A side effect of turbocharging a motor is more of an engine bay's worst enemy--heat. When turbos spool up to over 100,000 rpm, they (and the some of the connected piping) will glow red-hot. Heat naturally travels upward, and because of where Project M3's turbocharger is situated, all that heat goes up against the underside of the nifty carbon-fiber hood, trapping it there.
I contacted Active Autowerke to see what could be done about dissipating some of this smoldering heat. AA led me to Patritti Design, a company specializing in louver fabrication. Patritti Design had designed the louver that went on an M3-powered, AA-turbocharged 318ti driven by Catesby Jones that had great success in the One Lap of America race in 2000. I asked Patritti Design to send the same one. Then Project M3 went to custom fabricator Jeff Toberg of DJ Exotic Imports. Since Jeff had done a nice job with the trunklid featured last month, I didn't hesitate to call him again. He looked at the louver, looked at me and said, "You really want to put this on and put paint over that nice carbon-fiber finish?"
"Do I have a choice?" I asked him. Jeff pointed to the hood and said, "I've got a guy who can actually mold this design from the carbon-fiber hood itself rather than cutting a large hole and molding in the louver that way. This way you get the louver and keep the carbon-fiber finish!" That sounded like a splendid idea.
The MA Shaw carbon-fiber hood went to custom fabricator Lucio Serrano, owner of L&S Custom Products, which specializes in carbon-fiber and fiberglass spoilers and wing fabrication, along with fiberglass repair. Lucio's shop had custom sport wings ranging from Porsche to Mitsubishi Lancer Evo applications.
Lucio cut into Project M3's hood, heated the appropriate sections and precisely folded down each strip to make it look similar to the one sent from Patritti Design. In the end, I didn't have to have the pretty carbon-fiber hood painted black, and I got the same functionality.
With the M3 is packing so much heat under the hood, it was time to upgrade the aerodynamics to keep it more firmly planted on the ground during high-speed cornering. With the functionality and success of the O.E. BMW GT wing on M3 race cars, I desired a similar design on Project M3. Although there are a few other knock-offs of the M3 GT wing out there, I decided to have MA Shaw's wing installed because of the fit and finish and because it weighs but 9.5 lb.
According to Mike Shaw, owner of MA Shaw, every single wing is handmade and compression-molded using composite materials to maintain strength and rigidity, and add minimal weight to the car. The wing features removable blocks for street use, lowering the overall wing height by over 6 in. This feature is the same as on the original BMW GT unit and is popular among BMW owners who use their cars for street and track. On such a black car, however, I didn't see the need to remove the blocks. The look is much more subtle when compared to what it would look like on a white or yellow M3. Heck, if my conservative fiancee from Kansas can handle it, almost anyone can. But I'm after functionality here, and with so much torque coming out of high-speed turns, keeping that rear end more stable is my primary concern.
Adding a wing as aggressive as MA Shaw's will give your car a tremendous amount of downforce the faster you go. But as the speeds climb, the car will encounter heavier understeer as well from the firmly planted rear end lifting the front. Consequently, next up was balancing the car with more downforce in the front by way of a splitter.
In my previous M3, I enjoyed using the BMW GT adjustable front splitter mentioned earlier (and seen on BMW M3 Lightweights) for track days--and it really worked. But even though the 4.0-in. extension could be fully retracted in a matter of seconds, I found myself bottoming out quite frequently on the street. It was the additional 1.0-in. drop from the popular plastic L-shaped lip extensions that contributed to this nightmare. In addition, although it was very functional, the O.E. BMW splitter was heavy, not to mention very expensive (over $1,100). This was due to all of the expensive bolts and the much-needed brackets for the kit.
This time I wanted something that would be adjustable, functional and streetable. It was an easy choice to go with Racing Dynamics' Class II front splitter. Not only is the spoiler user-friendly on street cars, but race teams like Turner Motorsport and Global Motorsports Group have successfully used this splitter on their BMW 328 race cars in Speedvision Super Touring and USTCC championship races.
Racing Dynamics is a well-known BMW tuner that offers products ranging from aerodynamics to fully handbuilt motors for practically all series of BMWs.
RD's construction of the Class II splitter features a base manufactured out of PUR-RIM and the actual splitter out of ABS plastic. It replaces the plastic front lip on the bumper cover as seen on non-luxury version M3s. This is nice, because rather than sit 1.5 in. lower like the O.E. BMW unit, the RD splitter doesn't hang any lower than the stock lip did. Furthermore, the RD Class II splitter proved to be fairly light, weighing only 9.75 lb (RD also sells a replica, non-adjustable DTM splitter, similar to the ones seen on M3 lightweights).
When I received the unit, I drove Project M3 to Jeff Toberg once more. He did a really trick job molding the wing to the front bumper cover, revealing no lines where the bumper ends and where the RD piece begins. Additionally, Jeff refitted the undertray of the splitter so as to let it stick out an extra 1.5 in. over the intended 2 in. This way Project M3 could sport an aggressive 3.5-in splitter setup--much closer to the 4-in. extending BMW GT unit without getting banged up on the streets.
Although public street speeds effectively limit the effects of Project M3's new aerodynamics, I do believe the car is much more planted when traveling at speeds over...well...let's just say you can feel the aerodynamic effect when you're going really damn fast. However, more realistic results will be realized only on a road course. Stay tuned.
Turbo Update: The fun is over...but only for now
The good news is evosport fixed the front swaybar problem I had earlier, which included not being able to mount it--really not a setup I recommend in a powerful rear-wheel-drive car! The car had a dramatic oversteering problem (although it wasn't too bad for street use) from the front, passenger-side swaybar link not clearing the turbo compressor piping. Since the Advance Design shock housings are not exactly like stock, we were off just by a few millimeters. But with verbal help from Karl Hugh of Active Autowerke, evosport technician Frank Lopez precisely measured out the additional clearance the front Eibach swaybar would need. He then cut each original swaybar link in half, welded a steel tube to lengthen it, and reattached the front swaybar. We had clearance, and I could now push the car much harder around turns.
The only thing I didn't realize (until too late) was how hard the motor was already being pushed, specifically with our ever-so-popular 91 octane here in California--the bad news. Like a power junky, I kept playing with more boost, thinking the enormous dips on Project M3's dyno runs would take care of themselves with less timing and more fuel--wrong! The car had been detonating so much in its early turbo life (remember those horrific 13 psi charts with 91 octane?), the damage was already done by the time I had already decided to "chill out" with only a 9- to 10-psi setting on street gas. The motor lasted just 6.5k miles with this kind of unintentional abuse. You guys out there with 93-94 octane for pump gas, start counting your lucky stars!
Under part-throttle acceleration, the motor suddenly began to hesitate, feeling as if one or two of the spark plugs weren't firing. The next day I drove the car to evosport's Huntington Beach tuning facility, and by the time I got there the car felt like it was running on only three cylinders. evosport used its graphing scanner device to locate the problem (I was hoping it was bad plugs, an oxygen sensor or maybe even bad spark power packs). But it wasn't until the compression and leakdown tests that we realized, sadly, the motor was truly on its last legs, revealing compression tests as low as 50 psi and over 80-percent leakdown in a couple of cylinders. It was either the head gasket or piston rings that fouled up; I'll report back with findings. All I know is I should have left it at 9 to 10 psi any time I used 91 octane.
But that's okay--this is what a project is all about, right? Let poor little me go through the hell of this time-consuming project, and you can read and learn about what not to do. Just know there is a light, a very bright light, at the end of this tunnel. In anticipation of this possibly happening, I made some arrangements months ago with some well-known companies. That said, by the time you read this, Project M3 should have a built-up 3.2-liter motor with forged internals, turbo-specific cams and a bigger turbo--the works. Read my words: "The fun is just beginning!"
Author's note: Special thanks to evosport for its diligent work on Project M3, including countless behind-the-scenes hours that I don't get a chance to talk about. It's nice to have a tuner like this always there for you and your car.
Order: (888) 520-9971
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DJ Exotic Imports
L & S Custom Products
E-mail: email@example.com Patritti Design
1928 Tigertail Blvd.
Dania, FL 33004
13951 Gershon Pl.
Santa Ana, CA 92705
FAX: (714) 838-6847
Racing Dynamics Inc.
4750 Eisenhower Ave.
Alexandria, VA 22304
Fax: (703) 823-0842