So there you are, sitting on the couch watching "SpongeBob" with your three kids. Suddenly the wife utters the horrible phrase, "I think we need a minivan.
"You sweat at the thought of driving one, being seen in one, having to wash one. This can't be happening. Yes, you're a dad, but you're a cool dad.
As these pages prove, there is an alternative: in this case, a very powerful alternative. Ben Liaw of Rogue Engineering (RE) put this car together just in time, literally. During the photoshoot, Ben's wife went into labor with her second baby, causing him to leave in a cloud of tire smoke, diapers and childseats. At least the car was well sorted.
We got a call from RE almost a year ago. Ben wondered if there would be any interest in an E46 3 Series Touring with an M3 motor. We said yes and, apparently, Ben got to work-on both the wagon and on another baby.
At its core lies the 333-bhp engine found within the current-generation M3s, undoubtedly leaving it one of the fastest 3 Series Tourings in North America.
"This was a learning platform for us," explained Ben. "It took a lot of time sorting things out, finding the differences between the 325i and the M3 engine. We are actually in the process of doing another one. I think it will be even better."
Although the physical size of the M3 motor is the same as its smaller displacement sibling, there are significant differences in the wiring harness and associated electronics, including the MSS54 DME. Fitting the M3 transmission was also a challenge and required the driveshaft to be shortened and modified.
Rogue used the instrument cluster and steering wheel from a stock M3 while the interior trim, shift boot and illuminated six-speed gear knob are from the 330i.
"I'd have to say this transplant was pretty much plug-and-play," said Ben. "It was time-consuming, but everything bolted right in."
The engine was massaged with the beautifully designed GruppeM carbon-fiber filter ram charger and Rogue's E46 M3 power pulleys. With their larger diameter and underdriven power steering and water pump functions, the Rogue power pulleys add an additional 5 to 8 hp to the already potent engine. The exhaust is a custom job Rogue designed specifically for this car. Like production RE exhausts, it's a nice unit, comprised of high-quality stainless-steel, mandrel bends and gorgeous welds.
The M3 tranny is held in place by RE's stout transmission mounts and the shifter has been treated to its Octane short-shift kit.
The wagon's underpinnings include Leda coilovers that feature 24-way adjustable compression and rebound. Leda suspension is used extensively in rally racing and its street applications are custom built per car.
"I've got the Leda suspension set at two...it's very similar to a stock M3," said Ben. "I've still got 22 settings to go." A BMW Motorsport strut brace and RE's rear shock mounts provide additional chassis rigidity.
Rolling stock is comprised of BBS RE wheels, forged units measuring 8x18 and 9x18, respectively. Pirelli P Zero Nero rubber measures 235/40R-18 up front and a sizable 255/35R-18 out back. Brakes are Brembo Gran Turismo units; multi-caliper binders that grip 355mm and 294mm slotted rotors, front and rear. Because he hates bolts, Ben converted the hubs with RE's stud conversion kit.
He is a big fan of factory aerodynamics however, and this Touring wears BMW's M Technic body kit and M3 mirrors, installed and painted by C&D Autobody in South Hackensack, N.J. Umnitza Phosphyre Angel Eyes headlamps round out the package.
Now the father of two, Ben is no doubt planning his next project car, probably an M5 wagon with lots of childseats.