With all the hype surrounding the M vehicles, one might forget that during the E46 era BMW released an equally enticing performance alternative. Slotted between the M3 and standard 330i, the ZHP Performance Package added a host of aesthetic and performance improvements.
On the visual front, the ZHP cars were blessed with an updated front-end, M-Tech II body kit, gloss anthracite window trim and 18” staggered wheels, among other bits. On the inside, carbon and aluminum trim accented the M-Sport steering wheel, short-throw shifter and alcantara seats. Under the hood, a factory ECU tune increased power by 10hp for a total of 235hp, and raised the rev limit to 6800rpm. Suspension upgrades included stiffer springs, dampers and sway bars along with staggered 18” wheels. Other noteworthy upgrades also saw a steeper final drive ratio and an available six-speed manual transmission.
True Bimmer fans loved the performance enhancements, but outsiders criticized the cost of the upgrades, as a fully optioned ZHP had a price tag rivaling that of the M3.
In the end it’s rumored that fewer than 10,000 examples were produced, which means while they might not have been a sales hit for BMW, they’re a great M-alternative on the used market.
“When I bought my ZHP in 2007 I had a 50-mile commute, and although I liked the E46 M3, I needed something more fuel efficient but still a performance car. So the ZHP was perfect,” Shane Stephens said.
Of all the ZHP colors, Imola Red was the most rare and when Stephens found a low mileage, one owner coupe in this M color, he had to have it.
“My first BMW was a 2000 328i that I modified to look like a ZHP and always regretted selling it,” Stephens said. “When I was in the market for another E46, the ZHP topped my list. So when I found this example, I couldn’t pass it up,” he added.
Some might say Stephens is a Bimmer man, as he’s owned several E30s that he swapped N52 motors into himself. While the older cars were cool and the newest stuff rocks, the E46 chassis is the apple of Shane’s eye. But as perfect as the stock package might be, it needed a little aftermarket attention.
“Like many E46 owners, I started with some simple lowering springs and CSL wheels before I really started the heavy modding,” he explained.
When a wave of OEM+ fever fell over him, Shane traveled to all ends of the internet to locate such goodies as an OEM Euro 16:9 nav screen with the matching TV tuner and back-up camera. He even found a Euro first-aid kit.
Then, in short order, Stephens got down to business, starting with motor mods. When the Active Autowerke headers, exhaust, intake and custom software weren’t enough, he jumped to an Active Autowerke Stage 1 supercharger kit.
The forced induction took power from 213hp at the wheels to 280hp. But even that wasn’t enough, so a Stage 2 upgrade was installed using an air-to-air front-mount intercooler, smaller pulley for 8psi, appropriate fueling upgrades and a custom tune from local tuner, Frank Smith. It resulted in an impressive 363hp at the wheels on 93-octane pump swill.
“The Stage 2 kit really woke it up, and Frank Smith’s tune was easily worth an additional 20hp. It now has no trouble keeping up with modified E9X M3s,” Stephens laughed.
Power needs control, so H&R Sport springs and Koni shocks work with Powerflex front control arm bushings, a BMW Performance carbon strut-tower brace and UUC MotorWerks sway bars. The latter are supported by TMS adjustable end-links to help the boosted coupe hold a tight line.
When that still wasn’t enough, an E46 M3 subframe and 3.62:1 rear differential was added for serious tail-out action.
Ultimately, the rubber meets the road by way of 19x8.5" front and 19x10” rear iForged Flux wheels wrapped with sticky Toyo T1R tires.
“The suspension modifications helped tremendously. It handles extremely well. So well, in fact, that it prompted me to buy a Porsche Cayman S big-brake conversion for better stopping performance,” Stephens said.
Wanting the body to match the brawn, Stephens started with the exterior. “I designed the front bumper in Photoshop and had a guy in New York replicate it for me with a molded Rieger front lip,” Stephens explained.
While a custom bumper is cool, the discontinued Vorsteiner carbon hood and double-sided CSL carbon trunk are timeless touches. Of course, the OEM M3 mirrors, plus a carbon rear diffuser and black roof are small touches that have a significant impact.
Inside you’ll find equally impressive additions, like the suede shifter- and E-brake boots along with a carbon CSL center console, Raven roll-bar and AEM gauges.
No decor would be complete without plenty of tunes, so a JBL MS-8 digital processor, 400w amp and two JL Audio W3 subs bring the beats.
Although an Imola Red 330ci ZHP is a sight to be seen, Stephens’ managed to create a killer example that’s truly one of a kind. While most would be ecstatic with the creation, Shane’s not wasting time in aiming for the stars. What does he have in mind? Well, we hear there’s a possible supercharged S54 swap and M3 fenders in the works.
We can only wait to see what he comes up with next, but if it’s anything like the rest of the car, it’s going to be flawless.
2004 BMW 330ci ZHP Package
Owner: Shane Stephens
3.2L six-cylinder 24v with Active Autowerke Stage 2 supercharger kit, front-mount intercooler, headers and exhaust system, Radenergie carbon engine cover, carbon ECU and micro-filter covers
Six-speed manual transmission with E46 M3 rear subframe and 3.62:1 differential
Porsche Cayman S four-piston calipers f&r on Rally Road brackets, M3/ZHP rotors
H&R Sport springs, Koni shocks, BMW Performance carbon STB, Powerflex front control arm bushings, UUC MotorWerks sway bars, TMS adjustable end-links
Wheels & Tires:
19x8.5" f, 19x10" r iForged Flux wheels, 235/35-19 f, 265/30-19 r Toyo T1R tires
Vorsteiner carbon hood and double-sided CSL trunk, custom front bumper with molded Rieger lip, OEM M3 mirrors, carbon rear diffuser, black roof, color-matched grille, tint
suede shift- and E-brake boots, carbon CSL center console, Raven roll-bar, AEM boost/AFR gauges, E-pod, Euro first-aid kit
factory 16:9 nav head unit with European TV tuner and back-up camera, JBL MS-8 digital processor, two JL 8" W3 subwoofers, amp, custom suede Bandpass enclosure and red LED trunk lights
my wife for putting up with my addiction, Jason and Evan from GetBMWParts.com, Active Autowerke, EUROWERKZ