Turbo 402bhp M54B30 engined 2000 BMW 330Ci E46/2

Turbo 402bhp M54B30 engined 2000 BMW 330Ci E46/2

Boost junkie Full-on 402hp turbo M54 E46 Coupé. Making a healthy 400hp from its turbocharged M54, this E46 Coupé packs in some serious upgrades, and they combine to make this a serious performance package.

Words: Elizabeth de Latour

Photos: Andy Starkey


Awesome turbocharged 3 Series

Before BMW joined the turbo ranks with its E92 335i back in 2006, if you wanted turbo power in your BM it was very much a case of DIY, and that’s exactly what Kevin Dawson (@boostedm54b30) has done. “I have always been interested in BMWs since I was a kid, I have always said I will own my dream BMW one day, an E30 M Tech 2,” he tells us as we chat. And it quickly becomes clear that he’s a big 3 Series fan as we move on to his first BM. “I had just turned 21, and I saw a K-reg Hell red E36 325i Coupé sitting on five-spoke Fondmetal alloys on the local forecourt, I had to pull in to see it! I ended up trading my rather lacking Mk7 Ford Escort Estate in for it that day!” he grins, and that was a fine introduction to BMW ownership.

Turbo 402bhp M54B30 engined 2000 BMW 330Ci E46/2

You might, therefore, assume that his purchase of this E46 was a logical one based on moving through the model range, but it wasn’t quite like that… “I have always wanted an E46 Coupé, and when I pushed my Astra H 1.9/150 a little too far with the tuning box, I needed a car quickly, and this BMW was the only one I could find in my price range,” he chuckles. Perhaps the reason for the purchase was less than ideal, but it was a car that he’d always been keen on, though if circumstances were a little different we wager he wouldn’t have bought this particular car…

Turbo 402bhp M54B30 engined 2000 BMW 330Ci E46/2

“Searching Autotrader it was in a backstreet garage in Manchester advertised as ‘very good condition’ which turned out to be no service history, oil like treacle and a paint job with an aerosol!” he grimaces. “As I was still a panel beater at the time, working in body shops meant that rectifying all the previous bodged filler work and paint wasn’t a big task and a full strip-down and respray in Jaguar Ultimate Black was soon carried out. In the shade, it looks just like the original Carbon black, but the red, green and blue metallic flake in Ultimate Black pops in the sunlight, which has confused many a BMW enthusiast!” he grins. Kevin is clearly no stranger to modding, considering it was his adventures with his Astra that led him to this E46 purchase, and previous more successful projects have included a supercharged Citroen Saxo VTR and a stage one Nissan Pulsar GTi-R. He’d also already had a taste for boost, so it was no surprise that he ended up taking his E46 in that direction.

Turbo 402bhp M54B30 engined 2000 BMW 330Ci E46/2

“I loved the car, I loved how it looked, how it sounded, and it is comfy for a big guy like me, but 195hp just wasn’t doing it, so the turbo project was born,” he grins. “On stripping the M54B25 motor, it was quickly apparent that bodgery was present here too. Whoever had previously fitted a new clutch had left the top two bell housing bolts out, pulling the threads on the centre bolts and cracking the block. Although this could have been repaired, it was a good excuse to upgrade to the M54B30 unit, and the B25 is now a table in my storage unit,” he laughs.

Turbo 402bhp M54B30 engined 2000 BMW 330Ci E46/2

“After sourcing a complete and running 330i, the engine sounded sweet, but removing some of the bearing caps revealed a different story, and the complete block and head went to CMA Engine Builders in Chester for a complete tolerance check and rebuild. This included a ground and balanced crank, ACL Race bearings, new rings with a wider gap, a Hopwood modified oil pump, ARP bolts, Hopwood decompression plate, deck and head skim and a completely rebuilt head with the ICV ports plugged, ready to accept the much simpler M52 inlet manifold,” he explains.

Turbo 402bhp M54B30 engined 2000 BMW 330Ci E46/2

“Once the engine was back and dropped in the bay, coupled to a five-speed ZF gearbox via a Hopwood single-piece lightweight flywheel and heavy-duty singleplate clutch, we began to mock-up the Hopwood top-mount exhaust manifold, Synapse 50mm wastegate and the Holset HX35 Turbo. As I wanted to retain the factory AC, the wastegate positioning was crucial to clear the pump,” says Kevin. “A lot of head-scratching and a few weeks later, the 3” downpipe was fabricated and coupled to the custom 3” stainless exhaust with 200-cell sports cat and Simon’s back-box.

“No matter what pipe run or FMIC we tried, we could not get it to fit without losing the factory HID headlamps, so the water-to-air chargecooler idea was born,” he continues. “Initial designs were way undersized, leading to dangerously high charge temps, so with a lot of fabrication work, we shoehorned the biggest off-the-shelf cooler in its place, resulting in much safer charge temperatures. I used the M52 inlet manifold to simplify things, plus deleted the DISA valve and idle control valve. The smaller straighter runners of the M52 would, to my understanding, have greater air speed at lower rpm, giving greater off-boost torque and less lag as opposed to the more common wider M50.

It was very much an experiment which seems to have paid off without choking the engine at full boost,” he says, and this is a very impressive engine build. The amount of work that has gone into this turbo motor is something else, and we love the fact that Kevin has paid attention to the details and hasn’t just thrown a turbo at the engine. He wanted to keep the AC, so he worked out how to make that happen, and the same goes for retaining the xenon headlights. And all that work has absolutely paid off, because not only has he ended up with a build that he’s truly happy with, but he’s also got 402hp to enjoy, and that’s a very healthy figure.

Naturally, with that much power to play with, this E46’s chassis has been treated to a selection of enhancements that ensure that it’s not overwhelmed. “The inferior coilovers were ditched for some BC Racing coilovers,” he begins, but there’s far more here than just a set of uprated coilovers. “The complete back end was swapped out for the beefier 330i set up to handle the extra horses, along with the 330i reconditioned brakes, HEL brake lines, Brembo drilled and grooved discs and EBC Redstuff pads,” says Kevin. “All the aluminium suspension components were vapour-blasted and ceramic coated, and all steel parts, including the subframes, were shot-blasted and powder coated, while all the bushes were swapped out for Powerflex ones. The steering column bushes were replaced with solid ones, and the M3 anti-roll bar finished the front, while Hardrace adjustable camber arms and Kewfab toe plates finished the rear before being aligned by The Car Clinic MOT Centre on their Hunter system to my spec.” That’s what you call a comprehensive chassis upgrade, and Kevin has put some real work into making sure that his E46 really handles, and can handle all that power as well.

In terms of aesthetics, Kevin has kept things relatively subtle, and while it’s clear that this is no stock E46, it’s certainly not outlandish. “I like subtlety, I don’t want big body kits or wings,” he says. “The Sport kit fits the car as it was designed, with some small changes, such as the facelift rear smoked light conversion, smoked front lenses, projector fog lamps, anodised twin tailpipes and an aftermarket boot spoiler.” These small changes make a big difference in terms of the car’s visual impact, and they are further aided by the bonnet vents and the PSDesigns driver’s-side headlamp cold-air intake. The wheels, meanwhile, were purchased when Kevin’s cash flow wasn’t at its peak, but the Bola B1 18s look good and suit the build, and his risky move of fitting Japanese-style wheels to a BM paid off. With aggressive arch-filling fitment aided by a set of front and rear spacers, Kevin is very pleased and has no intention of changing them.

Finally, we head inside, where things are – at first glance – relatively subtle, but there are a lot of details to drink in, here. “As this is still my daily driver comfortable seats are a must, which the original Sport seats were, but when I was offered a full set of tatty M3 seats, I couldn’t refuse,” smiles Kevin. “After being restored in dark grey, they matched the rather fine Royal Steering Wheels dark grey steering wheel with green stitching, along with my green-stitched gaiters,” and these green elements tie in perfectly with the flashes around the rest of the car. “The gauge pods I didn’t want to be stuck in a vent, so a twin-pod mount was moulded into the dashboard for the AEM fuel/air and boost gauges, and a single mount was moulded into the panel in front of the sunroof for the dual SPA oil pressure/temp gauges. Then the dash and other interior components took a trip to Autoflock Motorsport in Mold, North Wales, to be professionally flocked “I’ve always wanted a rear roll-cage in the car, not so much for safety as it’s not a track weapon, more for aesthetics,” Kevin grins. “Kewfab in Ellesmere Port custom-built me a rear bolt-in cage with welded-in feet and harness bar, and to finish the interior was the umbrella stand… A samurai-like stand for the M Performance umbrella to comfortably sit on in the now-unused rear headrest holes. The umbrella is the only car part my girlfriend has ever bought me or is ever likely to buy me!” laughs Kevin. It’s a neat and unique finishing touch to what is an already impressive interior. The additions look good, and there’s so much attention to detail here. Kevin has really made the effort to get everything just the way he wants it, just like he has done everywhere else on this build, and it’s that which sets this car apart.

This is a seriously impressive build, one that’s overflowing with individual touches, and it’s no surprise that Kevin has put so much into it when he’s been working on it for almost a decade. “I have owned the car for just over nine years. Although the bodywork started on day one, the suspension and turbo conversion has been fabricated over the past three years,” he says, and he’s really poured so much of himself into this E46 over that time. “My favourite mod,” he muses after we put the question to him, “would have to be the PSDesigns road short-shifter, its so precise and direct!” although it won’t be around for that much longer… “An eight-speed auto ’box conversion with paddle shift may be making an appearance next year, along with a subframe reinforcement kit (no cracks, yet!) and carbon GTR-style bonnet,” he says. Despite how far this E46 has already come, it’s clear that Kevin’s still got some pretty serious plans in mind for it. There’s plenty of time for them to come to fruition, though, as this 3 Series is going nowhere. “There won’t ever be a car to replace this,” smiles Kevin, and with so much time and passion invested in this build, we’re not at all surprised.

intake 18” Bola B1. everywhere you look PSDesigns carbon Headlight. Wheels.

The inferior coilovers were ditched for some BC Racing coilovers. The complete back end was swapped out for the beefier 330i set up to handle the extra horses” Green details are

I loved the car, I loved how it looked, how it sounded, and it is comfy for a big guy like me, but 195hp just wasn’t doing it, so the turbo project was born

Chargecooler has allowed the HIDs to be retained. Holset HX35 with heat shield. Carbon plaque is a neat touch. BC coilovers with adjustable dampers and top mounts.


  • ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION M54B30 block and head, rebuilt, standard pistons with wider ring gap, ACL race bearings, reground crank, ARP bolts, decompression plate, Hopwood oil pump and timing gear, rebuilt double-VANOS, Elring gasket set, M52 inlet manifold with ICV delete, custom water-to-air chargecooler, charge pipes and heat shields, 650cc Bosch injectors, Sytec fuel pressure regulator and filter, Nuke billet aluminium fuel rail, AEM high-capacity fuel pump, Mishimoto radiator, Evans Waterless Coolant, Roose Motorsport coolant hoses, Holset HX35 T3 flange twin-scroll turbo with 12cm exhaust housing and oil return welded into timing cover, Synapse 50mm wastegate with 10 psi spring, Nuke blow-off valve, single O2 sensor, manual chargecooler radiator fan control, custom 3” stainless exhaust with 200-cell sports cat and single back-box, DEI exhaust wrap and turbo hot-side blanket, Fuchs Titan Race Pro S 5W40 oil, NGK BKR7E plugs, Turbo-Guard mesh screen, MS43 remapped ECU with MAF-MAP sensor conversion, under-bonnet wiring harness delete, smoothed and painted engine bay
  • POWER 402bhp @ 10.5 psi
  • TRANSMISSION ZF five-speed manual gearbox, Hopwood singlepiece lightweight flywheel and heavy-duty singleplate clutch, modified clutch fork, PSDesigns road series short-shifter
  • CHASSIS 8.5x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) Bola B1 wheels, 12mm (front) and 15mm (rear) spacers, PSDesigns titanium stud/nut conversion, Yokohama AD08R tyres, 330i rear end and propshaft all fully reconditioned, powder coated, fitted with Powerflex poly bushes, standard reconditioned 330i differential, remapped DSC, BC Racing BR Series coilovers, M3 front antiroll bar, solid steering column bushes, Hardrace rear camber arms, Kewfab rear toe plates, 330i brake conversion, fully reconditioned, Brembo drilled and grooved discs, EBC Redstuff pads, HEL brake lines
  • EXTERIOR Body fully restored and repainted in Jaguar Ultimate Black, all star lines sharpened, 5mm wider and rolled rear arches, custom bonnet vent, PSDesigns headlight cold air intake, smoked indicator lenses, smoked facelift rear light conversion, aftermarket boot spoiler
  • INTERIOR Royal Steering Wheels retrimmed steering wheel and gaiters with green stitching, reconditioned M3 seats, Kewfab rear cage with harness bar, custom umbrella mount, custom gauge pods, AEM wideband AFR gauge, AEM boost gauge and SPA oil pressure/temp gauge, flocked dashboard, carbon trim panels
  • THANKS Big thanks to IntimateDetail.co.uk, Hopwood Motorsport, TurboZentrum UK, Autoflock Motorsport, Gary Jones Metal Art, CMA Chester, Custom Surface Finishing, PSDesigns, Kewfab, JWAutowerks, Anderson’s Accident Repair, Demon Tweeks, Mike’s Autobody, The Car Clinic MOT Centre, MAG Automovers, Royal Steering Wheels, and ‘Brian

When I was offered a full set of tatty M3 seats, I couldn’t refuse. After being restored in dark grey, they matched the rather fine Royal Steering Wheels dark grey steering wheel with green stitching, along with my green-stitched gaiters”

PSDesigns road series short-shift.Retrimmed steering wheel and flocked dash. Custom-mounted AEM boost and AFR gauges Roof-mounted oil temp and pressure gauge.

This E46 has been resprayed in Jaguar Ultimate Black, and it looks seriously mean.

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