• THE ILLUSIONIST

    When is an M3 not an M3? When it’s actually is #BMW-330d … It might look like an E92 M3, but this Space grey coupé is a 330d underneath that’s been treated to a stunning conversion.

    As BMW fans we pride ourselves on being able to pick BMWs out of the motoring crowd from half-a-mile away and differentiate between models with nothing more than the briefest of glances. But every now and again a car comes along that will stump even the most eagle-eyed of #BMW aficionados. A car that has been executed so well and finished to such a high standard that only with the most scrutinising investigation are you able to tell what it really is.

    This E92 is one such car. At first glance, and second glance and even third glance, if you were inclined to spend so long looking at a grey E92, you would almost certainly be convinced that you were looking at an M3. Except you wouldn’t be because, as you will have gathered by now, it’s actually a 330d. Yes, there are a couple of tells from the outside – the brakes are too small for an M3 and, if you look very closely, carefully and at the right angle you can see the intercooler tucked away behind the central air intake in the bumper. Aside from that, though, there’s nothing to suggest that this is anything other than an E92 M3, and that’s impressive.

    The car belongs to Clair Bayliss and, between herself and husband Pete, they’ve had more than their fair share of cars, especially BMWs, over the years. “I get bored really quickly,” admits Clair, “and I like to change cars often.” Going through the list of previous acquisitions, I’m inclined to agree. There have been, for example, no less than five E30s in various shapes and sizes, two E36 M3s (a Coupé and a Convertible), two E46 330Ci Sports, an E46 Convertible and an X5 Sport. That’s quite some list, but it’s still only scratching the surface of just how many cars have passed through the couple’s hands over the years, but then again variety is the spice of life.

    This isn’t the first time that Pete has tried his hand at turning a regular BMW into an M-lookalike, with an E60 530d Sport having undergone the transformation into a pseudo M5 previously. Clair shows me the pictures and it looks pretty spectacular, with nothing to give the game away. Having done such an impressive job the first time around, it’s no surprise that this E92 looks so good. The decision to carry out another conversion came about when Clair got bored with the E92 330d, good a car as it is. The only trouble was what to replace it with? Its blend of performance, economy and practicality – even in Coupé form, as the child seat in the back attests – are hard to beat. While some ideas were flung about, none of them really ticked all the boxes, and that’s when the idea of carrying out another conversion arose.

    There are two things you need to know about Pete. First, he doesn’t cut corners. Second, he’s a hands-on kind of guy, so when I say that he did the conversion, he really did the conversion, in the back garden over a few weekends. Every panel you see on the outside is genuine and, in most cases, brandnew genuine M3 items. Just the bonnet is secondhand but it’s still the real deal. As is often the case, the most impressive bits of the conversion are the ones you can’t see.

    For example, the M3’s nose is fractionally longer than that of the regular E92, as Pete found out whilst working on the front of the car. It meant that he had to buy a complete M3 front panel to make everything fit perfectly. The rear arches were welded in and then sprayed by a bodyshop. There’s also an M3 boot floor in order to accommodate the M3 exhaust system. Like I said, no corners cut, no expense spared. Clair’s E92 rolls on a set of 20” CSL replica alloys while a set of Eibach springs have given it a ride height more becoming of a car that looks like an M3, with a hefty 40mm drop up front and a 30mm drop at the rear.

    Open the door and the first thing that will no doubt strike you is gear knob. Yup, this 330d is a manual, the first one I’ve come across and probably one of only a handful in the country. Pete has made sure the interior has not been forgotten about and up front there are a pair of M3 seats along with an M steering wheel – enough to transform it from ordinary to something rather more special.

    Pete’s also decided to upgrade the standard stereo and put in some beefier ICE – nothing too outlandish, but just enough to make a difference with a Pioneer headunit, a set of MB Quartz components, a Kenwood amp and a 12” JL Audio subwoofer to round things off.


    The overall end result is nothing short of awesome because it looks so damn good and has been done so well. Of course, with all the genuine M3 parts and the amount of work that has gone into the car, the conversion wasn’t cheap, coming in at £5000 in parts, and no doubt there will be plenty of people quick to pipe up and point out that you could pick up a cheap, early, #BMW-E92 M3 for the cost of the conversion on top of the 330d. You certainly wouldn’t be far off but as Clair points out, and I agree wholeheartedly, buying an M3 and being able to afford to run an M3 are two entirely different things with fuel being the main problem. With an M3 likely to return around half of what the 330d can manage, when you’re talking about a daily driver it’s a big deal and would make it an expensive experience. Of course, you’re missing out on that V8 but with a remap and DPF removal, the 330d is putting out some serious power with a mountain of torque on top and that means that this is a seriously quick car. All that performance combined with the impressive economy makes for just about the perfect package.

    With Pete’s handiwork, Clair gets to enjoy 330d economy with M3 looks, and she seems pretty happy about the situation. Of course, this all came about because she’d got bored of the 330d but the M3 conversion has given the car a fresh lease of life and while there has been talk of performance Audis from Pete, Clair seems pretty made up right now and I don’t blame her because this is one seriously nice BMW.

    DATA FILE #BMW-330d-E92 #N57

    ENGINE: 3.0-litre straight-six turbodiesel #N57D30O0 , remap, DPF removed, #E92 M3 exhaust.

    TRANSMISSION: Standard six-speed manual gearbox.

    CHASSIS: 8.5x20” (front) and 10x20” (rear) CSL replica wheels, #Eibach lowering springs.

    EXTERIOR: Complete E92 M3 conversion with genuine E92 M3 front wings, side skirts, rear quarters, front bumper, rear bumper, bonnet, complete front panel, M3 boot floor, mirrors, boot spoiler.

    INTERIOR: E92 M3 leather seats, M steering wheel, Pioneer head unit, #MB-Quartz component speakers, Kenwood amp, 12” JL Audio W3 subwoofer.

    THANKS TO: Marky Mark (Bodyshop)
    Tel: 07712 488740
    Bains Tyre Services: 01332 343555
    Albert Looms of Derby: 01332 673663
    Gaz & Jay Perfect for sorting the shoot location
    Eddie Butler for helping Pete with the transformation

    M3 boot floor was installed to allow M3 exhaust to be fitted.