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    SIZE MATTERS

    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!”
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    PURPLE HEARTS

    Built to commemorate its owner’s late father, this Daytona E36 Cab is a poignant purple project. Kevin Love’s dear departed father used to rock a boisterous purple muscle car. So what better way to celebrate his memory than with a fresh new build in the same vein? Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Kevin Love.

    From 1969 to 1973, American muscle car enthusiasts were treated to a stimulating palette of glistening new colours in the Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth model ranges. These new HIP shades (standing for High Impact Paint) came to aggressively assault the retinas of passers-by with a lurid and shocking take on the generally considered conventions of the car hue genre.


    And the best thing about all of this corporate playfulness was the names that were chosen for these paints: Top Banana, Go Mango, Sub-Lime, Panther Pink, Citron-Yella, and of course Plum Crazy. These were extrovert cars, they deserved extrovert colours.


    “My father had a 1968 Dodge Charger in Plum Crazy,” recalls Kevin Love, as he casts a fond eye over his own purple toy. “It was his Purple Haze, and when he passed away I wanted to create my own personal tribute to him, my own Purple Haze.” And that’s just what you see here – a #1995 E36 M3 in Daytona Violet. Sure, its origins lie on the other side of the Atlantic to his father’s old car, but the ethos of the project is the same: a beautiful, aggressive, eye-catching machine with far more horsepower than necessary and race track DNA clearly on display.

    “Following the success of my M3 convertible, I was ready to hit the ground running with another unique build,” Kevin continues. “That was my first BMW project and it was ten years in the making, culminating in a feature in DRIVE-MY in August 2014.” He’d set the bar high then, having already appeared in these hallowed pages. So, how might one ensure that lightning strikes twice? Presumably by getting things off on the right foot and starting with a solid, decent project base, yes?

    “Er, no!” he laughs. “When I bought this car it was in rough shape. I had two choices at that point – either I make it a track rat and just gut it, or turn it into another beauty queen. I did a little research and found the M-Cross interior, and that was the moment I knew which direction I wanted to go with the build. I am an OEM fanatic and I strive to find the rare parts to make the car that little bit more noteworthy.” He’s not kidding – seasoned DRIVE-MY readers may recall how Kevin transformed his convertible 318i auto into an M3-powered show-stopper with an Anthrazit Rain interior and all manner of rare original-equipment bits. If it’s obscure and Bavarian, Kevin will find it.


    “I’d created the Colorado BMW Groupë on Facebook, and a fellow member had listed this car for sale,” he recalls. “I liked the car but I wasn’t in the position to pull the trigger at that time. A few months later it was listed once again; the more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. The colour is what truly sold me – we arranged to meet up, and when I saw the colour in person I was convinced. And I didn’t waste any time in tearing into the thing either… pretty much as soon as I got it home I went through the car on all the maintenance, refreshing all the suspension components, and I detailed it inside and out. Then I started replacing weather-stripping and seals; I knew exactly what I needed to do right away to make this car have a great starting point to build from.”


    The thing with talking to Kevin about his #BMW love affair is that it’s like flicking the switch on a Duracell bunny, you just set him going and he’s off for hours, absorbed in his own passion. It’s endearing – this is a guy who just can’t restrain himself from spending countless hours online, on the phone, in lock-ups and breaker’s yards, and on social media hunting down rare parts, garnering and giving advice, just living the BMW dream. It swims in his blood. Passion that his beloved Charger-toting father, Rodney, would surely be hugely proud of.

    “I wanted to challenge myself, I never wanted to look back and be known from my previous build and fall short,” Kevin asserts. “Most of all, this car is my own build and not built for others’ approval. I consider myself an OEM fanatic, but I also appreciate the stance movement, and at the end of the day this is just my perfect M3.

    “The first big modification was the Air Lift V2 suspension,” he continues. “I wanted reliability, and not to have to plan my route around town in advance.” Wise sentiment indeed, and something we hear time and time again from owners who’ve made the switch to air-ride – there will always be people hating on the format, but it really can be an all-things-to-all-men solution.

    Kevin’s next big decision, having got those arches markedly closer to the ground, was to figure out what to fill them with. “I got in contact with a vendor in Germany selling Carline CM6 wheels – easily my favourite wheel style that I always dreamed of owning,” he enthuses. “With that life goal ticked off, and the wheels’ hardware swapped for 24-carat gold items for good measure, I then fitted my very rare and obscure Dove Alcantara M-Cross interior. In fact, throughout the build I sourced every Motorsport item I could, ending with the strut brace.”

    It’s been, as we’ve come to expect from Kevin, an exhaustive exercise in partshunting, touching on such desirable treats as the red Motorsport seat belts, the door handles and, most noticeably from outside, that outrageous GT2 Class II boot spoiler. “I wanted to keep the car as clean and classy as I could make it,” he assures us. “I wanted everything to be as OEM as possible. That Class II spoiler is my favourite and most noticeable exterior modification, and I’ve added lots of little touches to make it my own – for example the headlight retrofit and M-colour pinstriping. I don’t want them to be immediately obvious, more that they’ll be picked up on by people who know what they’re looking for. This is how I feel BMW should have released the M3 from factory!”

    Of course, a healthy outlook toward increased thrust is key to a build such as this, not least because we’re talking about an M3, but also in the interest of authentically continuing the Love family line of Purple Haze tuning. Under the bonnet you’ll find the #S50B30 US, based on the M50 with that engine’s less complex head design and twostage Vanos, and lower compression than its European counterpart plus a normal throttle body rather than ITBs, making 240hp.

    However, improvements can be made to get the engine feeling a little healthier. The brawny six now enjoys an M50 manifold with an AFE intake, and Kevin’s a sucker for a Rogue Engineering exhaust – possibly, we speculate, because the back box looks a bit suggestive when viewed from behind – so you’ll find one of those under there too. It’s all been electronically tickled by RK-Tunes, with the package finished off neatly by a 3.38 LSD at the rear. Show and go in one brightly coloured and slightly frightening package – much like a ’68 Charger, really. A little more technologically advanced, perhaps, but certainly on the same page.

    It’s easy to be blasé about a car such as this, and maybe assume that it’s a chequebook build, particularly coming hot on the heels of another equally detailed project, but it’s important to bear in mind the sheer effort that Kevin’s put into this. His BMW obsession is an all-consuming force in his life; the engine work, for example, was all carried at by Kevin in his garage, along with his buddy Brandon, and he wears the results as a deserved badge of honour. And his focus on the aesthetics is well on par with his mechanical nous.

    His description of the interior work is modest, but implies so many hours of work: “The interior was in real bad shape to begin with – typical 20-year-old wear and tear. Dove seats just never look clean, and it had the usual saggy headliner and wilting doorcards. I stripped the whole interior down in order to swap over to Grau Alcantara M-Cross cloth. I also added in the Euro three-spoke wheel wrapped in new Alcantara, along with the shift and e-brake boots matched with M-stitching. It’s finished off nicely with Motorsport door seals, seat belts and OEM carbon-fibre trim pieces.” That he makes it sound like all in a day’s work tells you more about his modesty than anything else.

    “I have found parts for this car from all over the world,” he continues. “Luckily the interior was purchased from a seller in California, so shipping wasn’t as dramatic. The wheels came from Germany as well as a lot of the Motorsport items; I started with a clear idea of what I wanted to do with the build, and the only thing that really slowed me down was sourcing all the parts I wanted on the car. I made lots of contacts though, and was fortunate enough to have smooth transactions. And there are so many things I love about my car now – the body lines just work so well together, and I focused a lot on the interior as that’s where I spend most of the time. It has a calming, yet sporty feel. The reliability of the air-ride really makes a big difference too; I can go for my stance for daily driving, then turn the car into a weekend track warrior, beefing up the suspension with a push of a button!”



    Kevin has much to be proud of here. The fruits of his labours shout loudly about a man who knows whereof he speaks. There’s an inherent conflict of approach in that, on the one hand, he’s eager for it to have all of the correct parts and look just-so, and on the other hand that he doesn’t do shows and would rather just be out driving the thing… but it’s safe to say that he’s balancing the whims of the two demons effectively. While he describes his kinship with the car as being ‘a love-hate relationship’, he’s fooling no-one. This car is all about love. It’s baked right into it, a Love family tradition. And you can be sure that Kevin’s old man would be proud to see his Purple Haze legacy living on in such fine, muscular style.

    Carline CM6 wheels look stunning; DJ Auto headlights with projector retrofit are one of the many smart, subtle additions on this car.

    “I can go for my stance for daily driving, then turn the car into a weekend track warrior, beefing up the suspension with a push of a button!”


    US-spec S50 has been treated to an M50 manifold and tuned by RK Tunes.


    DATA FILE #BMW E36 M3 / #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six #S50B30 / #S50 / #BMW-S50 / US tuned by #RKTunes , #Rogue-Engineering DMS exhaust, UUC poly engine mounts, #Mishimoto radiator with electric fan, M50 manifold, #AFE 2 intake, #ZF fivespeed gearbox, #UUC poly transmission mounts, #Autosolutions Ultra Short Shift Kit, 3.38 LSD

    CHASSIS 9x17” ET14 (front) and 10x17” ET20 (rear) polished Carline-CM6 wheels with gold hardware with 205/45 (front) and 215/45 (rear) tyres, #Neo-Chrome lugnuts, #Air-Lift-V2 / #Air-Lift digital air-ride, #BMW-Motorsport strut brace, ECS-Geomet cross-drilled and grooved discs, PBR-Axxis-Ultimate brake pads

    EXTERIOR Daytona Violet, M Power-coloured pinstriping, #DJ-Auto headlights with FX-R 3.0 projector retrofit, Lux bumper grille, foglight covers, BMW Motorsport door handles, shaved filler cap lid, GT2 (Class II) spoiler with risers, LTW spoiler tray, carbon fibre side skirt splitters, modified GT rear splitters

    INTERIOR Alcantara Grau M-Cross seats and panels, OEM carbon fibre centre console and glovebox trim, Motorsport International door sills, #BMW-Motorsport red seatbelts, Alcantara-wrapped Euro three-spoke steering wheel with Tri stitching, Alcantara gear and handbrake gaiters with Tri stitching, Alcantara armrest, E39 autodimming rear view mirror, #ZHP gear knob, #BSW speakers with subwoofer

    THANKS Big thanks to my beautiful wife Cori, for supporting me through my builds, and my great buddies Brandon and James for helping me with all the maintenance and retrofits. I call this build my Purple Haze – a tribute to my dad and his Plum Crazy purple 1968 Charger.
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    BOOTY CALL

    The #BMW-Z3M Coupé has a lot of charm; with a turbocharger and 550whp this example is one sexy Breadvan. The big-bottomed #BMW-Z3 M Coupé is something of a cult classic and while it’s not universally loved, with a turbo under the bonnet it’s hard to hate… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Darren Maybury. #BMW-E36/7

    At 22 I was driving 1.0-litre Citroen Saxo; at 22 Andrei Spirin is driving a turbocharged Z3 M Coupé, so it’s safe to say that he’s doing okay for himself. And that’s good news for the BMW world because he’s built himself a pretty tasty #Z3 M Coupé. In the UK we call it the bread van; in the States it’s the clown shoe. Whatever you call it, it’s fair to say that the Z3 Coupé was a bit of an oddball and even the M Coupé, the only version we received in the UK, didn’t exactly meet with universal praise. There was something about it, though, something about its ungainliness and bulbous rear that attracted a number of people and today it’s accepted as a bit of a cult classic.


    It’s funny how the Z4 M Coupé tried to bring back that bootylicious body but was just a bit too conventional-looking really and then Ferrari went and brought out the FF, which is a scaled-up M Coupé if ever we saw one. And speaking of seeing one, when’s the last time you did? We can’t recall but it was definitely a while ago; this car is not a common sight in the wild.

    So cult classic; potentially a bit of an investment; rare to boot – it’s all about keeping them standard, surely? Well, skyrocketing values never stopped anyone from modifying their E30 M3 and it’s pleasing to see someone like Andrei going all out on their M Coupé. He’s most definitely not been shy with this car.

    Growing up, Andrei’s middle brother Gennady first got him into cars. Then his brother’s roommate at college, Pete, introduced him to BMWs via an S52- swapped E30 M3, which has the same engine that powers this Z3, as it happens. Pete showed Andrei the world of meets and street racing and taught him a lot about BMWs. Andrei actually now works for Pete at his company, Offcamber Motorsport, doing everything from fitting superchargers to building engines, hands-on skills that come in more than a bit handy when it comes to, say, modifying your BMW…

    “My first car was also my first BMW,” says Andrei when we delve into this motoring past. “It was an E39 M5 and I learned the hard way why you should never to buy a 2000 M5 as it was an early model and constantly had issues. It was a nightmare to own but I had some amazing times in it. I also knew how to take the whole top side of the engine off blindfolded because I did it so many times. I was a typical teenager at the time. I inherited $10k from my grandma who passed away. I wanted to get an E36 M3 but at the time I only had my permit, which meant my dad was always driving with me. My dad looks like Santa Claus so he would have looked a bit odd in an M3, so we decided to get a E39 M5 instead so that he would not look too out of place. We went to go look at one which was beautiful and cheap. It had a Supersprint exhaust which was the selling point for me. It was really fast, too. The M5 was the first car I modified. I didn’t go too crazy on the mods because I was spending most of my money fixing it but my favourite mod was the electronic exhaust cut-out valve I fitted before the silencers. I mounted the switch by the sunroof button so it felt like a fighter jet when I engaged it.”


    After owning an E39 M5 as a first car, the only logical progression for car number two was… another E39 M5, obviously! But when that was written off after someone ran a red light and drove into it, Andrei knew that the M Coupé was what he wanted: “After the accident I started looking around and found this Imola red one in February 2011. It was two hours away and had been on sale for a while. It had 58,000 miles on it and some very tasteful suspension mods carried out, which was the main selling point for me.” Despite being a pretty rapid machine, after owning two slabs of German muscle the M Coupé didn’t impress Andrei in terms of performance front although when he hit the twisties he quickly realised just how capable it was on the handling front. Of course, working at Offcamber Motorsports and with a taste for modified metal, the M Coupé was never going to stay (relatively) stock for long and having planned to turbocharge his ex-M5, it made sense to transfer those plans across to the Z3.

    “My whole turbo setup came about after a deal that I made with my friends,” Andrei explains. “When my M5 got totalled, the drivetrain was fine and I still had an immaculate interior. My buddy, Jon Valia, who had his car featured in this magazine a couple of years ago (a turbo S38 E30 M3) had an M5 shell that he got from one of his buddies which needed a motor and interior. So we came to a deal where I would give him those items and he would build me a turbo setup for my car. The whole first part of my build was done by him; we took the motor out at his house and he started fabbing the downpipe while Pete helped do the head gasket and head studs on the motor. After a month into the build Jon had to bail because his wife had a baby and didn’t have enough time to work on the car and I felt bad about always bugging him. So we took the car to Pete shop’s and finished it at Offcamber. Pete and I worked on the car for another two months before it was finished.

    “I wanted to make 500whp and S52s are more than capable of doing that on stock internals. The car currently makes 550whp on 17psi. The setup has worked flawlessly and the engine has held up perfectly. It had 100,000 miles on it when I finished the conversion and it’s currently on 150,000 miles. The car has been my daily driver for two years and it worked faultlessly with no issues. To this date I am surprised as to how the S52 handled the boost so well for so long, and it has seen a lot of racing, too.” At the heart of the turbo kit sits a Precision 6262 ball bearing turbo with a Tredstone intercooler helping to chill the intake air and a thicker MLS .140 head gasket has been fitted to lower the compression ratio, along with a set of ARP head studs. A set of 60lb injectors ensure that the engine gets plenty of fuel, backed up by a Walbro 255lph fuel pump.

    Pop that huge clamshell bonnet and you’ll be greeted by the sight of, well, not a lot really as the turbo is tucked down by the side of the engine and the only bits you can actually see are the oversized induction kit and the Tial 55mm blow-off valve. It’s not a showy engine but the rest of the car’s not exactly shy…

    It must be said that Imola red works so well on the M Coupé. The bold, bright colour really suits the car’s striking shape and it’s the sort of car that doesn’t really need any styling to get it looking perfect. About the only external mods here are those Umnitza headlights and the stone guards, something of a necessity due to the M Coupé’s rather wide hips. But the bulk of the visual impact is purely down to the colour and the wheels. Where pretty much everyone is going bigger, Andrei has bucked the trend and gone for a set of 17s, which is pretty much unheard of on the modified BMW scene. While these are surprisingly small they are plenty wide and a perfect fit for the M Coupé. “I always wanted a nice set of deep-dish wheels,” says Andrei, “and about a year ago I finally managed to pick up these Fikse FM10s, which were my dream wheels. I couldn’t be any happier and the best part is that they were specifically designed for the M Coupé as they were built by my buddy, Jon Thayer, who also has a turbo M Coupé.” These sexy cross-spokes measure a meaty 9.5” up front and 11” at the rear, the latter being wrapped in massively wide 315/35 Toyo R888s which help the Z3 put the power down.

    Having had a taste of the Z3’s handling prowess it’s no surprise to learn that Andrei has gone to town on the suspension mods to bring out the best in the Z3’s chassis. A set of TCK S/A coilovers has been fitted along with aluminium control arms, solid monoball mounts, a set of Treehouse Racing FCABs, a H&R anti-roll bar along with an E36 M3 Convertible support brace and a Randy Forbes subframe reinforcement kit. That comprehensive suspension line-up means this Z3’s chassis is razor-sharp and that it’s not all about the straight-line speed. Awesome suspension mods are all well and good but if you’re flopping about on crappy seats you’re not going to enjoy the drive, which is why Andrei has added some decidedly unfrivolous interior upgrades. “Before the turbo setup I did a lot of road course days hence why I have the Bride seats in there, along with the harness and harness bar,”

    Andrei tells us. “The stock interior from factory is, in my opinion, one of BMW’s best. My M Coupé has the two tone Imola/black interior and I wouldn’t change a thing on it.” Andrei wanted to carry over the clean, stock philosophy from his exterior over to the interior and so decided against a big A-pillar gauge pod, opting instead for a custom dash-top pod, one of just ten ever made specifically for the Z3 by a Bimmerforums member. It looks extremely discreet and houses a Prosport boost and fuel pressure gauges along with an Innovate AFR gauge. He’s also fitted a Momo Millennium steering wheel and a ZHP gear knob along with a UUC short-shift kit. From massive engine mods to a set of serious chassis upgrades and a generous sprinkling of the perfect finishing touches, Andrei has built himself one red-hot bombshell of a Z3 M Coupé. Whatever your feelings on BMW’s loveable oddball may be, this is one shoe-van-thing that will rock anybody’s world.

    DATA FILE #BMW-Z3-M-Coupe #S52

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 , Precision 6262 ball bearing turbo, SPA log manifold, Tredstone intercooler, MLS .140 head gasket, ARP head studs, #Walbro 255lph fuel pump, 60lb Injectors, Tial 55 BOV, Tial 38 external wastegate, Haldman boost controller, Technica Motorsport tune, standard five-speed manual gearbox, UUC short-shift kit. 550whp @ 17psi.

    CHASSIS: 9.5x17” (front) and 11x17” (rear) Fikse FM10 wheels custom-made in Z3 fitment with 245/40 (front) and 315/35 (rear) tyres. TCK S/A coilovers with 400 (front) and 600 (rear) spring rates, aluminium control arms, solid monoball mounts, Treehouse Racing FCABs, H&R anti-roll bar, E36 M3 Convertible support brace, #H&R rear adjustable springs, H&R rear dampers, Randy Forbes subframe reinforcement kit.

    EXTERIOR: Umnitza Projector ZII headlights, stone guards.

    INTERIOR: Bride Zeta 3 seats on VAC mounts, Sparco harness bar, Driver Has Impact five-point harness, #ZHP gear knob, #MOMO Millennium steering wheel, custom gauge pod (1 of 10 ever made) fitted with Prosport boost and fuel pressure gauges, Innovate AFR gauge.

    These Fikse FM10s were my dream wheels… I couldn’t be any happier.

    17” wheels work really well on the Z3 M Coupé and those fat tyres help put all that power down.
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