2003 BMW M3
Every year we struggle to find the meaning of the SEMA show. Sure it showcases the latest and greatest automotive innovations and show cars North America has to offer, but its relevance to the European car community always leaves us wanting more. Yet each year there are usually one or two standout vehicles that tickle our noses; cars that stops us in our tracks like VWoA's R GTI (et 12/06) or Evolve's C30 (et 4/07).
Let's rewind the tapes four years ago to the '05 show and Eric Shih's '03 BMW M3 (et 4/06) comes to mind. Featured in the Kinesis Wheels booth, the widebody M3 turned heads with its Lamborghini blue paint, black 'n blue 20s, Brembo brakes and suede-clad stereo. The M3 was the pinnacle of E46 styling and, in due course, Eric won car shows across the United States for the next two years. However, times have changed. Just when we believed Eric was done, he's returned with the same M3 revived with edgier looks and supercharged power.
BMW M3s powered by the throaty 3.2-liter straight six have roamed the streets since '00. Nine years later, its development has brought a large array of power upgrades, such as forced induction, headers, a dozen combinations of exhausts and intakes plus software.
When et originally featured Eric's ride, a carbon GruppeM intake and titanium Dixis exhaust were the only parts fitted. While the exhaust remains on the car today, Eric embraced the S54's potential saying hello to a VF-Engineering supercharger.
If you don't understand much about superchargers, they work as a compressor which forces more air into the engine's cylinders, thus increasing power and torque when extra fuel is added. There are several different types of superchargers and VF uses a centrifugal design manufactured by Vortech. This design uses an impeller to draw air into a small compressor housing. Centrifugal force then pushes the air out at higher speed. Finally, a diffuser increases the air pressure into the intake manifold.
Available in four stages, Eric opted for VF's stage two, which gave impressive power while maintaining daily-drivability. The Vortech blower is rated at 20psi, but stage two operated between 8 - 8.5psi. Larger Bosch fuel injectors and a MAF upgrade ensured the fuel mixture was always optimized.
The stage two kit also gets an air-to-water intercooler. Built within the intake manifold, it efficiently cools the hot, pressurized air produced by the blower. Eric also added Supersprint headers and pipes to guarantee the exhaust exited quickly as well. Finally, GIAC tuned the car with pump and race fuel options.
Putting power to the rear wheels was the stock six-speed manual with an upgraded UUC Motorwerks clutch and lightened flywheel. To get the most out of each gear, Eric installed a BMW Motorsport 3.91:1 differential.
Eric explained that before all the engine work, the car was dyno-tested with the exhaust and intake at 266whp and 220 lb-ft. After VF performed its magic, the M3 put down 500whp and 335 lb-ft on the dyno using 97-octane. With 109-octane, Eric saw the dyno rollers measure 530whp!
Vivid 'N Vinyled At last, Eric's M3 wasn't just a show queen. It finally boasted some street credibility thanks to 500whp commanding the rear wheels. But after the same exterior for so many years, it started to look sedate in his eyes. Already familiar with Lamborghini's palette, he decided to try something new and revisited the Italian paint chart.
"My family recently picked up a Gallardo in Balloon white and I fell in love with it. So I picked the color for the M3, except I had the hood, roof and trunk matte-finished, inspired by the special edition Nera Gallardo," Eric explained.
The new paint was laid atop an already solid foundation of custom bodywork including wide front and rear fender flares with modified Strassentech bumpers and molded carbon side skirts. New for '09, vents were added in the rear of the front fenders to make the widebody more obvious.
The rear featured an OE CSL trunk and molded CSL rear diffuser, while down the sides you'll notice the moldings were shaved. You'll also find carbon fiber accents in the front splitter, roof spoiler, side mirrors and Hamann air ducts.
The E46 in Balloon white was essentially a blank canvas, so vinyl graphics were envisaged. And proud of the car's show 'n go ability, Eric obtained his supercharged dyno graph and plotted it across both sides of the car. The vinyl outlined the horsepower and torque curves, and even includes the baselines curves as well.
For the chassis, Eric mastered it first time around so left it alone. Now discontinued, the 20x10" front and 20x11" rear Kinesis wheels were custom finished in a glossy black with blue anodized lips. Wrapped in Falken FK-452 tires for plenty of traction on the street, the M3's chassis employed Brembo Gran Turismo brakes all around for outrageous stopping power. Eric mentioned the fronts were extremely rare being 15" Le Mans GT rotors, while the rears utilized 13.6" drilled rotors. As for the suspension, KW Variant 2 coilovers appropriately slammed the M3 and gave it improved handling along with Ground Control sway bars.
Just when you thought the M3's overhaul was complete, the interior contains more incredible innovation. The trunk setup and front seats remain essentially as before but with some slight modification. Retaining the Status Ring seats with carbon backs, the upholstery was changed to black and blue alcantara with new five-point harnesses securing Eric and his passenger.
The trunk setup built by Street Jamz accommodated four Diamond Audio amps, plus two 12" subs and three caps. You'll also notice the trunk lid now has a pair of Diamond components and a small screen.
The backseat was where the interior shines. The rear houses a painted rollcage with two more 10" subs plus three video game consoles... a PS3, Xbox360 and Wii. That's easily more than the average gamer!
A nitrous bottle takes center stage in the rear between the subs, while a motorized 22" monitor drops down from the roof. Yes, you read that correctly! Two actuators rotate the TV up and down via a switch in the glovebox. Still not impressed? When Eric shifts the car into reverse, the screen switches to a video feed from a rearview camera in the license plate.
Also new inside was a suede-wrapped dash and CSL door panels. The fiberglass gauge pod in the center of the dash was also fresh. Four gauges are switchable to read air/fuel, exhaust temp, water temp, oil temp, boost, vacuum, oil pressure and air intake using OLEDs. Finally a Mac Mini rests in the glovebox in place of the former PS2 console.
Eric's M3 has come a long way since he started, joined car club TWCompetition and competed at shows around the US. He's proud of building a car that's top-shelf on the show circuit, but just as menacing on the street and Eric continues to daily-drive the blown M3.
"I compete with the car at shows but all show and no go defeated the purpose. I always wanted a car that wins and had proven power, and now I have it all."
2003 BMW M3
Owner: Eric Homshao Shih
Location: San Jose, CA
Occupation: business manager
Engine: 3.2-liter straight-six 24v with VF-Engineering stage 2+ supercharger kit, air-to-water chargecooler, custom manifold and chargecooler, Bosch injectors, Hitachi MAF conversion, Supersprint headers, X-pipe and Y-pipe, GIAC software, Dixis titanium race exhaust, carbon Xenon controller, computer and cabin filter covers, blue carbon engine cover, brushed aluminum oil cap
Drivetrain: six-speed manual with BMW Motorsport 3.91:1 differential, UUC Motorwerks stage 2 clutch and lightweight flywheel, Rogue Engineering short shifter and weighted selector rod
Brakes: 15" front and 13.6" rear Brembo Gran Turismo big brake kits with blue four-piston calipers, silver hats, custom Le Mans GT front rotors
Suspension: KW Variant 2 coilovers, Ground Control sway bars, Radenergie carbon strut bar
Wheels & Tires: 20x10" front, 20x11" rear Kinesis Motorsport K1020 wheels painted black with blue anodized lips, 255/30-20 front, 305/25-20 rear Falken FK-452 tires
Exterior: 1.5" front and 2" rear custom fender flares with modified Strassentech bumpers, front fender vents, carbon Strassentech splitter and roof spoiler, European front bumper, OE M3 CSL trunk lid and molded CSL rear diffuser, molded carbon GTR side skirts, ATR carbon GTR hood, carbon mirrors and gills, molded Hamann air ducts, shaved moldings, white and blue angel-eye headlights, KW LSD vertical doors, two-tone Lamborghini Balloon white paint, flat-back kidney grilles, vinyl dyno sheet, window tint
Interior: Status Racing Ring seats with carbon backs and alcantara upholstery, five-point harnesses, painted rollcage, carbon titanium dash trim, carbon steering wheel, Dixis titanium pedal set, M3 CSL carbon door panels, blue and black suede upholstery with blue stitching, OE Euro center tray, rear deck baffle, titanium e-brake handle, UUC carbon shift knob, fiberglass gauge pod with four PLX Devices OLED gauges, 13 lb carbon nitrous bottle
Audio/Visual: five Diamond Audio amps, two sets of component speakers, two 12" and two 10" subs, Eclipse AVN-5424 double-DIN head unit and eight-disc changer, three one-farad capacitors, PS3, Xbox360, Wii, Apple Mac Mini in glovebox, motorized 22" monitor from rollcage, 7" monitor, Optima Yellow Top battery, Dynomat paneling, fiberglass and suede enclosure
Thanks: friends, family, TWCompetition, Carrozzeria Design, Traffic Jamz, Falken Tire, Diamond Audio, PLX Devices, Status Racing, VF-Engineering