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BOOST MODE #Stunning 610 whp turbocharged E36 M3 turns up the heat. Cars are meant to be driven and it was that realisation that took this E36 M3 from mild to wild.
JUNKIE BOOST Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Patrick Lauder
Dean Yarza never intended for his E36 M3 to turn out this way. He’d always wanted one, that much he did know, and finally owning one was the fulfilment of a high school dream, even though it followed a modified E46 M3 ZCP. You might have thought that his former car would have been the keeper, the big one, because it was an E46 M3 after all, but life’s not always that straightforward. That Dean has been dreaming about owning an E36 M3 since his high school days is no surprise; this is a man who, briefly, owned a hand-me-down E21 323i as his first car and who admits to having been interested in BMWs since first being able to drive.
The Carbon black 2005 E46 M3 that he purchased in 2006 was where his BMW journey began proper, Dean having experimented with numerous vehicles prior to that. “I’ve basically modified everything I’ve owned since high school, giving in to the typical sickness the everyday car nut suffers from and I do not discriminate when it comes to the hobby,” he grins. This explains why his car ownership history includes an Acura Integra on nitrous, a couple of Saleen Mustangs and a Saleen Cobra, all of which ended up running over 500whp courtesy of aftermarket superchargers, a Ford F150 truck and even a couple of Yamaha R6 bikes. It’s a varied, colourful automotive past in which Dean has sampled all manner of modified machinery and that most certainly did not stop when the M3 entered his life. “I modified it with all the NA boltons including long tube exhaust manifolds, performance pulleys, air filter, 4.10 gearing and a performance tune. The exterior was also fitted with the full line of Vorsteiner VSL pieces – front bumper, rear deck lid and diffuser. 19” BBS LM rims and a Brembo GT brake kit were also installed,” completing what sounds like a thoroughly sexy and sorted M3. So why the switch from 46 to 36?
“After parting with my E46 M3, I yearned for another M and, more importantly, something to give me purpose, spending hours on forums researching and purchasing parts. At the time, it was the perfect platform to satisfy the need to handle, perform, and modify while being fairly painless to attain,” explains Dean though, in truth, the E36 did almost put the brakes on his modding addiction but, as we all know, you just can’t fight it…
“As many E36 owners know, it’s a bit tough to find them in a non-abused state in today’s market,” he says, and he’s not wrong. “After failing to find one to my liking for a few months, I put out a wanted add online and, amazingly, received a response for what was almost exactly what I was looking for. Prior to my search, I’d curbed my expectations, accepting the fact that these cars are close to 20 years old and I wasn’t going to find a gem. My initial want was just for a clean-titled, decent paint/interior M3 knowing that 90-110k miles would be the norm. What appeared in response to my add was a single-owner, excellent condition M3 with only around 33,000 miles, completely stock, still with the break-in instructions applied to the windscreen, as well as the original window sticker still in the glove compartment. It was far too pristine but in no way would be passed up.” That sounds like a once in a lifetime find to us and it would have been very silly of Dean to turn down the opportunity to own such an immaculate car, but it was the car’s virgin state and lack of miles that presented Dean with a bit of a quandary. “Prior to finding one with such low mileage, my plans were night and day from what the car is now,” he says.
“I initially only wanted something I could drive every day and everywhere, occasionally having weekend duty for spirited driving in the hills. To do this, I planned nothing more than a capable coilover set and a nice wheel and tyre combo. In a way, I just wanted a cool car I could really beat on and not care too much about,” but obviously that couldn’t happen now and a different approach to the whole ownership and modding outlook had to be taken. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, Dean wasn’t even sure whether modifying was the right thing to do. “As I did not plan to find such a low mileage/collector type of car, it was a tough decision to modify,” he says, before adding “ but eventually the bug got the better of me,” and so things began to happen.
Suspension and wheels came first, as per his original plans; “Knowing that I did not participate in high performance driving/autocross events, I was looking for something simple in terms of handling and comfort,” Dean explains. “The Bilstein PSS9 kit fits this bill as it is a basic coilover setup which is not too aggressive while offering, in my opinion, one of the most comfortable rides for a coilover while still improving handling capability. Along with this, I’ve also chosen a set of Dinan front and rear strut braces and a BMW X-brace, which is found as standard on the M3 LTW.” Handling benefits aside, the adjustable ride height of the PSS9s means that Dean has been able to dial-in his perfect stance and the drop he’s gone for is serious; those front arches are a hair’s breadth above the rubber while at the rear he’s got the tyres tucked just past the edges of the lips and the result is spectacular.
As far as his wheel choice is concerned, for many BBS fans it’s the holy grail for both modern and classic BMWs alike and a wheel he has a lot of love for. “It was only fitting that for a classic M3 I’d want to stick with classic wheels. My favourite wheels for the BMW have always been BBS LMs, I feel you can put these on any car and drastically improve the look, especially European applications. I owned a set on my E46 M3 and had nothing but positive experiences with them in regards to looks, performance and strength. You get what you pay for with wheels and in my eyes, they are half of the car. I did consider other wheels but this was very short-lived, I was set on LMs for my build. It turned out to be very difficult to find a set, though, as 18s were much harder to come by than the typical 19” and above. Luck still was not on my side which forced me to become a little more creative and experiment with a set taken from a Honda S2000. This presented a bit of a challenge as the offset and PCD were different but after some research I found a local wheel customisation shop which was able to adjust bolt pattern as well as offset to get them to fit correctly.”
It’s safe to say it was worth the effort as the LMs look so good on the E36, as they do on just about any BM, and here they’re finished off with a BBS stud conversion kit and those iconic red centre caps.
That’s all well and good, but the real reason we’re here is for what’s under the bonnet and it took a bit of a personal revelation for Dean to make the huge leap from mild NA mods to off-the-scale, full-on forced induction fury. “I found deals on the basic bolt-ons such as a Dinan CAI and Dinan exhaust and the car stayed in this state for quite sometime as I did not want to overly modify it, risking an adverse affect to the car’s value considering its mileage.
Eventually, realising that cars are meant to be driven and I would not be satisfied until I had it the way I wanted, I decided to open the floodgates and enjoy it while I have it,” he says and this is definitely the right philosophy. “After the basic bolt-ons, the turbo research began brewing and opened up a whole new world. For one whole year, I began researching and stockpiling the turbo components needed for my build, beginning with the actual turbo, a Garrett GT35R and SPA T3 manifold, fuel components, Cut-Ring head gasket, and Zeitronix data logging gauges and equipment, the essentials I needed to get started. After a year acquiring these components – and then some – it was all installed in one shop sitting, taking a few months to complete.
“The car was taken to David Tran at 4B Auto in Santa Clara, CA; David is known to have built some of the fastest turbo E36s around with upwards of 1000hp, so I knew I was in good hands with this build,” says Dean. “The motor was disassembled, having to remove the head for resurfacing, while upgrading the head studs with an ARP2000 10mm stud kit. From there, the stock head gasket was also upgraded to an 87mm Cut- Ring head gasket. When the head returned from resurfacing, the SPA T3 turbo manifold was mounted while the Vanos was also rebuilt and the head was finally ready to install. Once the engine was reassembled, various changes were made including upgraded fuel components such as a Rally Road high-flow billet fuel rail, 115lb high impedance injectors, and an Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator. The intake manifold was also swapped for an M50 model for better flow. Impressive to say, the engine was able to fire up at first attempt with no hiccups. David’s engine work was one of the smoother processes throughout.”
High praise indeed and there’s nothing better than a true turn-key conversion that just works, especially after such a huge amount of work. A quick glance at the engine spec is all you need to know that this is a serious performance project but all that research and time spent on it was absolutely worth it.
It enabled Dean to pick the best components and the ones best suited to helping him achieve his end goal, and all that work has yielded some astonishing numbers. Peak power now stands at 610whp, which is around 700hp at the crank however you like to do your calculations, and is backed up by 571lb ft of wheel torque, both serious numbers and definitely plenty to be getting on with.
Obviously, as well as the suspension upgrades that were carried out before Dean let loose, the chassis and transmission have received further modifications to be able to cope with that huge increase in output over stock. First of all, there’s a big brake kit in the shape of Brembo’s GT kit and before we even get onto the specs those red calipers are just killer and work perfectly alongside the red detailing on the LMs and against the white bodywork.
They do, of course, deliver on the braking front too, but then you’d expect nothing less with four-pot calipers and 355mm discs stationed up front and only a fractionally smaller pairing located at the rear. As far as the transmission is concerned, Dean has bolstered the ZF five-speed manual gearbox with a selection of UUC components, including a twin-disc flywheel/clutch combo, steel clutch line, and short shifter, all of which combine to allow it to far better cope with all that power and torque.
What we really love about Dean’s E36 M3, and we love everything about it, is the fact that, really, there’s no way for you to know just how much power is lurking beneath that pristine white bodywork. Obviously it’s not a stock car, but he’s kept all of the styling within the spectrum of normality and as a result there’s little to suggest that this might be nothing more than a lightly breathed-on older M3. “My intention for the exterior was something not too aggressive; basically maintain the stock look and body panels yet add some touches to give a slightly more aggressive look,” and we’d say it’s mission accomplished. Euro lights have been sourced from ECS Tuning and fitted all-round, along with a set of ZKW HID projector headlights; a Max Velocity RS front lip sits beneath the front bumper for a hint of extra aggression, while at the rear there’s a Mateo Motorsports diffuser and a sexy UUC adjustable carbon spoiler. The interior has been kept largely standard, bar the addition of numerous gauges and a few minor tweaks that enhance what was already there. The Vader front seats, finished in Mulberry-colour leather, have been left alone and Dean has added some M3-logo’d mats, a customwrapped Euro three-spoke steering wheel and MT Shift Boots alcantara gear lever and handbrake gaiters to complete the look.
Four years of ownership are what it’s taken to bring the E36 to this level and while it has clearly been worth the effort, there has been a lot of it involved in getting the car to where it is. As Dean himself says “I currently have no plans for a next car, other than possibly a modern 5 Series daily driver. At this point, I may have exhausted all energy to even think about starting yet another project,” and that’s something we can all relate to it, that feeling of near-exhaustion when you’ve “finished” a project, or at least got it to the next stage of its evolution. Of course, this M3 has not finished evolving, not in the slightest. “A contingency plan is actually already in place,” says Dean.
“Simultaneously with the turbo install, I have also been working on a fully-built spare motor capable of 1000hp, which was also completed about the time the turbo install was competed. Also on hand is a full drivetrain upgrade, which includes a Euro six-speed 420 Getrag transmission, DSS six-bolt 1000hp driveshaft, upgraded rear axles, and a large case 210mm limited slip differential from a 1990 BMW 750iL.
The only future decision to be made now is which turbo and manifold configuration to fit. With the upgraded turbo and motor, the car should be able to generate and handle even more power with ease. If any mishaps were to occur, these components are ready, that is if impatience does not get to me first and I proactively go ahead with the swap.”
That’s a very sensible approach to take with a completely unhinged project, and we whole-heartedly approve. Dean’s E36 is pure performance: there’s no frivolity here, it’s full-on, focussed and furious with it, and we love it.
“After the basic bolt-ons, the turbo research began brewing and opened up a whole new world. For one whole year, I began researching and stockpiling the turbo components needed for my build”
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW / Turbo #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3-Turbo / #BMW-M3-Turbo-E36 / #Garrett / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E36 / BMW
ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 / #S52 / #BMW-S52 , Cut-Ring 87mm head gasket (stock compression), #ARP2000 head studs, #Garrett-GT3528R dual ball-bearing turbo, #SPA-T3-turbo manifold, 610x305x76mm front-mount intercooler, #Tial 50mm blow-off valve, Tial 44mm MVR wastegate, M50 intake manifold, #Mishimoto coolant overflow, Mishimoto performance aluminium radiator, #Steward high-performance water pump, RK Tunes E85 turbo tune and MAF, 115lb high impedance injectors, Rally Road high-flow billet fuel rail, Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator, Vibrant intake filter, custom fabricated 3” stainless steel down pipe and exhaust system, #Vibrant turbo muffler, #Radium-Engineering oil catch can, #Radium-Engineering 12 micron fuel filter, Racetronix Fuel Pump wiring harness, Walbro 485lph fuel pump
POWER AND TORQUE 610whp, 571 lb ft wtq
TRANSMISSION Five-speed #ZF manual gearbox, UUC twin-disc flywheel/clutch kit, #UUC steel clutch line, Rally Road clutch pivot pin, #UUC-EVO3 short shifter with double shear selector rod, #Vorshlag polyurethane transmission mounts
CHASSIS 8.5x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) #BBS-LM wheels with 235/40 (front) Hankook Ventus V12 Evo2 and 255/35 (rear) Toyo Proxes R888 tyres, BBS red centre caps, #BBS stud kit, #Bilstein-PSS9 coilovers, Vorshlag polyurethane engine mounts, #Dinan front and rear strut braces, #BMW OEM X-brace, #Brembo GT BBK with 355x32mm two-piece discs and four-piston calipers (front) and 328x28mm two-piece discs and two-piston calipers (rear), #Hawk HPS brake pads (front and rear)
EXTERIOR Alpine white, ZKW HID projector headlights, ECS tuning European front clear corners, side markers and rear lights, Max Velocity RS front lip, Mateo Motorsports rear diffuser, UUC three-way adjustable carbon fibre spoiler
INTERIOR Custom wrapped European three-spoke steering wheel, MT shift boots Alcantara gear lever and handbrake gaiters, Rally Road steering column dual gauge pod, LeatherZ centre gauge pod, Turbosmart Eboost2 boost controller/gauge, #Zeitronix ZR-2 wideband AFR, ECA-2 ethanol content analyser, ZR-2 boost and ZR-2 fuel pressure gauges
Hard-pipe-mounted Tial blow-off vlave.
Turbo is hidden away, only the air filter is visible in the engine bay.
Interior home to various gauges plus Alcantara gear and hand brake gaiters.
Gorgeous 18” BBS LMs and #Brembo-BBK .
Up front, HID projector headlights with angel eyes.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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A period-styled early-’90s E30 is a very desirable thing these days. So what happens if you exaggerate all of the details just a little bit? Ernie Hofstetter is the man to ask… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Anna Taylor.
/ #BMW-E30-M50-swapped / #BMW-E30-Cab / #M50-swapped
Exaggeration, despite what your teachers at school told you, is nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, it can be helpful in getting ahead in life to artfully embellish and subtly big up the finer points of your character and achievements, to massage the salient facts into something more colourful. Doesn’t hurt anybody, does it?
Ernie Hofstetter is a man who appreciates the nuances of this sort of behaviour. We’re not saying he’s a show off, of course – not by any means. But he’s reached the stage in his life when he’s seen a few automotive scenes come and go, ebb and flow, and he’s been taking notes all the way through. And here, with this E30, we find his meisterwerk; the physical manifestation of his years of careful observation, made real in glorious style. He’s taken the archetypal retro #BMW convertible, made it look sort of like a spec’d-up period example, but cunningly exaggerated the details. Thanks to this carefully thoughtthrough approach, the car’s almost like a cartoon – it looks like it would have done rolling through his hometown of Howell, New Jersey back in 1991, but something’s different… it’s lower, broader, meaner, more aggressive. Those subtle small details have added up to a mighty whole.
“Back when I was 18, I thought these E30s were the coolest thing,” Ernie remembers. “When the time came around decades later that I wanted a fun car, that model immediately came to mind. Throughout the years my cars have always been modified – one of my favourites was my 2006 Lincoln Mark LT pick-up truck – but this a bit different. I’ve always been interested in BMWs, it’s a quality European driving machine, so it was the clear choice this time.”
Ernie happily admits that he didn’t have a distinct plan for the car when he first got hold of it, and was willing to let inspiration be his guide. The cabriolet was found for sale in Philadelphia, and was in reasonable condition – not amazing and certainly not up to Ernie’s high standard but, of course, it was never the intention to buy someone else’s project. He wanted to create something unique of his very own: “Let the modding begin,” he mischievously grins.
The first area that was primed for exaggeration was the big oily bit under the bonnet. While M20 motors have their merits, Ernie wanted to go harder, better, faster, stronger, and the way to achieve this was to swap the thing out for the rather mightier choice of the M50. Specifically, an #M50B25 : the 2.5-litre #straight-six that you’d normally find powering an E36 325i. “The M20 was boring and ugly,” he says, somewhat mercilessly, “and the M50 is much cleaner and sleeker. Any non-essential parts were removed from the engine bay, along with any unnecessary brackets and so on, to make it all look as clean as possible; the battery was relocated to the boot to help with this too. I uprated the cooling system with a Mishimoto radiator and a Spal fan, and the exhaust system consists of ceramic-coated exhaust manifolds with heat wrap, a Borla mid-section and a Vibrant muffler – all custom, of course!
The car also started off as an automatic, but we couldn’t have that so it’s been swapped to a manual Getrag 260 five-speed transmission, with a Z3 shifter and aluminium shift carrier.”
A pretty comprehensive transformation, you’ll surely agree, but Ernie was just getting started. Having substantially beefed up the muscularity of the old drop-top, neatly morphing it from cruiser to bruiser, it was time to address the question of altitude.
Now, Ernie’s seen a thing or two, as we said, so he’s observed the stance scene evolving from grass roots to comparative mainstream. However, while air-ride has been around since World War II, its presence at the forefront of custom car culture is a relatively recent thing; back when our man was a teenager, the way to get your ride hopping was to slam in some hydros. So is that what Ernie’s opted for here? Not quite… you see, that exaggeration factor has come into play again. “I’ve always had the need to go lower,” he explains (note that he uses the word ‘need’ – that’ll no doubt be familiar to a number of you. This isn’t just playing, it’s a lifestyle). “The only thing that could satisfy me with this project was air suspension. So now the car has a full Air Lift system, with 3P management, rolling sleeves up front and Slamit Industries bags in the rear with Bilstein shocks. I custom-painted the airtank in the trunk, which gives a good supply of air at all times!” Well, that’s good to hear.
The next logical step was to put some thought into the wheels. No good slamming the thing over a set of weedy stock steels, right? So Ernie bolted on some 17” rims from iForged… but then he quickly changed his mind. The period style of the early Nineties was calling, and he found himself drawn toward the timeless charms of the BBS RS, knocking the diameter down an inch but beefing up the girth to amusing degrees: these things are 7.5” wide at the front, 8.5” out back, and the way it sits is so aggressively juicy that it almost makes your eyes water. Imagine an automotive cartoonist in the early 1990s sketching up a BBS-shod E30, slamming it to the ground with improbable lows – that’s the look Ernie’s achieved in real life. Once again, it’s a masterstroke of considered exaggeration. “Whatever happened to the car, I wanted it to be as clean as possible,” he assures us.
“The small details count to me. So this car was a real labour of love! The bulk of it was actually built by Michael Hockman, who is a legend in the E30 community, and has now become a great friend of mine. But all the fine finishing work was done by me, with great pride, as well as some talented people: Levent from Guten Parts, Andrew from Open Road Tuning, Rich from County Line Auto Body, and of course my fantastic wife Michelle who has the patience of a saint!”
What’s clear as Ernie talks us through the detail points of the car is that this sits somewhere on the mid-point of the scale between evolution and revolution; some of the changes he’s made are pretty extreme, and yet the whole ethos of the thing is to consider a period build and artistically amp it up for a 21st century audience. Take the treatment of the interior: “I wanted the insides to be as stock as possible, but I still wanted the modern amenities,” he says. “So that meant an AV audio receiver, iPod interface, reversing camera, satellite radio, navigation – all of the things that make it more comfortable.” And that’s exactly what we find in there, all subtly and tastefully integrated into the old-skool vibe. It certainly helps that work like this is his bread-and-butter, being a salesman of stereo and security systems for cars as well as all manner of bolt-on performance gizmos, and this E30 ’vert is a solid manifestation of his skills as well as his aspirations.
“It took a good six months to get the car to a quality I was happy with,” Ernie explains. “But there’s always fine-tuning going on – they’re never really finished, are they?” Well, no, he’s hit the nail on the head there. We always find new things to fiddle with. And when you’ve been observing the scene for as long as Ernie has, your mind can’t help but be constantly swimming with fresh ideas and new things to try. So this E30 is bound to change in the near future – possibly unrecognisably – but in this cheery little snapshot of the here-and-now, it’s pretty much perfect. An early-Nineties style convertible, with all the details cleverly exaggerated to turn it into a thoroughly modern creation.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E30-M50 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-325i-E30 / #BMW-325i-E30-M50 / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-325i-Cabriolet / #BMW-325i-Cabriolet-E30 / #Getrag / #Viair / #BMW-E30-Air-Lift
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M50B25TU / #M50 / #BMW-M50 / #M50B25 from E36 325i, #Mishimoto radiator, Spal 16” fan, battery relocated to boot, #Raceskids skid plate, 318i harness cover, ceramic-coated headers with heat wrap, custom Y-pipe, #Borla mid-pipe and #Vibrant rear box with 2.5” piping, shaved and wire-tucked bay, #Getrag-260 five-speed conversion, custom transmission brace, Z3 shifter, aluminium shift carrier, 3.73 LSD
CHASSIS 7.5x16” (front) and 8.5x16” (rear) ET14 #BBS-RS / #BBS , 180 slant lip (front) and 247 slant lip (rear), with 195/45 (front) and 215/40 (rear) Yokohama S-Drive tyres, full #Air-Lift suspension system with front rolling sleeves and Slamit Industries rear bags, Autopilot 3P management, dual #Viair-444C compressors
EXTERIOR Smoked projector headlights with integrated indicators, 6k low- and 3k high-beam HID lights, Euro grilles, rear impact strip fitted to front bumper, smoked tails and corner lights, front and rear valances with Ryan G splitter
INTERIOR #M-Tech-II suede steering wheel, suede gaiters, chrome gauge rings with Alpina tach strip and painted needles, #ZHP illuminated gear knob, #BMW pedal set including foot rest, Alpine AV receiver with navigation and reversing camera, JL Audio speakers, subwoofer and amplifier
Gorgeous 16” #BBS RSs boast impressive width and have serious dish going on.
Air Lift 3P #Air-ride setup lets Ernie go as low as he wants to while custom boot build shows off both air components and upgraded audio elements, which include JL Audio speakers, subwoofer and amp.
“The small details count to me. So this car was a real labour of love!”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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Gorgeous bagged #BMW E30 with an #S52 swap and shaved bay
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
In the same family for almost 30 years, this ridiculously clean E30 has undergone quite a transformation in that time. Some heirlooms leave a more lasting impression than others, as we discover when we meet Nick Lanno from Ohio. Words: Louise Woodhams. Photos: Patrick McCue.
It’s not often a car stays in the same family for almost 30 years, yet this 1987 325iS is the very same car that delivered Nick Lanno – the subject of our story – from hospital when he was born, and 15 years later became his first car.
That was in 2009, and Nick, now aged 22, has completely transformed the car from what it once was. He takes up the story: “My father bought the car brand-new from David Hobbs BMW in Chillicothe, Ohio, and he drove it on a daily basis right up until my teens, so it was always in the garage while we were wrenching on other vehicles together. That’s where my passion for cars started.”
Nick couldn’t help but fall in love with the E30 and as soon as he was old enough he began to research these cars. That’s when he got hooked on the blue and white roundel, as he explains: “The fact that they are truly a driver’s car is what attracted me to them the most. The heritage and history behind all these classic BMWs that people own is so interesting and they almost always carry a great story. I love every car BMW has made to this day and I will always be a BMW enthusiast.”
This was the car that took Nick to school, to soccer games, to friends’ houses, you name it – it was a huge part of his life and quite often he would while away the hours thinking how incredible it would be to own it one day. In 2000 it went into storage, and then, much to Nick’s surprise, nine years later it was taken out of storage and given to him on his 15th birthday! His childhood dream had come true.
“There was no other E30 I would rather have had than this car. It was perfect and despite having clocked up 120k, it was immaculate; all OEM parts, original paint, absolutely rust-free, and it had a full service history,” he recalls.
Needless to say it did not stay 100 per cent original for long. In fact, the first thing Nick did as soon as it was in his possession was lower it on a set of Ireland Engineering race springs. Other modifications included all red tail-lights, smoked Euro Smiley headlights and side repeaters, a later model front valance and a Zender rear valance. Shortly after that, the car then went back into storage so that over the next few years Nick could save some money and let the real transformation begin.
Once again it was the suspension that demanded Nick’s attention first: “After pouring through different forums looking at the various setups, I knew that to get the drop I really wanted I’d have to look into a custom air-ride setup.” Up front he’s installed Air Lift’s Crafter Series struts, while Air House II bags and Bilstein shocks reside out back. The rear spring perches were modified for the bags, as were the front spindles for the struts. The system is managed by Air Lift’s Autopilot V2, with plenty of presets all at the tip of Nick’s fingers in the centre console. “The setup is so convenient, making road trips as comfortable as can be, yet the car still handles fantastically in the corners. I have the best of both worlds,” he adds.
The car remained in this guise for the next three months, until one fateful day when the timing belt from the original M20B25 snapped. This prompted the next stage of the build. “I sourced a low-mileage S52B32 out of a 1999 M3 from a good friend in Cincinnati with roughly 70k on it,” Nick says. “I completely regasketed the motor from top to bottom, as well as safety wiring the oil pump nut, before fitting 21.5lb injectors, a lightened flywheel, and a 3.5” intake setup.” Together with a few friends, the swap took about a week to do. Apparently the maiden voyage with open headers put one of the biggest smiles on Nick’s face to this day. Not surprisingly it came to life as a completely different beast that day.
After two years of driving it across the States to various shows, Nick wanted to take the car to a new level – he wanted to shave, tuck and customise the engine bay. Fortunately a good friend of his owned a body shop so once Nick had pulled out the engine to take care of tidying up the wiring harness and deleting any non-essentials such as air-con and power steering, the car was sent off for six months to begin its transformation. “Everything looks so neat and beautiful under the bonnet now, but the star of the show has to be S52. It is so reliable and has plenty of power to make the car feel a blast to drive. It brings a smile to my face every time I’m behind the wheel.”
Whilst this car’s spec is a far cry from when Nick’s father bought it all those years ago, it’s still managed to retain its factory charm. And that’s because his objective throughout the build has been to keep things clean, simple and classy. The same philosophy has been applied to the cabin of the car, which is relatively stock save for the Nardi steering wheel, custom stitched M-Tech style gear knob and gaiter and Coco mats, which are all period-correct for the car. “I wanted the car to retain its original feel,” Nick says. “I’ve even kept the seats, which are fairly worn now, but it gives it character.”
Like any true project, the car has gone through various incarnations of wheels, including BBS RSs and CCWs, but Nick eventually settled for 8.5x16” (front) and 9.5x16” (rear) Schmidt TH Line wheels shod in 205/40 rubber that you see on the car now, and we have to say that they suit the stance, lines and age of the car perfectly.
This is not a car created with a blank cheque book; it is a car with tons of sentimental value to the owner and gradually improved over time with the help of friends and family. It’s been built to drive and to enjoy, it doesn’t sit in a garage or on a trailer and we love the fact that whilst Nick put his own stamp on it he’s taken a wholly sympathetic approach in his choice of modifications. Now it’s finally complete all he plans to do is simply drive it. “It has taken a lot of effort to get the car to where it is today but it was a journey which has led me to meet a lot of fantastic friends and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. The car is a big part of me and something I am most definitely proud of.”
Along with the life lessons and skills that a father teaches a son, there are also certain material things that you pass down – like a tool kit or, in Nick’s case, a dream car. In these increasingly disposable times, fewer and fewer items are worth saving and giving to your children, so we hope Nick sticks to family tradition and passes his treasured 325iS to his own son or daughter.
DATA FILE #BMW-325iS #S52 air-ride #E30 / #BMW-325iS / #BMW-325iS-S52-E30 / #BMW-325iS-S52-Air-Ride-E30 / #BMW-325iS-E30 / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-E30 / #S52B32 / / #BMW-S52 / #Bimmerworld / #Getrag-260 / #BMW /
ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 / , 21.5lb injectors, 3.5” #Euro-MAF , 3.5” #Bimmerworld-Silicone intake boot, air-con and power steering delete, #M42 radiator, TMS remap, Condor Speed Shop engine mounts, custom longtube headers and 2.5” exhaust including #Vibrant race resonator; shaved, tucked and resprayed engine bay
TRANSMISSION OEM #Getrag 260 five-speed gearbox, #Sachs-HD clutch, #MWorks-Garage custom transmission crossmember, #Condor-Speed-Shop Speed Shop transmission mounts, lightweight flywheel
CHASSIS 8.5x16” (front) and 9.5x16” (rear) #Schmidt-TH-Line wheels with 205/40 (f&r) Nitto Neogen tyres, #Air-Lift universal front struts, #Air-House II rear bags, #Bilstein rear shocks, #AutoPilot V2 management including five-gallon tank and #Viair-400C compressor, drilled and slotted brake discs and Hawk pads, brake booster delete, E21 master cylinder, tucked brake lines, stainless steel braided clutch slave line
EXTERIOR Later model front valance, iS front spoiler and bootlip, smoked Euro Smiley headlights and side repeaters, all red tail-lights, #Zender rear valence, #Shadowline trim
INTERIOR Nardi Classic steering wheel, custom stitched #M-Tech-style gear knob and gaiter, Coco mats, #Dynamatted back seat and boot
THANKS All of my good friends in BHC, and those that had a hand in the build, my father and Anthony at ASC Autoworks
Front end, like the rest of the car, is incredibly clean, with a late model valence and iS front spoiler. #AutoPilot-V2 management offers eight presets and countless options; gorgeous 16” Schmidt splits suit the E30 perfectly.
The car is a big part of me and something I am definitely proud of.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationIncredible supercharged custom widebody air-ride E46 M3 / #BMW
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Boasting a custom wide-body kit, air-ride, supercharger and custom interior, we challenge you to find a more complete project car than this staggering E46 M3.
Exploding onto the scene and tearing through it with the ferocity of a supercharged tornado, this E46 M3 is a devastating lesson in the theory that more can most definitely be more. Words: Elizabeth de Latour /// Photos: Tony Lopez
When building a project car there are numerous approaches and end goals you can look to achieve: some people build out-and-out show cars; some people build ferocious fast road cars; some people go for an all-out audio build; and some go to town on styling. When Rick Fontan got to work on his E46 M3 he decided to do, well, everything. We feature a lot of amazing cars in Drive-My but it’s not that often that we come across a car that has been modified as absolutely as this, on every level, and this is one of those cars that, when we first saw it, genuinely took our breath away.
Of course, we’re sure that Rick will be the first person to admit that his car isn’t going to be met with universal appeal – it has been blowing minds like a brain bomb and collecting awards like some kind of giant award-collecting magnet since he rolled it out earlier in the year for the first time but there’s plenty here that will raise many an eyebrow. Those chopped front arches, for example, the highly unconventional bonnet setup, the fact that he’s blended so many different elements that in many ways conflict with each other and brought them together in one project. It’s definitely not a conventional build and by that very virtue he’s created something incredibly noticeable. Sometimes, when you come across a build that incorporates so many different elements, the end result can be a little jarring, with components that really don’t look like they belong together and it can be a little unpalatable – it’s the meat trifle from Friends, a lot of potentially delicious ingredients coming together to make something that’s hard to stomach but somehow Rick has made his vision work.
He’s plucked that vision from his brain and translated it into a tangible object that is coherent and, more than that, genuinely good. For all its wideness, angularity and sheer eyeball-punching impact, there is an inherent smoothness and oneness to this E46 M3. Everything flows together: the bodywork is wild but the Lamborghini Grigio silver paint is quite subtle; the wheels are large and multi-piece, yes, but sport a simple design; the purple highlights that appear throughout are just right in terms of colour and number to tie numerous elements together without overwhelming the car’s overall aesthetic and while the components might be unlikely bedfellows somehow everything just feels right together. A lot of thought and work has gone into this build and it shows.
So, just what kind of man builds this sort of car and why? “I have been into BMWs since I was about 19 years old. That’s when I first started getting into cars in general,” muses the now 33-year-old Rick. “BMW has always been respected in the show scene, on the street, and on the track. I think that’s what makes it so special. It covers all aspects of what a car should be and how it should be built. I had a Mitsubishi Eclipse for about four years before selling it to buy the M3. It was fully built by the time I sold it and I had won multiple awards with that build and even landed a magazine feature. I bought the M3 in 2006 from a dealership in Queens. It was a little beat up and had about 50,000 miles on it but that didn’t bother me at all because I already knew it was only a matter of time before I would start modifying it anyway. This was my dream car and as soon as I saw the opportunity to get one, I jumped on it. My inspiration came from Craig Liberman and his ‘uber’ M3; I was obsessed with that car and just knew I had to build one of my own and I had it all mapped out. I knew exactly what I wanted to do to it before I even knew purchasing one was an actual possibility.
“Going in I knew I wanted to build a show car. I had to make sure all areas of the car were addressed, especially the motor as it is the one area that everyone asks to see. I couldn’t have a built car without any engine modifications, that’s a no-go!
“My car had to be equally balanced. I made sure to modify the engine enough to be able to put it on a track as well as look amazing just sitting there on a showroom floor.” He’s certainly delivered on that front. The engine work isn’t insane but it’s nice to see a car built on this scale running something attainable under the engine bay – although that’s not to say this isn’t a seriously powerful and subsequently fast E46 M3.
There’s no missing that Vortech supercharger, painted in Candy purple, with a TurboSmart blow-off valve but you won’t be able to spot the uprated pulley and belt that help up the boost. There’s a Vibrant front mount intercooler with custom piping, Driven Innovations intake manifold and Agency Power stainless steel exhaust manifolds which lead to custom GTR-style side exit exhausts. Rick has paid a lot of attention to the fuelling, with Injector Dynamics ID725 fuel injectors and an upgraded fuel rail, while in the back you’ll find an ATL fuel cell, an amazing ATL dual dry break filler, plus a Bosch 044 fuel pump and Aeromotive fuel regulator. What’s most impressive, though, is not what’s in the engine bay but what isn’t, as the bay’s been shaved and a full wire tuck has been carried out. It looks spectacular for it; no wonder it’s Rick’s favourite mod on the entire car. “It takes the entire build of the car to the next level,” he says. “Plus, it’s very rare to see an M3 with this style of build and a shaved bay.” He’s not wrong. The super-clean bay draws your eye to engine and the ’charger and it makes the Candy purple highlights even more spectacular against the simple silver background.
With the Vortech blower and supporting mods, Rick’s M3 is putting out an impressive 450whp and that means some equally impressive drivetrain and chassis mods are required in order to be able to put that to good use. Originally this was an SMG car but Rick has swapped in a manual gearbox mated to an uprated UUC Stage 2 clutch and UUC flywheel to deal with the serious boost in power while a short-shifter takes a bit of travel out of the M3’s surprisingly long throw for quicker, sharper gear changes. For the brakes, Rick turned to StopTech, slapping on the company’s seriously powerful six-pot front kit with two-piece slotted discs which is matched to an ever-soslightly smaller four-pot setup at the rear, with tucked braided hoses all-round and purple calipers, naturally.
It won’t have escaped your attention that this car is on air and Rick’s reasoning is sound: “I went for this setup to have the best of both worlds. With suspension like this it allows me to drive the car daily, set the ride height lower if I were to track it, slam it down to the floor or even raise it high enough to drive onto a trailer.” His kit of choice is Air Lift’s excellent offering along with the equally excellent V2 controller. The suspension mods haven’t stopped there and this E46 M3 has also been treated to uprated front and rear anti-roll bars, carbon fibre lower control arms and a rear camber kit, plus the entire undercarriage has been Stoneguard powdercoated.
We mentioned the wheels earlier and that the simple design works really well against the riot of styling that’s going on at the same time. “I’ve always liked the mesh type of wheels,” says Rick, “but with this type of build I decided to go with five-spoke wheels. I feel it gives the car an aggressive look and displays my brake setup beautifully.” We agree – the spoke spacing on the three-piece 20” SSR Professor SP1 wheels that he’s opted for is massive, meaning everyone gets a great view of those huge brakes, and the 10” front and 12” rears mean serious dish.
As far as the exterior of this car is concerned, there’s no two ways about it: it’s utterly insane. It’s not going to appeal to everyone but there’s no denying how much work has gone into it and how spectacular the end result it. “The styling of this car has been through many different stages over the years,” Rick tells us. “There were many problems and challenges along the way because of all the different shops it went to, but about three years ago my car finally landed at AMS Autowerks where the final transformation took place. Even that was a challenge in itself. Diogo Acevedo, the owner, had to rip the car apart and basically start from scratch.”
A big job then, but that’s kind of stating the obvious. So what exactly have we got here? Well, for starters, there’s the custom wide-body kit with its extreme arches and those sections chopped from the rear of each one which really makes this car unique. Elsewhere there’s carbon fibre – lots and lots of carbon fibre – with a custom carbon front lip, Vorsteiner carbon boot and roof, carbon headlight overlays, and M front, side grilles and emblems for good measure. The fat exhausts poke out from the side skirts and have been fitted with custom heat shields to stop them from melting the kit and then there’s the bonnet, or rather the lack of it. Now, at first glance you might think that Rick has popped his bonnet off for the photos, as you often see guys doing, but look a little closer and you realise that, no, what you’re seeing is the bonnet in its entirety. Rick says it’s a custom 1/3 bonnet and closer inspection reveals that basically the front 1/3 of the bonnet has been retained and mounted as it normally would be while the rest of it has essentially been chopped off and possibly discarded in a hedge somewhere. It’s very different and pretty cool for its double-take factor.
Moving inside there’s barely time to take a breather as the car continues to assault your senses. “The interior needed to look as clean as the rest of the car and to continue the exterior theme as well,” says Rick. This meant stripping stuff out and painting a whole bunch of things Candy purple. The whole interior has been trimmed in suede with purple stitching and up front Rick has plumped for a pair of Recaro Profi XL seats along with Schroth Profi 5 harnesses and a Vertex steering wheel mounted on a Momo hub. There’s carbon trim galore, along with a carbon gear knob and a custom dash housing an AIM stack cluster, boost gauge and ATL fuel gauge, plus a custom carbon bezel for the Alpine touchscreen head unit. The digital controller for the air suspension has been mounted in the driver’s air vent – a neat touch. The rear seats are gone and in their place sits a custom roll-cage, finished in Candy purple, a purple air tank and the Focal four-channel and mono amps for the seriously impressive audio setup. The front doors house the Focal K2 Power three-way speakers while the boot area is home to a pair of custom-mounted 10” Focal Utopia Be subs, which share the space with that incredible fuel setup.
So, there we have it. If you’ve ever wondered what you could achieve with your car given nine years and a truck-load of cash, hard work and determination, wonder no more because you’re looking at it. It’s not just the overall end result that’s mind-blowing, because it is, but it’s the attention to detail that’s gone into it, the thought, the creativity. Every aspect of the car makes you stop, look, look again and marvel. Do you love it? Do you love all of it? Maybe, maybe not, but we can guarantee it’s getting a reaction from you.
And that’s what this car does best: get people’s attention. “After three years of completely rebuilding the car it was debuted in August of 2015 at the Tuner Evolution car show in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The crowd’s reaction was priceless as show-goers looked at it in amazement. The judges felt the same way as it was awarded ‘Best of Show’. Later that month I showed it at Wekfest East in Edison, New Jersey and also took ‘Best of Show’,” Rick says beaming like a proud father seeing his child winning a trophy at sports day. This isn’t just a car, it’s an extension of Rick, the physical manifestation of his vision and it’s the kind of car, the kind of complete car that you know was not a casual build. If you haven’t guessed, we kind of love it, it’s an absolutely awesome car on every level and proves that more is most definitely more.
Rear seats long-gone and in their place is a custom Candy purple roll-cage, air tank and two amps.
“I made sure to modify the engine enough to be able to put it on a track as well as look amazing just sitting there on a showroom floor”
“The interior needed to look as clean as the rest of the car and to continue the exterior theme as well”
DATA FILE Supercharged #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-M3-E46-Supercharged / #BMW-M3-Supercharged
ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 , #Vortech-supercharger / #Vortech , upgraded belt and pulley, oil cooler, Vibrant front mount intercooler with custom piping, #Vibrant hoses, Agency Power stainless steel exhaust manifolds, #Injector-dynamics-ID725 fuel injectors, upgraded fuel rail, Driven Innovations intake manifold, #TurboSmart blowoff valve, Custom GTR-style side mounted exhausts, #ATL fuel cell, ATL dual dry break filler, #Bosch-044 fuel pump, #Aeromotive fuel regulator, reinforced sheet metal trunk, all braided stainless steel lines, Candy purple painted accents, shaved engine bay, full wire tuck. Est. 450whp.
TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual transmission swap, upgraded clutch, short-shift, #UUC Stage 2 clutch, UUC flywheel, Chase Bays brake booster eliminator.
CHASSIS 10x20” (front) and 12x20” (rear) SSR #Professor SP1 three-piece wheels with 255/30 (front) and 305/25 (rear) Toyo Proxes T1-R tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance air suspension, uprated anti-roll bars (front and rear), carbon fibre lower control arms, rear camber kit, Stoneguard powdercoated entire undercarriage, #StopTech ST-60 #BBK with slotted discs (front) and ST-40 BBK with slotted discs (rear) with purple callipers (front and rear), braided stainless steel brake lines, brake line tuck.
EXTERIOR Custom-built wide-body kit, custom 1/3 mini bonnet, Vorsteiner carbon fibre boot, carbon fibre front lip, custom splitter, #Vorsteiner carbon fibre roof, carbon fibre headlight overlays, carbon fibre M front and side grilles, carbon fibre emblems, custom heat shield for exhaust, Lamborghini Grigio silver paint.
INTERIOR #Recaro-Profi-XL bucket seats, Schroth Profi 5 harnesses, custom roll-cage in Candy purple, full suede interior with purple stitching, #Vertex steering wheel, #Momo hub, M Tech pedals, carbon fibre gear knob, custom dashboard, AIM stack cluster, boost gauge, ATL fuel gauge, custommounted V2 controller, custom carbon fibre bezel, interior LED lighting, rear seat delete.
AUDIO #Alpine LCD touchscreen head unit, #Focal-K2 Power threeway speakers, #Focal-FPS3000 mono amplifier, #Focal-FPS4160 four-channel amplifier, #Dynamat sound dampening, #Focal crossovers, 2 #Focal-Utopia Be 10” subs.
THANKS I would like to give a special thanks to my parents because without them none of this would’ve been possible. Their continued support throughout the years is what allowed me to pursue this passion and push me to complete this build. I want to thank all my family and friends that helped me along the way. To my girl for all her patience and support and being part of this with me, AMS Autowerks in Linden, NJ, Audio Clinic in Belleville, NJ, Branch Brook Auto Top in Newark, NJ, and, of course, to #Drive-My for allowing me to grace the cover of your magazine and show the car to the world.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.