There will always be something very appealing about fast estates, and when it’s one you’ve built yourself that really stands out from the crowd, like this eye-catching BMW E46 M3 Touring, that makes it even more special.

There is something very cool about fast estates. They definitely have a big following among motoring fans worldwide, and it’s the combination of practicality and performance that is irresistible, the simple fact you’ve got a car that can comfortably transport a whole family, groceries, furniture, dogs (although possibly not all at the same time) far more rapidly than should be possible. There’s something inherently amusing and entertaining about that.

The thing is that while there are plenty of rapid estates about these days, it’s the ones that carry an RS, AMG or M badge on them that are really special because the difference between a fast estate and a proper performance wagon is what that badge means, that ultimate next level of focus and engineering. And while Audi and Mercedes have been offering their customers rapid wagons for countless years, it’s been a real drought for BMW fans.

While we’re glad that the M5 Touring is making a return and there’s an M3 Touring, at long last, you’re not exactly spoilt for choice, and you need pretty deep pockets to afford either. And even if that isn’t an obstacle, well, sometimes it’s nice to stand out from the crowd and have something a bit more special. And, as you can see from these photos, Eric Choi’s BMW E46 M3 Touring is very special indeed and does a very good job of standing out from the crowd.

BMW E46 M3 Touring side profile

Eric’s car history

Unsurprisingly, Eric is a longtime BMW fan because you don’t build a car like this if you’re just a casual fan of the marque. “BMW has always been a special brand for me,” he says with a smile. “I bought my first car in 2013, and it was an E90 330i. After that, I went through different models of BMW, like the E30 325i, E88 135i, and E46 M3. The handling and power delivery are the best from the same class, and the consistency of the design language is also a key factor that kept me in love with BMW,” he says with a smile.

In terms of this build, for Eric, inspiration came from the E46 M3 Touring Concept that BMW created, kept hidden away, and only revealed back in 2016 to celebrate 30 years of the M3. So, with a vision in mind, Eric set out to make that M3 Touring a reality. “After doing some deep research and checking out what others have done to this vehicle, I purchased an E46 325xi Touring specifically for this M3 conversion, along with an E46 M3 donor car,” Eric tells us. “I bought the M3 from a friend who used it as a track vehicle at least 15 years ago. He shipped the DME out for a custom tune, and the shop never returned the part. Since then, it had been sitting in his garage,” making it the ideal candidate for this project.

BMW E46 M3 Touring front on shot

Initial steps building the BMW E46 M3 Touring

The first step was to get the exterior sorted, and you can appreciate just how much work was involved here by the number of times the word custom comes up in Eric’s spec list. So, we’ve got custom front arches, rear quarter panels and rear door flares to match the new arches, all from 2M Autowerks, and then you’ve got the custom M3-style side skirts and door mirrors.

Obviously, none of that even begins to tell you how much work was involved in giving the Touring those wide M3 hips because you can’t just whip off the standard rear arches, so there’s some serious surgery required to make it all come together. Those wide arches look so good on the Touring, and they are the key to this build. They’re what gives this E46 estate that iconic M3 stance, and they endow this Touring build with so much muscle and road presence.

German Car Festival

The rear, meanwhile, features a quad exhaust setup, which requires an M3 boot floor transplant and is finished with a CSL-style carbon diffuser. But, as you can see, there’s a lot more to the exterior than just the M3 styling because once the car had been resprayed in Silver grey metallic, Eric treated his build to a custom safety car livery by Protective Film Solutions and topped it all off (literally) with a light bar to complete that safety car look. But the core look is very much OEM+, which was always Eric’s aim. “The goal of the project is to build the E46 M3 Wagon as original as possible and modify it as period-correct as it can be,” he explains.

BMW E46 M3 Touring interior

BMW E46 M3 Touring interior

With the M3 styling sorted, it was time for Eric to turn his attention to the interior. “At first, I planned to redo the entire interior in red leather, but I quickly scrapped that idea and kept it with black leather because that is the most OEM and cleanest spec it can be,” he says. “The interior came alive after adding the Recaro Sportster CS seats and carbon fibre interior trim,” he grins, and we totally get what he means.

recaro bucket seats

The Sportsters look fantastic and are such a great centre piece for the interior, accompanied by some custom F80 M3 CS seatbelts from Gaphix, and you can’t go wrong with carbon fibre. Pretty much everything you see is custom-made by CarbonTastic, including the dash trim, the steering wheel trim, and the sculpted steering wheel itself, and just looking at it makes you want to grab it and go driving. The finishing touches here are an F90 M5 gear knob mated to an OEM E46 M3 short-shift, along with a set of AC Schnitzer pedals.

BMW E46 M3 Touring engine

Performance upgrades

With the Touring looking like an M3, it was now time to give it the M3 performance it deserved, and that meant giving the donor S54 a bit of love. “The original engine had a leaking head gasket causing corrosion inside the head and cylinders, and at that point, we had to rebuild the engine,” says Eric, so not the most auspicious of starts, but it allowed him to make things better. “The engine rebuild took six months.

We didn’t do anything crazy because I wanted to keep it as OEM as possible. The head and engine block have been resurfaced, bored, and assembled with an aftermarket block to accept 87.25mm JE pistons. And, of course, we took care of the common S54 issues together with the rebuild, with new BE rod bearings with ARP bolts, and rebuilt Vanos by DrVanos.

In the end, we dropped in the CSL intake and tuned it to give the engine that pure OEM induction noise,” he grins, and you’ll never get tired of hearing the bark from that carbon airbox. And, in Eric’s case, he’s also got a soaring six-cylinder soundtrack to enjoy from the rear end, courtesy of a custom dual OEM resonator mid-pipe and a valved section-three exhaust from Valvetronic finishing it off.

BMW E46 M3 Touring exhaust

Chassis upgrades

And, of course, you can’t build an M car without giving it a seriously sorted chassis, and here Eric used his prior M3 experience to give his Touring the perfect setup. “Bilstein PSS10 coilovers were put on, and I have been using this setup for over three years on my other E46 M3. I trust and love this setup because of how capable it can be on track and street, perfect for someone going for 50/50 track and street usage,” he enthuses, so that was clearly the go-to suspension choice.

“The M3 Wagon has also had its front and rear brakes upgraded to the Porsche 996 911 four-piston calipers paired with OEM ZCP rotors,” which deliver superior stopping power compared to the standard brakes, and Eric has also added a set of Ground Control camber plates, and a Karbonius carbon front strut brace to just give the chassis that extra edge.

wheels on BMW E46 M3 Touring

Choosing the wheels for the BMW E46 M3 Touring

Finally, we have to talk about the wheels, and Eric’s choice has a distinctly OEM flavour. “Keeping the vehicle modifications period-correct and OEM-ish was the goal. The original concept wagon has Style 67 wheels, which have a very similar design to the E46 M3 GTR wheels. But, obviously, with the custom M3 wide-body, the OEM style 67 wheels are not wide enough.

Forged Club came up with a solution of building a set of custom two-piece forged wheels inspired by the E46 M3 GTR. I am stoked by the result, and we added custom engraving on the wheel to make it even more special,” Eric says with a smile. These 19s look fantastic, delivering that OEM+ look, and filling the fat arches perfectly, while the engraved ‘M3 Wagon’ text is the perfect finishing touch.

This is a great build, and we love that Eric has brought to life the E46 M3 Concept that inspired him in the first place. “The conversion took one-and-a-half years to complete with everything being ‘original’, and it took another year to add modifications including wheels, wrap design, exhaust, etc.,” Eric explains, and it was worth it.

BMW E46 M3 Touring rear 3/4


Building and owning an E46 M3 Touring is a very special experience because you don’t exactly see a lot of these about, and that’s something that Eric really appreciates. “My favourite modification on the car is the custom wide-body because it is the key factor in changing a regular wagon to an M3 wagon,” smiles Eric. “It looks OEM and keeps people asking if I imported the vehicle from Europe because they have never seen an M3 Wagon,” he adds with a chuckle. And, having built himself his perfect M3 Touring, there’s only one thing left to do… “I’ve got no plans for more mods on the wagon, the only thing now is to enjoy and drive it,” grins Eric, and with an M3 Touring in your life, those two things go hand in hand.

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