As the final chapter is being written on one of Europe's best loved and successful performance cars, the E46 M3 takes its last bow as it's replaced by the eagerly anticipated fourth generation E92 M3. But the E46 won't be forgotten in a hurry, particularly when modifiers around the world continue to break new ground in their effort to realize the ultimate interpretation.
Travel to just about any reasonably-sized US city and you'll spot an E46 M3 soon enough. The same can be said of most parts of the world: London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome - anywhere you care to mention. It's everywhere because it is so damn good.
The E46 M3 is the BMW that serves as show car, track-day weapon, family transport and back-road hero and is loved or respected by all; to continue discovering such fine examples is quite something, considering it's been around seven years.
This particular example utilizes choice aftermarket body parts, combined with OEM M3 CSL goodies, unusual Japanese racing wheels, carbon fiber overload and the freshest color available for the M3. All combine to leave you weak at the knees.
It also squats menacingly, thanks to a track-orientated suspension, GT3 bucket seats and a roll-bar, and under the hood is the renowned 3.2 liter straight six enhanced by Active Autowerke's latest supercharger system. Good for over 500hp, this M3 is unquestionably the complete package.
While it would undoubtedly look at home cruising the streets of LA, Miami or NYC, this '02 M3 SMG calls Varberg home; a quiet, rural town in southern Sweden.
In a country where residents are blessed with a blend of tuning talent, strict attention to detail and seemingly plenty of disposable income, modified cars from Scandinavia are usually world-beaters. And Magnus Bjrnerhag's is no exception. Having modified more than 40 BMWs in his 39 years, it's little wonder he built this masterpiece.
The story starts in '03 when Magnus picked up a silver M3 as a track toy. The usual wheels and suspension upgrades were first on the agenda, before a trip to Kelleners Sport in Germany took things to the next level.
The company's Motorkit KS M 3/46 kit, comprising cams, ported head, bigger valves and an exhaust system offered respectable gains for use on track days organized by Sweden's BMW Club. "The only problem was people came with hotter M3s," he said, "so I worked on the car more before each new track session to gain an advantage. I looked at lots of car magazines and forums and found some good ideas overseas."
Attempting to create a car that could perform on the track as well as at shows, Magnus's ride has constantly evolved. Last summer it was a respected package dressed in its silver paintwork, but after much winter work he feels it is finally perfect.
In true, no-corners-cut, Swedish fashion, the M3 was completely stripped in Magnus's workshop and painted a US-inspired Alpine white - a color not available to European E46 M3 purchasers.
Before the final paint was applied, Magnus built up a body that would turn many US M3 owners green with envy. Europe may not have received white M3s, but it did get the limited edition M3 CSL. And that means CSL parts are easier to access if you've the proper connections. Magnus came up trumps, buying a CSL front bumper (with Vorsteiner chin spoiler), trunk lid, exhaust diffuser and the ultimate OEM carbon fiber roof.
The desirable carbon panel hasn't simply been stuck over the metal roof either; this is Sweden and things are done properly here. "It's scary to cut an M3," Magnus confirmed, "but after I bought the carbon roof I had to do it. I couldn't sleep for a few nights beforehand, but eventually two of us removed the windows and screen, then cut the steel roof off. We used special glue to fit the carbon roof, but it only gives you eight minutes before it sets. It was nerve-wracking, but I'm really happy with the job and it saves many kilos."
Continuing the carbon fiber theme, Vorsteiner also supplied the hood and roof spoiler, while MSD provided carbon mirrors, door handles, kidney grille, side grilles and headlight surrounds. Furthermore, the B-pillar and BMW badges came from Fiber Design, while the hood vent and rear M3 badge were from SSDD Motorsport. Magnus even ordered custom washer jets in carbon.
The side skirts are Hamann GTR items, but the rear features Magnus' own handiwork modifying the stock bumper. It's an impressive GTR-style design featuring large vents behind the fat rear tires. But despite many inquiries from other M3 owners, Magnus has no plans to build them en masse.
The rear wheel arches were pulled by 20mm each side to accommodate the wheels, which now sit perfectly under the bolstered bodywork.
Avoiding the regular HRE or BBS options, Magnus chose a set of light but strong 19" Volk Racing wheels. More commonly seen on imports, the look works unquestionably, with 8.5s up front plus 10mm spacers, and 10.5" at the rear.
It's hard to believe this immaculate car is used for anything but shows. However, the factory mechanic is happy to race and drift whenever the opportunity arises. Evidence of how seriously he takes the on-track ability is witnessed by the Brembo GT brake upgrade, plus the KW coilovers, anti-roll bars and Dixis titanium front strut brace.
In a land where turbocharging to stratospheric levels is nothing unusual, Magnus demanded more horsepower. The best forced induction available was the Active Autowerke supercharger kit. He ordered its top offering, the Generation 3 Level 2 system, and was delighted with the service the Miami-based company provided.
Active's Level 2 kit offers a 53% power increase to 525hp because the Rotrex C38-81 supercharger has a 70mm pulley, as opposed to the Level 1's 75mm pulley, plus a thicker 8mm drive belt.
Larger fuel injectors and water injection were also provided in the kit, along with new software. Nonetheless, Magnus prefers his Khler Racing ECU that he had custom programmed, giving a dyno reading of 520hp at 9.5psi. "I will map it further," Magnus said. "I'm hoping to get 550-600hp when it's finished."
The E46 M3 has always sounded good, but the addition of a lightweight Dixis exhaust muffler takes it into the racecar league. And imagine how that sounds now that the 155mph limiter has been removed and Magnus claims he nudged 200mph on the autobahns.
While it's no slouch, there are other reasons the car scooped 25 show trophies. Under the hood is an MSD carbon engine cover and Kelleners air inlet, plus custom covers for the fuse box, air pump and air vents.
Calling again upon his CSL contact, the interior boasts its carbon door panels and suede steering wheel. The Vorsteiner center console and paddle shifters, plus Schnitzer dash and steering wheel inserts are also made from, you guessed it, carbon fiber. Titanium pedals from Dixis and alcantara boots are choice touches, but the real treat for BMW enthusiasts is the OEM E60 M5 SMG shifter Magnus fitted.
Despite these touches, a pair of Recaro GT3 seats with Momo harnesses dominate the cabin. Behind these, a Weichers Sport roll-bar hammers home the motorsport theme.
Magnus promised work on the M3 is now finished, and although he refuses to sell it, his time will be diverted to his new toy: an E92 M3 V8 in white with black leather.
For the time being, Magnus is happy with his efforts. "The M3 forums in America love my car," Magnus told us. "I find people in the US are hard to impress, but they like my car because everything is done. They seem to like that I've used expensive parts."
Expensive indeed. You don't get an M3 to look this good without shedding a few tears. So far, Magnus estimates his modifications have cost more than $150,000. "But it's worth it for my own enjoyment," he said. No matter the cost, the finished article can only be described as priceless.
2002 BMW M3
Owner: Magnus Bjrnerhag
Location: Varberg, Sweden
Occupation: Factory Mechanic
Engine: 3.2 liter six cylinder, Kelleners Sport camshafts and big valve ported head, Kelleners exhaust, titanium Dixis rear box, Active Autowerke Generation 3 Level 2 supercharger kit, Khler Racing ECU, K&N filter, MSD carbon engine cover, carbon fuse box, air pump and air vent covers, Kelleners carbon air inlet
Drivetrain: six-speed SMG transmission
Suspension: KW Variant 2 coilovers, Kelleners sway bars, titanium Dixis front strut bar, custom strut covers
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" with 10mm spacers (f) and 19x10.5" (r) Volk Racing C28 Time Attack wheels, 235/35-19 (f) and 275/30-19 (r) Toyo Proxes T1R tires
Brakes: Brembo Gran Turismo Big Brake Kit with 380mm (f) and 345mm (r) cross-drilled rotors, four-piston calipers all round
Exterior: M3 CSL carbon roof, front bumper, trunk and rear diffuser, Vorsteiner carbon hood, chin spoiler and roof spoiler, custom rear bumper, Hamann GTR side skirts, Phosphyre halo headlights, smoked indicators, '04 M3 tail lights, MSD carbon mirrors, handles, kidney grilles, CSL-style side gills and headlight surrounds, Fiber Design carbon B-pillar and BMW badges, rear fenders pulled 20mm each side, SSDD Motorsport carbon hood vent and rear M3 badge, carbon washer jets, BMW Alpine white respray, tinted windows
Interior: Recaro GT3 front seats, Momo harnesses, Weichers Sport half-cage, M3 CSL door and rear quarter panels, AC Schnitzer carbon dash and steering wheel inserts plus SMG paddles, Vorsteiner CSL-style carbon fiber center console, Dixis Spirit Japan titanium pedals, E60 M5 gear shifter, alcantara boots for e-brake and shift knob from LeatherZ.com
Dixis and Volk Racing (www.mackinindustries.com)
Hamann Motorsport (www.3tmotorsport.com)