lemans blue


Jim Herrold's E39 M5

Photography by Dan Wagener @dan_wagener

When you think of the BMW M5, what do you think of? I think of the greatest sports sedan to come out of Germany. I think of sophistication blended with luxury and performance. It's the vehicle that embodies everything someone could ask for. Four door convenience, check. Creature comforts, check. Seductive sounds, check. Exhilarating performance, check.

It's the best of the best to be expected from BMW. It all started in 1984 with the first generation M5, known as the E28. Due to the demand for a vehicle with the carrying capacity of a sedan, but the appearance of a sports car. At the time of its launch, the E28 M5 was the fastest production sedan in the world. They were all built by hand and are still one of the rarest regular production BMW Motorsport cars with a total production of 2,191 units.

The next generation M5, the E34 had stepped up the game even more. New luxurious features and better performance was created. I believe this was the most motorsport inspired generation for the M5. More time and thought seemed to be spent on engineering this thing to be able to perform like a true race car on the street. It was the last M car to be hand-built, as well as the last M5 to use a BMW Motorsport racing engine.

Now this is just my opinion, but with the exception of the 1980's for their motorsport period, I think the late 90's / early 00's was the pinnacle of BMW's car production. Perhaps it's because that's the time when I grew up that I have a bias towards them. But I still think that's when BMW hit their stride with delivering what their enthusiasts truly wanted out of a production car. The E39 M5 checked every box and then some you didn't even know about. I don't even know where to start with this car... I love the look of it, the interior, the motor; it's just perfect.

I guess I'll start with the heart of it. The 4.9L S62 V8 is the high-performance version of the M62 V8 engine that came on the non-M 5 series. It was BMW's first V8 to have variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts (double-VANOS). Producing 394 hp at 6600 rpm and 369 lb·ft at 3800 rpm with redline at 7000rpm and capable of achieving 0-60 in under 5 seconds. It remains to be one of the top 10 greatest sounding BMW engines (in my opinion). One of my favorite things about the E39 M5 was that they all came equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. They forced drivers to experience the car how it was meant to be.

Jim of Kassel Performance picked up this 2002 Le Mans Blue with 48k miles. After a detail from Urban Werks it almost felt like we traveled back in time, driving around a brand new $70k+ car straight out of the showroom. I don't know, when I see most of the new M cars of today they don't feel quite as prestige as this for some reason. When we pulled up to the country club during this photoshoot, the car turned heads like it was an exotic car. A few older gentlemen couldn't help but come over and share their stories of admiration or lust for the car remembering when it first came out. I noticed the same thing happened with 3 original E39 M5's at The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. The BMW E39 M5 simply gets respect from all age groups. You know it's something special at first glance even if you're not a car enthusiast.

Although the M5's developed after the E39 are far superior on paper, this chassis will always be the one to beat in my book.


Frank's E92 M3

Photography by Matt Petrie

It appears as though every E9x M3 we have featured on this site has had massive horsepower gains thanks to an ESS supercharger kit via AUTOcouture Motoring.  As much as we all love the power and performance delivered with a blower, it is a car like Frank’s that we need to stop and admire and for a very long time at that.  Although aesthetically this car seems modest, that is exactly what he was after and why we had to feature it.  The terms like “OEM+”, “clean”, and “flawless” are tossed about rather loosely, I’ll be the first to admit to that.  Don’t get me wrong, there are cars that are absolutely deserving of those adjectives, however Frank’s E92 has become a new standard in which I will hold cars to.   The beauty of this car lies deeper than the parts he has used to make it his own.

As a lover of BMW’s (especially the M’s) from a young age, Frank knew he would one day own the gentleman’s sports car.  It was a dream he constantly pursued while working his jobs throughout his teenage years.   It wasn’t until he was 24 that he saved up enough money to buy his first BMW.   As he reminisced with me about his E36 325is in Mauritius Blue, I could tell just how much it truly meant to him, but he followed up saying half-jokingly that it still wasn’t an “M”. Many years later, after selling his 2008 335xi 6MT, he continued his pursuit of the next milestone – that illustrious M car.  Frank wandered into a local BMW dealership on his way to work one morning in the spring of 2010.   The salesman asked if he had time to take an M3 out for a quick test drive.   Needless to say, Frank’s coworkers were puzzled as to why he had a smile plastered across his face for the duration of his shift on duty.  Explaining his first experience of the S65 V8 combined with the handling of an M3 just didn’t have the same effect on them.  That’s OK, Frank - we get it. 

Realizing he wasn’t about to connect with any other car like he did with the M3, he spent many late nights configuring different options online.   It wasn’t before long that he put the order through.  He loved and missed the blue of his original coupe so he went a slightly different route with LeMans Blue.  It is a lower production color on the E9x M platform only available on the 2010+ models.    He optioned it with Competition and Premium packages with the Dual Clutch Transmission better known by its acronym “DCT”.  To make this special moment more memorable, he chose to take European Delivery of the vehicle from the Munich Headquarters in October, 2010.  

Like any enthusiast, Frank made improvements and subtle touches around the car to personalize it.   He has a certain discipline in his behavior which is carried out through his M3.  His standard in modifying is what sets him apart from the others.   “Anything that was done to the car had to enhance the original design and only use quality parts (OEM wherever possible) without creating too much distraction or drawing attention to one particular area”, according to Frank.

That being said, the first thing that can’t help but be noticed are the 19” HRE P40S wheels.  An exception has to be made here because they look absolutely stunning in the brushed finish with tinted clear coat.  They are 9.5” up front with a 275/30 tire and the rear width is 11” with a 295/30 Michelin Pilot Super Sport.  BMW Performance front splitters, mirror caps, deck lid spoiler, and Challenge Sport rear diffuser suit the car properly with the carbon fiber roof.  There are smaller details around the exterior of the car in the form of IND painted reflectors and keyhole delete.  Those parts in conjunction with blacked out hood vents, M3 badge, OEM Edition kidney grills and side gills fittingly remove all of the chrome and clashing color from the exterior.

As you step over the OEM GTS door sills and waxed door jambs you sit in an absolutely flawless interior.   Surrounded entirely by a full OEM carbon fiber trim kit, the smaller touches are still yet to be discovered.  It’s not long before you’ll notice the IND tri-color stitching of the e-brake boot and shift boot to match the stitching of the Alcantara BMW Performance steering wheel.  

A keener eye is required to notice that the airbag warning stickers have been removed from the visors and the (+)  (-) engravings on his Verstraβe Extended Aluminum DCT paddles are painted in LeMans Blue, once again by IND.   A Turner Motorsports edition P3cars vent gauge is the final piece to the uniqueness of Frank’s interior.

He has a BPM Sport Stage II Tune including an engine performance tune, servo tune as well as a DCT tune.  The engine tune works well with the full Akrapovic Evolution exhaust which has custom painted gloss black tips and hand painted Akra logo from IND.  The servo tune tightens up the steering and the gear shifting become crisper with their respective tune.  Under the hood lies a Dinan intake, Dinan strut tower braces, and Active Autowerke under drive power pulleys. 

Beyond the caliber of modifications done, the cleanliness of this car is what is remarkable.   The practices and methods in keeping the car clean may seem as a burden or chore, but it is actually therapeutic to Frank.  Spending the time around the car’s details is as enjoyable as driving it.   His philosophy is to never let any one part of the car “get away” and as you can see he is staying true to that belief. 

There is not one speck of embedded brake dust in the grooves of the wheels, nor do the inner barrels and lug holes have an ounce of dust on them.  He maintains these areas along with the brake calipers, undercarriage, and fender liners.  Even the untreated, underside of the hood has been given the Frank treatment and is waxed smooth to the touch.   When it is maintained at this level, it is not actually that time consuming to keep clean.  These practices may seem crazy to some people, but it is certainly appreciated by all who take notice.

Frank’s character is one to be admired; the love for his car is seen in his dedicated discipline.  The attention to detail and delicate nature he has with every inch of the car just goes to show that he has never lost respect of that M car he had sought after since he was a kid.


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.