- BMW had never officially made an M3 wagon until its newest G8X generation, leaving a nearly 40-year void amongst enthusiasts.
- The E92 M3 GTS was a 150-unit, European-only special that boasted a 4.4-liter V8 engine, Fire Orange paint, unique aero, and a near 200mph top speed.
- This build represented the most ambitious Pit+Paddock “halo car” portfolio car to date: taking all of the 4th generation V8-powered M3’s special traits inside and out, including its S65 4.0-liter engine, and shoehorning it all into an unsuspecting 3-series station wagon (chassis code E91) of the same vintage.
- The car will be assembled by Precision Sport Industries (PSI) in Oviedo, FL — a BMW-focused specialty shop dedicated to Bavaria’s legacy and the modern enthusiasts that aim to improve upon the factory recipe.
You always want what you can’t have. To this day, BMW E36 owners in the United States fondly subscribe to the age-old formula — “lightweights, clears, and a drop” — since stateside DOT standards mandated amber corner lights at the time. But it’s equally common to see owners from other parts of the globe seek out the US-spec ambers, too. It’s always been a quest to do something different from the owner down the street with the same car. Despite these regional differences, there’s one void that BMW had generously given to every Roundel enthusiast around the world: the absence of a true M3 wagon.
Indeed, the introduction of the G8X — BMW M’s latest 3-series generation — has changed that for the first time. But there were still two problems: 1.) the G81 M3 Touring wouldn’t be sold in the United States and 2.) it didn’t address the nearly 40-year void that an M3 wagon’s absence created beforehand.
Pit+Paddock and Presenting Partner, Bilstein, sought to change that for stateside enthusiasts. Indeed, creating an M3 wagon from BMW’s expansive archive isn’t a new idea, but ours would be crucially different in its details. We’d narrow our sights on BMW’s fourth-generation 3-series, the E9X family, as our canvas for the build. The platform sat on an important pivot point: it was new enough to retain modern creature comforts and enthusiast fanfare, but old enough to exude a crucially analog driving personality. Pictured next to its M3 sedan brethren, the E90 (sedan) and E91 (wagon) are clearly from the same bloodline, but with marked differences that make the M variant stand out.
If the setting looks familiar, it should. The shop that would be helping us execute our vision is Precision Sport Industries (PSI), a well-known BMW maintenance, repair, and modification shop based in Oviedo, Florida. It built its glowing reputation in the aftermarket community on its judicious commitment to quality and care. That focus on care led to PSI’s recommendation to source these two cars for the swap. The E90 M3 would primarily serve as the drivetrain donor while the E91 328i would become the proud recipient of the M3’s beefier powerplant and body as well as all of the best aftermarket components the industry had to offer for the build.
TWO CARS, ONE BENCHMARK
Having two running and driving donors helps with one very important thing: completeness. “Both the wagon and M3 have components unique to their platform and [having both] offers us a complete electrical/mechanical and bodywork library to pull from,” said Sean Myers, owner of PSI. “Combining harnesses, interior and exterior components allows a seamless combination of the two cars without cutting corners or having to modify OEM components.” Indeed, the goal here was to fashion an “OEM” E91 M3, precisely how BMW would build the car.
The E9X M3: The E9X chassis had three main chassis configurations, the E92 coupe, the E93 convertible, and the E90 sedan. Each model was offered in DCT and manual configurations and boasted the first (and presumably last) 4.0-liter, naturally-aspirated V8 engine in any M3. We chose the E90 because the sedan bears the most similarities with the E91’s body and platform. The donor E90 M3 we acquired is a DCT example with 160K miles, a black full leather interior, and aluminum trim. It had a few mods, but red flags — like exterior or mechanical issues — were crucially absent.
The E91 328i: The E91 wasn’t the most popular member of the E9X family, especially since the stateside examples only offered the naturally aspirated, inline-six engines. But as wagons have experienced a big uptick in popularity, the E91 has become a cult classic in BMW enthusiast circles. The donor E91 we acquired was a low mileage 67k example which was completely unmodified and well stored since new. The pristine condition of the body was key to ensuring we started with the best possible base.
The E92 M3 GTS: One of the limited, RoW (rest of world) models that BMW produced was the M3 GTS. This 150-unit special was based on the E92 coupe platform and utilized a special 4.4-liter S65 engine, Fire Orange exterior paint color, unique adjustable aerodynamics, a specially tuned DCT transmission, adjustable coilovers, and larger Brembo brakes. The combination of rarity and factory upgrades made this the pinnacle model of the E9X family and a fitting benchmark for our build.
E91 M3 GTS TRIBUTE
The car that we’re trying to create is ambitious because the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute is effectively two simultaneous projects. The first is everything we’ve talked about so far: converting an E91 328i into an M3, leveraging PSI’s nuanced knowledge of the marque, its expertise in maintaining and modifying BMWs, and understanding the unique underpinnings of the E9X platforms. PSI has already begun disassembly on both cars in anticipation of the most tedious portion of the build next: fabrication.
The second is amassing strategic partners from the aftermarket industry to modify the vehicle to its maximum potential. Bilstein, an iconic name that’s been tied to BMW for decades, became the integral Presenting Partner of the build. Top-tier manufacturers Akrapovic, MOTUL, and StopTech have attached their gracious support for the project, as well as aspirational brands like BBS, Carbahn, CSF, Eventuri, Future Classic, Michelin, SPL Parts, Supreme Power, and Turn 14 Distribution, who all contribute valuable components and services to this effort.
The totality of this support means that we have an immense amount of gratitude to extend to everyone involved. And with it, an incredible weight to bear to ensure this ambitious project gets to the finish line at SEMA 2023. There, on the main stage of the industry’s biggest trade show of the year, the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute will make its debut in Turn 14 Distribution’s main booth, adorned in the aftermarket’s best.
As that date ticks closer, we’re excited to peel back the layers and show exactly how we build the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to follow along.