I'm in love with this car all over again.My apologies for those awaiting an update on Project M3 the past several months, but we had to overcome some serious hurdles throughout 2004 and 2005. I am pleased to report that all is now well.
To bring new readers up to speed, this project came to life in 2001 with upgrades in every department, including an Advance Design racing suspension, a Stoptech 13.1-inch (332mm) big brake kit, and power upgrades from Turner Motorsport, Schrick and Supersprint, bringing the SAE wheel-hp from 215 to over 250. In 2002, the car later morphed from its naturally aspirated 3.0-liter engine to a 3.2-liter from Bavarian Engine Exchange using 8.8:1 compression JE forged pistons and Pauter connecting rods. It was turbocharged with Active Autowerke's Stage 2.5 kit, good for 355 wheel-hp at 10psi on 91 octane and 416 wheel-hp at 16psi with race fuel.
At this point, the car started seeing some track time, so we outfitted it with even bigger brakes from Brembo, measuring 14 inches (355mm) front and 13.6 inches (328mm) at the rear. The car was at the 340 wheel-hp level and, on Pirelli R-compounds, Project M3 was the overall winner in the second annual Eurotunerfest in 2002. A feat repeated at the inaugural Hotchkis Media Challenge in 2003.
In 2004, new goals for the project were established when AEM and evosport's joint venture in BMW stand-alone engine management systems chose Project M3 as their test car. That opened the door for a custom turbo system. In early 2005, after figuring out this engine was actually at 9.3:1 compression and not 8.8:1 (thanks to the milled head from the previous owner), JE designed new pistons, lowering compression to a true 8.2:1, and the cylinder head was redone by VAC Motorsport using a Ferrea valvetrain. Immediately after, a custom turbo kit was fabricated by Speed Force Racing (SFR), which is where we're picking up here. We had issues tackling the ignition system in the intervening months, but evosport and AEM pulled it through. Today, the car is running better than ever-by far.
Approaching SFR for the turbo kit was a no-brainer. After all, the guys there have fabricated turbo systems from scratch for all sorts of cars, including the Nissan 350Z and G35, Mazda RX-8, Toyota Supra, and Skyline GT-R. The company is currently working on Porsche 996, 997 and Cayman turbo kits. "We'll turbocharge anything," says SFR's owner, Tim Richards. In fact, SFR also took our Project Porsche 951 to a whole new level, taking it from a modified 277 wheel-hp at 17psi to 338 with its Stage 3 kit, using a Turbonetics 60-1 Hi-Fi turbo (see ec April 2005).
First thing for a custom turbo system: choose a power level. This leads to selecting a particular size turbocharger. Back to Turbonetics. Hoping to play with power ranging from 380-550 wheel-hp, I needed a turbo with a wide spectrum of efficiency. The ball bearing T66 with a P-trim in a 0.81 housing was the preferred pick.
Having decided on a possible peak power level, I could now figure out fuel injector size. Skimping on fuel injectors is a big no-no, so I called the best of the best-RC Engineering. Each set of its fuel injectors comes with a printout of the actual flow and variances between each injector. And you can count on those squirters not to let you down. I went with its direct replacement, high-impedance 750cc (71lb/hr) injectors, which gave me a large power cushion in case I (or some future owner) would want even more horsepower, which the T66 would surely provide with a 72lb/min flow rating (or about 720bhp).
Because Turbonetics is practically a one-stop shop for turbo stuff, I ordered my intercooler cores (yes cores), New Gen adjustable wastegate and Godzilla blowoff valve from the firm. Both latter units come with a set of springs for different ranges of boost levels.
SFR's Tim Richards and Jon Cutico were in charge of the work. We decided on a top-mount system, but there were issues. Since the motor is tilted towards the exhaust side, it leaves little room to route headers upwards without hacking into the passenger-side strut tower. So we took the idea from our very own Project 951 and decided to mount the turbo on the intake side instead, something that even today-well over a year after completion-is seen on probably less than a dozen E36 M3s throughout the world.
There are disadvantages to doing this, however. Firstly, there's much more piping going from the header to the turbo than on a more conventional turbo kit with a log manifold. Second, because any decent sized turbo will not fit between the driver side strut tower and the stock M3 intake manifold, a new manifold must be fabricated. Third, the relocated downpipe cannot be greater than three inches in diameter in order to clear the steering rod and transmission housing (but three inches will suffice for up to 600 wheel-hp and you could also step up to 3.5 inches after the transmission). Fourth, the power steering reservoir needs to be relocated. Fifth, the stock radiator hose will not fit because of the intake pipe. Lastly, a very hot turbo sits inches from intake manifold.
Heat would appear to be a fatal issue here. However the Auto Meter intake manifold air temperature gauge, as well as the factory air temp sensor monitored by the AEM EMS, does not see more than 10 degrees F over ambient air temps-which is about as good as it gets. In fact, a rip to nearly 160mph on a 72-degree F day peaked an 84-degree F intake air temp.
How is this possible? First, the underhood temp increases were kept at bay by sending all header-to-turbo piping and downpipe to Swain Tech Coatings for its White Lightning thermal coating. This alone has been good for a 300 to 400-degree F reduction in radiated heat coming from the pipes, as noticed by my pyrometer gun. Keeping the heat inside the pre-turbo piping aids turbo response too.
Additionally, a sizeable order was placed to Thermo Tec for its new Generation II copper header wraps, which can withstand a continuous 2000 degrees F. The Swain Tech and Thermo Tec combo works so well it's retained an unmelted zip-tie around a power steering line, a simple plastic band sitting an inch from a turbo up-pipe with scorching internals. Thermo Tec also sells Thermo sleeves in a variety of sizes, which were used on the various rubber lines.