- Post is under moderationTALES OF THE UNEXPECTED Wild supercharged E90 M3
Karel Silha’s M3 has been evolving for a few years, getting ever madder and more frightening. As he teeters on the cusp of his next round of innovations, we pin down his green monster to see just how deeply this lunacy has spiraled… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Patrik Karlsson.
840HP E90 M3 Supercharged wide-arch beast
The most fun cars are the ones that do surprising things; ones that subvert your expectations and lead your preconceptions down a hitherto uncharted path. We’re not talking about sleepers here – that’s a well-documented area, and a whole textbook in itself. No, what’s flicking our switch today is the idea of using a novel base to build something devastating. Like when Top Gear commissioned Lotus to build a trackslaying Lada, and the Norfolk spannertwiddlers ended up throwing £100k at it. Or when Volvo entered the BTCC in the 1990s with an 850 estate. These are not the logical cars to choose for such endeavours, which is what makes the whole concept so eminently desirable.
So it is with Karel Silha’s M3. He wanted to build an unstoppable and terrifying car with which to distort reality in the otherworldly and near-mythical amphitheatre of the now-world-renowned Gatebil events, so he chose to go with an M3. Fair play, sound reasoning, we can see why you’d do that But, just for the sake of waving two fingers at the rest of the paddock, he didn’t take the obvious route and buy himself an E92 coupé. He chose the sensible, dad-spec E90 fourdoor saloon.
Alright, we’ll immediately retract ‘sensible, dad-spec’, that’s a moronic way to describe a machine as formidable as the E90 – but you have to admit that the act of deliberately choosing a car with extra doors you know you’re never going to use is something only a belligerent and confrontational person would do. It’s Touring Car rules; you’ve got four doors so that people spectating can relate your car to their own salesman-spec diesel commuter. Karel’s just cranked things up a notch, simply to be mischievous. Oh, those effervescently zany Swedes…
“My first car was a Toyota Starlet,” he explains, which is actually something we hear a lot. A surprising number of skilled helmsmen cut their teeth in that balletic Japanese poppet, it must teach its drivers an awful lot about car control. “I’ve been working with BMWs for about 12 or 13 years now though. My first was an E30, which I wanted to turn into a bit of turbocharged weekend fun. Most of my BMWs have been E30s in fact; the most recent one was making 982hp and 887lb ft on an old M20 engine.”
It’s probably safe to assume that this fella knows what he’s doing when it comes to perving over BMWs then. However, the E90 is a world apart from the E30 (just look at the maths, it’s 60 #BMW Top Trump points adrift), so this little race car project was always going to be something of a challenge, right? No, not a bit of it. Karel’s the sort of chap who just knuckles down and gets on with it and there’s no half-measures here. Allin or nothing.
“I wanted to do fast lap times and the goal was to be quick,” he says, with hilarious modesty and masterful understatement. “With that in mind, there was only one chassis that was suitable for this: the E90 M3. So I bought the car from a friend – it was in really good condition, aside from the engine, which was trashed. One of the rods had found its way out…” But with the plans that Karel had made, a blown motor was an irrelevance. Stock engines aren’t Gatebil fodder. It was always the gameplan to tear the motor apart and beef everything up like Meat Loaf in an Angus Steakhouse.
“Yes, the whole build was fully mapped out from the start,” he assures us. “We even drew up 3D renderings of how it would look when it was finished. The plan was always clear.” Oh, and what a plan it was. With ruthless efficiency and the sort of clockwork dominance of the to-do list that you normally find in school staff rooms, Karel and his crew set about ripping the E90 to shreds and building it back up as an apex-humiliating, spectator-arousing beast.
“In the first year, we dealt with the chassis,” he says. “KW three-way competition suspension, and also a big brake upgrade from Endless, to get the chassis fully dialled-in. We’d initially talked to a local company about our suspension options, and the support was terrible, so we ended up talking to KW suspension in Germany. They answered all of our questions in one email and the support was just above and beyond, so it was a no-brainer to go with KW! They made a custom three-way competition kit for us, and those guys have been a strong partner ever since.”
With the chassis tested and thoroughly proven, the second year of the E90 build threw up some proper mischief. “In year two we did the forged engine,” says Karel, “and then we supercharged it – and this was no off-the-shelf kit, it was the biggest setup ESS could make for us. We ended up with 840hp, and we also upgraded the ECU to a full Motec setup, with PDM [Power Distribution Module], dash and ECU. We fitted a Samsonas sequential gearbox with paddleshift too.” Phew. Time to take a breath, drink in the magnificence of the spec, and just have a little think about our own life choices. Stick the kettle on for some pondering time, we’ll see you at the next paragraph.
Better? We know, it’s a lot to take in. But brace yourselves, as there’s a little more to come. You see, it would have been amusingly stealthy to jam all of this sweaty grunt into a stock-looking four-door shell, but stealth has never been the Swedish forced induction enthusiasts’ watchword. So what you’re seeing here is a searing vision in Snakeskin Green, a Dodge Viper colour no less, and to prove that this build isn’t just about dumb horsepower there’s a frankly staggering aero setup. Just look at the frickin’ size of that rear diffuser, for goodness’ sake! And the front splitter’s big enough to stand a family of six upon, let alone allowing them all to have a little nap on the rear wing. This thing may have enough horsepower to make a Bugatti owner think twice, but it’s also glued to the track by the crushing inevitability of downforce. It’s actually kinda frightening. Another hugely impressive element of this build is just how stock that S65 motor is, aside from the comically large blower. It’s got forged pistons and rods from Pure Performance Motorsport in Australia, and a suitably juiced-up fuelling system feeding through a Weldon 2345 pump (which is good for 1300hp!), but aside from that it’s pretty much as the M Division intended. Talk about over-engineering, eh?
Still, there was a global vibe developing in this Swedish-honed, German-built car with Australian engine upgrades and Japanese interior addenda, so it only made sense for the rolling stock to come from somewhere unexpected too. That’s why you’ll find a set of Work VS-XX wheels under those widened carbon fibre arches – custom-built wheels from Japan. And the rears are a spanking 12.5” wide, which allows for some seriously dirty contact patch. “We wanted a wheel that could match the rest of the car,” Karel reasons, “and Work Wheels were the only choice for a quality wide wheel.” Having hand-crafted his own bruising arches, we’ll happily take his word for that.
“Function over form was the overarching idea,” he continues. “The look has always been secondary to the act of going fast. The chassis’s actually being modified for a Version 3 that we’ll be debuting soon, but yes – the capability has always been more important than the look.” This statement, of course, writes a very large cheque, as the car looks absolutely phenomenal. Thankfully, we know that the setup can cash it with ease. “I’d say my favourite element of the build is all the carbon fibre,” Karel grins. “When you start with carbon, you kinda get the fever and it’s hard to stop! For 2017 most of the car will be in carbon fibre, and for 2018 a new chassis is being built with even more mods and 100% carbon.” Blimey. 100% is a big percentage. We’ll report back as the news filters in.
“It took some five-to-six months to build the first version of the car,” he says, “then it evolved over the off-season; 2015 Version 1, 2016 Version 2, and 2017 is Version 2.1. Just wait – 2018 will bring it up to Version Badass.” We can’t wait to see that. But for now, let’s just bask in the unutterable lunacy of Version 2.1 – the as-yet ultimate evolution of your neighbour’s four-door 3 Series, built to tear up Gatebil and atomise any rubber that may stray into its workshop. The fact that it’s not a coupé just makes the flawless victories all the sweeter. ¬
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Supercharged / #BMW-E90 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E90 / #BMW-M3-Supercharged / #BMW-M3-Supercharged-E90 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #ESS-supercharger / #ESS / #BMW / #Work / #MoTeC-ECU
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 #S65B40 / #BMW-S65 / #S65 , fully-forged, custom #ESS-supercharger-kit , 1000cc injectors and uprated fuelling with #Weldon 2345 pump, #Motec engine management. #Samsonas six-speed sequential gearbox
CHASSIS 11x18” (front) and 12.5x18” (rear) #Work-VS-XX wheels with 305/35 (front) and 335/35 (rear) tyres, #KW three-way competition suspension, #Endless race brake setup with six-pot calipers (front and rear) with 355mm (front) and 345mm (rear) discs
EXTERIOR Dodge Viper Snakeskin Green, wide steel rear wings and plastic-welded M3 front wings – now remoulded in carbon fibre, Gatebil-sized custom wing, splitter and diffuser
INTERIOR Sparco seats, Takata harnesses, OMP steering wheel, custom cluster by Karel S Motorsport, paddle shifters, full painted FIA rollcage
THANKS All of my friends who helped, especially to Tim and Jens, and also all of my sponsors last year and also the new ones for 2017 – it would not have been possible without them
No air-ride here, just air jacks.
The rear view is dominated by that custom diffuser.
Fully-painted FIA roll-cage.
“Function over form was the overarching idea, the look has always been secondary to the act of going fast”
MOTEC engine management keeps things running right.
Sparco seats with Takata harnesses up front.
MoTeC C127 Race Display behind OMP steering wheel.
Custom ESS supercharger kit makes 840hp.
“In year two we did the forged engine and then we supercharged it [with] the biggest setup ESS could make for us. We ended up with 840hp”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.