- What goes around comes around, so they say, and Nickel Mohammed’s ever-evolving M3 comes around more than most - it’s always changing and we had to catch it quick before it changed again… Words: Daniel Bevis Photos: #C3Photography .
BOLT FROM THE BLUE Turbo wide-body E46 M3 Cab
The old saying that ‘lightning doesn’t strike twice’ is a load of toffee. It’s not just possible that lightning will strike the same part of the Earth more than once, it’s basically inevitable; whether it happens within a five-minute span or twenty million years apart, every square inch of the planet gets it full in the face at some point, and then again, and again. And so it is with a certain sense of inevitability that, in the same vein, feature cars can also strike twice. Regular readers may be squinting at this boisterous E46, trying to figure out where you’ve seen it before… and to answer that niggling query, you recognise it from the cover of our January 2014 issue. But fear not, it’s really quite different now to how it was then. You don’t just walk into a Performance #BMW feature you know, these things have to be earned on merit. And Nickel Mohammed’s shouty M3 has earned another spot here thanks to its constant evolution and mould-breaking styles.
So how’s it different now? Well, for one thing it’s significantly less powerful. No, wait, come back! This is a good thing – you see, last time we saw the car, its turbocharged S54 was running 800hp, but Nickel’s since detuned this to a rather more manageable 630hp (which is still frickin’ loads), as the car is developing in line with his driving style, as well as to suit the chilly climes of New York City. There’s no point boasting a flag-waving horsepower figure if all of those rampaging ponies are uselessly spinning themselves away at every corner, is there? Definitely far better to have a robust stable of usable nags.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll begin at the beginning, shall we? “I purchased this car brand new, and back then you had to be put on a waiting list,” he recalls. “I signed myself up, and six months later the car was shipped… the wrong car in the wrong colour! I wanted a silver convertible, and they delivered a black coupé. But determination is a damn thing – I said to them OK, put me back on the list, I’ll wait.” And when the desired drop-top did eventually arrive, was Nickel keen to start tearing into the thing according to some grand overarching modification plan? “To be honest, no,” he shrugs. “Not at all in fact, I reckoned I’d keep it stock. The thing was expensive! And I was still young, I couldn’t afford all that stuff. Although I did try – 20” rims and so on, all those terrible choices I made!” Ah, the impetuousness of youth. Inevitably the M3 was going to end up modified, it was all part of cosmic destiny. It just took a little time for the car to find its way.
“I’ve built it up and changed it so many times in different directions, the timetable’s kind of all over the place,” he says, when we try to pin down the chronology. “I knew that the mechanical stuff had to be done first, and that started with the engine back in 2011…”
This was no half-hearted undertaking, with Nickel throwing every one of his chips on the table to get the car ideologically transformed by the lunatics at #HorsepowerFreaks . Their revered Stage 3 turbo conversion brought the howling S54’s peak power up to a stupendous 800hp. These bolt-on kits require no cutting, wiring or welding, and are designed for durability as well as awesome power. But what else would you expect for $30,000+?
Don’t go thinking ‘bolt-on’ means ‘simple’ though. Engineering a car to run these sorts of numbers is a thoroughly in-depth task – hence the cost – and it took HorsepowerFreaks around a year to build up, test and refine Nickel’s motor. But that fastidiousness of engineering has paid off, as the built motor has held up strongly since. “I drive cars hard, I drive them till they break,” he laughs, “but the only thing I’ve wanted to change on the engine in all this time is adding the AEM Infinity ECU - that thing is superb, a learning computer; I mean, big-ups to those techs that take the time to build these things that adapt to your driving!”
This attention to cleverness carries on beyond the engine and into the chassis. The suspension offers up an intelligent middle ground between coilovers and air-ride, comprising #KW Variant 3 coilovers with their cunning Hydraulic Lift System, which offers instant ground clearance at the touch of a button. “I wanted to run the car low enough to drive the city streets of NYC - which are terrible - but still be able to raise the front of the car to clear driveways and speed bumps,” Nickel explains. “In all honesty I feel KWs are the best thing made for this car when it comes to suspension.” The last time this car appeared in these pages it was running full air-ride, so you know this is a considered opinion.
The wheels come from famously pricey custom house, Luxury Abstract. “I’ve had so many wheels before, but these Grassor- Rs were just built for this car,” he grins. “The NeoChrome finish is a neat effect, tying into the Lamborghini pearl paint, and the width and depth really accentuate the body structure.” And you can’t really miss that body, can you? The wide arches are custom hand-fabricated in steel, 1.5” wider at the front and 2.5” out back, thanks to the craftsmanship of Martino Auto Concepts in Long Island. The extra girth is augmented by a V-CSL front bumper and carbon-fibre ducktail boot lid from Vorsteiner, further enhanced by the addition of a Brooks Motorsport Elite carbon wing, along with a set of carbon-fibre side skirts.
The interior has also been comprehensively re-worked since we last saw the car. Inside, you’ll find a pair of fully reclining Manhart #BMW Performance race seats, important for Nickel as, in his own words, he’s sucker cruising with the seat back and the music up, which brings us neatly to that impressive audio install. “I always wanted an empty trunk to carry bags in, so I removed the existing music and had my electronics sponsor build me a system that would not only look superb, but sound phenomenal and not take up any trunk space. I had my rear seats taken out and my racing harness looks like it’s actually going into my audio system. That was an idea I came up with because I didn’t want to fit a roll cage to the rear of the car as it wouldn’t look as clean and it would be too bulky.
“There are a lot of stylistic paths you can follow, it takes a lot of time and due diligence,” Nickel reasons. “You have to research, figure out what has been done and what you can do to make it your own. That’s the key to building a car, how do you make it your own; how does it reflect your personality? That has to come from within.
You have to choose, but that’s why you go on the Internet and talk to your friends and family, and even your techs and people that work on your cars and filter information to help you make your choices. I must have a form: function car. Can’t have a monster in the closet and not be able to let it out because you’re scared that it may attack you! Cars are meant to be driven, and yes they break - you fix it and do it again.”
Admirable sentiment, and it really helps to illustrate the power behind the build. Yes, this car’s an internet-breaker, but Nickel hasn’t just been ticking boxes on the scenester checklist. The fact that it’s such a personal thing is also key to why he changes the spec so frequently. He’s been cherry picking parts from the aftermarket for a decade now, as well as commissioning his own, and Nickel’s not showing any signs of stopping yet – as long as there’s air in his lungs, this M3 will keep evolving.
“You’re never done with a project, not ever,” he says. “There will always be new technology, things that you’ve seen and never got a chance to do.” We ask what his favourite part of the car is right now, and he laughs. “Man, there’s not one part of it that I like more than another, because from the top to the bottom it’s my personality, you know? I love it all. And the key to having a dope build is being able to get in and just have a drive. That’s what it was made for. It’s tuned for cruising NYC.” Damn straight. Nickel’s currently working on his E30 M Tech II Convertible, but we all know that the E46 is his baby. It’s been his from new, through thick and thin, and it’s not going anywhere. Lightning will keep on striking.
DATA FILE Turbo #Wide-Body / #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-M3-Wide-Body-E46 / #BMW-M3-Wide-Body / #BMW-M3-HPF-E46 / #BMW-M3-HPF / #AEM / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E46 / #BMW-M3-tuned-E46 / #BMW-M3-tuned
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 / #BMW-S54 , #HorsepowerFreaks ( HPF ) #HPF-Stage-3-turbo-kit , #HPF-titanium-exhaust-system , #AEM-Infinity-ECU , #HPF carbon-fibre intake ducts, HPF methanol injection, #Rogue-Engineering oil filler ca. Six-speed manual gearbox, E31 850i clutch components with #HPF-Feramic-Stage-3-clutch , #OS-Giken-Super Lock Spec-S LSD, #UUC-Motorwerks engine and transmission mounts
CHASSIS 11x19” (front) and 13.5x19” (rear) #Luxury-Abstract-Grassor-R wheels with 245/35 (f) and 305/30 (r) tyres, #KW-Variant-3 coilovers with #Hydraulic-Lift-System, #HPF-330-subframe reinforcement plates, #HPF carbon fibre strut braces, HPF under braces, #Powerflex race subframe bushes and trailing arm bushes #StopTech #BBK with six-pot calipers and 380mm discs (front), four-pot calipers with 355mm discs (rear)
EXTERIOR Custom steel wide-body, Lamborghini #Blu-Cepheus-paint (three-stage pearl), #Vorsteiner-V-CSL front bumper and ducktail boot lid, #Vorsteiner-GTS3 carbon-fibre side skirts, custom E30 M3 bonnet hinges, OEM BMW hardtop, custom dual-xenon headlights, #Brooks-Motorsport Elite carbon-fibre rear wing with #NeoChrome brackets
INTERIOR Manhart #BMW-Performance race seats, #Schroth harnesses, AEM fuel pressure and 100psi oil pressure gauges, rearview mirror gauge interaction, Kenwood 6.95 double-DIN DDX9902S head unit, JL Audio Monoblock HD1200/1, JL 4-channel amp, JL Evolution C3, JL 12” subwoofer, custom audio box with moulded plexi and LED lighting trimmed in OEM BMW leather, Rydeen reversing camera
THANKS #Motorcepts (Master Tech), Intrack Tyres, #S&R-Paint , #NeoChrome , #Luxury-Abstract