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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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