The Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 Takes On Crucial GTS Characteristics En Route to SEMA Debut

Photography: Dan Levins

  • The Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 M3 GTS benchmarks the range-topping E92 M3 GTS’s performance but with the practicality of the E91 wagon’s form factor.
  • Our SEMA 2023 project leverages the best of the aftermarket industry, a well-known BMW build partner in Precision Sport Industries (PSI), and a nuanced knowledge of BMW M’s lineage.
  • This round of changes marks a turning point in the build where some of the M3 GTS’s characteristics become evident inside and out.

To change the stories that are told, sometimes it’s necessary to tell a new one yourself. That’s been a crucial motivation behind our ambitious Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS project: a Fire Orange 4.6-liter M3-powered wagon that will make its triumphant debut on the SEMA showroom floor this year.

If you’ve been following along with the build so far, a lot has been fabricated to make the E91 M3 body conversion look and feel like a factory effort. And that groundwork, however unseen, will help adequately set the stage for all of the upgrades. Two pivotal items — the full Fire Orange respray and stroker motor I mentioned earlier — mark our first legitimate round of modifications. Once finished, the E91 will start taking on some of the crucial GTS traits that make this build special.


Our unwavering commitment to creating a finished product that could’ve rolled off the production line required us to approach the paint process with a different level of scrutiny. To ensure every detail was considered, we borrowed a Fire Orange E90 M3 from The Studio Cars — one of five factory examples — for an accurate reference. Before any paint was mixed, every attribute was noted, from the matte gloss clear used in the engine bay to the exact amount of OEM orange peel.

Once the E91 and the reference E90 M3 were at the paint shop, we got cracking. Each piece of glass was carefully removed and every panel gap or lingering dent was inspected to make sure that every flaw would be repaired along the way. To ensure the Fire Orange hue would pop adequately, all of the OEM paint was meticulously stripped from front to back. This work ensured the base and color coats would be applied directly to bare metal. Before we laid down any color, we took our time to epoxy prime and block sand each panel. It was crazy to see the car at this stage — it was like being back at BMW’s design lab looking at every expertly sculpted body line — where every artistic detail or muscular budge could be admired. 


Although painting an entire car would be easier if the process was split into multiple working days, it wouldn’t guarantee the OE level of uniformity that we were after. As a result, we laid down each color coat on every panel in the same booth, on the same day, and under the same conditions. 

Three generous coats of clear were laid down last. Once everything was adequately cured, sanded, and properly finished, our (now) Fire Orange E91 headed back to PSI. Seeing the car come off the trailer, gleaming in the sweltering Florida sun, the sacrifice was worth it. The car looked absolutely incredible.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the S65 that we pulled out of our donor M3 arrived at Carbahn — the BMW icon Steve Dinan’s newest venture — where it would transform from a 4.0-liter engine into a 4.6-liter monster. Dinan and his team would leverage decades of motorsport success, especially as an engine builder and supplier, to create turn-key solutions like ours for street and track-destined cars alike.

The CarBahn Autoworks S65 4.6-liter stroked and bored engine kit includes oversized forged CP Carrillo pistons, a forged crankshaft with increased stroke, and high-strength forged Carrillo connecting rods. The bore is increased to 94mm and the stroke is increased to 83mm. In addition, common S65 failure points are addressed with Clevite-Dinan racing rod bearings and CarBahn Autoworks valve springs. The result is an engine that should produce a healthy 516 horsepower and nearly 400 lb-ft of torque, which is well beyond our E92 M3 GTS’s benchmark.


There’s been so much anticipation for the build to hit this milestone. The color change and receipt of the new engine mark a huge turning point for the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute. The excitement has only been building ever since and we can’t wait to show you what’s coming next. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with the progress.