Four years ago, Arve Francisco started a career as a Mercedes-Benz line technician. But instead of rollin' a Benz, he picked up the keys to this '02 BMW M3. "My best friend bought a M3," he began. "I didn't think much of the car until I drove it. Then I decided I wanted to get one."
The thrill of BMW's ultimate handling machine gave Arve a feeling no Mercedes could match. So for the next few years, Arve's E46 transformed into a tuning masterpiece with a white-on-gold theme, carbon CSL exterior and supercharged engine.
Surprisingly, he had never previously owned a European car before the M3, and didn't even have a solid plan throughout the project's journey. "I was into Hondas before," he confessed. "I had Civic hatchbacks and an Acura RSX before the BMW. I didn't want a show or track car, so just went with everything I could think of at the time. I was even cool with the stock car but somebody hit it within the first month."
Following the accident, he sought advice from friend and hardcore BMW enthusiast Girard De Guzman - you might remember his E36 M3 turbo widebody in et 5/05. Girard pushed Arve in the right direction as to what brands and parts to go with, and they subsequently became partners in their startup company, Sagenhaft Designs.
The E46 M3 project began with the exterior. Borrowing inspiration from the European M3 CSL, the front bumper, rear diffuser and trunk came from Vorsteiner, and all were made from carbon. European folding mirrors finished the outside before new paint was applied. Ditching the boring Titanium silver, Arve switched to white. "When I was younger, my dad had a '70s Corolla," he told us. "The color scheme was white with gold rims. It was his pride and joy. So when I had the chance, I made my car like his."
It took more than a month to find the perfect shade of white: "It's more subtle than other whites," he noted.
In keeping with the CSL, the roof was painted black to mimic its carbon roof. He then left sections of the carbon front bumper and diffuser as well as the entire trunk lid unpainted to highlight the weave. Finally, he added black kidney grilles and side gills.
For wheels, the classically styled HRE 540R was chosen. Purchased pre-owned, Arve had the silver wheels refurbished, polishing the lips while a local powdercoater finished the centers in 'Tequila Sunrise gold'. "I didn't see the color before they did it," Arve admitted. "It just sounded cool!"
Behind the HREs, Arve bolted on Brembo brakes for better stopping performance. The massive six- and four-piston red calipers were mated to 14'' front and 13.6'' rear drilled rotors.
Giving the M3 its great stance was an H&R Cup kit, using the more aggressive Race springs. H&R sway bars then ensured minimal body roll, while a Turner Motorsport trailing arm kit stiffened the rear-end.
Work continued inside the cockpit, with the dove grey leather switched out for black. "I didn't like the grey and it got too dirty. I just wanted more contrast with the white paint," he explained. As a result, everything was switched from another M3 including the dash, center console, carpet and door panels.
Shortly after, Arve got the itch to add racing seats. He initially installed Bride seats but found them uncomfortable, so manned up to Recaro SRDs. He then had Genesis Upholstery re-trim the door panels, center armrest and back seats in black alcantara with matching red stitching.
The engine was the last step in the project and he was easily persuaded to pursue more power after VF-Engineering granted him partial sponsorship. The 3.2-liter S54 subsequently received VF's stage 1 supercharger kit. It consisted of a Vortech V3-SC blower with a chargecooler plus new intake manifold. Uprated injectors and a GIAC software flash completed the system before a Supersprint race exhaust manifold and system pushed out spent gas. The newfound power was estimated at 400whp on pump gas.
According to Arve, the car's basically done. He'd like to bump up boost with VF's stage 2 upgrade but we were relieved to hear he's not planning any audio equipment. "I'd rather go fast than have all that stuff," he concluded.
So while Arve might have to live and breath Mercedes all day, his heart belongs to BMW. And with the price of E46 M3s dropping below $15k, we hope his ride will inspire new Bimmer owners in the future.
2000 BMW M3
Owner: Arve Francisco
Location: Concord, CA
Occupation: Mercedes line tech
Engine: 3.2 liter S54 straight-six with VF-Engineering stage 1 supercharger kit, Supersprint race exhaust
Drivetrain: six-speed manual, UUC short shift kit with DSSR, UUC stage one clutch and flywheel, UUC tranny mounts
Brakes: 14'' front and 13.58'' rear Brembo big brake kits with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, stainless lines
Suspension: H&R Cup kit with Race springs, front and rear sway bars and end-links, Turner Motorsport rear trailing arms, polyurethane bushings
Wheels & Tires: 19x9'' front and 19x10'' rear HRE 540R wheels powdercoated Tequila Sunrise gold, 245/35 R19 front and 285/30 R19 rear Bridgestone RE050 tires, H&R rear spacers
Exterior: Vorsteiner carbon CSL-style front bumper, OE CSL trunk and rear diffuser, matte black kidney and side grilles, smoked turn signals, LED tail lights, 8000K HID headlights, Orion v12 angel-eyes, OE European auto-folding mirrors, Sagenhaft white paint, black painted roof
Interior: black interior swap with dash, center console and carpet, aluminum trim, alcantara door panels with red double stitching, rear seats upholstered in alcantara with red diamond stitching, Recaro SRD seats with red stitching, Wedge Engineering seat mounts, Schroth four-point harnesses, Hamann pedals, shift knob and e-brake handle
Thanks: Girard De Guzman, Mike Nounasey, the Sagenhaft Designs Crew, Glenn, Daniel, LJB, Rigo, Garageworks, Mike Azucena, Lawrence, Cam, Mert, Big Joe, Steve, Herson, Gym, Bobby at G Collision, Genesis Upholstery