Is it possible for a car to be too perfect straight from the showroom floor? It's certainly not a common problem, and we all think of many ways to improve nearly every vehicle we look at - call it a sickness if you will, but it's one we're willing to live with.
When pressed for an example, BMW's iconic 3-Series may be the closest to automotive perfection to roll out of a dealership, south of $80k. The E46 in particular needs little done to make the car a real knock out. Yet there are those who accept the challenge, avoid the pitfalls, and end up with the perfect blend of what BMW intended, plus something more.
BeBe Sfetcu has done just that, yet never intended to own an E46 at all. But after a dealership sold the car he really wanted, they made him an offer he couldn't refuse on this Orient blue sedan.
"Initially I went to buy a 7-Series. The 3-Series wasn't something I was looking for but the salesman wanted to make it up to me and sold it to me at the trade-in price. So when I first got the car I didn't have many plans for it. But you know, one thing led to another..." BeBe laughed.
The Illinois resident runs his own construction company, so getting his hands dirty was nothing new. When it came time to modify his car, he jumped in and did as much as he could. Of course, he also knows when to let others take over, so when friend and bodyshop owner Anthony Palella bought a house in need of some work, BeBe was quick to work out a deal. "I completely restored his house, and he did the work on my car," he said. "The funny thing is the day I finished his house was the day he finished my car! It wasn't really planned that way, but that's how it happened. All it took was a handshake and some work."
As BeBe tackled the house, Anthony went to work on the Bimmer. BeBe had already installed an OEM E46 M3 front bumper, but the slightly wider bumper didn't line up with the sedan's fenders. So the front arches were widened using 2" fiberglass extensions, while the rear gained an extra 3" to match.
The bumper itself had the intakes next to the foglights filled in for a cleaner appearance, while an AC Schnitzer front lip brought the front closer to the tarmac. Rieger side skirts and a rear valance brought the rest of the car down to match. Both the skirts and valance were then molded to the car - a move that could spell disaster in the event of any accidents but, as BeBe put it, "That's the risk you take to enjoy what you have."
A metal bser-style hood extension was grafted on, while the chrome trim was switched to black, carbon-fiber kidney grilles were added and E36 M3 mirrors provided the final touch up front.
The rear trunk was swapped for a CSL unit, and BeBe was such a fan he decided to mold a carbon-fiber roof spoiler to match.
"I had a roof spoiler but it didn't go with anything on the car. I often sit in my garage and look at the car to think about more stuff I can do. So I took a mold from the CSL trunk lid and created a roof spoiler so it has exactly the same curve," he said. "It was more work than I thought - the spoiler took about seven months to get it right but it's finally done."
In fact, BeBe spoke to Euro-Spec.net about selling the spoiler and they recently made it available to the public. BeBe had specific thoughts on the pricing: "I asked them to sell it as cheap as possible so people can enjoy it. I didn't care if I made money from it" he said.
His generosity toward fellow E46 owners and the European community in general says much about BeBe and how he works it into his life. "I just got married and Anthony was one of my groomsmen," BeBe laughed. "The photographer, Jon, took the photos at my wedding. He's shot my car so many times that when it came to my wedding I didn't want anybody else. For me to convince my wife to accept it took a lot of work, though."
Wife Vilma must be very patient. After all, she once walked into the garage to discover BeBe taking apart one of their televisions for his latest in-car upgrade. BeBe designed and built the suede-wrapped enclosure that houses three 7" LCD screens in the trunk lid, while the aforementioned 22" screen sits behind the fiberglass sub enclosure.
A JVC head unit provides the audio signals, while two Hifonics amplifiers push the three 12" Hifonics subwoofers and Harmon Kardon component speakers.
The rest of the interior has seen tasteful improvements, with suede accents throughout. The steering wheel, door panels, various dash trim pieces and even the headliner have been wrapped in the material. BeBe decided to do the upholstery himself after a friend delayed helping him. "I decided that since I had the material I'd start on a door panel to see what happens. From there I got the courage to rip it all apart. I broke a few clips but it was all worth it. It was way cheaper than taking it to a shop. I think the whole project, with the broken parts, was less than $500."
Using his fiberglass skills, BeBe molded the calipers and made covers to improve the looks and cut down on dust. Not that dust would show on the matte-black JAZ wheels, but it's a unique touch.
The wheels measure 19x9" front and 19x10" rear to fill those widened fenders nicely. Hankook tires are fitted in 235/35 and 265/30 sizes, respectively.
Brembo cross-drilled rotors sit at each corner, and KW Variant 3 coilovers provide the perfect stance and handling.
Under the hood, things remain mild at present, with an Eisenmann exhaust, Technik Engineering header and Shark Injector ECU upgrade. The transmission, an automatic, is also standard, but won't remain for much longer as the owner plans a built motor, custom turbo and manual transmission swap. In fact, he already has the donor car and should be starting the swap this winter.
The pride BeBe takes in his car is evident when speaking to him, and although he enjoys showing the car, amassing several awards along the way, that's not his primary goal, apparently. He sees it as a chance to get together with friends and his fellow enthusiasts from the Europrojektz car club, to bring his passions together in one event.
"I have a pretty serious collection of trophies but I never go to shows with my mind set on winning. I go there for fun, to show the world what I've done," BeBe said. "It's brought me a lot of friends. That's the biggest achievement you can hope for. Our group is very close because we work together and party together. I help them with their houses; they help me with the car. I also DJ live at every show - it's been my passion for 16 years. For me to have both of my hobbies combined in one night, it's the best it can be."
2000 BMW E46 328i
Owner: BeBe Sfetcu
Location: Bolingbrook, IL
Occupation: Owner of MS Home Improvement, DJ
Engine: 2793cc 24v i-6 with Shark Injector software, CAI, Technik Engineering Gen-3 T304SS equal-length tubular headers, Eisenmann exhaust system
Drivetrain: stock automatic
Suspension: KW V3 coilovers
Brakes:cross-drilled Brembo rotors front and rear, custom caliper covers, APR pads
Wheels & Tires: 19x9" front, 19x10" rear JAZ Triumph wheels in matte black with red pinstripe, 235/35 front, 265/30-19 rear Hankook Ventus sport K104 tires
Exterior: flared front and rear fenders, E46 M3 front bumper with carbon AC Schnitzer lip, molded Rieger side skirts and Rieger apron, CSL-style trunk lid and BeBe Design carbon roof spoiler, E36 M3 mirrors painted matte black with LED signals, shaved side markers, bser hood, carbon kidney grilles, headlight inserts and door pillars, foglight inserts, LED angel eyes, Eagle Eye LED tail lights, tinted invisible bra, black window trim, painted body trim
Interior: suede inserts on doors, steering wheel and dash, suede pillars, headliner and rear deck, carbon gear shift console
Audio/Visual: JVC KD-AVX33 head unit, two 7" LCD headrest screens, Harman Kardon component speakers, three 12" Hifonics subs in suede-trimmed fiberglass enclosure, three Hifonics amps, 22" LCD screen in trunk, three 7" LCD screens in trunk lid
Thanks: Vilma, Manu at DPE Engeneering and Europrojektz, Anthony at Ind, Paul and Adam at Euro-Spec, Mike at Hifonics, Steve at Xtreme Graffix, Shawn at Mobile Speed Tech