Features

Brandon Phan's Z3 M Coupe

Photography by Brandon Phan

I’ve always been drawn to BMWs. Maybe it was the aesthetic appeal, or because my parents have always had one or two in the garage as I grew up. 

My M Coupe was the longest relationship I had with a car. Before it, my E39 touring lasted a few months and then the E46 only 9. I was always intrigued by the “clown shoe” and desired to own one eventually in my life. As the car seemed to appreciate over the years, the wait for one would be longer I thought. 

It was the beginning of summer 2013 when I started to feel bored of the E46. I was stumbling through Craigslist and saw a listing for a 2000 Estoril over Estoril M Coupe. It was priced within reach and it only got me more excited thinking I could own one. After a few weeks of discussing with the owner, we agreed on a trade, my E46 plus cash for the car. 

The car seemed a little neglected when I first acquired her, but after some attention to the paint, and a good cleaning, she was presentable. I told myself that I would keep the car stock as long as I owned it, but after a year, I began to itch. 

First was tint. I thought I could stop there, but the temptation from browsing stance blogs and having these large wheel arches, I just had to. I just had to do something. Right about that time, I was reading all about these Fortune Auto built coilovers called Broadway Statics. Everyone was raving about the ride and how low they could go. I knew those were the ones for me after seeing some of the results on the E36 builds. I contacted them and I was able to decide that I would be going with 16k fronts and 18k rears. My set was the first M Coupe set from them and after being the guniea pig for 9 weeks, we got it right. Next was wheels, I wanted to be different. I didn’t want to put a set of CCW Classics on there or BBS RS’s. I wanted a set of HRE 505s or Rotiform TMBs but they were out of my budget. Conveniently, CCW had just released their LM5Ts. Now for the measurements. I wanted to push something more aggressive than what had already been done, so I consulted with my friend James. Some of you may know him as Floss. We settled on the 18x10" et19 up front and 18x12.5" et15 out back. And for tires, 225/40 and 295/30.

While spending so much money on modifications, I neglected crucial maintenance. BMW has always been known for a weak cooling system and I got to experience that the hard way. One day while driving to work I noticed my AC had stopped working and then the temperature gauge sprung to red... I immediately pulled over. I looked in my rear view mirror and billows of smoke was exiting from my exhaust. I knew something bad just happened. Next I checked my oil dipstick, and when I pulled it out, it was like chocolate milk. My head gasket was compromised. 

At the time I couldn't afford to have that kind of work done by a shop, so I had to learn to do it on my own. With the help of some great friends and my dad in my garage at home, I was able to get her back on the road.

The urge to do more to it was dangerous. I had done most of the maintenance and aesthetic modifications I envisioned, but being me it wasn't enough. I wanted to do a metal wide body and turbocharge it. After planning out the finances for such work, it broke me. 

I loved my M coupe, but as time passed, I matured. For me, this was all the car I could ever want, but it was the wrong time. I'm not somewhere in my life where I am financially stable enough to pursue my dreams of traveling and own this car. There can always be another M Coupe for me down the road, but my youth and travels won't.