Wide-body BMW 325Ci E46

Wide-body BMW 325Ci E46

It takes an extraordinary sense of vision to fuse outrageous wide-body styling with a sober OEM shade of grey. But then, we do live in extraordinary times… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Chuff@wellchuffedmedia.

Wild wide-arch E46 325Ci


Life has been a bit weird recently, hasn’t it? Unless you’ve had the superlative good fortune to have been hiding in a cave on Mars for the last 18 months or so, with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears, you’ll be irritatingly wellversed in the manner in which modern life is being described as ‘unprecedented’ to some really quite unprecedented levels. However, there are some positives that we’ve been able to draw from the colossal crapshow that the Covid era has ushered in, and a significant one of those is the premium quality of the project cars being built. With nothing to do through 2020 and beyond, a generation of hardcore modifiers hunkered down in their garages and set about building the cars they’d always dreamed of. With Joe Exotic and Joe Wicks being the only minor distractions, this was a period of pure focus. And as the peeping sunbeams of vaccinations and revised practicalities began to cast some much-needed light on reality through the summer of 2021, a number of really quite astonishing cars began to appear on the scene.

Wide-body BMW 325Ci E46

The E46 you see here acts as a neat bookend to all the lockdowns, its complementary spiritual sibling appearing in these pages in late 2019. Cast your mind back to the time before the term ‘coronavirus’ was anywhere in the mainstream lexicon, and you may recall an E36 Convertible, artfully finished in VW Denim Blue, with M3 styling and bagged over BBS RFs. A very cool thing indeed, spirited from the imagination of a visionary. Someone with a keen eye for what works and how things should be. And that person, Phil Moore (@philly_e46), has been a busy boy since then. As the dark clouds of lockdown started to fog the horizon, he rolled up his sleeves and set about building the wide-body E46 he’d always longed for.

“The E36 was actually my first BMW,” he says. “I bought the convertible over the coupé as I wasn’t super interested in building a fast car, but more a comfortable summer cruiser. How the tables have turned, that I ditched the E36 for an E46 coupé! However, I’m still not hugely fussed about its power as I have an F80 M3 as a daily driver for that, and when I get to drive the show car I like to cruise.

“I knew from the start that I wanted to build a Pandem E46,” Phil continues. “Ever since I first saw one I loved the idea of having one myself. I knew the owner of this car, its history and how much he cared for it, so I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to be buying an absolute beater. Very fortunately for me the price I bought this for was too good to turn down, as it came already fitted with Air Lift suspension.”

With a perfect project base acquired, Phil was keen to get stuck in as soon as possible. It was arguably too tidy a car to cut up, although we’re hardly at the point where the purists would cast a bit of side-eye for crimes against E46 325Cis, and this fella had the whole thing mapped out in his head. It had to go wide-body, and naturally, there are knock-on effects of such chicanery and shenanigans – wheel specs, colour choice, accessorising… all of which was bubbling away nicely in Phil’s imagination.

“It was a great start that the car came with Air Lift bags and 3P management, as that’s what I would have chosen anyway so it was a big thing to tick off the list,” he says. “Almost immediately, I ordered the Pandem kit and also bagged myself a set of Recaro CS Sportster seats with carbon bases and airbag covers. It was then off to The Drop Shop, who I had worked with before on the E36; Frank did an amazing job there cutting apart the body, re-welding arches and fitting and painting the widebody kit.” The stock BMW colour was retained, with the kit colour-matched to the BMW Sparkling Graphite grey, and this gives the car a magnificently melontwisting fusion of ostentatiousness and subtlety. It’s in-your-face, yet sneaky.

Frank then sourced a set of BBS RS 16s, which Phil despatched to Dan at Wheel Unique for the full-on custom treatment. The finish of the wheels is supremely detailed, with the RS 16s being stepped up to 18” in staggered widths (10.5”-wide at the front, a meaty 12.5” out back), and they’re packing custom bubble lips as well as centres that are powder-coated in metallic silver with a smoked clear coat, genuine BBS Design Line caps, polished hex centres, polished hardware, and polished valve caps. It’s fair to say that Phil’s into his wheels – and he’s also a details man. The brief he gave to Dan mirrors the obsession with detail found throughout the build.

“The wheels were a very spur-of-the-moment thing that have probably turned out to be one of my favourite modifications,” Phil grins. “Frank had them on an S14 he was building, but he’d decided to go down a different route, and after a test-fit, he offered them to me. I’m so glad I took up the offer! I was literally in the process of haggling with a guy in Norway over some Work VS-XX wheels as we tested the BBSs. Dan at Wheel Unique did a top job refinishing them, and I think the Design Line caps finish them off nicely.”

With the E46 sitting pretty over its new rolling stock, the mods started snowballing. A custom exhaust system was crafted, with the quad tails perfectly fitting the rear diffuser, and a set of facelift OEM LED rear lights were found to replace the aftermarket items the car came with.

Carbon fibre side skirt extensions were added, along with a custom roll-cage, all manner of audio upgrades, oodles of carbon trim pieces… once the inertia of the makeover took hold, there seemed to be no stopping it. Well, until the virus reared its spiky little head.

“I always had the vision of this car being quite stealthy, with keeping the original Sparkling Graphite grey colour,” Phil muses. “I wanted it to look mean, but not too wild like a drift car or anything – I was keen for it to be a very clean build. Frank at The Drop Shop was a huge help, with the time and hard work put into lining everything up, cutting the shell and painting the kit. There were a few problems with colour matches to begin with, but that and a few fibreglass issues were the only hiccups along the way. With the Pandem kit having so many angles, you’d look at the car from one angle, and it’d look a few different colours! You’d then move slightly, and it would match nicely. So we had a few things to figure out as we went. It actually only took a couple of months to build the car, as I had ordered most of the parts in advance, knowing how I wanted it to look… however, the most annoying thing was that the car was finished literally the day before Heaven on Wheels in Belgium got cancelled due to Covid, and we all know how the rest of 2020 went.”

Phil is an intrepid sort of character though, and he doesn’t allow hurdles and setbacks to derail his sense of focus. With an obsessive eye for detail, he set about ensuring that the specs were just right throughout the build; the suspension, for example, has been augmented by camber-adjustable top mounts up front and adjustable camber arms on the rear, along with custom-made rear toe plates and Powerflex rear bump stops. The interior is equally smart, its OEM+ feel achieved by the addition of a 7” Dynavin head unit, and black leather trim to the Recaros to complement the original feel. The additional carbon could have been options-list stuff in a parallel dimension, and the bespoke gaiters and armrest trim are very in keeping with the BMW ethos. Everything has been carefully considered throughout and beautifully executed.

“The initial build took about two months I think, maybe three,” Phil says, “but it’s a never-ending project, I’m always changing little things here and there.” Indeed, if you’ve spotted the car at any of the more recent shows, you’ll have noticed that it’s now been painted in Mazda Soul Red. It’s modding fever, you see, and there definitely isn’t a vaccine for that. “I’d love to chuck something like an LS V8 or 2JZ in it, that would just make it wild,” he laughs.

“However, I reckon if I did that, then I’d always want to build cars to be fast and loud, and I’m happy at the moment to cruise around.” If modern life has taught us anything, it’s that life’s too short for what-ifs and maybes. We wager Phil will be making bigger plans before too long; weird times require weird behaviour, and if this is what it looks like, then we’re all-in.

DATA FILE Wide-body BMW 325Ci E46

  • ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six M54B25, K&N panel filter, custom exhaust system with quad tips. ZF five-speed manual gearbox
  • CHASSIS 10.5x18” (front) and 12.5x18” (rear) stepped-up BBS RS 16s with custom bubble lips, centres powder coated in metallic silver with smoked clear coat, genuine BBS Design Line caps, polished hex centres, polished hardware, polished valve caps, 245/30 (front) and 275/35 (rear) Bridgestone Potenza tyres, Air Lift Performance suspension with 3P management, Air Lift adjustable top mounts, fully adjustable rear camber arms, custom-made rear toe adjustment plates, poly bushed front and rear arms
  • EXTERIOR BMW Sparkling Graphite grey paint, Rocket Bunny Pandem wide-body kit, Rocket Bunny ducktail spoiler, M3 CS-style front bumper with carbon fibre spoiler, carbon M3-style rear diffuser, carbon side skirt extensions, E46 M3 mirrors, facelift LED rear lights, projector lens headlights with LED bulb upgrade
  • INTERIOR Recaro Sportster CS seats trimmed in black Nappa leather, custom steering wheel, carbon airbag covers, handles and bases, half-cage powder coated matt black, carbon handbrake handle and dash trims, retrimmed gaiters and armrest with M tricolour stitching, M Sport gear knob, Dynavin 7”-screen head unit with sat-nav and Bluetooth, upgraded door speakers
  • THANKS Thanks to Frankie Wright at The Drop Shop for the unbelievable hard work on the Pandem kit: cutting, welding, fitting and painting. Thanks also to Dan at Wheel Unique for the flawless job on the wheels, Kiran Halsey, Joel and all the guys at Busted Knuckle Customs for the amazing work on the respray after this shoot, Jack at Motion Fabrication, and Josh at JJ Detailing for always making sure the car looked spotless for any show or meet it actually got to go to during 2020 and the start of 2021

Massive arches swallow the 12.5”-wide rears Rocket Bunny spoiler Rear-mounted cage powder coated matt black. The sheer width of the Pandem kit is something else Stepped-up BBS RSs with bubble lips Single air tank setup Custom sculpted steering wheel Recaro Sportster CS seats trimmed in black Nappa leather Custom-mounted Air Lift controller.

Almost immediately, I ordered the Pandem kit… It was then off to The Drop Shop, who I had worked with before on the E36; Frank did an amazing job there cutting apart the body, re-welding arches and fitting and painting the wide-body kit”

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