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      11-06-2023, 05:50 PM   #1
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Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 M3 GTS Build

Over the years we've seen a few people build E91 M3 Wagons. But Pit+Paddock & Bilstein's E91 GTS Tribute Build for SEMA 2023 is something a little extra special. Teaming up with the likes of PSI, CSF, Akrapovic, BBS, Carbahn, Eventuri, Future Classic, Michelin, MOTUL, SPL Parts, StopTech, Supreme Power, and Turn 14 Distribution, Pit+Paddock pulled out all the stops to bring this special car to life.

There is a full blog series on their site, but we wanted to share some photos of the progress and build here.

The rendered vision:

Pit+Paddock and Presenting Partner, Bilstein, sought to change that for stateside enthusiasts. Indeed, creating an M3 wagon from BMW’s expansive archive isn’t a new idea, but this one would be crucially different in its details. They'd narrow our sights on BMW’s fourth-generation 3-series, the E9X family, as the canvas for the build. The platform sat on an important pivot point: it was new enough to retain modern creature comforts and enthusiast fanfare, but old enough to exude a crucially analog driving personality. Pictured next to its M3 sedan brethren, the E90 (sedan) and E91 (wagon) are clearly from the same bloodline, but with marked differences that make the M variant stand out.

Having two running and driving donors helps with one very important thing: completeness. “Both the wagon and M3 have components unique to their platform and [having both] offers us a complete electrical/mechanical and bodywork library to pull from,” said Sean Myers, owner of PSI. “Combining harnesses, interior and exterior components allows a seamless combination of the two cars without cutting corners or having to modify OEM components.” Indeed, the goal here was to fashion an “OEM” E91 M3, precisely how BMW would build the car.

The E92 M3 GTS: One of the limited, RoW (rest of world) models that BMW produced was the M3 GTS. This 150-unit special was based on the E92 coupe platform and utilized a special 4.4-liter S65 engine, Fire Orange exterior paint color, unique adjustable aerodynamics, a specially tuned DCT transmission, adjustable coilovers, and larger Brembo brakes. The combination of rarity and factory upgrades made this the pinnacle model of the E9X family and a fitting benchmark for our build.

The car creation is ambitious because the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute is effectively two simultaneous projects. The first, converting an E91 328i into an M3, leveraging PSI’s nuanced knowledge of the marque, its expertise in maintaining and modifying BMWs, and understanding the unique underpinnings of the E9X platforms.

Fabrication Stage
At this stage, the body might look like a straight-forward swap, but there are a ton of small differences between each car. To fit the wider M3 rear quarters and fender liner, the wagon’s inner fender area was fitted with the E90’s supporting structure. Rather than transferring the entire fender, specific sections of the M3’s quarters were chosen by PSI carefully. This allowed us to achieve the look of the M3’s wide fenders but retain important sections around the wagon’s taillight area.

To respect the E91’s unique shape near the taillight area, they couldn’t just fit the E90 M3’s bumper panel onto the wagon. Instead, the top of the wagon’s rear bumper was seamlessly but painstakingly conjoined with the lower half of the M3s. This allowed them to integrate the crucial design cues we mentioned earlier.

Although painting an entire car would be easier if the process was split into multiple working days, it wouldn’t guarantee the OE level of uniformity that we were after. As a result, each color coat was laid down on every panel in the same booth, on the same day, and under the same conditions.

Three generous coats of clear were laid down last. Once everything was adequately cured, sanded, and properly finished, the (now) Fire Orange E91 headed back to PSI. Seeing the car come off the trailer, gleaming in the sweltering Florida sun, the sacrifice was worth it. The car looked absolutely incredible.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the S65 that we pulled out of our donor M3 arrived at Carbahn where it would transform from a 4.0-liter engine into a 4.6-liter monster. The CarBahn Autoworks S65 4.6-liter stroked and bored engine kit includes oversized forged CP Carrillo pistons, a forged crankshaft with increased stroke, and high-strength forged Carrillo connecting rods. The bore is increased to 94mm and the stroke is increased to 83mm. In addition, common S65 failure points are addressed with Clevite-Dinan racing rod bearings and CarBahn Autoworks valve springs. The result is an engine that should produce a healthy 516 horsepower and nearly 400 lb-ft of torque, which is well beyond the E92 M3 GTS’s benchmark.

As the E9X M3 chassis has aged, this dual-duty function has become increasingly important and the Bilstein 2-way Clubsport kit is primed to deliver accordingly. The coilovers opted for on the GTS Tribute project build upon the PSS’s stellar reputation and represent another step forward for the brand; it promises to deliver a delicate balance between track-worthy performance and proper street-going manners. The suspension inherits Bilstein’s motorsport-grade mono-tube shocks and pairs them with a set of matched 60mm ID springs to bring out the best from our E9X. With 10 settings for both compression and rebound, adjusted via blue and red knobs respectively, there are up to 100 unique suspension settings to fine-tune this wagon for a punishing track surface or the highway sprint home.

Brake and Chassis Upgrades from StopTech and SPL
Pairing an impressively capable set of Bilstein 2-way Clubsport with factory suspension arms and rubber bushings would be a disservice. To ensure the chassis could extract the most from the Clubsport’s loftier threshold, they opted to fit the entire SPL suspension catalog on the wagon. SPL is renowned for producing high-quality components for top race programs in various series. Its reputation for achievement and reliability has created a fervent desire for its products amongst discerning BMW enthusiasts. Throughout this suite, spherical rod ends are used instead of rubber. The change provides a much more direct, confident response and grip — especially during corner entry and exit — where OEM rubber would otherwise be unsettling.

The subframe was treated to a fresh powder coat and a helping of fresh bushings from Powerflex, too. It’s been a go-to brand for BMW owners who want more out of their cars over the last three decades. Its yellow (70A) and purple (80A) polyurethane bushings will improve the wagon’s chassis response without giving away too much in terms of comfort and NVH.

The additional grunt from the 4.6-liter Carbahn stroker motor required a robust brake solution. StopTech’s 380mm Trophy kit for the E9X M3 is designed to offer the very best braking performance for track-day enthusiasts, pro-am drivers, or street enthusiasts who demand more from their equipment. The Trophy’s unique 6-piston caliper shape provides the appropriate clearance for 18” diameter wheels to maintain that track-focused aesthetic.

In the spirit of eliminating any weak links, a fresh 3.15 DCT differential from Diffs Online was sourced as well. Although they could’ve used this as an opportunity to throw in a different final gear, the uprated torque from the new engine should provide enough grunt to offset the difference without creating “buzzy” cruising speeds. Striking the right balance is key. For a project of this caliber, MOTUL’s 75w140 gear oil was the only logical choice. The combination of its lubricating power and ability to withstand motorsport-grade temperatures provides industry-leading anti-wear characteristics, oil film resistance, and reduces drivetrain noise.

As we stated earlier, having two cars provides a strategic advantage in creating the best possible end product. Between the E90 M3 and the E91 328i, there were two complete wiring harnesses available. To make a harness for the E91 M3, the Precision Sport Industries team had to identify each car’s unique factory option set. From there, they had to assess which leads needed to be retained and perform every un-pin and re-pin procedure where necessary. The length of this paragraph isn’t a proper acknowledgment of the effort involved, and it’s another testament to PSI’s incredible proficiency in helping realize the ultimate vision.

E91 GTS Sheds Over 60lbs
This round of upgrades brings us back underneath the car for a couple of notable weight-loss modifications from Akrapovič and Driveshaft Shop.

Its exhaust for the E9X M3 remains one of its most popular upgrades of all time. After handling and fitting the exhaust onto the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute, we agree. In terms of sound, titanium exhausts bring an elevated tonal experience to the table and we can’t argue with the net effect: an extra 21 horsepower and a 52 lbs weight loss at the same time.

Driveshaft Shop makes a carbon fiber driveshaft for the E9X M3, but it only works with the 6-speed manual car. To create a DCT version, the factory prop shaft was shipped to Driveshaft Shop. Once there, its team was able to reference every crucial measurement to create a one-off, DCT-specific unit for the build.

CSF’s E9X M3 4-Piece Cooling Package addresses all of the car’s factory shortcomings. It adds a triple-pass radiator (7059), oil cooler (8025), power steering cooler (8041), and DCT cooler (8042), which should help keep our Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute, well, cool. The net effect of all this work is a car that reliably stays beneath critical temperature thresholds while also rebounding from peak figures faster thanks to a 30-40% efficiency improvement. As an added bonus, the entire package is “drop-in fit” — even the oil cooler — which is a standout CSF benefit.

The suite has been trusted in some of the most demanding motorsport conditions — including the 25 Hours of Thunderhill — where CSF’s endurance and temperature resilience are tested in equal appraisal.

More Power
The Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute received a generous allotment: Eventuri’s carbon fiber plenum, intake, intake lid, and duct set help infuse the cabin with intoxicating CSL-style intake noise, all while providing significantly higher volumes of air to the motor. The combination is a big improvement in sound and throttle response and, as you’d expect from a product of this caliber, was a straightforward plug-and-play install.

Future Classic is an exercise in product and visual design. Within that framework, creating high-quality products and lifestyle goods for late-model and modern BMWs and Porsches have been singular focuses. The E9X crowd has been one of its biggest markets since the company started five years ago, and as such, Future Classic contributed two important billet aluminum upgrades to the engine bay: a new power steering reservoir set and an oil filter housing cap.

Alpine Motorsports is an automotive tuning company that offers remote tuning and coding. Aside from some must-have coding features for the chassis, they had Alex flash the DCT transmission with updated GTS shifting parameters. This should help sharpen its response time and accentuate the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute’s intended character.

Since the laptop was already out, it was as good a time as any to load Carbahn’s required 4.6-liter engine software. The remap ensures the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute will have balanced performance that carefully considers deployable power and torque across the rev range. The right recipe here helps manage smooth delivery, which in turn makes the car easier to trust when it matters most.

With all the engine mods sorted, it was time to wake this beast up for the first time. After brimming the motor up with 10 liters of fresh MOTUL 300V 10-60 oil, the Pit+Paddock E91 GTS Tribute was brought to life. Seeing and hearing this wagon run in the shop marked a big step forward for the project. It was a notable reward for the PSI staff that has worked so hard to get the project to this point. You got a sense that although it provided a small sense of relief, this milestone seemed to motivate the team even more. In the end, that’s a good sign because there was still plenty to do before its grand unveiling on the SEMA show floor.

Full Interior Makeover
The interior makeover was the primary beneficiary of this mutual encouragement. After an uber-rare set of lightweight, OEM Alcantara M Performance seats were sourced by Blue Chip Automotive, a company dedicated to helping owners find rare parts and enthusiast cars alike, the floodgates fell open to a world of new possibilities of how the cabin could be reimagined.

Since the M Performance seats have unique white stitching and padding throughout, we saw it as an opportunity to extend that treatment throughout the entire car. The rear seats were removed and redone to mimic the design details and M Performance insignia on the OEM front set perfectly. Since the OEM door cards were already out of the car, too, they were treated to a full refurbishment, and completely reimagined. Custom Alcantara inlays, with white contrast stitching, were fitted to the door car inserts for good measure.

A bit of inspiration was borrowed from another rare E9X factory special — the E90 M3 CRT — and fitted aluminum dash and door trim next. Although the carbon leather trim is the more sought-after option, the brushed Aluminum trim has become a rare treat to see and provides a nice contrast to the all-black interior.

Since the true E92 M3 GTS’s steering wheel was round — in contrast to the flat-bottom M Performance variants that are readily available today — we wrapped our OEM wheel in Alcantara. We carried through the M3’s signature tri-color stitching to suit, too.

There were a handful of loose ends that still needed to be tied up elsewhere. Another round of coding from Alex at Alpine and Carbahn was first on the list, followed by exterior items like new rear quarter glass, a new windshield, Fire Orange roof rack deletes, and a fresh Fire Orange shark fin.

The OEM front and rear bumpers, the 3D Design roof spoiler, and the Alpha N carbon fiber front lip were the last items to be installed. The 3D Design roof spoiler adds a much-welcomed dynamism to the rear of the wagon. Since it extends further outward than the OEM unit, the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS’s roofline appears much sportier than before and helps complement the rest of the exterior aesthetic.

Wheels, Tires, and Alignment
Beyond any doubt, there is one wheel company to rule them all: BBS. The company has been producing the highest-quality wheels for street and professional motorsport use for more than 40 years and its commitment to do so is only matched by its racing achievements.

The three-piece E88 is one of its most iconic designs of all time. It pairs a backfilled spoke, forged aluminum center with inner and outer rim sections for a delicate balance of strength and weight savings. The gold finish we selected — with matching Red/Gold BBS wheel decals — pays tribute to the aforementioned motorsport achievements and coordinates well with the Fire Orange exterior hue.

Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires will help take full advantage of our E91 GTS’s suspension upgrades, translating the chassis’s precision from driver input to the road with little to no buffering time. The compound was developed in partnership with some of the most demanding street cars in production today to ensure the tire can deliver its best where it matters most.

Before the wheels were bolted to the car, a set of Future Classic M12x1.5 wheel studs was fitted first. These chromoly studs are a considerable upgrade in tensile strength over the OEM lug bolts. Overall, the bullet-nosed studs will help speed up wheel changes and add yet another motorsport touch to the wagon.

Once the wheels were installed and the car was on the ground, it was the first chance to assess how the car would be set up for its debut. The car was moved onto the alignment rack and got to work to ensure the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS Tribute would sit perfectly on the SEMA show floor. The Bilstein and SPL suspension upgrades paid dividends here — making all the necessary adjustments was incredibly easy as a result — and the new wheels and tires looked right at home underneath the E91 GTS’s M3-cladded body. After a quick shakedown to ensure the car’s road mannerisms performed as expected, the wheels were re-torqued.

It’s serendipitous that the Pit+Paddock x Bilstein E91 GTS gets to make its first public debut at SEMA, a place that is all too familiar with the term “all in”. In the game of poker, it refers to the moment when a player stakes all of their chips on a single hand. Here, it marks our level of commitment to a titanic effort: transform a standard E91 328i station wagon into a near factory-perfect E92 M3 GTS-worthy fighter.

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      11-06-2023, 07:20 PM   #2
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2009 BMW M3  [10.00]
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      11-06-2023, 09:29 PM   #3
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Fantastic attention to detail and execution!
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      11-06-2023, 09:48 PM   #4

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absolutely beautiful
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      11-07-2023, 05:57 AM   #5
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Glad I saw this in person last week. Beautifully executed. Look forward to driving it!
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      11-11-2023, 11:09 AM   #6
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wow the amount of work.
Journal: Link
E9x ZCP Suspension Info: Link
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SF Bay Area: DM For coding services
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      11-12-2023, 11:01 AM   #7
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Love the execution
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      11-16-2023, 02:55 AM   #8
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Wow, just wow. Damn, that is a dream build.
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      12-18-2023, 12:20 AM   #9
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Fantastic build!
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      12-19-2023, 04:08 AM   #10
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Beautiful build. Stunning!
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      12-31-2023, 01:02 PM   #11
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Awesome build. Missed opportunity on upgrading the diff FD. I’ve been running a diffsonline 3.62 FD diff for > decade and love it. A 3.45 FD would have been perfect for this build. It would not be “buzzy” at cruising speeds.
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      Yesterday, 08:21 PM   #12
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SpeedHunters just released their feature on the E91 GTS with some amazing photos:

The ‘T’ Stands For Touring: Pit+Paddock’s E91 GTS
WORDS Mario Christou | IMAGES Darrien Craven

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