E46 330Ci Project Car
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E46 330Ci Project Car

Last Update: 1-24-2018

The '01-'05 E46 330i and '01'-'06 330Ci may be the most undervalued performance cars on the market. When they debuted in 2001, they came equipped with what many would call "more than ample" power for a daily driver, with 225hp (or 235hp, if yours had the ZHP Performance Package). This put the 330i/330Ci in a similar power range as the preceding E36 chassis M3 model. Add to that some very capable brakes that also rivaled the E36 M3 in both size and function, a refined and well-balanced handling package and a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, and you have yourself a fun and spirited street (and track) machine. 

Fast-forward more than a decade, and there are many 330i and 330Ci models seeing lots of daily driving or track duty. This is a testament to the original engineering, build quality, and (in many cases) the care and maintenance their BMW enthusiast owners put into them. 

It's no wonder the fastest growing group of BMW racers right now are using the E46 330 as their platform. Spec E46 is the hottest new road racing class, based on the E46 chassis, that is geared towards vehicle consistency, reasonable costs and ease of entry to highly competitive on-track racing. The E46 330 offers the perfect starting package, and Spec E46 has seen a surge in entrants over the last few years, all racing 2001-2006 BMW 330i and 330Ci models. While SpecE46 shows what these can do as racecars, some of the same upgrades the racers use (and BimmerWorld makes/supplies) can be applied to their street counterparts to achieve similarly strong results on track while still preserving the street manners. 

Some More Loved than Others....

Because it is so easy (and common) to drive an E46 daily, there are some that show their age more than others. Rather than pick up the most pristine and low mileage example out there, we'd pick one that had served it's previous owners well, but was now showing it's years. The expression "rode hard and put away wet" comes to mind for many 330 models for sale today. The example we chose to buy was hardly the worst out there, but definitely fits into the "needs some TLC" category. We believe this 2004 330Ci is a perfect candidate for a Street Car Project and transformation.

Because of the wide range of mileage and condition found on these cars, it's not uncommon to score a running and driving one for as little as $1000-$3000 on an online classified ad or in a front yard in Anytown, America. A little negotiating certainly helps!

The Delivery

Here's a very "honest" gallery, showing the exact condition we received our Project E46 330Ci in. We took this orphan as it was: dirty and "well-loved" in the sense that it was driven for over 12 years. With 186,000 Miles showing on the odometer, we believe there is still plenty of life ahead for this 330Ci.

Project E46 330Ci Photo Gallery - A Dirty Delivery Day

The Transformation

Everyone loves a good transformation. Whether it's a rags to riches story, or a person's personal fitness journey, it's pretty safe to say we all love seeing a dramatic "before and after" result. It's amazing what a little effort and the right changes can bring. The same is true for the E46, and we hope with this recent acquisition of our 2004 330Ci Project Car, we inspire others to embark in similar journeys.

Sneak Peak: New Sneaks! - 18" TA16 Forged Wheels

Austin to the Rescue!

It's not uncommon for projects to get side tracked or take on new forms and such is the case with our 330ci. During 2017 we came up with other projects to do and this car went to the back burner. So when an enthusiastic fresh employee expressed interest in buying the car and continuing its journey we had to do what was best for the car. Austin works in our warehouse and was already a diehard Bimmernut when he joined us in 2017 - he was daily driving a vintage 2002! So the Project LCI 330ci lives on under new management and we'll continue to document Austin's improvements as they happen.

New Goals
Our plans from the beginning were not to build a club racer or even a dedicated track car. We've done that already. We simply wanted to rescue it and give it some much-needed care. Austin saw an opportunity to "move up" from his 2002 daily driver and learn a few things along the way. He came up with a list of things the car needed right away: clutch, shifter rebuild, tires (might as well do wheels too), and more general maintenance. Austin had his own goals in mind too. While used 90% of the time on the street and commuting he wanted to do 5-8 track events a year with the car so everything he does has to have higher levels of performance and durability in mind.

Clutch Masters FX300 Clutch Upgrade
The clutch was slipping when we bought the car so out went the transmission, the old clutch, and the flywheel. Austin chose a Clutch Masters FX300 kit that uses a Kevlar disc and HD pressure plate with a JB Racing aluminum flywheel. While common for track cars the FX300 is a bit overkill for the street. We don't get to the FX300 unless the car is making over 300hp and used primarily for autocross or driving school events. Kevlar can be tricky to use in daily traffic - it does not like to be slipped and has a reputation for grabby engagement. Austin says it's not the on/off switch that some people describe but it requires attention to be smooth. A 500 mile break-in is essential to make it easier to live with. Austin can confirm the Clutch Masters pressure plate gives an OE-like feel with easy pedal effort. While Austin has some track days in mind most of his driving will be daily commuting and weekend fun runs in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The JB flywheel is a common upgrade to almost any BMW, especially if track days are planned. Ditching the factory dual-mass saves a lot of weight and removes a common failure item. The JB flywheels are much simpler, cheaper, rebuildable, and improve performance. He also installed a new pilot bearing and throw-out bearing.

Shifter Rebuild & BimmerWorld Race Shifter
Any clutch replacement has a lot of "while you're in there" parts and the shifter rebuild is always on the list. With the transmission out it's the perfect time to replace the small bushings and joints that make up the shift linkage. Austin also chose to install the BimmerWorld Race Shifter at the same time after previously using a weighted ZHP knob on the stock shifter. Again, it's not something that we typically recommend for daily use but it does offer a number of advantages over common short shifters and other full race shifters. The BimmerWorld shifter is solidly mounted to the transmission tunnel on top of the car. Gone is the aluminum shifter carrier and plastic bushing of the stock linkage. This alone tightens up the shifting by eliminating the source of most play in the shifter. Instead of the white nylon cup the Race Shifter uses a spherical bearing so there is no binding wasted motion. It also doesn't have the springs and tensioners that must be set and reset or may fall out of position. Austin likes the extra height, which puts the 'Little Nicky' shift knob closer to the steering wheel.

New Wheels & Tires
One of the most disappointing areas on the car were the wheels. It came with the stock M Double Spoke Style 68 wheels found on many E46s. But these were stained with years of brake dust with many dings and scratches. They were in a really sorry state. New BimmerWorld TA16 forged wheels completely transformed the looks and gave the car fresh energy. It's amazing what a new set of wheels will do to liven up a tired car. Our TA16 fitment for the E46 is an 18x9.0" with an ET42 offset and Austin chose Gloss Black. The black is a fantastic complement to the Silver Grey Metallic body color and gives a purposeful and "all-business" image. The offset is aggressive on the front but not quite low enough on the rear so Austin installed 12mm wheel spacers to get a flush fitment. Tires are Continental ExtremeContact 245/40-18. 17" wheels are also available but the 18s fill out the wheel well better.

M3 Front Bumper on LCI E46

We sourced a Euro-spec E46 M3 front bumper for Austin to replace the stock LCI Coupe bumper. Austin feels the M3 bumper matches the rest of the car's profile and details and we have to agree. A nice bonus of the Euro bumper is that it doesn't have the ugly reflectors. The LCI bumper seems busy and fussy with "fangs" for foglight openings. Austin could have chosen a ZHP bumper for a purist Original look but most will agree the M3 look is the best. Because the M3 was never offered as an LCI the bumper is not a perfect fit. There are gaps around the headlight trim and the undertray no longer lines up. But those are smaller details that don't detract from calling the M3 bumper fitment a huge improvement. Matte black kidney grilles remove the last of any shiny bits left on the exterior. We don't see many LCI M3s and that's a shame.

KW V3 Coil Overs & Ground Control Camber Plates
The shocks on this car were leaking when we got it and we figured the rear shock mounts were also on the eve of destruction. There is no shortage of coil overs or spring/shock packages to choose from but KW is always an easy choice. Austin chose the Variant 3, or V3, that has separate adjustments for compression and rebound in addition to the height adjustment. Coil overs let the owner set the ride height exactly where he/she wants it and gives you the option to corner-balance the car. The wide range of damping adjustment means Austin can tailor the ride and handling for the street, winding road, or for various race tracks. He says the car rides amazing but may be a bit too soft so uprated 60mm springs may be in the future (but only after he gets a few track days under his belt). The V3 is a nice advanced coil over kit with few drawbacks and gives you an intermediate step before jumping into a true motorsport-level MCS suspension. The Ground Control front camber plates give Austin more setup choices for front camber and caster. Both alignment settings are upset by lowering the car and he can set them back to stock settings or add more negative camber for the track (which helps reduce understeer).


There's more to come! Bookmark this page, or better yet, subscribe to our Email Newsletter now and we'll send you periodic updates on our BimmerWorld Project Car transformations.

Planned Products to be Used:


BimmerWorld TE:AL TA16 Forged Race Wheel - 18"

T6061 forged aluminum wheel - light, strong, durable, and perfect for track or race use

Price: $579.99 – $649.99

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Clutch Masters FX300 Clutch/Steel Flywheel Kit - E46 330i 6MT 3/03+, E60 525i/530i

Segmented Kevlar friction disc has more grip and less pedal pressure than other HD clutches.

Price: $1,134.00

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BimmerWorld Solid Race Shifter - E30, E36, E46, E9X, E82, Z3, Z4

Race-proven, solid-mounted shifter for direct feel and precise shifting

Price: $324.99

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Red Line D6 ATF Transmission Fluid, Quart

Premium GL-4 Dexron VI ATF for 5-, 6-, and 8-speed automatic transmissions - smooth, quick, consistent shifting

Price: $16.97

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BimmerWorld BMW Pedal Set - Manual Transmission

Machined aluminum pedal covers for superior control and more tactile driving experience

Price: $129.00 – $139.00

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BimmerWorld "Junior Puck" Clutch Stop

Oversized, extended-length clutch stop for faster shifting with standard, performance and race clutches

Price: $19.99

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Genuine BMW E46 M3 Euro Front Bumper Cover - 2002-2006 - 51117894989

Same as the US bumper, but without the (ugly) reflector holes, Genuine BMW # 51117894989

Price: $743.97

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KW Coil Over Kit, Variant 3 (V3) - E46 323i/325i/328i/330i

Double-adjustable dampers plus height adjustment for high-performance street or track driving

Price: $2,594.00

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Ground Control Hybrid Camber/Caster Plates - E46 3 Series

Adjust front camber and/or caster - spherical bearings with rubber mounts for reduced harshness

Price: $493.99

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Rear Shock Mount (RSM), Ground Control - E30, E36, E46, Z3, Z4

Recommended for tuned suspensions for better shock control and more longevity

Price: $107.99

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Red Line 5W40 High Performance Engine Oil, Quart

Premium high performance 5W40 equivalent to BMW LL-98 and LL-01 standards

Price: $16.97

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Oil Filter Kit, Mann - E36, E39, E60, X3, X5, Z3, Z4, M52, M52TU, M54

OEM oil filter ensures the best filtration and service life

Price: $6.99

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8" BimmerWorld New Logo Decal, Silver Die-Cut

2 FREE with your order - subtle and classy for your street car

Price:  Free!

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OPTIMA 35 REDTOP Battery - 31.7 LBS

Save 10-25 lbs with this advanced high-performance AGM battery for your BMW

Price: $269.99

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Bosch Premium Oil Filter Kit - E36, E39, X3, X5, Z3, Z4, M52, M52TU, M54

A Premium Bosch oil filter and seal rings for M52/M54 6 cylinder ensures the best filtration and service life

Price: $6.99

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BimmerWorld E46 Rear Subframe/Chassis Reinforcement Kit (Expanded)

Solves a problem that plagues the E46 3-series - latest design has more coverage!

Price: $139.99

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Red Line D6 ATF Transmission Fluid, Case, (12 quarts)

Premium GL-4 Dexron VI ATF for 5-, 6-, and 8-speed automatic transmissions - smooth, quick, consistent shifting

★ July Sale! Price includes 10% OFF if bought today. ★

Price: $187.99

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Rear Vent Window Gasket - Left - E46 Coupe

Genuine BMW # 51368194741

Price: $82.97

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Rear Vent Window Gasket - Right - E46 Coupe

Genuine BMW # 51368194742

Price: $74.97

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Engine Splash Panel - E46 323ci 325i 325ci 328ci 330i 330ci

Genuine BMW # 51718268344

Price: $138.24

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