Part of what makes loving cars so enjoyable is the variety of ways to be excited about them. New cars, old cars, upgrades, repairs, driving, racing, car shows, cruises, and even just a few beers in the garage staring at something you should be working on all comprise portions of the pie chart that is in-depth, borderline autistic, love for things with wheels and engines. Through those different avenues of enjoyment, it’s easy to see the tons of possibilities ahead of you and be somewhat overwhelmed with all the decisions you will end up making with a project. It happens to everyone. You start with a new-to-you project that has limitless potential. Will it be a fun street car? A show car? Seat time track toy? Daily driver? Sometimes, the choice is easier when you can see the car leaning in one direction or another. Sometimes, though, it’s a bit harder to decide what to do until you start wrenching. That’s just what our new video series, Upgrade or Unload is all about. In this series, we’re taking enthusiast cars and putting wrench time and excellent parts from our in-house development catalog and the best names in the industry to throw at these tired old cars. Through the process, we’ll help owners like you figure out whether the car is exactly what you want or ready to make another owner happy. That’s the whole caveat: we’ll upgrade the car with you, but you’ll have to decide whether to keep it or send it to a new home.
This is the first “fix or flip” type of series we’ve ever attempted. What better way to start than with a 246k mile E46 M3? The M3, especially in the coupe body with a proper manual transmission, has become something of a collector’s car in recent years. That means prospective buyers have roughly three choices: buy a convertible or SMG-equipped car for a reasonable price, spend oodles of money on a sorted coupe with the correct transmission, or buy something CLAPPED. Naturally, a fix or flip mentality steers buyers to the “most well-loved” examples of the platform.
That’s just what we did in episode one of our new series. This tired old M3 came through the garage doors in need of, well, everything. Fortunately, between our vendor partners and our in-house development catalog, we have everything on hand to revive this M3 to a state that the owner can make that critical decision: whether everything we do to the car makes it exactly what he wants out of an M3, or if its better suited to a different owner. Either way, he’ll drive home with a car worth much more than it was when it came in and definitely much happier on the road.
This M3 needed all the regular services, which provides prime opportunities to swap out old parts for upgrades. Specifically, this car needed a suspension refresh, brakes, all the pulleys and tensioners for the drive belt, and a few other odds and ends to bring it back to a passable condition. In the episode, Chris walks us through what we chose to replace those crusty old parts with for a massive improvement to looks, performance, and drivability in this M3.
On each corner, we fitted our ECS adjustable damping coilovers, new sway bar end links, and control arms from Meyle. Our adjustable coilovers are fairly standard upgrades now, which replace the entire strut assembly with an adjustable body coilover for damping, preload, and ride height. This offers complete control over the handling feel and stance of the car all while replacing blown out suspension components for a better-than-new ride quality. One of the first upgrades any car should receive is certainly a good set of coilovers, which do more than just improve performance. They bring that supple, comfortable, feel back to the driving experienc that makes driving fun rather than clunky and annoying. After all, the whole point is to show that the right parts can give a car a completely different attitude that owners can easily fall back in love with.
Part of this process is “known variables,” like the need to upgrade the suspension. But, as is often the case, digging into the car tends to reveal more unseen gremlins. Here, that came in the form of roached wheel bearings. While we were in there, we replaced those destroyed bearings with brand-new bearings from FAG. With the bearings sorted, the coilover and end link install went quickly.
The coilovers were followed by a massive set of EBC big brakes on the front and new rotors, pads, and lines all the way around. The stopping and cornering abilities of this M3 will be worlds better than it was when it came in, but importantly, should perform better than it ever did new. These upgrades alone are enough to give the E46 M3 an extremely responsive and connected feeling that should bring a smile to any owner’s face. Whether that face belongs to the current owner or the next, we’ll have to find out in the future.
Beyond the suspension and brake upgrades, we also treated this M3 to some goodies under the hood from our Turner Motorsport division. The new billet aluminum baffled power steering reservoir solves a problem that has plagued BMWs of this generation by preventing cavitation of the power steering fluid and preventing leaks that frequently annoy BMW owners. For some basic maintenance, we also replaced all the pulleys, idlers, tensioners, and serpentine belt so the engine accessories stay nice and happy. Finally, the showstopper piece is our Turner Motorsport Carbon Fiber CSL S54 intake, which gives the engine a stunning visual upgrade along with plenty of extra horsepower to wake up the individual throttle body fed straight six.
Naturally, all of this stuff is just a good start. What it shows, though, is that with just a few parts, a plan, and some fun time in the garage, you can find this level of zen in maintenance that clears your head to make the big decision: what do you do with the car next? Finding that baseline where you aren’t fighting issues with the car and instead get to feel it the way it was meant to be allows you to make an informed decision for the next phase. In this case, we’ll have to see what Mike, the owner of this M3, decides to do.
So, go give our new series debut a watch and see us throw all this stuff onto an M3! All of the parts used are straight off our shelves and available to anyone, so you too can go out, find a project that needs some love, put in some wrench time, and decide whether you want to keep upgrading and loving your new project or pass it on to someone else. Either way, the whole process is just one more way to enjoy the thing we all love so dearly.
Watch the latest episode right here and stay tuned for the next episode of Upgrade or Unload coming soon!