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    IRISH CHARM

    Exceedingly clean and exceptionally well-modified, this supercharged BMW 325Ci E46 on BBS LMs is doing it right. Modifying is one thing, but bringing a car to a better than factory standard is something else; Darren Fennelly’s supercharged E46 proves beauty is more than skin deep. Words: Ben Koflach // Photos: Drive-My.


    This Irish E46 started life as a standard silver 323Ci but in less than a year owner Darren Fennelly transformed it into one of the most extensively workedover E46s out there.

    This wasn’t a cheque book build either. Oh no, much of the work was done by Darren and his close friends. “The build took nine months and nearly killed me and my friends,” Darren explains. “It’s one of the biggest things I have done in my life, but definitely one of the best and most enjoyable, even with all the late nights and hardships along the way.”

    So where do we begin? Well, first things first, it’s clearly no longer silver. The 323’s change to its glorious white hue wasn’t a quick and easy one, either. Darren wanted a really thorough spray over and so the 2.5- litre M52TU, along with its five-cog gearbox, was hauled out of the engine bay, thus giving the painter an easier job when it came to making sure the paint coverage was as complete as possible.


    The engine wasn’t simply put to one side, mind you. Darren had been speaking with Simpson Motorsport in England about getting more ponies out of it. “Simpson put me in touch with European Supercharger Systems (ESS) in Norway, from whom I bought the supercharger brand-new,” he says. “A genius friend of mine and myself installed it in around five hours without any real problems.”

    It’s an impressive bit of kit that uses a twin-screw compressor rather than the more traditionally used centrifugal configuration. Twin-screw superchargers have been used by American hot rods and drag racers for decades and this method really suits Darren’s E46 as it provides more low down torque; peak boost is delivered from around 2200rpm – perfect for his daily driver.

    Using a custom ESS-spec Lysholm 1.6-litre blower and an aluminium-alloy intake manifold, the ESS Stage 1 kit provides some healthy power figures. Larger Bosch injectors, CNC mounting brackets, additional idler pulleys and a heavy-duty drive belt all come as part of the kit, too, and it all works together to provide 7psi of boost along with quick throttle response.

    Although the ESS system is designed to fit with the factory air box, Darren has swapped that out for a Powertec cone filter and once the engine was back in the car, also fitted a manifold-back Supersprint exhaust system. “ESS claimed the supercharger would add another 110bhp and after mapping at Simpson Motorsport it put down 276bhp,” Darren reveals. “It is fast, not M3 fast, but not a million miles off either. The acceleration is very clean and it pulls real nice with the supercharger. And there’s a nice little whistle too, just enough so that you know it’s got a little something extra hidden away!”

    Before the engine was put back in, mind you, Darren cleaned it right up, and did the same with the gearbox, while also renewing the oil filter, rocker cover gasket, spark plugs, belt tensioner and sub-engine protection unit, as well as the clutch.

    Various components, from the washer bottle top to the ECU cover were then painted gloss black, and that’s before we even get to the carbon fibre that’s been added. Darren really has been thorough and the result is a truly stunning-looking engine bay.


    Coming back to the body, you’ll probably have spotted that the colour isn’t the only thing that changed. Darren also purchased a #Reiger M3-style front bumper and side skirts, as well as an M Tech rear bumper which he modified to sit level with the Reiger bits – a subtle touch that makes a world of difference. A CSL-style addition to the bootlid looks spot-on, as do the partsmoked LED rear tail-lights and smoked indicators all-round. More carbon fibre additions come in the form of a rear diffuser and kidney grilles, while a similar level of attention to detail has gone in to the exterior as the engine.


    Every clip, bracket, mount or fastener has been replaced with items from the dealer, as have many other items of trim, including the under arch liners and also the brake lines. The underside was also extensively cleaned and repainted. “We started off with a simple plan but got carried away!” laughs Darren.

    You name it, it’s been either replaced, renewed or repainted. The entire rear subframe was dropped out of the car, for example, enabling it and the area from which it was removed to be lovingly rubbed down and repainted. All the bushes were replaced, including the four subframe bushes, and Turner Motorsport limiters were fitted to the rear trailing arm bush carriers. The springs and shocks were binned in favour of #KW Variant 2 coilovers, offering Darren the adjustability he was after without being a harsh full-on race setup.

    With the extra power under the bonnet, you won’t be surprised to hear that the brakes have seen quite a substantial upgrade. Up front, 330mm grooved discs are clamped by AP Racing four-pot calipers, while the standard rear discs have been renewed and are accompanied by M3 calipers, which have had new pads fitted and been painted red to match the APs. Feeding these with the necessary fluid they need to operate is a set of braided hoses. The rolling stock is one of those additions that just seem to make this car, and rightly so. Many E46s sport replica BBS LMs, and in some ways we can understand why – they look good and go well with the E46 shape.


    However, any kind of replica wheel just wasn’t going to cut it for Darren’s project, and he managed to source a set of genuine staggered 19” LMs. Darren wanted them to be absolutely perfect, so they were sent to Nu-Luk Wheels in Carrickfergus. Every single nut and bolt was removed, with the dishes, barrels and faces coming apart for attention. The dishes were stripped of the lacquer they’d previously worn by a machine lathe, following which they were polished to an extremely high standard. The centres were then taken right back before being powdercoated gold, lacquered and built back up.

    Measuring 8.5” wide up front and a chunky 10” out back, the wheels not only look the business but mean that Darren is able to get a much bigger rubber footprint down for more grip at both ends. To that end, he’s fitted grippy 235/35 front and 265/30 rear Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres, which look absolutely perfect.

    Our final stop on our tour of Darren’s E46 is the interior – and what an interior it is. Much like the rest of the project, Darren’s approach is far from shy. The whole lot was essentially gutted, making things a little easier for the retrimmers, who were tasked with covering the lot in sumptuous red Nappa leather – not before Darren had added an OEM black carpet in place of the original grey one, mind you. The parcel shelf was also given a covering of black alcantara, while much of the plastic trim was replaced with black parts from the OEM catalogue, or repainted black. OEM mats and a selection of M goodies almost complete the spec, and it’s worth noting that Darren also renewed every single nut, bolt, washer, clip and bracket in the process. The cherry on the top of the awesome interior is the dash, which has been flocked for a motorsport feel and has benefited from a trio of gauges monitoring the boost, oil pressure and voltage. The factory dials have also been changed to white to match this trio, which is a neat touch.

    Truly unrecognisable as an early E46, Darren’s 323Ci is a real stunner. So thorough is his reworking that his Three looks and feels like something that’s just left the factory. Attention to detail like this is not seen often – no stone has been left unturned, and we’d happily go as far as saying it’s one of the best E46s in Ireland – or at least from what we’ve seen. Considering the enormous makeover the car’s had, to do it all in just nine months is amazing and just goes to show that you can do whatever you like with a bit of help from your friends.

    DATA FILE #BMW-323Ci-E46 / #BMW-323Ci / #BMW-E46 / #BMW / #BMW-323Ci-Supercharged-E46 / #BMW-323Ci-Supercharged / #M52/ #BMW-M52 / #M52-Supercharged / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E46 / #ESS / #BMW-325Ci / #BMW-325Ci-E46 / #BBS-LM / #BBS /

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.5-litre straight-six #M52TUB25 , #ESS-TS1 supercharger kit including inlet manifold and larger injectors, #Powertec air filter with custom heat shield and air intake hose, #Supersprint manifold-back exhaust system, ECU remap by #Simpson-Motorsport , carbon fibre rocker cover and fuel rail cover, custom ESS decal for rocker cover, chrome oil filler cap, new OEM: fuel filter, oil filter, rocker cover gasket, spark plugs, belt tensioner, sub-engine protection unit. Black painted: front air intake unit, ECU cover, expansion tank cover, battery unit box and more. Standard five-speed manual gearbox, ST1 short shifter, new OEM: clutch, flex disc, gearbox mounts.


    CHASSIS: 8.5x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) #BBS LMs fully rebuilt with powdercoated gold centres and polished dishes, shod in 235/35 and 265/30 Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres respectively. #KW-Variant-2 coilovers, new OEM: wishbones, bushes, track rod ends and all nuts, bolts and washers. #Turner-Motorsport RTAB limiter kit fitted, all components cleaned and repainted including underside of shell, new jacking rubbers. #AP-Racing front brake kit using four-pot calipers and 330mm grooved discs, new OEM rear discs and M3 calipers painted red, new brake lines with braided flexi-hoses, new OEM handbrake shoes, Ferodo brake fluid.


    EXTERIOR: Full respray in white with a black roof, #Reiger M3-style front bumper and side skirts, Reiger front splitter, CSL-style rear spoiler, customised M Sport rear bumper, carbon fibre kidney grilles, carbon fibre diffuser, carbon fibre badges, smoked front and side indicators, LED rear light units with smoked indicators and reverse lights, new OEM foglights and surrounding M-tech mouldings, new OEM arch liners, new OEM brackets and clips throughout, new factory stickers throughout.

    INTERIOR: Full retrim in red Nappa leather, parcel shelf retrimmed in black alcantara, full black OEM carpet, most of remaining trim replaced with new black components or new grey components sprayed black, ST1 footrest and pedals, new OEM door and boot rubbers, M Sport gear knob and handbrake handle, new OEM floor mats, flocked dashboard, custom gauge pod (also flocked) holding Stuart Warner 52mm boost, oil pressure and volt gauges, white Lockwood dials, new OEM speakers all-round
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    TUNED E82 135i

    Small and Mighty You wouldn’t think it, but this subtle looking 135i happens to be packing around 450hp.
    Cornwall-based Matt White turned an already fast 135i M Sport Coupé into a brutal M3 beater. Here’s how he did it.

    There was a suitably dramatic atmosphere when we went down to see Matt White’s beastly 135i M Sport Coupé in Cornwall. It was the wettest start to the year for decades, howling winds were uprooting trees and damaging property, and the original shoot location had to be abandoned due to coastal flooding. I say suitably, because there’s something very dramatic about this modified 135i, which now kicks out 450hp-144hp more the standard model. Matt’s choice of a 1 Series might seem puzzling when you look at the car history that preceded it.

    After a series of hot hatches, he’s owned some seriously fast cars: a Porsche 996, Audi S5, and BMW M3s in both E46 and E90 flavours. To go from something like a V8 M3 to a 135i seems like a downgrade on paper, so why do it? “I thought I was getting a bit too grown up! I wanted something that popped and banged again, and had turbo noises. Something a bit fun,” he says. He’d also heard how tuneable the twin-turbocharged N54 3.0-litre straightsix can be, and there was no way his next car would stay standard. “I like putting my own stamp on things.

    I don’t really think I should be driving around in a car that anyone else can just go and buy from a car dealer. I’m enthusiastic about cars, I like being individual, I like to modify them,” he explains. The base car he sourced was a good starting point. It had reasonably low mileage, had the wheels nicely sprayed in gloss black, and had a set of six-pot Brembo brake callipers with BMW Performance discs. “I’m a firm believer in not sticking loads of power in unless you’ve got the anchors to stop it!” he laughs. It also had decent amount of power compared to a standard 135i, with a 380hp remap via a JB4 ECU from US firm Burger Tuning. Looking to the ‘States to modify the turbocharged ’six is a common choice, as Matt explains: “Not many people in England change these cars, but in America they seem to be all over it.”

    The JB4 is a versatile thing to have, too. It allows the driver to choose what map to set the car on, from the standard power output upwards. How far up is dependent on what other modifications are present. Matt had his eye on a number of parts to get the sort of power he was after, so a trusted local BMW specialist where a friend of his works was chosen to carry out the work. Matt was impressed by the good reviews of Burger Tuning over other US firms such as Cobb, so promptly ordered one of Burger’s dual cone filter units. To further help the car breathe, a set of decat downpipes went on. There was no way he was going to trust the standard valves with the big increase in boost pressure, so these were ditched in favour of Forge recirculating valves. Gear shifting speeds, meanwhile, were aided with the fitting of a Burger clutch stop and clutch delay valve.


    The exterior was standard, but Matt wanted it to reflect the firepower underneath, something he did with a plethora of effective modifications. The ride height was dropped courtesy of a set of Eibach springs, a front splitter was added and the boot was treated to a subtle BMW Performance spoiler. The most noticeable change is at the rear, where a Reiger carbon fibre diffuser was fitted, with a quad exit exhaust replacing the standard car’s twin-exit unit. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. They say bad things come in threes, and that was certainly the case in one stage of the project. A misfire under heavy acceleration was the first and a tiresome investigation finally uncovered the cause: a faulty spark plug. Easy enough to change, but then the next issue reared its head: the serpentine belt snapped. Matt was 40 miles from home, but just managed to get back on a single charge by turning off all electrical items. Replacing it was a pain that involved dismantling the front of the car, and then problem number three arrived. When braking in the wet while out for a drive, the car just went straight on, clouting a kerb in the process. Fortunately, the only damage was a bent track rod end, which was easy and cheap to replace – despite the irritation caused by the car being out of action while waiting for the replacement part to arrive. Matt initially thought spilt diesel was to blame, but after researching the Federal 595EVOs that came fitted to the car, he concurred that the boots were the likely cause – it turns out they’re notoriously bad in the wet. Matt’s since swapped them for Goodyear Eagle F1s, which haven’t skipped a beat.

    The car was put on the rollers for a session to see how much power it could now crank out. The result? With the turbos running at 15.5psi, the result was 430hp. It’s now even higher than that. A Forge frontmounted intercooler has since gone in, and while it’s yet to go back on the rolling road, Matt estimates that the power should now be at more like 450hp. That’s not far off a 50 per cent increase over the standard car’s power. The results are profound; this is a seriously quick car. It has not only enough power to easily blow away the limited-run 1M, but also enough to outgun its V8 M3 big brother. “With the sort of power it’s at, it’s an absolute license killer. The back end is so lively, if it didn’t have traction control I’d be dead by now!” Matt laughs. On the subject of traction control, Matt is realistic, he’s doesn’t shun electronic aids and understands the part they play on modern, powerful cars. “The traction control system is good on BMWs, they give you a bit of slip and it’s not killing the fun. It lets you play.” The beauty of having the steering wheel switchable mapping feature of the JB4 is he can tailor the power output to his needs, should the conditions be unsuitable for the full dollop of power. He has become used to the full dose, however, so the standard map now feels tame: “At 306hp now it feels like it’s not even moving!”


    With an E90 320d Touring as a company car, Matt’s 1 Series can be saved for the fun side of driving; be it trips to Castle Coombe for track days and Santa Pod for quarter-mile blasts, meeting up with fellow car nuts, or just driving for enjoyment. As far as the future goes, Matt needs to get all that power down effectively, something which a limitedslip differential should sort. “I’m at the point where if it’s wet, in fourth gear if you floor the throttle it’ll spin. In second gear if it’s dry it’ll just light the rear wheels up. I’ve got to get a better differential. It’s hard to do on it because the ring gear is welded to the diff.” Matt is looking at a Quaife item, but with it being such a big job, it’s something Matt’s held off on for the time being. Once that’s finally done though, even more power is planned. A liquid methanol injection system, again from Burger, will take the power up to 490hp, the limit of the standard factory turbos. With upgraded blowers, 650hp is a possibility, but with that figure stretching the limits of the engine internals, Matt says that he’d go for a comparatively conservative 550hp, should he go down that route. If that’s something he chooses to do, we can’t wait to see the results.


    TECHNICAL DATA Modified #BMW-E82 / #BMW-135i-M-Sport-E82 / #BMW-135i-E82 / #BMW-135i-M-Sport / #BMW-135i

    ENGINE & GEARBOX: #N54 / #BMW-N54 3.0-litre twin-turbo straightsix, #Burger-Motorsport tuning #JB4 ECU, dual cone intakes, recirculating valves and decat downpipes, #Forge front-mounted intercooler.
    CHASSIS: #Eibach lowering springs
    BRAKES: #Brembo six-pot callipers, #BMW-Performance discs
    WHEELS & TYRES: Standard M Sport wheels, painted gloss black
    EXTERIOR: Front splitter, #BMW Performance boot spoiler, #Reiger carbon fibre rear diffuser
    INTERIOR: BMW Performance gear knob with Alcantara gaiter, hard-wired TomTom satellite navigation
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