Photography by Dan Wagener @dan_wagener
I met Jim through a mutual friend and as soon as we talked I knew instantly that we'd get along. He's a die-hard BMW enthusiast and has an impressive collection of cars, most of which are bimmers. His company Kassel Performance (@kasselperformance) specializes in BMW DME ECU modifications. Jim tuned my E46 M3 and is my first go-to for all engine-related questions. My car was having a strange idle issue off and on all through 2017 with much confusion and frustration I asked Jim to take a thorough look at it.
Since we live about 45 minutes away from each other he let me borrow his wagon to make the vehicle drop-off more convenient. It's an Orientblau pre-facelift 323i touring with a little surprise under the hood. An S54 motor from the E46 M3 now powers this unsuspicious grocery getter. It also has the M3 6-speed manual transmission and diff to make it a proper swap. The work was done with the help of Bimmer Buddies.
A Rogue Engineering rasp pipe and an E36 Active Autowerke Gen3 muffler was modified to fit. Although it's a little on the quiet side, the exhaust note sounds great and has almost zero rasp that the S54 is notoriously known for.
Eibach springs and Bilstein shocks provide a nice drop that improves aesthetics while keeping it practical enough for daily duties. Out of Jim's car collection the wagon is used more as a "truck" for hauling larger items.
The exterior received OEM-plus upgrades like M-tech II "ZHP" front/rear bumpers and side skirts. Jim also changed the indicator lights to euro clears including the third brake light. The latest exterior mod that completed the look was a set of BMW Style 135 wheels from the E46 330i ZHP.
The car was a blast to drive around when I borrowed it. The handling was nice and the power delivery was spot on for an S54. The one thing that I really liked that my car doesn't have (yet!) was the Rogue OCTANE short shifter. Shifts felt more solid, precise, and smoother over the factory shifter.
I think everyone can agree that we all wished BMW would've made a real production E46 M3 touring... or at least a sedan. Oh well, at least there's people out there like Jim making them anyway.