit was just a straight parts swap, no biggie. The interesting part came when I got it home and started gutting the inside…”

    It’s a truism to say that the M3 is quite a focused machine, with lots of model-specific parts to differentiate itself from lesser 3 Series – that’s why they’re so celebrated, and command the premiums that they do – but if you really want this thrown into sharp focus for you, try stripping down the two cars in parallel and playing a bit of spot-the-difference.

    Take the exterior, for example. It’s not just a case of unbolting the Touring wings and whacking the M3 items on there. Marc’s front wings are sectioned together with parts from both cars, to ensure that they mount properly while also having the correct M3 flares and grilles; the coupé items are a good inch longer, and that’s the sort of panel gap disparity that people would probably notice. And the rears? Well, obviously the station-wagon is a bit taller at the back, so the sportier bits have been cut straight out of the M3 and grafted into the Touring to follow its natural lines. The dedication to a factory-quality finish is total.

    Another area that you might not necessarily think of is the boot floor – in this instance it’s been entirely removed and replaced with the M3 Coupé’s panel, which is rather flatter and thus allows the quad-tail M3/Dinan exhaust system to exit beneath. You see, once you start digging into a non-M3 E46, it’s surprising just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

    For the sake of completeness, the roof rails were removed and factory delete covers colour-matched and installed, while all of the exterior trim was reworked in BMW Glanschwarz (Gloss black) to reflect the OEM appearance of the M3. And to top it all off, the finished shell’s been blasted in a fresh coat of metallic Stahlblau (Steel blue).

    Naturally an M3 is more than just a mighty engine and some pumped up arches. There’s quite a lot going on under the skin. “I’d totally gutted the shell in the knowledge that I wanted to fit the #BMW Professional Navigation, Harman Kardon stereo and, most importantly, my wife’s favourite – heated seats!”

    Marc explains. So the car now features E91 Touring seats with functional active bolsters and heaters (because you have to do what the boss says sometimes), which are neatly complemented by the ‘Silver Cube’ trim from the Competition package and, rather brilliantly, a nav screen that’s been specially programmed to display the M logo when you get in. The devil, as they say, is in the detail.

    “I also wanted to convert it from auto to manual,” he continues, to the great satisfaction of driving enthusiasts everywhere, “as well as add the parts from the M3 running gear into the harness… so I had both cars at home and I stripped the harness out of the M3 and laid it out next to the Touring, taking out all the sections I needed to add those accessories.”

    And when he uses terms like ‘parts’ and ‘accessories’, don’t take these words euphemistically – we’re talking about a full-on chassis conversion, with the M3 front and rear subframes swapped over complete with brakes and suspension, the latter of which was then upgraded to Dinan/Koni Stage 3 spec. When Marc says he wanted to build a factory-quality M3 Touring, he went all-in. “For all intents and purposes, this is an M3,” he says, and it would surely be churlish to disagree.

    It really does sound as if this radical yet subtle custom is having the desired effect too. “I use the car as a daily driver to work, and it’s funny seeing people react, as most don’t know a car like this never existed,” Marc smirks, mischievously. “When I go to car shows, a lot of times people walk by just thinking it’s a standard car, but the people in the know – they freak out! It’s so funny! And there have been more than a few times when someone will walk up and go ‘nice M3’… and then realise it’s a Touring. And then just have a cow! It really is amazing to hear how many people dig wagons.”

    And that, of course, is all part of the fun. The original brief was to make the M3 Touring that BMW never did, and along the way he’s managed to interweave a certain frisson of specialness that’s endeared it to both his wife and the Californian BMW community at large. As his own State of the Union address, this M3 makes a pretty clear statement for Marc: sure, something may not exist, but that doesn’t mean it never can. The proof, in Steel blue, sits right before you.

    CONTACT Bavarian Workshop / Web:

    “It really is amazing to hear how many people dig wagons”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE E46 M3 Touring / #BMW-M3-Touring-E46 / #BMW-M3-CS-Touring-E46 / #BMW-M3-Touring / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-E46 / #BMW / #BMW-E46-Touring / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E46/3 / #BMW-E46/3 / #BMW-M3-E46/3

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: #S54B32 / #BMW-S54 / #S54 3.2-litre straight-six, #Dinan-high-flow-air-intake , Dinan free-flow exhaust system, #Dinan software, M3 ducting, trim and radiator/condenser cooling package, M3 oil cooler and ducting, six-speed manual, #M-differential

    CHASSIS: 19-inch #Apex wheels with 245/35 (front) and 265/35 (rear) Michelin Pilot Super Sports, Motorsport Hardware competition wheel studs, full M3 front and rear subframes including suspension and brake setup; Dinan / #Koni Stage 3 suspension kit, reinforced rear subframe mounts

    EXTERIOR: Custom front wings sectioned together from Coupé and Touring items, LCI bi-xenon headlights, M3 CSL front bumper cover with carbon fibre winglets, coupé rear wings sectioned into Touring quarters, boot floor swapped for flatter M3 Coupé version, allowing fitment of Dinan/M3 quad exhaust, roof rails removed and factory delete covers installed and colour-matched, all exterior trim swapped to BMW Glanschwarz enamel, full repaint in Stahlblau (Steel blue Metallic)

    INTERIOR: Heated E91 Touring seats with functional active bolsters, M3 dials, BMW Professional Navigation, Harman Kardon stereo system, Bavsound complete speaker upgrade, BMW Bluetooth telephone integration, ‘Silver Cube’ trim from Competition package, M Performance gear knob, gaiter and handbrake handle, M3 steering wheel, BMW M door sill trim (front and rear), custom programming to show M logo on nav when entering car

    THANKS TO: World Class Paint and Body for the amazing factory-like work, Dinan Engineering, BavSound for the killer sounds, Motorsport Hardware, Chase, for all the help, and my wife Suzin for supporting my long hours in the garage

    “People walk by thinking it’s a standard car, but people in the know freak out!”
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    Magical Mystery Touring / #BMW-M3-CS-Touring-E46 / #BMW-M3-CS-Touring / #BMW-M3-Touring / #BMW-M3-Touring-E46 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-E46 / #BMW / #BMW-E46-Touring

    Of all the M Cars BMW never built the one that we all lust after is the E46 M3 Touring. If you were to see this E46 M3 Touring out and about, you may well perform a cartoonish double-take. And you’d be right to do so, as the amount of work that’s gone into making Knut Siring’s example look factory-standard is actually quite astonishing… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photography: Tom Begley.

    The idea of an M3 Touring is one that consistently gets BMW fans whipped up into an excitable lather. Googling that phrase (‘M3 Touring’, that is, not ‘excitable lather’ – that’ll return rather different results) reveals pages upon pages of forum posts and blog entries along the lines of ‘the best car that BMW never built’. It does, after all, seem rather unfair that the station wagons were left off the product planning chart, particularly given the proven global enthusiasm for hot estates; the RS4 and RS6 have paid for more than a few posh dinners in the steakhouse next to the Audi factory. And the E60-generation M5 was offered as a capacious load-lugger – V10 up front, Labrador in the back – so why not the M3?

    Well, it’s complicated, and probably involved a lot of meetings and flipcharts and tutting accountants. The crux of the matter is that the E46 M3 Touring that you’re looking at here doesn’t really exist. Except that it does, as we’re able to see it, nestle our posteriors into its welcoming soft leather, and experience all of the hedonistic thrills that the S54-powered M3 has to offer, along with the knowledge that we could stop off at any point we fancied and buy a new wardrobe without having to worry about forking out for the delivery charge. This car, the vision-made-real of serial car-twiddler Knut Siring, is a bona fide M3… that just happens to be a Touring.

    “It started out as a fully-optioned 320i Touring that I’d had for a few years,” he explains. “It had just about every option that was available on the E46 in 2000, and I like the design of the Touring very much – I wanted to convert it into something special.” Well, it’s safe to say that he’s achieved that with some degree of success. But this was always bound to be the case; when we get Knut talking about his former projects and successes, we’re treated to a comprehensive and jaw-dropping list of greatest hits, ranging from Caterhams to Audi Quattros, via a 1960s Opel Rekord and a handful of Nissan Patrols, along with quite a few BMWs – most of them Tourings. And as with so many project cars across the world, this one began with a fleeting but indelible glimpse at a concept car; namely BMW’s M3 Touring concept of 2000, which acts as a sort of unicorn for E46 fanciers with track days to conquer and hedge clippings to dispose of. “I loved the idea of that, and I wanted to build something similar,” says Knut. “The goal was to do it as if it had been built by BMW’s M division itself, and to keep all the M3 specs original.” So this wasn’t a case of shoving a big engine into an estate in order to create either a sleeper or a balls-to-the-wall dragster, nor was it to craft a scene-friendly show car. He wanted to wrap an M3 up inside his 320i, and authenticity had to be key.

    At this embryonic stage of the process, Knut found himself approaching Southways Automotive in Fareham, thanks to the build thread of another feisty Touring they’d had a hand in. Now, Knut doesn’t live all that close to Fareham. In fact, he’s from Norway.

    So why engage the services of a custom builder in the UK? “Quite simply, your M3s are very reasonably priced!” Knut laughs. “In Norway you can’t get an E46 M3 for less than £30k, even a knackered one. If I was to find the donor M3 I acquired for this project back in Norway and pay all the taxes and duties, we’d be looking at… well, rather a lot more than that.” In addition to this, the skills of Southways’ experts spoke for themselves, with a long line of high-end bespoke builds under its belt, so the reasons stacked up pretty high to source the donor car in the UK, have it all built in Fareham, then ship it back home to Norway afterwards for certification.

    So, that donor Knut mentioned – that is, in itself, something rather special. “It was a 2005 M3 CS in Interlagos blue that I found on Pistonheads,” he explains. “It had low mileage, but also Cat D damage. For this reason, I got it at a good price and wasn’t too sad to break it apart, it was never going to be a collector’s item with that history. And the M3 CS is a rare enough car in itself, but an M3 CS Touring? That’s one of a kind!” With Southways excited about being involved, the madness could now commence. Oh, and what madness it turned out to be.

    The M3 CS Competition Package is a tasty thing to be using for a project base, as it offers a sort of globalised reflection of the fabled CSL; a number of the lightweight E46’s signature features found their way on to the CS, including the spincast BBS wheels in staggered widths, the CSL steering rack (which offers a ratio of 14.5:1 rather than the usual 15.4:1), bigger brakes, an Alcantara steering wheel, and various other bits and bobs. All of this was to find a new home in Knut’s passion wagon, staying faithful to his brief of creating something that would effectively be a CS with an extra bit of glazing at the back.

    With the two cars sitting in Southways’ workshop, the fellas wasted no time in stripping them back to first principles and drawing up a plan of attack. There are a number of essential considerations in a graft-job like this that may not seem immediately obvious – it’s not just a case of bolting the wider wings on and shoving an S54 under the bonnet, the architecture of the two cars is quite different. One of the first things they did was to cut out the boot floor of Knut’s Touring, in the knowledge that the M3’s quadtailpiped crossbox wouldn’t fit under there, and it’d make far more sense to slot in the entire M3 rear subframe – suitably reinforced, of course, as you might as well do stuff like that if you’ve got the thing apart already. The team retained as many original fixing points, brackets, heat shields and so forth as possible in order to keep everything as legit and OEM as it could be, which of course made the job all the more tricky, but Knut was keen for this to be a holistic, authentic and thorough reimagining.

    With the rear subframe stitched in, the front was soon to follow, and the bullish S54 with its SMG-II transmission were eased into the gutted shell, giving the car an interesting appearance from afar; a bumperless silver Touring with M3 CS wheels standing unfortunately proud of the arches. But of course, this inbetween phase represented a leap in the project – with all the oily bits in place, it was a simple matter of rerouting around five miles of wiring in order to get it all up and running. C’mon, how hard can that be…?

    “I was keen to run the CSL M track mode DSC system too,” Knut recalls. “Originally on the CS and CSL there’s only the one M track mode button on the steering wheel, but I wanted to keep the cruise control and radio buttons. So now there’s an E39 wiper stalk with intensive cleaning feature – this way the M track mode button is easily available on the end of the wiper stalk!” Handy, that. And all extra fun for the wiring guys.

    Meanwhile, back to the aesthetics, the CS donor had been liberated of its bonnet, bumper, wings and mirrors, while the rear wings had great swathes of steel carved from them in readiness to transplant into their new home. As the body parts began to pile up, it became increasingly clear that the engineering prowess of Southways might need to be augmented by a coachwork specialist to get everything lined up to BMW-quality tolerances, as items like the bonnet and rear bumper were nowhere near fitting properly (it seems that the M3 coupé and non-M Touring are pretty different shapes, who’d have thought it?) and so Dorset’s Kustom Kolors was consulted with a view to perfecting the aesthetics before slathering it all in Estoril blue (“…which is a pretty rare shade in Norway,” says Knut, “and, in my opinion the most beautiful BMW colour”).

    Thankfully, the company was equally enthused about getting on board with the project, and happily threw a Herculean amount of effort into hybridising the front wings, welding in broader flares to the rear arches that flowed accurately into the doors and crafting gorgeous bespoke swage lines, widening the rear bumper and recessing it to allow the tailgate to close, flaring out the fuel filler aperture – the amount of careful craftsmanship required here is truly mindboggling. And the genius of it all is that you can’t tell from the finished product how torturous and fiddly a process that bodywork was, it all just looks neatly factory-stamped. The mark of a job well done.

    Inside the freshly reworked E46, the shenanigans continued apace. Further wiring was wrestled with – no small task, when you’re splicing a right-hand drive, #SMG -equipped fly-by-wire throttle S54 into a left-hand drive, automatic transmission, cable-throttled 320i – and the M3 dash was artfully bolted into place. The pedals put up a bit of a fight, as it wasn’t just a case of losing the clutch; they all needed swapping, and the removal of the accelerator pedal requires the removal of the steering column! Although thankfully the car was in bits anyway. Small mercies, eh?

    The finished interior is a neat fusion of the coupé’s embellishments and the estate car’s architecture; the M3 dials and buttons function as they should, the oval mirror is in place and the CS seats are sitting on the Touring rails – all sublimely cohesive.

    In fact, that’s a pretty neat summary of the car overall: sublime cohesion. It’s very easy to come up with an idea and say ‘sure, I want to make it as good as BMW would have,’ but that loaded statement sets you up for endless agonising workshop hours of fiddling, modifying, fitting, swearing, removing, reworking, refitting, and so on ad infinitum, all with the aim of ending up with something that looks so factory-standard, it wouldn’t elicit the slightest hint of a second glance from someone who didn’t know what they were looking at. This is a car Knut commissioned simply because he thought it was a good idea and wanted to own one, and there’s only an infinitesimal percentage of people who’d spot that it’s something out of the ordinary. That said, he’s doing a pretty good job of drawing those people in like a tractor beam.

    “The most common comments I hear are ‘nice car’ and ‘nice colour’, although there’s also a lot of ‘wow, I didn’t know they made an M3 Touring’ from the #BMW enthusiasts,” says Knut with a smile. And you can see from this that he’s satisfied with his creation. This is an M3 that was built to be fun, usable, and of impeccable quality – the hidden benefit is its uniqueness, and the idea that every now and then someone might pick up on that. When they do, they’re in the club. A nod and a wink, some junk in the trunk, and a ticket to the inner circle of M3 lore’s most oft-cited cliché: this is arguably the best car that #BMW never built.


    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: Factory-standard E46 M3 #S54B32 / #BMW-S54 / #S54 3.2-litre straight-six, #SMG-II transmission.

    CHASSIS: 8x19-inch (front) and 9.5x19-inch (rear) M3 CS #BBS spin-cast alloys in shadow chrome, 225/40 (front) and 225/35 (rear) Continental SportContact M3 tyres, M3 CS/Competition suspension, reinforced rear subframe, CSL steering rack, CS/CSL brakes all-round, CSL M-track mode #DSC system.

    EXTERIOR: Custom hybrid M3 Coupé/Touring front wings, M3 front bumper and bonnet, modified #Touring /M3 rear wing sections and doors, #BMW-M3 rear bumper widened and modified to fit around tailgate aperture, House of Kolor 335 Estoril blue paint, DiamondBrite paint sealant, glass sunroof, climate comfort windscreen with rain and light sensor, bi-xenon headlights.

    INTERIOR: M3 electric memory seats in black leather, M3 dash and dials, original 16:9 Professional Navigation with CD changer, radio and TV, M3 CSL/CS Alcantara steering wheel and handbrake cover.

    THANKS: “I want to thank the guys at Southways Automotive in Fareham (especially Richard Kitchen) for their efforts in making my dream come true. I also want to thank Kustom Kolors in Dorset for the body work and paint job.”
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