There are few people who would argue the original E30 M3 remains the iconic superstar among BMW's road racing history. Each successive M3 model has added to the heritage but sacrificed some of the original genetic makeup, becoming less focused and more mainstream. So when 37 year-old Michael Correa from Annapolis, MD decided to begin his second E46 M3 project, he looked to the past for inspiration.
"At the time we built this car, nobody had done anything like this," Michael said. "There was the Esquis' Auto kit for the E36 models that mimicked the E30-style fenders but it hadn't been done for the E46, although people were always calling out for it. So we decided to give it a go."
As if designing a custom widebody wasn't difficult enough, Michael decided to make his life even more complicated by having it built on the other side of the country. "I had a modified Porsche 996 Turbo but missed my previous M3. So I advertised the car online and looked for another BMW. I was contacted by Vince Wong at iForged Wheels. He had an M3 to sell and was looking for a Porsche, so we agreed on a deal. We would swap cars but he would contribute to the cost of the modifications. We talked about several ideas when he came up with the concept of this widebody based on a rendering somebody had posted online when the E46 M3 was first released."
Vince took the car to DTM Autobody in El Monte, CA in June '07 where the four-month build process began. "I first outlined the plan to the bodyshop over the phone. They would then go away and start work, emailing me photos of each stage for approval," Michael explained.
To achieve the widebody rear fenders, new rear quarter panels were purchased. They were then spaced from the body and taped into place to achieve the stepped fender they had discussed. Once it was approved, the original fenders were cut away and the new quarter panels were curved to create the new lines. It was then welded by the door and tail lights. This left a gap between the body and the new quarter panel, which was filled to create the distinctive E30 M3-style stepped fender flare.
In order to make the new panels look factory, the stock bumpers were heated and stretched to meet the new fenders, which were now 1.75" wider than before. Some filler was then used to get the final shape.
The stock side skirts were molded to the body from front to rear. This gave a smooth transition from into the wider rear fender, keeping it as subtle as possible.
Up front, a carbon fiber Strassentech lip was molded to the original bumper and the side markers were shaved. However, this has since been swapped for a carbon Vorsteiner bumper to match the Vorsteiner hood and CSL-style trunk lid. You'll also find carbon grilles and mirrors, which were purchased online from Korea but the owner reports they're good quality.
With the car painted its original Silver grey, and the roof (with its Strassentech spoiler) painted black, it was time to exploit those extra inches. While the front wheels are a relatively modest 19x9", the rears are a fender stretching 19x12" with 315/25 Falken tires. When viewed from the rear, they almost seem to touch in the middle!
However, all that rubber would amount to nothing more than a good ribbing if the M3 wasn't able to stand up for itself. So Michael struck a deal with VF-Engineering and the car was shipped to its California workshops for a stage 1 supercharger installation. The kit comprised a Vortech blower pushing 5.5psi through a watercooled plenum chamber. With new software and bigger injectors, the M3 was making 398whp.
"The car has about the same power as the 996 Turbo," Michael explained, "but where the Porsche's power delivery was aggressive and nasty, the M3 is very linear. The only time you know you're going fast is when you look down at the speedo!"
A set of big brakes had been ordered from Rotora before Vince sold the car, so these found their way under the fenders, that were lowered by Bilstein's PSS9 coilovers. "The car can sit lower," Michael reports, "but at this height it doesn't scrape too much.
"We built the car to be practical. I needed something I could drive, which is one of the reasons we built the widebody in steel," he continued.
This M3 is the whole package, with nothing overlooked. So once the car was shipped to the East Coast, Michael could continue his work. Consequently, the interior is awash with suede (CSL steering wheel, Sparco seats, SMG shifter, etc) and carbon fiber (CSL console, steering wheel trim, etc). There's even a rollcage in the rear that Michael claims does little for the body's rigidity but certainly helps with the overall theme.
The trunk is also suede-wrapped, displaying one of the two amps in the floor, with a pair of 8" subs just visible through the plexiglass window in the enclosure. The main amp fires the Alpine speakers that were placed in the factory locations, and all the music originates from a Pioneer AVIC-Z1 head unit.
Inevitably, this wasn't to be the end of the project, with the owner planning wider front fenders, new wheels and a color change. However, his recent engagement has encouraged Michael to sell the car to start work on a milder E90 project. At least, that's his intention. But with a string of first place trophies, including Best of Show at NOPI and Best Wild BMW at HIN, we wonder if this is the last we'll see of Mr. Correa's creativity?
2004 BMW M3
Owner: Michael Correa
Location: Annapolis, MD
Occupation: Information Assurance Engineer
Engine: 3.2 liter 24v i-6 with VF-Engineering stage 1 Vortech supercharger, air-to-water intercooler/intake manifold, high-flow fuel injectors, Magnaflow cat-back exhaust, Porsche center radiator, Vorsteiner carbon fiber engine cover
Drivetrain: six-speed SMG transmission with Spec stage 3 clutch
Suspension: Bilstein PSS9 coilovers, AC Schnitzer strut tower bar
Brakes: Rotora big brake kit with 15" drilled rotors and eight-piston front calipers, four-piston rear calipers
Wheels & Tires: 19x9" front, 19x12" rear iForged Precision Series Daytona wheels with Hyper gunmetal centers and 2" front, 6" rear lips, 235/35-19 front and 315/25-19 rear Falken FK-451 tires
Exterior: custom metal rear widebody, Vorsteiner carbon VRS vented hood plus V-CSL trunklid and V-CSL rear diffuser, Strassentech molded front lip spoiler and carbon rear window spoiler, Carbonio carbon headlight shells, carbon kidney grilles and M3 side grilles, shaved OEM bumper, custom carbon mirrors, SSDD molded foglight ducts, Depo smoked corners, Umnitza Predator chromium angel eyes, 6K HID headlight bulbs, smoked side repeaters and tail lights
Interior: Sparco Milano 2 seats,Autopower rear rollcage, CSL steering wheel with carbon trim, GSP Gen-3 SMG pedals, carbon SMG shifter dome, Royal F1 aluminum paddle shifters, flat-black gauge rings, brushed aluminum trim, Vorsteiner carbon center console, Leather-Z alcantara e-brake and shifter boot plus SMG plate
Audio/Visual: Pioneer AVIC-Z1 head unit, iPod/iPhone connector, Alpine 6.5" compo-nents in stock locations run by Diamond Audio amplifier custom trunk enclosure with two 8" JL Audio subwoofers and Carbon amplifier
Thanks: Jennifer, Vincent at iForged, Nik at VF-Engineering, Loren at Rotora, Peter at Vorsteiner, Sean and Tony at Mitsiwa, Leather-Z, At Speed Motorsports, Team Eurowerkz, my father