February 25, 2014

Project Maximus Part 4

Since the 2008 BMW M3 of Project Maximus fame will be getting a 211 boost in horsepower it follows that a boost in stopping power is needed. We chose AP Racing's brand new Radi-CAL™ big brake system designed by STILLEN to clamp down the speed generated by the ESS Supercharger under the hood and the Ohlins Road and Track coil-over suspension at the four corners.

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February 24, 2014

Project Maximus Part 3

Our E92 M3 transformation is running on all cylinders, so to speak. Parts are flooding in from all corners of the world and we're well into the installation procedure. In this installment of Project Maximus we'll take a quick break from the ESS Supercharger installation and focus on the Ohlins suspension upgrades. As the old saying goes, power is nothing without control.

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February 19, 2014

Project Maximus Part 2

Project Maximus is well under way. We decided our first order of business would be the most complicated part of the project, the ESS supercharger installation. The supercharger really is the heart of the beast, and all of the other enhancements that we'll be adding to the black 2008 BMW M3 are designed to keep all that power under control.

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February 11, 2014

Project Maximus Part 1: Introduction

Winter storm Maximus brought heavy snow and travel delays throughout the Midwest and Northeast. It also brought us a 2008 BMW M3 coupe and along with it a project that can only be described as epic. The dark M3 will be transformed from a competent foot soldier into an all-conquering supercharged gladiator.

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February 21, 2013

E36 323i suspension rebuild

Do not do this at home, trained professionals at work! Joking aside, a quick lesson for potential DIYers: think long and hard before tackling suspension work. We just completed a full suspension rebuild on a well worn, 182k mile E36 323i at the shop. This included all new dampers and springs, front control arms, tie-rod ends, and most importantly a complete set of bushings at all suspension points. It’s this last part that is tricky for shade tree mechanics.

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February 05, 2013

Targa: The Videos

42 competitive stages and 1375 miles and VRPerformance finished its first Targa Newfoundland as overall winners in category 7, second in modern class and third overall. BMW won the manufacturers prize, with the most points scored by teams driving BMWs. The professional team of Andrew “ACP” Comrie-Picard and Brian O’Kane in a Mitsubishi Evolution IX came in first in modern class (they were in a different category).

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Targa: The Road Trip

After two weeks of 20 hour days and late nights, Bill Caswell and I were sitting at the local watering hole around the corner from VRPerformance wrapping our heads around what we got ourselves into. Despite all the late work, we were not 100% done with the car.

But, before we could even get to Newfoundland for the race, there were two thousand miles of Canadian highway and one very long ferry to tackle. There was still plenty ahead of us before we started the race. So we drank beer until the bar closed.

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Targa: The Build

It's been far too long since we last spoke. Much has been going on at the shop the last few months, so the time to post simply wasn't there. To kick things off for 2013, we thought we'd take a quick step back and bring everyone up to speed on "Target Targa", our 2012 Targa Newfoundland adventure. And because everyone loves a good video, we'll have a few of those in the next several entries...

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June 08, 2011

E46 M3 GT Part 4

I think I may have fallen off the GT wagon with the latest modification to my E46 M3. The last time we spoke, I installed a TC Kline Racing suspension. Next up, the exhaust.

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June 07, 2011

Splitter Install (again)

Aerodynamics on a street car is important for efficiency-- how easily it can punch a hole through the atmosphere. On a race car, aero is even more important for handling. A splitter-- typically a horizontal plane extending out from below the front bumper, helps push the front end of the car down and consequently aids front end grip or traction. Balanced with a wing at the back, a splitter is an integral part in the car's handling.

Because the splitter is usually very low, it is vulnerable to trailer ramps, track burms and digging into wet grass should you have an "off". If it's attached to the front fascia and you have an off and bad things happen, you can kiss the front end of the car good-bye. The solution is to attach the splitter to something more robust, while allowing it to break away should an unfortunate incident occur.

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The Little Things

Having worked on hundreds of cars over the past 5 years or so a few things have become abundantly clear: no two jobs are ever the same, even if the parts being installed are, instructions from the component manufacturer-- if they exist at all-- are almost never complete, and finally, exhausts never ever fit without a good amount of "tweaking". A quick example of tweaking is presented after the jump...

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May 07, 2011

Thrust Sheets to the Wind

One of our good customers complained of "pinging" noises coming from his front suspension-- a TC Kline Racing double adjustable coil-over set-up we installed last fall. The pinging noise is due to the springs binding as they compress. Our first, quick, remedy was to grease up the coil perches so that the springs could freely twist during compression.

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November 01, 2010

E92 M3 Project Part 6, Pads and Lines

To wrap up the E92 M3 project-- for now-- we have a few smaller items to report on, specifically brake lines and pads.

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October 29, 2010

E92 M3 Project Part 5, Suspension

Regular readers of this blog know we're all about balance at VRPerformance; and if you've been following the E92 M3 project build you might have asked why all the power upgrades alone? Well, you are premature with that jaundiced eye, since suspension upgrades were part of the plan since day one.

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E92 M3 Project Part 4, Engine Tuning

Advances in electrical engineering have allowed the venerable internal combustion engine to stay relevant in an increasingly hostile environment. A myriad of computer controls actuate precision crafted mechanical components in order to increase the efficiency and cleanliness of modern engines and the S65 is no exception. Since we’ve replaced some major engine components on our customer's E92 M3 in search of power, we needed to let the brain that controls it all "in" on our secret...

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E92 M3 Project Part 3, Underdrive Pulley

There are many ways to increase the power output of your engine to make you car go faster. Conversely, there are also ways to use less power to make you car go faster. It's all about how the power is utilized. The engine not only drives the wheels, but it also powers accessories that do nothing to motivate the car (they run the AC, power the lights, and pump fluids to the steering rack). This is often called parasitic loss. Reduce the drag and use less power to drive the accessories; you have more power left over to motivate the car. Enter the “underdrive” pulley...

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October 27, 2010

E92 M3 Project Part 2, Exhaust

Obsession. Obsession alone can be a bad thing when life and limb become irrelevant to the end goal. Obsession to craftsmanship on the other hand can be very good indeed. Quality is an ideal we obsess over at VRPerformance, and when we find a product that exemplifies this ideal we can hardly contain ourselves. Enter the Akrapovic exhaust system for the E92 M3 project...

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E92 M3 Project Part 1, Intake

Just as the E46 before it, the E9x series M cars are phenomenal straight from the factory. With a 414 hp V8 under the bulging hood and a sharply tuned suspension keeping things in check, it's hard to beat this sport sedan with even the most dedicated sports car. So what's an enthusiast to do when it comes to sharpening the scalpel the local BMW store delivered him? Turns out, quite a bit...

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Powder Room

Brakes go through a whole lot of abuse. We change pads and rotors pretty regularly but often overlook one of the most essential assemblies in the brake system, the calipers. It’s the pistons that reside in the calipers that provide the clamping force on the rotors via the pads that stop the car. And these pistons have o-rings and seals that need to be checked-- especially if you take the car to the track for some-- quite literally-- "hot" laps.

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August 29, 2009

E46 M3 GT Part 3

Those who have been following this blog over the years know that I own a 2003 BMW M3 and that I've been slowly upgrading the OEM parts as they need to be replaced. In part 1 I talk about some of the cosmetic changes I made and in part 2 I introduce a new set of wheels. Now onto the suspension…

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March 05, 2009

M3 Race Car Build (Part 3)

Our M3 race car is heading into its second season. The majority of the work was completed last year so this year the plan is to fine tune the car. Having had it on the track competing in several races the owner/driver has a good baseline for us. And one area we need to focus on this season is the aero package-- trying to find a little more speed in the corners. Time to wing it...

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February 05, 2009

Cracking up: E46 Sub-frame issues Part 2

We already talked about issues with the E46 series BMW rear sub-frames in an earlier post, here is some follow-up information. The amount of damage on the vehicle in question was so bad that we decided to have the OEM sheet metal replaced completely instead repairing it by welding. Thankfully BMW stood behind their product and actually warrantied the repair portion of the work.

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January 02, 2009

Perfecting the E46 M3

We've written about E46 M3 projects before, but most of those projects were hard core track oriented. What we have here instead is a perfect street set-up for the M3: more power, more sound and better handling. Our time honored philosophy of balanced performance was followed to produce a car that is better in every regard than stock without any one aspect overshadowing another.

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November 18, 2008

Cracking up: E46 Sub-frame issues Part 1

There is no doubt that the BMW E46 3 Series line up of cars is great. They are right sized, relatively efficient to operate and have superb all around performance. But there are critical weaknesses in the chassis-- especially in the M3 version-- that need to be addressed. We already reported on the fatigue issues with the front strut tower in an earlier blog entry. This time we will focus on the rear subframe.

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October 06, 2008

Agency Power Header Install on E46 M3

We have installed plenty of Super Sprint exhaust components on cars over the years. They make a superbly engineered product with plenty of research and development to back up their performance claims (and price). The biggest down side to Super Sprint is the sometimes sketchy build quality and comparatively high price. There are some good alternatives out there, including the Agency Power units we installed on an E46 M3 recently.

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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!

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June 20, 2008

Front Strut Tower Fatigue on BMWs

This is a note for all of you who run heavier springs on your E36/E46 BMW. We have had a rash of M3s come into the shop with cracked FRONT strut towers lately.

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June 02, 2008

E30 M3 Rebuild: Differential

We began this project car with a clear focus on improving the performance of the suspension and the brakes, since the engine already had a thorough going over by another shop a few years back. The one speed area of the performance equation we decided to improve right from the start was changing the gear set in the differential. The biggest bang for the buck is not in adding power to the E30 engine, but changing how the exisiting power gets to the ground. This is espcially important at the track, where this car will consume most of its gas.

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June 01, 2008

The First 1

The BMW 1 Series has only been showing up on people's driveways in the States for a few months now and already there are enthusiasts ready and willing to fine tune it. A great performance car straight out of the box, it none-the-less comes with the compromises every modern car has. We've talked about this often enough: in order to satisfy the government's regulators, insurance lobbies, and the average consumer, new cars are "sanitized for our protection."

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May 13, 2008

M3 Race Car Build (part 2)

We're glad to report that the E36 M3 race car passed its first technical inspection and the owner/driver has his first couple of races under his harness belts. The basics we completed before the first race-- installation of safety components, removal of non-essential weight, thorough maintenance and re-build-- worked as planned. Now it's time to further develop the car, and the first area we touched was the suspension.

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April 27, 2008

M3 Race Car Build

Lawyers want to argue in front of the Supreme Court, soap stars want to appear in a summer blockbuster and race car drivers want to win for Ferrari—every discipline has its ne plus ultra that those toiling in the trenches aspire to. For an automotive performance shop it is building race cars. Which makes sense, since a race car is the ultimate expression of the performance automobile and a real test (and testament) for its builder. You’re putting your ideas, engineering and craftsmanship up against others in an open competitive arena. What works and what doesn’t is immediately showcased for all to see. Here’s our first attempt at building a race car for the NASA GTS series.

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April 16, 2008


The "Ultimate Driving Machine" tagline is over 30 years old now, and it's safe to say that even non-enthusiasts know exactly what carmaker belongs to that particular phrase. BMW's brand marketing consistency is equaled only by its product consistency. Okay, so that's just a bunch of fancy mumbo jumbo to introduce this latest ad, which we think is pretty cool. Watch it after the jump.

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March 08, 2008

E30 M3 Rebuild: Suspension

The second phase of our E30 M3 winter project is to tackle the suspension (see E30 M3 Rebuild: Brakes for phase one). We began by first inspecting the suspension on the ground as well as checking to see how the car behaved dynamically on the road. We decided, along with the car's owner, to go ahead and replace the dampers at all four corners, upgrade the sway bar size to help flatten the cornering characteristics as well ad eliminate some of the understeer, and replace some of the worn out suspension bushings. We tried to replace every stock part with a more performance oriented equivalent since the car will primarily be a track tool and not a boulevard cruiser. That means the around town ride quality may suffer a little, but with the payback coming on the track.

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January 28, 2008

E30 M3 Rebuild: Brakes

A BMW E30 M3 has taken up residence in our shop this winter—in out of the cold Midwest winter for a deliberate going over. The car has been tracked extensively and things have begun to wear out. We have been tasked to do a thorough technical inspection, replace, rebuild or repair what’s bad and give recommendations where the aftermarket has made improvements over the original equipment hardware. In other words, make it just I bit better than new.

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January 23, 2008

The Powerslide

Watch any British car show and you'll see plenty of powerslides-- artful footage of an exotic car speeding tail out around a dank English test track. Unless you’re on a dusty rally stage, sliding around a corner is not the best way to get a good time. But who cares, it looks cool. Follow the jump and learn from 5th Gear's Tiff Needell how to do it right.

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November 20, 2007

M3 'Ring Champion

As you know we at VRPerformance always preach balanced performance. High horsepower or sticky tires by themselves do not make a great car. It's how all the bits work in concert that separates the merely fast cars from the really great performance cars. And when you think about upgrading your car, it's important that you think about balanced performance-- incremental change to the system instead of lopsided focus on one component or another. Do it right, and you can fetch a new Nürburgring record (video after jump).

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August 29, 2007

Track Videos!

Speaking of balance (see [Balance entry]) when a driver has a well sorted out car, he can really push it on the track and feel comfortable taking it to its limits. And we have video to prove it after the jump.

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We're constantly preaching balance to our customers when it comes to installing performing upgrades on their cars. It is our philosophy that a car has three basic objective measures and one subject measure when it comes to performance: positive acceleration, negative acceleration (also known as deceleration or braking), and lateral acceleration (turning, or the ability to change directions). The fourth measure combines the three objective yardsticks into a subjective rating that's all about balance and feel-- how the three acceleration measures combine into a whole experience.

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August 28, 2007

Don't Take Our Word for It Again

It's great when we're able to help out customers with their performance needs. And sometimes it's as simple as a good alignment. The devil is in the details, or so they say, and doing a proper alignment is all about the details. How accurately you measure the base line, and how close to the specifications you're aiming for you get are key details.

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June 08, 2007

E60 M5 Header Install

The installation of Supersprint headers on an E60 M5 was one of the more physically challenging projects to come through the shop in a long time.

If you’ve ever looked under the hood of a modern M5, you've probably noticed that the engine compartment is filled with V10 engine with nary a gap between it and anything else. As beautiful and organized as it is, it is not a friendly place for aftermarket go-fast parts. Looking over the detailed 10 page instruction booklet that came with the headers we were a bit worried that this project was going to be massively time consuming (and costly) for the customer.

(pictures and video after jump)

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May 30, 2007

The Best Sounding M3 in Michigan

Love it or hate, the E46 M3 BMW comes with a very distinctive mechanical sound straight from the factory. The so-called “rasp” actually comes from the engine and not the exhaust as so many people think. Nonetheless there are all sorts of exhaust “rasp eliminators” on the market today with a few actually doing a pretty good job of muffling the distinctive S54 engine note. But none of them add to the performance of the car.

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