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    OUR CARS MARK B’S E30 M3

    / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-S14 / #resto-mod /

    As I write this, last week was the first Retro Rides Gathering at Goodwood and a date I had marked in my diary a good few months back. The chaps at Retro Rides always put on a good show, with their August events at Shelsey Walsh being just about my favourite of the year. Goodwood was a first, though, and with a combination of static show and track action it was also going to be popular. There was also bound to be a good selection of classic BMWs, with many having a resto-mod flavour.

    Personally though, I was looking forward to getting my E30 M3 out on track and enjoying all the hard work done over the past year or so. Living in Cornwall is lovely but the only real downside is everywhere being so far away. I could have camped at Goodwood but opted to use Airbnb and find myself a place to stay close by instead. Before leaving, though, I figured I would get local valeters iShine to come work their magic and get the M3 looking its best. Much as I love my car, detailing just isn’t my thing! I also did a thorough spanner and fluid check to make certain all was as it should be, before loading my suitcase and crash helmet, then heading off towards Goodwood. In fact, it was Chichester I was staying at and the journey up couldn’t have been better. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the M3 was in its element on the twisting A roads of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. Being so warm, as I headed through the New Forest I opened the windows and enjoyed the induction noise, with pops and bangs from the exhaust on overrun. It had to rank as one of the best journeys I’ve done in the M3. I arrived at the #B&B in good time and was up early on Saturday, getting petrol en route to the circuit, with the sun still shining.

    Goodwood is a fantastic circuit. It’s fast and flowing, with some double-apex right-handers that really suit the E30 M3. The warm ambient temperature also meant the Nankang AR-1 tyres were at their best and I was looking forward to putting them through their paces. I knew they were good from using them on the street but that simply doesn’t compare to lapping a circuit. On a track day I would have dropped cold air pressures to around 20 psi but this was a sprint format that consisted of a standing start from the pit lane and two flying laps. There was also a second chicane that had been added to the back straight, in an effort to slow things down a little. There were morning and afternoon sessions, with 40 cars in each that were divided into groups of five. Cars were released one at a time, with about 15 seconds between them, so as to spread the cars out on track. Overtaking was also forbidden. The track action was always going to be about fun rather than competition with such an eclectic group of cars anyway. I had a Studebaker ahead of me and a ’60s Ford Galaxy behind, so you see what I mean.

    My first two laps were more about remembering the corners than pushing the limits of the car. Even so, it wasn’t long before I found myself riding the rear of the Studebaker. I backed off, enjoyed the views and once the gap had grown again, nailed the accelerator, enjoying the sound of the S14 revving up toward its redline. I know I’m biased but it sounded glorious. In the past I have always tried to short-shift the gears and get the M3 settled into the corners, carrying as much speed as I can.

    I must say I was incredibly happy with the performance of the #Nankang-AR-1 tyres. The levels of grip were excellent right from the off and they were certainly consistent. My first introduction to Nankang was of a cheap tyre most often used by drifters and, if honest, there was a bit of a stigma attached to the name. It is pretty clear that Nankang have done some serious development and, as a control tyre for the #M3 cup, the general consensus was it’s a very good tyre indeed. It will be interesting to see how well they last, when compared to the likes of the Toyo R888R, but their performance is certainly next level. Yes, they’re not exactly ideal in wet weather but they were never meant to be. It’s hard to see how you could get a better track day tyre for the money, though. The only negative being there isn’t quite the choice in sizes I would like, but hopefully that may change in the future? Anyway, big thanks to Ben Lawson at Nankang UK.

    The M3 runs KW Competition suspension and it felt so planted, really giving me the confidence to carry so much speed through the corners. My previous experience had been with my old #BMW-325i-Coupe-E30 race car but the M3 is in a whole other league. As I passed the chequered flag I was able to scroll through the various readings on the Stack dash display and everything was well within the limits so we rolled around to the paddock and awaited our next laps.

    Whilst sat in the paddock we shuffled our group of five cars around, with the M3 going first as it was the fastest. Now I could really push on without catching slower traffic, although I was also mindful of this being fun and not competitive. As we had a few minutes I was able to take a look at some of the other cars and especially the other BMWs. How about a 1970 1600-2? I love ’02s anyway, but this one belonged to James of JFi Classics in Brecon. James and I have been friends for a few years now and he has put together some terrific cars. This ’02 has a real sting in the tail, with a supercharged #M42 under the bonnet. The registration plate FLY is pretty apt and the whine of the supercharger is phenomenal. There was also another E30 M3, but rather than being powered by an S14 it has what was the first #LS1-V8 conversion. Power is around 450hp so it was always going to be quick. My personal favourite is a car I have known since I first discovered BMWs 30 plus years ago! It’s a 2002 Touring but with M30 3.5 power and triple Weber carbs. It has to be said, this is just about my perfect ’02 specification and a credit to Ian Elliott who has built and developed it over many years.

    As time came around for my next laps, James from JFi’s son jumped in as a passenger, having never ridden in an E30 M3 before. Obviously with such a valuable cargo I wasn’t going to go 10/10ths but after the first lap we were both enjoying the performance of the M3 and all those clichés that have been written for the past 30+ years. The second lap was certainly my quickest of the day, carrying more speed through Woodcote and braking hard for the right, left of Chicane as we entered the pit straight and crossed the finishing line. It was as we passed that line the dash warning light flashed and the Stack display showed ‘Low Oil Pressure!’ accompanied by the unmistakable sound of bearing knocking. I immediately killed the engine and coasted to a halt. My weekend had just taken a nosedive.

    The next half hour was mainly spent staring in disbelief. I had done everything I could to guard against this scenario yet here I was, looking at yet another incredibly expensive engine rebuild. What I just couldn’t understand, though, was why? The reason I had installed the digital dash display from Stack Ltd, was that it allowed me to keep a close eye on exactly what goes on with the engine. The custom rad, larger oil cooler and baffled sump were also fitted to allow the S14 to be used as it was designed to be, on track. I’ve been almost obsessive in keeping watch over fluid levels and temperatures yet here I was with another engine failure. As you can imagine, my enthusiasm for the rest of the weekend took quite a knock so I opted to get the M3 transported back home so that ARM could get the engine out and back to the builder.


    A could of days later Joe at ARM took off the sump and it was soon clear that cylinder number one’s big end shell had spun. Added to that, the rest of the bearings look to have worn prematurely and you’d never believe this was an engine that had run for just 300 hours. What we couldn’t see though, was a reason to explain the failure and without that I couldn’t rebuild and gamble that it could happen again.

    The next couple of days saw me calling and emailing anyone with experience of using BMWs S14 in competition. They all agreed that I appeared to have taken pretty much every precaution and both the ECU and Stack memories confirmed that there were no excessive coolant or oil temperatures, the engine had never been over-revved and the only thing that was shown was a momentary (and pretty catastrophic) loss of oil pressure. It was then that I mentioned that the crank had been subjected to a +0.75 regrind and it is this that seems most likely to have been behind the failure, due to its removing the nitriding that gives the crank strength. In fact a few people have since told me that they just wouldn’t regrind an S14 crankshaft at all, let alone as much as +0.75 and that I need a new crankshaft before I rebuild my engine once again. I also need to replace at least one of the Arrow con rods as the end cap has blued from the heat generated by the spun shell. Thankfully Russ, at JC Racing in Thirsk, has come to the rescue. So there we go. As it stands today (and things may well change between now and your reading this) I have a pretty expensive parts list to fill. I had no idea that the S14 crank couldn’t be reground but as they say, every day is a school day and this was an expensive lesson!

    BIG THANKS TO Joe at ARM BMW, Kirby at C3 BMW Russ at JC Racing, James at JFi Classics Nigel at Moseley Motorsport I also owe a huge amount to my long-suffering partner Claire. I think it’s fair to say she hates the M3 and would rather I sold it and took up knitting instead

    Nankang AR-1s impressed on track. The M3 was treated to a detailing session. Compbrake #BBK great on track. #BMW-E30-LS1 #V8-swapped-BMW-M3-E30 was also on track.
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    PANDEMMONIUM
    Sam Huggins is a clear thinker. He wanted an E46 M3 with the UK’s first Rocket Bunny Pandem kit, he wanted it to be the only one on Squared wheels, and he made it so. It’s a hell of a way to cause a ruckus. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Matt Woods.

    Rocket Bunny E46 M3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “These are definitely the right wheels for the car. I’m the only one running on Squared SD2s”
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    EXTREME #BMW E46 M3 #Supercharged wide-body monster

    ARCH NEMESIS / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46

    DTM FiberWerkz has been behind a couple of wild builds and this supercharged, wide-body E46 M3 is no exception.

    The latest build from DTM FiberWerkz takes the familiar form of the E46 M3 and exaggerates its muscles in all directions. It’s wide, it’s mean, it’s low… and it’s got enough go to back up the show. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Peter Wu.


    The E46 is very much the #BMW-3-Series of choice for 2016; we’re predicting a lot of interesting things on the scene for this generation in the coming months. This is due in large part to its chronological positioning, being neither too new to be affordable nor old enough to be ‘classic’. A lot of people view older cars as a gateway to financial ruin (not always fairly, but these mental hurdles are insurmountable for some), so the E46 sits in quite a happy middle ground – it’s new enough to be reliable and powerful in a modern sense, which makes it rather good value as a used buy, but it’s sufficiently inexpensive, comparatively speaking, for the average Joe to tear into in his garage, modifying with a clear conscience and little chance of an angry call from the bank manager. E46s are where the smart money is right now.

    With this in mind, the aftermarket has this model firmly in its crosshairs, and there are none more enthusiastic about showcasing the thing than Northridge, California’s DTM FiberWerkz. The company ethos is very closely aligned with BMW’s own approach to the development of the E46, which was to take the successful E36 as a base-point and make every element a little better; the bodyshell was 70% stiffer, the suspension was studded with aluminium components, the weight distribution remained as near as dammit to 50/50 in line with core principles.



    DTM FiberWerkz augments this approach by placing the driver even more squarely in the middle of the formula. ‘If there’s one thing more rewarding than exploring the potential of your BMW, it’s discovering your own’ is its motto. And as this latest line in E46 upgrades demonstrates, it’s giving the driver as much of a helping hand as possible.


    “The main reason for working on the E46 M3 body was that aerodynamic parts were lacking for it in the aftermarket,” explains company founder Ary Minassian. “We wanted to design a functional rivet-on flare kit for the M3, as the only other wide-body in production is the GTR which almost all true E46 race cars use, and we also manufacture. We aimed to design something that was the same width as the GTR kit but with more functional and easily installed parts compared to the complete wide-body conversion. These flares would only require paint and external fitting, the four flares giving the same width as the GTR.”

    This makes a lot of sense for race cars as it means parts can more easily be swapped out and replaced when damage occurs, but it’s also a smart move for street applications, providing a comparative ease of fitment that circumvents the apprehension that some owners may have about extensive body mods. Oh, and you can’t discount the awesomeness factor either – it’s hard to deny that these wide flares look pretty badass in situ, taking a familiar silhouette and forcing it through a cartoonish filter. It’s as if the everyday commuter 3 Series on your neighbour’s drive has been shimmered through the paint box of a 1970s hot rod caricaturist, and that’s no bad thing.

    “We wanted to use the E46 M3 SMG specifically, because since we were going to run such wide wheels, tyres and arches, we also wanted to run a supercharger from VF Engineering,” Ary says. “We knew with the power of the ’charger and the SMG transmission the car would have a similar feel to a proper race car, so the go would match the show. The power of the car is right at your fingertips and the supercharger keeps pulling you forward all the time!”


    You can tell from the way that Ary chatters away about this build that he’s no pen-pushing suit – he’s in this business because he’s passionate about the cars, and his engaging and eager persona really accentuates this. The demeanour explains the growth of his business, EuroStopUSA, which was established in #2002 as a performance shop selling custom body kits, wheels, exhausts and lowering springs, mainly catering for BMWs. As word spread and the customer base grew, so the ESM Wheels and DTM FiberWerkz brands crystalised, the latter growing by word-of-mouth and street culture, while ESM developed through offering a unique selection of wheel designs in a plethora of colours, fitments and specs. By the time of this project’s inception, the guys were really on a roll.

    “The car was completely stock when we acquired it, and a perfect candidate for what we wanted to use it for,” says Ary. “We found it listed locally on Craigslist. As we design and manufacture parts, we look for cars with straight and true bodies with no damage, so when the parts are designed and ready to make a mould we can ensure the part will be as close to a factory fit as possible.

    “The principle goal of this car was to design a new option wide-body flare kit,” he continues. “We did face some issues during the research and development of the design when it came to shaping something to flow with the rounded body lines of the E46; we tried a box-style flare, but ultimately came to the conclusion that it looked a bit too square on a rounded car, so we changed the shape to blend with the lines of the body. Shaping the flare kit was by far the most challenging part of the process – because it is a part that we’ll be manufacturing for customers, we wanted to make sure it would fit perfectly on every car, have a good aesthetic, and most of all be functional and easy to install and remove.”

    This all speaks of DTM FiberWerkz’s fastidiousness when it comes to product development, but it’s important for us to remember that there’s more to this car than a set of rivet-on aftermarket arch flares. Just take a look at the interior, for example – it’s a brilliant manifestation of your classic dual-purpose build. The back end is pure race car, it’s been stripped down to its bare bones, rocking a sturdy half-cage and not a whole lot else. Moving forward beyond the B-pillars you’ll spot the unmissable scarlet flash of a pair of Sparco Evo buckets, and then as you swivel your head owl-like through 180-degrees you’ll find that… you’re in a normal street-driven M3. Huh. Weren’t expecting that, were you? There’s a full dash, OEM doorcards, even the stereo and carpets are still in place. It’s like a mullet; business up front, party in the back.


    Moving to the outside, the outrageous aesthetic that’s been achieved by Ary’s team reminds you that the addition of wide-arch flares isn’t just a case of sticking them to the car, dusting off your hands and going for a beer. You’ll be needing some much wider wheels to fill them, and given that you’ve set out to make your car something of a headturner, the design aspect is something to which you’ll need to give some deep degree of thought. In the case of this car, it could only be a set of ESM wheels. But which ones? Ah, decisions, decisions… after much head-scratching and soul-searching, Ary plumped for a square setup of 11x18” 007s in a gold platinum finish, slathered in sticky R888s to further ramp up the overall sense of purpose.

    The fellas at DTM FiberWerkz are, as you’ve gathered by now, painfully aware of the importance of the holistic approach, so when Ary talks about this set of wide-arch flares, it is of course just one element of a broader picture. After all, an E46 M3 with wide arches and nothing else on its comparatively slender body might look a bit odd. So this car has had the full works, it’s a riot of carbon fibre, beginning with the CSL-style roof spun from that magical weave.


    There’s a vented carbon bonnet, a carbon bootlid with integrated oversize ducktail, side skirt extensions and carbon mirrors, and a racy front bumper complete with carbon canards and undertray. It’s not all for show either, these guys are dead serious about the aero efficiency of their products. It keeps them up at night.

    “The car debuted at the 2014 SEMA show in the ESM Wheels booth, where we displayed it with the Version 1 flares and black 11x18” ESM-007 wheels,” Ary recalls. “At the time, the front V2 flares were not designed with the cutout behind the tyres. Many people loved the look of the car, and as it was the first rivet-on flare kit for the M3 we gained a huge international reputation from the show. In 2015 we again used the car at SEMA for the ESM Wheels booth, but this time around we changed the look to its current stage, with gold wheels and V2 flares along with some other carbon fibre goodies. For some reason people seemed to like the current look better!”

    That’s a perfectly natural reaction to evolution, really. Honing and perfecting to make it the best it can be, and folk recognise that sort of effort and tenacity. So, what’s next? A V3 evolution for SEMA 2016? “No, I think this car is complete now,” Ary laughs. “We’ve always got new projects in the pipeline, and we’re developing a lot of new stuff right now, branching out into some diverse areas: Porsche 996/997, Fiat 500, Dodge Challenger… and we’re working on a project that we think a lot of BMW enthusiasts would love to see: a 318ti Compact with a wide-body conversion and a supercharger, which will be debuting at Bimmerfest in May 2016.”

    So there you have it – the smart money lies in tuning the E46 coupé, that’s going to be the big cheese this year. But you’d better get it done quick and right, as you’ll all be clamouring for Compacts after that…


    Carbon canards and rear diffuser are just some of the many carbon additions.

    DATA FILE #DTM #FiberWerkz #BMW-E46 #M3 / #VF-Engineering-Stage-3 / #VF-Engineering / #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #SMG / #BMW-M3-SMG-II-E46 / #BMW-M3-SMG-II / #BMW-M3-SMG / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-Supercharger / FiberWerkz / #BMW-M3-FiberWerkz / #BMW-M3-FiberWerkz-E46 / #Clutchmasters / / #S54B32-TUNED


    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 / #BMW-S54 , #VF-Engineering-Stage-3-Supercharger kit and tuning, #Agency-Power full race exhaust system with titanium tips, six-speed #SMG-II gearbox with #Clutchmasters-Stage-3 race clutch.

    CHASSIS 11x18” ET0 ESM-007 wheels (f & r) in gold platinum finish, 285/30 (f) and 315/30 (r) Toyo R888 tyres, #Megan-Racing coilovers, factory-upgraded discs and pads

    EXTERIOR DTM #FiberWerkz-GTR-S kit comprising V2 vented wide-body flares, Race front bumper with undertray, carbon fibre lip and canards, carbon fibre side skirt extensions, full Race rear diffuser, carbon fibre bootlid, vented carbon fibre Race bonnet, CSL-style carbon fibre roof, carbon fibre mirrors

    INTERIOR Stripped rear, Sparco Evo 2 US seats, Autopower Industries race roll bar

    THANKS Our staff at #DTM-FiberWerkz and #ESM-Wheels , Stan at Toyo Tires, Clutchmasters, James at Megan Racing, Ayed at Kings Autobody, VF Engineering, Sparco Racing

    The car was a perfect candidate for what we wanted to use it for
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    THE POWER OF THREE

    The F80 M3 is starting to show its face on the modified BMW scene and ACM’s offering is a bit nice. This searing yellow M3 is proper movie star stuff. AUTOcouture Motoring’s Sal Benanti has pulled together a stunning build that’ll have you questioning the merits of that M4 coupé… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Matt Petrie.

    Fans of big-budget Hollywood remakes will be familiar with 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven, the star-studded reworking of the 1960’s Rat Pack original. George Clooney and Brad Pitt offer the wisecracking eye candy, Matt Damon is pre-Bourne but stellar, and Julia Roberts finds herself on a sort of rubyencrusted pedestal. But the real sleeper of the cast is Carl Reiner’s character, Saul Bloom. He’s a tough cookie, he’s brimming with experience, he won’t put his name to any half-measures, and his demure exterior belies a certain level of excitement at the prospect of doing something a bit naughty.

    It’s probably no coincidence that Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman shares the moniker, they’re ideologically similar. And a further namesake, save for an errant vowel that we’ll happily overlook, is Los Angeles’ favourite BMW fettler, Sal Benanti. He owns a chain of BMW-specialist tuning shops under the name of #AUTOcouture-Motoring , and what he doesn’t know about cranking the awesomeness of a Bavarian motor up to 11 probably isn’t worth knowing. And he’s a man who knows quality too – he’d never allow a build to get out of the door with his name attached if it had gone off half-cocked. There’s a reputation to uphold, and it stands to reason that a man such as this would drive something that creates a statement to represent his business interests – hence the fresh new #2015 #M3 you’re looking at here. It’s his, of course, and it’s rather splendid.

    What’s interesting here as a starting point is the conscious decision that’s been made to roll with an M3 rather than an M4. Now, most of you will be well versed in the history of the various 3 Series that have an M on the bootlid and a sprinkling of stardust in the chassis, but for the uninitiated, here’s the dime tour: the iconic badge has previously appeared on five generations of 3 Series – the first was developed on the 1986 model-year platform, the E30 M3 featuring a racy 2.3-litre four-cylinder motor. It was near enough unbeatable in motorsport, and road cars’ values are spiralling nowadays.

    The E36 followed in 1992, packing a straight-six; the E46 followed suit in 2000, and then the E9x switched to V8 power for 2007. What’s notable about that generation is that each body style is separately designated – the E90 being the saloon, E92 coupé, and E93 convertible – whereas previous generations hadn’t. An E36 was an E36, whatever shape it was. Why bring this up? Because the latestgeneration M3 isn’t always even an M3. The 2015 evolution of the bloodline, the F80 chassis based on the F30 3 Series, is the sensible cousin to the F82 coupé variant (and, to a lesser extent, the F83 drop-top). But before we drown in a swamp of model codes, let’s get to the crux of the matter: the latter two, the coupé and cabrio, are badged as ‘M4’. In line with the company’s naming strategy, an Audi-baiting niche had to be built – so the M3 still exists, but only in fourdoor form. It’s a conscious and deliberate decision, then, to purchase one. There are two reasons for buying a new M3: either you crave or need the practicality of a more-door, or you’re keen to tap into the heritage of the fabled M3 name.

    Both of these options suit Sal down to the ground. “I’ve loved BMWs since I was young,” he explains. “My uncle had one of the first E34s in the States, a 1989 535i, and I’ve been hooked since! My first ever BMW was a 1995 530i, because it reminded me of my uncle’s car and also had some rare options, and in later years I’ve always had current-model M cars – so when BMW released the 2015-model M3, I just had to have it.” This taps into that keenness for heritage we were talking about – with his name on the logbook of various M-cars in the past, it’s only right that the he should have the latest version. As formidable as the M4 is, it just doesn’t have that badge, does it?

    Now, the idea of modifying a brand-new car may be troubling to some of you. It’ll kick your warranty in the teeth, for a start. But remember that we’re talking about a kingpin in the BMW modifying realm – there are plenty of people who want to enhance their new purchases, and Sal needs to be leading the charge, walking the walk, demonstrating his prowess. He needs to be visible. And he takes that notion very literally indeed… I mean, look at the colour!

    While BMW has always offered a sober palette for the model, there’s also always been a niche selection of hues for the extrovert (look at the E46’s vibrant Laguna Seca blue, for example, or the brave embodiment of gastric distress that is Phoenix yellow), and this is the box that Sal’s ticked with his eye-catching Austin yellow paint. While it may look odd on a context-free swatch, it actually picks out the lines of the F80 in fine style. It looks pretty damned good, we reckon.

    Of course, the best can always be better, and that’s why this project is proudly wearing HRE rims. “The history of the brand speaks for itself,” Sal grins. “Around the same time that I bought this car – brand-new from Paul Miller BMW in New Jersey – HRE was releasing its new classic line, and I thought it’d be a great opportunity to show off a new BMW with a new HRE design.” So the M3 is now wearing the frankly gorgeous HRE 303M in an arch-squeezing 20” diameter – staggered, natch, with a sturdy nine inches of girth up front, the tail packing ten-and-a-half. We know, though, what happens when you whack bigger wheels on to a stock suspension setup – arch gaps galore – so, as you’ve no doubt guessed, something’s been going on in the suspension area. Specifically, we’re looking at a KW Clubsport coilover setup. “I went for two-way coilovers, because the car sees both street and track use,” Sal explains. Remember what we were saying about him walking the walk? Yeah, he tears down and reworks brand-new cars – and he tracks them too.

    Why the hell not, eh? You only live once. The M3 is a phenomenally accomplished piece of kit in stock form, that goes without saying. You’d have endless fun with an unmodified car and possibly may never wish for more – when you’re looking down the barrel of 430-odd horsepower, the 0-62mph dash despatched in four seconds plus change, carbon-ceramic brakes and all manner of other trickery, it delivers on a lot of promises. But once Sal had made designs on the chassis, it was only natural that a few power-related shenanigans would follow shortly after: “The ECU was remapped by Gintani,” he reveals, “and the guys also helped out with the primary cat delete to complement the Eisenmann stainless steel exhaust with its resonated mid-pipe.”

    Aside from Gintani’s involvement, all of the work on the car was carried out at either AUTOcouture’s New Jersey shop or its California counterpart, and the overall ethos has been to enhance rather than alter. The notion is to acknowledge the brilliance of the engineering and find ways to remove the compromises of mass-production, and as such it’s a case of ticking the correct option boxes and then shaking things up a bit. Look at the interior, for example: “BMW did a nice job with styling on these add-on OEM parts, so I went with them,” says Sal. “I typically have an overall plan when purchasing a car, and this one was no different. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, and I feel that AUTOcouture Motoring and myself hit the nail on the head with it! Other than our exclusive P3cars vidi gauge, the interior is all stock; the car came with carbon-fibre trim from the factory, and the seats are great too.”

    Taking stock, then, we can surely agree that Sal’s efforts have done much to work with the already solid base of the nearpeerless M3. That outrageous shade of yellow really flows with the muscular form, and that boisterousness carries over perfectly to the vast HRE wheels, close as they are to arches that find themselves significantly closer to the ground. It’s got the cojones to back up the looks, and it’s so boxfresh that it could be a poster boy for aftermarket ‘New Car Smell’ air fresheners.

    “I have to say, my favourite modification is the KW suspension,” says Sal. “It’s really tightened up the car to how I believe it should have been from the factory. And the looks have been well received too – the first show I took it to was XS Car Night in Long Beach, and people loved it! I received many compliments that day. And if money were no object? I honestly wouldn’t change a thing, I love how it’s turned out. Although there’s always the possibility of upgrading the turbos…” Well, we wouldn’t expect anything less from a man who’s sat himself on the bleeding edge of the North American BMW tuning scene. The question is, would you pull the trigger on buying yourself an M4 now that you’ve seen what’s achievable with the all-new M3? Sal’s naughty yellow saloon certainly makes a compelling case. That badge counts for a lot.

    “If money were no object I honestly wouldn’t change a thing, I love how it’s turned out”

    DATA FILE #BMW-M3 #BMW-M3-F80 #BMW-F80

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.0-litre straight-six twin-turbo #S55B30 #S55 , Gintani remap, Eisenmann stainless steel exhaust with resonated mid-pipe and Gintani primary cat delete, six-speed manual.

    CHASSIS: 9x20” (front) and 10.5x20” (rear) #HRE 303M wheels with 255/30 (front) and 285/30 (rear) Hankook tyres, KW Clubsport two-way coilovers, factory-option carbon-ceramic brakes.

    EXTERIOR: Austin yellow paint, M Performance carbon fibre splitters with colour-matched M Performance lower tray and M4 side skirts (modified to fit M3 saloon), Mode Carbon M4-style carbon fibre rear spoiler, RKP carbon fibre rear diffuser.

    INTERIOR: ACM Exclusive P3cars vent gauge, AT carbon fibre steering wheel trim.

    THANKS: My wife Kelsi for always supporting me, my awesome staff at ACM and ACM West, Tito at HRE Wheels for answering my million questions, Eric at YTS, Armando at #BMW NYC for the aero, Sam and FG at United Collision for the awesome paintwork, the guys at IND-Distribution for supplying some parts, and all of my sponsors.
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    NEW-MATIC #BMW

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With 540 supercharged horses and carbon galore this #BMW-M3-E46 ’Vert is one seriously mean machine. There are few motoring experiences finer than a supercharged #BMW-E46 #M3 , and this brooding beast is one serious piece of machinery. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Nick Williams.

    We could go into Nick Sahota’s car history, but truth be told most regular readers will probably know it off by heart by now as he’s had quite a few features in the past year but, for the benefit of anyone who might not be au fait with his car habits he, in brief, has: owned a lot of cars, currently owns a lot of cars, loves BMWs, loves power and loves the 3 Series. It’s therefore pretty unsurprising that we’re featuring another of his BMWs, and it’s a supercharged E46 #BMW-M3 . Now, we admit that this car no longer actually belongs to Nick, though we often find cars coming into the mag at the point which owners are looking to sell them on, most likely because the project is finished and they are hungry for something new. In Nick’s case he just has a habit of buying cars and then selling the ones that fall outside of his core collection on when something shiny and new catches his eye.

    This E46 M3 was never going to be a longterm partner for someone as car hungry as Nick, but it scratched an itch and was a rather tasty piece of kit with it. “A friend of mine, Steve, owned the car for four years, so I knew it was a good car and the work was done to a high standard,” says Nick. “Steve had to invest some money into his business so I bought the car as I always told him I would if he wanted to sell it. It was immaculate but my tastes differ from Steve’s so I just wanted to bring it in line with my vision aesthetically and enjoy it for the summer.”

    When you have a supercharged E46 M3, it’s very easy to enjoy and this particular example has had some serious engine work carried out. “The engine has been fully built by West Tuning,” says Nick, “and it’s got a VF Engineering Stage 2+ supercharger kit along with 200 cell cats, a Supersprint stainless steel exhaust manifold and a full Eisenmann exhaust system and it’s been dyno’d at 538hp.” That is a shed load of power to be getting on with and certainly fits in with Nick’s love of powerful BMs.

    What’s nice about the VF Engineering supercharger is that the kit is very discreet – all the components are finished in matt black crackle and blend in perfectly with the rest of the engine bay, making this an ideal choice for those who prefer go to show when it comes to their engines. Discreet it may be, but the VF supercharger kit is a serious piece of equipment; the core component around which everything is built is the V3 Si-Trim supercharger, capable of handling up to 800hp, but probably the most impressive item in the line-up is the cast intake manifold with its air-to-water charge cooler system, making this the only chargecooled supercharger system on the market.

    Of course, with great power comes the great need to stop and just keep everything under control. A man doesn’t fit a supercharger and then forget about the rest of his car, though, and previous owner Steve ensured that the brakes and chassis had been fettled to suit. On the stopping front it’s APs all-round with fat boy six-pots up front and marginally smaller four-pots at the rear clamping on to seriously beefy slotted discs. The caliper colour choice is black with yellow lettering, and they tie in perfectly with the car’s mean and moody looks, along with the black, staggered #AC-Schnitzer Type III 19s.

    The Type III is a fantastic-looking wheel and one which perfectly suits the E46, the cut-out spokes ideal for showing off the brakes, whilst still thick enough so as not to appear fragile and spindly. The car sits on a set of top-end KW V3 coilovers with remote reservoirs, offering a huge range of adjustment covering height and individual compression and rebound allowing for fine-tuning and also allowing for a serious drop, meaning impeccable handling with perfect stance. You can’t really ask for more than that.

    There’s plenty of go here, but this M3 is not shy on the show front either and while all the styling additions are relatively subtle, they’re very nice indeed. There’s carbon galore, both inside and out, with a carbon front splitter and aggressive GTR bonnet, kidney grilles, mirrors, carbon CSL bootlid and carbon diffuser adding the finishing touch to the carbon cavalcade.

    Perhaps even more impressive than all the lashings of carbon fibre are the custom front arches and rear bumper and matching custom skirts – the former features meshequipped cooling vents while the latter has been suitably beefed up and styled to suit. The combo is one that delivers a serious visual punch, just the right side of subtle whilst still giving this M3 a pumped up look.

    But, as Nick puts it: “You can’t modify everything and ignore the interior where you spend the majority of your time. For me it was a case of as much carbon as possible and bit of extended leather, along with all the ACS goodies,” and that’s exactly what we’ve got. With so much carbon on the outside it would have been silly to opt for anything other than the carbon trim pack for the interior and it is arguably the best M3 interior trim choice around. The AC Schnitzer goodies mentioned by Nick are that gear knob, handbrake lever, pedal set and mats and the two-tone interior adds a welcome flash of colour, with the Imola seats matched by Imola sections on the steering wheel, gaiters and armrest. As we said, Nick no longer owns this supercharged beast but it certainly made for one hell of a summer fling and a seriously comprehensively modified machine.

    Considering how little E46 M3s can be bought for and how relatively inexpensive they remain even when you add on the cost of a supercharger kit, it’s a wonder we aren’t all driving around in them. But maybe that’s a good thing as it makes the ones that are out there all the more special.

    DATA FILE #S54 B32

    ENGINE: 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 , fully rebuilt by #West-Tuning , #VF-Engineering Stage 2+ supercharger kit, 200 cell racing cats, Supersprint stainless steel manifold, Eisenmann cat-back exhaust system.

    TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, lightened single-mass flywheel, racing clutch.

    CHASSIS: 8.5x19” (front) and 9.5x19” (rear) AC Schnitzer Type III wheels painted black. KW V3 remote reservoir coilovers, AP Racing #BBK with six-pot calipers (front) and four-pot calipers (rear) and grooved discs all-round.

    EXTERIOR: Carbon front splitter, carbon GTR bonnet, carbon CSL bootlid, carbon kidney grills, carbon mirrors, carbon diffuser, carbon roundels, custom front wings, custom side skirts, custom rear bumper.

    INTERIOR: Gaiters and armrest retrimmed in Imola leather, steering wheel trimmed in Imola leather and Alcantara, carbon trim set, ACS gear knob, handbrake, pedals and mats.

    THANKS: Stephan Fitzgerald, Ray West of West Tuning, Dave at Sign Co, Steve at Clean Getaway, Manpreet and my family.

    I just wanted to bring it in line with my vision aesthetically and enjoy it for the summer.
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    RETURN OF THE KING #BMW-F80 #BMW-F82

    The wait is over, the new M3 and M4 have arrived, but are they any good? We’ve driven them, read out verdict here. The arrival of a new M3 is always cause for celebration, but can this new pairing live up to expectations and the lofty bar set by their E9x predecessor? Words: Seb de Latour. Photos: BMW #F80 #F82 .

    I know exactly where to start with the new M3 and M4: the noise. Ever since the first videos of this pair began appearing online, the noise, or rather lack of it, was a big issue that came up time and time again in comments and on forums. But I can finally, and with some confidence, lay that to rest because in my opinion the M3 and M4 sound absolutely fantastic. You have to prod the throttle management setting button until it’s in either Sport or Sport Plus mode to open up the flaps in the exhaust but once you’ve done this, you will be treated to the sort of soundtrack that an M car, and especially an M3 (and 4) truly deserve. It’s hard to actually describe the sound itself – in high gears, at large throttle openings, you can hear the faint whistle of turbos but, from inside the cabin at least, they never come across as being particularly vocal. From the outside, though, there’s all manner of chuffing and whistling that the public will be treated to, though I’m quite pleased that it’s not a particularly big part of the experience for the driver.

    It’s a complex, multi-cylinder soundtrack but you’d be hard pressed to tell exactly how many of them are behind it; there is a hint of six-cylinder, but the overall impression that you get from the engine is one of anger. It has a real raw, rough edge to the sound it makes, an intense sort of growling roar that really knocks you for six the first time you hear it. No words on a page and no video on the internet can truly, accurately convey the rage and ferocity that this soundtrack delivers. And the first time you come across a tunnel and decide to wind your window down, drop a couple of gears and nail it will be a moment that will stay with your forever and leave you wide-eyed and slackjawed; the all-enveloping wall of noise, this blaring assault on your senses is just astonishing, really, really astonishing. That noise, I want it, crave it, dream of it. I don’t care if it’s coming from the engine, the exhaust, the speakers or a dwarf in the boot with a gramophone, I love it. Cast aside your worries and fears because this #M3 and #M4 deliver on the noise front, and then some.

    So, what else? Well, obviously, they are both fast – really, really fast. The on-paper figures are seriously impressive but what’s even more impressive is just how effortless both cars feel. Three figure speeds are achieved with consummate ease; drive either with even the slightest hint of commitment or desire to go quickly and you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of a reasonable pace very quickly indeed.

    Really up the ante and the acceleration is absolutely ferocious; the S55 engine is a beast and the torque it serves up is just as outlandish, it makes the car and its performance so accessible and such a pleasure to indulge in. You have 406lb ft of torque at your disposal between 1850-5500rpm And that means there’s virtually no situation where you don’t have full torque available to you. That means whenever you put your foot down the M3 and M4 hit so hard and just launch themselves up the road. It’s so visceral, so thrilling, a real white-knuckle hit of pure adrenaline. The way you can power out of corners, the way you can blitz past slower-moving traffic is devastating and hugely addictive. You will most likely find yourself using the torque and shifting up early most of the time as the speed piles on at such a rate that there seems little point in hanging on to the gears. But when you do you’ll find that the S55 has a wonderful, revhappy side to its character and delivers its 431hp in a wonderfully linear fashion. You can take it past 7000rpm with ease, the power coming right up to the redline with no loss of urge and all the while you’ve got that howling straight-six storm swirling all around you. It’s really rather special.

    The chassis and steering are an absolute delight, with a pleasant weight and plenty of feel. It never feels artificial or false in any of its three different weight settings and really gives you the confidence to commit, and the M3 and M4 flow beautifully through the corners when you do; neither car ever feels heavy or unwieldy and the vast levels of mechanical grip mean that it’s a formidable tool with which to dispatch winding roads. It encourages you to push hard and rewards you when you do.

    I also love the seats. They’re really a big deal. M3s have always had slightly different seats to their non-M counterparts but I think the last truly dramatic and special M3 seats we had were the E36 Vaders. Until now. Finally, BMW has a pair of seats that step up to the lavish Recaros found in Audi’s RS models; they look fantastic, though the illuminated M logo will divide opinion, and they feel even better and more comfortable with all the adjustment you could want. They’re also incredibly supportive in all the right places and they’re actually lighter than the E9x M3 seats. The seats have lost the extendible under-thigh support, however, though in all honesty it never feels like a shortcoming and I missed it more through posterity than need.

    All the test cars were fitted with M DCT and I have to say it would be my gearbox of choice. It’s actually one of the few options I’d bother with to be honest. I applaud #BMW for making the six-speed manual the default transmission and there will be plenty of customers who will go for the manual but there will plenty more who will tick the M DCT ’box on the options list. I’m sure the manual is a good ’box but, in my eyes at least, the DCT is better and on the fast, twisting Alpine roads I had the pleasure of driving the M3 and M4 on, the gearbox felt absolutely wonderful and made me love it even more.

    It’s not all perfect though. Firstly, you’re going to become very well acquainted with the traction control light because you’re going to be seeing an awful lot of it. And I’m not talking about emergency starts and full throttle second gear corner exits, I’m talking about large throttle applications in third and fourth gear. In a straight line, in the dry, on well-surfaced roads. It happened to me time and time again and while it doesn’t spoil the driving experience, it means that every time you want to put your foot down, you’re always aware of the fact that you’re likely to get a twitch and a stutter.

    Secondly are those carbon ceramic brakes, which are a £6250 option fitted to all the test cars. This was the first time I’d had the opportunity to really give them a workout and I was initially impressed by the near-instantaneous bite and serious stopping power they served up but less pleased with the lack of feel through the stiff pedal. Then, after a hammering on a seriously demanding and very long downhill section of Alpine road, they began to wilt and the brake pedal started to go long, requiring me to press harder and harder to slow down sufficiently for the hairpins. Once they’d cooled down they were fine and it was a particularly extreme test, but I can’t help but feel that perhaps that £6000 might be put to better use elsewhere.

    Aside from those two very minor points, though, there really isn’t anything to dislike about either the M3 or M4. They tick all the boxes you would expect them to and deliver exactly the sort of driving experience, the thrills and sheer joy that you demand from any M car, and especially an M3 or M4. The hardest part, I suppose, is choosing between the two. Performance and economy are identical for both as are the generous and genuinely impressive spec levels. There’s barely anything in it price-wise too, the M3 coming in £460 cheaper than its M4 counterpart. The M4 is undoubtedly the more aggressive car, its wider body giving it some serious road presence and a real sense of menace; the M3 is a bit more understated and subtle, but the narrower body means the flared arches it needs to accommodate the wide track it shares with the M4 seem all the more flamboyant and impressive. As for the actual driving experience, honestly, unless you were able to drive both cars back-to-back on the same stretch of road in the same conditions, you’re not going to be able to feel any difference.


    If you do opt for the Saloon you’re going to be in a rather more exclusive club because whereas BMW expects to sell 5000 M4 Coupés in the UK during the seven-year life cycle that both cars will share, just 700 M3 Saloon sales are predicted. Whichever you choose, you can be confident that you’ve bought one of the finest M cars BMW has yet produced. As for me, I’ll take the #BMW-M3 . No, the #BMW-M4 . No, the M3. No… both…?

    DATA FILE #BMW-M4-F82#BMW-M3-F80 #S55
    ENGINE: 3.0-litre straight-six twin-turbocharged #S55B30
    TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, optional seven-speed #M-DCT
    WEIGHT (DIN): M3 1520kg; M4 1497kg (+40kg)
    MAX POWER: 431 hp @ 5500-7300 rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 406 lb ft @ 1850-5500 rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.3 secs (4.1)
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    EMISSIONS (CO²): 32.1 (34)
    FUEL ECONOMY (MPG): 204g/km (194)
    PRICE (OTR): M3 £56,190; M4 £56,650
    Figures in () denote M DCT gearbox

    Long, low and sleek, the M4 looks great in profile. Bi-colour wheels a £175 option, carbon brakes £6250.
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    ORIENT EXPRESS #BMW-M3-E46-HPF-stage-2.5

    With an Eastern influence to its outlandish styling this 730whp #HPF-turbo #E46 M3 is as wild as they come. Patrick Estudillo’s #BMW-E46 #M3 has enjoyed a lot of different looks over the last nine years, and this latest big-horsepower evolution is really stirring up online controversy with its unique Japanese aesthetic. Haters gonna hate… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Peter Wu.

    It’s a fairly well documented fact that beef and mustard are tip-top partners. A juicy hunk of pink-in-the-middle British beef is exponentially enhanced by a healthy dollop of English mustard. Aha, but consider this… what if you were to remove the yellow dab from the plate and replace it with something green instead – a smudge of fresh wasabi. Eh? Trust me, it works magnificently. A slab of European meat with a soupçon of Japanese embellishment. How very modern.

    This idea, in essence, is what informs the somewhat unmissable M3 that’s posing aggressively before the lens today. Not that owner Patrick Estudillo based the concept on a system of experimenting with condiments; no, he’s blazed a trail that’s now rife in the modifying scene, fusing Western automobiles with the upgrades of the East. There are few cars more staunchly Euro than an #E46 #BMW , but the more you pick over this build, the more JDM mods you unearth.

    Pat, however, is no slave to the scene. He’s been building up to this since he was a kid. “I started into the car scene with my first car back when I was a late junior in high school,” he recalls, grinning as his mind fondly strolls back to the beginning of an era. “My parents handed down to me their BV, and I immediately started doing my research. Being in high school still, the only income I had was an occasional allowance and money received at Christmas and so on; modifying happened slowly, but by the time I reached my second year I had a mildly modified car – I fitted some 19” Racing Hart wheels, full JIC aero, coilovers, exhaust, and racing seats.”

    So far, so JDM. Interesting use of the word ‘mildly’ there too. But hang on… where does Bavaria’s propeller fit into all this? “The E46 M3 really captured my imagination when it was released in #2001 ,” he continues. “I immediately fell in love with it – I knew I had to own one someday! The lines of the car, the aggressive factory styling, and respectable power caught my attention, and I soon became obsessed. I would research about the car day in and day out; by the end of my second year in college, my parents convinced me to sell my car and to wait till I finished school to get the M3.”

    All sounds very level-headed. And by fastforwarding a while into the future, as is the narrative gift of hindsight, we find Pat taking delivery of a manual 2006 M3, #Alpine white on Imola red – one of the last few E46 M3s before production of the E92 began.

    “Many people see it as all show and no go, but little do they know what’s under the hood! The changes in their facial expression when they hear the turbo spooling is priceless”

    “I was euphoric! I couldn’t take my eyes off it,” he beams. “I sat in my garage for hours every day just staring. I admired every line of the car. I would pop the hood, sit inside the car, practice shifting. Pretty much the same feeling as a kid on Christmas morning after receiving the gift that he wished for!”

    So, after all of these years of yearning, was Pat content to get out there and drive the wheels off the thing, fulfilling those fantasies that had been building up to the acquisition of his dream car? Well, yes and no… we’ve already established that he’s got a certain keenness for the aftermarket: “I started modifying it the first week I had it!” he laughs. Over the last nine years, this M3’s seen more makeovers than a stableful of Kardashians, and it all began in that first gleeful week of ownership with a set of Volk TE37s, coilovers, CSL-style bootlid and diffuser, and a custom exhaust. With such an eager start, where on Earth could he go from there? Well, nine years is a long time for a modifier as keen as this.

    “Before long, the car made it to the SEMA show where it received a sponsorship for audio,” he says modestly. “As you can see, the audio has stayed in the car since then. But I was starting to itch for some power at that point and I decided to run with VFEngineering’s Stage 1 supercharger system, and shortly after upgraded to Stage 2 to make a decent 525whp. A year later though, being almost content, I unexpectedly had a run-in with a car that was set up similarly to my car – same wheels, same CSL trunk, same GTR hood, same colour, same interior – in fact, for a moment I thought it was mine and I gave chase! But after a brief encounter I realised it wasn’t my car, and decided that I had to do something to stop mine looking like every other M3 out there. I then set out to redo the whole thing, and began toying with the idea of adding Japanese parts.”

    An incident such as this must be very jarring – having put so much time, effort, care and expense into making your car personal and unique, it would surely come as a cosmic slap in the face to discover that someone else has been singing from the same hymn sheet. A psychologist would probably make a great deal of how one might retreat into one’s shell, regress to the safe haven of childhood and what-have-you; whether or not that theory holds water, the indisputable truth is that Pat was now plundering his youthful experiences with JDM tuning to revamp his BMW.

    The most obvious of such additions sits under the arches: those improbably broad Work wheels (12.5” at the back, no less!). It’s getting gradually easier to source Works outside of Japan – Work Wheels USA is an ever-growing concern; Driftworks can find them for you in the UK – but they still remain a quintessentially Oriental ingredient. Add to this the oh-so on-trend Takata harnesses and Key’s Racing steering wheel and you find the drift scene spilling its juice all over the E46 like a ripe daidai fruit. Perhaps the most boisterous and in-your-face Japanese addition, however, is that colossal, towering Voltex carbon-fibre spoiler with its custom chassis-mounted aluminium risers. “That wing gets a lot of hate online,” he smirks. But you get the feeling he likes it that way.

    Further exterior mods followed in the form of carbon-fibre canards, rear diffuser and a front splitter. By this point, however, Pat was jonesing for more power. You can never accuse the E46 M3 of being all-show-no-go, particularly when you’ve tweaked the engine as much as he had, but nevertheless he was feeling the withdrawal symptoms.


    “I sought out HorsepowerFreaks for its turbo system and ended up with the Stage 2 kit,” Pat nonchalantly recalls. “At that time, the car made around 600whp on methanol and C16 fuel; the feel of the power the turbo produced was almost like night and day – with the supercharger, power was instantaneous, so after a while you sort of get used to the increase and notice it less. With the turbo, it’s always a rush when you go wide-open-throttle and the turbo spools up!” It was at this point in the car’s evolution that Pat threw in a roll-cage and a buckets-andharnesses combo, dove headfirst into the show scene and… well, decided that he wanted to change it all again. Bit of a recurring theme, that, isn’t it?

    “HPF came out with some revisions to its turbo systems and I seized the opportunity by sending my car to it again, having it build the motor and upgrade the turbo to a P6766 with open wastegate. It made serious power after that! Around 560whp on 91 octane, 620whp on 110+ octane, 690whp on 91+ methanol, and 730whp on 110+ methanol. The thirst for power was real, and with the new-found increases, the clutch was upgraded to Clutchmasters’ bronze twin-plate race unit, the axles were upgraded, as was the bracing. With the motor and drivetrain addressed, I then came across a deal for a Flossman GTR wide-body that I couldn’t pass up…”

    Never one to keep things mainstream, even the modifications get modified, and upon receiving the Flossman kit he set about shaving, smoothing, venting, and widening the arches even further. With it all neatly fitted to the M3, thoughts turned to colours. “I love white, but I wanted to go brighter,” Pat recalls, “so the new paint is actually a Lexus LFA shade, white Nova Pearl; a very bright white with a very subtle pearl.”

    This was the time at which the colossal rear wing arrived, Pat taking inspiration from Japanese tuner BenSopra and having custom brackets crafted to mount to the chassis but look as if they’re merely perching on the bumper. The Work rims were thrown into the mix, as was a complex AirREX digitally controlled airbag suspension setup – something that has caused almost as much consternation among the shouting online masses as that wing (oh, and don’t even get the internet started on the perceived weight penalties of all of that audio in a road-racer).

    “The current state of the car is an absolute love it or absolute hate it,” Pat admits. “I’ve received many compliments as well as many criticisms. A lot of the hate comes from the internet, when a picture of the car has been posted – many have said it’s overdone, the wing’s too big, it’s ugly, it’s a waste, and have even gone as far as to throw insults at me. They try to dictate how a car should be built, and how mine is how it shouldn’t be done.”

    But he’s smiling as he says this. The flipside is that for every hater, there’s a raft of fans congratulating him for his out-the-box thinking and flawless execution. “What seems to particularly impress people is the power it makes,” he says. “Many people see it as all show and no go, but little do they know what’s under the hood! The changes in their facial expression when they hear the turbo spooling or the sound of the wastegate is priceless. And overall the reactions are different in the real world – there’s more negativity online, more positivity in person.”

    Of course, these are just other people’s opinions; it’s nice to have the admiration and respect of your peers in the scene, but Pat has always built his car the way he wants it to be. With its mix of big horsepower, unique looks, form-and-function interior and shouty audio, as well as that killer combo of Works and air-ride, this M3 is a true international polymath. German heart, American soul, and enough wasabi to make your eyes water.
    HPF-built engine boasts an insane amount of work, as you can see below, and can make 730whp on the right fuel.

    DATA FILE #BMW-M3-E46 #S54

    ENGINE: HorsepowerFreaks-built 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 , #HPF stage 2.5 turbo system, Precision T6766 billet wheel turbo, ARP L19 head studs, HPF third-gen forged pistons with heavy duty wrist pins, HPF connecting rods, HPF torque-plated head, ported and polished head, HPF diamond-cut cylinder walls, HKS twin SSQ blowoff valves, HKS purple BOV insert, Tial MVR wastegate, HPF ceramic coated turbo manifold, HPF 4” thick x 24” wide polished front-mount intercooler with polished intercooler piping, HPF 3x3 silicon couplers with T-bolt clamps, HPF polished intake manifold, HPF Stage 4 carbon-fibre intake, HPF methanol tank, FJO methanol fogger and pump, HPF stainless methanol line fittings, Stage 2 methanol solenoid and harness, HPF Stage 3 fuel system, Walbro fuel pump, HPF fuel filter, HPF RC 1100cc high-impedance injectors, Denso Iridium spark plugs, HPF remote oil pump, HPF stainless high temp oil feed and return lines, HPF Stage 3 downpipe, HPF open wastegate dump tube, HPF engine management system and wiring harness, HPF factory DME connector, HPF large core oil cooler, HPF performance fan clutch, AEM 3.5bar map sensor, HPF engine mounts, JIC Cross stainless steel Section 2 exhaust piping, Agency Power rear silencer with 80mm titanium tips, Rogue Engineering brushed aluminium oil cap, VRS two-tone carbon-fibre engine cover, carbon-fibre DME cover and ballast cover, Bimmian chrome oil cap.

    TRANSMISSION: Clutch Masters FX850 Bronze twinplate clutch/flywheel, Autosolutions short-shift kit (40% reduction), DSS Stage 5 axles.

    CHASSIS: 9.5x20” (front) and 12.5x20” (rear) Work VS-XX wheels with charcoal faces and hairline brushed finish barrels with 255/30 (front) and 305/25 (rear) Toyo Proxes T1S tyres. Renn Spec stud conversion, 326Power extended wheel nuts, AirREX performance airbag suspension with digital controlled air compressor, threegallon air tank, custom boot enclosure mount for compressor and tank and electronic solenoids, Dixis titanium front strut brace, Eibach adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars, Radenergie carbon-fibre adjustable rear control arms, HPF eight-point chassis brace, Turner polyurethane front and rear control arm bushings, Brembo GT eight-piston front calipers, Brembo GT two-piece 380mm cross-drilled front discs, custom brushed aluminium rotor hats with custom engraving, Brembo GT four-piston rear calipers, Brembo GT 345mm cross-drilled rear discs, custom brake caliper brackets by Oink Fabrications, brake calipers painted green, stainless steel braided lines.

    EXTERIOR: Lexus LFA white Nova Pearl paint, Flossman GTR wide-body kit (including front bumper, front wings with shaved vents, side skirts, rear wings extended 1”, rear bumper), custom front and rear wing vent slits, VRS carbon-fibre moulded rear diffuser, custom-moulded Hamann brake duct covers, Seibon carbon-fibre GTR bonnet, Voltex Type-V 1600mm carbon-fibre GT Wing with custom aluminium wing risers (chassis-mounted), Voltex carbon-fibre front canards, custom front chassis-mounted race splitter, Varis three-piece carbon-fibre race diffuser, shaved side mouldings and side markers, Aerocatch bonnet locks, #DEPO smoked corner lenses, ACS roof spoiler, matt black side wing grilles, matt black front kidney grilles, carbon-fibre front grilles.

    INTERIOR: #Recaro ASM RS-G Ruby Edition bucket seats, Recaro JDM mounting hardware, Takata MPH-340 harnesses and gel foam pads, Key’s Racing Deep Corn steering wheel, #MOMO steering wheel adapter hub, 9K Racing black anodised quick-release hub, custom black suede headlining and pillar covers with red stitching, custom four-point roll-cage (powdercoated white) with removable harness bar, carbon-fibre ashtray and console overlays, OEM Euro centre tray, Hamann aluminium gear shifter, LeatherZ Imola red/black stitch gaiters, Bimmian brushed aluminium handbrake handle, Bimmian brushed aluminium pedals, Defi BF Series oil pressure gauge, Defi control module, AEM Digital AFR gauge, AEM Digital boost gauge, HPF steering column gauge pod, HPF knock siren, HPF race mode switch with key and LED indicator, HPF methanol activation switch, polished fire extinguisher.

    AUDIO: #Memphis-Audio M-class 6.5” front speakers, 6.5” rear speakers, tweeters, 12” subwoofers, amplifiers, 1 Farad capacitor and wiring; custom fibreglass Autofashion sub box, custom plexiglass amp enclosure, subwoofer and amp enclosure wrapped in Imola red leather, blue LED boot lights, custom fibreglass bootlid enclosure wrapped in Imola red leather, 15” flat panel monitor, McIntosh power meter, 3M Dinoc vinyl trim.

    THANKS: My mum, dad, brother Allan, girlfriend Jade, Mike Ma at M2-Motoring, Freddy and Elroy at AutoFashionUSA, Lalo at Dripset, Rob at Oink Fabrications, Marshall at AirREX, Stan at Toyo Tires, Logan at Work Wheels USA, Tommy at GoTuningUnlimited, Hung at Lumion HID and to Team Legacy for all the support.
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    NORTHERN SOUL #BMW-M3-Cabrio-E46

    The combination of M3 and air-ride might seem strange to some folk, but not to the owner of this clean example. Haters will continue to express their displeasure, but bagged performance BMs are here to stay… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Andy Starkey.

    I could start this feature by saying that the #BMW-E46 M3 isn’t exactly a car you’d think would lend itself to an air-ride setup, but considering how many high performance BMWs we’ve seen being bagged of late, it doesn’t really apply any more. I’ve already expressed my love for this #BMW model when writing about the purple example earlier on in the magazine so I won’t repeat myself, but I will say that they’re fantastic cars, fantastic value and in convertible form, have that little extra something that gives the car an additional facet to its character.

    I’m not a fan of convertibles, but you can’t argue that, roof down, the #E46 #BMW-M3 is a seriously clean-looking drop-top and this is a very clean example. It belongs to a young electrician from Lancashire by the name of Matthew Kendall and considering this is his first BMW, he’s done a cracking job on it.

    “I have always been mad about cars. I’ve never been into football or any sport like that. It has to have an engine for me to be interested… or a pulse!” he laughs. Matthew got a taste for modifying with his Astra Sport Hatch and that carried on with the Focus ST that followed but unfortunately that relationship didn’t last long. “Because it was so low the driveshafts were at a bad angle and the torque kept snapping them, and that’s when I decided to go for the M3.

    I had been looking for one for ages, I wanted silver with black interior but I couldn’t find one, they all have red, blue or cream interiors and that isn’t me. I bought the car in November 2012 from a garage in Hutton not far from where I live. After taking it for a test drive I fell in love with it there and then and I knew it was the car for me. The car wasn’t in the best condition but that didn’t bother me at the time, I just wanted to own that M3.” After the problems he experienced with his previous modified cars, Matthew had no plans to modify this one but, as you can see, things didn’t work out like that. “Everyone knows that when you’re a petrolhead it’s never going to stay standard. With the M3 I had the power but I wanted to make it stand out while trying to keep it looking subtle at the same time.”

    He’s not joking: it took exactly one week before he’d started modifying the M3, lowering it and adding a set of red rear lights and while we’re not sure ‘subtle’ is the watchword here, seeing as it’s sporting bright red wheels and air, Matthew has certainly kept things looking clean and OE in terms of the styling. The E46 M3 is a good-looking, muscular car and it’s easy to start getting things wrong if you decide to play with the styling, so the approach of less is more is definitely a good one.

    Matthew got his friend Gary Seddon to smooth the front bumper as well as respraying the front end and some angel eyes have also been fitted but otherwise the exterior has been left alone and Matthew lets his wheels and air do the talking when it comes to appearance. Speaking of wheels, let’s chat about those: “I was originally going with Rota Grids,” he says, “but after looking into them I found a lot of people had done that look on the M3 so I went for the XXR 527s. I wanted something that looked different on the M3 and also had a deep concave look, plus I needed something that wouldn’t break the bank and the 527s were perfect.” XXR might not be a brand that you’d associate with BMW, the wheels seem to be more popular on the Japanese scene, but the company has some good-looking wheels and these are no exception.

    The tenspoke design is clean but with just the right amount of detail to make the wheels stand out and they deliver that concave look that Matthew wanted. Now, coloured wheels are a brave choice, and we don’t mean that they look bad, rather that they’re always a bold look and they don’t suit every car, but here the candy apple red shade that Gary finished them in for Matthew really works against the M3’s silver paintwork and the shock of colour makes the car stand out from the crowd without going down the wild styling route. It wasn’t all plain sailing on the wheel front, though, as Matthew says: “I had a lot of trouble getting them to fit properly, I played around with the fitment for a few weeks until I was happy with it.” It was worth the effort, though, as they sit wonderfully, the stretched tyres tucking up perfectly into the arches.

    That sizeable drop comes courtesy of the Air Lift suspension kit that’s nestling under the car’s four corners and it’s fair to say that Matthew is just a bit happy with the setup. “It’s my favourite modification on the car,” he enthuses. “I was running BC coilovers before but I didn’t want to take it anywhere in case there were any speed bumps. With air-ride you can go anywhere you want and not worry. I fitted it with the help of my mate Jack Darbyshire, it all went to plan, and I did the boot build myself.”

    He’s opted for a straightforward build for the air components, the compressor and tank dominating proceedings, but it looks very clean and tidy, a job well done. The finishing touches on the car are a set of carbon interior trims and a Cobra back box, with some meaty looking tips to enjoy a bit more of that straight-six soundtrack.

    Matthew’s had this car for around two and a half years now and it’s come a long way since he picked it up, and he’s definitely pleased with the results and the attention it’s been getting. “The first show I attended was Unphased in Worden Park, Leyland. The car got a lot of love and really good comments because it was a bit different. I then sprayed my wheels and went to Cumbria VAG where I was more then happy with the feedback.” While he’s happy with his XXRs, Matthew says he’s got his eye on a few other sets of wheels at the moment, and if he had the funds then a set of BBS RSs would be finding their way onto the car.

    As it stands he is planning to change the wheels and having done the concave thing, he’s got his heart set on some dish. He is also thinking about a new interior “to really set the car off” so we can only imagine what’s he’s got in mind, and we can’t wait to see it…

    “With the #M3 I had the power but I wanted to make it stand out while trying to keep it looking subtle at the same time”

    DATA FILE #BMW-M3-E46 Cabrio #S54 #BMW-E46

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 , #Cobra back box, six-speed manual.

    CHASSIS: 8.75x18” ET20 (front) and 9.75x18” ET35 (rear) XXR 527 wheels finished in Candy Apple red with 205/40 (front) and 225/40 (rear) Nankang AS-1 tyres, #Air-Lift air suspension with V2 management.

    EXTERIOR: Smoothed front bumper, angel eyes.

    INTERIOR: Carbon fibre trim.

    “I’ve always been mad about cars. I’ve never been into sport. It has to have an engine for me to be interested… or a pulse!”

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    Retro muscle: M3-powered #BMW-E28 . Daily Express. A finely-fettled #E28 5 Series fitted with an #S50 #M3 engine and six-speed gearbox to boot. With period perfect looks there’s nothing to give the game away that this E28 happens to be packing over 320hp from an M3 engine and matching six-speed gearbox… Words: Simon Holmes. Photography: Laurens Parsons.

    There’s something rather wonderful about a well-executed engine conversion, especially on an older car. The idea of transforming a conventional, run-of-the-mill model from the past into something exceptional by today’s standards demonstrates a unique sense of creativity and innovation. Of course, the real trick is tailoring the package to harmonise together and, truth be told, it can be a tricky formula to nail.

    This E28 seems to tick all the right boxes though. It looks virtually standard in every way both inside and out, yet there are small, understated touches inkeeping with the original theme, such as the wheels and seats. But beneath the bodywork is where it gets really interesting. Supplying the power is a 3.2-litre S50 engine from an E36 M3 Evo, producing over 320hp, and it’s coupled to a modern six-speed gearbox. With a mix of modified M parts and upgraded underpinnings to match, the 1980s 5 Series is brought firmly up-to-date and for the owner, James Cherrington, it also makes for an ideal daily driver and family car.

    James is the man behind JFI Classic Cars, a successful restoration business that specialises in BMWs. James appeared in this magazine before when we featured his 2002 back in September 2013. Although James’ beloved classic BMW was thoroughly modernised with fuel injection and uprated running gear, the stiff ride, roll-cage and lack of rear seats had made it whole lot less usable than he had intended for it to be. James soon found he couldn’t enjoy the car with his family and, not long after the feature, he decided to sell it.

    This left a project car-sized hole in his life and it was James’ wife who proposed the idea of trying a different route next time around. “She suggested building a car I could take the whole family out in, “ tells James. “Something more comfortable that I could use every day but still have some fun with or even take on track if I wanted to.” The concept appealed to James but with a taste for older BMWs he wanted something a little different to the average modern-day mile-muncher. Fortunately he didn’t have to look particularly far for the project base car as the ideal candidate just happened to be waiting patiently in his barn: an E28 528i.

    Being a man firmly in touch with the classic #BMW scene James had purchased the standard and original car around three years ago for no other reason than it was cheap and in very good condition. “I wasn’t looking for one, I just saw it advertised and it looked very clean. So I phoned the owner and bought it. I had it collected and delivered to me without even seeing it. It was almost a spur of the moment thing really,” tells James. The tidy Five was then, rather unceremoniously, stored in the barn for safekeeping until the right time presented itself. It spent the next year or so there but when the 2002 was sold, James knew it was time to bring the car out of hibernation.

    Whilst the E28 formed a firm footing for the project, the other key ingredients were still to be determined but then James had a brainwave. He’d previously owned various other BMWs, including a fine example of an E36 M3 Evo, and although it was perhaps a little too new for his liking the car made quite an impression. “I loved the combination of that engine with that gearbox,” he recalls. “So I decided it was a good idea to put that package in the 5 Series. It also seemed like a cheap way to more power. Where else could you get over 320hp for the money?”


    With a plan now gathering pace the hunt began for a suitable M3 to harvest the engine and gearbox from. After some searching for a bargain buy, James came across what seemed like the ideal donor in a cheap convertible. He promptly rushed up to see the car and, in doing so, made a grave error that actually worked out rather well for him! “The car was a quite a few miles away but I was in such a rush to see it I didn’t even think to ask if it was a manual!” he says. “When I got there I saw it was an SMG I said to the owner that I was sorry for wasting his time as it wasn’t what I was looking for.” However, keen to sell the car quickly, the owner asked James what he was prepared to offer him anyway. Although he didn’t really want the car at this point James gave a lowball figure and the seller ended up accepting. The hard top roof and remaining tax and MoT further sweetened the deal.

    The last piece to the puzzle was yet another donor car, this time a cheap E34 520i, which would yield a few essentials for the conversion, such as the sump and pick-up pipe. With the cars then stripped of their appropriate parts James gave the S50 M3 engine a thorough freshen up by treating it to new gaskets, oil and water pumps and uprated con rod bolts. The SMG transmission was retained but sent off to be converted over to manual engagement, as only the clutch and gear change operation are different. “It also made sense as I knew the gearbox hadn’t had a hard life having never been over-revved or crunched,” tells James.

    Bolted together and fitted with the correct sump it was then a matter of sliding the refreshed combo in the awaiting E28 shell. Unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as it sounds. “I thought it would be easier than it was. The gearbox was bigger than I realised and that proved to be a problem as I wanted to keep the transmission tunnel standard,” admits James. “So a lot of work went into mounting the engine and gearbox as low as possible to give clearance at the top the tunnel. It’s a little lower than I wanted really and the engine mounts are perhaps stiffer than I would have liked but it fits in there nicely now.”

    A custom-made exhaust system was fabricated for the car and Dave at Astbury Motorworks made a great job of the wiring as James wasn’t used to that side of things, having dealt mainly in simpler 2002s! A Walbro fuel pump was fitted in the existing tank to supply the fuel and a single-mass flywheel conversion installed to improve response and reduce weight. Once the engine and gearbox were in position James turned his attention to the rest of the car. Wanting a firm but comfortable ride and careful not to follow the same route as his previous 2002, #GAZ-Gold coilovers were installed as a way to allow the ride height and comfort levels to be easily altered when required. “I couldn’t run it too low for the road but this way I could still adjust it for track use. It’s also polybushed on Powerflex Black Series track bushes. I did try the yellow ones but it was too soft and there’s surprisingly little noise or vibration from them,” James says. He also used his superior brand knowledge when it came to the rear trailing arm bushes, which are now fitted with the items from a 3.8-litre E34 M5. “These were one of very few BMWs to use spherical bearings. They don’t use any rubber and required a bit of machining to make them work as they are an interference fit but they are really good and work even for this as a road car,” James adds.

    The brakes to complete the package are also from an E34 M5, both front and back, but these were subjected to a full rebuild and overhaul by James before fitting.

    With the hidden underpinnings firmly in place it then came to the finishing touches elsewhere. James’s approach was very much ‘less is more’. “I didn’t want anything on display. It’s not that I particularly wanted to build a sleeper, I just like the look of these cars as they are so I left it as it was. The plus side is that people don’t tend to realise what it is,” James explains.

    The wheels were one thing that had to be changed as the original metric items didn’t provide many tyre options, so James sourced these perfectly-suited 16-inch Style 5 replacements wrapped in a modern and grippy tyre. “I wanted it to look like a standard car so these were ideal. It’s hard to tell they aren’t original really and the tyres are excellent, which helps as they are only 235mm wide,” says James.

    For the last few remaining parts James then bought himself yet another donor car in the shape of a tired E28 525e. The car happened to have a few hard-tofind parts that would suit the project perfectly, such as the rare large-case LSD and interior trim. “I basically bought the car just for the sports seats, which are very rare and must have been an option. They were mint and even the right colour, too! The Germanmade #VDO gauges are from a 1980s Audi. I like them as they just look right. Other than that it’s all standard inside. It was a well-spec’d car anyway with an electric sunroof, rear blinds and ABS.”

    The project took about two years to finish as James only worked on the car when he could afford the time, as spare time is virtually non-existent in his line of work. He has since covered around 2000 miles in the car and drove it through the winter, proving its practicality. “The kids and wife love it and it drives like a normal car still. The only problem it had was a small electrical issue when I first got it running where the reverse switch was connected to the wrong sensor so the reverse lights came on in sixth gear! Other than that it’s been good really, but it was always going to be right as it’s been built properly,” James relates.

    James reports the S50 engine works well in the shell and the performance it offers can’t be beaten as a package, especially when the other options are taken into consideration. “It looks at home in the engine bay and it was much cheaper than modifying an M50 to make the power. The S38 M5 engine was an option but it’s a little long in the tooth now and the S50 is reasonably cheap to buy and offers good value. It’s a versatile engine, too, and I like the way they drive. The car goes a lot like an E36 Evo as it’s the same sort of weight and it puts the power down really well,” he says.

    But whilst the engine was a good idea James admits that the six-speed gearbox was perhaps more effort than it was worth in some ways: “Looking back, it was a lot of work for not that much gain really. If I were doing it again I’d use the five-speed to avoid the trouble it caused. I never thought about changing it though as once I was committed I wanted to finish it.” Despite James’ otherwise obvious delight with the #E28 he says it may soon be up for sale in order to make space for another family car he’s also been building up slowly on the side, this time a rather special 2002 Touring that’s nearing completion. There’s also a supercharged 2002 track car on the way and if either turn out anything like his previous cars then there’s a good chance we will be seeing more of him soon…

    CONTACT:
    JFI Classic Cars
    Tel: 07966 440609
    Web: www. jficlassiccars. co. uk


    “The car goes a lot like an E36 Evo as it’s the same sort of weight and it puts the power down really well”
    Interior is virtually just as BMW intended, although sports seats were a rare find, especially as they happened to be finished in the same colour!

    DATA FILE BMW E28 S50 engined

    ENGINE & GEARBOX: 3.2-litre #S50B32 and six-speed gearbox from E36 M3 Evo, custom-made stainless exhaust system, Walbro fuel pump, standard radiator.

    CHASSIS: GAZ Gold coilovers, adjustable top mounts, Powerflex Black Series bushes, E35 M5 rear trailing arm bushes, 3.64 large case differential with factory LSD option.

    BRAKES: E34 M5 discs and callipers all round with uprated vented rear discs.

    WHEELS & TYRES: 16-inch Style 5 alloy wheels with Toyo tyres.

    INTERIOR: Recaro Sports seats, VDO additional gauges.

    EXTERIOR: Standard.

    THANKS: Dave at Astbury Motorworks for the wiring.

    Style 5 wheels were chosen as they look very much like the original metric items. The new wheels are wrapped in much stickier Toyo tyres and James reports it puts down the power very well.
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