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The E46 330ci Track Car Build Thread

19299 Views 310 Replies 61 Participants Last post by  TheDarkEnergist
So, This post made my @westopher had me thinking. Am I doing the right thing?

I was bequeefed (sic) this car from my departed brother, Kenny (also known as Chip) in 2012. At the time it wasn't my first choice of car, but it was a clean example that was reasonably well cared for. That was until he got a little too sick to be able to drive. Then it just sat. For a while. I moved to NYC, and then ended up moving around every year. It became less than sensible to street park an aging BMW with no tools, nowhere to work on it, and needing to switch parking spots twice a week. Then it sat some more.

I've been through a lot with this car. It's scared me when it randomly shut off on the Deegan in the Bronx, it's made me smile with how smooth the engine effortlessly builds revs. I've thought about selling it a million times, thought about its potential, scooted it up to Connecticut to store for a year, accidentally backed into it, worked on it, broken things on it, moved myself to and from several apartments with it, and its gotten me to and from job interviews, work, weddings, etc.

Now living in Baltimore, it's the kind of car that gets respectful nods from the squeegee kids sitting out on Pratt street, but also doesn't look out of place rolling through fancy parts of DC and Annapolis. Without turning this into a sappy love story, I f**kin love this car. It's so good. IMO it's the sweet spot between refined analog machine and enough tech to make it comfortable and feel modern. Even if it's an automatic...it's just such a good thing.

But all good things must come to an end, right? I love the car, this is obvious, but I'm an enthusiast. Like you, I need more.

For a few years now I've just thought to myself "hey...LS swap the thing and be done with it" which all sounds good and is easy to say. But after giving it a lot of thought and knowing that I now have a reliable and fair specialized BMW mechanic less than a mile away...I'm wondering if maybe I should stick with the M54 motor.

This means I would be able to do more with the money, and most of it would need to be done anyway (strip the chassis and address any and all corrosion, POR-15 the **** out of everything, recoat, etc.) Basically without even touching the drivetrain, interior, or exterior I'd be tackling pretty much everything in this video:

Before you ask "what do you want the car to do?" I want it to go fast and I wanna have fun. It'll be a street legal car that I take to the track that retains most if not all factory creature comforts. I want it to be balanced but also make people laugh and maybe scared a little bit. I want the car to last forever.

Spec E46 suspension kits are $5k. Manual transmissions are abounds. I keep thinking about how nice it would be to have a built NA straight 6 that IMO sounds better than the S54, and kinda keeps the spirit of the car alive. But then I get swayed by thinking about doing huge burnouts and having something absurd to play around with.

What say you TCL? Big honkin Chebby V8? Or buttery smooth straight 6 with cams, full exhaust, head work etc.? Let's argue.

Car Wheel Vehicle Tire Grille

TL;DR - LS Swap or no?
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If this is your only car and you live in downtown Baltimore, I'm not sure I'd want anything particularly nice or anything that brings attention to what I'm driving. Also, if this is a daily driver, I'm not sure I'd want a suspension setup from any spec racing series--unless you're planning to race/track it. I'd probably go with some type of low boost FI kit and catback setup for basic street driving.

If this is a project car, the SBC is an interesting option. There's a guy at a local C&C who has an e46 coupe with SBC. It never fails to grab attention when the car starts up. And regardless of how "played out" the SBC transplant thing is, the guy always has a small crowd around his car at some point during a C&C. On one hand, it seems like a fun project with a lot of upside. OTOH, that particular car has a bit of a kit-car vibe to it. It's a project where things are always being figured out.

The use case for the car is really big consideration of the best direction to go, IMO.
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