Maybe you've noticed that cars are suddenly much more affordable. More succinctly, great cars that would have cost a second mortgage just a couple years ago can now be traded for a cup of coffee and a bagel. And you may even have come to the same conclusion we have-that of these suddenly affordable cars, the E46 M3 has to be the no-brainer buy of the decade. But while most are aware that the M3 represents one of the best deals going for both daily transportation and a weekend or two at the track, few would guess that it's cheap enough for the average guy to hack apart and build into a dedicated racecar. With prices solidly in the teens, we're officially doing just that.
We've even got a famous accomplice to foot the bill, in the form of skateboarding's Rune Glifberg, winner of the 2008 X Games Super Park gold medal and more first- place finishes than you can count. The fact that you can be him on the Tony Hawk video game of your choice is perhaps more of a testament than anything else. But rest assured that though Glifberg is a celebrity, we won't be installing any headrest TVs, 15-inch subwoofers, or hella-tite chrome dubs. On the contrary; the M3 is his fifth M car, and it's with a casual air that he mentions having tracked all but one-an exceedingly rare E34 M5 Touring (one of 891 built). And having owned the vaunted E30 M3, he's certifiable by default.
Project E46 Racecar came to fruition when Glifberg found this pristine 2003 M3 for $21,500 with 65,000 miles. The price included Ground Control coil-over springs and shocks with adjustable camber plates, an AFE intake, a RET Sport exhaust, and Brembo brakes on all four wheels. Other than these bits, the car remained stock for the 20 minutes it took to drive home. Glifberg immediately stripped out the interior and promptly sold it online for about $2,000, which lowers our "price paid" to about $19,500. As this is written, the car takes up temporary residence at Evosport in Huntington Beach, Calif., where it will undergo the transformation from streetable to full-fledged track machine. The guys at Evosport have been building and racing the E46 M3 since 2001, and if the long line of custom M3s stationed out back is any indication, our little project is in capable hands.
Fanatic though he may be, Glifberg's still modest about his ability on the racetrack, and is hoping to better his skills with help from Evosport. You read that right-the same company building the car from ground up is going to teach our skateboard stig how to go fast, thanks to an arrive-and-drive racing program in which Evosport trains aspiring stars during company-hosted track days and provides the support they need come race time.
There's a lot coming, of course, but for now Evosport is finishing the interior strip job. They'll gut every semblance of luxury, entertainment or comfort from the car, leaving it hundreds of pounds lighter and a lot more capable. The sunroof-equipped OEM roof will be carefully removed and replaced with a carbon-fiber panel, further shaving valuable pounds where they count the most. Finally, the M3 will receive an eight-point roll cage, incorporating shock towers both front and rear to create real rigidity on the track.