M3… What’s the first thought that pops into your head when hearing this? Performance, benchmark, handling, out-right raw power, drag racing, speed?
A simple letter and number that is highly renowned in the automotive world, so much so that if you haven’t heard the phrase you’re probably brain dead or from another planet. It’s one of those cars that make you do a double take in a parking lot when passing one, the one that makes your eyes wonder and try to pin point where the high pitch roar of its motor is coming from, yes, we all know that sound. It’s the car that gets people in a frenzy at drag meets, and I bet everyone has a tale or two of the legendary M3 from the Bavaria stable.
More recently a sort of trend started to peek its head out all around the globe of guys taking these high spec rides to unimaginable levels, not only in performance but in customization and now stance. Show-stopping bimmers popped up more and more on social media, blogs, forums and the internet literally exploded with BMW content. From unheard-of motor swops, once off body kits, aggressive wheel and tyre combos and jaw dropping lows.
So with the trend gathering momentum at the southern tip of Africa and the BMW guys getting into the stance scene of things, a chap by the name of Mark Labuschagne also thought he’d test the waters in the stance scene with his grey, quad piped E46 M3. But instead of just dipping a toe, he dove right in.
The old saying about “You can tell a lot from a man by the type of car he drives” already gave me a clear indication of who and what Mark is all about, even though I never once set eyes on the guy nor spoke to him. Three things just clicked; 1 – Mark is into speed, 2 – Mark has a distinct taste on looks when it comes to his cars, and 3 – He doesn’t like to compromise, if he does something on his ride it must equally perform its duty as intended.
With a car like the M3 and its incredible handling characteristics, Mark wasn’t about to lose all that performance from the suspension just to be low and good looking on the streets or at shows, no, Mark set out to retain all that goodness and a little more. A no compromise approach and mentality lead him to hit up the folks at Air Spring Supply Company where a setup was discussed and what he ended up with has to be one of the most awesome kits available from Airlift: the Airlift Performance Series.
Quality and performance was right at the top of Mark’s list when he decided on this specific bolt-in kit. Quality wise I don’t think you can fault the kit, just looking at it with its anodized camber plates, threaded mono tubes and shiny bits, you can just tell it’s a serious piece of equipment specifically designed for the E46. On the performance side, the kit sounds more like a track orientated suspension but in air suspension guise. Honestly I think Airlift over-engineered its performance series as I just could not fathom an air suspension capable of all these settings and tweaks when I read the spec sheet…30 level adjustable damping, threaded adjustable lower strut mounts, proprietary bolt-in camber plates, high performance monotube struts and the list goes on. All the misconceptions of “you can’t track a car on airbags” yada-yada put to rest in an off the shelf, straight-fit kit.
So after Air Spring Supply Company acquired Mark’s equipment (in speedy fashion I might add), the last thing on his to-do list was to get everything installed. Now I don’t even have to introduce these guys anymore, they’ve been mentioned in almost all our features when it comes to suspension work, hell, we’ve even featured one of their cars a while back. Euro-worx pumps out some of the hottest cars in Slam City and surrounding areas and it was time for them to step up again.
Mark’s requirements were clear; a stealth install and it had to perform as intended. Being a straight bolt-in kit saw a quick turn-around time with regards to installation, and by the look of things in the video, these guys had a fun time installing everything. After all the shenanigans it was time to step back, pressurize the tank, hit the switches and admire their handiwork.
I just love how the M3 fenders are capable of gobbling up wheels and tyres, it’s like the guys over in Germany intentionally widen them to accommodate more radical wheel options, but in this case a more toned-down sporty, yet aggressive OEM look from the 19x8j front and 19×9.5j rear BMW Competition Package wheels wrapped in 235x35x19 Kendra Kaizer tyres suit the car really well. But by the time you’re reading this, these wheels are surely in storage, because Mark mentioned something about 4 boxes waiting at customs up in JHB that he can’t wait to get his hands on…but that’s none of my business.
When reflecting on this feature I realized something, here we have an M3 with a stigma attached to it for being out-right brutal on the streets, performance focused in a track environment and now a big shot frame layer in the stance movement; the trinity has been achieved.
Words and Photos: Cheslyn Bellairs
Video: Duane Baatjes