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    SUPERCHARGED E39 M5 Business class just got faster

    STRICTLY BUSINESS This executive saloon may look unassuming, but don’t be fooled, Matt Benson’s supercharged E39 M5 will easily cash any cheques your right foot can sign. Words and photos: Matt Petrie.

    Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an age-old adage instilled in us during our youth. While it is one of the earliest morals taught, it is too often forgotten as we grow old. Taking past experiences and using them to make prejudices towards a result which we expect to be true can get us into trouble and that is the case with Matt Benson’s E39. What looks to be a civilized saloon is in actuality a complete and utter lunatic. Don’t be fooled – this unapologetic M5 will leave you scratching your head when launching from a red light or as it commands curves, winding through the mountains.

    Maintaining a balance of ferocity and modesty is not an easy task and while on paper it might be contradictory, we assure you that Matt’s E39 M5 is a textbook example of a proper business saloon. The key to retaining modesty is doing without the wild colours, aggressive aero, and flashy wheels. Aesthetically, it has to be something to simply get you into work without being the topic of conversation among co-workers gathering around the water cooler. However, that commute to and from the office is a different, exhilarating story. In order to fully appreciate the final product, we need to briefly highlight the evolution of Matt’s mods and previous cars.

    Matt Benson has always had an affinity for V8 muscle and taking the more subtle approach is something of second nature for him. His first car was a Ford Mustang 5.0 LX “Fox body” which, in a sense, was a sleeper in its time compared to its sister version, the Mustang GT. He drove that LX into the ground with over 200,000 miles on the odometer. After many advancements up the automobile food chain, Matt traded some American torque for German refinement as he found himself in another V8, but this time in the form of a 2000 E39 540i Saloon.

    Though Matt was satisfied with the graduation to the European sports saloon and recognized it as a big improvement, the horsepower bug bit him hard. Dinan parts made their way all over the 540i to increase the performance in both the handling and the engine, pushing it to 350hp. Knowing his reasonable limitations had been met with the 540, yet still wanting more out of his car, Matt set his eyes on his current ride – this 2000 Carbon black on Caramel leather M5.

    He found this car over a decade ago, desirably, with one previous owner and only 13,000 miles logged. Immediately, the performance difference was prominent between the 540i and the M5; the torque off the line and the way the car hooked in the corners didn’t leave him with seller’s remorse over the 540i. While he was tacking on roughly 50,000 miles of his own back and forth to the office and on spirited drives, Matt was continuously adding mods to enhance the performance even further. As superior as he felt the car was in comparison to his previous cars, it wasn’t quite enough. Relentless and back with a vengeance, the mod bug bit hard this time, and it did not let go.

    Matt’s first modification to the M5 didn’t lead to horsepower gains per se. Back in 2005 he sourced a Dinan 3.55 differential and while it is one of the biggest improvements that you can make to a naturally aspirated car, ironically, it has nothing physically to do with the engine. Over the years it served its purpose, but as Matt says “I guess I modded a mod” and changed the rear end out to a 3.62. The tight gear ratio shifts the power band, launching the car and virtually making first gear useless in the best way possible. Surrounding the differential in the rear is a matching Dinan high performance exhaust, which flows out back from a Supersprint four-into-one stepped exhaust manifold system. Above the manifolds, under the bonnet, lies a Dinan cold air intake and Evolve Alpha-N tune with MAF delete and while this combination achieved Matt’s 450 horsepower goal, it was time to raise the bar yet again.

    Chasing greater horsepower and maximising the NA bolt-ons, he crossed the threshold into the forced induction world. Matt commissioned Autocouture Motoring in northern NJ, well-known for its work with BMW and supercharging the E9x platform specifically, to do the work. The team installed an ESS Tuning VT1-560 supercharger system along with an Aquamist meth injection kit. To handle the horsepower increase and fight the ravages of age, Autocouture also installed a Dinan subframe reinforcement kit at the same time as the performance upgrades. The combination of the Dinan differential chewing through first and second gear with the pull of the ESS supercharger and meth higher up the power band is a visceral experience that delivers an exceptional one-two punch.

    In fact, when Matt was asked what his favorite modification to the car has been, he responded happily, “I have two favourites, the first being the supercharger, which brought the biggest smile to my face, and second would be the shorter diff, it’s like a 50hp equivalent increase!”

    With all of this newly-added power he now addressed the other areas of importance: brakes and suspension. Matt went top shelf when choosing suspension, opting for the JRZ coilover kit and set the car up slightly lower than the stock ride height, maximising suspension travel and comfort while optimizing the performance that the JRZs offer. StopTech ST60/ST40 brakes at all four corners enhance the stopping power tremendously, with six-piston calipers up front and four-piston calipers in the rear, both sets finished in silver to keep the M5’s modified appearance at a minimum.

    Matt loved the car’s aesthetics, especially its finely crafted, unadulterated exterior however, he needed a wheel that would clear his brakes and be lighter in weight than stock, while still maintaining the M5’s factory appearance. Wanting to mimic the style of the OEM M5 wheel, Matt, along with the crew at ACM, carefully selected the HRE Classic 301 monoblocks. Taking it a step further, he went with HRE’s gorgeous, custom, hand-brushed finish with a darktinted clear coat, tying them in with BMW’s factory chrome shadow finish on the M5’s original wheels.

    This M5’s interior is straight out of a #BMW catalogue with the smooth caramel-coloured hide flowing from the seats onto the extended leather lower dashboard, with just the right amount of wood trim. Nothing is out of place nor unnecessarily added. Under close examination, only an aluminium pedal set and short shift kit can be spotted in here and even at that point the SSK is still capped off by the stock wood knob to maintain the factory look and feel. Matt was highly selective with every modification made to his M5, and held the highest of standards for how this on-going project was executed.

    “While the car is more than 16-years-old, it rivals anything on the road currently,” Matt says and we’d have to agree with him, it is completely relevant in every way to any of the European sports cars of today. The gentleman’s executive saloon is one that does not cry out for attention, but rather discretely delivers to those who know what they’re looking at. Each modification was carefully considered and completed with one goal in mind, which was to make the car perform at its full potential. His car takes everything that was incredible about the E39 M5 and sharpens it to to modern standards, making this one of the most fun cars you will ever drive.

    “Autocouture Motoring installed an #ESS-Tuning-VT1-560 supercharger system along with an Aquamist meth injection kit”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE Supercharged #BMW-E39 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW-M5-E39 / #BMW-M5-Supercharged / #BMW-M5-Supercharged-E39 / #ESS-VT1 / #ESS / #Vortech-V3 / #Vortech / #Howerton / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E39 / #BMW-5-Series-M5 / #BMW-5-Series-M5-E39 / #BMW / #ESS-Tuning

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.9-litre #V8 #S62B50 / #S62 / #BMW-S62 , Supersprint four-into-one exhaust manifolds, #ESS-VT1-560 #ESS-Supercharger kit with #Vortech-V3 supercharger, #Howerton-Aquamist-HFS-3 system, Dinan performance velocity stacks, #Dinan high-flow performance exhaust, high capacity electric fan, oil separators. Six-speed manual gearbox, #CNS-Racing 10.5 Kevlar clutch and dualmass flywheel, Dinan short shifter kit, 3.62 LSD with three clutch ramps and polished ring and pinion gears

    CHASSIS 8.5x19” (front) and 10.5x19” (rear) #HRE-301 monoblock wheels with 245/35 (front) and 275/30 (rear) Continental tyres, Dinan subframe reinforcement kit, Dinan front tower strut brace, Dinan camber plates and monoball front ball joint kit, #JRZ-Stage-3 suspension system from Dinan, #Beast-Power heavy-duty anti-roll bar brackets, #StopTech-ST60 BBK with six-piston calipers and 355x32mm discs (front) and ST40 BBK with four-piston calipers and 355x32mm discs (rear)

    EXTERIOR Tinted windows, Depo angel eye upgrade kit, front lower bumper grille with aluminium mesh brake ducts

    INTERIOR Black carbon fibre trim, aluminium pedal set, widescreen nav upgrade

    THANKS Autocoulture Motoring (Tom Limatola, Sal Benanti, Matt Petrie and team) for bringing it to the next level, Northeast Motorsports (Mike O’Neill and team) for all their expertise, Motorsports West (Dave Bogert and team) for being the source of my performance BMW “condition”

    Caramel Heritage leather adds a dash of luxury.

    Gorgeous #HRE-301 monoblocks and #StopTech #BBK all-round.
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    FORCED INDUCTION FRENZY!

    BOOST MODE #Stunning 610 whp turbocharged E36 M3 turns up the heat. Cars are meant to be driven and it was that realisation that took this E36 M3 from mild to wild.

    JUNKIE BOOST Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Patrick Lauder

    Dean Yarza never intended for his E36 M3 to turn out this way. He’d always wanted one, that much he did know, and finally owning one was the fulfilment of a high school dream, even though it followed a modified E46 M3 ZCP. You might have thought that his former car would have been the keeper, the big one, because it was an E46 M3 after all, but life’s not always that straightforward. That Dean has been dreaming about owning an E36 M3 since his high school days is no surprise; this is a man who, briefly, owned a hand-me-down E21 323i as his first car and who admits to having been interested in BMWs since first being able to drive.

    The Carbon black 2005 E46 M3 that he purchased in 2006 was where his BMW journey began proper, Dean having experimented with numerous vehicles prior to that. “I’ve basically modified everything I’ve owned since high school, giving in to the typical sickness the everyday car nut suffers from and I do not discriminate when it comes to the hobby,” he grins. This explains why his car ownership history includes an Acura Integra on nitrous, a couple of Saleen Mustangs and a Saleen Cobra, all of which ended up running over 500whp courtesy of aftermarket superchargers, a Ford F150 truck and even a couple of Yamaha R6 bikes. It’s a varied, colourful automotive past in which Dean has sampled all manner of modified machinery and that most certainly did not stop when the M3 entered his life. “I modified it with all the NA boltons including long tube exhaust manifolds, performance pulleys, air filter, 4.10 gearing and a performance tune. The exterior was also fitted with the full line of Vorsteiner VSL pieces – front bumper, rear deck lid and diffuser. 19” BBS LM rims and a Brembo GT brake kit were also installed,” completing what sounds like a thoroughly sexy and sorted M3. So why the switch from 46 to 36?

    “After parting with my E46 M3, I yearned for another M and, more importantly, something to give me purpose, spending hours on forums researching and purchasing parts. At the time, it was the perfect platform to satisfy the need to handle, perform, and modify while being fairly painless to attain,” explains Dean though, in truth, the E36 did almost put the brakes on his modding addiction but, as we all know, you just can’t fight it…

    “As many E36 owners know, it’s a bit tough to find them in a non-abused state in today’s market,” he says, and he’s not wrong. “After failing to find one to my liking for a few months, I put out a wanted add online and, amazingly, received a response for what was almost exactly what I was looking for. Prior to my search, I’d curbed my expectations, accepting the fact that these cars are close to 20 years old and I wasn’t going to find a gem. My initial want was just for a clean-titled, decent paint/interior M3 knowing that 90-110k miles would be the norm. What appeared in response to my add was a single-owner, excellent condition M3 with only around 33,000 miles, completely stock, still with the break-in instructions applied to the windscreen, as well as the original window sticker still in the glove compartment. It was far too pristine but in no way would be passed up.” That sounds like a once in a lifetime find to us and it would have been very silly of Dean to turn down the opportunity to own such an immaculate car, but it was the car’s virgin state and lack of miles that presented Dean with a bit of a quandary. “Prior to finding one with such low mileage, my plans were night and day from what the car is now,” he says.

    “I initially only wanted something I could drive every day and everywhere, occasionally having weekend duty for spirited driving in the hills. To do this, I planned nothing more than a capable coilover set and a nice wheel and tyre combo. In a way, I just wanted a cool car I could really beat on and not care too much about,” but obviously that couldn’t happen now and a different approach to the whole ownership and modding outlook had to be taken. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, Dean wasn’t even sure whether modifying was the right thing to do. “As I did not plan to find such a low mileage/collector type of car, it was a tough decision to modify,” he says, before adding “ but eventually the bug got the better of me,” and so things began to happen.

    Suspension and wheels came first, as per his original plans; “Knowing that I did not participate in high performance driving/autocross events, I was looking for something simple in terms of handling and comfort,” Dean explains. “The Bilstein PSS9 kit fits this bill as it is a basic coilover setup which is not too aggressive while offering, in my opinion, one of the most comfortable rides for a coilover while still improving handling capability. Along with this, I’ve also chosen a set of Dinan front and rear strut braces and a BMW X-brace, which is found as standard on the M3 LTW.” Handling benefits aside, the adjustable ride height of the PSS9s means that Dean has been able to dial-in his perfect stance and the drop he’s gone for is serious; those front arches are a hair’s breadth above the rubber while at the rear he’s got the tyres tucked just past the edges of the lips and the result is spectacular.

    As far as his wheel choice is concerned, for many BBS fans it’s the holy grail for both modern and classic BMWs alike and a wheel he has a lot of love for. “It was only fitting that for a classic M3 I’d want to stick with classic wheels. My favourite wheels for the BMW have always been BBS LMs, I feel you can put these on any car and drastically improve the look, especially European applications. I owned a set on my E46 M3 and had nothing but positive experiences with them in regards to looks, performance and strength. You get what you pay for with wheels and in my eyes, they are half of the car. I did consider other wheels but this was very short-lived, I was set on LMs for my build. It turned out to be very difficult to find a set, though, as 18s were much harder to come by than the typical 19” and above. Luck still was not on my side which forced me to become a little more creative and experiment with a set taken from a Honda S2000. This presented a bit of a challenge as the offset and PCD were different but after some research I found a local wheel customisation shop which was able to adjust bolt pattern as well as offset to get them to fit correctly.”

    It’s safe to say it was worth the effort as the LMs look so good on the E36, as they do on just about any BM, and here they’re finished off with a BBS stud conversion kit and those iconic red centre caps.

    That’s all well and good, but the real reason we’re here is for what’s under the bonnet and it took a bit of a personal revelation for Dean to make the huge leap from mild NA mods to off-the-scale, full-on forced induction fury. “I found deals on the basic bolt-ons such as a Dinan CAI and Dinan exhaust and the car stayed in this state for quite sometime as I did not want to overly modify it, risking an adverse affect to the car’s value considering its mileage.

    Eventually, realising that cars are meant to be driven and I would not be satisfied until I had it the way I wanted, I decided to open the floodgates and enjoy it while I have it,” he says and this is definitely the right philosophy. “After the basic bolt-ons, the turbo research began brewing and opened up a whole new world. For one whole year, I began researching and stockpiling the turbo components needed for my build, beginning with the actual turbo, a Garrett GT35R and SPA T3 manifold, fuel components, Cut-Ring head gasket, and Zeitronix data logging gauges and equipment, the essentials I needed to get started. After a year acquiring these components – and then some – it was all installed in one shop sitting, taking a few months to complete.

    “The car was taken to David Tran at 4B Auto in Santa Clara, CA; David is known to have built some of the fastest turbo E36s around with upwards of 1000hp, so I knew I was in good hands with this build,” says Dean. “The motor was disassembled, having to remove the head for resurfacing, while upgrading the head studs with an ARP2000 10mm stud kit. From there, the stock head gasket was also upgraded to an 87mm Cut- Ring head gasket. When the head returned from resurfacing, the SPA T3 turbo manifold was mounted while the Vanos was also rebuilt and the head was finally ready to install. Once the engine was reassembled, various changes were made including upgraded fuel components such as a Rally Road high-flow billet fuel rail, 115lb high impedance injectors, and an Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator. The intake manifold was also swapped for an M50 model for better flow. Impressive to say, the engine was able to fire up at first attempt with no hiccups. David’s engine work was one of the smoother processes throughout.”

    High praise indeed and there’s nothing better than a true turn-key conversion that just works, especially after such a huge amount of work. A quick glance at the engine spec is all you need to know that this is a serious performance project but all that research and time spent on it was absolutely worth it.

    It enabled Dean to pick the best components and the ones best suited to helping him achieve his end goal, and all that work has yielded some astonishing numbers. Peak power now stands at 610whp, which is around 700hp at the crank however you like to do your calculations, and is backed up by 571lb ft of wheel torque, both serious numbers and definitely plenty to be getting on with.

    Obviously, as well as the suspension upgrades that were carried out before Dean let loose, the chassis and transmission have received further modifications to be able to cope with that huge increase in output over stock. First of all, there’s a big brake kit in the shape of Brembo’s GT kit and before we even get onto the specs those red calipers are just killer and work perfectly alongside the red detailing on the LMs and against the white bodywork.

    They do, of course, deliver on the braking front too, but then you’d expect nothing less with four-pot calipers and 355mm discs stationed up front and only a fractionally smaller pairing located at the rear. As far as the transmission is concerned, Dean has bolstered the ZF five-speed manual gearbox with a selection of UUC components, including a twin-disc flywheel/clutch combo, steel clutch line, and short shifter, all of which combine to allow it to far better cope with all that power and torque.


    What we really love about Dean’s E36 M3, and we love everything about it, is the fact that, really, there’s no way for you to know just how much power is lurking beneath that pristine white bodywork. Obviously it’s not a stock car, but he’s kept all of the styling within the spectrum of normality and as a result there’s little to suggest that this might be nothing more than a lightly breathed-on older M3. “My intention for the exterior was something not too aggressive; basically maintain the stock look and body panels yet add some touches to give a slightly more aggressive look,” and we’d say it’s mission accomplished. Euro lights have been sourced from ECS Tuning and fitted all-round, along with a set of ZKW HID projector headlights; a Max Velocity RS front lip sits beneath the front bumper for a hint of extra aggression, while at the rear there’s a Mateo Motorsports diffuser and a sexy UUC adjustable carbon spoiler. The interior has been kept largely standard, bar the addition of numerous gauges and a few minor tweaks that enhance what was already there. The Vader front seats, finished in Mulberry-colour leather, have been left alone and Dean has added some M3-logo’d mats, a customwrapped Euro three-spoke steering wheel and MT Shift Boots alcantara gear lever and handbrake gaiters to complete the look.

    Four years of ownership are what it’s taken to bring the E36 to this level and while it has clearly been worth the effort, there has been a lot of it involved in getting the car to where it is. As Dean himself says “I currently have no plans for a next car, other than possibly a modern 5 Series daily driver. At this point, I may have exhausted all energy to even think about starting yet another project,” and that’s something we can all relate to it, that feeling of near-exhaustion when you’ve “finished” a project, or at least got it to the next stage of its evolution. Of course, this M3 has not finished evolving, not in the slightest. “A contingency plan is actually already in place,” says Dean.

    “Simultaneously with the turbo install, I have also been working on a fully-built spare motor capable of 1000hp, which was also completed about the time the turbo install was competed. Also on hand is a full drivetrain upgrade, which includes a Euro six-speed 420 Getrag transmission, DSS six-bolt 1000hp driveshaft, upgraded rear axles, and a large case 210mm limited slip differential from a 1990 BMW 750iL.

    The only future decision to be made now is which turbo and manifold configuration to fit. With the upgraded turbo and motor, the car should be able to generate and handle even more power with ease. If any mishaps were to occur, these components are ready, that is if impatience does not get to me first and I proactively go ahead with the swap.”

    That’s a very sensible approach to take with a completely unhinged project, and we whole-heartedly approve. Dean’s E36 is pure performance: there’s no frivolity here, it’s full-on, focussed and furious with it, and we love it.

    “After the basic bolt-ons, the turbo research began brewing and opened up a whole new world. For one whole year, I began researching and stockpiling the turbo components needed for my build”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW / Turbo #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3-Turbo / #BMW-M3-Turbo-E36 / #Garrett / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E36 / BMW

    ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 / #S52 / #BMW-S52 , Cut-Ring 87mm head gasket (stock compression), #ARP2000 head studs, #Garrett-GT3528R dual ball-bearing turbo, #SPA-T3-turbo manifold, 610x305x76mm front-mount intercooler, #Tial 50mm blow-off valve, Tial 44mm MVR wastegate, M50 intake manifold, #Mishimoto coolant overflow, Mishimoto performance aluminium radiator, #Steward high-performance water pump, RK Tunes E85 turbo tune and MAF, 115lb high impedance injectors, Rally Road high-flow billet fuel rail, Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator, Vibrant intake filter, custom fabricated 3” stainless steel down pipe and exhaust system, #Vibrant turbo muffler, #Radium-Engineering oil catch can, #Radium-Engineering 12 micron fuel filter, Racetronix Fuel Pump wiring harness, Walbro 485lph fuel pump

    POWER AND TORQUE 610whp, 571 lb ft wtq

    TRANSMISSION Five-speed #ZF manual gearbox, UUC twin-disc flywheel/clutch kit, #UUC steel clutch line, Rally Road clutch pivot pin, #UUC-EVO3 short shifter with double shear selector rod, #Vorshlag polyurethane transmission mounts

    CHASSIS 8.5x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) #BBS-LM wheels with 235/40 (front) Hankook Ventus V12 Evo2 and 255/35 (rear) Toyo Proxes R888 tyres, BBS red centre caps, #BBS stud kit, #Bilstein-PSS9 coilovers, Vorshlag polyurethane engine mounts, #Dinan front and rear strut braces, #BMW OEM X-brace, #Brembo GT BBK with 355x32mm two-piece discs and four-piston calipers (front) and 328x28mm two-piece discs and two-piston calipers (rear), #Hawk HPS brake pads (front and rear)

    EXTERIOR Alpine white, ZKW HID projector headlights, ECS tuning European front clear corners, side markers and rear lights, Max Velocity RS front lip, Mateo Motorsports rear diffuser, UUC three-way adjustable carbon fibre spoiler

    INTERIOR Custom wrapped European three-spoke steering wheel, MT shift boots Alcantara gear lever and handbrake gaiters, Rally Road steering column dual gauge pod, LeatherZ centre gauge pod, Turbosmart Eboost2 boost controller/gauge, #Zeitronix ZR-2 wideband AFR, ECA-2 ethanol content analyser, ZR-2 boost and ZR-2 fuel pressure gauges

    Hard-pipe-mounted Tial blow-off vlave.
    Turbo is hidden away, only the air filter is visible in the engine bay.
    Interior home to various gauges plus Alcantara gear and hand brake gaiters.
    Gorgeous 18” BBS LMs and #Brembo-BBK .
    Up front, HID projector headlights with angel eyes.
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    ’CHARGED Z3 M Track-focussed monster. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Patrick Lauder. From bone stock to supercharged autocross monster, this Z3 M Coupé has spent 14 years becoming the best machine it can be.

    Supercharged / #BMW-Z3M-Coupe / #BMW-Z3M-Coupé-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3M-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3-E36/8 / #BMW-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3M / #BMW-Z3M-Coupe-Supercharged / #BMW-Z3-Supercharged / #BMW-Z3M-Coupe-Supercharged-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3 / #BMW-Z-Series / #BMW-Z-Series-E36/8 / #BMW


    In America they call it the clown shoe; in the UK we call it the bread van but whatever you choose to call it the Z3 Coupé remains an incredibly special and unique machine. #BMW attempted to recapture the magic of its quirky miniature shooting brake with the E86 Z4 Coupé and while it was arguably a better car, it was also a lot more conventional and lost a lot of the appeal of its quirky forebear. Being unconventional may have caused people to fall in and out of love with the Z3 Coupé throughout its life but standing out from the crowd has most definitely worked in favour of the eye-catching machine and that is exactly why Grant Gillum ended up buying this car.

    “I wasn’t a BMW guy per se,” Grant begins, “but I knew they made a quality product. As college was ending I began researching nice used cars to purchase after graduation. I wanted a front engine, rear-wheel-drive car that could be modified and used for autocross and track days. It would also be my daily for a while. After considering several cars including Corvettes, Camaros, Porsche 944s and 928s, the Pontiac GTO (not a used car at the time), Datsuns and Nissans of many years and models, I decided on an E36 M3. I liked the styling, the daily sensibilities and the aftermarket availability. They were also uncommon and more exclusive. All that changed the day that I saw a Z3 Coupé in traffic,” he says. “I had seen a million Z3 Roadsters and wasn’t really interested in a convertible. But this was different and I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at. I certainly didn’t recognize it as a Z3. It had a BMW logo so I started researching all their models, eventually finding information on the M Coupé. All the engine of an M3 but lighter, with a factory wide body, staggered wheels and a look that was comparable to some exotics. Sold. I had to have one,” he smiles. “It took nine months of scouring the internet to find the right one.

    I bought a 22k mile example, bone stock but for a Dinan CAI and a stage one tune and still under warranty. I bought it sight unseen except photos and had it shipped cross country. I realized right away too that the M Coupé was a limited production run vehicle and so would be a cheap way for a blue collar guy to own something special. I bought the car knowing it would be a lifelong project car. I’ve known plenty of grey haired dudes that sold the hot rod of their youth and regretted it the rest of their lives. Not me. Hopefully,” he adds.

    Unlike other owners who buy their cars and start out with no plans for modifying, Grant knew he was going to mod the Z3 and knew exactly which direction he wanted to take it in. “I wanted to race it right away and joined an autocross club soon after buying it,” he says, and his passion for autocross is shared by his wife. “Six years ago she came with me for a day at the track. She rode along on a couple runs and decided to give it a try. Except when pregnant, she’s raced in nearly every autocross event that I have since then. Averaging our times to a 60 second run, she’s about a half second off me. She’s been as close as a tenth second off my time. I’m much more of a fundamental driver, she drives much more by the seat of her pants. As soon as she tightens up her fundamentals, she’ll beat me,” he says. While you can take any car to an autocross event, if you’re serious about this particular form of motorsport, as Grant is, then your car will need to be modified and in a focussed way that will enable you to get the most out of it, which is why virtually everything he’s done to his Z3 has been all about making it a more finely-honed, precision autocross instrument.

    It’s also why the supercharger that you can see strapped to the side of the engine came last and everything else came first as the chassis, handling and dynamics were the priorities here.

    Wheels and tyres were the first items on what would become quite an extensive shopping list and while aesthetics do obviously play a part, lightness was mostly the deciding factor as far as wheel choice was concerned. “I went online and found the lightest wheels I could for the car,” explains Grant. “I bought a set of OZ Alleggerita HLTs in 8x17” and 8.5”x17”. They were light at less than 17lbs (7.7kg) per corner and dropped considerable unsprung weight over the stock wheels and I converted to wheel studs too.

    I ran those wheels for a couple of autocross seasons before switching the rears to the front and widening the fronts to 10” and putting them on the rear. Now they weigh 16.8lbs (7.6kg) and 17.9lbs (8.1kg) front and rear; they are light, strong and handsome,” and what more could anyone ask for from a wheel? “I also run a set of 8x18” and 9x18” ASA AR1 wheels with black centres and 2” and 3” polished lips front and rear on the street,” he adds. The 17s really suit the Z3, as you can see in the photos, especially with the fat sidewalls of the super-sticky BF Goodrich g-Force R1 tyres filling out the arches and those tyres let you know that this M Coupé means business.

    With lightweight wheels and track tyres taken care of, the next item on Grant’s to-do list was the suspension, and while he started off small, things quickly escalated. “I started with H&R springs and kept them for a few years until they sagged,” he says, “then I switched to Ground Control coilovers and adjustable spring perches. But not before modding the anti-roll bars with reinforcements, adding differential reinforcements, rear shock mounts, sub frame reinforcements and rear camber and toe adjustments. Then I poly bushed it followed by aluminium control arms.

    “Disaster struck at the autocross one day when the diff pulled away from the subfloor and the rear end went squishy,” says Grant. “I thought that one of the rear anti-roll bar end links had given way. That’s how I got a tube frame rear subfloor that is way stiffer than the stock car ever thought of being. I love the coilovers, of course, but the single greatest suspension mod was poly bushing the rear subframe. It really changed the way the car transitioned weight in-corner to being much more predictable,” he says. As is often the case when it comes to modding, when things go wrong, break or fail, rather than just replacing them you upgrade them so, as with his boot floor, when the clutch started to slip Grant fitted an F1 Racing stage two clutch and 14lbs chromoly flywheel as well as a stainless steel clutch line and then added a UUC short shift kit and double shear selector rod plus a Z3 2.3 steering rack. Further drivetrain upgrades include a poly differential bush, UUC aluminium engine and transmission mounts and a rebuilt diff with four clutch zero preload and 80/60 ramping, polished ring and pinion gears and a 3.64 final drive in place of the standard 3.23 item. “Before the supercharger, lowering the final drive was a really dramatic NA mod. It went a long way to help pull me out of slow second gear turns,” explains Grant.

    With the suspension and drivetrain taken care the Z3 was a far sharper machine but now the car’s stopping abilities needed to be addressed. “When I started doing a lot of track days it was apparent that the stock brakes were not up to long days of abuse,” he says. “That’s when I did the brake conversion and ducting. What a difference and zero fade. I didn’t go too big on the disc diameter as I was concerned with reducing as much rotational weight as possible, as autocross is more of a low speed competition.” The Z3 now wears Wilwood six-pot Superlite front calipers with 330mm GT-48 floating discs and Wilwood Dynalite four-pot rear calipers with 312mm lightweight discs and Wilwood B pads allround, while the ducting ensures that the brakes receive plenty of cool air to deliver peak performance at all times.

    Having carried out all the groundwork to make sure that all aspects of the chassis and drivetrain were at peak performance, Grant could now turn his attention to extracting more power from the engine.

    Unlike our Euro-spec Z3 M models, the US cars were fitted with the S52B32 engine, based on the M52, which had to make do with 240hp and 236lb ft of torque so it’s no surprise that Grant wanted to up these numbers. “I started with keeping the engine NA and wanted to let it breathe better,” he says. “I upgraded the cooling system with a rad, water pump thermostat and cover immediately. I kept the CAI and did the M50 intake manifold exchange and I also did the BBTB at the same time. A cat-back exhaust followed and a year later came exhaust manifolds and a mid-pipe. In general I would wait until OE parts needed replacement and would upgrade at that time; that way the financial hit of modifying was lessened by taking the money I would be spending on OE parts and putting that towards upgrades.

    I replaced all the water hoses throughout and the oil cooler followed when I started doing more track days, as I live a 40 minute drive from Thunderhill Raceway here in California. While on track there one day the bottom radiator hose slipped off and started spewing out coolant; I realised it had happened within seconds but even though I coasted into the pits the water temp gauge showed hot and that’s how I got the new head and I went to under-driven pulleys then as well.

    “After the rest of the car was pretty modified I bought the supercharger kit. I had become a dad and my wife wanted me to do less high speed track driving and just drive autocross, so after close to two dozen track days at Thunderhill my focus changed with regard to driving. I needed just a little more low-end torque to pull me out of slow second gear turns when I didn’t want to shift to first gear at autocross,” and the supercharger kit has certainly given Grant the grunt he was after. It’s an Active Autowerke Stage 1 kit with a Rotrex C38-92 supercharger and is accompanied by numerous supporting mods. “I removed the air con, replaced the alternator, installed the power steering cooler, did the oil pan/pump upgrade and fitted an ATI Super Damper, crank pulley and carried out a CCV delete with the supercharger kit,” he says. “The baseline dyno when I bought the car was 205hp and 203lb ft of torque at the wheels; the NA mods took that up to 230whp and 222lb ft and it now makes 312whp and 262lb ft at the wheels on the same dyno. Active Autowerke claims that this kit makes 360hp on a stock car; I’ve done a lot of other work to the engine, so if they want to claim 360hp I want to claim somewhere in the 380hp range,” says Grant. “That seems excessive, though, and I usually just quote my dyno numbers,” and that’s still plenty to enjoy both on road an track, and a huge increase over stock.

    While Grant has focussed mainly on the performance and dynamic elements of the car he has not forgotten about aesthetics, both inside and out. The exterior as been enhanced with Motion Motorsports front splitters and aluminium undertay, a one-off AC Schnitzer rear diffuser centre section, the roof spoiler has been raised by 8mm to enhance the roofline and Grant’s also fitted black kidney grilles, black lower mesh grilles and carbon-look roundels among other things. The interior, meanwhile, has been treated to a Momo Competition steering wheel on a quick release hub, chrome handbrake handle, E46 M3 short shift gearknob, black leather gaiter with tricolour stitching and M Tech pedals and dead pedal. There’s also a H3R black HalGuard fire extinguisher, but this was added as a necessity following a scary incident…

    “While testing the car after installing the M50 manifold a fuel hose wasn’t secured completely and popped off and sprayed fuel over the exhaust manifold,” says Grant. “Thank god the car wasn’t warmed up all the way and only billowed white smoke. I pulled over immediately and ran. It continued to smoke for a long, heart-pounding five minutes. I fitted the fire extinguisher after that,” he says.

    Grant’s Z3 is a focussed build that’s been taken in a specific direction and the results speak for themselves. While it looks great it’s the changes that you can’t see and that we can’t experience or appreciate that make this car. It’s the vast amount of chassis work, the brakes, the hundreds of seemingly minor secondary mods that are so important for the success of the whole and which all add up to make a such big difference. This Z3 has evolved hugely during the 14 years that Grant has owned it, from autocross machine to track monster and back to autocross beast but this time with the wick turned way, way up, becoming more and more focussed at each stage and it’s not reached its final form just yet…

    “In the not-too-distant future this car will retire from competition after nearly 80,000 miles that saw it driving to almost monthly autocross events (10 months a year). I have a pile of class win trophies adding, in my small way, to BMW’s racing heritage. I’ll paint and mount the new bumper and splitters I have waiting. I’ll delete the fog lights and the antenna for a cleaner look. At that time I’d also like a nice set of multipiece step-lipped wheels,” he nods, painting an attractive picture. At that point it’ll become a different animal altogether but whether or not that will be its final stage of evolution will remain to be seen…


    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Supercharged E36/8 Z3 M Coupé / #Active-Autowerke-Stage-1 / #Active-Autowerke / #Rotrex / #VAC / #Dinan /

    ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 / #BMW-S52 / #S52 / #S52-Supercharged , #UUC engine mounts, Active Autowerke Stage 1 supercharger kit with #Rotrex-C38-92 supercharger, CAI, 3” MAF, High flow Bosch fuel injectors, supercharger oil cooler, AA stage 1 programming for BBTB and M50 intake with 7k redline, polished supercharger bracket, #ATI-Super-Damper , #VAC-lightweight crank pulley, #Dinan big bore throttle body, M50 intake manifold and fuel rail cover, intake runner heat shields, Dr. Vanos stage 2 kit with cam gears, timing chains and solenoid, Turner shorty ceramic coated exhaust manifolds, ARP header studs, fiberglass manifold and exhaust wrap, SAS Racing dual 2.5” mid-pipes with stock cats, dual 2.75” Supersprint stainless cat-back exhaust, #BMP design exhaust tips, #VAC oil pump upgrade, VAC oil pan baffle, #Behr S54 E46 triple row radiator, 80° thermostat, power steering cooler, Stewart high-flow water pump with steel impeller, polished aluminum thermostat housing, polished aluminum water pump nut, 80/88º fan switch, Spal 16” electric puller fan, clutch fan delete, new overflow tank, BMP brass water bleeder, VAC 5x7” oil cooler with polished Euro oil filter housing, stock head gasket, #ARP head studs, head polished and gasket matched, new valve guides, lashes, locks and retainers, valve job, resurfaced head, hydraulic belt tensioner, CCV delete, new Valeo 115 app alternator, AC delete, radiator baffle.

    POWER and torque 312whp and 262lb ft wtq

    TRANSMISSION #ZF-Type-C / #ZF five-speed manual gearbox, #F1-Racing 14lbs chromoly flywheel and stage 2 clutch, stainless clutch line, UUC short shifter and double shear selector rod, poly differential bush, UUC aluminium transmission mounts, rebuilt diff with four clutch zero pre-load and 80/60 ramping, 3.64:1 final drive, polished ring and pinion gears

    CHASSIS 8.5”x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #OZ-Alleggerita-HLT / #OZ wheels with 255/45 (front and rear) BF Goodrich g-Force R1 tyres, #Ground-Control front coilovers with Koni adjustable shocks, Eibach 500lbs front springs and 600lbs rear springs, Ground Control adjustable rear spring perches, Ground Control front camber and caster plates, #Racing-Dynamics 21mm front and 19 mm rear anti-rolls bars and end links, SAS Racing rear anti-roll bar reinforcements, #SAS-Racing differential reinforcements, SAS Racing rear shock mount reinforcements, Turner Motorsport aluminium and poly rear upper shock mounts, Ireland poly control arm bushes, #Turner front subframe reinforcements, Ireland poly rear trailing arm bushes, Turner rear camber and toe adjustments, 90mm rear and 75mm front lug stud conversion, E30 M3 polished aluminum control arms, Turner front hub extenders, Ground-Control bump stops, SAS Racing tube frame rear sub-floor, Z3 2.3 steering rack, #Wilwood sixpiston Superlite calipers with 330mm GT-48 floating discs with aluminium hats (front), Wilwood four-piston Dynalite calipers with 312mm lightweight discs (rear), Wilwood B pads (front and rear), stainless brake lines, Turner front brake backing plates and duct work, SAS Racing vented rear brake backing plates, new master cylinder and reservoir

    EXTERIOR Arctic silver, Motion Motorsports front splitters and aluminium undertay, #AC-Schnitzer one-off rear diffuser centre section, OEM fog light kit, rear roof spoiler adjusted up 8mm and colour-matched, polished wiring harness brackets, door jamb stickers removed, carbon-look roundels, passenger wiper delete, HID headlamps with side markers and corner lamps colour matched, stealth turn signal bulbs, tinted tail lights, colour-matched wiper nozzles and hatch latch, black kidney grilles, black mesh lower grilles, rear wiper delete, clear front corner markers, front plate holder delete, new windscreen and exterior mouldings

    INTERIOR Black and grey two-tone leather interior, Momo 350mm Competition steering wheel with hub, 15 mm spacer and adaptor, carbon-look roundel, Snap-off Industries steering wheel quick release hub, chrome handbrake handle, E46 M3 short gear knob, M Tech pedals and dead pedal, front and rear M logo floor mats, E36 M3 window button surrounds, black leather gaiters with tricolour stitching, windscreen and window tints, sun visor stickers removed, glove box facelift, carbon horn pin adapter, H3R black HalGuard fire extinguisher, poly seat bushes, custom rear hatch parcel shelf

    Thanks My wife, for her all patience and participation. Jerard Shaha at SAS Racing, my 30-year mechanic and friend. He rebuilt my El Camino in 1987! SAS Racing has done all the work on this car over the years. Their specialty is racecar setup but they perform all mechanical work and fabrication to an expert level as well as engine building and auto transmission rebuilds (sasjerard@gmail.com). Jason Shaha, my childhood best friend and Jerard’s brother. Thanks for planting that competitive seed from your family into me. See you at the next race? The long-standing crew at Trinity Touring Club. Thanks for your loyalty to our sport and dedication to our club. If I didn’t have to drive 90 minutes each way I’d be at all the club meetings (trinitytouringclub.com)
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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: www.bavarianworkshop.com

    “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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    DRINKING THE KOOL-AID 530hp #Sakhir-orange F80 M3

    It’s easy to go with the flow, isn’t it? Wheels, suspension, then hit the show scene. But for Sam Herz, it’s not quite that simple. He deliberately chose a controversial colour for his new M3 and everything just spiralled from there… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.

    F80 M3 530hp Sakhir orange Saloon

    Deep in the deserts of western Bahrain lies the Al-Sakhir Palace – a bold and imposing white colossus, brimming with Frenchinspired bastiles, faux-medieval crenellations, and more pillars than you can shake a gold bar at. Built in the late nineteenth century, it’s a place of serenity; it lay abandoned for decades after Sheikh Hamad died in 1942, and even since its renovation in the mid-1990s it’s remained a place of peaceful retreat…

    …Well, until 2004, that is. That’s the year the Bahrain International Circuit opened just down the road, and ever since there’s been a perennial soundtrack of redlining race motors accompanied by the ever-present whiff of race fuel. What price tradition, eh?

    And it’s after this effervescent turn of events that BMW has named one of the more vibrant colours on its palette in recent years: Sakhir orange. This, basically, is a colour for people who don’t muck about.

    The unimaginative masses may choose to spec their new cars in Resale red or Inoffensive silver, but there’s a hardcore of BMW fans who live for today, who couldn’t give a monkeys about residuals, who want their new purchase to be as in-your-face as it can be while still holding (perhaps tenuously) on to its warranty. Sam Herz is one such person. Just check out his outrageous F80 M3: it’s so hashtag just-ain’t care, it’s Sakhir orange on the outside and the inside.

    “It was a surprisingly difficult car to source in this colour scheme,” Sam laughs. We don’t doubt it – the ratio of serious enthusiasts to plastic posers who buy M3s is a figure the firm is naturally unable to provide, but we’re sure the former group is probably smaller, their whims taking the dealers somewhat by surprise sometimes. So let’s rewind to where all this began for Sam. It started, as you might imagine, with another BMW. “It really all stemmed from a poster of an E46 M3 that a friend gave me in high school,” he recalls, squinting slightly as he peers through a rose-tinted fug of ethereal mist. “I kept that picture on my wall throughout college as sort of a motivation – and, eventually, I got one!”

    You can insert your cliché about living out the American dream here, although the truth was that it was a bit of stretch; being a college student with an M3 meant that he naturally didn’t have a whole bunch of cash for modifications. But time marches inexorably onward, situations change as lifestyles evolve and nowadays the act of fettling hot BMWs offers Sam a rather soothing break from the go-go everyday of working in software, doing something we don’t totally understand with ones and zeroes. We think he might captain one of those ships in The Matrix. Whatever it is he does, he’s a smart cookie. That’s all you need to really know.


    “I have bad enough luck that I generally leave the big jobs to the shop,” Sam shrugs, “but I am looking forward to doing a little more of my own wrenching now that I have a garage.” Ah, splendid, he is human after all. Excellent. An excitable meatbag of aspiration, trepidation and enthusiasm, just like the rest of us. So, why an F80 M3, how did that all come about?

    “Well, as my E46 became more track focused, I needed a daily driver outside of my motorcycles,” Sam explains. “Previously I’d bought Performance Technic’s Dinanequipped 550i shop car – which gave me my first taste of the Dinan Kool-Aid! However, it was always kind of big and a bit ungainly. So I started looking for a slightly smaller, sportier sedan, preferably with a manual transmission, since I’d finally taught myself how to drive stick at the ripe age of 28. And after looking at basically everything in the segment, I landed on the F80. I’ve always liked the combination of the sporty and the practical that you get with the M3, and I find the new body quite striking. Also, after seeing Sakhir orange on an M5 I really, really wanted a car available in that colour!”

    This time around, Sam elected to purchase the car brand-new from a dealer, although his detailed and specific demands meant that this was very far from a case of merely ambling into a showroom, pointing at one of the cars and saying ‘yeah, that one please. Don’t wrap it, I’ll drive it home’. Not only did Sam insist on puzzling and slightly troubling the salesman by demanding an F80 that was both metallic Sakhir on the outside and stuffed with sumptuous Sakhir leather within, but he wanted Euro delivery, too. And if you don’t know what that is, here’s the principle in a nutshell: BMW USA offer a programme whereby customers get to meet their new car at the place it was built. Having flown themselves to Germany, they head over to BMW Welt where they’re put up in a swanky hotel, given a full factory tour, offered a variety of official ‘Driving Adventure’ packages, and then given the keys to their new motor and pointed toward the autobahn. When they’ve had their fill of mischief, BMW ship the car to the States to meet the new owner back at home. Brilliant idea, isn’t it?

    “When I first sat in the car at BMW Welt, it had less than a mile on the clock,” Sam beams. “I’d managed to swing things so that I could immediately take it on a grand tour of Europe, arriving at the Nürburgring with just 1203 miles racked up – just in time for that first oil change! Then there was a track day at Spa-Francorchamps a few days later, along with check-ins at both Audi factories, Ferrari, Pagani, you name it – I definitely put in the world’s slowest baby laps of every circuit but the car came home in one piece!”

    It’s an impressive tale of automotive swashbuckling but, of course, this has to be far more than a story of a man buying a new car and then driving it around. This isn’t that sort of magazine. Inevitably, Sam had plans to awesomify the F80 a little, both aesthetically and mechanically. “Actually, I didn’t at first,” he admits. “I sort of wanted to keep it stock-ish but then US customs somehow lost the car for about a month, and you know how it goes… I started getting ideas!”

    Having dipped his toe into the fragrant waters of Dinan with his old 550i, Sam was keen to replicate the engineering ethos of that car: proper, quality upgrades, geared as much for reliability as performance. If you do things cheap, you do them twice, and that’s not Sam’s way. This is why you’ll spot pretty much the entire Dinan catalogue in the spec list – the Dinantronics Performance Tuner Stage 2 hardware and software package combines with the firm’s carbon-fibre intake and an Akrapovič Evolution exhaust system to churn out a mighty 530hp. “I’ll be upgrading to Stage 3 soon, and adding a Dinan heat exchanger, too, at which point it’ll be closer to 550hp,” he explains casually. Man, he really did get into that Kool-Aid.


    “I fitted a lot of the genuine M Performance options, too, as I’ve been burned by the bad fitment of inferior parts a few too many times,” Sam continues. “And I also fitted a full self-healing clear bra so that I can actually drive the thing.” You know what he means here: optioning Sakhir orange is a brassy move, so you don’t want to then have the thing covered in stonechips and baked-on kamikaze insects. This outrageous paint job is the car’s key hook, and it’s for keeps.

    “The wheels were actually the hardest decision of the build,” Sam ponders, gazing fondly at them as if mentally validating his choice for the umpteenth time. “I was originally thinking of BBS LMs but they really don’t fit the lines of the F80. The HRE P40SC was in the running but it’s copied too often. But when IND Distribution showed off the first set of BBS FI-Rs, I knew that was the one!” The forthrightness of the rolling stock perfectly complements the bullish chassis, too. M3s are brutal in stock form but Sam’s sports Dinan coilovers, control arms and anti-roll bars, along with BMW’s own astonishing carbon-ceramic brake upgrade take it to the next level. Bit of a track warrior now, then? Something to show his E46 a thing or two? “Nah, it’s the daily,” Sam smiles. “This is California, so that means commuting to work and back; I just drove it to Seattle to see my parents. I took it to the last IMSA race at Laguna Seca. I even used it to carry all my stuff when I moved house. It’s a great car. I take it everywhere. And I often get thumbs-ups from other drivers and people coming over to talk about it at gas stations – I think it’s the orange…”

    Yep, we’d say that was a pretty safe bet. There’s opulence and motorsport intent woven deep in that Sakhir DNA, and a car with that paint is noteworthy enough. But with the care and attention Sam’s expended choosing its upgrades, and his relentless eagerness to use it as the M division intended, that’s actually about as far from drinking the Kool-Aid as it’s possible to get.

    “The wheels were actually the hardest part of the build”

    Stunning 19” #BBS FI-R wheels suit the M3 so well; below, various carbon fibre exterior additions.

    “The engine has been upgraded with a Dinan carbon-fibre intake and #Dinantronics Stage 2 software, which take power up to a mighty 530hp”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-F80 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-F80 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-F80 / #S55 / #2016 / #BBS-FI / #BBS / #BMW-M3-Dinan / #BMW-M3-Dinan-F80 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre twin-turbo straightsix #S55B30 / #S55 / #BMW-S55 /, Dinantronics Stage 2 hard/software, #Dinan carbon-fibre intake, #Akrapovič-Evolution catback exhaust system, approx. 530hp, six-speed manual transmission

    CHASSIS 9.5x19” (f) and 10.5x19” (r) #BBS-FI-R wheels in platinum silver, 275/30 (f) and 295/30 (r) Yokohama Advan AD08R tyres, Dinan coilovers, antiroll bars and rear control arms, #BMW-M carbon ceramic brakes with sixpiston calipers and 414mm discs (f) and four-piston calipers and 380mm discs (r)

    EXTERIOR Sakhir orange metallic, Suntek clear bra (including roof and carbon-fibre trim), M Performance carbon fibre accessories

    INTERIOR Full Sakhir orange leather, #BMW-M-Performance steering wheel, M Performance gear knob, M Performance handbrake, super-cool floor mats

    THANKS Dinan Engineering, Jim Bustos at MMI Vehicle Systems, Brionne Go of Go Wraps, Chuck Thomas, Nick Owen and Brandon Watson at BMW of El Cajon, RC Levell
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    AWESOME BMW M5 Looks good, goes great

    How do you improve upon one of the best driving cars #BMW ever put together? Take a leaf out of Andrew Berger’s book. Words: Louise Woodhams. Photos: Mike Kuhn.

    Styled and tuned E39 M5

    There can’t be many father and sons that have individually made it on to the pages of Performance BMW with their Bavarian beasts. In fact, Andrew and Josh Berger may well be the first. Josh’s E36 M3 was featured in November last year. It’s a concours-standard build that’s been reverted back to its Luxurious spec and slammed on a set of CCW LM5Ts.

    With a few choice engine and chassis mods, it’s a show stopper, track car and daily driver rolled into one. And now a year later, it’s his father’s turn to take the spotlight. The E39 M5 is arguably the best performance saloon BMW ever made, and it’s already becoming sought after by collectors and driving enthusiasts. Having reached modern classic status, various finance and automotive publications of late are claiming that it’s set to soar in value. In fact, Paul Michaels, chairman of Hexagon Classics (a man who makes a living out of buying the right collectible cars) claims an immaculate low mileage model is sure to appreciate.

    It’s something I’ve been saying for the past year and I now find myself not getting very far with writing this feature as I scour Pistonheads and AutoTrader looking for one and trying to persuade my husband that this should be our new family car. Suffice to say we definitely couldn’t afford the one that was recently up for grabs at a dealership in Ohio. With just 309 miles on the clock the asking price was $149,999.

    Anyway, if I’m to meet this deadline without burning the midnight oil I really must get back to the task in hand. A man fascinated with form and function, we’re surprised to learn that Andrew has only been interested in BMWs for the past 15 years, but suffice to say ever since the day he first drove one he was hooked. He did go on to own that very car, an E46 330i, but not before going through a few other 3, 5 and M Series cars. If truth be told, though, he always had his sights set on an E39 M5: “This car has been at the top of my bucket list since they rolled off the production line,” confesses the 60-year-old.

    He bought the car in May last year from Gas Motorcars, a local dealership in Marietta, Georgia, that specialises in exotic, classic and luxury cars and also happens to be where his son works. He traded in his E36 M3 and M Roadster for it together with a pile of 100 dollar bills. The car had already received a few exterior modifications – some of which were a little OTT for Andrew’s taste, so the first job was to take off what he didn’t like.

    As such the car now wears a Vorsteiner carbon fibre vented bonnet, front and rear spoilers from AC Schnitzer, ECS Tuning brake duct grilles, a painted matt black kidney grille, angel eye headlights and a painted gloss black rear diffuser with stainless steel exhaust tip surrounds, all of which combine to make a more aggressive statement without detracting from Chris Bangle’s original lines. The staggered 19” DPE Forged wheels with brushed faces, polished lips and chrome hardware are the perfect finishing touches.

    When it came to the interior, Andrew wanted to keep things simple again so he’s retained most of the stock parts (bar the Schroth Racing harnesses) but brought them into the 21st century. As such the steering wheel, sun visors, doorcards, handbrake and gear knob gaiters have been retrimmed in black Alcantara complete with M tri-colour stitching, while the Nineties wood trim has been painted silver and the instrument rings have been swapped out for custom-made aluminium items.

    The in-dash double-DIN DVD multimedia AV receiver from Pioneer is the only clue to a custom audio install which resides in the boot and includes a pair of JL Audio W7 10” subwoofers and HD1200/1 amp, which are connected up to a set of Hertz speakers, mids and tweeters. Despite having the unbeatable soundtrack of a brutal V8 under the bonnet, the ICE is Andrew’s favourite: “I love taking this car out on a Sunday, putting on my favourite playlist and enjoying my ultimate driving machine,” he tells us.

    Saying that, we’re pleased to hear the engine side of things haven’t been ignored. With 400hp already on tap, sensibly Andrew has gone for a selection of mods that help to improve the breathing of the high-revving 5.9-litre engine. The combination of an AFE Stage 2 air intake, custom exhaust manifolds, mid-pipes and ECU remap by Buckhead Imports and an Eisenmann Race exhaust system not only gives the car extra horsepower, but it also lets the engine rev more eagerly and helps the lazy V8 burble really come out of its shell.

    The six-speed manual gearbox from Getrag was critically acclaimed for its slick performance, but improvements can always be made. To that end a UUC short shifter, lightweight clutch and flywheel, have really helped to transform an already revered driving experience with quicker gear changes and improved throttle response. “Getting it past 6000rpm puts a smile on my face every time,” he says and we can certainly believe that.

    When you factor in the host of suspension upgrades he’s made, including KW Variant 3 coilovers, Dinan strut tower bar and shock tower brace to help the car feel more planted, responsive and tauter, together with a Brembo GT big brake kit up front and slotted StopTech discs with Hawk pads out back to better haul in the power, Andrew now has the confidence to push this sizeable saloon harder on Georgia’s finest scenic and twisty roads.

    Andrew’s plans for the future are to simply maintain its prestige and, with just 55,000 miles on the clock, keep it for Sunday best, and who can blame him? With supercar- chasing performance in a package that is discreet and practical, the E39 M5 is the very definition of a wolf in sheep’s clothing and Andrew’s sympathetic approach in modifying is a great lesson to anyone thinking of buying one of these Q cars. Right, can I go back to scouring the classifieds again now, please?

    “This car’s been at the top of my bucket list since they rolled off the production line”

    “I love taking this car out and enjoying my ultimate driving machine”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E39 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW-M5-E39 / #S62B50 / #BMW-S62 / #S62 / #DPE / #AFE / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E39 / #BMW-5-Series-M5 / #BMW-5-Series-M5-E39

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.9-litre #V8 #S62B50 , #AFE-Stage-2 air intake, Buckhead Imports custom exhaust manifolds, mid-pipes and ECU remap, full #Eisenmann race exhaust, six-speed manual gearbox, UUC lightweight clutch and flywheel, UUC Evo 3 short-shifter

    CHASSIS 9.5x19” ET16 (f) and 11x19” ET16 (r) #DPE-Forged-ST7-Hybrid wheels with brushed faces, polished lips and chrome hardware with 245/35 (f) and 285/35 (r) Toyo T1R tyres, #KW-Variant-3 Coilovers, #Dinan strut tower bar & shock tower brace. #Brembo-GT big brake kit (f) and slotted #StopTech discs and Hawk pads (r), #Turner-Motorsports stainless steel brake lines all-round

    EXTERIOR #Vorsteiner carbon fibre vented bonnet, kidney grille painted matt black, LED angel eye headlights, ECS Tuning brake duct grille, #AC-Schnitzer front and rear spoilers, custom painted gloss black rear diffuser with stainless steel exhaust tip surrounds

    INTERIOR Doorcards, handbrake and gear knob gaiters, steering wheel and sun visors retrimmed in black Alcantara with M tri-colour stitching, silver painted trim, custom aluminium instrument rings, Schroth Racing harnesses, full custom boot install with two JL Audio W7 subwoofers and HD1200/1 amp, Pioneer in-dash double-DIN DVD multimedia AV receiver, Hertz speakers, mids and tweeters
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    POWER HUNGRY

    The M3 is certainly a powerful car, but this supercharged E90 takes things to another level… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Matt Petrie.

    Supercharged E90 M3

    When it comes to the E9x M3 we, like a lot of you out there, would likely go for the E92 if given the choice, as the Coupé is arguably the sleeker and sexier car of the two. However, there are plenty of good reasons to opt for the four-door. For starters, if you’re in the family way or are simply looking for greater levels of practicality when it comes to transporting human cargo, the saloon offers up five seats to the coupé’s four.

    If you’re not interested in ferrying people about and are more interested in the driving experience then we’d cite the words of one of the #BMW M Fascination Nordschleife instructors we spoke to whilst taking part in the event who, when quizzed as to why he wasn’t driving an E92 M3 Coupé like the rest of us, informed us that the shorter saloon changed direction more quickly, felt stiffer and was better to drive on the track than the E92. His words, not ours. Of course, both cars are as capable as each other but don’t let any of your E92-owning buddies ever talk down to you for having four doors on your M3.

    We can’t imagine that’s something that ever happens to Islam ‘Izzy’ Gohar because he’s got an E90 M3 with a supercharger on it, but then again that’s exactly the sort of car you’d expect from the owner of IMG Motorsport, purveyor of some of the finest performance parts you can buy, and someone who has been driving and modifying BMWs since the age of 16. “My first BMW was gifted to me by my parents at the age of 16, having accomplished the required grades to get into engineering school in Europe. It was more than I could handle at that age but I was lucky to attend multiple driving schools where I learned a lot about car control and more.

    “The car didn’t last long in its stock form. It was tuned and lowered right away and then a full exhaust system was added to complete my first toy. When I moved to the States in early 2000 after college, I purchased a low mileage E36 M3 from a close friend. The car was a ’99 in Titanium silver over a black leather Vader interior, and had 30k miles on it along with some mods which kept me tame for a couple of months.

    “In 2002 I was introduced to Corry Prime by a couple of friends; Corry happened to be (and still is) one of the top three techs for BMW North America and also a race car instructor. We became friends and he helped me get my new baby to where it needed to be, and more. He didn’t just work on the car, he explained everything in depth and advised what to buy and use. I paid good attention to my teacher and learned a lot from him and still do to this day. He built me an amazing M3, which I still own and I started doing track events and fell more in love with my journey with BMW.”



    The E36 served as both daily driver and track beast for many years until Izzy decided he fancied a newer BMW, an M3 specifically. However, the long waiting list put him off so he instead purchased a brand-new 135i, which was quickly modified and just as quickly written off by his boss’s son.

    This was unfortunate for sure, but it was clearly a sign that it was about time to have another go at getting his hands on an M3. “I went out looking for an E90 M3 and ended up taking over someone’s lease. It took a while to find what I wanted; a slicktop (no sunroof) with no folding rear seats and a six-speed manual in Interlagos blue. When I did find the right car, I closed the deal right away. It had 9k miles on it and was in a very clean condition.” Not only did Izzy start modifying the car straight away, he started buying parts while the car was in transit from Ohio to its new home, some 600-odd miles away in Connecticut, so when it arrived it went straight to Corry. “I’d ordered an Xpipe, exhaust, intake, lowering springs, short shift kit and a tune and Corry had the parts on over the space of a weekend.”

    A solid start to any project, and enough to tide most owners over for a while, but Izzy is clearly a guy who doesn’t beat about the bush. “Corry and I soon starting discussing power upgrades. Initially we wanted a stroker built motor but the price and gains didn’t justify it,” he says, “so instead we went for an ESS Supercharger kit and once that was on the car it stayed like that for two years, until it hit 50,000 miles. Then it was time to start pushing the limits,” grins Izzy, and he’s not kidding…

    “First up, Corry pulled the engine out and we contacted Mahle Motorsports for custom lower compression pistons, which took eight weeks to build, and at the same time Carrillo rods were also ordered. As soon as the pistons were received, the block was sent to Dinan Engineering out in CA for boring and honing; when everything came back assembly didn’t take more than two weeks with Corry assembling a custom fuel delivery return system, though it took quite some time to get the proper fuel pressure needed for the added power.

    “In its first dyno session, running on a custom tune by Asborn ‘AJ’ from ESS Tuning, the car put down 666whp at 12- 13psi.” This is certainly a devilishly good power figure and an impressive increase over what even the most powerful off-the-shelf ESS kit is able to produce. “I was very happy with the power level for a little while but I hurt the motor at an event which I wasn’t prepared for.” Another unfortunate event but naturally if something breaks then that gives you an excuse to do some more modifying so obviously there was only one option…

    “At that point we decided to push for more power,” says Izzy, matter-of-factly, “so Corry pulled the engine out and started tearing it apart and inspecting everything. He found one damaged piston due to a bad batch of gas from a no-name petrol station, so we ordered larger diameter pistons from Mahle and sent the block back to Dinan for a second round of boring and honing. At the same time, we sent the cylinder heads to L&M Racing in PA.

    Michael, the owner, is a great friend and he got on the heads right away for porting and polishing so the engine could breathe better. Custom valve springs were used to handle 8800rpm. We also sent him the pistons, rods, and crank for balancing the rotating assembly for smoothness and reliability. Everything came in and Corry started assembly and after a week, the motor was ready to go in the car.

    “At the same time as all the engine work we decided to add KW V1 coilovers and ditch the lowering springs as well as adding a Brembo Gran Turismo big brake kit with yellow calipers all-round, six-pots up front and four-pots at the rear and 380mm slotted discs all-round. Everything went in smoothly and once the car was back on the road I took it to P1 Motorcars where it made 740whp on the company’s Dynojet dyno.”

    Now, that is a vast amount of power, way more than anyone could ever need and probably approaching the limits of what most sane people would actually want but Izzy wasn’t done just yet: “The engine felt like it had more in it so I reached out to Nick and Steve at American Racing Headers and they decided to develop a set of long tube headers for my car, mated to a 3” cat-less resonated X-pipe and an Awron gauge was installed to monitor AFR at all times. Nick installed the headers at his shop at no charge, and the car then went back on the rollers where it put down 785whp and 550lb ft at the wheels, at 13psi on ‘medium boost’.

    That makes it the highest horsepower E9x M3 to this day. I’ll eventually turn the boost up once the record is broken by another one,” and he’s not even joking. Considering just how much power this M3 is pushing out (almost 900hp at the crank) it’s a car we’d consider to be pretty darn stealthy from the outside, and yes we have seen the wheels, thanks very much. They’re rather gorgeous Volk TE37s, 9.5x18s up front and beefy 10.5x18s at the back, the fronts barely able to contain those vast six-pot Brembo front calipers, with one of the six-spokes on each wheel sporting the Volk Racing logo on a bright yellow background that matches both the brakes and the intake plenum of the ESS supercharger kit.

    “I chose the Volks because of their perfect offset, build quality, and weight; they are forged which makes them very strong – extremely necessary for our bad tri-state roads,” explains Izzy and the fact that they’re also such a good-looking wheel certainly doesn’t do them any harm.

    The exterior styling additions amount to no more than a Just M Performance carbon fibre rear spoiler, carbon fibre diffuser and a set of Euro rear lights, while the interior has been treated to an M Performance flat-bottom steering wheel and custom Alcantara-wrapped trim with yellow stitching, tying in perfectly with the yellow elements that appear throughout the car.

    Having built such an incredible powerhouse of an M3, Izzy isn’t about to let it go and based on his list of planned modifications it sounds like this E90 will be joining his E36 as a permanent fixture in his collection. “I’m going to add a RKP carbon fibre roof, KW V3 coilovers, AlekShop solid subframe bushes, leather Recaro Sportster CS seats with yellow stitching, Alcantara headlining and I also want to get the car resprayed.”

    With those mods done and with an M4 GTS and F10 M5 also on the shopping list, we’d wager that the E90 M3 will retire for as long as it takes for someone to break Izzy’s dyno record. And lord help anyone who does because that’s when he’s going to bring the M3 back, crank up the boost and who knows what’s going to happen then…

    Inside, yellow stitching matches the other yellow highlights and there’s an M Performance steering wheel.

    There are plenty of yellow highlights on this E90, but the ESS plenum is the biggest and yellowest.

    “When I did find the right car I closed the deal right away”

    DATA FILE Supercharged #E90 M3 / #BMW-S65 / #S65B40 / #S65 / #L&M-Racing / #S65-Supercharger / #Dinan / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E90 / #V8 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Sedan-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-E90 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre V8 S65B40 , L&M Racing ported and polished heads, custom valve springs, #Mahle-Motorsports pistons, #Carrillo rods, block bored and honed by #Dinan , #ESS-Supercharger kit, American Racing Headers long tube headers, 3" cat-less resonated midsection, #Akrapovic axle back exhaust with carbon tips, six-speed manual gearbox

    POWER AND TORQUE 785whp and 550lb ft wtq at 13psi

    CHASSIS 9.5x18” (front) and 10.5x18” (rear) #Volk-TE37-SL forged wheels with 265/35 (front) and 295/35 (rear) Continental ExtremeContact DW tyres, #KW-V1 coilovers, #Brembo-Gran-Turismo-BBK with six-pot calipers (front), four-pot calipers (rear) and 380mm slotted discs (front and rear)

    EXTERIOR Just M performance carbon fibre boot lip spoiler, Euro rear lights, carbon fibre rear diffuser

    INTERIOR M Performance V1 flat bottom steering wheel, Alcantara dash trim with yellow stitching
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    IN THE LAP OF LUXURY GERMAN

    Ultra-plush, ultra-rare, ultra-cool E23 L7 on air. Achingly cool and visually awesome, this bagged E23 L7 really is a thing of beauty. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Faiz Rahman.
    LAYING LOW Air-ride E23 L7

    Old cars are cool. Just take a look at the number of E30s, E28s and E34s that are cropping up on the BM scene all around the globe. These are all cars that look great as standard, and just a few simple mods are all that’s required to get the head-nodding seal of approval wherever you may go. However there is life beyond the well-worn paths of the E30 and E28 and there are numerous treasures nestling in BMW’s back catalogue that serve as excellent candidates for some thoroughly modern modifications, and you’re looking at one of them right now.

    Regular readers may recognise the name Darren Hattingh because back in the June 2015 issue we featured his supercharged E38 740iL, and what a fine machine it was. Now the man with the 7 Series penchant is back with his latest creation, and it’s a modern twist on a classic that is most definitely not a regular on the scene. “Ever since seeing pictures of my dad after he brought home his E23 I’ve wanted one for myself,” says Darren. “He’s had every body shape Seven up to the E66, but the E23 and E38 have always made me double-take! The thing that really draws my attention to the E23 is the shark nose, I love the way it encapsulates the grilles, and the staggered headlights have such a presence about them.”

    He’s certainly not wrong. The E23 is a fantastic-looking car with a distinctive design that really sets it apart from its contemporaries and really makes it stand out on the road. E23s aren’t exactly easy to come by, though, but fortunately for Darren he just so happens to have a friend who is as keen on Sevens as he is. “My buddy Stephen owned the car previously, and he and I traded cars: my E32 750iL for his E23 L7.

    The condition of the car was very well used, which was perfect for me. It made changing almost every aspect of an already rare car easier and the day I saw Stephen pull up in the car, I instantly had a completed concept in mind of how I wanted it to look,” he says.

    Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, just what on earth is the L7? In E23 speak it means luxury, which is what we assume the L stands for. That includes a leather dashboard and leather in place of the wood trim on the doorcards, a powered glass sunroof, electric everything and BMW’s first ever driver’s airbag, which results in a massive steering wheel. Seriously, it’s massive. So, the American-market exclusive L7 is basically an ultra-luxurious and extremely rare version of an already rare and luxurious car. It’s an E23 but more.

    So, with his hands on an E23 Darren was ready to start modifying according to his plan, and that plan involved air. “Currently the L7 has a fully custom built Air Lift air ride suspension setup, with Air Lift V2 management.” Keeping classic static is cool, but bagging them is even better and judging by the result of this pairing we can safely say that air and E23 go together like toast and jam. That long, sharkey 7 Series shape looks so good slammed into the ground, and it really does go outrageously low.

    But mad lows alone aren’t enough, you’ve got to get the right wheels to go with your drop and here Darren has absolutely nailed it. “The wheels are Impul Silhouettes,” he explains. “I chose these wheels because of the period correctness of the style, the fact that they are functional, and of course their rarity. I honestly didn’t consider any other wheels because I knew I had to have these to complete the concept I had in mind.”


    Trying to pair the right wheels to a car like the E23 is a lot like trying to match the right wine to a particularly complex dish – in isolation both could be brilliant but bring them together and it could all go wrong. The fact that Darren didn’t even consider a classic cross-spoke is laudable and we wager that the Silhouette is not a wheel many people with a BM of this vintage would have floating around at the forefront of their brains as a go-to wheel choice. But we’re so very glad that it was the only choice for Darren. On paper, a full-face, arguably motorsport-themed wheel would seem like an odd choice for a classic luxury cruiser and, having had a gander on Google, it’s not an instant win on every car it’s applied to but here, against all odds, it looks absolutely killer.


    On the chassis front, beyond that custom air-ride setup, Darren has also completely rebuilt the steering system, adding E24 and E28 polybushes and there’s also a Bavarian Auto front strut brace.

    As far as styling goes, this E23 is definitely a looker but at first glance you might not be able to put your finger on exactly what it is that’s making you feel so right about looking for so long, but once you start picking apart the details you realise that Darren has put in a huge amount of work… but work that only true aficionados will be able to appreciate: “I wanted to keep the styling of the car very subtle, almost to the point where you can’t really tell what has been changed.” Well, mission accomplished as far as we’re concerned!

    “My buddy Stephen converted the nose and rear bumper to Euro spec while he briefly owned the car. I added the E38 front bumper, which was problematic as I had to design and weld up a frame that mounted the E38 bumper reinforcement to the factory E23 bumper shocks. I also fitted rear Euro quarter trim, ’1979 E23 chrome mirrors and Formuling Wind Splitters,” which might possible be the best name for anything we’ve ever heard. In case you’re wondering, those are the CSL Batmobile-style fins that sit on the front wings either side of the bonnet.


    The high beams have been given the classic French look and are now actually foglamps, with Darren converting the dipped beam housings to a bi-xenon setup and there are new old stock front grilles keeping things period and fresh. The changes are subtle, almost to the point of being invisible just as Darren planned, but together they really do make a big difference in terms of how the E23 looks, giving it a smoother, more dynamic appearance that you’re definitely unlikely to see anywhere else, anytime soon.


    If you find all that a bit too subtle for your liking, don’t worry, because the interior is where things get wild. Being an L7, everything is covered in leather and the distant mooing of the ghosts of the cows that gave their lives for the greater good of upholstering this E23 can be heard drifting through the interior on a still summer’s evening. But more eyebrow elevating than even the concept of ghost cows is the fact that Darren has redone the entire interior himself. “The factory interior was dark grey carpet, light grey and dark grey leather,” he explains, which is clearly isn’t that anymore.


    “I wanted to keep the interior as factorylooking as possible because I love the factory styling of the L7, but I also wanted to bring it into modernity with the new leather and colour change while keeping the original stitch patterns and style. I did a complete interior tear down and makeover with new leather everywhere, including the seats, centre console, dashboard, pillars and headliner.”

    The colour, Darren tells us, is not red but Burnt Sienna Spice, a sort of orangey-brown hue that just happens to look very red in pictures but is awesome nevertheless. However, simply retrimming his entire interior wasn’t enough for a man like Darren and he’s gone all-out in here. The rear seats are now heated and there’s a rather sexy Italvolanti Formal steering wheel along with new old stock factory switches and custommade chrome door lock pulls: “I added 2000 E38 7 Series Sport Contour heated front seats, an E38 factory homelink, E38 PDC, completely keyless ignition with push button start/stop, and iPhone app control for remote start.”

    To drown out those ghost cows, the speakers have been upgraded to Harman Kardon items and there’s a Kenwood head unit supplying the soundtrack to E23 life. “All switches are housed in a custom panel that I made along with the V2 controller for the air-ride. The sound system has all-new wiring to each of the Harmon Kardon speakers as well as the head unit. I have done absolutely everything inside the interior myself by hand – leather, electrical and sound etc. The biggest issue I had was learning to sew leather seats and console parts and understanding BMW’s technique, all while not wasting the limited amount of leather I had to do everything”, he laughs.

    The ample boot houses the twin compressors and single matt black air tank, complete with chrome L7 emblem, mounted on snazzy custom wood flooring. The work that’s gone into creating this interior is really exceptional and the end result is utterly spectacular, the sort of interior you dream of doing. It’s what the cows would have wanted…


    The M30 nestling under the bonnet is a great engine that really suits the nature of the L7 and Darren is in full agreement there. “I really enjoy the M30’s subtle grunt and its great sewing machine noise while idling,” he says with a smile. While there are no plans to swap or change anything under the bonnet, he has carried out some work on the big six to ensure it’s operating at its very best. “The engine has simply been rebuilt and the internals have been set to factory specifications,” he explains. “I added a Dinan chip, M62TU injectors and an aftermarket fuel pressure regulator and ignition parts. After I converted to the M62TU injectors the car started to run rich, so I had to add an uprated MSD coil and build my own MSD spark plug wires so I could run more spark through the thicker wires to the late style Bosch Platinum 4 spark plugs.”

    Three years of work have resulted in Darren creating a marvellous machine and it has not only been a journey of discovery but a learning experience too and, if you can come out of a build having created a stunning car and are now able to trim an entire interior, well, that’s a job well done as far as we’re concerned.

    So complete is Darren’s L7, in fact, that the only thing left on his ‘to do’ list is a complete respray in Moonstone metallic, which is silver with a dash of pale frosty blue, that he says will happen eventually. But whilst this project may be all but complete it certainly won’t be his last. This is no surprise; what is a surprise is that his next build won’t be a 7 Series, with Darren fully committed to adding an E3 saloon, aka Bavaria, to his collection. Though really it’s a 7 Series in everything but name, being as it is the E23’s predecessor. While he hunts for one, though, Darren can enjoy the fruit of his labours and when that fruit is an L7, there’s a whole lot of enjoyment to be doing…

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE Air-ride #BMW-E23 / #BMW-L7 / #BMW-L7-E23 / #BMW / #BMW-7-Series / #BMW-7-Series-E23 / #M30 / #BMW-M30 / #Pro-Tuning-Lab / #BMW-7-Series-L7 / #1979 / #BMW-E23-Air-ride

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.4-litre straight-six #M30B34 , fully rebuilt with all new parts and gaskets, rebuilt cooling system, #Pro-Tuning-Lab fuel pressure regulator, #MSD ignition coils, MSD 9mm wires, M62TU injectors, #Dinan Chip, brand-new factory full two-piece exhaust system and Silverline tips, four-speed automatic gearbox

    CHASSIS 8x17” (front) and 9x17” (rear) Impul Silhouette wheels with 205/40 (front) and 215/40 (rear) Falken tyres, custom built #Air-Lift air-ride suspension, #Air-Lift-V2 management system, #Powerflex polyurethane bushes, factory BMW steering parts, Bavarian-Automotive strut brace

    EXTERIOR E38 front bumper, Euro front shark nose, Euro rear bumper, Euro rear quarter trim, new old stock Formuling Wind Splitters, Hella yellow French foglights in factory high beam location, bi-xenon high/low beams in main beam housings, xenon bulbs in the foglight housings, early E23 factory chrome mirrors

    INTERIOR Complete interior tear down and makeover in Burnt Sienna Spice leather on centre console, dashboard, A/B/C pillars, rear parcel shelf, front seats, rear seats, headlining, sunroof panel, doorcards, door arm rest pulls, glovebox, driver lower dash, new old stock Italvolanti Formal steering wheel, E38 Contour front seats, heated rear seat kit, Harman Kardon speakers, Kenwood head unit, new old stock factory switches and custom-made chrome door lock pulls, E38 factory front under seat fuse panel placed in boot for air-ride system, custom wood flooring in boot, twin compressors, single air tank, E38 boot cargo net and rubber grips, re-wrapped leather bootlid liner to match the interior


    THANKS Firstly a big thank you to Stephen Sayer for bringing the L7 into my life, as well as connecting me with the air-ride system, Italvolanti (through Rennstall), and the Impul Silhouettes, Timothy Polljonker at Bavarian Retro Classics for the hookup on difficult to find Euro trim pieces, Jason McAllister for, once again, bringing his amazing skills to the paint and bright work, Mark and Carlson for helping me grab and store the E38 front seats, my wife, Alyssa, for dealing with my late nights cutting out leather for the interior, and my mother in law Janet for helping me learn to sew complicated patterns

    “I really enjoy the M30’s subtle grunt and its great sewing machine noise while idling”
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    HIDDEN STRENGTH

    With its subtle looks, this 135i can slip under the radar, which is handy as it’s got 460whp on tap. This 135i might look fairly ordinary but appearances can be deceptive and there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye… Words and photos: Chris Nicholls.

    Disappointment is sometimes a powerful motivator. Sports teams that lose the championship one year have been known to turn that negative feeling into a springboard that pushes them to win it the next. So it was with Pete Agas and his 135i.

    Initially, he wanted a 1M Coupé, but only 200 came to Australia and he missed out on the allocation. He didn’t let that get him down, though. Instead, he purchased an E82 135i and used the leftover funds to change almost every mechanical component to make it much faster than a stock 1M ever was.

    The story begins back in late 2012, when he first purchased this Alpine white example fresh from the dealer. Having been inspired to tune cars ever since his youth (when watching Stephen Spielberg’s debut feature – Duel – made him think about tuning cars so he could outrun a psychotic truck driver), Pete wasn’t going to leave it untouched for long, and after posting a few pictures of it in its factory state on his online build thread (complete with the caption: ‘stock… yuck’), he started to modify it to suit his tastes.

    As for those tastes? “I build, tune and customise my vehicles for performance over appearance,” he says, and as you can see, the finished car reflects that. APEX ARC-8 wheels, StopTech BBK, #Hartge silencer and M Performance carbon bits aside, there is no indication from the outside that this machine puts out 460whp at low boost and pounds around race tracks with ease. Even looking under the bonnet yields nothing to the casual observer, and unless they were looking hard, enthusiasts would only spot the AFE Magnum Force Stage 2 intake and M Performance Power Kit 2 as well. Almost everything that means anything is hidden on this build, and that’s the way Pete likes it, especially as it makes it that much easier to goad other, supposedly faster, cars into a little challenge. “I frequently drive around the South Yarra area in Victoria where there are plenty of beautiful Porsches. I may have completely decimated a couple of them in a quick squirt contest…” he says with a grin.

    Of course, his E82 didn’t become this fast overnight. Indeed, having missed out on a 1M, he initially wanted just to match that car’s handling, with pure grunt not really on the radar. And even then, for the first year, Pete only drove it around with limited mods. An M Performance exhaust and exterior bits and some Rays G25 wheels upped the game from stock, but they were hardly going to help Pete reach even his initial goal. That’s why, after that 12 months, he started amassing E9x M3 suspension parts in bulk, along with other bits and pieces, so he could be ready for the next stage.

    Those E9x parts included sway bars, control arms, bushings, camber link kit and strut tower brace, to which he added Swift springs. Having basically matched the 1M’s key suspension elements, Pete then moved onto the brakes, with M Performance discs, Cool Carbon brake pads and Hard Braking front titanium shims. For a little extra grunt, he added the aforementioned Power Kit 2 and controlled it via a Quaife 3.08 helical LSD in a VAC finned, clear anodised cover. A Burger Motorsports clutch delay valve and clutch stop helped in the driveline department as well. Finally, a few extra M Performance exterior and interior parts helped round it off. Until the most recent major upgrades, the diff was actually Pete’s favourite component as it improved traction no end. “The LSD just puts the power down without the e-Diff having a field day. It was easily the most notable change when driving the car back home from the workshop for the first time.” The fact the Quaife diff works with the stock traction control is a bonus, too, even if Pete doesn’t need it in the dry.


    Now, you might think at this stage, having reached his initial goal, Pete would be satisfied and call it a day. After all, he had already created a very quick, but still very usable road car. However, the fact you see this rather faster beast before you shows he wasn’t done. What prompted him to go further were two new discoveries. Firstly, having gone this far into the BMW tuning world, he’d found a “huge amount of aftermarket potential within the BMW brand”, as well as a highly supportive and knowledgeable community to go with it.

    Secondly, having built a track-oriented car, Pete was hardly likely to keep it purely on the road, and a visit to Phillip Island one day proved rather comprehensively that while strong, his build wasn’t perfect.

    “I quickly discovered the platform needed brakes and cooling,” Pete tells us. “I also learned very quickly of the possibility of a spun rod bearing when pushing wet-sumped platforms on the track, so I quickly picked up an oil pan baffle to prevent this from happening to me.”


    Having discovered these weaknesses, Pete also bolted on an oil cooler and decided that even the upgraded brakes he had weren’t going to cut it. So, as part of the final stage of mods, he purchased a StopTech BBK, with ST60 six-pot calipers on the front and ST40 four pots on the rears, matched with StopTech’s own Street Performance pads.

    These clamp down on with Trophy Sport two-piece slotted discs to provide a significant upgrade in braking ability. Indeed, these are now Pete’s new favourite parts. “The new brakes not only look great, but they have an amazing pedal feel, are completely modular and replaceable and have a huge range of available pads.”

    That they sit this high in his estimation is a big endorsement, given the rest of the upgrades he fitted at this stage. In the engine bay, he installed a Pure N55 Stage 2 turbo, an AR Design downpipe, Maddad midpipes and the aforementioned Hartge silencer on the hot side. He also fitted the previously mentioned AFE Magnum Force Stage 2 intake, an ETS five-inch intercooler and lower charge pipe, an Evolution Raceworks black anodised chargepipe and GFB N55 diverter valve upgrade on the cool side. Unsurprisingly, given the company’s reputation, a Dinan Stage 3 135iS tune controls the lot.

    To further enhance the car’s abilities on the track, Pete also added Dinan Racing adjustable rear toe arms, Dinan front control arm bushings, Turner Motorsport solid aluminium rear subframe bushings and Ohlins Road and Track dampers. Finally, some sticky Hankook RS-3s on those handsome APEX ARC-8 wheels put all the power to the ground.


    The results are quite startling. Given the sticky rubber and LSD, you’d think traction wouldn’t be a problem, but with TC off, Pete was able to spin up the wheels well into third gear on our short spot-shoot drive. “This is with the turbo at 15psi, remember,” Pete reminds us. “It’s capable of 27 or even 30psi. Frankly, I think it’d be undriveable on the street like that. I would need drag slicks or something.”

    He’s probably right. The biggest impact, though, came from the fact that the power just kept on coming. Starting from around 3000rpm, it genuinely didn’t stop until very close to the redline. Owners of modern, well-tuned turbo cars will no doubt be nodding along to this in recognition, but for those who haven’t experienced such a longlasting rush, it’s quite the memorable event.

    Thankfully, all of Pete’s suspension changes keep the car a lot more pinned to the ground, even if traction is a bit of an issue. It’s firm, no doubt, but even the harsh, sharp-edged bumps on Melbourne’s often lumpen roads didn’t jar particularly. It’s a testament to both the quality of the parts and Pete’s careful selections. “I like to think with the right amount of planning and research, most, if not all risks [when building a car] can be mitigated,” he says knowingly. “I checked, re-checked and triple-checked the parts that were chosen for the car and I paid very close attention to their fitment and quality before proceeding with the purchase. That research, coupled with the highly talented team over at SouthernBM (his chosen workshop), made the process easy.”

    So, having now built a sleeper that can not just match a 1M but surpass it in every measure (bar width), is Pete satisfied? Is he done? Of course he isn’t. Soon after the shoot, he fitted some Kerscher 1Mstyle front wings and eventually, plans to turn it into a roadregistered track car, complete with rear seat delete, half-cage, Recaro Pole Positions, lithiumion battery, Evolution of Speed N55 manifold, E85 tune and carbon bonnet.

    This would leave him without a daily driver, though, so what gives? Well, on 14 October last year, Pete watched the livestream as #BMW introduced the M2, and soon after, strode into his local dealership and ordered a manual one in Long Beach blue. We guess he never did get over the disappointment of the 1M after all…

    StopTech ST60 front BBK boasts 355mm discs and six-pot calipers, necessary when you’ve got 460whp to play with.


    DATA FILE #BMW-E82 / #BMW-135i / #BMW-135i-E82 / #BMW-1-Series / #BMW-1-Series-E82 /
    ENGINE 3.0-litre straight-six turbo #N55B30 / #N55 / #BMW-N55 , #M-Performance-Power-Kit-2 , #Pure-Stage-2 N55-turbo, Pure N55 inlet pipe, Evolution Racewerks N55 Type III Hard Anodised Black charge pipe, #AFE Magnum Force Stage 2 N55 intake, ETX 5” FMIC with lower chargepipe, GFB N55 diverter valve upgrade, #AR-Design N55 catted downpipe with ceramic coating, Maddad midpipes, Hartge quad-exhaust outlet silencer, 42 Draft Designs O2 sensor spacer, Dinan High Capacity oil cooler, Burger Motorsports oil catch can, JB4 ISO 5.9 with flex fuel wires - Map 6, Dimple Magnetic sump plug, Walbro 455 E85 Low Pressure Fuel Pump, Dinan Stage 3 Performance Engine Software map, VAC Motorsports N54 oil pan baffle

    TRANSMISSION Standard six-speed manual transmission, Burger Motorsports modified clutch valve, Burger Motorsports Short Throw clutch stop, Quaife 3.08 helical LSD, VAC Motorsports finned differential cover (clear anodised), Dimple Magnetic transmission plug (x2), Turner Motorsport Delrin differential bushings, E46 M3 transmission bushings

    CHASSIS 8.5x18” ET45 (front) and 9.5x18” ET62 (rear) #APEX-ARC-8-Hyper-Black wheels with 235/40 (front) and 265/35 (rear) Hankook Ventus RS-3 tyres, #Apex / #Apex-ARC-8 wheel stud conversion kit, #Project-Kics open-ended lug nuts, BMW E9x M3 strut tower brace, E92 M3 front and rear sway bars, E92 front upper and lower control arms, E92 rear upper control arms, E9x M3 rear lower camber link kit, Ohlins Road and Track dampers with E82 135i 7” 60Nm/MM Swift Springs (front) and E82 1M 9” 120Nm/MM Swift Springs (rear), Swift Thrust Sheets, Ohlins rear damper adjuster extenders, #Vorschlag camber plates, #Dinan-Racing adjustable rear toe arms, #Dinan Monoball front control arm bushings, #Turner-Motorsport aluminium subframe bushings, #StopTech ST60 #BBK with 355x32mm slotted, zinc-coated discs and StopTech Trophy Sport Aerohat hats (front) and #StopTech-ST40-BBK with 345x28mm slotted, zinc-coated discs and Trophy Sport Aerohat hats (rear), StopTech Street Performance pads, StopTech braided brake lines, calipers painted silver

    EXTERIOR M Performance front grille in black, M Performance carbon rear lip spoiler, BMW Blackline LCI taillights, 1M mirror conversion, Hartge dual outlet exhaust diffuser PU-RIM in gloss black, Carbon roundel decals, Philips Silver Vision indicator globes, T10 W5W Amber Chrome side indicator globes, Lux H8 V4 LED angel eyes, Final Inspection Rejuvenation Detail and Full Metal Jacket


    INTERIOR M Performance aluminium pedals, M Performance Alcantara steering wheel with yellow stripe, M Performance gear knob and Alcantara shift boot, M Performance handbrake handle and Alcantara boot, M Performance interior in carbon, M Performance illuminated door sills, Alcantara binnacle cover, JB4 Bluetooth module with Android integration, Precision LED E82 LED interior package, 35 per cent window tint

    THANKS Harold at HP Autosport, Andrew Brien and the crew at SouthernBM
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    FOREVER YOUNG

    A beautiful bronze E21 rocking Ronals, M5 paint and perfect stance. M5 paint, 15” Ronal wheels, individual styling and a stance to die to for; this E21 is without doubt better than when it left the factory 35 years ago. Words & Photos: Michael Burroughs.

    It’s not every day that one can look at a car and honestly say it’s better than the day it rolled off the showroom floor. Nic and Stephanie Foster of Tucson, Arizona, however, can make the claim without hesitation. From E60 M5 paint and Ronal Racing three-piece mag wheels, to a completely custom houndstooth interior, nothing was spared on this car… and that’s just the aesthetics. With an M42 resting under the bonnet and Leda race-spec coilovers suspending the car, there’s little left that remains untouched.

    Most people reach an age where they decide investing hard earned cash into a 30-year-old BMW simply isn’t responsible. It’s not that those who say such things can’t enjoy such cars, but it makes for an easy way to separate them from us. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, you decide. True enthusiasts are a rare breed, and finding someone who prefers to restore the lesser-loved BMWs of the era as opposed to a 3.0 CSL or 2002 Tii is something special.

    Nic Foster, a 29-year-old mechanical engineer, is one such man. Many ask why someone would put so much effort into such a lowly model. “E21s are not necessarily coveted BMWs to own,” suggests Nic. And while he’s right, even when the Hartge and Alpina counterparts do hold some significance and status, there’s little more in the E21 world that brings guys like Nic in. For him, it’s about doing something different. He’s not one to sit back and watch what others are doing – and he’s not alone in that mindset either.

    His wife, Stephanie, has her own ’72 Bavaria. That’s certainly not a car you see hopped-up every day… and with a 3.0-litre with triple side-draft Webers, it certainly fits into that category.

    But back to the E21; its journey began as many others – it was first leased, and then bought in 1981 by Nic’s grandmother. He then received the car as a 17th birthday present from his aunt and uncle 13 years ago. “The car was stock. Regular M10, Polaris metallic paint, sunroof, basic blue interior and automatic,” he recalls. Not one to leave things lackluster, Nic started work with a racer’s mindset: the best coilies he could get his hands on, and an M42 (from the E30 318 – a popular engine swap for 2002s and E21s) were rounded up. After three months of working weekends, Nic’s 320i was finally powered by the 1.8-litre motor and coupled with a five-speed manual transmission.

    The E21 remained like this well into Nic’s adult life. Once the couple married, Steph wondered what the potential for the car might be. While Nic knew that his project wasn’t finished, he didn’t predict that the car they built would one day grace the pages of a magazine and turn the head of every person it passed.

    It wasn’t until ten months ago that Nic’s plan completely changed direction. “From day one it was about autocross. Now I’m more interested in creating a statement. I think cars can tell a story and evoke emotions. What we do with cars is try to make the emotion as strong as possible.” From circuit basher to show stopper, the Fosters decided to bring everything they had to the table and unleash some new life into the E21.

    The most striking part of the car is the paintwork. After a lot thought, they decided on the original colour Steph had suggested; Sepang bronze, sprayed by Photofinish in Tucson. It was the perfect match for the lines of the car. An outstanding change from bright gold to dark bronze and brown reveals itself around the car. But paint isn’t the only thing setting its body off. Nic was quick to get rid of the American bumpers in favour of the slimmer European counterpart, and he also swapped the rear panels and boot floor.

    “My father and I drilled the spot welds that held the floor in and swapped out the floor. It was quite a bit of work, but we got all four pieces swapped over and lead filled some of the common rust areas so the final product was strong,” he says.

    No short cuts have been taken: this 320i is as immaculate as they get. Blacked out bumpers and shadow-line trim, sanded and sprayed by Nic, accentuate the dark tones of the car, something the couple spent a lot of time considering. They went to extraordinary lengths to perfect the trimming on the car, including resealing the windshield with black lock strip instead of painting the factory parts. It’s that level of dedication that separates this E21 from others. Nic explains: “I remember spending hours in the garage with Steph, pulling and replacing the dash and fitting the carpet. She really is an amazing individual – she’s just as dedicated to the car as I am.”

    The mag splits that the E21 sits on are the perfect choice for the car and are an interesting story in their own right. “I found the Ronals for sale and started talking to the seller. It’s not everyday they pop up for sale.

    But when the seller stopped returning my messages, I panicked. I thought they had been sold to another buyer. No matter what I did he didn’t respond. Then, on my birthday, a huge box arrived at my front door. Steph had purchased them for me as a birthday gift – I nearly passed out! How many wheel geeks actually have a wife that buys rare splits for them?”

    Nic and Steph colour-matched the magnesium centers of the Ronals to the body of the car. Widened with Kodiak lips and assembled with custom black hardware, the 8.5x15” and 9x15” Ronals look better than new. Toyo 195/45T1Rs were stretched on to the wheels, matching the custom flaring of the fenders, done by Nic himself with a hammer and dolly. To complete the setup, Nic’s Leda coilovers are wound quite low, with room still left to go. Unavailable in America, Nic opted for the European fourcylinder front end – if only to help let others know that this car isn’t your normal E21.


    Steph’s chance to truly work her magic came when it was time to redo the interior of the car. Originally equipped with blue cloth, the pair agreed to go custom. “Steph is really the one to thank for all the interior goodies in the car,” explains Nic. “She sourced the black door panels and back seat, even the carpet kit. She did every piece of houndstooth on the car by hand, wrapped the sun visors, disassembled the door cards, she even shrouded the rear bootlid in the perfect fabric. Steph also cut and wrapped the A-pillars – I just pressed the gaskets over them.” Now finished, the interior is perfect and I doubt anyone could argue with that. Nic isn’t done yet though. He plans to add a supercharger to get the car in the 200bhp range: more than enough to make it break traction.


    As for immediate plans, it sounds as though Nic and Steph are ready to tackle the Bavaria. Hopefully they’ll build a car of equal caliber but outdoing this E21 will be a serious challenge. A perfect blend of old and new, Nic and Steph Foster’s Euro-converted 320i has redefined the E21 game entirely.

    Not only did Nic’s wife buy the wheels she also helped build it... legend!

    DATA FILE #BMW-E21 / #BMW / #BMW-E21-M42 / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series

    ENGINE: 1.8-litre straight-four #M42 / #BMW-M42 / with #Dinan software, cone filter
    CHASSIS: 8.5x15” and 9x15” #Ronal-Racing magnesium wheels with colour-matched centres, #Kodiak lips and custom black hardware. #Leda coilovers, #Hartge front strut brace, #TEP rear strut brace
    EXTERIOR: Full respray in Sepang bronze, replaced rear sheet metal to Euro-spec including boot floor, European blacked-out bumpers and four-cylinder front end, rear panels and boot floor, shadow-line trim, windshield resealed with black lock strip, flared wheel arches, smoothed rocker
    INTERIOR: Black door panels, rear bench and carpet kit, front Integra seats, retrim in houndstooth fabric including front Integra seats, door cards, sun visors, bootlid and A-pillars, battery relocated to boot, Euro green to red tacho
    THANKS: My wife Stephanie, dad, my aunt and uncle for giving me the car, Photofinish for the respray, stanceworks and the E21 Legion, the Pima Air and Space Museum and Million Air

    An outstanding change from bright gold to dark bronze and brown reveals itself around the car.

    1.8-litre from the E30 fits the E21’s bay perfectly and gives it a bit more oomph.
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