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Features

Walter Bucco's E46 M3

Photography by Matt Petrie

Allow me to begin by clearing the air -Yes, this is the famous E46 M3 that once upon a time had a custom fabbed 1M/E46 M3 hybrid front bumper (Photo). While it received a lot of criticism on the forums, Walter shrugged it off laughing, backing up his original idea that “it’s only a bumper and it can be changed”. Those who had their negative comments didn’t do their homework on Walter. He wasn’t known as the “OG Papa Smurf” for nothing. Back in 2001, Walter took delivery of one of the first Laguna Seca Blue M3’s in the country. It wasn’t long before his car was outfitted with various wheels, brakes and body work. He had every authentic setup on his car from AC Schnitzer, Hamann, Racing Dynamics, and Hartge just to name a few. Lest we forget that this was time before replica parts existed, furthermore, this was before the popularity and surplus of internet forums and vendors. He had to do his ordering through catalogues and get his parts from overseas. The E46 modding of yesteryear was a time when people built their cars with full kits and matching wheels from one manufacturer to hold a theme, but that trend has died off over the years for better or worse depending on who you talk to. Having literally done it all, he wanted to try something new this time around with the color and bumper. You can view the gallery of Walter’s LSB M3 below the article.

I’m sorry if I confused you, but this is not the same car as his original Laguna Seca M3. He sold that off years ago and joined the “dark side” with a couple of heavily modified AMG sedans (E55 and C63 to be exact). Now despite these AMG cars pulling like freight trains and having his passenger seat soiled often, Walter, like many, always regretted selling off his E46 M3. He felt that there was something lacking in his driving experience that he only had in the M3. After months of searching, he finally sourced an M3 that would suit him: Silver Grey on Cinnamon leather 6 speed. With the car in need of a respray, he wanted to do something different. He wanted to keep the color OEM, but not to the Bavarian motherland, instead he followed the prancing horse. Wanting to stay in the grey family, Ferrari Grigio Medio was his undisputed selection. Although his decision was quick, attaining the color code was not. Week after week of battling back and forth with Ferrari, Bill Calamusa, the owner of the body shop and longtime friend of Walter’s had flexed his muscle in the industry and finally received the OEM color code. While the majority of the public couldn’t agree on his bumper, the one thing that received 100% satisfaction was his color choice.

Although it is often mistaken for Scion’s or Lamborghini’s similar shade of grey, when seeing comparisons the difference is clear. I’ve never actually seen a color quite like Grigio Medio before. Sure, chameleon colors are nothing new, but this is far from that. Grigio Medio as a whole changes so drastically in different lighting, yet doesn’t have an ounce of metallic pearl in it. During the shoot, the sunlight was quickly breaking its way in and out of the clouds changing the appearance of the car dramatically. Many people do not like silver or grey because it is neutral and lifeless, but the browns, blues and greens this car gave off defies that grey theory. Honestly, no photo will ever do it justice; it is simply best appreciated in person. It’s just one of those elements that would make owning a Ferrari so special; however, the general consensus is that the E46 lines pull it off just fine. 

 In proper “OG” fashion he sourced an original, but beat up, set of Racing Dynamic RS2 faces and shipped them out to California to be cleaned up. The faces were powder coated back home on the East Coast in a light gun metal to blend in a little smoother with the new body color. With the sizing guidance and building of these wheels done by New Jersey native, Stefan Djuric aka SDWheels, his final dimensions are 19 x 9.5 & 10.5” (offsets disclosed). His Ground Control coilovers are low enough to make him happy without it being too burdensome from town to town. He returned to an appropriate OEM European M3 front bumper that cleans up the front with no reflectors. While the lack of reflectors is a minor detail, it’s the true enthusiasts who will notice and appreciate that little touch. A carbon fiber “snowboard” front lip brings Walt back to the days when he was sporting and breaking the $850 piece from Hamann. Now decent enough replicas are out that don’t kill him inside every time he scrapes it on driveways. Out back he swapped his Top Speed muffler out for a Rogue Engineering El Diablo Track, but now has finally settled on the notes of the Status Group exhaust as the S54 screams through gears.

Over a decade ago, Walter was setting his own path in modifying his first E46 M3; there were even some setups he pulled off that were never attempted again. Just like now, there were times that he caused a commotion amongst the community while he was building the car the way he wanted. I agreed that the 1M bumper was too new of a generation to mix into the E46 lines, but the point is that he went his own way and attempted it. I have nothing but admiration towards him for doing so. As a close friend of Walter’s I know that this is how he conducts himself personally on a daily basis, which is an equally admirable quality. It’s hard to take a chassis that has been so modified over the years and come out with a different take on it, but he has succeeded once again. If there was a book on how to modify the E46 M3, you can be certain that Walt would have his own chapter.



Features

Sal Benanti's E92 M3

Photography by Matt Petrie

If you own an E9x M3, there’s an 88% chance yours is Alpine White.  While this statistic is fabricated, there is no denying the surplus of the Alpine finish on the E9x platform.  Not saying that this is a bad thing, despite it being a classic BMW color, looking good on any chassis, it easily gets lost in the sea of cars that are in dealerships and at local shows.  Sal Benanti, co-owner of AUTOcouture Motoring in New Jersey, knew that in order to make a statement he had to do something totally out of the box while paying homage to the BMW Motorsports heritage.  It’s absolutely unanimous that he accomplished this with flying colors in two ways:  an OEM Techno Violet respray and his famous “Motorsports Spatter” paint scheme on his manifold and trim pieces.  Now dubbed “Big Purp” all across the internet and social media, Sal has certainly set the bar when it comes to modifying the E92 platform.  Creating a truly unique M3, there is not one aspect of this car that has been overlooked and every modification was thought out and ties in perfectly with the next.

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Sal has never been shy in the performance department with any car he has owned, but this is certainly his most powerful.  He chose the ESS Tuning VT2-650 supercharger kit, custom painted with the Motorsports Spatter by IND.  All of the mechanical work was done in house by his certified technicians Jay Stromeyer and Thomas Limatola, including the custom modified exhaust system.  The primary cats were deleted and replaced with their ACM test pipes and the factory exhaust was modified to give it a better sound than most aftermarket exhausts all while retaining the factory look and visually undetectable to void the warranty.  In order to stop all of that power he chose an Alcon BBK.  At 405mm, calling it a “big” brake kit is an understatement, so you can be sure that all of his 600 horsepower gets halted with the slightest ease.

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Seeing its fair share of track days, Sal chose to go with Volk TE37-SL’s in 18 inches (f – 9.5 / r -10.5) with KW Club Sport coilovers and Racing Dynamic sway bars.  To complement the Techno Violet paint, he added a European Spec OEM M3 front bumper with a Mode Carbon V2 carbon fiber front lip.  Local lighting guru, Jehad Zeidan at LightModz, retro fitted quad projectors into his headlights and completed the updated look with OEM LCI tail lights and a Vorsteiner double sided CSL style trunk out back.  Techno Violet painted roundels by Xclusv Autosport completed their paint job in the most fitting way.

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Recaro Sportster CS seats were rewrapped in OEM Fox Red leather by Xclusv Autosport to hold true to Sal’s slightly extreme OEM+ theme in and out of the car.  To match the plenum, the interior looks like a motorsports crime scene with light blue, dark blue and red spattered about the cabin.  His P3 boost gauge, integrated in the trim, allows for proper readings at a glance without any trouble or unwarranted attention.  Lastly, as any driver can relate to is the importance of the steering wheel.  The flat-bottomed OEM Alcantara Performance wheel with ACM extended DCT paddles makes the driving experience just that much better.

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The car will be undergoing major reconstruction in preparation for the 2013 track and show season so expect the bar to be raised yet again by the team that brought to you Big Purp.

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Features

Bart Maczuga's F10 535 M-Sport

Photography by Matt Petrie

When BMW released the F10 5 series there was love/hate reaction from BMW community like there is with any new model. The styling, the technology, but even more so the departure from the “E” chassis code that had been around for decades, caused a bit of a stir. Regardless of what your preference is there is no denying Bart’s 535. Upon taking delivery less than six months ago Bart has quickly built one of the cleanest F10’s that is on the road right now.  At risk of sounding cliché about cars being extensions of ourselves, it seems to come naturally to him as a part of his personality and style.  Spend five minutes with Bart and you’ll see how grateful he is for everything he has. Get to know him and you’ll realize how hard he has worked to get all of it. He came here from Poland as a kid and worked his way through the language barrier and years of schooling.  After graduating college in 2005 he spent his time working on Wall Street in New York City.

When “Wall Street” is mentioned some of you movie gurus will immediately think of Oliver Stone’s late 80’s film with the devious and manipulative Bud Fox sneaking his way up the ladder. Those of you in the real world who work there or have family/friends know the countless hours spent trying to make your way. You have to get yourself noticed without causing too much attention. That is just how Bart operates and how his F10 535 is presented.

Sitting down to lunch with him after the shoot he told me that this F10 is his 23rd car. For someone in their early 30’s it’s almost the same ratio to buying a pair of shoes, at least for me, but despite how many cars he has owned; he has always favored BMW’s. This shows in his track record starting with his first E39 528 many years ago all the way up through his multiple E9x M3’s and now to his big bodied 5 series. His E9x M3’s were modified with all quality parts and wheels and this car is no different.

He opted for 20” MORR VS8.2 wheels again after having them (among many sets) in the 19” form on one of his E9x M3’s, but this time in a hand brushed finish offered by MORR.  The car is lowered on KW V1 coilovers which do more than enough as a commuter car. Upon ordering this from BMW one thing was mandatory and that was the “M package.” Upgraded oem wheels, aero kit, steering wheel, and seats are all part of the $5,000 option from the factory, but in usual fashion he wasn’t done there. Months ago, before the new M5 was readily available and on the road, Bart was sporting an oem M5 rear diffuser that he explained only took minor fabbing to fit into the M aero kit because the M5’s share nearly the same body work. So similar in fact that he said people frequently mistake it for an M5. For the extra power a JB stage 2 tune was installed as well as a custom, dual quad exhaust with muffler delete and black exhaust tips built by the specialists at AutoCouture Motoring.

Little touches around the car from IND, JL Motoring, and Xclusiv Autosports add to the tastefulness of this car. The black accents tie in perfectly to complete its look from the most noticeable black painted roof all the way down to the two-toned trunk spoiler and little details on the door handles. My favorite thing about cars like this one is that there are so many subtleties on it that the more you look around the more you start to see.  By going the extra distance in the details instead of big wheels, obnoxious paint, and tacky add-ons he built a car that makes a statement without saying anything. Even though at his rate, the F10 may be gone by the time this article is up, you can be certain that the next vehicle as his others in the past will be done with the same style and class that this has.


Features

Michael Gershanok's E36 M3

Photography by Matt Petrie

Michael’s E36 M3 started its life out like most club racing cars – as a regular street car. From there it began its transition towards the track, but in a rather unusual fashion.  He purchased the car new in 1999 as the “Monday through Friday” means of transportation, yet he felt that the motorsports division at BMW was lacking.  He looked no further than to Steve Dinan for the solution to his problem. The result was a fully prepped and supercharged commuting monster. On the weekends Michael took the car to local auto cross events through what is now known as MOTORSPORTS NORTHEAST.

Parking lots and cones were no strangers on the weekend. He found himself frequenting these large sanctioned lots trying to improve his times rather than mowing the lawn or passing out on the patio furniture with a book in his lap. Now compared to the latter this is no cheap alternative especially the weekend at Metlife Stadium where his car and a light pole were acquainted for the first time.  This is where one might put racing aside and reevaluate their hobby, but not Michael. From this point his involvement accelerated and only a real enthusiast can understand and truly appreciate the following chain of events.

Wasting very little time he picked up a 1994 325ci and used his wrecked M3 as a donor car, transferring ALL of the salvageable parts into the non M. Keeping the car off the streets, he immediately stepped up into club racing through BMWCCA and NASA, completing and winning multiple races. Those victories were over shadowed at Watkins Glen when a rainy track day resulted in a multiple car pileup destroying his “325-M’s” front end.  Once again Michael was down, but not out. He came back even stronger by resurrecting his original M3 into its current form you see here.

The emphasis here is placed on “stronger.” Michael sourced a Euro S50 motor with an SMG I transmission. For those of you unfamiliar with the engine and transmission setup, the Euro S50 engine is unrestricted due to the difference between US and European emission laws, therefore making more horsepower and torque than the M3’s sold within the states. The transmission dubbed “SMG” for Sequential Manual Gearbox was made famous by the E46 M3 from 2001-2006. The E46 M3 owned the second generation of BMW’s electro-hydraulic clutch engaging manual gearbox. What most people don’t know is that the E36’s in Europe have been running this technology since the mid 90’s and is extremely rare to see in the US.  The only other manufacturer to offer this technology in their street cars during the 90’s was Ferrari. Worry not all of you die-hard, 3-pedal purists because he swapped out the SMG I transmission for a true 6 speed manual.

The damaged body was corrected with an E30 M3 inspired full fiberglass wide body. The only thing still left metal on the body is the roof itself.  With the full roll cage, Lexan windows, and ATL fuel cell filled, the car weighs in at 2600lbs. To any ordinary enthusiast an E36 weighing in at less than 3000lbs with a Euro S50 engine would be one hell of a ride, but Michael was not finished there.  He is running a Vanos delete with cams from VAC Motorsports and a CSL carbon fiber intake straight through the front end with a headlight delete.  With all the modifications made to the engine he opted for a KMS engine management system and puts the 420bhp to the rear wheels with a Blanton 3:91 differential.

His racing “career” has been very successful with multiple wins in both the CCA and NASA events.  Michael has proven himself on the track, but you cannot be competitive without a properly functioning car. The credit of the builds and rebuilds as well as preparation and trackside assistance goes to Mike O’Neill and Al Wilson of Northeast Motorsports.  Keeping this car in running order week in and week out is what allowed Michael to have multi-year NASA GTS4 championship victories.  After back to back championships in 2008 and 2009 he decided it was time to retire the E36 and move up to the GTS3 class with more competitive cars and drivers.