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July 24, 2008

E46 M3 GT Part 2

A few weeks back I posted the first entry in my "M3 GT conversion" series. I mentioned that the next step in my quest to turn my 2003 E46 M3 into a true "Gran Tourismo" is installing new wheels. Well, they are here!


As you can see I'm continuing my black and white theme with the wheels. The car is now devoid of any chrome jewelry save for the BMW roundels on the hood and trunk (and the headlights and tail lamp turn signals). I have to admit I've been a big fan of black wheels all my life-- they impart a no nonsense functionality and seriousness that chromed or otherwise painted wheels cannot. Race cars wear black wheels.

And more often than not, they are made by Fikse. Made in the USA since 1992, Fikse wheels are of forged modular design. This means the wheels are comprised of three forged pieces, the inner and outer rims and the center disc. All three pieces are forged separately, which provides superior strength to weight characteristics when compared to single piece forged wheels. And cast wheels; well they don't even come close.


I went with the classic 5 spoke pattern of the "Profil 5" series with black anodized finish. The E46 body style or shape is heavy. And the M version is even more muscular looking with its bulging fenders and bulldog stance. Because of this, you need a strong looking wheel, one that follows the theme set by the original design of the car. Thin spoked wheels that look light and airy simply do not fit on an E46 M3 in my opinion.

I also took this opportunity to upsize the tire width a bit-- to better fill in the generous wheel wells. At the front I have 245/40R18 tires on a 8.5 inch rim, at the rear 275/35R18 on a 10 inch rim. I stuck with 18 inch diameter because I'm simply not a big fan of ultra short sidewalls plus the roads in SE Michigan are so bad that I feel safer with a bit of extra distance between the road and the rim. Thanks to the thin cross section of the rim's spokes there is plenty of back spacing available for a future big brake kit.

I swapped the stock lug bolts for wheel studs and black annodized alloy lug nuts (surprising how much lighter the alloy lug nuts are compared to standard steel ones).

So now the "visual" side of the GT transformation is pretty much complete (the lighter weight of the Fikse wheels also reduces unsrpung weight which increases performance several different ways-- so it's not just looks). The next step is to tweak the performance. Stay tuned.

July 04, 2008

E46 M3 GT part 1

After long and careful consideration I have decided to keep my personal E46 M3. Instead of purchasing a new car I will invest some money in the old M3-- give it a mid-life makeover so to speak. And as great as the car is on the track, I really think the E46 is a better GT car than all out sports car. So my tweaks will take that into consideration. I will not turn the car into a full out track monster (which is not that hard to do, really), instead I will focus on making it a better grand tourer.

Step one: completely and utterly superficial. I replaced the stock chrome bits with all black parts. The car is Alpine white, and as much as I like some chrome "jewelry", I think a black and white theme is pretty darn cool as well (and it will match my all black wheels-- stay tuned).

Turner Motorsports sells a nice set of black kidney grills. They are molded in black and thus will not chip. The satin finish also matches the OEM window surrounds, so you get the impression that the grills are stock.


At the same time I ordered a pair of side grills. Unfortunately they came in a gloss black-- which did not match the new kidney grills or the window surrounds. So I called up a local body shop that I trust to see what can be done. AutoMark Collision specializes in heavy duty repairs of high end automobiles-- plus specialty projects (check this out). Their quality of work is unsurpassed in SE Michigan and they came through again. A quick coat of satin clear coat did the trick and now all the new black bits match.


Stay tuned for more updates!