- Incredible supercharged custom widebody air-ride E46 M3 / #BMW
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Boasting a custom wide-body kit, air-ride, supercharger and custom interior, we challenge you to find a more complete project car than this staggering E46 M3.
Exploding onto the scene and tearing through it with the ferocity of a supercharged tornado, this E46 M3 is a devastating lesson in the theory that more can most definitely be more. Words: Elizabeth de Latour /// Photos: Tony Lopez
When building a project car there are numerous approaches and end goals you can look to achieve: some people build out-and-out show cars; some people build ferocious fast road cars; some people go for an all-out audio build; and some go to town on styling. When Rick Fontan got to work on his E46 M3 he decided to do, well, everything. We feature a lot of amazing cars in Drive-My but it’s not that often that we come across a car that has been modified as absolutely as this, on every level, and this is one of those cars that, when we first saw it, genuinely took our breath away.
Of course, we’re sure that Rick will be the first person to admit that his car isn’t going to be met with universal appeal – it has been blowing minds like a brain bomb and collecting awards like some kind of giant award-collecting magnet since he rolled it out earlier in the year for the first time but there’s plenty here that will raise many an eyebrow. Those chopped front arches, for example, the highly unconventional bonnet setup, the fact that he’s blended so many different elements that in many ways conflict with each other and brought them together in one project. It’s definitely not a conventional build and by that very virtue he’s created something incredibly noticeable. Sometimes, when you come across a build that incorporates so many different elements, the end result can be a little jarring, with components that really don’t look like they belong together and it can be a little unpalatable – it’s the meat trifle from Friends, a lot of potentially delicious ingredients coming together to make something that’s hard to stomach but somehow Rick has made his vision work.
He’s plucked that vision from his brain and translated it into a tangible object that is coherent and, more than that, genuinely good. For all its wideness, angularity and sheer eyeball-punching impact, there is an inherent smoothness and oneness to this E46 M3. Everything flows together: the bodywork is wild but the Lamborghini Grigio silver paint is quite subtle; the wheels are large and multi-piece, yes, but sport a simple design; the purple highlights that appear throughout are just right in terms of colour and number to tie numerous elements together without overwhelming the car’s overall aesthetic and while the components might be unlikely bedfellows somehow everything just feels right together. A lot of thought and work has gone into this build and it shows.
So, just what kind of man builds this sort of car and why? “I have been into BMWs since I was about 19 years old. That’s when I first started getting into cars in general,” muses the now 33-year-old Rick. “BMW has always been respected in the show scene, on the street, and on the track. I think that’s what makes it so special. It covers all aspects of what a car should be and how it should be built. I had a Mitsubishi Eclipse for about four years before selling it to buy the M3. It was fully built by the time I sold it and I had won multiple awards with that build and even landed a magazine feature. I bought the M3 in 2006 from a dealership in Queens. It was a little beat up and had about 50,000 miles on it but that didn’t bother me at all because I already knew it was only a matter of time before I would start modifying it anyway. This was my dream car and as soon as I saw the opportunity to get one, I jumped on it. My inspiration came from Craig Liberman and his ‘uber’ M3; I was obsessed with that car and just knew I had to build one of my own and I had it all mapped out. I knew exactly what I wanted to do to it before I even knew purchasing one was an actual possibility.
“Going in I knew I wanted to build a show car. I had to make sure all areas of the car were addressed, especially the motor as it is the one area that everyone asks to see. I couldn’t have a built car without any engine modifications, that’s a no-go!
“My car had to be equally balanced. I made sure to modify the engine enough to be able to put it on a track as well as look amazing just sitting there on a showroom floor.” He’s certainly delivered on that front. The engine work isn’t insane but it’s nice to see a car built on this scale running something attainable under the engine bay – although that’s not to say this isn’t a seriously powerful and subsequently fast E46 M3.
There’s no missing that Vortech supercharger, painted in Candy purple, with a TurboSmart blow-off valve but you won’t be able to spot the uprated pulley and belt that help up the boost. There’s a Vibrant front mount intercooler with custom piping, Driven Innovations intake manifold and Agency Power stainless steel exhaust manifolds which lead to custom GTR-style side exit exhausts. Rick has paid a lot of attention to the fuelling, with Injector Dynamics ID725 fuel injectors and an upgraded fuel rail, while in the back you’ll find an ATL fuel cell, an amazing ATL dual dry break filler, plus a Bosch 044 fuel pump and Aeromotive fuel regulator. What’s most impressive, though, is not what’s in the engine bay but what isn’t, as the bay’s been shaved and a full wire tuck has been carried out. It looks spectacular for it; no wonder it’s Rick’s favourite mod on the entire car. “It takes the entire build of the car to the next level,” he says. “Plus, it’s very rare to see an M3 with this style of build and a shaved bay.” He’s not wrong. The super-clean bay draws your eye to engine and the ’charger and it makes the Candy purple highlights even more spectacular against the simple silver background.
With the Vortech blower and supporting mods, Rick’s M3 is putting out an impressive 450whp and that means some equally impressive drivetrain and chassis mods are required in order to be able to put that to good use. Originally this was an SMG car but Rick has swapped in a manual gearbox mated to an uprated UUC Stage 2 clutch and UUC flywheel to deal with the serious boost in power while a short-shifter takes a bit of travel out of the M3’s surprisingly long throw for quicker, sharper gear changes. For the brakes, Rick turned to StopTech, slapping on the company’s seriously powerful six-pot front kit with two-piece slotted discs which is matched to an ever-soslightly smaller four-pot setup at the rear, with tucked braided hoses all-round and purple calipers, naturally.
It won’t have escaped your attention that this car is on air and Rick’s reasoning is sound: “I went for this setup to have the best of both worlds. With suspension like this it allows me to drive the car daily, set the ride height lower if I were to track it, slam it down to the floor or even raise it high enough to drive onto a trailer.” His kit of choice is Air Lift’s excellent offering along with the equally excellent V2 controller. The suspension mods haven’t stopped there and this E46 M3 has also been treated to uprated front and rear anti-roll bars, carbon fibre lower control arms and a rear camber kit, plus the entire undercarriage has been Stoneguard powdercoated.
We mentioned the wheels earlier and that the simple design works really well against the riot of styling that’s going on at the same time. “I’ve always liked the mesh type of wheels,” says Rick, “but with this type of build I decided to go with five-spoke wheels. I feel it gives the car an aggressive look and displays my brake setup beautifully.” We agree – the spoke spacing on the three-piece 20” SSR Professor SP1 wheels that he’s opted for is massive, meaning everyone gets a great view of those huge brakes, and the 10” front and 12” rears mean serious dish.
As far as the exterior of this car is concerned, there’s no two ways about it: it’s utterly insane. It’s not going to appeal to everyone but there’s no denying how much work has gone into it and how spectacular the end result it. “The styling of this car has been through many different stages over the years,” Rick tells us. “There were many problems and challenges along the way because of all the different shops it went to, but about three years ago my car finally landed at AMS Autowerks where the final transformation took place. Even that was a challenge in itself. Diogo Acevedo, the owner, had to rip the car apart and basically start from scratch.”
A big job then, but that’s kind of stating the obvious. So what exactly have we got here? Well, for starters, there’s the custom wide-body kit with its extreme arches and those sections chopped from the rear of each one which really makes this car unique. Elsewhere there’s carbon fibre – lots and lots of carbon fibre – with a custom carbon front lip, Vorsteiner carbon boot and roof, carbon headlight overlays, and M front, side grilles and emblems for good measure. The fat exhausts poke out from the side skirts and have been fitted with custom heat shields to stop them from melting the kit and then there’s the bonnet, or rather the lack of it. Now, at first glance you might think that Rick has popped his bonnet off for the photos, as you often see guys doing, but look a little closer and you realise that, no, what you’re seeing is the bonnet in its entirety. Rick says it’s a custom 1/3 bonnet and closer inspection reveals that basically the front 1/3 of the bonnet has been retained and mounted as it normally would be while the rest of it has essentially been chopped off and possibly discarded in a hedge somewhere. It’s very different and pretty cool for its double-take factor.
Moving inside there’s barely time to take a breather as the car continues to assault your senses. “The interior needed to look as clean as the rest of the car and to continue the exterior theme as well,” says Rick. This meant stripping stuff out and painting a whole bunch of things Candy purple. The whole interior has been trimmed in suede with purple stitching and up front Rick has plumped for a pair of Recaro Profi XL seats along with Schroth Profi 5 harnesses and a Vertex steering wheel mounted on a Momo hub. There’s carbon trim galore, along with a carbon gear knob and a custom dash housing an AIM stack cluster, boost gauge and ATL fuel gauge, plus a custom carbon bezel for the Alpine touchscreen head unit. The digital controller for the air suspension has been mounted in the driver’s air vent – a neat touch. The rear seats are gone and in their place sits a custom roll-cage, finished in Candy purple, a purple air tank and the Focal four-channel and mono amps for the seriously impressive audio setup. The front doors house the Focal K2 Power three-way speakers while the boot area is home to a pair of custom-mounted 10” Focal Utopia Be subs, which share the space with that incredible fuel setup.
So, there we have it. If you’ve ever wondered what you could achieve with your car given nine years and a truck-load of cash, hard work and determination, wonder no more because you’re looking at it. It’s not just the overall end result that’s mind-blowing, because it is, but it’s the attention to detail that’s gone into it, the thought, the creativity. Every aspect of the car makes you stop, look, look again and marvel. Do you love it? Do you love all of it? Maybe, maybe not, but we can guarantee it’s getting a reaction from you.
And that’s what this car does best: get people’s attention. “After three years of completely rebuilding the car it was debuted in August of 2015 at the Tuner Evolution car show in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The crowd’s reaction was priceless as show-goers looked at it in amazement. The judges felt the same way as it was awarded ‘Best of Show’. Later that month I showed it at Wekfest East in Edison, New Jersey and also took ‘Best of Show’,” Rick says beaming like a proud father seeing his child winning a trophy at sports day. This isn’t just a car, it’s an extension of Rick, the physical manifestation of his vision and it’s the kind of car, the kind of complete car that you know was not a casual build. If you haven’t guessed, we kind of love it, it’s an absolutely awesome car on every level and proves that more is most definitely more.
Rear seats long-gone and in their place is a custom Candy purple roll-cage, air tank and two amps.
“I made sure to modify the engine enough to be able to put it on a track as well as look amazing just sitting there on a showroom floor”
“The interior needed to look as clean as the rest of the car and to continue the exterior theme as well”
DATA FILE Supercharged #BMW-E46 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-M3-E46-Supercharged / #BMW-M3-Supercharged
ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S54B32 / #S54 , #Vortech-supercharger / #Vortech , upgraded belt and pulley, oil cooler, Vibrant front mount intercooler with custom piping, #Vibrant hoses, Agency Power stainless steel exhaust manifolds, #Injector-dynamics-ID725 fuel injectors, upgraded fuel rail, Driven Innovations intake manifold, #TurboSmart blowoff valve, Custom GTR-style side mounted exhausts, #ATL fuel cell, ATL dual dry break filler, #Bosch-044 fuel pump, #Aeromotive fuel regulator, reinforced sheet metal trunk, all braided stainless steel lines, Candy purple painted accents, shaved engine bay, full wire tuck. Est. 450whp.
TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual transmission swap, upgraded clutch, short-shift, #UUC Stage 2 clutch, UUC flywheel, Chase Bays brake booster eliminator.
CHASSIS 10x20” (front) and 12x20” (rear) SSR #Professor SP1 three-piece wheels with 255/30 (front) and 305/25 (rear) Toyo Proxes T1-R tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance air suspension, uprated anti-roll bars (front and rear), carbon fibre lower control arms, rear camber kit, Stoneguard powdercoated entire undercarriage, #StopTech ST-60 #BBK with slotted discs (front) and ST-40 BBK with slotted discs (rear) with purple callipers (front and rear), braided stainless steel brake lines, brake line tuck.
EXTERIOR Custom-built wide-body kit, custom 1/3 mini bonnet, Vorsteiner carbon fibre boot, carbon fibre front lip, custom splitter, #Vorsteiner carbon fibre roof, carbon fibre headlight overlays, carbon fibre M front and side grilles, carbon fibre emblems, custom heat shield for exhaust, Lamborghini Grigio silver paint.
INTERIOR #Recaro-Profi-XL bucket seats, Schroth Profi 5 harnesses, custom roll-cage in Candy purple, full suede interior with purple stitching, #Vertex steering wheel, #Momo hub, M Tech pedals, carbon fibre gear knob, custom dashboard, AIM stack cluster, boost gauge, ATL fuel gauge, custommounted V2 controller, custom carbon fibre bezel, interior LED lighting, rear seat delete.
AUDIO #Alpine LCD touchscreen head unit, #Focal-K2 Power threeway speakers, #Focal-FPS3000 mono amplifier, #Focal-FPS4160 four-channel amplifier, #Dynamat sound dampening, #Focal crossovers, 2 #Focal-Utopia Be 10” subs.
THANKS I would like to give a special thanks to my parents because without them none of this would’ve been possible. Their continued support throughout the years is what allowed me to pursue this passion and push me to complete this build. I want to thank all my family and friends that helped me along the way. To my girl for all her patience and support and being part of this with me, AMS Autowerks in Linden, NJ, Audio Clinic in Belleville, NJ, Branch Brook Auto Top in Newark, NJ, and, of course, to #Drive-My for allowing me to grace the cover of your magazine and show the car to the world.