Project BMW M3: Setting Goals

David S.
Update by David S. Wallens to the BMW M3 project car
May 15, 2020

Know what every successful project needs, no matter the scope or subject? A goal.

The goal for our 2004 BMW M3 is simple: We want to detail the ownership experience so the person eyeing an E46-chassis M3 on Bring a Trailer or eBay Motors can make a sensible decision. Does the reality match the expectation? 

So that means that we’re going to discuss a lot of the basics: What does it take to find a good car, and then what does the care and feeding entail?

Will there be any mods? Yes, of course. We’re also prepping this one for track events. We’re Grassroots Motorsports, right?

As we already have some hardcore track cars in the fleet–like our C5-chassis Corvette Z06 and LS-swapped Nissan 350Z–let’s say that this one will be kept a little saner. The goal is to drive to an SCCA Track Night in America event, click off a bunch of laps with our buddies, and then drive home. 

Here are some detail shots so you can see our starting point–a solid, clean car–and please excuse us while we get working on the next update. laugh

The interior looks clean, and the previous owner had replaced the steering wheel.

The seats are a little dried-out and will need some loving. 

Nothing alarming under the hood.

Although we do have a battery drain.

Great body, fresh OEM Roundels. Paint needs detailing.

Much of the trim has been replaced–but not all of it. 

How are the bushings and chassis? That will be covered in the next installment. 

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View comments on the GRM forums
wspohn Dork
5/14/20 6:40 p.m.

Psst - is  a supercharger legal....?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/14/20 7:25 p.m.

In reply to wspohn :

I guess?

christinaylam (Forum Supporter)
christinaylam (Forum Supporter) New Reader
5/14/20 8:23 p.m.

Battery drain is killer. I solved it in my E36 by turning it into racecar. 

Jk don't ruin this haha. It is way too nice for any of that nonsense. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/15/20 9:16 a.m.

Yeah, need to figure out the battery drain. 

OjaiM5 Reader
5/18/20 10:00 a.m.
DirtyBird222 UberDork
5/18/20 10:15 a.m.

I had parasitic draw on my E36 M3 that was killing the battery on a weekly basis. I found that the cabin light settings were at least a partial root of the problem. If I had it set for all of the cabin lights to come on when opening or locking the doors it would kill the battery if I didn't drive it for a while. I still haven't gotten down into the nitty gritty of the problem but just having the switches set to off helped. 

OjaiM5 Reader
5/18/20 10:21 a.m.

Sometimes the hood switch will drain the battery as well.

or more common, trunk latch switch

BenB (Forum Supporter)
BenB (Forum Supporter) Reader
5/18/20 10:31 a.m.

My moms Acura RLX battery kept dying on a weekly basis like that. Since it was under warranty, she'd have it towed to the dealer so they could try to figure out what was wrong. One service writer asked me how far away the keys were stored when the car was parked in the garage (~10-15 ft). He said the car would sense the key fob and "wake up" and stay that way so it would be ready to start. The system wasn't smart enough to shut everything back down and go to sleep after a certain time went by with no activity, so the battery would run down. We started putting the key fob on the opposite side of the house from the garage, and problem solved. Could that be what's happening with your M3?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/19/20 9:02 p.m.

Thanks for the leads. This model still uses a key, so I doubt that's the issue–and there are several walls between the key and the car itself. 

Yeah, need to break out some diagnostic tool, dig into the GRM archives,  and investigate that one further. 

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