- Post is under moderationThis E36 M3 R is one of the rarest of the rare, but that didn’t stop one owner beefing it up to be a full-on track terror. Words and photos: Chris Nicholls.
FULL-ON BMW-E36 / BMW-M3 R Hardcore Australian special
GYM JUNKIE UNICORN Ultra-rare E36 M3 R from Oz
Just 12 E36 M3 Rs were made available to the public back in the mid ’90s by #BMW Australia. Built, as some of you may know, to be the ultimate non-GTR E36, the cars were basically Group N racers for the road. They came with full Motorsport Group N suspension, a tweaked engine putting out 325hp (more than any E36 M3 other than the GTR), AP Racing four-piston brakes all-round, the full M3 GT bodykit, plus Super Tourer wing and extendable splitter, and almost all creature comforts, such as rear seats, air-conditioning and fog lights, removed. Developed by the legendary Paul Rosche, then M GmbH’s head of motorsport, and team members from the famous Australian Frank Gardner’s outfit, including Ralph Bellamy - former F1 engineer and one of the men responsible for inventing ground effects at Lotus - the M3 R remains to this day arguably the greatest E36 variant you can actually buy, albeit one that required a racing license when purchasing it new and one that is, unsurprisingly, also climbing in value today.
Which makes it all the more bizarre that this M3 R’s previous owner, Alan Palser, decided to tune it so much there’s basically nothing left of the original car bar the little silver build plate on the centre console. To whit, there’s the DTM Fiber Werkz widebody kit, JRZ dampers with Eibach springs, Turner front and SM Motorsport custom rear anti-roll bars, SM Motorsport custom control arms, Alcon monobloc front and AP Racing rear calipers and two-piece slotted discs, AP racing twin-plate clutch, boot-mounted Speed Master fuel cell with Bosch 044 pump and swirl pot and a range of engine mods, including a very sexy CSL-style carbon airbox, which bring the power up to around 370rwhp. In a car running Hankook slicks on its 11x18” Apex EC-7 wheels, and weighing only 1220kg thanks to being completely stripped and caged, that makes this is one rapid racer indeed. But one that isn’t really much of an M3 R anymore.
So why did Alan do it? Well, there were two main reasons. The first is an all-too familiar story. Having fallen in love with BMWs as a lad growing up in the Group A era, Alan decided he had to have one, and eventually managed to fund the purchase of his third-hand M3 R ten years ago when it had just 40,000km on the clock. However, as one does, he started to chat more and more to people in the club scene and eventually got talked into attending a few track days. And that’s when the bug bit, hard.
“At the time I bought it, I would say the plan was to have it as a road car, but having started to talk to some people in car clubs, they said, ‘Oh, you should come down and join the club and have a go on the track on a club day’. Then once I’d done that a couple of times, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I think I’m going to enjoy this’. So I once I’d done a couple of those, I started orienting the E36 more towards that and less as a car to drive on the road.”
And once Alan started, he found it hard to stop, spiralling down that route we all know of upgrading ever more bits and pieces. “Once I was on that path, it was easier to continue on it, rather than scrap it and go back to a start point again,” he says. Eventually, after entering a couple of tarmac rallies, Alan decided it was time to develop it fully and, having sent it off to BMW whiz Sam Markov at SM Motorsport in Wodonga on the Victoria/New South Wales state border, things just got even more extreme, eventually leading to a wilder state than it is in now (this engine is its second after the previous fully-built and E85-tuned beast blew prior to the sale to its current owner). As for the second reason, that was more to do with the used car market at the time. Although it might seem silly in today’s climate, despite its rarity, engineering pedigree and extremely finely-honed nature out of the box, the M3 R wasn’t actually all that valuable ten years ago. You could pick one up for less than AU$50,000 (around £25,000) and there wasn’t a sense that they would be a future collectible. Hence why Alan says “I didn’t feel like I was totally killing something that was worth a lot of money at the time.” Of course, thinking about it now, he agrees that were he to do it all again, he would have started with a basic 3 Series shell, but such is life.
Eventually, having arrived at a development crossroads, Alan was unsure whether to replace the engine with an S85 V10 or the like, or sell it to fund something like a Z4 GT3. In the end he decided to part with it, which is where current owner and Avis franchise holder (hence the stickers) Les Sears comes into the picture. A Holden man for much of his time in motorsport, one drive of an E46 back when it was new changed his life forever and after that, Les became a devoted BMW fan, building up quite an impressive collection that currently includes a stock E36 M3, three E46 M3s (one road car, one complete racer and another in the build) and an F82 435i daily. Hence why, when he found out this car was up for sale about a year and a half ago, knowing how rare it was and how much effort had gone into it, he pounced on it.
Of course there was still the matter of the blown engine to take care of before he could enjoy it at his local motorkhanas and track days, and given the previous highly-strung motor’s issues, and the fact the chassis set-up was good enough to ensure speed without huge power, Les decided to tone down the new power plant a little in order to keep it reliable. Thus, right now, it runs a completely stock 3.2-litre bottom end, and only the aforementioned carbon airbox with custom trumpets (on stock runners), K&N pod filter, ARP rod bolts, 296º Schrick cams, Vanos delete and Motec M600 ECU as mods. Despite this, thanks to Sam Markov’s nous (Les kept him on as the car’s mechanic, as unlike for Alan, Sam was local), the car puts down 367hp at the wheels, which as we said is still plenty in a circa-1200kg car, and easily enough to keep Les at the top of the time sheets at whatever event he enters. “Everywhere you take it, if it doesn’t win, it’s always second or third. It’s a quick little car. It’s very, very well balanced, and it doesn’t do it with horsepower, it does it with cornering speed,” he says.
Despite its pace and the fact it’s no longer much of an M3 R though, Les has no desire to risk such a rare car (even in its current state) in actual racing, saying “I’m a little reluctant [to race it]. I don’t mind doing the sprints in it, but once you get into a race meeting, I’d hate to damage it. I’ve got an E46 [an ex-Targa Tasmania machine, no less] which can take a bit of a hit and it’s easy to panel beat, but this thing with that body kit on it, it’s quite hard to start rebuilding that. I’ve got a new E46 being built as we speak too, and when that’s finished I’ll put this car up on blocks and leave it there and won’t race it at all”.
Now, given he’s only had the car for less than two years, such a plan might sound impossibly sad, but it’s actually part of a grander scheme to leave it in as good a condition as he can for his son, who also races. Essentially, Les says that he’ll take the M3 R out every so often just to keep it running until his son takes it over, and continue racing in the new E46 once that’s built. “It’s a new shell that we’ve got in another shed with a new cage through it and I’ve bought all the parts for it. I’ve just got to assemble it, basically,” he says. “I’ll do that the same way - it’ll have a 3.2-litre in it, but the bottom end won’t be stressed out and we’ll just get it to breathe.”
Hopefully both cars can see the use they deserve for many years to come, as although Les is now 69, he has no plans to stop racing anytime soon, and that’s the sort of thing we love to hear. If, however, he does eventually decide to give the game away, not only will he have his son to look after the cars, he’ll also still be able to enjoy them in other ways, saying that “I just get a kick of out of being in the shed and having a cup of coffee with the cars… And they’re not as noisy as the wife!”
S50B32 straight-six has been fitted with #VAC Vanos delete kit, among many other mods, and now makes 367whp.
Carbon blanking plates are most definitely at home in the stripped-out interior.
“Everywhere you take it, if it doesn’t win, it’s always second or third. It’s a quick little car”
DATA FILE / #BMW / #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3-R / #Apex / #BMW-M3-R-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #Motec-M600 / #Motec / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E36
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2 litre straight-six #S50B32 / #BMW-S50 / #S50 , #K&N pod filter, custom carbon airbox with OEM runners and custom trumpets, #Schrick 296º cams (inlet and exhaust), #VAC-Motorsports Vanos delete kit, #ARP rod bolts, #NGK spark plugs, #Bosch-440cc /min injectors, Bosch-044 fuel pump, custom swirl pot, #Speed-master fuel cell, Evosport underdrive pulley, Turner Motorsport solid engine mounts, SM Motorsport stepped headers, custom 2.5” stainless steel exhaust and silencer, #Motec-M600-ECU . Five-speed manual gearbox, #AP-Racing twin-plate 7.25” clutch, stock M3 R flywheel, #OS-Giken-LSD
CHASSIS 11x18” ET25 (front and rear) #Apex-EC-7 wheels in Anthracite with 20mm spacers (front and rear) and 280/650 - 18 Hankook slicks (front and rear), #JRZ-RS dampers with #Eibach springs, #Turner-Motorsport (front) and SM Motorsport (rear) anti-roll bars, SM Motorsport custom front suspension arms to increase track by 100mm, #SM-Motorsport custom rear trailing arms, SM Motorsport custom bearings and rod-ends, Whiteline front strut bar, Alcon monobloc four-pot calipers with 355x32mm two-piece slotted rotors and Ferodo DS1.11 pads (front), AP Racing four-pot calipers with 330x28mm two-piece slotted rotors and Ferodo DS2500 pads (rear), AP Racing fluid, SM Motorsport custom braided lines and custom pedal box
EXTERIOR DTM Fiber Werkz wide-body kit (customised by SM Motorsport), custom Topstage Composites front bumper and carbon splitter, #APR-Performance rear wing
INTERIOR Brown Davis roll-cage, short-shift kit, RPM SL S/W Comfort suede steering wheel with quick-release hub, Velo Apex-XL seat, Sparco harnesses, carbon blanking plates for centre console and gauge pod, Racepak displayStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderation’CHARGED Z3 M Track-focussed monster. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Patrick Lauder. From bone stock to supercharged autocross monster, this Z3 M Coupé has spent 14 years becoming the best machine it can be.
Supercharged / #BMW-Z3M-Coupe / #BMW-Z3M-Coupé-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3M-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3-E36/8 / #BMW-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3M / #BMW-Z3M-Coupe-Supercharged / #BMW-Z3-Supercharged / #BMW-Z3M-Coupe-Supercharged-E36/8 / #BMW-Z3 / #BMW-Z-Series / #BMW-Z-Series-E36/8 / #BMW
In America they call it the clown shoe; in the UK we call it the bread van but whatever you choose to call it the Z3 Coupé remains an incredibly special and unique machine. #BMW attempted to recapture the magic of its quirky miniature shooting brake with the E86 Z4 Coupé and while it was arguably a better car, it was also a lot more conventional and lost a lot of the appeal of its quirky forebear. Being unconventional may have caused people to fall in and out of love with the Z3 Coupé throughout its life but standing out from the crowd has most definitely worked in favour of the eye-catching machine and that is exactly why Grant Gillum ended up buying this car.
“I wasn’t a BMW guy per se,” Grant begins, “but I knew they made a quality product. As college was ending I began researching nice used cars to purchase after graduation. I wanted a front engine, rear-wheel-drive car that could be modified and used for autocross and track days. It would also be my daily for a while. After considering several cars including Corvettes, Camaros, Porsche 944s and 928s, the Pontiac GTO (not a used car at the time), Datsuns and Nissans of many years and models, I decided on an E36 M3. I liked the styling, the daily sensibilities and the aftermarket availability. They were also uncommon and more exclusive. All that changed the day that I saw a Z3 Coupé in traffic,” he says. “I had seen a million Z3 Roadsters and wasn’t really interested in a convertible. But this was different and I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at. I certainly didn’t recognize it as a Z3. It had a BMW logo so I started researching all their models, eventually finding information on the M Coupé. All the engine of an M3 but lighter, with a factory wide body, staggered wheels and a look that was comparable to some exotics. Sold. I had to have one,” he smiles. “It took nine months of scouring the internet to find the right one.
I bought a 22k mile example, bone stock but for a Dinan CAI and a stage one tune and still under warranty. I bought it sight unseen except photos and had it shipped cross country. I realized right away too that the M Coupé was a limited production run vehicle and so would be a cheap way for a blue collar guy to own something special. I bought the car knowing it would be a lifelong project car. I’ve known plenty of grey haired dudes that sold the hot rod of their youth and regretted it the rest of their lives. Not me. Hopefully,” he adds.
Unlike other owners who buy their cars and start out with no plans for modifying, Grant knew he was going to mod the Z3 and knew exactly which direction he wanted to take it in. “I wanted to race it right away and joined an autocross club soon after buying it,” he says, and his passion for autocross is shared by his wife. “Six years ago she came with me for a day at the track. She rode along on a couple runs and decided to give it a try. Except when pregnant, she’s raced in nearly every autocross event that I have since then. Averaging our times to a 60 second run, she’s about a half second off me. She’s been as close as a tenth second off my time. I’m much more of a fundamental driver, she drives much more by the seat of her pants. As soon as she tightens up her fundamentals, she’ll beat me,” he says. While you can take any car to an autocross event, if you’re serious about this particular form of motorsport, as Grant is, then your car will need to be modified and in a focussed way that will enable you to get the most out of it, which is why virtually everything he’s done to his Z3 has been all about making it a more finely-honed, precision autocross instrument.
It’s also why the supercharger that you can see strapped to the side of the engine came last and everything else came first as the chassis, handling and dynamics were the priorities here.
Wheels and tyres were the first items on what would become quite an extensive shopping list and while aesthetics do obviously play a part, lightness was mostly the deciding factor as far as wheel choice was concerned. “I went online and found the lightest wheels I could for the car,” explains Grant. “I bought a set of OZ Alleggerita HLTs in 8x17” and 8.5”x17”. They were light at less than 17lbs (7.7kg) per corner and dropped considerable unsprung weight over the stock wheels and I converted to wheel studs too.
I ran those wheels for a couple of autocross seasons before switching the rears to the front and widening the fronts to 10” and putting them on the rear. Now they weigh 16.8lbs (7.6kg) and 17.9lbs (8.1kg) front and rear; they are light, strong and handsome,” and what more could anyone ask for from a wheel? “I also run a set of 8x18” and 9x18” ASA AR1 wheels with black centres and 2” and 3” polished lips front and rear on the street,” he adds. The 17s really suit the Z3, as you can see in the photos, especially with the fat sidewalls of the super-sticky BF Goodrich g-Force R1 tyres filling out the arches and those tyres let you know that this M Coupé means business.
With lightweight wheels and track tyres taken care of, the next item on Grant’s to-do list was the suspension, and while he started off small, things quickly escalated. “I started with H&R springs and kept them for a few years until they sagged,” he says, “then I switched to Ground Control coilovers and adjustable spring perches. But not before modding the anti-roll bars with reinforcements, adding differential reinforcements, rear shock mounts, sub frame reinforcements and rear camber and toe adjustments. Then I poly bushed it followed by aluminium control arms.
“Disaster struck at the autocross one day when the diff pulled away from the subfloor and the rear end went squishy,” says Grant. “I thought that one of the rear anti-roll bar end links had given way. That’s how I got a tube frame rear subfloor that is way stiffer than the stock car ever thought of being. I love the coilovers, of course, but the single greatest suspension mod was poly bushing the rear subframe. It really changed the way the car transitioned weight in-corner to being much more predictable,” he says. As is often the case when it comes to modding, when things go wrong, break or fail, rather than just replacing them you upgrade them so, as with his boot floor, when the clutch started to slip Grant fitted an F1 Racing stage two clutch and 14lbs chromoly flywheel as well as a stainless steel clutch line and then added a UUC short shift kit and double shear selector rod plus a Z3 2.3 steering rack. Further drivetrain upgrades include a poly differential bush, UUC aluminium engine and transmission mounts and a rebuilt diff with four clutch zero preload and 80/60 ramping, polished ring and pinion gears and a 3.64 final drive in place of the standard 3.23 item. “Before the supercharger, lowering the final drive was a really dramatic NA mod. It went a long way to help pull me out of slow second gear turns,” explains Grant.
With the suspension and drivetrain taken care the Z3 was a far sharper machine but now the car’s stopping abilities needed to be addressed. “When I started doing a lot of track days it was apparent that the stock brakes were not up to long days of abuse,” he says. “That’s when I did the brake conversion and ducting. What a difference and zero fade. I didn’t go too big on the disc diameter as I was concerned with reducing as much rotational weight as possible, as autocross is more of a low speed competition.” The Z3 now wears Wilwood six-pot Superlite front calipers with 330mm GT-48 floating discs and Wilwood Dynalite four-pot rear calipers with 312mm lightweight discs and Wilwood B pads allround, while the ducting ensures that the brakes receive plenty of cool air to deliver peak performance at all times.
Having carried out all the groundwork to make sure that all aspects of the chassis and drivetrain were at peak performance, Grant could now turn his attention to extracting more power from the engine.
Unlike our Euro-spec Z3 M models, the US cars were fitted with the S52B32 engine, based on the M52, which had to make do with 240hp and 236lb ft of torque so it’s no surprise that Grant wanted to up these numbers. “I started with keeping the engine NA and wanted to let it breathe better,” he says. “I upgraded the cooling system with a rad, water pump thermostat and cover immediately. I kept the CAI and did the M50 intake manifold exchange and I also did the BBTB at the same time. A cat-back exhaust followed and a year later came exhaust manifolds and a mid-pipe. In general I would wait until OE parts needed replacement and would upgrade at that time; that way the financial hit of modifying was lessened by taking the money I would be spending on OE parts and putting that towards upgrades.
I replaced all the water hoses throughout and the oil cooler followed when I started doing more track days, as I live a 40 minute drive from Thunderhill Raceway here in California. While on track there one day the bottom radiator hose slipped off and started spewing out coolant; I realised it had happened within seconds but even though I coasted into the pits the water temp gauge showed hot and that’s how I got the new head and I went to under-driven pulleys then as well.
“After the rest of the car was pretty modified I bought the supercharger kit. I had become a dad and my wife wanted me to do less high speed track driving and just drive autocross, so after close to two dozen track days at Thunderhill my focus changed with regard to driving. I needed just a little more low-end torque to pull me out of slow second gear turns when I didn’t want to shift to first gear at autocross,” and the supercharger kit has certainly given Grant the grunt he was after. It’s an Active Autowerke Stage 1 kit with a Rotrex C38-92 supercharger and is accompanied by numerous supporting mods. “I removed the air con, replaced the alternator, installed the power steering cooler, did the oil pan/pump upgrade and fitted an ATI Super Damper, crank pulley and carried out a CCV delete with the supercharger kit,” he says. “The baseline dyno when I bought the car was 205hp and 203lb ft of torque at the wheels; the NA mods took that up to 230whp and 222lb ft and it now makes 312whp and 262lb ft at the wheels on the same dyno. Active Autowerke claims that this kit makes 360hp on a stock car; I’ve done a lot of other work to the engine, so if they want to claim 360hp I want to claim somewhere in the 380hp range,” says Grant. “That seems excessive, though, and I usually just quote my dyno numbers,” and that’s still plenty to enjoy both on road an track, and a huge increase over stock.
While Grant has focussed mainly on the performance and dynamic elements of the car he has not forgotten about aesthetics, both inside and out. The exterior as been enhanced with Motion Motorsports front splitters and aluminium undertay, a one-off AC Schnitzer rear diffuser centre section, the roof spoiler has been raised by 8mm to enhance the roofline and Grant’s also fitted black kidney grilles, black lower mesh grilles and carbon-look roundels among other things. The interior, meanwhile, has been treated to a Momo Competition steering wheel on a quick release hub, chrome handbrake handle, E46 M3 short shift gearknob, black leather gaiter with tricolour stitching and M Tech pedals and dead pedal. There’s also a H3R black HalGuard fire extinguisher, but this was added as a necessity following a scary incident…
“While testing the car after installing the M50 manifold a fuel hose wasn’t secured completely and popped off and sprayed fuel over the exhaust manifold,” says Grant. “Thank god the car wasn’t warmed up all the way and only billowed white smoke. I pulled over immediately and ran. It continued to smoke for a long, heart-pounding five minutes. I fitted the fire extinguisher after that,” he says.
Grant’s Z3 is a focussed build that’s been taken in a specific direction and the results speak for themselves. While it looks great it’s the changes that you can’t see and that we can’t experience or appreciate that make this car. It’s the vast amount of chassis work, the brakes, the hundreds of seemingly minor secondary mods that are so important for the success of the whole and which all add up to make a such big difference. This Z3 has evolved hugely during the 14 years that Grant has owned it, from autocross machine to track monster and back to autocross beast but this time with the wick turned way, way up, becoming more and more focussed at each stage and it’s not reached its final form just yet…
“In the not-too-distant future this car will retire from competition after nearly 80,000 miles that saw it driving to almost monthly autocross events (10 months a year). I have a pile of class win trophies adding, in my small way, to BMW’s racing heritage. I’ll paint and mount the new bumper and splitters I have waiting. I’ll delete the fog lights and the antenna for a cleaner look. At that time I’d also like a nice set of multipiece step-lipped wheels,” he nods, painting an attractive picture. At that point it’ll become a different animal altogether but whether or not that will be its final stage of evolution will remain to be seen…
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Supercharged E36/8 Z3 M Coupé / #Active-Autowerke-Stage-1 / #Active-Autowerke / #Rotrex / #VAC / #Dinan /
ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 / #BMW-S52 / #S52 / #S52-Supercharged , #UUC engine mounts, Active Autowerke Stage 1 supercharger kit with #Rotrex-C38-92 supercharger, CAI, 3” MAF, High flow Bosch fuel injectors, supercharger oil cooler, AA stage 1 programming for BBTB and M50 intake with 7k redline, polished supercharger bracket, #ATI-Super-Damper , #VAC-lightweight crank pulley, #Dinan big bore throttle body, M50 intake manifold and fuel rail cover, intake runner heat shields, Dr. Vanos stage 2 kit with cam gears, timing chains and solenoid, Turner shorty ceramic coated exhaust manifolds, ARP header studs, fiberglass manifold and exhaust wrap, SAS Racing dual 2.5” mid-pipes with stock cats, dual 2.75” Supersprint stainless cat-back exhaust, #BMP design exhaust tips, #VAC oil pump upgrade, VAC oil pan baffle, #Behr S54 E46 triple row radiator, 80° thermostat, power steering cooler, Stewart high-flow water pump with steel impeller, polished aluminum thermostat housing, polished aluminum water pump nut, 80/88º fan switch, Spal 16” electric puller fan, clutch fan delete, new overflow tank, BMP brass water bleeder, VAC 5x7” oil cooler with polished Euro oil filter housing, stock head gasket, #ARP head studs, head polished and gasket matched, new valve guides, lashes, locks and retainers, valve job, resurfaced head, hydraulic belt tensioner, CCV delete, new Valeo 115 app alternator, AC delete, radiator baffle.
POWER and torque 312whp and 262lb ft wtq
TRANSMISSION #ZF-Type-C / #ZF five-speed manual gearbox, #F1-Racing 14lbs chromoly flywheel and stage 2 clutch, stainless clutch line, UUC short shifter and double shear selector rod, poly differential bush, UUC aluminium transmission mounts, rebuilt diff with four clutch zero pre-load and 80/60 ramping, 3.64:1 final drive, polished ring and pinion gears
CHASSIS 8.5”x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #OZ-Alleggerita-HLT / #OZ wheels with 255/45 (front and rear) BF Goodrich g-Force R1 tyres, #Ground-Control front coilovers with Koni adjustable shocks, Eibach 500lbs front springs and 600lbs rear springs, Ground Control adjustable rear spring perches, Ground Control front camber and caster plates, #Racing-Dynamics 21mm front and 19 mm rear anti-rolls bars and end links, SAS Racing rear anti-roll bar reinforcements, #SAS-Racing differential reinforcements, SAS Racing rear shock mount reinforcements, Turner Motorsport aluminium and poly rear upper shock mounts, Ireland poly control arm bushes, #Turner front subframe reinforcements, Ireland poly rear trailing arm bushes, Turner rear camber and toe adjustments, 90mm rear and 75mm front lug stud conversion, E30 M3 polished aluminum control arms, Turner front hub extenders, Ground-Control bump stops, SAS Racing tube frame rear sub-floor, Z3 2.3 steering rack, #Wilwood sixpiston Superlite calipers with 330mm GT-48 floating discs with aluminium hats (front), Wilwood four-piston Dynalite calipers with 312mm lightweight discs (rear), Wilwood B pads (front and rear), stainless brake lines, Turner front brake backing plates and duct work, SAS Racing vented rear brake backing plates, new master cylinder and reservoir
EXTERIOR Arctic silver, Motion Motorsports front splitters and aluminium undertay, #AC-Schnitzer one-off rear diffuser centre section, OEM fog light kit, rear roof spoiler adjusted up 8mm and colour-matched, polished wiring harness brackets, door jamb stickers removed, carbon-look roundels, passenger wiper delete, HID headlamps with side markers and corner lamps colour matched, stealth turn signal bulbs, tinted tail lights, colour-matched wiper nozzles and hatch latch, black kidney grilles, black mesh lower grilles, rear wiper delete, clear front corner markers, front plate holder delete, new windscreen and exterior mouldings
INTERIOR Black and grey two-tone leather interior, Momo 350mm Competition steering wheel with hub, 15 mm spacer and adaptor, carbon-look roundel, Snap-off Industries steering wheel quick release hub, chrome handbrake handle, E46 M3 short gear knob, M Tech pedals and dead pedal, front and rear M logo floor mats, E36 M3 window button surrounds, black leather gaiters with tricolour stitching, windscreen and window tints, sun visor stickers removed, glove box facelift, carbon horn pin adapter, H3R black HalGuard fire extinguisher, poly seat bushes, custom rear hatch parcel shelf
Thanks My wife, for her all patience and participation. Jerard Shaha at SAS Racing, my 30-year mechanic and friend. He rebuilt my El Camino in 1987! SAS Racing has done all the work on this car over the years. Their specialty is racecar setup but they perform all mechanical work and fabrication to an expert level as well as engine building and auto transmission rebuilds (firstname.lastname@example.org). Jason Shaha, my childhood best friend and Jerard’s brother. Thanks for planting that competitive seed from your family into me. See you at the next race? The long-standing crew at Trinity Touring Club. Thanks for your loyalty to our sport and dedication to our club. If I didn’t have to drive 90 minutes each way I’d be at all the club meetings (trinitytouringclub.com)Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderation4.6 V8 1 SERIES Totally transformed 135i
SLAKE THE INTERNET
What started out life as an unassuming 135i is now a fire-breathing, 1M-kitted, 4.6 #V8-powered beast.
It’s an inescapable fact of modern modifying that if your car becomes known online, everyone will have an opinion on it. But this is a good thing – use the love as inspiration, use the hate as fuel, and keep pushing forward… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.
“People have very interesting reactions to my car, it sparks a lot of discussion,” says Marco Svizzero, the chap standing proudly beside this rather perky little 1 Series. “It’s an entirely modified bastard, and yet it still seems to appeal to the purists…”
This is a pretty punchy way to set out your stall – after all, that quasi-mythical entity of ‘the purists’ is a notoriously hard bunch to please (although goodness knows why you’d want to try), so to shoo away the perennial spectre of internet hate by appealing to the very people you expect to annoy is something of a fortuitous crapshoot.
Still, objectively – at least, objectively from a PBMW point of view – there’s nothing not to love about this car, given that it’s effectively an M3 stuffed inside a #BMW-1M-Coupé-E82 to create the ballistic #V8-1-Series that BMW didn’t think to experiment with. That’s a great way to get into our good books. “This was really my first big car build, and I never intended for the project to go so far,” Marco ponders with the measured consideration of somebody who’s been on a lengthy adventure and is struggling to come to terms with the notion of being home again. “It just snowballed, and once the project got some traction on the forums and partners like Revozport and Performance Technic got involved, it all went to another level.”
This, of course, is the price of notoriety. Once news of your project starts to spread, and the myriad chattering keyboards of the internet start to throw a few opinions around, there really is only one way forward: go big. The ‘go home’ alternative just isn’t an option at this point; the world is watching, you’ve committed to something, you have to see it through. Your audience insists. You’ve got new fans now, they need to be appeased. And the haters? Oh, there’ll always be haters. They need to be figuratively smacked down with the iron fist of decisive action.
“I chose a 135i as the base for my project as I really like the size of it,” Marco explains, “and I love how tunable the N54 engines are. It’s so easy to get reliable horsepower out of those motors with simple modifications.”
You’ll have spotted, however, that the N54 straight-six is no longer in residence. That’s sort of the point of this car now. So what gives, why did Marco change his mind? “Well, as I was taking the car on track more and more, I started to run into heat issues,” he says, “so I decided to swap a V8 motor and M3 chassis into the car.”
Okay. We’ll just let that sink in for a moment, shall we? It really is a masterstroke of lateral thinking, taking such a decision and following it through, and he’s earned the right to be charmingly self-effacing about it. Most people in this situation would have thought along the lines of ‘alright, we have some cooling issues, let’s look into revising the coolant system, maybe upgrade the radiator and intercooler and open up some more vents,’ but not Marco. Oh no. One suspects that he wanted to shoehorn an M3 inside his #BMW-135i-Coupe all along.
“I wanted the instant throttle response of a naturally aspirated engine, as well as robust cooling and an 8600rpm redline,” he says matter-of-factly. Well, yeah, swapping in an E9x M3 under the skin is the obvious solution, isn’t it? It was foolish of us to even question it. Carry on, Marco…
“The swap is so much more than just the motor,” he elaborates, as if trying to justify it to an irate spouse or suspicious bank manager. “It’s the M3 steering, the complete front and rear subframes including the suspension and axles, the diff, the brakes, and cool features like M Dynamic Mode.”
And there, as the Bard might say, is the rub. If you were skimming through a forum post and looking at photos of Marco’s car, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the story here centred around a non-M 1 Series that had been converted to 1M aesthetics. And to a degree, you’d be right, as that is what has happened – what started as a stock 2008 135i bought from Craigslist soon ballooned into a broad and angry 1M clone, its strong look accentuated by the exemplary body addenda on sale from Revozport, its Raze series offering a lightweight bonnet, bootlid, carbon fibre roof (which neatly deletes the 135i’s sunroof), splitter, diffuser and GTS wing. But the body, as we know, is only half the story.
The fun of building something like this, particularly something that’s so keenly observed online, is that there will always be ill-informed haters to bait. ‘It’s not a proper #BMW-1M ,’ they’ll say. ‘Why spend all that money on making a fake 1M when you could just buy a real one? Why pretend, why lie?’
Marco takes all of this in his stride, with a wry smile and an eye perennially on the next phase of development. “No, it’s not a 1M, and it will never be one,” he says. “The only way to get a real one is to buy one. My car will not bear an M badge on the trunk!
Besides, by crunching numbers for a partout and sale of my car and using those funds toward purchasing a 1M, I would have to add a lot of money on top for a very similar car.” But forget mathematics, that’s not why we build project cars. A car is just a big hole to throw money into, we don’t modify them because it’s sensible. No, the unspoken truth here is that Marco’s car isn’t a 1M because, well, it’s an M3. It just looks like a 1M…
“When we started looking into donor M3s, they were still expensive here in the States so I actually ended up buying a car in the UK, which was dismantled and sent to me in pieces,” Marco recalls. “Once everything was sent over, Performance Technic began the build. The most difficult part was the wiring; Performance Technic has two BMW Master Techs – Matt Medeiros and Wing Phung – who tackled the project, and once the car was built we brought it to Mike Benvo of BPM Sport. Benvo cleaned up, coded and tuned the car – he is another very valuable partner in the entire project. His knowledge in coding is unmatched! These guys were extremely focused on making everything look and operate like a factory car, and I applaud them that they pulled it off.”
As well as being OEM-quality in terms of all the buttons and gizmos, and thus eminently streetable, Marco was certainly having a lot of fun with his transformed 135i, with its 4.0-litre S65 under the bonnet and M3 underpinnings. Let’s not forget that this V8 isn’t a lazy rumbler like those of his domestic heritage; while Detroit thuds, Bavaria howls, and this engine is a proper screamer. “It really was just like a smaller, lighter E9x M3 – the naturally aspirated 1M I wanted to make all along,” Marco grins.
Wait… “was”? “Yeah, I decided to go a bit over-the-top,” he laughs. “The S65 only weighs 15lb more than the N54 so the factory balance was still spot-on, but after a little while I swapped the motor out for a Dinan 4.6-litre stroker motor.” Well, you know what they say about how power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. Marco seems to be pretty happy about that.
“It really is my perfect BMW and I couldn’t be happier,” he beams. “I enjoy the car at the track, taking it to the major BMW West Coast events, rallies, and simply staring at it in my garage! It’s a car that when people see it at events, they stop and look at it – often for a long period of time. Even with the old-skool purists; I’ve received a lot of compliments from the older, more traditional BMW crowd.” This makes sense really, as it is a pure BMW at heart: a focused driver’s machine, and with nearenough undiluted factory DNA under the skin. It just happens to be suffering a smidge of body dysmorphia, that’s all.
Again, this can be the price of notoriety. Marco’s car has always enjoyed the internet spotlight, from its early PR tie-in with Revozport to those fledgling days on the show scene before the hungry swarm of smartphone lenses, to Performance Technic’s high-profile endeavours to make the first V8-powered E82 in the USA. Then there was its triumphant Bimmerfest showcase on the Toyo stand, the countless online profiles, the numerous show awards, the online video reviews espousing its virtues as ‘the best BMW you could possibly build at any price’, the Time Attack entries, the world-first stroked S65 conversion… this car lives in a fishbowl, its every move observed and analysed. And every barbed comment that curveballs toward it gets knocked out of the park.
We’ll leave the final thought to Performance Technic founder Joey Gaffey: “This car is a project that we all kinda fell in love with. It’s a project we thought was probably something the engineers at BMW Motorsport thought of themselves…” And that, in essence, is the thinking behind Marco’s original idea for the madcap swap, and also why the purists love this impure creation. It’s a car that #BMW should have built. Thanks to the ingenuity of these fellas, it now actually exists, albeit as a one-off. The internet demanded results, and it got ’em. What a time to be alive.
I enjoy the car at the track, taking it to events and simply staring at it in my garage!
DATA FILE 4.6 #V8 #BMW-135i / #BMW-135i-E82 / #BMW-E82 / #BMW-135i-V8-E82 / #BMW-135i-V8 / #BMW-135i-S65 / #BMW-135i-Dinan / #BMW-135i-Dinan-S65 / #BMW-135i-Dinan-S65-E82 / #BMW-1-Series / #BMW-1-Series-E82 / #BMW-E82-Dinan / #BMW / #CAE-Ultra / #VAC-Motorsports /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION Dinan 4.6-litre stroker #S65 / #BMW-S65 / #S65B46 #V8 / #S65-Dinan / , #BPM-Sport custom tune with 8600rpm redline, #iND custom plenum, Dinan intake, Dinan pulley, VAC-Motorsports baffled sump, #Black-Forest engine mounts, #Akrapovic axle-back exhaust, custom X pipe, #Braille 21lb battery, CAE Ultra shifter, OEM M3 differential
CHASSIS 10x18” (front) and 10.5x18” (rear) ET25 HRE 43 wheels with 265/35 (front) and 275/35 (rear) Toyo R888 tyres, M3 front and rear subframes including suspension and axles, #PSi-Öhlins Raceline coilovers, #Racing-Dynamics anti-roll bars, #Dinan-Monoball kit for front control arms, #Bimmerworld rear wishbones, Dinan adjustable toe arms, Turner MS transmission bushings, #Turner-MS aluminium subframe and diff bushings, Dinan carbon fibre strut braces, #Stoptech-Trophy-BBK with 380mm (front) and 355mm (rear) discs, OEM GT4 brake ducts
EXTERIOR Full 1M body conversion, Revozport 1M Raze bonnet, boot and lip, carbon fibre roof, splitter with APR splitter supports, diffuser and GTS wing, Macht Schnell tow straps
INTERIOR #BMW-Performance V1 steering wheel, gaiters and carbon fibre trim, #BMW-1M-E82 armrest delete, #Recaro-Profi-SPA seats, #Revozport #BMW-1M Raze doorcards with Alcantara inserts, P3 vent gauge, OEM 1M Anthracite headlining and pillars (for sunroof delete), #TC-Design harness bar, #Schroth six-point harnesses, #VAC hardware and floor mounts, Alumalite rear close-off panel
THANKS Joey Gaffey, Matt Medeiros, Wing Phung and the rest of the team at #Performance-Technic , Charles Wan at Revozport, Mike Benvo at BPM Sport, Stan Chen at ToyoTires, Jason Overell at Targa Trophy, DTM Autobody and Sam at AutoTalentStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationTHE BIG PICTURE
With a wide-body kit, #4WD and the small matter of 840 turbocharged horsepower, this #BMW E46 is a ferocious machine. It might look outlandish, but this E46 Saloon has more than enough go to back up its show… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Patrik Karlsson.
Here’s an idea that you may have considered before: what’s the future of your car after you get rid of it? Assuming that you’re not planning to keep your jamjar until it crumbles away into dust, there’s a fair chance that you’ll sell it at some point – and then what? It’s actually a very big question, as cars are such personal and emotive things, there are memories, sensory touchpoints and stories tied up in them that your brain cleverly locks away, ready to spring back on you at surprising moments.
When I see the dash vents on a Mk1 Cavalier, the faux-wood trim on the doors of a late-Eighties Rover Vitesse or the barrel speedo of a #Citroen-CX , I’m suddenly a child again. There’s a certain smell in the Magic Tree range that instantly transports me back into my first 205 GTI. And the tactile fragility of an early-Seventies BMW 2002 door handle puts me right there in my old road-rally Touring, all Redex and steamy windows.
My point is this: picture a car that your parents had as a kid – that old load-lugger that drove you to school, took you to see grandma and down to the supermarket for the weekly shop, ferried you about on those joy-strewn family holidays. Imagine if, after all of those miles of family life, someone bought that car, your car, your memories, and turned it into a bonkers race machine. It’s quite a thought, isn’t it? Jarring and strange, but exciting too. Something you know intimately, transformed into something alien.
With this in mind, there must be a family somewhere in Sweden who have no idea that their old BMW has turned into a supercar-slaying turbo nutter. Their intrepid old four-door E46, that saw them through over a quarter of a million faithful kilometres, has changed from a dependable old workhorse into a rejuvenated, frightening whippet with aggression in spades and a healthy disdain for the rules. Sure, it looks similar in profile, but there’s all sorts going on beneath the surface – that insane rear wing, a triumph of functionality, is merely the cherry on a flavoursome cake.
For Erik Wedlund, these sorts of transformations are nothing out of the ordinary; the overtly extraordinary is merely his oxygen, his everyday. You show him an unremarkable family runabout, he’ll have it whipped up into a Porsche-troubling frenzy before you can say ‘beige corduroys’.
“I started modifying cars about 12 years ago, with an Opel Ascona B,” he explains. To the uninitiated, this was a sensible-trousers commuter hack from an era when it was deemed noteworthy to offer a laminated screen as a no-cost option. “That went through a full rebuild to become an Ascona 400 replica, and after that I had an Ascona A from 1975 – first with a 2.4-litre CIH motor, which I then swapped out for a 420hp BMW M50B20 with a turbo, running E85.” Ah, so the story’s starting to loop into our world of Bavarian tuning now. It was bound to eventually – the long Scandinavian winters always lead to outlandish builds of awesome power and improbable stats; if it’s not Volvopowered, it’ll have a BMW engine. Thudding cylinders and big turbos are what help stave off the frostbite, and it’s clear that the lure of the BMW camp is what did it for Erik.
“I later built a 2.8-litre M50 for that car, which made 572hp on pump fuel,” he says casually, just tossing the numbers into the conversation as if it’s no big deal. Scandinavians have a different perspective on horsepower, don’t they? It’s bizarre.
We begin to spot a theme in Erik’s narrative here too – a tendency to find the best engine for the job, then replace it with something better, then take that engine and put it in a different car… it’s not so much a conveyer belt of performance, although there is an element of that, but more that he treats his projects like grown-up Meccano. The car is entity A, the engine is entity B, the chassis C, the way it deploys its power D, and so on.
Every now and then he likes to shake up the letters and bolt the parts together in different ways, creating something new and more impressive with his big boy’s toys. And so the evolution continues…
“I ended up selling the Ascona on as a rolling shell, keeping the 2.8-litre engine to fit into a 1986 635CSi that I’d bought,” he recalls. “I built up new exhausts and manifolds for it. It was making 750hp at the time – it was road-legal too.” Just sit and savour that figure for a moment – an old sharknose Sixer with more power than a Pagani Huyara. It’s staggering.
But Erik wasn’t done yet. Far from it. Having put a good 11,000km under the CSi’s wheels, he was beginning to yearn for the madness and, ultimately, lightness of the old Ascona. The itch became too much not to scratch, and the 635 was sold complete with its manic motor so that Erik could roll his sleeves up and get stuck into an E36 Compact. And while this may seem anathema to some, just keep in mind what the fella’s capable of.
“I began to build it up with the driveline of an E46 330xi, combined with that of an E39 M5,” he explains, again just throwing these mad ideas out there as if they’re totally vanilla. “It was finished within six months, but it got wrecked on the way home from a dyno session; I braked to avoid a deer and flipped the car into a ditch – it was all scrap aside from three wheels and the engine.” We’ve seen photos of this and it really isn’t pretty; it’s a good job that Erik’s a dab hand at fabricating roll-cages…
But let’s not forget his indomitable spirit, his Stig-like obsession with speed above all else, and his Terminator-esque sense of focus. The engine was still good, so that was hoiked out of the mangled wreckage and dropped back into the oversized Meccano box, and within three days Erik had found himself another toy to play with.
“I bought this E46 330xi a few days after the accident,” he says, with an even tone worthy of Räikkönen himself. “It was in a sorry state when I bought it, with rust and 250,000km on the clock, but that didn’t really matter much given what I had planned for it.”
That fiery engine was duly deployed, and it’s worth taking a moment to consider the spec: we’re looking at fundamentally an original 330xi M54B30, although it’s been played with quite a bit. A healthy bore job along with bigger pistons and a raised compression ratio work with a Precision turbo and plenty of internal upgrades to deliver an astounding 840hp at the wheels, all overseen by MaxxECU management. A huge set of numbers. And what’s particularly impressive is that so much of the driveline remains stock, demonstrating just how overengineered these 4WD 3 Series are; the gearbox and driveshafts are all factorystandard, as are the front, rear and centre diffs (albeit with a bit of welding to the centre item to firm things up).
The result of all of this insane, gibbering torque and horsepower? A four-door E46 that’ll accelerate from 0-285km/h (which is the point at which it redlines in fifth gear, equating to around 177mph) in 14.5 seconds. “With the running gear sorted, I fabricated a roll-cage for the car and took it on a few airfield events,” deadpans Erik. “After crushing a RUF 996 GT2 in a straight-line race, the oil pump shaft broke at 280km/h and took a few bearings with it, so I took the car apart and sent the engine off to my friend Åland at AllMek for a rebuild. While this was happening, I painted the body in British Racing green and decided to enter the Time Attack series, which was a pretty new thing in Sweden at the time. With the car back together and working well, I competed in the TANU series through 2015, replaced the three gearboxes that failed under the increased strain of competition, and just pushed the car to the very limits its heavy drivetrain and toonarrow tyres would allow.”
It may not surprise you to learn that the E46 has now, like so many chapters of Erik’s motoring history, found its way to a new owner. “If I’d have kept it, I’d have probably experimented with different diffs and wider tyres, but there’s always a new project on the horizon,” he says, devoid of sentimentality and already dedicated to the next step. A little birdie tells us that he’s actually working on two projects at the moment, the first being an E36 M3 3.2 that’s becoming a streetlegal track car, while the second is an M1 Procar replica with a V10 motor.
So spare a thought for that Swedish family, their cherished family runaround transmuted into an aggressively bewinged leviathan with a proven ability to show Porsche’s widowmaker GT2 a clean pair of heels. But then disregard them out of hand, as Erik does at the end of each personal chapter, because this isn’t about the past – it’s about living in the now, and keeping an eye on the future. Sentimentality will only get you so far, and then you’ll be blown into the weeds by a turbo as big as your face. An 840whp four-door E46 is an incredible thing to us laymen, but to a tuning superhero like Erik? It’s just part of the bigger picture…
9x17” E34 M5 alloys fitted all-round with 255/40 rubber front and rear.
DATA FILE #BMW Turbo E46 330xi / #BMW-330xi-E46 / #BMW-E46 / #BMW-330xi-Turbo / #BMW-330xi-Turbo-E46 /
ENGINE 3.0-litre straight-six #M54B30 / #M54 / #BMW-M54 , bored to 84.5mm using stressplate, CP pistons, #PPF forged rods, 10:1 compression ratio, #Supertech 1mm oversize valves and valve springs, #Precision-6466-turbo / #Precision , GTR intercooler, balanced crank, #ATI Super Damper, #ARP bolts throughout, copper ring head gasket, stock cams, functional #VANOS , #Bosch 1300cc injectors, #MaxxECU management, #KS-Racing (Thailand) intake manifold, S54 oil thermostat housing, #VAC motorsport oil pump upgrade, #Canton Accusump, 3.5” stainless steel exhaust system, #Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, 2x Bosch 044 fuel pumps, catch tank fed by Deatchwerks 301 in-tank pump. 840whp/782lb.ft @ 2.1bar, 0-285km/h (177mph – fifth gear redline): 14.5s.
TRANSMISSION Stock 330xi gearbox, stock centre, front and rear diffs (centre diff welded), stock driveshafts, M30B35 flywheel, Sachs 765 pressure plate, 6- puck sintered KEP clutch, Samsonas gear shifter.
CHASSIS 9x17” (front and rear) E34 M5 alloys with 255/40 (front and rear) Kumho V70 Medium tyres, K-Sport Supersport two-way adjustable coilovers, bushings replaced with uniballs, -3 degrees camber all around, 7 degrees caster, custom chromoly antiroll bars, M3 CSL 345x28mm front discs, M3 calipers, PFC 01 pads, stock rear discs and calipers with PFC 08 pads, E46 M3 master cylinder.
EXTERIOR Hard Motorsport M3 Saloon arches, E36 M3 British Racing Green paint, custom front splitter and rear wing.
INTERIOR Custom roll-cage with integrated reinforced subframe mounts, Rado Power bucket seats, TRS four-point harnesses, Sparco leather steering wheel, stock dash and doorcards, Lenovo tablet for MaxxECU read-outs.
Hardcore interior features Rado Power buckets and a Lenovo tablet acting as the MaxxECU display.
It was in a sorry state but that didn’t matter given what I had planned for it…Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationAMERICAN RESPONSE
As the E46 M3 CSL never made it to the #USA , #BMW enthusiasts set about building their own, like this tasty pair. America was cruelly robbed of the E46 M3 CSL, so the response of Stateside modifiers has been to create their own with even more muscle. Words: Iain Curry. Photos: Marco Svizzero.
It’s easy to get jealous of Americans. They produce money-spinning movies and music loved the world over; they seemingly control the world markets, the internet and practically every satellite in the sky; and if civilisation goes down the plughole, they keep enough gold locked away to hold two fingers up to the rest of us.
But if you want true envy, check out how cheaply Americans can buy a new M3, M5 or Porsche 911, then see how little it costs them to fuel them so they can enjoy playtime for far less coin than the rest of the world.
But occasionally, Europe gets its own back. Prime example is the E46 M3 CSL: a car so raw, pure and driver-focused that it became an instant classic on its 2003 release, and one the enthusiasts went all wobbly over. But not the Americans. They got bitter, frustrated and angry over it as the things just weren’t allowed Stateside due to environmental and safety reasons. There were 1400 examples built, and 1400 didn’t find their way to American showrooms.
So while the non-CSL E46 M3 is almost laughably common on American roads, you’re not about to see a CSL barking its way along canyon roads or buzzing city streets. You may spy something close though. Deny a market like America a car it badly wants and, much like banning a movie, it makes the thing so much more desirable and some will stop at nothing to get it. Pictured here are two Californian E46 M3 CSL replicas, which in many regards are as close to the real thing as possible. Certainly substantial sums of cash have been parted with in their builds, but that’s the price needed to pay proper homage to the ultimate road-going E46 M3.
It’s a price Adam Cook of Citrus Heights in North California paid to create his Steel grey E46 M3 CSL replica. We caught up with him and photographed his CSL replica alongside another built by Andrei Afanasiev – a fellow www.m3forum.net user from California’s Bay Area. Together they are a formidable pairing, with Adam’s looking the more genuine with its CSL-esque paint (originals only came in Silver grey and black Sapphire), even though Andrei’s M3 CS colour is a beautiful shade.
“BMW should have brought the CSL to the US,” Adam said. “There should be a standard that works for both US and Europe for safety and the environment so we can both get the same cars. An example is my other car, a 1M Coupé. They brought that to the US and it sold out fast.” Regardless, Adam got busy building what BMW didn’t provide, and is convinced he’s created something at least the match of a true CSL. “My setup makes more than a stock CSL,” he said. “ I have a better exhaust, pullies and a better software tune.”
Adam bought his E46 M3 brand-new from his BMW dealer in 2002, and was already no stranger to the marque. As well as his 1M he’s owned an E46 330i, E39 530i and an E90 330i. After a few months of M3 ownership on went a K&N panel filter to get the ball rolling, and since then he’s barely drawn breath. To see the inventory of all the previous parts he’s fitted to the M3 as well as what’s currently there – and the wellrecorded cost of everything – is quite frightening. “To build a replica CSL is fairly easy once you get hold of OE parts, and it helps to have more cash than brains and keep throwing money at it,” he said.
Adam wanted to make his car as much of an OE CSL as possible, but also improve on parts where he thought necessary. “My modifying philosophy was if I owned a real CSL what would I change on it?” he said. “I think the likes of headers, brakes, exhaust and suspension could all be improved.”
Starting with the body, Adam has upgraded his M3 with an OE CSL front bumper, lights, side grills, bootlid, carbon fibre rear diffuser and emblems. And impressively, as one of the CSL’s signature elements, he’s managed to add an OE carbon fibre CSL roof. “I got most of the OE CSL parts from a US importer which has sadly recently gone out of business, while the rest I got from a European source,” he said. “I’m glad I got them when I did as CSL parts are now no longer being made.”
Adam said most of the CSL parts are direct replacements on a standard M3, although minor modifying included rerunning wires on occasion. The roof was a different matter though: “The roof is genuine OE BMW, and its install was mostly time and patience,” Adam said. “Eighty-six spot welds needed removing and then the surface was cleaned. The OE roof fitted perfectly so no major work was needed other than adding the centre brace: if you remove the old roof properly there is no extra welding needed other than for the centre brace.”
The interior also mimics a CSL’s with an OE CSL centre console added, something Adam said was basically plug and play. There are online DIY tutorials on forums for the fitting, requiring a bit of time and rerunning window switch wires. Also on are a CSL handbrake gaiter, door trims, handles and door sills, while the rear seat has been removed in the style of the M3 CSL concept model. Recaro Profi XL seats are now up front, which look superb but Adam said they’re not great on long journeys. But ridding his M3 of power front seats and the rear bench has saved a lot of weight. As for CSL-ing the 3.2-litre six-cylinder, parts availability proved a headache. Adam originally fitted a GruppeM intake, but was intent on finding a true CSL air box. “Finding a CSL air box and cam was hard as there are not many in the wild,” he said.
“The first cam I got was broken in shipping and took nine months to get a replace.” Other OE CSL engine parts include the rocker arms, exhaust valves and the head gasket. Adam has enhanced things further with the likes of Supertech Performance dual valve springs, Rogue Engineering power pulleys, some trick cooling and an extensive exhaust system upgrade. Rounded off with OE M3 CSL software and an Evolve ECU tune Alpha-N Stage 3, these enhancements have convinced Adam he has a genuine CSL-beater on his hands.
The car’s six-speed SMG auto has also been given the CSL treatment with its software flash, while Adam uses a Turner Motorsport 3.91 differential and the company’s rear subframe reinforcement. A CSL 14.5:1 steering rack is also employed for the genuine feel, while TC Kline Racing adjustable coilovers and camber/caster plates, Eibach anti-roll bars and Ground Control rear lower control arms are part of a suite of underbody enhancements to push this M3 into CSL territory and beyond.
The genuine look was required under the arches, and Adam sourced genuine 19” CSL rims and shod them in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, rather than the ‘widow maker’ Michelin Cup rubber that made true CSLs so likely to switch ends in the wet. Behind these wheels are mighty StopTech 355mm discs all-round, clamped by four-pots finished in yellow paint. To look upon the car is to believe it’s a true CSL, and one that’s been enhanced impressively further.
Andrei’s car is based on an M3 CS and it too has an impressive spec sheet. Under the bonnet the S54 has been given an OE CSL carbon air box running Evolve Alpha N software and VAC Ultra Light 2 pulleys. He’s also removed the sound deadening to enjoy more of that intoxicating induction howl. Strapped to the Dinan strut brace are the remote reservoirs for the Moton Club Sport dampers and the chassis has been further upgraded with an AC Schnitzer rear anti-roll bar, Poweflex bushes throughout and a TMS subframe reinforcement kit, while for the exhaust system, he opted for an Eisenmann Section 2 and Meisterschaft Ti system.
Parked side-by-side, the two E46s look as though they belong at the M3 CSL top table. And so they should with the huge amount of time and money involved, including the relentless hunt for OE CSL parts for the builds. Much like true CSLs, they have that look about them that makes you want to grab the keys and be left alone on a winding stretch of open road for a few hours.
“I prefer back roads to the track,” Adam said, “and am one of the few people in North California who organises meets and drives. I have a website called www.raddrives.com that lists my favourite drive routes, and one of the best is Valcano which is perfect for the CSL. It’s a joy to drive because you feel the connection to the car and the road, and as the last of the high revving straight-six motors you can feel that passion the M guys put into the car. Cars now are faster, but some of the soul has been lost for progress.”
Adam wouldn’t dissuade anyone from building their own CSL replica, but he warned that OE parts are a pain to find as there are few parts and plenty of people after them. It’s not cheap either, so despite the rising value of genuine CSLs, if your country was lucky enough to sell them – unlike in America – it may be best to just buy a real one.
DATA FILE #BMW-M3-CSL / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-M3-CSL-E46 / #BMW-E46 / #SMG / #BMW-M3-CSL-SMG -E46
ENGINE: 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 / #BMW-S54 , OE #CSL air box, hoses, exhaust manifold and cats, #Eisenmann Section 2 and #Meisterschaft Ti exhaust system, #VAC Ultra Light 2 pulleys, Evolve Alpha N software, deleted sound deadening under the bonnet.
TRANSMISSION: E46 M3 six-speed SMG auto with OEM CSL SMG software, Dinan 3.91 limited-slip diff.
CHASSIS: 8.5x19” (front) and 9.5x19” (rear) OE E46 M3 CSL light alloy rims shod in 235/35 (front) and 265/30 (rear) Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, #Dinan front strut tower brace, #Powerflex polybushes, #TMS subframe reinforcement kit, #AC-Schnitzer rear anti-roll bar, Moton Club Sport dampers, front and rear #BBK .
EXTERIOR: OEM BMW E46 M3 CSL carbon fibre roof, black roof rails, bootlid, rear diffuser, front bumper with splitters, side grills and micro filter housing. #BMW electric Euro mirrors, outer LEDs on brake lights enabled, IB painted bonnet washer grille, headlight shroud assembly and keyhole driver door delete, #3M front end and roof clear bra, E46 M3 CS paint.
INTERIOR: OE E46 M3 CSL seats, centre console, handbrake gaiter, door trims, handles and door sills.
ENGINE: 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32-TUNED OE E46 M3 CSL air intake, snorkel and flap, map sensor, inlet camshaft, rocker arms, exhaust valves and head gasket, head blueprinted and flow tested, #Supertech-Performance dual valve springs, #Rogue-Engineering power pulleys, Samco radiator hose kit, #Zionsville E46 M3 Competition cooling kit, Zionsville SPAL speed fan kit, Turner Motorsport Fluidyne oil cooler kit, Supersprint stepped exhaust manifold with stepped metallic 100 cell cat system and resonated X-pipe, Eisenmann Racing exhaust, Ignition Solutions plasma coils, OE E46 M3 CSL software – #DME flash for base setup and #Evolve ECU tune #Alpha-N Stage 3.
TRANSMISSION: E46 M3 six-speed SMG auto with OE CSL SMG software flash, UUC red transmission bushings, Turner Motorsport 3.91 differential, #Turner-Motorsport E46 rear subframe reinforcement.
CHASSIS: 8.5x19” (front) and 9.5x19” (rear) OE E46 M3 CSL light alloy rims shod in 245/35 (front) and 275/30 (rear) Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, Turner Motorsport 10mm front wheel spacer kit, #StopTech big brake kit with 355mm discs and painted yellow four-piston calipers all-round, stainless steel brake lines, TC Kline Racing True Match adjustable coilover system (500 front, 600 rear), TC Kline Racing camber/caster plates, #Eibach front and rear anti-roll bars, Ground Control rear lower control arms, CSL / ZCP 14.5:1 steering rack.
EXTERIOR: OE E46 M3 CSL front bumper, front lights and side grills, CSL wing grill emblems, OE E46 M3 CSL carbon fibre outer panel roof, bootlid and carbon fibre rear diffuser, LED rear light upgrade.
INTERIOR: OE E46 M3 CSL centre console, handbrake gaiter, door trims, handles and door sills, #Recaro Profi XL bucket seats, rear seat delete based on E46 M3 CSL concept model, CSL #SMG black aluminium paddles, hard wired Valentine V1 radar detector.
Andrei has removed the sound deadening from his engine bay and added #VAC-Ultra-Light-2 pulleys plus a #Dinan strut brace and Moton Club Sport dampers.
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