Features

Walter Bucco's E46 M3

Photography by Matt Petrie

Allow me to begin by clearing the air -Yes, this is the famous E46 M3 that once upon a time had a custom fabbed 1M/E46 M3 hybrid front bumper (Photo). While it received a lot of criticism on the forums, Walter shrugged it off laughing, backing up his original idea that “it’s only a bumper and it can be changed”. Those who had their negative comments didn’t do their homework on Walter. He wasn’t known as the “OG Papa Smurf” for nothing. Back in 2001, Walter took delivery of one of the first Laguna Seca Blue M3’s in the country. It wasn’t long before his car was outfitted with various wheels, brakes and body work. He had every authentic setup on his car from AC Schnitzer, Hamann, Racing Dynamics, and Hartge just to name a few. Lest we forget that this was time before replica parts existed, furthermore, this was before the popularity and surplus of internet forums and vendors. He had to do his ordering through catalogues and get his parts from overseas. The E46 modding of yesteryear was a time when people built their cars with full kits and matching wheels from one manufacturer to hold a theme, but that trend has died off over the years for better or worse depending on who you talk to. Having literally done it all, he wanted to try something new this time around with the color and bumper. You can view the gallery of Walter’s LSB M3 below the article.

I’m sorry if I confused you, but this is not the same car as his original Laguna Seca M3. He sold that off years ago and joined the “dark side” with a couple of heavily modified AMG sedans (E55 and C63 to be exact). Now despite these AMG cars pulling like freight trains and having his passenger seat soiled often, Walter, like many, always regretted selling off his E46 M3. He felt that there was something lacking in his driving experience that he only had in the M3. After months of searching, he finally sourced an M3 that would suit him: Silver Grey on Cinnamon leather 6 speed. With the car in need of a respray, he wanted to do something different. He wanted to keep the color OEM, but not to the Bavarian motherland, instead he followed the prancing horse. Wanting to stay in the grey family, Ferrari Grigio Medio was his undisputed selection. Although his decision was quick, attaining the color code was not. Week after week of battling back and forth with Ferrari, Bill Calamusa, the owner of the body shop and longtime friend of Walter’s had flexed his muscle in the industry and finally received the OEM color code. While the majority of the public couldn’t agree on his bumper, the one thing that received 100% satisfaction was his color choice.

Although it is often mistaken for Scion’s or Lamborghini’s similar shade of grey, when seeing comparisons the difference is clear. I’ve never actually seen a color quite like Grigio Medio before. Sure, chameleon colors are nothing new, but this is far from that. Grigio Medio as a whole changes so drastically in different lighting, yet doesn’t have an ounce of metallic pearl in it. During the shoot, the sunlight was quickly breaking its way in and out of the clouds changing the appearance of the car dramatically. Many people do not like silver or grey because it is neutral and lifeless, but the browns, blues and greens this car gave off defies that grey theory. Honestly, no photo will ever do it justice; it is simply best appreciated in person. It’s just one of those elements that would make owning a Ferrari so special; however, the general consensus is that the E46 lines pull it off just fine. 

 In proper “OG” fashion he sourced an original, but beat up, set of Racing Dynamic RS2 faces and shipped them out to California to be cleaned up. The faces were powder coated back home on the East Coast in a light gun metal to blend in a little smoother with the new body color. With the sizing guidance and building of these wheels done by New Jersey native, Stefan Djuric aka SDWheels, his final dimensions are 19 x 9.5 & 10.5” (offsets disclosed). His Ground Control coilovers are low enough to make him happy without it being too burdensome from town to town. He returned to an appropriate OEM European M3 front bumper that cleans up the front with no reflectors. While the lack of reflectors is a minor detail, it’s the true enthusiasts who will notice and appreciate that little touch. A carbon fiber “snowboard” front lip brings Walt back to the days when he was sporting and breaking the $850 piece from Hamann. Now decent enough replicas are out that don’t kill him inside every time he scrapes it on driveways. Out back he swapped his Top Speed muffler out for a Rogue Engineering El Diablo Track, but now has finally settled on the notes of the Status Group exhaust as the S54 screams through gears.

Over a decade ago, Walter was setting his own path in modifying his first E46 M3; there were even some setups he pulled off that were never attempted again. Just like now, there were times that he caused a commotion amongst the community while he was building the car the way he wanted. I agreed that the 1M bumper was too new of a generation to mix into the E46 lines, but the point is that he went his own way and attempted it. I have nothing but admiration towards him for doing so. As a close friend of Walter’s I know that this is how he conducts himself personally on a daily basis, which is an equally admirable quality. It’s hard to take a chassis that has been so modified over the years and come out with a different take on it, but he has succeeded once again. If there was a book on how to modify the E46 M3, you can be certain that Walt would have his own chapter.