If there's ever been a German manufacturer that possesses the ability to span different automotive circles with international appeal, it would have to be BMW. Despite the fact that the majority of our readers are probably partial to Japanese cars, it's tough for any of us to deny the allure of BMWs. To be specific, though, there's one key characteristic a BMW needs to possess to have any hope of grabbing our attention. That important detail comes down to one small emblem: the mighty letter M.
It all started with the now cult-like status of the E30 BMW M3 chassis. Even today, this platform manages to captivate builders of varying backgrounds, including those who may usually pursue cars from the Land of the Rising Sun. Though the modern M cars now produced by BMW are vastly different than the iconic E30, the overarching theme of these cars remains the same: a refined and luxurious design for everyday practicality and style, while still offering a unique edge from a performance standpoint. The goal is to create "The Ultimate Driving Machine," as they say.
When the time came for Dan Mermelstein of Vivid Racing to part ways with the shop's previous build—an E46 M3—he knew he wanted to build another one of these Bavarian beasts. Being Arizona's premier performance shop and service facility, as well as one of the larger performance retailers here in the States, Vivid serves a huge customer base all over the world. A good majority of those patrons are BMW enthusiasts, so it only made sense for Dan and the team at Vivid to set their sights on yet another M car build.
In addition to serving as one of Vivid Racing's many project cars, this particular M3 is also utilized as Dan's daily driver. Though the modification list may not be pages long, the M3 doesn't need a laundry list of improvements. Instead, key modifications are the way to a successful build without sacrificing practicality. "I personally wanted to have a powerful daily driver to haul the kids around, go to the store, allow the wife to drive it, and be able to keep up with my Porsche," Dan explains. Not a bad problem to have! For a family man and business owner, it really is tough to beat what BMW has to offer.
Hold on—before you flip the page assuming this is just another watered-down daily driver with a set of wheels tossed on it, we beg you to stick around just to hear what's tucked under the hood of this M machine. Powered by a sophisticated 4.0L V8 from the factory, this particular M3 pumps out a very stout 342 hp at the wheels without having to turn a wrench or flash a computer. With that kind of power on tap, you'd think Dan would be content. But as most of the dads out there can attest, we'll find any excuse we can to modify our "family" cars.
Should Dan find himself running late to get the kids to soccer practice, he'll now have a bit of extra oomph thanks to a VF Engineering VF620 supercharger kit. As German car buffs can attest, the newest models from BMW don't like to be tinkered with. A simple intake or exhaust modification can leave you with a gauge cluster that lights up like a Christmas tree. Fortunately, VF Engineering has been in the game for a long time and has developed a thorough bolt-on solution that maintains factory driveability while putting down some serious numbers. When paired with an Agency Power axle-back exhaust system, this M3 spun the rollers in triple-digit Arizona temps to the tune of 474 whp, a 132-whp gain over stock!
The Vivid Racing M3 may look very stock-ish to the average Joe, but any enthusiast will notice the subtle upgrades done to distinguish itself from other M3s. Dan turned to his friends at Vorsteiner for an injection of carbon fiber that includes a carbon-fiber front lip spoiler, diffuser, and lightweight trunk. In addition to the Vorsteiner components, a slew of other subtle CF visual additions makes its way onto the car. Custom-painted mirror caps tie in nicely to the car's theme, while a '10 BMW LCI taillight conversion modernizes the rear end.
One thing that BMW has perfected is the craft of designing a well-executed interior. You won't find bucket seats, racing harnesses, or gutted carpeting here—this is a kiddie hauler after all! Truth be told, there isn't much you really need to address with an interior as nice as this. Although, Dan did install a custom Agency Power steering wheel with—you guessed it—carbon-fiber trim. A CF emergency brake handle matches the steering wheel beautifully, while a set of Vorsteiner floor mats protects the carpet from pairs of small (and potentially dirty) sneakers.
BMW has left very little on the table in the handling department, but there's always room for improvement, even if it's minimal. Vivid utilized a set of Eibach lowering springs to bring the car's height down just a touch, in addition to front and rear sway bars from the German tuning pros at H&R. KW Suspension coilovers have been sourced to take things one step further and will probably be installed on the car by the time you read this.
The one thing most E90 and E92 M cars lack are the brakes, which can tend to fade after track abuse or spirited driving. The folks at Brembo have a worthy solution that utilizes 6-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers with large 380mm floating front rotors and 345mm rears.
No matter how far you plan to take a build, nothing has as profound an impact on the car's visual presence as the right set of wheels. This M3 used to wear 20-inch Volk Racing G2 wheels before Dan chose to switch to a set of 20x9-inch and 20x10-inch MHT Niche Geneva three-piece wheels for a completely different look. The centers of the wheels feature a unique brushed and clearcoated finish, while the barrels display a rose gold hue that matches the brake calipers and other components under the hood. Meaty Toyo Proxes T1R rubber keeps things as civil as can be for a daily driver.
Dan and his team at Vivid Racing have proven that even if you find yourself at a point in life where a gutted coupe with a mod list a mile long just isn't going to cut it, you can still have your cake and eat it, too. By taking an already refined and luxurious platform and choosing to focus on several key aspects, Dan is left with a four-door sedan that caters to his every need, whether it be carting the kids around or embarrassing some super cars.
Specs & Details
'08 BMW M3
Engine: 4.0L V8
Engine Modifications: VF Engineering VF620 supercharger kit, Agency Power titanium tip axle-back exhaust, carbon-fiber and custom-painted engine components
Wheels, Tires & Brakes: MHT Niche Geneva three-piece wheels brushed and clear center with rose gold barrels 20x9 (f) 20x11 (r), Toyo T1S 255/30/20 (f) 285/30/20 (r), Brembo 6-piston (f) 4- piston (r) big brake kit with custom finish
Suspension: Eibach lowering springs, H&R front and rear sway bars
Interior: Agency Power custom steering wheel with carbon-fiber trim, Vorsteiner floor mats with blue piping, window tint, carbon-fiber emergency brake handle
Exterior: Vorsteiner front bumper carbon-fiber lip spoiler, carbon-fiber diffuser, single-sided carbon-fiber trunk; carbon-fiber roof shark fin, hood vents, side indicator covers, front kidney grilles; front tow hook, custom-painted mirror caps, '10 BMW LCI taillight conversion