Back in black: The M3 returns to the road

After bidding a fond farewell to the Bismarck, Motormessenger finally got round to rousing the M3 from its winter slumber…

I definitely did not leave the handbrake on when I parked up in October. So why is the wheel sticking? 

I thought I was doing the responsible thing by storing the M3 away from the salt and slush of a Scottish winter. Tucked up in gear beside my Dad’s baby-blue ’73 DSuper5, the M3 was delicately positioned between a stone wall and the crumbling Frenchman for five or so months and covered with soft sheets.

Bathtime for the M3

Now, with my O/S/R wheel sticking, that tight positioning didn’t seem like such a great idea as I rocked the car back and forth to loosen the pad from the disc.

After a quick jacking-up, it was off with the wheel and the limpet-like grip was soon relieved by swift knocks to the hub with a rubber mallet.

Out she rolled into a bright morning, water vapour rising from the four stubby pipes at the rear. It started first time, too.

So the M3 is back to it’s loud, rear-driven ways. But for how long? 

BMW | M3 | E46 | Carbonschwartz Metallic | AC Schnitzer |Motormessenger

Changing gear

Turbocharged hatchbackery didn’t make the cut when Motormessenger went looking for its new daily driver’s toy…

Not a year goes by where something exciting arrives on the performance car market. For me, 2002 was an especially great year. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released and had an awesome range of 80’s supercars. Formula One was a Schumacher-led Ferrari-fest. Pierce Brosnan somehow made an invisible Aston Martin completely credible. I was nine and thought that the Lamborghini Murcielago was the coolest thing on the road.

What I didn’t realise until this year, though, was that August 2002 was possibly the best month of the whole year, for that was when my Carbonschwartz Metallic E46 M3 was built.

You read that correctly – Project Junior Executive has been shifted in favour of Project Driver’s Car.

BMW | E46 | M3 | Motormessenger | Carbonschwartz | AC Schnitzer | VANOS

BMW | E46 | M3 | Motormessenger | Carbonschwartz | AC Schnitzer | VANOS

The hunt began months ago when I started to look at Integra Type-Rs, Golf R32 mk5s and even early S2000s in my search for sensible silliness.Thankfully, the 320i sold within a week of being advertised, to someone not far from me. Seeing Project Junior Executive bobbing about exactly as I left it will be like seeing an ex-girlfriend at a house party.

After sufficiently scaring myself enough about subframe fractures and VANOS issues through the course of my research, I decided to take a flight and test drive a car from London (with a Hackney parking permit in the window). The 550-odd mile trip was worth it, as I’m now the owner of a virtually rust-free 52-plater with Kiwi leather, some AC Schnitzer adornments and only 73k miles.

BMW | M3 | E46 | Carbonschwartz Metallic | AC Schnitzer |Motormessenger

Of course, like most cars, I have some plans to make it my own. While the AC Schnitzer carbon rear diffuser and pedals are a welcome addition, the nasty rattle-canned silver door handles inside aren’t, so they’ll most likely be replaced with carbon fibre. Having rubber band-thin tyres is giving my kidneys a good punching on every journey, but I think the CSLs and spacers really make the car.

Also, who thought it was a good idea to leave the bootlights half-facelifted after fitting the LEDs?

BMW | E46 | M3 | Motormessenger | Carbonschwartz | AC Schnitzer | VANOS

These weird cosmetic anomalies should keep me busy getting this M3 looking its best, with my overall aim for this coupe to be as OEM as possible. It’s booked in at my local BMW specialist Premier Motors for rustproofing later this week, along with some other miscellaneous jobs.

I’ve yet to give it a proper drive up in the Highlands, but from the 1100 or so miles I’ve covered so far in it is exactly what I wished it to be. It’s rowdy when cold and it needs a lot of road to stay pointing straight on damp winter evenings, but the howl the S54 makes and the well put-togetherness of old BMWs has made me certain I’ve made the right choice.

Buying and learning a 340bhp sports car as the weather begins to worsen fills me with trepidation and excitement in equal measure.