The search for an early E46 M3......

The search for an early E46 M3......

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BSSBMW

Original Poster:

567 posts

116 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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To me the E46 generation three series was a high point and will be remembered fondly by many in years to come much like the E30 is and that isn't just the M3 variants.

Having owned quite a few E46's over the last 15 years including various six cylinder petrol models, Alpina B3's and a few M3's I felt it was the time to find one to keep long term. With CSL's becoming very expensive now purchasing one would mean having to sell one or two of my other cars and as that was out of the question thoughts turned to finding an interesting "normal" M3.....







When the E46 M3 was revealed in 2000 and the press started to get their hands on them the reception on the whole were rave reviews some of which I remember reading about at the time, some of the magazines I still own!

https://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?h=0&...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hC7d1kQzDg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYqCVgVdq3I&t=...

Pheonix yellow was used at the launch colour to unveil the car at the 2000 Geneva motorshow as well as being used for the brochures and advertising material at the time so the idea of finding a very early manual coupe in the launch colour was decided on and with some research into the early days of RHD E46 M3 production I found that BMW built a run of 25 RHD pre production models built in batches in March, August, October and November of 2000 before RHD series production started in February 2001 which all have the option code, S991A Control pre series and a few of them S906A Fotofahrzeug (photo car).
The first 13 RHD series production cars built all had option code S902A General special inspection which are cars prepared for press use by BMW and some of these cars can be found in various UK magazines and media of the time.
The appeal of a pre production or press car was very high but with limited numbers made and only a handful of them in Pheonix it was a near impossible task although I did track down the 7th RHD E46 M3 ever built which is Pheonix yellow (which I suspect to be the car used the 2000 British motor show at the Birmingham NEC) and now resides in Southern Ireland.

The next best thing would be to find as early series production car as possible so that meant a February built manual coupe, many of which were used as dealer launch cars to be used for the model introduction in the showrooms throughout the UK.

I put the feelers out and wanted ads all over the place for a pre facelift manual coupe and after viewing what can only be described as a car requiring a full restoration yet the vendor asking good money for it I did consider it as it ticked a few boxes, a Feb 2001 built Y reg Pheonix manual coupe with a few decent options but I came to my senses as I didn't really want to get involved in a major restoration so walked.

A week later a pall of mine sent me a link to an ad on FB market place that I hadn't spotted for a Pheonix manual coupe and after doing some checks it was an even older car (by about 10 cars) than the rough one so another Feb 2001 built car!
After getting in contact with the owner a day was arranged to go and view and a deal was done so another mate who came with me drove it back to his before I could collect it the next day.







Built 26th Feb 2001 Spec of the car is as follows,

0210 Dynamic stability control
0249 Multifunction f steering wheel
0302 Alarm system
0313 Fold-in outside mirror
0354 Windscreen, green-tinted upper strip
0403 Glass roof, electrical
0415 Sun-blind, rear
0428 Warning triangle and first aid kit
0431 Interior mirror with automatic-dip
0434 Interior surface aluminium
0441 Smoker package
0459 Seat adjustment, electric, with memory
0470 Isofix-System
0473 Armrest front
0490 Adjustment, seat-backrest width
0495 3-point belt & head restr'nt,rear middle
0502 Headlight cleaning system
0508 Park Distance Control (PDC)
0520 Fog lights
0521 Rain sensor
0522 Xenon Light
0534 Automatic air conditioning
0550 On-board computer
0609 Navigation system Professional
0632 Preparation BMW Handy (Motorola)
0692 Preparation, BMW 6-CD changer I-bus
0710 M Sports steering wheel, multifunction
0760 High gloss shadow line
0775 Headlining anthracite
0785 White direction indicator lights
0812 National version Great Britain
0832 Battery in luggage compartment
0850 Dummy-SALAPA
0853 Language version, English
0863 Dealer List Europe
0877 Omission of non-combined operation



The 196th built RHD E46 M3 coupe, (RHD E46 M3 VIN sequence starts with 00000 not 00001) it was registered by Howarth BMW (now Williams) of Rochdale on the 15th March 2001 as a dealer own use model so one of the cars used at the UK wide launch in March that year.

As fait would have it, Jeff Heywood former chairman of the BMWCC who has been writing the articles on my E39 M5 touring build in Straight six magazine actually remembers seeing this very car in Howarths showroom back then as his father bought a new 330Ci SE at the time of the M3 launch!

So 20 years and 70k miles later he we have it! It's in pretty good condition overall but has picked up a few minor changes along the way including a change to the optional 19" forged style 67 wheels, some window tints and different lights all easily reversible. Plans so far are to get it back to looking how it was when it was at Howarths BMW in 2001 so back onto 18" Style 67's, original lights etc and make it a nice as I can.

Carlososos

976 posts

99 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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Very nice. The best colour for these as well.

The Rotrex Kid

30,863 posts

163 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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Great looking car. Phoenix yellow looks superb on these.

helix402

7,913 posts

185 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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Looks good. Agree it will look better with smoked indicators in the bin and on 18s.

mwstewart

7,771 posts

191 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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That is an early car. It would have come with the pre-Bi-Xenon headlamps. which are no doubt very hard to find now.

One of my M3s was Phoenix yellow. Very unique.

Gooly

965 posts

151 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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Lovely. Always wanted a very early car, ended up with a facelift silver-grey instead. Do you have any scans of the contemporary magazine reviews? I've tried finding launch review issues on ebay but no luck so far. Once you've done the rest of it, some retro font plates on the original Y-plate would finish that off nicely!

Networkgeek

413 posts

36 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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Awesome M3, OP.

I must say, I've never heard of anyone wanting a pre-facelift of any car. Every car I've ever owned and also my friends, have always been a facelift and the latest / youngest example. I can't quite see your logic, but the car looks superb.


Mr.Jimbo

2,082 posts

186 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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I too am a bit surprised by the pre-facelift desire, for example a previous owner of my M3 went to the trouble of fitting a post-facelift boot just to make it appear like a facelift (having already fitted LEDs) - mine is a March 2002 car in LSB.

Looks a tidy example though, trust you're au fait with the big ticket items on these already?

They're great cars. Haven't driven mine for nearly 2 years due to Corona and being stuck out of the country, can't wait for Spring next year to get it out again.

Koolkat969

988 posts

102 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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Networkgeek said:
Awesome M3, OP.

I must say, I've never heard of anyone wanting a pre-facelift of any car. Every car I've ever owned and also my friends, have always been a facelift and the latest / youngest example. I can't quite see your logic, but the car looks superb.
I had an E46 330Ci and i specifically sought to buy the pre-facelift as i hated the headlamps of the facelift. They seemed to soften the look which i didn't like. Didn't like the side repeaters either and preferred the former.

Shnozz

27,729 posts

274 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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Networkgeek said:
I must say, I've never heard of anyone wanting a pre-facelift of any car. Every car I've ever owned and also my friends, have always been a facelift and the latest / youngest example. I can't quite see your logic, but the car looks superb.
Really? For any classic its often the case the original early cars are the most sought after.

Nelka

241 posts

107 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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Superb work - still looks absolutely spot on

Mr.Jimbo

2,082 posts

186 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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Koolkat969 said:
I had an E46 330Ci and i specifically sought to buy the pre-facelift as i hated the headlamps of the facelift. They seemed to soften the look which i didn't like. Didn't like the side repeaters either and preferred the former.
That's the point though, it was quite a change for the non-M E46s but the E46 M3, in actual fact had very little change, as they didn't want to re-tool the wider front wings.

Do agree though, I remember Dad had a facelift 3.0Si E46 coupe, it was cool at the time, but we both now massively prefer the pre-facelift shape front my M3 has. I remember the pre-facelifts being considered quite old-hat when that new facelifted version came out.

To really put my anorak on, you could have a pre-pre facelift E46 with the angled headlights, rather than round cut-outs, but they were very early and saloon only I seem to recall?

BSSBMW

Original Poster:

567 posts

116 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
quotequote all
Carlososos said:
Very nice. The best colour for these as well.
The Rotrex Kid said:
Great looking car. Phoenix yellow looks superb on these.
helix402 said:
Looks good. Agree it will look better with smoked indicators in the bin and on 18s.
When these were current cars I was never a fan of PY to be honest but as they have aged I feel the colour suits the shape and almost has a retro feel to it in the same way Dakar yellow does on an E36 M3.

Smoked indicators will be in the bin by the weekend and 18's are in the pipeline!

BSSBMW

Original Poster:

567 posts

116 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
quotequote all
mwstewart said:
That is an early car. It would have come with the pre-Bi-Xenon headlamps. which are no doubt very hard to find now.

One of my M3s was Phoenix yellow. Very unique.
Yep, it had none of the 9/01 build date revisions so non Bi xenons, non automatic headlight switch and 4:3 narrow screen sat nav!

Someone has changed the LCM to to the later automatic headlight switch and replaced the factory nav with an Xtrons unit but both are going back to the originals.

BSSBMW

Original Poster:

567 posts

116 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
quotequote all
Gooly said:
Lovely. Always wanted a very early car, ended up with a facelift silver-grey instead. Do you have any scans of the contemporary magazine reviews? I've tried finding launch review issues on ebay but no luck so far. Once you've done the rest of it, some retro font plates on the original Y-plate would finish that off nicely!
I haven't scanned any of the mags I have but can list the ones I do have with dates/issues etc if you like?

BSSBMW

Original Poster:

567 posts

116 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
quotequote all
Networkgeek said:
Awesome M3, OP.

I must say, I've never heard of anyone wanting a pre-facelift of any car. Every car I've ever owned and also my friends, have always been a facelift and the latest / youngest example. I can't quite see your logic, but the car looks superb.
Mr.Jimbo said:
I too am a bit surprised by the pre-facelift desire, for example a previous owner of my M3 went to the trouble of fitting a post-facelift boot just to make it appear like a facelift (having already fitted LEDs) - mine is a March 2002 car in LSB.

Looks a tidy example though, trust you're au fait with the big ticket items on these already?

They're great cars. Haven't driven mine for nearly 2 years due to Corona and being stuck out of the country, can't wait for Spring next year to get it out again.
I didn't set out to specifically find any old prefacelift E46 M3, a 2002 built car for example wasn't even on the radar. I had to be a Feb 2001 built car or a rare 2000 built pre production car as I wanted to find a car that had some provenance of being used for the launch of the car as they are approaching classic status now the oldest are 20 years old.

As others have said, the facelift on the E46 M3 was so minor being just the boot lid, rear lights and a few details such as the HVAC panel and choice of standard colours.

As for big ticket items, yes I'm au fait with all of them.

Trophy Husband

3,924 posts

110 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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Fab motor!
To those poo pooing non-facelift models?
Face-lifts are done purely as marketing to draw in new buyers. Not because they are better?

therusterman

127 posts

122 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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What's your plans with this one? A light resto or have you got something else brewing? I saw a BMW dealer on eBay was selling the 18s at about £200 a corner brand new, unfortunately can't find them anymore.

BSSBMW

Original Poster:

567 posts

116 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
quotequote all
therusterman said:
What's your plans with this one? A light resto or have you got something else brewing? I saw a BMW dealer on eBay was selling the 18s at about £200 a corner brand new, unfortunately can't find them anymore.
Plans are to get it back to how it was when delivered new so lose all the non standard bits, back on 18's, period correct font Y reg plates, narrow screen nav and Motorola V50 in the centre console!

The car doesn't warrant a full blown resto and is very presentable for a 20 year old E46 but there are a few bits that need nipping in the bud plus I will be tackling an RACP repair which will no doubt include some underside restoration work at the same time.

With 70k miles it drives great and still feels tight for one of these, easily as good as my first one did, an 05 plate manual coupe I bought in 2012 with 72k that I daily drove putting 20k on in just under 20 year before selling on.

Court_S

13,580 posts

180 months

Wednesday 27th October 2021
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That’s lovely OP. I love Phoenix Yellow, it suits the E46 and is quite an iconic colour for them. I know it’s probably one period but it sits really well on the 19’s.

Looking forward to more updates.