Growing up, we all had that one older relative we looked up to. Maybe they would show up late to holiday gatherings with a new girl — or maybe they wouldn’t show up at all.
Your parents probably told you that they’re the irresponsible one, but you still considered them the coolest person on the planet. And a big part of your perception of this person’s identity was caught up in the car they drove. In Nick Sunseri’s case this relative was his uncle, and the car was a BMW M3.
Ever since Nick could drive he’s included fast cars in his life; sometimes as weekend cruisers, other times as his daily drivers. But when he found this particular E46 M3, it was something extra special to him – a nostalgic throwback to his childhood dream car. Additionally, it fulfilled his wish for a more contemporary car with the right balance of timelessness and modern technology. The BMW checked all the boxes that mattered to Nick, so he jumped on it.
Unsurprisingly, the most important box for him was the car’s ability to show the driver a good time on the backroads.
Nick says the feel of the car is his favorite thing about it, a sentiment that many with weekend warriors have — that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? In Nick’s case, the ease of a standard weekday commuter makes the ‘TGIF’ effect even more real; he daily drives a big pokey Honda CR-V and takes the M3 out on the weekends.
Due to the stark contrast in driving sensation, he says every weekend feels like he’s in a brand new car.
However, like any enthusiast, Nick wanted the aesthetic of the car to suit his specific taste. He decided to sew a Pandem wide-body kit onto his car, paying close attention to the details and opting for hardware from DownStar.
The decision was made in part because at the time there were few E46s with the kit; Nick felt it was unique, as well as the fact that he liked the boxier feel of the Pandem bodywork when compared to the standard Rocket Bunny kit.
You can immediately tell from the ride height that the suspension setup was an important aspect of the build. As Nick was building the car with both the backroads and the idea of taking it to shows in mind, he opted for an Air Lift Performance setup to get the best of all worlds.
With the ability to park the car on the ground, Nick is able to exaggerate the beauty of the factory lines while not sacrificing driveability. Aside from the addition of the Air Lift Performance 3P management controller, the interior remains almost entirely stock — the Raven Motorsports roll bar is the only exception for now.
To add a bit of spice to the rear and — and help the M3 cut through the air a bit — Nick decided to include a duck-billed CSL trunk lid and a Tekarbon carbon fiber rear diffuser. The look is balanced in the front with the standard Pandem splitter.
It all sits on top of Work Meister wheels in black chrome, laced up with matching black chrome PBM lug nuts to haul the steed around. All four wheels are tightly shod by Federal 595 RS-RR rubber in the front with Bridgestone Potenza RE760 Sport rubber in the rear.Show Car
The simple build is stunning enough to compete at any beauty pageant, but Nick says he isn’t so sure of the practices at the automotive equivalent any more.
Nick has chaperoned his car to a few shows but doesn’t plan to bring it to many more. He brought up a sentiment during our chat that we are beginning to hear more and more often, of a certain crowd in the car show scene.
On one hand we are all about inclusivity, but at what point does the ethos of the event lose its meaning? “Car owners at shows are out of touch with car culture. People put tons of money into a build and lots of attention to detail, but the organizers will allow low-quality cars with fake parts into the same event, and it degrades the value of the whole show,” Nick tells us.
Being approved for a show used to be an accomplishment in itself, even if you didn’t win any awards. Nick says it sometimes seems that almost any build can show up at certain events, deteriorating the meaning for builders who want to go the extra mile.
Nick feels the E46 M3 in particular is timeless and deserves a vision, dedication, and real parts — he can’t see how someone could or would cheap out on a car like this, or any other car for that matter.
Still, Nick was quick to say that the personal connection at shows is what really makes them stand out. For example, Nick mentioned in particular that Elvis Skender, StanceNation founder, has been a big inspiration over the years.
Nick told me about a time where he had to go to the hospital for a medical emergency before a StanceNation show opened and Elvis sent Nick a care package of swag.
These are the sort of things that can make a bigger impact than any build.Back To The Future
Nick’s car may be close to where he wants it aesthetically, but he still has a few more tricks up his sleeve that’ll be coming in the future. A build is never really finished, is it?
The interior will be the next subject on the operating table, with Nick planning to reupholster everything and add custom Recaro seats finished with BMW stitching.
The M3 features the stock S54 engine with a Dinan Stage 3 ECU tune, as well as a Dinan intake and exhaust.
Still, Nick sees a few more undone buttons under the hood. Ultimately, he wants more power from the engine to make his weekend release even more cathartic. Nick plans to add either a turbo or a supercharger to the situation — maybe you guys have some suggestions?
Alongside said power adder, Nick wants to upgrade his utensils so he can fully savor and enjoy the experience. A steering wheel is likely on the way, with plans to install a new short shifter to help milk the power out of each gear change.
He also intends to add a custom splitter to the front end. While this is largely an aesthetic move he’ll be sure to source parts which do their job at speed as well.
Building a car is invariably an expensive process, but — in the context of building a show car — Nick says at the end of the day if you’ve installed replica parts what’s the point; are you still proud of it? While there’s certainly a balance to strike in every build, Nick feels that instead of feeding the decline of shows by bringing a build that is more fake than real, why not patiently attend shows from the other side, get inspired, save up, and support the original designers and fabricators?
Enthusiasts like Nick who take a fairly common and accessible car and make it something extraordinary are what car culture should be all about. Waiting until you are able to construct your dream car the way you envisioned it will always be worth it.
In the process, you’ll end up building something special to you and to others. This is what Nick did, and it’s hard philosophy to argue with.