Meet Rafael Cedeno from El Dorado Hills, CA. He's a former BMW technician who later worked for a few years at an independent BMW specialist before establishing his own business six years ago: Foreign Autohaus. And while his car collection has moved into classic Detroit iron over the past few years, the apple of his eye remains this 2002 BMWM3.
His company concentrates on maintenance, servicing and repairs. "We don't do many modifications because we don't want to be fed up with it when it comes to our own cars," Rafael admitted.
So while he's ensuring his customers' cars are running as the factory intended, he's dreaming up mods for his own vehicles. In the past this has included E30 and E36 M3s as well as E34 and E39 M5s.
He bought the E46 in 2009 when it was completely stock, but it didn't remain that way for long. "I started modifying it almost immediately," Rafael admitted.
Some areas immediately stand out but Cedeno has ticked every box on the tuner's wish list, creating an all-rounder any of us would be proud to own.
At first glance, most people are struck but its gorgeous Imola Red paint and subtle body mods. "We've painted the car twice, the second time using a ceramic clearcoat. It was much harder to work with because it dries quickly but the effect is amazing: it always looks wet," he explained.
Inspired by the European BMW M3 CSL model, Rafael installed a number of choice carbon fiber pieces. "I'm very particular about my carbon and insisted everything I used had the same 2x2 weave," he told us. "I even had a number of custom parts made for the exterior and interior so they'd match everything else."
His first additions were the Iconz front lip and Vorsteiner diffuser, both of which were left in their original carbon fiber form. The Seibon trunk was painted, however, with a small strip of carbon exposed to reveal the weave.
Other carbon additions included the TMS grilles, side skirt extensions and the custom carbon emblems that were produced specifically for this E46. The roof was also wrapped in a carbon-effect vinyl as another tribute to the original CSL.
And since we're talking about the appearance, we shouldn't forget the staggered 19" SSR GT F01 forged wheels. They were finished in matte black but the SSR logo was machined out, and the M stripes hand-painted by the owner.
The car sits on Bilstein PSS9 coilovers to achieve the correct stance and ride quality, but a glance at the spec list begins to give you an idea this car isn't simply about good looks. "We installed Powerflex bushings everywhere we could," Rafael confirmed. "I don't intend to race the M3, but you certainly could. We used Turner Motorsport reinforcement kits, camber plates, adjustable control arms and fitted Ground Control sway bars front and rear."
A squint behind the wheels will reveal four-piston Brembo calipers at each corner, along with larger rotors, so what's happening under the hood? "We installed a stage 2 supercharger kit from VF," Rafael said.
Initially, the VF Engineering software appeared to have some problems but this was traced to the knock sensors that wouldn't allow the engine to make power past 6500rpm. Once the sensors were replaced, the engine still failed to make a substantial power increase, despite its full exhaust system, ported head and CSL-spec cams. This time it appeared that heat was the culprit, but after installing a direct-port methanol injection kit from Snow Performance, the M3 was able to produce 489hp at the wheels. "It was the savior of this E46," Rafael laughed.
The temperature here can get up to 110°F in the summer, and with the supercharger fitted the E46 just doesn't like all the heat. The SMG transmission doesn't have an external cooler, for example, so I don't use it when the temperature climbs past about 95°," he conceded. "But when it's cool enough, I find I just can't change gears fast enough. I don't race other cars but I know I could beat just about anything - the car is so fast!"
Speaking of the drivetrain, the car has an HPF Feramic clutch and pressure plate designed to cope with the power increase, while a custom rear differential was built to transfer that power to the road. Dinan software was also used to alter the SMG shift points, allowing the driver to hold onto the revs for longer.
Finally, we come to the interior, and again Rafael continued to seek perfection, fitting Sparco race seats, harnesses and even a custom roll-bar in the rear. The rear seats and door cards were actually purchased from Europe while the carbon fiber trim was custom-made by a close friend.
With its suede steering wheel, SMG shifter, e-brake handle and boots, the interior is a comfortable environment for the driver. He's able to grab another gear with the carbon fiber shift paddles and monitor the engine with the boost and AFR gauges.
The BMW M3 also has a sound system. In fact, it's had three but Rafael claims this to be the best. "With the Focal speakers, JL amps and Dynamat material, it vibrates your internal organs," he laughed.
So with every aspect covered, Cedeno feels he's reached the end of his journey. And one thing he's learned along the way is that he won't be selling this car. "I regretted selling both the E30 and E36 M3s, so I'm definitely keeping this one forever," he asserted.
2002 BMW M3
El Dorado Hills, CA
CEO of Foreign Autohaus
3.2L six-cylinder 24v with VF Engineering stage 2 supercharger, direct-port Snow Performance methanol injection, ported head, port-matched manifolds, heavy-duty valve springs, OEM BMW M3 CSL camshafts, headers and cats, Rogue Engineering exhaust center section with bypass valve, Supersprint Race mufflers
six-speed SMG automatic transmission with Dinan software, Feramic clutch and pressure plate, 3.91:1 final drive with 10-disc clutch pack, hardened ring and pinion, machined housing
Brembo four-piston silver Calipers f&r, 355mm rotors f, 340mm r, stainless steel lines
Bilstein PSS9 coilovers, Vorshlag camber plates, Manson strut brace, Powerflex control arm bushings f, Rogue Engineering shock mounts, Powerflex trailing arm and subframe bushings, Turner Motorsport subframe reinforcement, adjustable lower control arms r, Ground Control sway bars and end-links f&r
Wheels & Tires
19x9.5" f, 19x10.5" r SSR GT F01 forged wheels, powdercoated matte black, 90mm wheel studs, 245/45 R19 f, 275/30 R19 r Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires
carbon fiber CSL-style Iconz lip, Seibon trunk, Vorsteiner diffuser, Turner Motorsport front and side grilles, Downforce USA side skirt extensions, carbon-look vinyl roof wrap, custom carbon emblems, black powdercorted M3 badge, anodized tow hooks, super-white LED angle eyes, 8000k HID bulbs, Depo smoked LED front and side markers plus tail lights
Sparco Evo 2 seats, four-point harnesses, European-spec M3 cloth rear seats and door cards, custom carbon fiber trim, Dallas suede steering wheel with M stitching and carbon fiber shift paddles, suede boots, SMG shifter and e-brake handle, Digital Dash pods for Auto Meter boost and wideband AFR gauges, black powdercoated rear roll-bar
Pioneer double-DIN head unit with rearview camera, Focal component speakers, ARC Audio subwoofers in custom box, ARC Audio amplifiers, Rockford Fosgate 360 sound processor, Dynamat
foreignautohaus.com, audiosportsinc.com, totalkontrolle.com