The Flanders region of northern Belgium is fast becoming the European epicentre of quality modified cars. And with KEAN Suspensions’ astonishing E46 M3, it’s all starting to get a little silly…
When the KEAN boys roll into town, you’re always in for a treat. These fellas know how to put hot rides on the floor like no-one else in Europe, and their eye for the offbeat along with their incredible attention to detail means that every car they put together is a guaranteed show-stopper. At this year’s Players Classic, as they casually panscraped their bagged Ferrari 308 through the car park, everyone’s jaws were on the floor.
And then, catching the crowds just when they were vulnerable, this outrageous E46 rocked up behind it. Honestly, seeing these cars up close was physically exhausting, it’s just a relentless assault of awesome – so we had to mobilise a snapper sharpish to bring you the story. The 308 will be coming later, but right now we’re gazing at this BMW like a seagull on chips.
To provide a little background, KEAN is a portmanteau of ‘Kenny’ and ‘Andy’ – the two brothers who operate the bespoke suspension firm in Belgium, fitting custom air-ride or hydraulics to an ever-growing gallery of incredible rides. This E46 is Kenny’s own car – and the fun part is that he hasn’t just chosen any old base model for the project in the knowledge that he’d be tearing the thing to shreds; no, this is a full-fat M3, no messing about.
“I’ve had a lot of Peugeots before – 206 GTI, 406, 405 – but I’m having more fun with the BMW right now,” he says, which is totally understandable. The E46 M3 is a formidable machine in factory-stock form, but this… this is just nuts.
“I bought the car totally stock,” he continues. “Why an M3? The looks, the sound, the potential… and of course it was always going to be heavily modified, that’s what we do.” Kenny drew inspiration from the key touchpoints of the contemporary modifying scene – principally SEMA and the internet, that’s as broad an explanation as you need – and the car was assembled over the space of a few short months in order to debut it at the Essen Motor Show.
When you consider the amount of work that’s gone into the transformation, that’s a remarkable makeover within the timescale. And there are so many diverse and bespoke elements, it’s hard to know where to start…
OK, given that suspension systems are KEAN’s bread-and-butter, let’s take a peek at the chassis mods. Now, the M3 is such an incredible driver’s car that, unlike a lot of project bases, you don’t need to rip out and upgrade everything, as the factory kit is already excellent, and this gave the brothers a decent base upon which to build. They’ve designed, crafted and installed a custom air-ride system for the E46, which uses KNTRL management – an up-and-coming name in the air suspension scene, offering simple and adaptable pressure-based systems. Allied to the KEAN-spec struts and bags, it helps to get the Beemer on the ground over those monster wheels.
And the rims themselves? “I wanted something different from the Rotiforms or BBS that everyone else goes for,” says Kenny. So he’s opted for VIP Modular VLS450s, which came courtesy of SXY Wheels. The specs are pretty staggering – the rears are fourteen inches wide, which is frankly insane, and the fronts are a still-pretty-massive ten inches across. The polished centres are finished in candy red, counterpointed by the candy black rims and gloss black hardware, and these tie in rather beautifully with the interior colour scheme.
The interior, you’ll note, is a place of contrasts. It’s also completely barking mad. See, the M3 as a model has always had a bit of artistic tension inside, trying to balance the disparate concepts of being a sports car and a luxury car, and Kenny’s taken this to extremes by retaining the full dash and doorcards, but also swapping out the comfy (and heavy) seats for a pair of bare-bones Kirkey race buckets, again finished in candy red. It looks brilliantly jarring, doesn’t it? It shouldn’t work, but it really, really does.
The luxury-race theme continues in the back, where you’ll find a candy red rollcage bolted in on top of the still-present leather rear bench, and moving back to the front the stock steering wheel has been replaced by a carbon fibre clone. Parked in the centre console between the padded storage box and the SMG shifter is a KEAN-branded hydraulic handbrake, further accentuating the idea that you don’t need to compromise with a build like this, you really can have it all.
Speaking of which, we’d better move to the exterior. Because this is where things get really off-the-wall. The look is characterised by two huge and imposing aspects: the widebody, and the carbon fibre. The wide-arch kit is a genuine Rocket Bunny Pandem setup from the scene-legend TRA-Kyoto stable – a kit which features those outrageously wide arches (which you obviously need if you’ve decided to run 14×18” wheels on your back axle!) along with the jutting front lip and the option of a rear ducktail. But off-the-shelf isn’t really Kenny’s bag, and it’s certainly not the KEAN way, so there was no chance of him simply buying in a kit, fitting it to the car, and calling the job a good ’un. He needed a twist.
And that twist came in the form of oodles of bonded carbon atoms twisted together – you can see from the sheer volume of lacquered and exposed carbon weave that he’s quite proud of this approach, as well he should be. The entire front end of the car has been replaced with carbon fibre panels, which must represent a colossal weight saving as well as looking stone-cold spectacular.
We’re not just talking about the traditional carbon bonnet here either; everything about the nose has been baked in the lightweight weave – the bumper, splitter, kidney grilles, the works. Kenny’s even Cyclopsed the car by plucking one of its eyes out and replacing it with a custom carbon air intake, which is a race-car detail we just love; it gives the nose a neat asymmetry which is further accentuated by the GoPro hiding in a porthole below.
The doors are carbon fibre too, which looks outstandingly racy from outside, yet fits neatly with the form-meets-function interior by virtue of having the fat doorcards bolted to them. And the bootlid? Yep, that CSL-style ducktail item is carbon too, naturally. But Kenny wanted to highlight that the bodywork wasn’t all carbon fibre – this isn’t a Hungarian RS Carbon build or a Bulletproof GT-R and he wanted to proudly wear the remaining steel with pride, which is why WrapJunkies were commissioned to wrap the other panels in the most shouty and look-at-me shade possible. The decision was made to use an eye-searing yellow, which acts as a sublime foil to the carbon, making the M3 look like some sort of massive enraged bee. “It’s really helped it to stand out,” Kenny grins.
“It’s a head-turner, for sure. The police in Wörthersee certainly noticed it – they slapped me with a €1000 fine and took my ‘YOUR MOM’ plate away! But it drives like a beast, it demands a proper burnout every time…” And that’s perhaps the most important element of all. This car’s been fastidiously built to be a show-stopper with a unique style and a flawless finish, but don’t go thinking it’s a trailer queen.
Kenny drives this Pandem BMW E46 M3 drives all across Europe, proving the longevity and durability of the home-brewed suspension setup, and he breaks necks at every turn. That’s just how KEAN roll. No-one builds car quite like them.
TECH SPEC BMW E46 M3
Rocket Bunny Pandem widebody kit, full carbon fibre front end, carbon CSL-style ducktail bootlid, carbon doors, carbon diffuser, carbon air intake in place of headlight, rear end wrapped in yellow by WrapJunkies
S54B32 3.2-litre straight-six, custom TubeXpert exhaust system, SMG transmission
10×18” (front) and 14×18” (rear) VIP Modular VLS450 wheels – polished candy red centres and candy black lips, gloss black hardware, Toyo R888R semi-slicks with TredWear decals, KEAN air-ride with KNTRL management
Kirkey race seats in candy red, rollcage in candy red, hydraulic handbrake, carbon trim, carbon steering wheel
“Thanks to my brother Andy, WrapJunkies, SXY Wheels, KNTRL, and The Belgian Brothers for the TredWear.”
Words Dan Bevis Photos Kevve.be