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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/22/20 8:55 a.m.
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Blame some other projects with pushing this one back a bit–and we’re looking at you, Civic Si, even though we still miss you.

But here’s the reality with this one: The E46-chassis BMW still makes for an awesome car. A great engine, yes, but also good bones. Twenty years after its debut, the E46 remains a fan favorite. It works everywhere: road and  track

So it’s time to move our 2004 BMW M3 to the front burner.

What exactly does that mean? We have lots of things to discuss–like what to know when shopping for one today, what to expect once you get it home, and what care and feeling you’ll be expected to perform. How’s the market been? Let’s all take a look. 

Are the rod bearings a ticking time bomb? What about torn subframe mounts and cooling issues? It’s all on the syllabus, and we have some expert professors lined up. 

Think of this one as a reboot–like, well, like almost everything released by Hollywood these days. But, we promise, we’re not going to screw this one up. Time to get busy with our M3.

Read the rest of the story

DirtyBird222
DirtyBird222 UberDork
4/22/20 10:32 a.m.

Excellent, I've been eyeballing a non-M E46 for my next Champcar build if I can't find a proper S2K for the job. Could you ask your experts to dive in on the rear subframe issues for M vs. non-M E46s? Are coupes or sedans the way to go? (i.e. 8th Gen Civic Si sedans had much better chassis performance than the coupe)

Can't wait! 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/22/20 10:38 a.m.

In reply to DirtyBird222 :

I know a person or two who can answer your questions. 

Huzzah! Looking forward to this series. 

Ransom (Forum Supporter)
Ransom (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
4/22/20 11:37 a.m.

Excellent, looking forward to E46 info. I'm not sure how scared to be of the later BMWs, or whether the E46 is really too old to be trying to press it into The One Household DD role, but if nothing else, they still strike me as the last classically handsome BMW before I actually had to make a point of looking up how many generations there have been since then and how to tell them apart.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/22/20 11:53 a.m.

In reply to Ransom (Forum Supporter) :

And I think you nailed it--it’s like the last of the “classic” 3 Series cars. My parents owned both early and late E46s and enjoyed them. 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
4/22/20 12:44 p.m.
Ransom (Forum Supporter) said:

Excellent, looking forward to E46 info. I'm not sure how scared to be of the later BMWs, or whether the E46 is really too old to be trying to press it into The One Household DD role, but if nothing else, they still strike me as the last classically handsome BMW before I actually had to make a point of looking up how many generations there have been since then and how to tell them apart.

I think a well maintained one wouldn't be an issue. Outside of the rod bearings and subframe mounts, they just have the typical BMW/E46 stuff. Cooling system, window regulators.

It's not like say an E92 M3, where rod bearings, throttle body servos, DCT issues, etc. 

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
4/22/20 12:51 p.m.

I can already tell this is going to make me start shopping E46 prices...

christinaylam (Forum Supporter)
christinaylam (Forum Supporter) New Reader
4/22/20 3:10 p.m.

What a clean and perfect example of an E46 M3. They are getting harder and harder to find. 

ZOO (Forum Supporter)
ZOO (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
4/22/20 6:46 p.m.

I regret selling mine.  The replacement M2 is fantastic.  But I should have kept the M3 and sold my Miata to make room for the new car . . 

ChrisTropea said:

I can already tell this is going to make me start shopping E46 prices...

Still rocking the GTI?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/23/20 10:24 a.m.

Small update: Some parts are on the way with lots of updates coming together. 

Thanks again for all of the interest. 

DirtyBird222
DirtyBird222 UberDork
4/23/20 10:54 a.m.

Are E46 323s the E36 318ti? 

And great point on the E46 being the last classic looking 3 series. The V8 in the E92 is fantastic.....when its working. 

Tyler H (Forum Supporter)
Tyler H (Forum Supporter) UberDork
4/23/20 11:56 a.m.

The earliest E46 323s had the carry-over 2.5L iron block M52TU out of the E36.  Not a bad thing, necessarily.  The all-aluminum M54s love to eat oil, or at least more relative to the amount most BMWs already like to consume.

1qt/1k miles is not uncommon.

The E46 M3s are just as suceptible to rear trunk floor failure / sub-frame mounting tear-out as the normal E46 coupes and sedans.  I had a ZHP and welded in the Redish motorsports mounts preemptively.  Not sure I would do it again, unless there were signs of failure.  It's not really possible to get a visual inspection without dropping the subframe and cleaning the area thoroughly, unless you're already looking at completely ripped up chassis.  

If I were doing it over again, I would drop the rear subframe for bushing replacement and inspect.  If all was well, I would use 95a poly subframe bushings and put it back together.  The OE bushings have 4 little ears that contact the chassis, which could act as stress risers.  Poly bushings are flat, distributing the load across much more surface area.  One of the few applications where I highly prefer a poly bushing.

On my E46, I got a barely perceptible increase in diff gear noise and no other unpleasant NVH from poly subframe bushings.

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
4/23/20 4:01 p.m.

In reply to Jordan Rimpela (Forum Unterstützer) :

Yeah, still have the Mk6 GTI but I have been looking around for whats going to eventually replace it. 

mherbert4701
mherbert4701 None
4/29/20 7:29 p.m.

In reply to Ransom (Forum Supporter) :

if it is a well-maintained one , it should be good for  DD. get the maintenance records if you buy a used one. I had one new 2005 e46 3 series with manual transmission, got 200k out of it. They are a nice looking car. You will enjoy driving it!

 

mherbert4701
mherbert4701 New Reader
4/29/20 7:30 p.m.

In reply to christinaylam (Forum Supporter) :

yes they are 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/30/20 11:06 a.m.

More parts have been ordered, meaning someone (me) has some writing to do this weekend.

If you have any specific E46 M3 questions, too, let's hear them. Even if we don't need to tackle the work, we can always discuss. 

ZOO (Forum Supporter)
ZOO (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
4/30/20 3:37 p.m.

Are you doing a VANOS rebuild and addressing the oil pump disc?

Tyler H (Forum Supporter)
Tyler H (Forum Supporter) UberDork
5/1/20 8:15 a.m.
David S. Wallens said:

More parts have been ordered, meaning someone (me) has some writing to do this weekend.

If you have any specific E46 M3 questions, too, let's hear them. Even if we don't need to tackle the work, we can always discuss. 

Just a thought -- there are a couple of spots other than the rear subframe to keep an eye on. OEM "rough road" front strut reinforcement plates are cheap insurance against strut tower mushrooming/cracking for E46 with modified suspension.  Rear shock mount plates are also cheap and easy.   These areas take a beating on cars with coilovers or from places with potholes.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/2/20 11:34 a.m.
ZOO (Forum Supporter) said:

Are you doing a VANOS rebuild and addressing the oil pump disc?

Good question as I have a feeling that we'll have to address that. 

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/2/20 10:11 p.m.

I got excited about that car all over again once i saw that specific pic of it on IG. cheeky

ZOO (Forum Supporter)
ZOO (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
5/3/20 8:48 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I couldn’t believe the difference in low end torque when I rebuilt mine.   The oil pump disc could likely be redrilled by a reputable shop, too.  

wspohn
wspohn Dork
5/3/20 11:06 a.m.
z31maniac said:
It's not like say an E92 M3, where rod bearings, throttle body servos, DCT issues, etc. 

 

Well it isn't like rod shells aren't also an issue with the S54 engine, but that six is certainly one of the sweetest straight 6s I've owned/driven.

Harvey
Harvey SuperDork
5/3/20 1:53 p.m.

I really liked our E46 ZHP. Orient blue over dove gray interior with the silver cube trim. Yeah, the shocks were done by 80k, but at the time Turner had a kit that you could buy for $500 that included all the shocks and struts and the front lower control arms with the upgraded ball joints. I swapped all of those in and the car drove like new. Also included the front swaybar, which, IIRC, I might still have. The car could really get you in trouble, it would get up to high speeds without any struggle and cruise there very quietly.

The clutch was fine up until we sold it at around 97k, but it seemed like there was an issue with the transmission input shaft bearing as occasionally the car would make a noise when you first started it up, but then as soon as you put the clutch pedal in it would go away. Subsequently it would not make the noise until the next time it was a cold startup.

I keep thinking about owning an M3 of that vintage, but I'm not up for fixing a cheapo one and the decent ones still go for decent dollars.

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