BRR BMW E46 M3 SuperCharged
This project sorted of started backwards….normally, many of our projects, start with either one of our BRR project cars or one of our thousands of customers who do projects with us, but these start with a new car, and the enhancements / upgrades begin right there. Then there are some, that launch into a project with cars as they have come to love and adore, and now wish to embellish their love. This BRR project started from the other end…a car we do love, the BMW E46 M3, and a 2006 manual nonetheless, but one where the engine blew up and the car was being abandoned. Not wanting this car to be abandoned, we saw an opportunity to try something new…..lets do a “re-do / makeover”.
That’s what we did. But, we’ve done them for looks, done them for track…what was to be the goal this time? Just plain FAST / MEAN / QUICK / WICKED….but not for track, just for the street. But, to get there, we needed to do the make over….reinforce the rear subframe, rebuild the engine (main bearings, cams, water pump, thermostat, idler and tensioner, belts, oil pump, clutch, dual mass flywheel, pressure plate….the rest we left alone) and get the base car in shape before we started the project. Then we would do a SuperCharger / Intercooler Kit (VF Engineering kit, the best possible), brakes (Brembo BBK of course, front and rear), APEX large wheels, Michelin tires (larger than stock, near square), suspension (Bilstein PSS10 coil-overs, H&R sway bars, suspension bushings (Powerflex)), exhaust mid-pipe, exhaust rear section, body upgrades (front bumper w CSL type brake ducts, rear Carbon Fiber diffuser), interior trim….and that pretty much covers the base project. There will be more…there is always more.
The car as it is now:
Most know that the BMW E46 S54 is susceptible to rod bearing issues. Our donor engine already had 80k miles on it, so before we were going to start adding enhancements, we wanted to make sure the base package was strong and robust. Any of the known wear items (water pump, thermostat, oil filter housing gasket, idler bearing, tensioner pulley / bearing, belts, AC tensioner, oil pan gasket, CPV valve, oil pump, coolant hoses, radiator, valve cover gasket)….all got replaced with new. Some of the parts were being changed for other types of parts (intake manifold, intake boots, exhaust) as part of the upgrade process. So, out w the old…
We started w the bottom end…the soft underbelly of the car. This has been a hit or miss area…the early engines (2001 – 2002) had the known issue, but even after this, we have seen way too many that have had abnormal wear issues, w some needing to be replaced, so we wanted to ensure this would not be a problem for us in the future. We upgraded w VAC coated rod bearing, ARP hardware.
With the base, heart, and soul of the machine now put together…and solid, we can move on to the next phases of the project. Let’s start putting it together….with getting the base engine in, and ready for some power mods.
The SuperCharger Kit (VF Engineering 570) w Intercooler
There are the normal ways to add power, then there are the “boosted” ways of adding power. The BMW E46 M3 S54 engine is very well engineered to begin with, so the normal methods (chip, software, cams, intake, exhaust), don’t really do much….little tiny additions, but nothing significant, even if all of them are done. Turbo charging isn’t really an option due to the space constraints and packaging in the engine bay, so, if you want BIG power…you go the SuperCharging route. There are several players out there, but we stayed w the proven, known, reliable solution in the VF Engineering kit. They offer a variety of power options, but, as the saying goes, if you’re going to go big, GO BIG…so, we went w their top of the line kit.
The kit comes complete: SC, intake manifold, Intercooler, hoses, belts, mounts, new larger injectors, additional cooling elements, spark plugs, fuel pump, software tune, and great instructions. Just to be clear..the intake and pipe do NOT come RED…we had those powder coated for this project to complement the complete solution and car.
Rear Subframe / Bushings
Just like prepping the engine before doing the upgrades, we wanted to make sure the car / body / subframes were all good before we started with other enhancements. We have seen sooooooo many issues w either BMW 3-series E46 chassis, or BMW E46 M3 chassis, that we knew we need to tackle that area. Complete, rear subframe reinforcement. To do this right, you need to drop the complete rear subframe, suspension, brakes, differential…..AND the fuel tank out of the car. You can then access all mounting points from the underside, and pull the inner trunk liner to get at the upper side areas as well. If you are not familiar, the four rear subframe mounting areas are very weak, and often result in cracking. We have seen some very severe cases, where there are complete HOLES in the rear body structure. The fix is straightforward, just a little time consuming. You need to repair and re-enforce both the underside mounting areas, and the upper areas (gained from inside the trunk, then you cut away a portion of the body, weld the inside or topside of the bottom side mount areas with “roset” welds and perimeter welds, then add the re-enforcing plates, seam weld, and paint.
With the subframe out…that is the perfect time to deal with all the rear bushings (subframe, differential mounts, rear trailing arms). Staying w the objective of this project, a fast street car, we then went with the YELLOW Powerflex bushings….also doing the front lower control arms as well.
There are many approaches to upgrading the suspension, but we knew we need to do something, as with all this new power, we needed to ensure that the suspension could manage it. The normal approaches come in buckets (a) upgraded struts / shocks / sport springs, or (b) non-adjustable coil-overs (struts, shocks, springs), (c) adjustable coil-overs, (d) race level coil-overs. With each option, the price tag goes up. You can do the simple, or you can do the track solution (most expensive). But, what drives us most, is that we want flexibility…there are too many variables, and different driving conditions, so we wanted the best combination of cost / flexibility / ride. That means to us Bilstein PSS10. We love this solution…quality (we have never had an issue w any customers install of this solution, from MINIs to Porsche’s), range of ride height adjustment, but most of all, the dual adjustment (both rebound and compression) w the single adjustment knob, AND, that it is easily reached and altered. Some solutions (like ST and KW V1 or V2), have adjustment, but we defy you to try to make a quick change…ever. So, in with the Bilstein PSS10. We also replaced the rear upper shock mounts w Rogue Engineering solid mounts…and w the quick release from the under side (vs the OEM top mount approach).
If you add big power, big tires (see later), better suspension, better bushings…what’s next on the list? Brakes of course. The stock BMW E46 M3 brakes are just no good…even the 2006 Competition option brakes are no good. So, we need good brakes…that leads us to either Brembo or StopTech. There is a difference between these two…StopTech is slightly less expensive, Brembo is better…better material, rotors will last longer…but, Brembo will be slightly more expensive again when time comes to replace the pads / rotors. Both have the same large diversity of brake pads, from street, to street / performance, to full track. The average person can not really discern the difference in performance. But, with all our track experience in the last couple of years w Brembo, we know who we can trust and turn to. So, Brembo it is, both front and rear. Up front, 6 piston calipers, in the rear, 4 piston calipers. Type 3 full floating rotors. New RS60 brake pads. Brembo RT brake fluid. Brembo stainless steel brake lines. Yep, checked all those boxes.
If you add big brakes…that usually causes the domino’s to fall…you now need bigger wheels to fit around the big, massive brakes. For a BMW, the choice is easy….APEX wheels. Flow Formed, light weight, and optimized for the offset and width for each BMW model. If we were going for pure track use, we would likely opt for the ARC8 to save weight, but this is a street car, and we think the look of the PS7 wheels…in hyper silver….. are KILLER. We shrouded the new wheels w the “go to” performance street tire….the Michelin Pilot SuperSport. We also installed a set of APEX wheel studs w silver lug nuts. It all goes together.
When we did our first BMW E46 M3 project car, there were other body elements a plenty, but today, some of those parts have more or less disappeared from the market (at least from the quality suppliers)…items like the vented Carbon Fiber front hood, Carbon Fiber CSL door panels, Carbon Fiber rear trunk lid w integrated CSL lip. But, some of the items you can still do, even custom elements. We loved the look on our first BMW E46 M3 of our front bumper w “plastic welded” integrated brake ducts…and this is still possible, so we opted for that look again. We can get Status Gruppe rear Carbon Fiber diffuser to go around the upgraded exhaust…so, that too was added.
There are three pieces to the exhaust system. Headers (w cats), mid pipe, and rear section. For CA cars, like ours, there is too many issues w trying to do an upgraded header, either w sport cats (catalytic convertors), or without cats…and the power gains are not that significant. The one issue almost all agree with is the drone in the mid-range of the RPM band (right around 2.75-3k RPM, just where the car runs at normal freeway speeds), so we wanted to replace that section to deal w the drone, and choose the Status Gruppe mid-pipe.
There was not much that we needed to do here…just swap out the interior trim pieces. We liked the red interior, already have the manual short shifter.
And….that’s it…..for now :)
There is always more…but we have achieved the objective we set out to with this project. A killer daily driver. And, this is a daily driver, not just some garage queen. Recently, we were getting on the freeway, and a highly modified Mitsubishi Evo MR thought he wanted to play….silly, silly man. Not a chance….Bye, bye.
BRracing – Building FUN