At first glance, it's easy to overlook Aaron-Ross Jimenez's '03 BMW 330i ZHP. It's black, has big silver wheels and a body kit. It sort of looks like every other modified E46 out there, but when you stop and look at all the changes, you discover so much more.
The car is completely done. It has a suede interior, supercharged motor, CSL front bumper, carbon hood and interior, racing seats, big brakes, and more remarkably, an Apple computer in the trunk. So, let's get to know Aaron and his IBMW.
Aaron is a 22 year-old pre-med business major at La Sierra University in Riverside, CA. As a student, it's been difficult for him to save money and devote resources to his passion. "I make time around my studies to hold part-time jobs that support my modding addiction," he revealed. "The hardest part of tuning is finding the money to buy everything."
Despite financial limitations, he developed the addiction when he drove his first BMW, a '01 325ci with minor modifications such as suspension, body kit and wheels.
In the summer of '03, he ditched the Coupe for a 330i sedan. "I chose the car because it was a great platform to build my ultimate sedan," Aaron explained. "My vision of a performance vehicle was always a sporty coupe because sedans were mostly grocery-getters or family cars taking kids to soccer practice. But when I saw the ZHP performance package for the sedan, my vision of a sports car changed.
"My general plan was to mod it from the outside-in because I felt the ZHP had enough power to suffice and a nice enough interior with stock suede seats to keep me comfy."
Aaron began his lengthy project with the suspension. After driving the stock car for just one day, he took it to his local tuner shop and lowered it on H&R springs.
He kept the ZHP-equipped aerodynamics for a couple of years, but eventually began the exterior transformation by adding a Hamann front lip and GT-R side skirts.
Front and sides were inevitably lower than the rear, but Hamann didn't offer anything for the rear of a '03-plus sedan: "I custom fitted a rear bumper from a pre-'03 sedan and molded a Hamann rear apron to it," Aaron explained.
After more work, the sedan looked handsome, but lacked the uniqueness its owner yearned. "I always loved the M3 front, but no company mass-produced a bumper that went straight onto a non-M body," he said. "So, I acquired an OE M3 front and fabricated it to look like the CSL bumper with the passenger fog covered, the driver's side air duct and Vorsteiner splitters at the bottom."
The new bumper was custom fitted, but didn't flow with the Hamann sides and the rear because it sat higher. So, Aaron decided to add an AC Schnitzer carbon lip to the M3 bumper, with splitters below it. To complete the bodywork, a Vorsteiner GT-R carbon hood was also added.
After a year on his first set of DPEs, Aaron opted for the newer 19" LS15 wheels in gold. "I finally decided to add an inch and go for dubs," Aaron remembered. "Go big or go home, right?" The current rollers are 20x8" front and 20x9.5" rear GT7 wheels with Dunlop Sport Maxx tires. "It isn't the easiest thing to slap dubs on a non-M 3-series, so there's only a handful of E46 owners who've attempted it."
With the new dubs, Aaron's 330i sat higher than on 19" wheels. The remedy was a set of KW Variant 2 coilovers from tCarbon. The damping and height adjustability allowed him to set up the suspension for the street. He also added a carbon Radenergie strut bar to stiffen the chassis and improve the appearance of the engine bay.
For years Aaron drove around with no performance modifications, but he eventually elected to go for a forced induction kit with a Technik Engineering stage 2 supercharger. He also installed a 3.46 open differential to get the most out of the blower.
Defi BF series gauges were custom-mounted on the dash to measure boost and oil pressure. With the new 'charger operational, Aaron dynoed the car at 275whp.
The additional power, combined with the greater inertia of the 20" wheels, meant that better brakes were required. Aaron initially installed a 13" StopTech big brake kit, but evolved to a 14" Brembo kit for improved power and looks. Cross-drilled rotors, stainless steel lines and Axxis pads were fitted to the rear to improve all-around stopping power.
"The last two areas of the car left unscathed were the interior and audio," noted Aaron. "My interior was pretty stock. I knew the car looked sexy on the outside, but it needed to look even sexier inside, because it's what's inside that counts."
So Aaron started with a few simple upgrades, such as the silver carbon trim and pedals from JLeviSW.com. The factory alcantara steering wheel also received silver carbon trim, a trend that continued with a Vorsteiner CSL center console.
The stock seats were comfortable, but Aaron felt he'd slide around when cornering. So, he upgraded them to fixed Status Racing Ring seats upholstered in bright red alcantara.
Aaron then approached Form N Function to trim the rest of the interior in red. "I knew the red seats were going to stand out, but I needed the rest of the interior to flow with it or they'd stick out like a sore thumb." After the front and rear seat centers and door panels were covered in perforated red suede, the dashboard was also revamped with double-stitched black suede to match the shift boot and steering wheel.
Last, but not least, was the ICE. In the cockpit, Aaron fitted a Pioneer AVIC-Z1 head unit. In the trunk, he decided to go a different route. "I wanted something that reflected my personal tastes," he explained. "Being an avid Apple user, I wanted to incorporate this theme into the car. Apple is commonly displayed in a clean setup; nothing over the top, less is more."
The trunk became home to a 20" Apple Cinema display, Mac Mini processor, wireless keyboard and mouse. The display is mounted on an adjustable mount that can be moved in every direction.
"The trunk setup definitely wasn't the easiest part," he explained. "I didn't want to go too extreme, but I wanted it to be unique, even functional, when I needed it to be."
To provide the sound, JL Audio provided two 10" subs and two amps, while the trunk lid proudly displays the Apple logo, with JL Audio components mounted on either side. Form N Function again proved to be a great ally by helping with the trunk install.
Aaron's clean 330i has proven to be a winner at several California shows. We hope the creativity of his trunk and effectiveness of the modifications inspires more car builders to try something different.
Tech spec2003 BMW 330i
Location: Riverside, CA
Engine: three liter six cylinder 24v with ASA/Technik TM12 supercharger kit, front-mount intercooler and stage 2 pulley/software, Schnitzer figure-eight exhaust tips, Radenergie carbon engine covers, JLevi carbon radiator cover
Drivetrain: stock six-speed manual, 3.46:1 open differential
Brakes: 355mm Brembo front brake kit with stainless steel rear brake lines, Turner Motorsport cross-drilled rear rotors, Axxis Deluxe Plus pads
Suspension: KW Variant 2 coilovers, Radenergie carbon strut bar
Wheels & Tires: 20x8" front, 20x9.5" rear DPEngineering GT7 wheels with brushed aluminum centers and polished step lips, 235/30-20 front, 245/35-20 rear Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires
Exterior: custom M3 Bumper, AC Schnitzer carbon M3 lip spoiler and splitters, carbon roof spoiler and side mirrors, Hamann smoked kidney grilles, Competition side skirts and rear valance molded to OE rear bumper, Vorsteiner carbon hood, M3 Shadowline window trim and trunk spoiler, OE Black Shadow headlight trim, OE clear corners, side markers and tail lights, Phosphyre halos with remote access
Interior: Status Racing Ring alcantara seats with custom red perforated suede on seat centers and door panels, black alcantara rear seats, black anthracite headliner, silver carbon trim, steering wheel trim and pedal set, Vorsteiner CSL silver carbon center console, Schnitzer aluminum e-brake handle, OE M3 weighted shift knob, silver gauge rings, Defi BF Series control unit, boost and oil pressure gauges, custom gauge dash mount, black double stitching on suede dash
Audio/Visual: Pioneer AVIC-Z1 head unit, JL Audio 500/1 and 300/4 amps, two JL Audio 10w3v2 subs, Harman Kardon component speakers, Helix trunk components, 20" Apple Cinema Display, custom-mounted Apple Mac Mini processor, wireless keyboard and Mighty Mouse, Peerless VESA LCD mountTHANKS: parents, girlfriend, Choch, Pnut, Team Ar-Kan, Dunlop Tires, Meguiar's, DPE Wheels, Form N Function, Vorsteiner, TCarbon, Endless Graphics, E46fanatics.com