This is the second Optima battery I've used. The first unit came from our studio, where it sat for more than a year powering various head units for a car stereo magazine. I stuffed it in the M3 and was shocked when the car started instantly. How it retained a charge for so long is remarkable. I guess that's why Optima is so big with the custom car audio crowd. Optima batteries are fairly compact, can be placed in any orientation (including upside down), have great charge retention and plenty of cold cranking amps.

Featuring patented Spiralcell technology, these batteries are highly resistant to vibration-induced failure and their coil configuration maintains a charge for nearly twice as long as a standard battery. They are available in two flavors: Red Top for standard/off-road duty and Yellow Top for extreme/audio duty. Although both models offer superior performance, Ben Oh at sister publication Car Audio and Electronics recommended the Yellow Top. Dimension-wise, Optima units are typically smaller than OE batteries and include mounting brackets for all sorts of fancy installs.

The rear-mounted M3 battery tray provided more than enough room for the Optima unit and it's a shame the battery is totally hidden, as its smart looks match its performance. In any case, it's a good feeling knowing your car has a strong, reliable power source, no matter where it's located.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I tend to favor a more relaxed ride quality. I don't mind a car that leans through the corners, provided the suspension continues to do its job. Given the Koni adjustable shocks (dialed to the softest setting), the M3 was moving just a little too much during aggressive driving, specifically track use. To counter the lean, I used Eibach's larger anti-roll bars and polyurethane bushings, a system that has left me very happy.

Although many adhere to the idea that all suspension tuning should come via the shocks and struts (typically a European convention), stiffer anti-roll bars can be an effective tuning tool as well. For my needs, I was able to retain the M3's compliant ride quality yet reduce chassis movement. The Eibach kit features 28mm/35mm front/rear bars powder-coated with a handsome red finish. The rear bar features two settings and allows for more neutral behavior or more tendency toward oversteer.

Under full cornering load, the M3's lean was considerably reduced and I've noticed its high speed straight-line tracking to be exceptional, better than before. The Eibach stuff works well, which probably explains why so many OEs (more than you'd think) use them.

Although I have a nice garage, it's chock full of 'stuff' that seems to serve no purpose other than to annoy me. Eliminating it would mean going to war with the wife, and I'm not going there-not now, anyway. I got the next best thing, a gorgeous custom car cover from Covercraft. Made from WeatherShield fabric, Covercraft did a special two-tone job for me, a light gray center flanked by brilliant blue side panels. There is a huge selection of pre-cut covers and the company can custom-sew covers for modified cars.

You can combine black, red, yellow, bright blue, green, light blue, taupe or gray into your choice of color scheme. The WeatherShield fabric possesses seemingly magical abilities to repel dirt, dust and moisture while still being able to breathe. Unfortunately, it doesn't repel cats. Certain neighborhood felines have begun using it as a scratching post (I'm talking to you, Rod). Paintball guns are handy in such situations, and their water-based paint just falls from the material.

Another bonus.

Next issue, we will feature fellow editor Jason Mulroney's M3. He's taken a decidedly different tack and dug deep into the Vorsteiner parts bin. Given the gorgeous results, we may do the same.

Magnaflow Covercraft
Optima Eibach
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