“I was extremely lucky as a high school student,” Luke Benner humbly told us. “My parents
purchased a used, stock ’97 M3 for me when I was only 16.” Of course, we’re all extremely jealous and offered ourselves for adoption on the spot!
Having scored big and got himself onto the performance ladder, Luke got an after-school job, like many of us, and saved his pennies. Unlike our fast food jobs, Luke worked at Bimmerworks in West Chester, PA for parts he could install on the weekends.
The teenager’s goal was to tune his M3 to the highest possible naturally aspirated horsepower. Over the years, early upgrades were swapped for better parts, getting a Schrick 256/264˚ cam kit and Supersprint header, mid-pipe and Active Autowerke cat-back. But in the end, he decided to go for forced induction to maximize his spending power.
New friends in the BMW community,
guided Luke to a RMS stage 3 supercharger kit that used a polished Vortech V-2 Si-trim blower. The owner of Bimmerworks, Steve Snow, and techs Chris Bishop and Dana Wolf, lent a hand with the install. And after a couple of dyno pulls, Luke swapped the exhaust for a 3" Euro Supersprint setup with RMS headers that netted his M3 448hp at the wheels and 364 lb-ft.
The E36 five-speed was later swapped for an E46 six-speed M3 transmission with a shortened driveshaft. After a stage 2 UUC flywheel and kevlar clutch were added, Luke was rowing through all six gears with a UUC Evo 3 short shifter, while a 3.46:1 LSD made spirited driving a lot more fun.
In his younger years, Luke developed a liking for carbon fiber. So the engine bay was dressed in Dinan engine and radiator covers, while the Orion V2 angel-eye-equipped headlights were topped with carbon vinyl to match the carbon eyebrows.
Carbon flowed throughout the interior, with everything from the dash trim to gauge holders on the A-pillar covered.
He also replaced the seats with leather Sparco Milanos and installed some stereo equipment to win silverware. “The stereo went through a couple of iterations, starting with a single JL sub but eventually going to a suede-trimmed enclosure for Kicker L7 subs with a screen in the trunk,” Luke said.
In the cabin, the center console houses a 7" screen wrapped in CF, accompanied by two 5" monitors in the sunvisors displaying movie magic from a Pioneer DVD deck.
“After seeing Eurowerkz member Adam Khan featured in eurotuner (et 8/05), I knew I wanted an Esquiss’Auto widebody kit like his,” Luke told us. So he bought the fender flares but paired them with a Rieger rear bumper and side skirts. He retained the stock front bumper but had it flared to meet the Esquiss fenders and molded a Vorsteiner GTS3 spoiler in place.
“I entrusted all the widebody work to Nu-Castleton Collision in Long Island; the same shop that did Adam’s E36 years before,” Luke explained. “The owner, Rosario and his team, transformed my car into what it is today. We went with Aston Martin Lightning silver paint which has a blue pearl in it and changes in different light.”
Luke also designed the front bumper to accept Turner Motorsport carbon brake ducts to cool the six-piston Rotora front brakes. And to fill the arches, Luke wanted the widest possible wheel and tire combination: contacting Manu at DPE, he purchased a staggered set of 19x9 front and 19x11" rear SP10 wheels wrapped in Toyo T1R tires.
“You’d be hard pressed to find one part on the car that’s not been modified!” Luke grinned. “It’s a car I’ve always enjoyed and will never sell.”
And while most of us are glad to think of our first car as a distant memory, Luke’s has been his only car, and its brought him some close friends along the way.
et Tech Spec
1997 BMW M3
Owner: Luke Benner
Location: West Chester, PA
Occupation: Medical Device Salesman
Engine: 3.2-liter six-cylinder with RMS stage 3 supercharger kit using polished Vortech V-2 Si-trim unit, RMS idler pulley and headers, Schrick 256/264˚cams, Active Autowerke software, MLS .080 head gasket, ARP head studs, M50 intake manifold, Stratmosphere Hyperboost HX bypass valve, 42 lb injectors, Zionsville radiator, Samco hoses, Euro oil filter housing and cooler, Turner Motorsport fittings, Dinan big-bore throttle body, Supersprint Euro mid-pipe and cat-back exhaust, Kenne Bell boost-a-pump, CF oil catch can, Bavarian Autosport coil set, Spal fan, Aquamist water/meth kit, UUC pulleys, Understeer fan delete, Ground Control Green Gizmo, VAC oil pan baffle, Active O2 simulators, Dinan CF radiator, ignition module, alternator duct, fuel rail, fusebox and ECU covers, red and black powdercoated supercharger hardware, hood latches and A/C bolts, stainless reservoir cover, Billetwerks oil, radiator and brake caps, Bimmerworld mounts
Drivetrain: six-speed E46 M3 transmission, shortened driveshaft, Euro crossmember, Diffs Online 3.46:1 LSD with 40% lockup, Active diff support bracket, Rogue finned diff housing, UUC stage 2 flywheel, kevlar clutch, DSSR, TME kit, stainless clutch lines, clutch arm bushing, delvin carrier bushing, v3.0 clutch stop cdv delete, Euro M3 Evo 3 short-shift kit
Brakes: 355mm front, 330mm rear drilled and slotted Rotora rotors with six-piston front, four-piston rear calipers, stainless lines, Turner Motorsport carbon ducts
Suspension: H&R Race springs. Bilstein Sport shocks, Ground Control RTAB shim and rear shock mounts, UUC sway bars, X-brace, VMC sway bar end-links, Turer front subframe reinforcement kit, CFWerks carbon front strut bar, Powerflex lower control-arm bushings, SPC rear control arms, 15mm rear spring pads, Z3 steering rack
Wheels & Tires: 19x9" front, 19x11" rear DPE SP10 wheels with reversed chrome lips, matte black centers and inner barrels, 255/30 R19 front, 305/25 R19 rear Toyo T1R tires
Exterior: Esquiss’Auto front fenders, rear quarter panels, gas door and liners, widened OEM M3 front bumper, molded fogs and Vorsteiner GTS3 spoiler, Erebuni carbon vented hood, flared Rieger Infinity 2 skirts, Carbon Creations CF skirt splitters, kidney grilles, widened Rieger Infinity 1 rear bumper with carbon diffuser and black mesh, JTD under-panel, VIS CF trunk with E46 M3 spoiler, AC Schnitzer CF mirrors, Zeemax CF roof spoiler, paint moldings, smoothed handles, deleted front bumper molding and washers, smoothed rear body creases, deleted side markers, CF eyelids, satin-black powdercoated lower mesh grille, tint, CF roundels, Bosch headlights with CF inserts, Orion V2 angel-eyes, Euro M3 clear corners, turn signal delete, painted Aston Martin Lighting silver
Interior: leather Sparco Milano seats and brackets, Raid Silberpfeil CF Type 2 steering wheel, Euro M3 powered rear windows, BMW Motorsport red seatbelts, Autopower street roll-bar powdercoated Arctic silver, Auto Meter CF gauge pods on steering wheel and A-pillar, PLX Devices DM5 and SM-AFR gauges, Auto Meter ES boost gauge, VDO oil pressure, oil temp, volts, water temp gauges, Z3 oval rearview mirror, AC Schnitzer pedals and mats, carbon gauge overlay, Active e-brake handle, shift knob, Z8 push-button start, E39 M5 mood lights, Valentine One, carbon dash, steering wheel and passenger airbag covers, glovebox door, door latch surrounds, button panel, suede headliner and pillars, LeatherZ suede e-brake and shift boot, paint-matched fiberglass rear parcel shelf, console, glovebox trim
Audio/Visual: Pioneer DVH-P5000MP DVD head unit, Lilliput EBY701 7" touchscreen, suede sunvisors with 5" Power Acoustik T5009MSV screens, MBQuart component speakers, two 10" Kicker Solo Baric l7 subs, Kicker KX 850.2 amp, Audio Precision PC450 amp, MBQuart QM-130 rear speakers, BSW tweeters, VIFA NE65W-04 mid-range speakers, Harmon mid-bass speakers, Cascade Audio power inverter, Dynamat, suede trunk lining, LCD trunk monitor, diamond-plating, Whelen strobe tail light kit, cupholder-mounted computer, ported sub box with glass and mirror covering, blue lighting
Thanks: wife, family, and friends, Steve Snow, Chris Bishop, Dana Wolf at Bimmerworks, Team Eurowerkz, Manu at DPE, Ouri at Bavtoys, Bimmerforums, Rotora, Marco at TMS, Rosario, Roberto, Frank at Nu-Castleton Collision, Mark at Futureline, Bangharts, BSaint Media, Toyo, Active Autowerke, Chris at RMS, Jim at Rogue Motorsports