1999 BMW 318i When we started putting together this issue, we couldn't have imagined it would fall into place so sweetly. The Waterfest coverage speaks for itself - it's a great show, with great cars; we just have to be there to reflect what happens. But the E46 widebody theme we also weaved into this month sort of fell into our laps.
Because we try to create balanced issues (with just the right amount of old and new, different marques, different budgets, etc) we often have to sit on features for a few months until we can strike the right note. But like the prelude to the perfect storm, three stunning widebody BMWs dropped on our desks around the same time.
What's interesting about each 3-Series, is they reflect the nature of European tuning around the world. For example, Alvin De Rego's 800hp version reflects the popularity of forced induction among US tuners, while Wai Hung's metal fenders and stock engine reflect the poor state of roads in his native Malaysia.
So what about Eva Verzelen's 318i you see here? How does it reflect the Belgian tuning scene? Well, the model number should give an indication: "In Belgium you can do styling but can't touch your engine besides items like a strut bar and air filter... We have to get the car inspected every year, so if you modify the engine they tell you not to drive the car anymore. There's also the matter of insurance when you get into an accident..."
The 37 year-old web designer/publisher from Waregem bought this '99 318i when she decided the family needed a bigger car. "I loved the E46 Coupe, but the sedan was a better choice with our kids," she laughed.
Buying it in '01, she started out "just wanting to fit a body kit, some wheels and mirrors," but that didn't last long. In fact, the car's been through six different stages before reaching its climax as undoubtedly one of the most radical E46 in the world.
The first stage was as Eva predicted - an RDSport/Racing Dynamics body kit, wheels and some mirrors. We should point out, not only was this her first BMW, but it was also her first attempt at modifying, although she subsequently bought two more - an E46 convertible that's since been sold, and an E93 she still owns.
Returning to the E46 at hand, the second stage was an M3 upgrade for the rear as well as an interior overhaul plus a sound system and a two-tone paint scheme in the car's original Fern green and pistachio green.
Stage three involved RDSport Tornado front fenders and a Hamann's M3 front spoiler. Next up was a set of HRE wheels and a new stereo install before the car was repainted HoK Candy red. Stage five saw custom bumpers, DPE wheels and a new interior before it morphed into the car sitting here with its custom widebody.
With its lengthy roster of encouragement, Eva was clearly building to greatness. And the culmination of her eight-year journey is a car that stops you dead in your tracks. It's undoubtedly a tour de force and the pinnacle of the latest Euro styling themes inspired by US hot rod and lowrider culture.
Modifying the fiberglass Tornado fenders created the widebody up front. These are now about 3" wide either side, necessitating further modifications to the Hamann front bumper to follow the lines.
The rear fenders were fabricated in metal, including the clever extensions that allow the rear doors to operate. Widening the car 4" either side, the M3 rear bumper was correspondingly widened, while custom skirts dramatically lower the profile by creating old-school running boards.
"I always loved widebody cars," Eva said, "but not too wide. So I was lucky to find JV-Tuning, a Belgian company that was the partner I needed to pull this off the way I wanted it."
According to the owner, she didn't sweat the big stuff: "It was all the details that were the hardest part of the makeover. There was so much to coordinate and every little thing had to fit the picture perfectly."
The details she's referring to include items like a suicide gas door as well as a carbon hood, carbon diffuser and smaller licence plate aperture in the trunk. The trunk itself has CSL-style wing that was fabricated in steel.
It took about a year to complete the bodywork. But tying these elements together is the matte grey paint, mixed by JV-Tuning with lots of metallic, and finished with a matte clearcoat. "The color was chosen because we couldn't imagine anything better for the widebody. The car was so aggressive, we felt the color should complete the picture," Eva told us.
In our opinion, the restrained approach works much better than if she'd kept the Candy red. She also went a step further by ensuring the E46 had black window trim rather than chrome. The carbon fiber elements were then finished with a matte clearcoat.
Those DPE R06 wheels are a generous 19x10" on the rear and similarly deep-dished 19x8" fronts. "I love DPE," Eva said. "They have great designs and you can choose any offset you need. They're also friendly to deal with. So once we took delivery, we had the wheel centers painted a slightly darker color than the car, and finished them with a flat clearcoat."
With the ground-hugging air-ride, we assumed there would be inevitable rubbing: "Not at all," Eva corrected us. "They don't rub because the fenders were made after we got the wheels," she laughed.
"Air or no air was another of the first decisions we made, because it would help determine how the fenders would look. In the end, I went for air suspension because I don't like the gap between the wheels and fenders on most widebodies," she explained. Looking at the car now, there's certainly no unsightly gaps anywhere.
Moving inside, it would be impossible to leave things stock. Fortunately, Eva was aware of her responsibilities and built something she described as "robust but not over the top."
To contrast the somber exterior, the seats and door cards were trimmed in a creamy leather and matching alcantara: the difference in texture creating a luxurious ambience.
This treatment was also applied to the shift and e-brake boots, armrest, steering wheel and the entire trunk. The dashboard was then wrapped in black leather with white stitching to blow you away.
With its carbon fiber trim, subtle EP (Europrojektz) embroidered logos and Racing Dynamics accessories, you could almost be excused for overlooking the Fusion sound system. It starts with a relatively discreet Fusion CA-IP500 head unit in the dash, but gathers pace with the stunning carbon fiber pods in the front doors, housing a pair of Fusion 6.5" speakers on each side. Another four of these drivers were located on the rear shelf, and all are powered by two 1200-watt Fusion four-channel amps.
The sound system continues into the trunk, where one of the aforementioned amps is displayed centrally. It's flanked by 12" Powerplant subs on either side (each powered by a mono amp), while a pair of 5" mids plus tweeters reside in the back of the trunk.
Once the JV-Tuning designed system was built, the fibreglass enclosures were trimmed on the same cream leather and alcantara.
But that's not all. There's also a video system that uses a DVD player under the dash, connected to TVs in the sunvisors and headrests, plus another three in the trunklid to continue the wow factor at the shows Eva attends across Belgium and Europe.
Perhaps the only let down is the car's lack of power. The puny 1.9 liter in the 318i has the filter and exhaust mods allowed by Belgian law. However, there are plans to finish the engine bay in the same style as the bodywork.
Beyond that, Eva seems happy with the results: "It's my dream car," she told us. "I can just sit there and stare at it for hours," she laughed. And to be honest, it's what we've done ever since we set eyes on this glorious creation.
1999 BMW 318i
Owner: Eva Verzelen
Location: Waregem, Belgium
Occupation: web designer/publisher
Engine: 1895cc four-cylinder with custom M3 exhaust, K&N cold-air intake in a custom carbon fiber air scoop, chrome valve cover, color-matched coolant tank, 120 amp alternator, second battery system
Drivetrain: Five-speed manual
Brakes: Zimmerman rotors
Suspension: BSS air-ride and controllers, Weissman strut brace
Wheels & Tires: 19x8" front, 19x10" rear DPE R06 Variant S wheels with straight lips and painted centers, 215/35-19 front, 255/30-19 rear Pirelli P Zero Nero tires
Exterior: custom widebody using modified RDSport Tornado front fenders and metal rears, modified Hamann M3 front bumper and OE M3 rear, metal side skirts, CSL-style metal trunk with smaller plate aperture and handle, suicide gas door, carbon fiber ATR hood, kidney grilles and emblem, AC Schnitzer carbon M3 diffuser and roof spoiler, Umnitza xenon headlights with angel-eyes, smoked corners, high-gloss Shadow Line trim, custom-mixed matte paint, carbon fiber finished in matte clearcoat
Interior: BMW Sport seats retrimmed in cream leather and alcantara with embroidered logos, matching door cards and rear seat, double-stitched black leather on door cards and dash, black alcantara headliner and rear shelf, AC Schnitzer Victor steering wheel in black and cream leather with carbon inserts, custom Europrojektz mats, carbon interior trim and speaker panels with lit Europrojektz logos, RDSport shifter, e-brake, pedals and footrest, Isotta gear shift frame, M3 instrument cluster trim, air-ride pressure controller, BMW M-Tech sills, blue xenon interior lights
Audio/Visual: Fusion CA-IP500 head unit with iPod adapter, two Fusion Powerplant PP-AM200010 monobloc amps, two Powerplant PP-AM120040 four-channel amps, two 12" Powerplant PP-SW120 subs, two sets of Powerplant 6.5" two-way speakers in each front door and on rear shelf, 5" Powerplant two-way speakers in trunk, three Alpine 7" TFT screens in trunk, two in headrests and two 5" TFT in sunvisors, DVD player under dash, Optima battery in trunk, fibreglass, leather and alcantara installation designed by JV-Tuning
Thanks: JV-Tuning, Fusion Belgium, Europrojektz (www.europrojektz-world.com), DPE Wheels (www.dpe-wheels.com), husband, family and friends