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    NORTHERN SOUL #BMW-M3-Cabrio-E46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTERIOR: Smoothed front bumper, angel eyes.

    INTERIOR: Carbon fibre trim.

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

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    When your family business makes some of the finest #VAG tuning parts on the face of the planet, and your old man and work colleagues recently shifted the scene with their awesome Berg-inspired Mk1, how do you bring your very first car into the world? For Forge’s Zac Miles, he turned everything to ‘11’ in a bid to carve his own mark on the show scene with a purity of vision that belies his tender years. Words: Paul Cowland Photos: Nick Williams (

    I don’t know about you, but my first car didn’t look anything as good as this. It was from the right factory though; a #1972 #VW-Beetle from Wolfsburg, but as for the condition and execution, it was as you would expect for a 17 year old’s first hack. All there, but a little rough around the edges. Still, it got me to work, to shows and all manner of other fun activities, so it can’t have been all bad. For Zac Miles, however, things were to be very different.

    As the son of Forge Motorsport founder, Pete Miles, Zac has been immersed in the world of high-level show cars and computer-fed machining since he was small enough to bounce on his dad’s knee. So when it came to buying and fettling his first ride, he had a clear vision in his head, and he was prepared to work hard to achieve it. And that’s something to bear in mind as you read this tale too; don’t go thinking this is a case of daddy’s boy being given the keys to the parts cupboard and company chequebook and told to knock himself out. Nope, I have watched this build from the start, and I can tell you that every single mod has involved Zac’s own money – and considerable amounts of his own blood and sweat in making it happen. The only advantage he has really had along the way is a decent sized workshop to play in and a team of very supportive people around him to lend a hand and spur him on.

    The tale starts in a reassuringly familiar way. Father and son buy an old VW with a view to junior learning the family craft over a few familial welding/bonding/cuppatea moments. This particular Mk1 was bought liberally doused in orange paint and with more than enough filler generously sprinkled around each panel to cause a major re-think. It didn’t takeZac long to learn his trade through stripping off the original shoddy metalwork along with his honorary ‘Polish Dad’, Waldemar Pieczonka, and then steaming into a full refit with #VW Heritage panels to get the old girl ship-shape and super-straight. While they were at it, the duo smoothed the bay; adding an inch of steel to the suspension turrets (a tip from Berg Cup fabber, Luke), de-seaming the chassis legs and welding over flat panels.

    Underneath, the legs were also notched, to allow the track rods and driveshafts to still clear on a super-low ride height. This may have been Zac’s first motor, but he had eyes on air-ride from the very beginning.

    With a straight-ish set of panel-work and a welded and tidy bay, under Luke’s watchful eyes Zac then began to learn the black art of bodywork, carefully skimming small amounts of filler to get the Golf’s flanks arrow straight, before learning how to prime and guide coat the body to get those crisp Giugiaro lines looking exactly the way the great man envisaged. As level as the Bonneville salt flats, it was then passed over to Adam Speck at Blade Garage to expertly splash on several coats of the stunning Stratos blue that now grace the Golf’s panels.

    Although, the end result wasn’t at all the colour that Zac thought that he was getting! “It wasn’t the shade I thought it was going to be,” he grimaces, “but it didn’t take me much more than a few minutes to completely fall in love with the colour. It’s more vivid than we had planned, but having lived with the results for a few months, it actually turned out to be a happy accident!”

    The mint shell was then ready for fitting out, with the first job being a set of mahoosive six- pot brakes, that use a sexy CNC caliper and a race-quality two-piece semi-floating disc and bell – measuring in at an impressive 286mm. It’s probably overkill for this car but no-one ever got into trouble with brakes that were too good, did they? Forge has drawn heavily on the knowledge it’s gained of the marque after nearly three decades of tuning excellence and used it brilliantly. The calipers are machined from a solid aluminium 7075 high-grade billet and use heavy duty weather seals to make them a roadfriendly kit, even in the depths of a British winter.

    Discs are track-quality and utilise separate bells for optimum heat dissipation, meaning that the kit can easily cope with repeated hard applications without fade. It may be the smallest kit that Forge has ever produced, but like the diminutive Golf itself, it punches above its weight. Out back, Zac sensibly upped the ante of the factory stoppers with Mk2 Golf stub axles, and all new parts all- round. Topped off with a custom set of Hosetechnik braided lines from Forge’s sister company, this was a package ready to stop a train.

    The exhaust was next up, and that was down to Forge’s good buddies at Scorpion to sort. A custom system and bracketry was duly fabricated by the Forge team, using component parts supplied by Scorpion, terminating in a wonderfully period-perfect DTM tailpipe and hung on custom bracketry. This is a system that sounds every bit as good as it looks, and when mated to the cleaned and tidied lump that came with the car, things were looking very neat indeed on the drivetrain side of things.

    Air Lift provided the suspension with the first kit of its kind in the UK. With plenty of thought going into the fit, Zac’s Golf now has 5” of available travel to its name, meaning it can ride low for scene and show points, or crest speed-bumps without breaking a sweat. Better still, being one of Air Lift’s ingenious ‘indexed’ systems, it can be easily set a precise ride height to allow the suspension geometry to be perfected – and tyre scrub to be banished to a distant memory.

    After these items of major surgery, Zac and the Forge team were able to start creating gorgeous little details. Notice the hand-fabbed bumper end caps on the new Heritage bumpers? A great example of what Forge’s talented techs can knock up in a lunchtime or three for beer money – and a wonderful way to reinforce the firm’s reputation for being able to make almost anything out of aluminium! Much work was done here by Zac’s long-suffering colleagues Luke and Rudi. While we are on the subject of neat details, did you spot the Porsche door handles and glovebox lock? Or the bonnet stay and custom Forge Golf Ball gear knob? This is a car that rewards every close inspection with a new find.

    For a car that was going to be sitting millimetre-perfect, wheel choice was to be essential. Despite initially thinking about a ‘sensible’ set, cost-wise, Zac quickly had a change of heart. “I saw a set of Rotiform VCEs on a car at Players and I had to think again!” he laughs. “It’s such an instant classic, that wheel. I knew that it would be the perfect choice for the Golf.” Keeping everything in proportion was also a consideration from the outset. Nothing looks worse than a rim that’s clearly too big for the recipient vehicle, so Zac and the Rotiform team started hatching a plan around a set of staggered 16 inchers. “Working out the offset took more than a little head-scratching,” explains Zac. “I knew that we could get a considerable tyre stretch to allow a decent tuck, but I also wanted a fair amount of poke from the rims, too. Then there was the factor of the Forge Big Brake kit up front, which meant we were limited as to what we could achieve, without fouling those big calipers.”

    Between the two companies though, this number-crunching was soon sorted, resulting in a perfectly statured 7” front and 8” rear combination which would clear the brakes without issue and allow for a super low stance. Augmenting this would be a carefully chosen set of deliberately mis-matched rubber to allow Zac to get the Mk1 sitting on a dime. This had to be made up of a set of super-narrow 165/40/16 Nankangs out front – as very few manufacturers make this size – and a pair of Toyo T1Rs out back in 195/40/16 flavour. “I wouldn’t normally mix a set of tyres like this on a car,” say Zac. “But I just had to do it this time in order to get the right rubber rake and stance combination.”

    Getting them fitted would be down to a brave soul called Ben at Tyre and Battery in Hempstead who had to use the ‘cheater’ to blow them on. It’s not so easy getting a skinny 165 on to a fat 7” rim… even if the end result makes kit all completely worthwhile.

    More details followed; worried about a colour clash between the new lairy blue hue and the factory green tinted glass, Zac sensibly opted for a brand, spanking new set of all-clear windows to keep a sharp, clean contrast. It’s a detail that few will notice, but it does add to the overall impact of the car, and it’s a hat-tip for those that seek out the smallest details in a show car.

    Speaking of which, this VW was never going to run with its factory pews either, especially not with the Dunsford clan of Cobra Seats fame being so close to the Miles family. A few phone calls and chats later and Zac had settled on a pair of Cobra’s delightful Misano S perches. These bad boys are universally admired and loved across a variety of scenes and have been fitted in everything from Bentley Continentals to high-spec 1200bhp Nissan GT-Rs. Class works anywhere, and these seats are the proof. The Misano uses a rather sexy hybrid composite steel construction, with a polished stainless steel chassis and a high gloss composite backrest for looks that work in almost any Dub, but Zac wanted a little more integration than that, so had the back-rests colour-coded by bodywork painter Adam to tie the inside and outside together. A stunning combination of softgrain Nappa leather and Alcantara, coupled with carefully selected blue stitching in Bentley diamond effect would fit the bill.

    Seats this good were always going to look a little out of place against a careworn Wolfsburg dashboard and interior fittings, so Zac also had team Cobra run their sewing machines over pretty much everything else that he could unbolt from the interior. The dash, centre console and arm rests, headliner and even steering wheel all got beautifully upholstered too, giving the Golf an interior demeanour that wouldn’t look out of place in Newport Pagnell’s finest. Cobra’s finishing touch was to use a VW Heritage carpet as a template in order to make an even swankier and plusher version for the car, which when fitted with the customised Retro Retrims doorcards looked simply unbelievable.

    To tie everything together, Zac’s final visit would be to the equally talented artisans at Studio InCar who would use their Jedi-level trim and design skills to create an install to house the now colour-coded air system, as well as the superb sound of Gladen RS series amps allied to SQX components and subs – all controlled by a Mosconi 4to6 DSD supplied by BladeICE. Here, in a flurry of MDF and Alcantara, the two teams worked beautifully together to create a symphony of design in every sense of the word. Like the exhaust, this is another part of the build that matches its aural appeal with its aesthetic. Strong work, guys.

    As first cars go, this one is most definitely out there. Along with a stellar supporting cast, Zac has created a perfectly executed, beautifully finished car – the result of months of slog and hard work, while pouring every spare penny from his wages into the build. If this is what we can expect from Miles junior as he climbs the show-car ladder, we can only look forward to the next build. We have a funny feeling it’s going to be a show-stopper!

    Dub Details #VW-Golf

    ENGINE: 1.8-litre GTI 8v digifant engine from a Mk2 golf, standard five-speed gearbox, Pipercross open cone induction kit, Forge Motorsport hoses, brake reservoir tank and heater matrix cover, Claude’s Buggies rocker cover CHASSIS: Rotiform VCEs 7x16” fronts, 8x16” rears with Nankang 165/40/16 (front) and Toyo T1Rs 195/40/16 (rear) tyres, Air Lift Performance air ride kit with two compressors and single tank, Powerflex bushes, Eibach anti-roll bars, Scorpion exhaust system, Hose Technik braided brake lines, Forge 286mm six-pot big brake kit.

    EXTERIOR: #1981 #Volkswagen-Golf-Mk1 shell painted Stratos blue, smoothed engine bay, raised strut top mounts, notched chassis legs, smoked headlights and indicator, #Porsche 944 lux door handles, chrome small bumpers with custom Forge end caps and centre insert, Autoplas rear window louvre.

    INTERIOR: Cobra Misano S heated seats, #Porsche-944 lux glovebox lock, Forge golf ball style gear knob, Wolfsberg steering wheel, Studio InCar boot build, Gladen Audio RS series amps, Gladen SQX slim components and SQX subs, Mosconi four to six DSP (Digital Sound Processor), car locking system installed by Autolec.

    THANKS & CONTACTS: Waldek, Adam Speck for the paint, Cobra Seats (, Air Lift Performance (, Studio InCar (, Rotiform (, Eibach (, Powerflex (, Blade I.C.E (, Scorpion Exhausts (, Lidia De Luca at VW Heritage (, Mark at Classic VW (, Tom Hale at Retro Retrims (, Meguiar’s (, Forge Motorsport (, Hose Technik ( Tom Harris at The Motorworks (, Toyo ( and Pipercross (www. pipercross. com).
    Right: Misano S seats and trimming work from Cobra, Air Lift air-setup and Studio InCar boot build come together just perfectly inside.

    1.8 8v digifant engine came from a Mk2 GTI and as you can see, has been totally restored and rebuilt. What’s the betting that as Zac gets older and insurance gets kinder something a little more exciting finds its way in the Mk1’s smoothed bay one day?
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    VW Golf first generation Club Open

    VW Golf first generation Club - 1974-1983

    Volkswagen entrusted the job of styling the Beetle’s replacement to ItalDesign. Giugiaro’s touch worked: more than six million MkIs were sold.

    In the wake of GTI, which have long favor with enthusiasts, Golf 1 wiser attract more and more people who want a nice and easy daily dr...iver. Even with small taillights (until August 1980) or small bumper (before September 1978), the debut GLS combines charm of the seventies and practical aspects thoughtful. With reversing lights, the fuel cap lockable and interior well equipped (full instrumentation, headrests, center console ...), it makes life easier and is entitled to the "big" engines (9 and 8 HP) the normal range. With the added bonus of assisted brakes. The most difficult is to find a copy or lowered or altered. More

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