We take a look back at some of the epic features that graced the pages of Performance BMW. This time it’s Will’s modified BMW E46 M3 Pandem from 2017.
Will Wang has pulled off a neat visual trick here – he’s made an ostentatious Rocket Bunny-kitted M3 look almost subtle. How? Improbably, he’s channelled the visual drama of Ferrari to pull it all together…
There used to be a time when red cars seemed like the obvious choice. ‘Resale Red’, dealers would call it – particularly if it was a Ferrari, only a fool would spec a black 355 or a yellow 348. And with mainstream cars it was the same – red reinforces residuals. Ford infamously embraced this in fine style by offering their hot hatches in a sporty shade by the name of ‘Rosso Red’ – which of course means, er, ‘Red Red’.
It is not so much the case these days, since manufacturers started showcasing all their latest concepts and sport models in shimmering white paint; white used to be the cheapskate option, but it’s somehow flipped and become premium. The palettes have tectonically shifted, and nowadays red can seem like a pretty offbeat choice. And it certainly works on this E46 M3 Pandem, doesn’t it?
That is a Ferrari shade of paint, no less, and it speaks volumes about the quality of this build. But with its owner, Will Wang, being manager and lead tech at iDL Design USA and iDL Auto Spa, you wouldn’t really expect anything but the best. What is particularly impressive is how the exotic hue softens and quietens the ostentatious body kit, which helps to shuffle Will’s conceptual wrangling into some sort of logical order. You see, on the one hand, he was keen to create an overt and in-your-face show-stopping build, harnessing the latest stylistic trends to bring the 2004 M3 bang up-to-date. But on the other hand, he didn’t want to deviate too far from the stock form, as he’s always had a bit of a soft spot for it.
“I’ve been interested in BMWs ever since one of my best friends in high school got an Imola Red E46 M3 from selling shoes,” he recalls (land of opportunity, huh?). “The E46 is one of the best-looking BMWs in my opinion. It has the total package of luxury, handling, performance, good looks, and top speed.” So you can see the inherent dichotomy in keeping that essence and yet exponentially changing it – the soothing effect of the colour choice ticks a lot of boxes, and we perhaps also shouldn’t overlook the irony of using a supercar colour scheme to make an extravagant aesthetic overhaul seem more organic and subtle.
“Before I got my M3, I had a modded Infiniti G35 with all the bolts-on, reworked suspension, wheels, the works. I had a body kit and supercharger ready to go, but then I totalled the car – which led to me getting the E46,” he explains. “I like to go fast, and have a car that can handle as well. But I also like to have a nice exterior and interior. It’s arguable that the E46 is the best performance car you can buy in that price range…” Yep, you won’t hear any arguments from us. So, with the G35 despatched and the excuse to follow the dream and acquire the M3 primed, Will set about scouring the classifieds. Before long, the ideal car presented itself on a used car forecourt in Washington DC – a one-owner example with solid history and just 40k on the clock. A decent base for a spot of dream-weaving.
“I had a few small plans at first, like wheels, coilovers and exhaust, but nothing like what it’s turned into,” he grins, rubbing his eyes in disbelief at how that tidy, bone-stock M3 has somehow morphed into the scene-shifting creation he now sees before him. What’s perhaps most impressive to note here is just how quickly it all happened; while some of us would be happy to rest on our laurels for a time after having acquired such an aspirational machine, Will had no qualms about immediately tearing the thing to pieces and reinventing it. It is a classic example of the snowball effect – it seems that the more he changed, the more it seemed logical to change other things, until the whole thing was totally unrecognisable from how it started. The pace of evolution was simply phenomenal, too – from Point A to shiny Point B only took about a month! Can you believe that?
Those plans for coilovers were the first idea to be unceremoniously binned, as Will’s first modification to the car was to get its chassis fully kitted out with an Air Lift 3P air-ride system. “I swapped all the bushes for polyurethane, and reinforced the rear subframe with Turner Motorsports subframe plates,” he says. “I ended up going with Air Lift suspension because it is a lot easier to drive in the Los Angeles streets – this is my only car, and my daily driver, so it’s nice to be able to get in and out of my driveway!”
The next step was to plumb in a rorty Supersprint exhaust system, including freer fl owing manifolds and race-spec silencers, and hot on the heels of that came the transmission swap. Yep, Will had bought an SMG-equipped M3, but quickly decided that he much preferred having three pedals and a stick, so he made it happen. Easy as that, eh?
“The brakes came next,” he says. “I chose R1 Concepts’ BBK, which brings six-pot calipers to the front and four-pots out back.” And then… well, then it all went a bit bonkers. Will decided, as so many people are wont to do these days, that wide-arches were the answer to a number of questions, so he got on the blower to scene legends Rocket Bunny to chew the fat over their E46 Pandem kit. This has added some brilliantly Beyoncé-esque flava to the profile and yet – as we keep harping on about – it neatly accentuates the lines of the BMW rather than acting as a radical departure, thanks to Will’s decision to paint it all in this specific shade of red. It looks sumptuous, premium, not at all hooligan-like. It really is a very smart move.
Naturally once you’ve exponentially increased the width of your car, you can’t just leave it on the stock rims. It’d look like one of those embarrassing Rover Metros with a fibreglass 6R4 kit bolted on. But thankfully Will knows whereof he speaks here, being something of an aftermarket wheel aficionado; “I’ve had ten sets of wheels on this car, I change my mind a lot,” he chuckles. “But the Rotiform LHR is a real classic mesh design, I think it really suits the look.” And with 10” of width up front and a striking 12.5” at the tail, the sticky-rubbered rims certainly fill up those colossal arches neatly – especially when Will presses the magic button and airs the thing out.
“In terms of performance, the initial plan was basically to get as much out of the engine while keeping it naturally-aspirated,” he says. “I started with an Evolve CSL carbon-fibre intake and a custom tune from Tuning Tech, and I’ve also uprated the cooling. But I do plan on switching to forced induction in the future – most likely a supercharger upgrade, then go from there.”
“The interior hasn’t been changed too much, aside from the seats,” Will says. “There’s now a set of Recaro Topline seats which have been trimmed in red leather, and that complements the exterior neatly. My favourite modification is the widebody – it was the first one in the world to hit the streets and makes a big presence! My friend Sanjay and I talk about how to mod my car all the time, and it has been through a lot of transformations in the eight years I’ve owned it. I do most of my own work, except prepping and painting, so it’s a very personal build.”
“If money were no object, I’d be putting an S85 V10 motor in there,” he laughs. “But more realistically… let’s just say that the next time you see it, it’ll be a different colour. And it will have different wheels. In fact, a lot of things will be different.”
Such is the nature of an evolutionary project trajectory: that glorious red has more than served its purpose, but it had its time and now it’s been usurped. Survival of the fittest, you see – an ever stronger look has muscled its way in to take its place. Will’s actually already evolved his E46 M3 further still, and we can’t imagine he’s finished just yet.
Tech Spec: BMW E46 M3 Pandem
Engine & Transmission:
3.2-litre straight-six S54B32, Evolve CSL carbon fibre intake, Supersprint exhaust manifold and full system with race silencers, Tuning Tech FS custom tune, CSF Radiators oil cooler and radiator. SMG transmission swapped out for Getrag Type-D six-speed manual gearbox
10×18” (front) and 12.5×18” (rear) Rotiform LHR wheels in black chrome with 255/35 (front) and 315/30 (rear) Toyo R888 tyres, Air Lift 3P air suspension, R1 Concepts big brake kit with six-pot calipers (front) and four-pot calipers (rear)
Rocket Bunny Pandem wide-arch kit, Vorsteiner bonnet, respray in Ferrari red
Recaro Topline seats retrimmed in red leather