Ringtool (noun): A vehicle designed to go as fast as possible, as many times as possible, specifically around the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
The Nürburgring needs no introduction, but I’ll give you one anyway. 73 corners, 1,000 feet of elevation change, tight hairpins and long sweeping corners. It is 20.8km of automotive heaven (or hell), winding its way through the Eiffel region of Germany. It’s a track that has claimed lives and made heroes. It’s a track I’ve driven thousands of miles on (in video games), but until recently had never visited in person. It’s an amazing place, and the cars that frequent it are equally incredible.
Back to the intro for a moment. The term ‘Ringtool’ gets a mixed reaction from most track-goers, in the UK at least. I think there’s a pre-conception that someone who develops or builds a car solely for one track is a bit of a ‘try-hard’. I would actually agree, but not as an insult. After seeing just how hard some of the track’s sections are, and the dedication that owners have flinging their cars into those ridiculous corners, it takes a lot of courage to spend thousands building a car that could be reduced to scrap with one bad line or oil spill.
Fabian (aka Mr. Pflanzgarten) is a self-proclaimed ‘Ring addict who’s now five years into his Nürburgring journey. His first laps around the ‘Green Hell’ were made in his R35 Nissan GT-R, which you’d expect to be perfectly suited for the windy track. In reality, the Nissan was a bit of a beast. Heavy cars wear consumables very quickly on the ‘Ring. According to Fabian, “On the track the Nissan was too expensive and much too fast.
He was hooked though, and immediately set out to build something more suitable. Cue his previous BMW, a V8-swapped E30 known as Helga. Powered by a BMW M60B40 4.0L engine, the E30 was a go-kart compared to the GT-R. It was a proper little Ringtool, stripped and caged with a low-stress engine and an emphasis on driving experience. Going from an R35 GT-R to an E30 is a huge change though, and Fabian could certainly feel the difference.
Four years of experience later, and now much faster around the track, the difference Fabian could feel was a huge increase in danger should the worst happen. This, plus getting a little too ‘used’ to the E30 meant it was time for a change. This change presented itself in the form of a stock, Silver Grey BMW M3 E46.
With a car this ‘built’, I’d usually address the long arduous process over years to get the M3 perfected for its use. Not this time. In the most stereotypical way possible, Fabian came over all German and decided that the car would be built quickly and built well, without cutting corners or faffing around. In just 10 weeks, the M3 became what you see before you. This is one of the most well rounded, ‘polished’ track cars I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in person.
The most notable change is the colour, obviously. The M3 was resprayed in entirety as a bare shell in a BMW Individual shade called Urban Green. Fabian’s initial idea was to keep the car the original colour, but his father-in-law has a bodyshop and would simply not allow it. There is no silver grey left on the car. Even the roll cage is the body colour.
Speaking of which, the roll cage itself was a big part of the build. Fabian sent his M3 shell to Ireco Motorsport in Poland to have the weld in cage fabricated. They have a fantastic reputation in Europe for their work, and after seeing it in person I can see why. Now this may have been lost in translation, but when Fabian was telling me about the car getting shipped back with the cage he was adamant that the Ireco team had coated it in olive oil to prevent surface rust in transit. I was going to describe the cage as tasty, but not in that sense… Thank you.
In the bodyshop, the M3’s roof was replaced with a Carbonius carbon fibre item to lower the centre of gravity. With a full motorsport cage, the roof skin would only provide nominal rigidity to the chassis.
The roof gives off serious CSL vibes, and is tied together beautifully with the rest of the carbon touches around the car. The carbon front splitter is from MK Motorsport, whilst the rear wing is a Carbon Production GT4 item.
My favourite showstopper pieces of bodywork come in the form of Floßmann M3 GTR style front fenders and a matching bonnet. These vented and louvred panels transform the front of the car, and in this case provide functional effects.
The Floßmann bonnet does help to keep engine temperature cool after repeated laps of the ‘Ring, and the fenders help turbulent air escape the wheel arches.
For the BMW nerds in the audience (like me), I’ll let you in on a little fact. That boot lid? It’s a genuine CSL item. Oh yeah!
From factory Fabian’s M3 had rear pop windows, but these were binned in the stripping process and replaced with polycarbonate Plastics4Performance louvred items. The rear window is the same, albeit non-louvred.
Peek in through that rear window and you’ll notice a carbon fibre parcel shelf to help neaten up the rear cabin. The cockpit is a nice place to sit, with just the right mix of OEM comfort and performance.
Fabian and one lucky passenger are held in place by aramid fibre (Kevlar) Recaro Pole Position SPAs and 6-point SCHROTH Racing harnesses. The dashboard has been re-trimmed in Alcantara to prevent glare, and the OEM steering wheel has been replaced with a Momo item with a custom shift light indicator.
The audio and HVAC and been replaced with oil pressure/temperature, water temperature and battery voltage gauges, whilst body coloured pedals and Fabian’s body-coloured race helmet round out the interior accessories. Oh, and the great big Tesla-esque data logger and lap timer facing the driver of course.
Pop the bonnet and you’ll find… not much to be honest. After the raw speed of the GT-R and the lazy grunt of the V8 E30, Fabian decided the best bet would be a higher-revving, low-stress engine. A standard S54 does the job perfectly. The only modifications are to improve flow and reliability. An upgraded aluminium radiator and oil cooler ensure engine temps stay steady, whilst a 100-cell catalytic converter and Friedrich Motorsport titanium rear section help the car to breathe (and sound) a little better. Gold heat tape at the back of the bay helps to prevent heat soak into the cabin on longer runs.
Handling has been Fabian’s priority with the M3, and the list of chassis upgrades makes for impressive reading. If the purple top mounts weren’t a give-away, the car is suspended on a set of KW Competition 2-way adjustable coilovers. Arguably one of the best sets on the market for the M3, they’re a mainstay among Nürburgring die-hards.
All of the bushes underneath the car have been either been replaced with solid aluminium or rose-jointed. This is one stiff M3, but if feedback is your ultimate goal, this is the way to achieve it to the max. This is further enhanced by the genuine CSL steering rack that has also been fitted. I can understand why Fabian has the Pole Positions. Anything less supportive and the lack of ‘slop’ in the chassis would leave you with a sloppy spine instead.
Braking is taken care of by an AP Racing big brake kit on the front axle, with upgraded discs and Endless pads all round. Brake cooling is provided by a Burkhardt Engineering ducted backing plate setup.
Team Schirmer-spec BBS E88s fill the arches, measuring in at 18×10.5-inch and 18×11-inch front to rear. These are one of my favourite wheel designs; timeless motorsport. 265 and 295-section Nankang AR1s provide the grip the car needs at the speeds it regularly achieves on the ‘Ring.
With all of this work, Fabian has an M3 that takes lap after lap of hard driving on a very arduous track in its stride. It’s powerful enough with a touch over stock horsepower, and with a wet weight of 1,290kg (2,844lb) it’s certainly light enough to be thrown around. Add to that how good it looks in its green paint and you have a winner.
It’s all well and good to have a cutting-edge, highly-strung build, but that’s not what a Ringtool is about. It needs to be capable but also resilient and safe. The last thing you want is to have sudden failure on a track as dangerous as this. Also, I reckon it’s nice to have a car you can thrash all day in the knowledge it will still get you home at night.
In Fabian’s own words: “For safety reasons and to get a new feeling, I bought the M3. I’m so happy with the light M3, and everything works perfectly.”
I couldn’t have summed it up better myself. Now, where do I start with my own Ringtool…