Features

Stuart Moulton's E46 ZHP & Touring

Photography by Dan Wagener

In the diverse automotive culture, there are too many variables and applications which prioritize certain styles over others to merely deem a build as “good.” One factor that cuts through the diversity without any friction is quality, which can be identified by the craftsmanship, hard work, and parts one uses to build their car(s). It can be simple or more complex, but no matter what your platform preference is, it can be appreciated. We can all relate to matchbox cars and die cast models, right? Well sure, Stuart has been there, but unlike many kids he spent the majority of his youth with his father under the hood of iconic American muscle cars in his garage. It was there that his involvement with his father allowed him to attain the knowledge of building and to embrace the importance of detail.

Stuart created not one, but two impeccable examples of how to modify the E46 chassis. While both cars are modified in a nearly identical fashion, they both still have enough personality to distinguish themselves from one another while flawlessly executing modifying perfection. You can take my word for it, or we can break each one down to back up this premise.

Let’s start with the first BMW Stuart owned – a 2005 330i ZHP sedan. The ZHP option was only available in the facelift era of the E46 sedan and non-M coupe. Slightly altered from the factory, the ZHP offered more performance in the engine, brakes, and suspension. Aesthetically it sported bigger more stylish wheels, gloss black window trim, and the famous M-tech 2 body kit. The M-tech 2 consisted of an aggressive front bumper, side skirts and rear bumper with diffuser. His 3 liter inline 6 cylinder M54B30 engine was enhanced with an ESS Lysholm Twin Screw supercharger TS2 kit at 8.5 psi. He paired that with the ESS tune and Laminova core intercooler system. BMW Performance air box, Schrik Cams, and a full Super Sprint exhaust system from race headers back satisfied his desire for power finalizing at 340rwhp and 325lb-ft cutting his 0-60 time beyond the E46 M3 threshold at 4.4 seconds. He puts all this power down with a custom LSD by diffsonline and a BMW Performance SSK. This is a substantial power gain compared to the sub-300hp stock ZHP. The old grocery hauler notion may still apply to a sedan, but you can be certain that Stu’s eggs and milk will get home before it drops in centigrade after taking it off the shelf.

To continue the aggressiveness around the car, Stuart opted for 19×8.5f & 19×9.5r authentic BBS LM’s for the street and BBS CH’s in 19×8.5 & 19×10 for the track. Both setups are accompanied by a 4-pot Brembo Gran Tursimo BBK with 380mm/335mm front/rear rotors. His suspension is dialed in with Bilstein PSS9 coilovers, vorshalg camber plates, and Turner Motorsports adjustable sway bar end links and adjustable rear camber arms. Carbon fiber Club Sport Splitters and BMW Performance carbon fiber rear diffuser add just the right amount of weave from front to back and fully powered M3 mirrors along with his rear fenders pulled out about ¾ of an inch complete the exterior.

The carbon fiber theme is carried out on the interior trim as well with alcantara bits throughout. A custom gauge panel with VDO gives him the proper readings to make sure his boosted setup performs without a hitch. In the trunk is a custom fiberglass sub enclosure housing a JL 10W7. The Alpine 1000/1 amp and JL digital audio processor deliver a crisp clean sound when Stuart isn’t listening to the symphony of his supercharged motor.

Some of you may be asking yourselves the same question we asked, “Why didn’t he swap out the motor?” Well, Stuart responded, “I would have bought an M3 if it was available as a four door. I knew I could take the savings of the initial non-M purchase and make the sedan as good as, if not better than, a stock M3.” Don’t be fooled though, this doesn’t mean there weren’t engines where they didn’t belong.

Initially the sedan was supercharged with the ESS TS2 kit. Still craving more power, he wanted to upgrade to the ESS stage 3 system, but this required building the internals. The block at this point had 17,000 miles on it, and he did not feel as though he should rip it apart just yet. He sourced another engine from a salvaged ZHP coupe with 44,000 miles to tear apart and install the stage 3 supercharger. Once that was completed, he dropped it into his sedan.

In need of a daily driver, Stuart located a 325i touring after months of searching. It wasn’t long before he decided that he wanted to make more power with the wagon as well; however, being that it was an auto 325, he knew he was about to deal with certain issues surrounding the automatic 2.5L. Conveniently, Stuart had a 17,000 mile ZHP sedan engine with 6 speed MT collecting dust. It was at this point that he opted to swap the original supercharged sedan motor and trans into his wagon. As time elapsed, the wagon became the focal point of Stuart’s work, and he had considered selling the sedan. Instead of doing so, he actually completed his last motor swap – with each other. The sedan was once again reunited with its original ESS TS2 supercharged setup, that you read about earlier, and the wagon received the fully built ESS Stage 3 engine (out of the donor ZHP coupe).

Stuart’s 325 wagon now has a fully built ESS Stage 3 Twin Screw supercharged M54B30 engine with new OE bearings and gaskets, forged lower compression pistons, and a ported and polished head. Larger Ferrara intake and exhaust valves were installed, as well as titanium valve springs along with a large bore Dinan throttle body and an Afco dual-row aluminum heat exchanger with twin 8” electric fans. To help the car breathe he chose a BMW Performance intake and Supersprint headers.

How his exhaust is completed is part of what makes this touring so unique albeit still remaining somewhat factory. OEM Euro M3 cats with custom joining pipes to the headers connect to OEM M3 center section with an Active Autowerke Gen6 M3 muffler. The exhaust and full rear axle, with rebuilt LSD, is not the only thing Stu’s wagon shares with the E46 M3. In fact, the entire rear end is chopped and fitted from a salvaged M3. He welded in the rear quarter panels to give that well-known fat stance of the E46 M3 while seamlessly butting up to the rear doors. Mind you, the M3 rear quarters are quite long and it took some serious skill and fabrication to work them into the rear doors of the wagon. The rear bumper was given the proper widening treatment with plastic weld to line up with the newly fattened arches. An Inside Performance carbon fiber diffuser accommodates the new M3 exhaust location with M-tech 2 rear bumper. In order to match the rear, he cut and extended the front fenders with an additional 2” of OEM wing metal. Once again, Stuart plastic welded the front OEM M-tech 2 bumper to accommodate the additional width.

All of the cutting and welding required a full respray, and with that came an endless possibility of color choices. As I mentioned earlier, Stuart grew up around American muscle so he decided to go with General Motors LeMans Blue with additional pearl. Filling those newly extended wheel wells is a properly wide 19x10f & 19x11r authentic BBS LM with blue center caps. Behind the LM’s is a massive 6-pot Stoptech STR BBK with a hybrid blend of E46 M3/330 and E36 M3 brackets and specifications. 380mm and 355mm discs respectively bring all of the 430rwhp to a halt when Stuart demands.

The interior flows smoothly with Recaro Sportster CS heated black leather seats on Recaro sliders. Alcantara surrounds Stuart throughout from headliner down to shift boots where his BMW Performance SSK sits sunken. Keeping his hands at “10 & 2” is done with pleasure as his perforated leather and tri-color M stitched steering wheel invites him to confidently cut the wagon around corners. Also aiding Stuart in the cornering department is a Bilstein PSS10 coilover setup with Vorshlag camber plates. Turner Motorsports M3 sway bars, RTAB limiters and a BMW Performance strut bar keep the wagon rigid and firmly planted. Just like the sedan, carbon fiber is tastefully placed around the interior as well as a remote display Valentine 1 radar detector setup. More JL Audio equipment is installed, but in a more subtle fashion than the sedan. The 8W7 subwoofer and 750/1 Amp are carefully nestled in the alcantara-trimmed floor area.

There is no doubt that Stuart is in a higher echelon when it comes to modifying cars. Each of his E46’s on their own would be more than enough for any enthusiast to enjoy, but Stuart isn’t stopping there. As if those motor swaps weren’t enough, he was once again considering the possibility of changing out the wagon’s power plant for an S54 engine. Those plans also included potentially going with a Horsepower Freaks turbo kit, but instead he opted to buy an X5M. With every intention to modify his new truck, you can be certain that this won’t be the last time you hear about Stuart Moulton.