- THE BIG PICTURE
With a wide-body kit, #4WD and the small matter of 840 turbocharged horsepower, this #BMW E46 is a ferocious machine. It might look outlandish, but this E46 Saloon has more than enough go to back up its show… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Patrik Karlsson.
Here’s an idea that you may have considered before: what’s the future of your car after you get rid of it? Assuming that you’re not planning to keep your jamjar until it crumbles away into dust, there’s a fair chance that you’ll sell it at some point – and then what? It’s actually a very big question, as cars are such personal and emotive things, there are memories, sensory touchpoints and stories tied up in them that your brain cleverly locks away, ready to spring back on you at surprising moments.
When I see the dash vents on a Mk1 Cavalier, the faux-wood trim on the doors of a late-Eighties Rover Vitesse or the barrel speedo of a #Citroen-CX , I’m suddenly a child again. There’s a certain smell in the Magic Tree range that instantly transports me back into my first 205 GTI. And the tactile fragility of an early-Seventies BMW 2002 door handle puts me right there in my old road-rally Touring, all Redex and steamy windows.
My point is this: picture a car that your parents had as a kid – that old load-lugger that drove you to school, took you to see grandma and down to the supermarket for the weekly shop, ferried you about on those joy-strewn family holidays. Imagine if, after all of those miles of family life, someone bought that car, your car, your memories, and turned it into a bonkers race machine. It’s quite a thought, isn’t it? Jarring and strange, but exciting too. Something you know intimately, transformed into something alien.
With this in mind, there must be a family somewhere in Sweden who have no idea that their old BMW has turned into a supercar-slaying turbo nutter. Their intrepid old four-door E46, that saw them through over a quarter of a million faithful kilometres, has changed from a dependable old workhorse into a rejuvenated, frightening whippet with aggression in spades and a healthy disdain for the rules. Sure, it looks similar in profile, but there’s all sorts going on beneath the surface – that insane rear wing, a triumph of functionality, is merely the cherry on a flavoursome cake.
For Erik Wedlund, these sorts of transformations are nothing out of the ordinary; the overtly extraordinary is merely his oxygen, his everyday. You show him an unremarkable family runabout, he’ll have it whipped up into a Porsche-troubling frenzy before you can say ‘beige corduroys’.
“I started modifying cars about 12 years ago, with an Opel Ascona B,” he explains. To the uninitiated, this was a sensible-trousers commuter hack from an era when it was deemed noteworthy to offer a laminated screen as a no-cost option. “That went through a full rebuild to become an Ascona 400 replica, and after that I had an Ascona A from 1975 – first with a 2.4-litre CIH motor, which I then swapped out for a 420hp BMW M50B20 with a turbo, running E85.” Ah, so the story’s starting to loop into our world of Bavarian tuning now. It was bound to eventually – the long Scandinavian winters always lead to outlandish builds of awesome power and improbable stats; if it’s not Volvopowered, it’ll have a BMW engine. Thudding cylinders and big turbos are what help stave off the frostbite, and it’s clear that the lure of the BMW camp is what did it for Erik.
“I later built a 2.8-litre M50 for that car, which made 572hp on pump fuel,” he says casually, just tossing the numbers into the conversation as if it’s no big deal. Scandinavians have a different perspective on horsepower, don’t they? It’s bizarre.
We begin to spot a theme in Erik’s narrative here too – a tendency to find the best engine for the job, then replace it with something better, then take that engine and put it in a different car… it’s not so much a conveyer belt of performance, although there is an element of that, but more that he treats his projects like grown-up Meccano. The car is entity A, the engine is entity B, the chassis C, the way it deploys its power D, and so on.
Every now and then he likes to shake up the letters and bolt the parts together in different ways, creating something new and more impressive with his big boy’s toys. And so the evolution continues…
“I ended up selling the Ascona on as a rolling shell, keeping the 2.8-litre engine to fit into a 1986 635CSi that I’d bought,” he recalls. “I built up new exhausts and manifolds for it. It was making 750hp at the time – it was road-legal too.” Just sit and savour that figure for a moment – an old sharknose Sixer with more power than a Pagani Huyara. It’s staggering.
But Erik wasn’t done yet. Far from it. Having put a good 11,000km under the CSi’s wheels, he was beginning to yearn for the madness and, ultimately, lightness of the old Ascona. The itch became too much not to scratch, and the 635 was sold complete with its manic motor so that Erik could roll his sleeves up and get stuck into an E36 Compact. And while this may seem anathema to some, just keep in mind what the fella’s capable of.
“I began to build it up with the driveline of an E46 330xi, combined with that of an E39 M5,” he explains, again just throwing these mad ideas out there as if they’re totally vanilla. “It was finished within six months, but it got wrecked on the way home from a dyno session; I braked to avoid a deer and flipped the car into a ditch – it was all scrap aside from three wheels and the engine.” We’ve seen photos of this and it really isn’t pretty; it’s a good job that Erik’s a dab hand at fabricating roll-cages…
But let’s not forget his indomitable spirit, his Stig-like obsession with speed above all else, and his Terminator-esque sense of focus. The engine was still good, so that was hoiked out of the mangled wreckage and dropped back into the oversized Meccano box, and within three days Erik had found himself another toy to play with.
“I bought this E46 330xi a few days after the accident,” he says, with an even tone worthy of Räikkönen himself. “It was in a sorry state when I bought it, with rust and 250,000km on the clock, but that didn’t really matter much given what I had planned for it.”
That fiery engine was duly deployed, and it’s worth taking a moment to consider the spec: we’re looking at fundamentally an original 330xi M54B30, although it’s been played with quite a bit. A healthy bore job along with bigger pistons and a raised compression ratio work with a Precision turbo and plenty of internal upgrades to deliver an astounding 840hp at the wheels, all overseen by MaxxECU management. A huge set of numbers. And what’s particularly impressive is that so much of the driveline remains stock, demonstrating just how overengineered these 4WD 3 Series are; the gearbox and driveshafts are all factorystandard, as are the front, rear and centre diffs (albeit with a bit of welding to the centre item to firm things up).
The result of all of this insane, gibbering torque and horsepower? A four-door E46 that’ll accelerate from 0-285km/h (which is the point at which it redlines in fifth gear, equating to around 177mph) in 14.5 seconds. “With the running gear sorted, I fabricated a roll-cage for the car and took it on a few airfield events,” deadpans Erik. “After crushing a RUF 996 GT2 in a straight-line race, the oil pump shaft broke at 280km/h and took a few bearings with it, so I took the car apart and sent the engine off to my friend Åland at AllMek for a rebuild. While this was happening, I painted the body in British Racing green and decided to enter the Time Attack series, which was a pretty new thing in Sweden at the time. With the car back together and working well, I competed in the TANU series through 2015, replaced the three gearboxes that failed under the increased strain of competition, and just pushed the car to the very limits its heavy drivetrain and toonarrow tyres would allow.”
It may not surprise you to learn that the E46 has now, like so many chapters of Erik’s motoring history, found its way to a new owner. “If I’d have kept it, I’d have probably experimented with different diffs and wider tyres, but there’s always a new project on the horizon,” he says, devoid of sentimentality and already dedicated to the next step. A little birdie tells us that he’s actually working on two projects at the moment, the first being an E36 M3 3.2 that’s becoming a streetlegal track car, while the second is an M1 Procar replica with a V10 motor.
So spare a thought for that Swedish family, their cherished family runaround transmuted into an aggressively bewinged leviathan with a proven ability to show Porsche’s widowmaker GT2 a clean pair of heels. But then disregard them out of hand, as Erik does at the end of each personal chapter, because this isn’t about the past – it’s about living in the now, and keeping an eye on the future. Sentimentality will only get you so far, and then you’ll be blown into the weeds by a turbo as big as your face. An 840whp four-door E46 is an incredible thing to us laymen, but to a tuning superhero like Erik? It’s just part of the bigger picture…
9x17” E34 M5 alloys fitted all-round with 255/40 rubber front and rear.
DATA FILE #BMW Turbo E46 330xi / #BMW-330xi-E46 / #BMW-E46 / #BMW-330xi-Turbo / #BMW-330xi-Turbo-E46 /
ENGINE 3.0-litre straight-six #M54B30 / #M54 / #BMW-M54 , bored to 84.5mm using stressplate, CP pistons, #PPF forged rods, 10:1 compression ratio, #Supertech 1mm oversize valves and valve springs, #Precision-6466-turbo / #Precision , GTR intercooler, balanced crank, #ATI Super Damper, #ARP bolts throughout, copper ring head gasket, stock cams, functional #VANOS , #Bosch 1300cc injectors, #MaxxECU management, #KS-Racing (Thailand) intake manifold, S54 oil thermostat housing, #VAC motorsport oil pump upgrade, #Canton Accusump, 3.5” stainless steel exhaust system, #Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, 2x Bosch 044 fuel pumps, catch tank fed by Deatchwerks 301 in-tank pump. 840whp/782lb.ft @ 2.1bar, 0-285km/h (177mph – fifth gear redline): 14.5s.
TRANSMISSION Stock 330xi gearbox, stock centre, front and rear diffs (centre diff welded), stock driveshafts, M30B35 flywheel, Sachs 765 pressure plate, 6- puck sintered KEP clutch, Samsonas gear shifter.
CHASSIS 9x17” (front and rear) E34 M5 alloys with 255/40 (front and rear) Kumho V70 Medium tyres, K-Sport Supersport two-way adjustable coilovers, bushings replaced with uniballs, -3 degrees camber all around, 7 degrees caster, custom chromoly antiroll bars, M3 CSL 345x28mm front discs, M3 calipers, PFC 01 pads, stock rear discs and calipers with PFC 08 pads, E46 M3 master cylinder.
EXTERIOR Hard Motorsport M3 Saloon arches, E36 M3 British Racing Green paint, custom front splitter and rear wing.
INTERIOR Custom roll-cage with integrated reinforced subframe mounts, Rado Power bucket seats, TRS four-point harnesses, Sparco leather steering wheel, stock dash and doorcards, Lenovo tablet for MaxxECU read-outs.
Hardcore interior features Rado Power buckets and a Lenovo tablet acting as the MaxxECU display.
It was in a sorry state but that didn’t matter given what I had planned for it…