So, the E46 M3. Hailed as a modern classic in the making, combining old-school thrills with newer technology to making one tempting package for many! Combined with its excellent practicality this can be a gift and a curse? How I hear you ask? Let me explain.
It’s funny. There you are sticking to your guns about being sensible about your spend on your car. Yet somehow you go all weak and succumb to that ‘For sale’ sign? Who was that mug? Yours truly.
There I was at the Wonderful Bicester Heritage this weekend enjoying the sights at the Sunday Scramble. The only budget I bargained for that day was for buying overpriced coffees and meals. This would soon change upon stepping into the wonderful Historit Building, and boy, was it a great place to see what they do, even if everything was under covers! It’s lovely seeing a number of F40s etc. under the covers, even if one or two of them had the odd flat tyre!
So what caught my attention there? That’s easy. A set of E46 M3 wheels but in 18″ guise, asking to look for a bloke called Ferg. Well, I did that and saw the wheels! Before I knew it I was haggling said Ferg hard! Before I knew it, I agreed a deal for a set of wheels with money I didn’t really have and with wheels I don’t really have a use for!
But then people do say M3s do handle best on 18s with much-improved ride comfort. Of course, there is only one way for me to find out. Drive the car.
Looks, however, can be subjective. Just look at those 19s:
So do I have a plan for those 18s? In short, yes.
I plan to drive about of them briefly over the summer to see if they are for me. Seeing as my 19s are on fresh Michelin Pilot Sport 4S and 4s I am expecting a drop in grip. However, you never know, I may well stick with these and with time, change the tyres. They can always become a set of rims for track tyres like the Federal 595RSR or AD08R. But of course, I may just think the 19s are worth sticking with! We shall see.
Talk me out of the madness! It’s about time someone did! What did someone say about “If it ain’t broke…”?
Car shows? You either love them or you hate them. There are those people out there who simply cannot get enough from seeing the same cars again and again. They almost wish that time was frozen and that a classic car show could be their sanctuary. In stark contrast, there are others who detest them. They detest the people who go to them, seeing what seems like a stagnation on an annual basis, and also feeling robbed after spending a good chunk of cash on not only on entry, but also sundries, like car parking, and of course, inevitably, food, drink and whatever catches the eye!
The Footman James Classic Car show I am glad to say is always a little different! Sure, it’s full of new tech, some old tech, and some recycled but it’s always interesting to see what is out there. This time, there was certainly something there for everyone, and to the chagrin of the old guard, some new blood in the mix.
This would be different for me for another reason. Camera. Over the years I’ve been using trusty SLRs, starting off with a Nikon D70s with an 18-200 VR-II lens, before moving onto another Nikon. This time a D7000, again with an 18-200 VR-II lens, but also a 35mm Prime. The latter I got due to the bulk of the 18-200, but also after I careless damaged the lens after 10 years of faithful service. So I went to using my smartphone for images. Honestly, I was kidding myself that this was fine! I also never liked the bulk of an SLR, but I loved the flexibility and quality! OK, maybe not the flexibility or lack of rather, with a 35mm prime. In a small show, the lens’ use is great, but limits. Seeing all of this talk of leftfield cameras in the form of mirrorless items, this would be an opportunity to try the new boy in my collection. This would be in the form of a Sony A6000, shod with a 16-50mm lens. Would I like the camera, would I hate it? Well, I’ll let the images do the talking.
Off I went into the NEC, with the new camera. It was nice not worrying about what I was going to hit. Immediately upon entry, I saw an MG restoration stand, with it showing plenty of stuff, from an original MGB GT V8, in addition to a coveted Costello V8 conversion:
MGB GT V8
But what was next? Engines of course! But not what you expected. Sure, you had what have become bread-and-butter engines in the British Restomod scene, like the arcetypical Ford Duratec HE engines, but you also had the Duratec derived 2.3 Ecoboost engines! If 320BHP for £7000 sounds like your bag for a turn key engine, then the fabulous ATR stand was certainly worth a look! This would be one of the first hints of things going modern here!
But maybe this is going too modern for some folk out there! Fear not, salvation came in the form of the great Austin Healey stand, which didn’t just have mint condition cars adorning the stand thankfully:
Torn down Austin Healey
What did you have however where increasingly popular barn-finds in addition to lovely Mercs, like this lovely 300SL:
What was a welcome addition was the Jenson Interceptor Six Pack or SP to others. It’s lovely seeing a bit of Mopar on a British Brute!
Check out that 6 pack!
A badge that says it all
If British tin didn’t take your fancy there was a large influx of French material. Alot was very much of the Hydropneumatic variety, with some of these cars being later than what some people would deem acceptable. One was a super rare BX GTi 16 valve. Yes, a rare BX that hadn’t given its heart to a 309 GTI or a 205! There was also new blood in the form of a 306 Rallye. Too new or just right on age, you have to admit; it’s been quite some time since most of us have seen one:
Love these things
But maybe this was all a little fragile to some people or ‘French’! Fear not. The Teutonic beauty of the German cars was out in full Force. The BMW owners club focused on the best cars from each 3 series generation, while the Audis looked stunning on their stand:
If BMWs were not your thing from the German side of things, that was fine. After all, Porsche was celebrating 70 years of making Sports cars. Naturally, the stand was the typical Porsche stand that had been attending the NEC for years:
When I say usual, I mean a clean cut and professional stand. Did I forget to mention that their stand took up an entire corner and wall within one of the halls?
Here in their large display, they showcased the newcomers like the 911 996s, the Boxsters, the front-engined brethren within the group, all in Zermatt Silver and tidily displayed, as you’d expect from them. That’s not to say Porsche were forgetting their roots. Oh no. Amongst cars being in other colours besides Silver, a slice of their foundation was shown in the form of a tractor:
That’s not to say the British cars were not lacking limelight mind you. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Classic made an appearance, this time showcasing their parts they could offer to Joe Public? This included showcasing a set of 212mph ready tyre set for your XJ220 at a cool £6000; what did I say about the pricey rubber for my M3? Furthermore, their own JLR Single DIN sat-nav to adorn the inside of any older Jaguar or Land Rover.
However, despite the modest display from JLR Classic, signaling a sign of the times of the company, this would not be something the MG Car Club would do. Oh no! Not only was their stand alot larger than JLR’s efforts, but so was the expanse of cars. On one hand, you had superb cars like a Frontline developed MGB Roadster, complete with Rover K Series Power:
Meanwhile, a few steps away was a very interesting effort. At first, it looked like an MGA with its bonnet and grille up. Strange! This car did prove that not all was as it seemed:
But what’s this? A charging port? It can’t be! But that engine doesn’t seem quite right either:
OK, I’ve been holding out on you folks. This, ladies and gentlemen, was showcasing a Finnish outfit’s efforts, Retro EV, about how they saw another chapter in MGA development. A world far away from electronic ignition or even engine swaps. No. This was far more of a transplant! There will undoubtedly be many muttering that this is sacrilege and that allowing it the show is terrible, a crime worse than letting in newer Porsches! A lover or hater of electric classics, you have to admit, the quality of the workmanship looks superb on first glance. But this would not be the only outfit giving electric power a go. Again, this would be another MG, this time an MGB Roadster:
This time, RBW showed their vision of a zero-emission classic car. Gone were the classic Smiths dials present within every MG, and in came a very modern looking display. Again, it was a clean cut effort.
One does begin to wonder about where some of the older JLR products were, like the TWR XJS or some of the Le Mans winners, or even their much publicised Jaguar E-Type Zero! Seeing an OEM’s product against aftermarket retailers would have been an interesting comparison!
Whatever your thoughts, there was no doubt that this show was a great one for a change. There was plenty of material present for the purists, but also with a hint of technology showing the changing times we live in.
Sometimes you have to admire the method in one’s madness! That is to buy a non-roadworthy car, get it roadworthy, all while trying to deal with a restoration become more of a body conversion! But there was method to my madness for 2 key reasons. The first was I was now using the Chromie as temporary daily transport, after selling my then Peugeot 306 GTi-6 after deeming that too pricey to run; funny really! It also helped my motivation in tackling the massive project the Sebring had now become! Another reason? Thanks to seeing a complete car I now had a vague idea of where the fixings went, as opposed to being sent the ‘right’ screws, only to find out they were wrong, and seeing what the restorers had broken when I first got the car back; the bolts went back into boxes without any marking which really cut my work out!
The first thing to do with the Sebring was to refit the Britax sunroof. Because all of the screws were now just an assortment this made life tricky for reaffixing the canvas lid. I only had one screw left! After trying my local screws place they didn’t know either; the threads weren’t the best on this! Eventually, I got hold of a Britax roof specialist who saved me a lot of trouble by sending out the right nuts. Now I had a car that was closer to being watertight!
Maybe the door isn’t there eh?
Not quite. It really did fit terribly!
No, it still doesn’t look much better. Don’t try and squint.
It was however never going to be watertight with the door I acquired years ago! Everyone said it was down to the wing fitment, despite the previous door fitting perfectly. In the end I would source another door as a result of much fettling with the poor door. With the original item bolted up and the reskinned item removed I now had a door that looked like it belonged to the Sebring! Except it was Pageant Blue!
I also took the opportunity to replace my shot bootlid for the much more solid item, and treated it to new seals all round. With the windscreen fitted in thanks to some parachute cord and helpful friends it was look great for the car! It was time to celebrate! This I did by buying a tired Moto-Lita steering wheel and polishing it until it looked sound once more. Fitted in the car it finally started to show more promise!
This would admittedly slow a little when I checked the brake pipe to Spax damper conversion clearance on full lock. Finding the supplied Spax damper brake pipes in my assortment would soon cure this issue, where I also took the opportunity to change the rear flexible hose to a braided item, so as to compliment the front end.
But all good things would soon come to a stop. Over a year after I started working on the Sebring again the upper arm decided the remains of the bolt would become at one with the arm! This really was a pain! I resorted to heat, whacking it with hammers and punches to no avail. My sister remembers the hammering sounds! Eventually it would take a lot of heat and a puller to remove the remains of the bolt! Hallelujah! Finally the car was on all 4 weeks again!
Another issue I had put off was the welding on the car. With my welding supplies from Halfords and an overly dark fixed darkness welding mask it didn’t start well at all! I could not get a consistent feed from the welder! Annoying! Thankfully, a retro rider by the name of Grunty would come down, condemn my welding equipment as rubbish, have me fix my old welding gear before he would begin! Suddenly the car became very solid!
Now I had other issues. The car wanted tuning up badly! The issue was the ignition advance was stuck at 10 degrees throughout the rev range! To add insult to injury it wasn’t moving freely in the engine either for adjustment or removal! With some brute force I soon had the dizzy removed. A short while later, and the car was running well once more. Or so I thought
It was then time to put the car through an MOT. Despite it randomly now puffing out blue smoke and not seeing an MOT for over 10 years how would it all go?