Photography by Matt Petrie
Kids are so impressionable to many things and one of them is cars. For those who are into the modified car scene as a whole, whether they own one or just enjoy spectating, it usually starts with a defining moment. For some it was a family member who had a special weekend car that would offer you to ride along in. As for others maybe it was seeing something truly awesome on the road and never forgetting it, which still happens continuously as you grow old. Regardless of how you came to love cars it started with one car guy and unintentionally led to another’s passion down the road. That’s the magic these M Coupes have on people.
Frequently riding shotgun in Alex’s Estoril blue coupe or driving it myself, I can’t help but notice the attention it gets from people of all ages. The older folks are puzzled as they try to identify it because they recognize the roundel, but that’s about it. To the average person it is difficult to distinguish the little Z3 roadster that lies within the angled hatch and fat, fat rear end of this quirky “clown shoe”. Kids on the other hand aren’t so much puzzled as they are hypnotized by it. They don’t care for the identification; all they know is that it looks like an operational toy. Between the color, the fully polished wheels and the occasional surf board strapped to the roof rack at the Jersey shore, it’s no wonder kids can’t take their eyes off of it.
The main reason why people don’t recognize these cars is due to their rarity. If you’ve never seen an M Coupe on the road before you’re not alone. About 3,000 were built for North America from 1998 to 2002. These cars were literally parts cars being built using bits and pieces from other models in their generation. They were built alongside the M3 in their respective years of production. The early models from 1998 to 2000 had the E36 M3 S52 engine and when production began on the E46 M3 during 2001 and 2002, you guessed it; the M Coupes came equipped with the S54. Due to the size of the clown shoe the S54 was detuned to 321hp, but that’s something that is easily reversible. Mark’s is pretty unique within their already limited community. He is one of the lucky owners stateside(less than 700) to have an S54 in his Titanium Silver coupe.
As always with this disease, modifications were made to these coupes to further distinguish them from the rest. Mark is running a set of 16” BBS RS faces with Rotiform bubble lips reaching a final size of 18x9f and 18x11r. Suspension is dialed in with Ground Control coil overs and Vorshlag camber plates bringing him down just atop the tires for a purposeful, enjoyable drop. Out back he’s got a 3.73 LSD rebuilt with a three-clutch setup from bimmerdiffs.com and a custom catback exahaust with Magnaflow 14815 mufflers and stainless steel piping done by Piper Motorsports. Authentic AC Schnitzer flippers in front help accentuate the splitters and tie into the body lines nicely. Inside he makes this car feel more at home with European dash panels, glovebox and driver’s side kick panel. Nothing is overly done and just the right amount of work was placed in every area of Mark’s car to give it a clean European look.
Alex’s coupe is sporting original Kinesis K57 wheels in double-staggered form (Kinesis is now owned by Asanti and sold their wheel designs to CCW). The fronts are 17×9.5 while the rear is 18×11.5. He is slammed on TC Kline coil overs with SWIFT springs up front to get him a little closer to those 17’s. The interior is the factory Estoril blue two toned seats and dash with an upgraded Momo steering wheel. The front end is simple and clean with shaved reflectors in the bumper and custom headlights. Unhappy with the DEPO headlight option, he made his own custom retrofitted projectors and shrouds to help him see at night as this car is daily driven in rotation with 3 other BMW’s in his driveway. “Daily driven” need not be a sticker on his window to let people know this car gets driven often and hard. One look at the odometer and you’ll have to do a double take because it is currently clocked in at 209,000 miles. No typo here, whether it is to work or to go skate with friends this car is getting redlined and sideways daily.
The rear end on these cars is wide enough to make any other modded car owner jealous. The curves are undeniable and the room for aggressive setups is almost as endless as Alex’s rear step lips. Mark is stuffing an awesomely meaty 295 in the rear on his 11, while Alex opted for a 275 on his 11.5 with a lower offset. Despite their different styles, both Mark and Alex are executing flawlessly and representing the Z3 M Coupe community in proper fashion.