- Gorgeous E46 M3 / Slick E46 slammed, styled and tuned
THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION / Words: Elizabeth de Latour / Photos: Sunny Ryait
With a perfect blend of styling and tuning mods, this E46 M3 really is the modified package that everyone can enjoy the people’s.
Oh yes, this is what we’re talking about. As much as we love all the air ride, the big wings, the engine swaps, the turbos, superchargers and wild wide-body kits, sometimes you just want something a bit more down to earth, a bit more achievable, affordable, a people’s champion that we can all get behind and enjoy, and Richard Ansari’s E46 M3 is that car. It looks great, that’s going to be your first reaction, because it really does, but as with many seemingly simple builds, there’s a lot more going on here than you might first notice and Richard has really put a lot of love and hard work into his M3 over the past five years.
The E46 M3 dream must have seemed almost unattainable back when Richard passed his test and got behind the wheel of a mighty 1989 Mazda 626. A BMW was going to happen though, there was no doubt about it, thanks to his dad’s decision to run a string of Bavaria’s finest when Richard was growing up, but what really sowed the seed deep down into his brain was the blue E30 325i his dad once owned. “I couldn’t get into BMs right away as soon as I passed my driving test as insurance was one roadblock as well as being a student in my younger years,” he laughs and it wasn’t until he turned 23 that he could finally make that dream a reality. “By pure chance my mate had decided to sell his E30 325i Cabriolet and gave me first dibs on it before advertising it. I knew the car and while it did have some very questionable mods, underneath it all was decent, having had a full respray, no rust, was structurally sound and had cream interior to complement the Zinnober red exterior. It was almost like reliving my childhood with those memories sat in my dad’s E30, but this time I was behind the wheel,” he grins.
Over the next three years the E30 underwent a transformation that saw it ending up with a 2.7 conversion and receiving a feature in these very pages back in March 2007. The E30 was then followed by an E46 330Ci and that path could only lead in one, inevitable direction... “The E46 M3 was a dream car for me,” says Richard, “and when my mate bought one in late 2010 and let me drive it, I made a plan there and then to own one in 2011. I had originally wanted one in Techno violet but, being a very rare colour, it was mission near-impossible to find one, so I started to look at a few other colours as a second option,” he says. That led him to Pistonheads, where he stumbled across this Steel grey Coupé, with a manual gearbox and just 50,000 miles on the clock. Richard grabbed his friend Dips, from Custom Cars, headed over to take a look at the car and ended up buying it. “I wanted to keep this one fairly standard except for a couple of subtle mods, keeping away from doing any more big modifications,” he laughs, “unfortunately, though, once I fitted a set of CCFL angel eyes and black kidney grilles, it was a bit like opening Pandora’s box,” and so we begin…
With the angel eyes and black grilles being joined by a pair of black wing vents, Richard decided to carry on with the styling mods, adding smoked Depo indicators and repeaters and tinting the outer rears to match with Lamin-X film, then sourcing and fitting a set of facelift smoked inner lights. At the rear there sits an AC Schnitzer-style carbon fibre diffuser, which fills out the bumper nicely, along with a genuine CSL bootlid, while up front, a Strassentech-style lip adds an air of menace to proceedings and is joined by a set of Hamann foglight covers, with smoked fogs. Richard says that his plan was to enhance the car’s looks without going crazy, and we have to say he’s most definitely achieved his goal. The styling additions he’s chosen give the M3 a more pumped-up appearance, accentuating its aggressive styling, but without going too far or overwhelming the looks. And, while his first choice of colour may have been Techno violet, we’ve got to say that Steel grey looks really good on the E46 M3.
The suspension has been through a few changes during Richard’s time with the car. He started off small, with just some Apex lowering springs but it wasn’t long before he found himself wanting more adjustment and decided to take the plunge with some coilovers. His first set were from D2 but the car now runs BC Racing coilovers, which offer all the adjustability he could ever want and have allowed him to achieve the perfect ride height. “With the suspension sorted I was looking at big brake kits as the next big upgrade,” he tells us. “For the M3 there are a lot of options and routes you can go down and then, one day, an ad came up for a complete set of AP Racing brakes from Imran at Evolve Automotive. After a quick think, and after checking the piggybank, we did the deal and I picked them up. It did occur to me, not long after that, what would I do if my wheels didn’t have enough clearance, without having to resort to using big spacers, but figured I’d worry about it later. One way or another there was not going be any compromise, so I dropped the calipers over to Dips at Custom Cars to work his magic, turning them from red to orange.
I really like the way they look behind the wheels but beyond that the stopping power is so consistent compared with the OEM setup. I mounted the front wheels to check for clearance and luckily to my surprise only a 5mm spacer was needed,” he says.
As far as the wheels are concerned, Richard didn’t start off small and work his way up to something impressive, he went big right away, kicking things off with a set of AC Schnitzer Type 3 Racing splits, which are a great-looking classic wheel design. But that wasn’t enough for him, he wanted more… “I wanted something a bit special,” he says, “it had to be a three-piece wheel and my ideal choice was a set of Hartge Design C splits, but not only are they rare they also command a huge premium. I wanted something that you don’t see everyday and it had to have friendly offsets, with the aim of building a set of wheels wide enough, without needing any major work to fit straight on and not needing any camber.
After missing out on a set of Oz Futuras, I found some Oz Mitos on German eBay just before whisking my partner off to Marrakech for her birthday; I had an idea of what they looked like on a normal E46 but couldn’t find a set fitted to an M3 anywhere, so I knew this was my opportunity to run something fairly unique. Midway through the holiday, while she was getting ready in our hotel room, I placed a bid just before the auction finished and won,” he grins. Best. Holiday. Ever.
“They were 18s with the right offsets and being the Type 1 version, which are reverse mounted, are pretty rare in a BMW fitment. As soon as they arrived I went down to Dips for a test fit and we worked out what lip sizes to run front and rear. Originally they came as 8.5x18s and 9.5x18s and I really wanted to run an 11” wide wheel at the back, so Dips started the strip down of the wheels for a full refurb. He ordered 3.75” lips for the rear and moved the 2” lips to the front making the new setup 9x18” and 11.25x18”.
We knew an arch roll was needed, so Dips got that sorted and, with fresh Continental tyres fitted, we mounted the wheels. Seeing them built up and fitted on the car I knew I had made the right choice,” he grins. “They just completely changed the way the car looks, but not only that, the fitment is perfect too, with no rubbing or any negative camber required to aid with clearance.”
With the car looking on point as far as styling was concerned, Richard popped his bonnet and took a good, long, hard look at the engine bay. “At first I had no real plans on doing any engine mods,” he admits, “that is until a group buy came up for some Geoff Steel Racing air boxes on the M3 Cutters forum. After reading the feedback on it and with a bit of encouragement from forum members I went ahead and placed a pre-order.”
Usefully, as part of the group buy, Evolve joined in with a special offer on Alpha N remaps to go with the air boxes so, with his sexy new carbon air box fitted, Richard headed up to the company’s Luton HQ to get the car remapped. “These cars make anywhere between 320-330hp on average,” he explains, more than a few ponies shy of BMW’s 343hp claim, “and originally mine made 321hp. After fitting the airbox and mapping it, we saw 349hp, which was a very nice gain and was noticeable on the road. As well as that is the induction noise you get as soon as you floor it. It makes such an awesome roar you never get tired of it and want to hear it more and more,” he says with a grin. “To complement the airbox for sound and for a little extra power, I fitted a set of 100 cell cats paired with an Eisenmann Race rear box, which has given a better throttle response through the rev range. To finish off I got the holy grail of exhaust manifolds, with a set of Supersprints, which very rarely come up for sale. They were brand new but never fitted and I soon snapped them up to complete the setup.”
While he may have been sorted for power, that carbon air box was showing up the rest of his engine bay, so action needed to be taken. Obviously carbon was the way forward, and Richard began to develop a little bit of an obsession with the mesmerising weave. First came an intake cover that fits over the existing item but also partially covers the front of the air box, and once that had been fitted, obsession became unstoppable addiction. Desperate to feed his habit, Richard read up on and briefly considered having a go at carbon skinning, before he found Prapan, who runs NVD Motorsport, and saw his carbon-skinning talent. Quick as a flash, Richard had removed his emissions pump, xenon ballasts and ECU cover and handed them over for skinning in 2x2 weave to match the air box and also asked for a pollen filter cover. The six week wait to get the parts back was absolutely worth it but when it came to getting the rocker cover skinned, the cost of postage and import duty was proving prohibitive.
Richard found himself a slightly more local carbon skinner by the name of Jaydee Customs, over in Poland, who duly skinned the aforementioned rocker cover, leaving Richard with virtually nothing left to cover in carbon. The finishing touch here in the engine bay is a rather sexy and substantial Rogue Engineering strut brace. And now we come to the interior, because of course Richard couldn’t leave that alone either, and we’re glad he didn’t.
Originally, his M3 had been fitted with the black leather interior, nice but a bit plain and, for Richard, lacking contrast against the Steel grey exterior. “I didn’t want to settle for red,” he says, “so I searched for a year until a rare Cinnamon interior came up on E46 Fanatics. It wasn’t a sale but a straight swap for black leather, offered by a chap called Mark who was working for Nitron Racing at the time. So after a brief chat on the phone we arranged for me to come down to him one day and we both swapped out our interiors at the premises. For me it made such a huge difference, not just the fact it was a nicer place to sit in now, but it goes so well with the car.” We have to agree as we’re big fans of coloured interiors, they make such a nice change from the usual dour shades, and Cinnamon is seriously lush.
It’s further complemented by matt dark myrtle wood trim, an unusual choice for an M3 and an extremely rare trim option, but it’s absolutely gorgeous and looks so good here. The steering wheel has been re-trimmed by Royal Steering wheels, with extra padding, cinnamon stitching and a cinnamon centre stripe while the gearknob has been replaced with an illuminated F10 M5 item with matching gaiter, mounted on an E60 short shift for crisper gear changes. Finally, Richard’s most recent interior mod, is the Awron gauge mounted in the driver’s-side centre air vent. “It was a bit of an impulse buy,” admits Richard, “I saw a demo of it on YouTube and when I saw they had made them for the E46 I got one ordered. It goes nicely with the dash and it’s a nice bit of kit, displaying various parameters from intake temperatures to O2 sensor voltages along with a G force meter and loads more functions.”
It’s taken Richard four years to get his M3 to where it is now, and he couldn’t be happier with the result of all that work. “I think where it is now I have found that place where I wouldn’t change much else,” he smiles. “A full respray is on the cards next, in the original colour, and I want to get the map tweaked with the addition of the exhaust mods. But my long term plan if I can is to keep the car and hopefully one day give it to my son,” which would be an amazing gift, and something very special for that young man to hold onto. So, does that mean Richard’s hanging up his modding hat for now? No… “I have an E30 325i Cab which I bought over four years ago as a project car so, with the help of Dips, there are some big plans for it. Watch this space!” he says with a smile and you can be sure we will be.
“… I think where the car is now I have found that place where I wouldn’t change much else”
/ #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-M3-Tuned-E46 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E46 / #BMW-M3-tuned-E46 / #BMW-M3-tuned / #Evolve / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E46
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #OZ
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 / #BMW-S54 , #Geoff-Steel-Racing carbon fibre air box, #Evolve-Alpha-N remap, #Supersprint-V2 exhaust manifolds, 100 cell race cats, #Eisenmann Race rear exhaust section with 83mm tail pipes, carbon fibre engine cover, emissions pump cover, ECU cover, xenon ballasts and pollen filter cover, Matt Haley billet aluminium oil filter cover, #Rogue-Engineering one piece strut brace. Six-speed manual gearbox
CHASSIS 9x18” (front) and 11.25x18” (rear) three-piece #Oz-Mito wheels with 225/40 (front) and 255/35 (rear) Continental ContiSportContact 3 tyres, #CA-Automotive stud conversion kit with Motorsport Hardware wheel nuts, BC Racing BR series coilovers, Revshift 80a subframe bushes, #AP-Racing-BBK with six-pot calipers and 356mm discs (front) and four-pot calipers and 328mm discs (rear), custom orange calipers
EXTERIOR Original Steel grey paintwork, Strassentech-style front lip with carbon fibre insert, Hamann fog light covers, smoked fog lights, black kidney grilles, black wing vent grilles, 4000K CCFL angel eyes, Depo smoked indicators and side repeaters, carbon fibre black and white bonnet and boot roundels, AC Schnitzer carbon fibre rear diffuser, OEM CSL boot lid, Lamin-X smoked rear lights, Eagle Eyes smoked inner boot lights
INTERIOR Full cinnamon interior swap, matt dark myrtle wood trim, re-trimmed padded steering wheel with cinnamon stitching and cinnamon centre stripe, F10 M5 gear knob and gaiter, E60 V8 short shift kit, Awron digital vent gauge
THANKS Dips at Custom Cars for his input and direction over the years, Teddy at SSDD Motorsport, Prapan at NVD Motorsport, Jaydee Customs, John at carbolts.co.uk, Evolve Automotive, Alex at Elite Car Care, Jack at Royal Steering Wheels, all my friends, family and my understanding wife for supporting my passion for cars over the years