Published July 2nd, 2020
Words and Photography: Michal Fidowicz
Cal and I have been friends for what feels like a long time now. I first met him not long after he bought this specific wagon, back when I also had a Topaz Blue E46. Back then my car was already on coilovers and sitting on an unheard of set of wheels. I was super proud of these wheels, even if they weren’t really anything special. “BBS RX261” they had stamped on the inside. Pretty fancy for a set of wheels found on an old BMW 7 series internally known as Style 94s. My ones were pretty rotten though, peeling lacquer and all sorts. But, the badge was there and so was my love them. They were my first set of wheels ever and I’ve not seen them on a stancy car in the UK prior to me buying them. So when Cal approached me at a car show and introduced himself, I was super intrigued when he told me to come and have a look in the back of his E46 wagon.
For some reason, while everyone else parked near the show entrance Cal decided to park his car riiiight at the back of the empty field in that awkwardly tall field grass. From memory it was about 35oc that day too. At this point, I started to understand that Cal is not like most normal people. After the pilgrimage, we arrived at his bog standard, cloth seat SE 330d. In the back of the car was a snugly packed set of the same RX261s my coupe was on.
Our Topaz Blue, RX261 bond grabbed my curiosity to see how Cal’s E46 would come together. After sharing some tyre sizes and general E46 chit chat, we set off on our ways home. Whilst I continued to drive about and kill my Coupe, Cal started to put in serious graft into his one to prevent it from dying any time soon. All whilst using it as a trusted daily to get him to work and back. I don’t blame him either, his car is a dream adventure combo for any E46 enthusiast. The iconic diesel M57 lump paired with the manual gear box is not a common sight anymore, especially in a pre-facelift Touring body.
Simply just doing regular maintenance was not enough for Cal though. The more he drove the car, the more he fell in love with the E46. And he drove the car, A LOT. Cal is your classic diesel owning motorway muncher, crossing the England/Wales/Scotland borders for fun more times a year than you order take away pizza. I’m all for it, the car is there to be enjoyed, and when you average 60mpg on the motorway, have 200bhp and a manual gearbox at hand you have every reason to go out and see the world. The car makes motorway journeys a breeze, and upon arrival it turns the local mountain roads into a handling circuit. The passion for driving had to be paired up with some matching gear, so Cal invested in the handling department by fitting a set of Bilstein coilovers and choosing a perfect 215/35 tyre size for the 8J square wheel set up.
Anyone who has fallen in love with a car before would have at some point caught themselves daydreaming about how they would spec their car from new. Unfortunately for Cal though, his car was put together by someone who never got their hands on the brochure. Apart from cruise control the car had no optional extras. Something it did have though was the beautiful Topaz paint and a pre-facelife nose (the superior one of the two – no discussions please.) So Cal decided to take things into his own hands and retro fit pretty much everything he could get his hands on, whilst putting his spin on it to obtain a spec that was never offered from factory. Cloth SE seats got chucked in the bin and replaced with a fully retro fitted heated M sport leathers. Door cards were pulled and replaced with custom two tone leather ones to match the dash and seats. The cheap, early 00s trim got thrown out for individual birch wood trim and the tired gear knob got replaced by a bespoke birch wooden one hand made by Cal’s best friend Lee, who shares most of Cal’s adventures with him in his own E46 – that is a story for another time.
The retro fits do not end there. Cal has got his hands on a ridiculously rare under-armrest cassette tape holder. It’s so rare he’s never seen another one before, and Cal has seen A LOT of E46s now. The centre console got treated to its own rare item too, a non-screen, cassette playing Satellite Navigation system that still functions off the back of the radio interface. The steering wheel got a replaced by an M3 one, the headliner and all its extras went black to match the carpets, the windscreen got replaced by – get this – an OEM blue tint sunstrip windscreen, the mirrors were replaced with an optional reverse tilt function ones, and as a final touch Cal had a beep to lock function coded in.
And it doesn’t end there. On the exterior, Cal got his hands on a factory BMW E46 bike rack for his bikes. What’s better than driving to Wales? Driving to Wales to go cycling. The front headlights were replaced with brand new, factory Xenon projectors. The SE front bumper was thrown out for an Mtech 1 kit (my favourite!) bumper and the side skirts were replaced with M sport ones. Then to top it all off, Cal decided to respray the whole car himself. Over winter, he put the car in a shed, prep’d it and went to town with his own painting equipment. Opting for the earliest Topaz Blue BMW paint which is slightly, slightly lighter than the colour on later face-lift cars and gives off this very special aqua pearl to it in the sunlight. It doesn’t end there though, as Cal then colour coded the top plastic trims to the car which to my surprise really tied it all together. At first I was super against this, but the images speak for the final product. The trick he says, was to leave the lower trims black. To nail in the stance he treated the car to 15mm front spacers, and the finished product is what you see before you.
So what do you reckon happens next? The engine packs it in of course. After 180k one of the glow plugs went kaput and then decided to crack in the head. No way was the car going to be laid to rest. Towards the cold start of this year, Cal once again returned the E46 to his shed and went ahead with a full engine swap to another, much younger and healthier M57D30 to last another couple decades of miles. Whilst at it, the car got a fresh clutch, and most importantly a whole new set of bushes. No bush was left unchanged. Last year, Cal, Lee and I took a trip up to Cleanfest in his wagon which has left all of us with super fond memories of Edinburgh. Hopefully this year we can return again, as well as ticking off all the other countries we want to road trip to in the E46. Cal, I really, really hope you never get rid of this car. As E46s go, this one definitely holds the most sentimental value to not only yourself but also to Lee and I.
I’ve joined Cal and his Touring in nearly all car show convoys last year and the year before. There was something super special about having two cars with their own identities but same style cruising together down the motorway. There’s some really cool photos of our cars together on Cal’s Instagram, along with many, many travel images from Cal’s adventures and endless progress photos of the build. I highly recommend taking a flick through them and asking Cal any questions he may have about the car.
- BBS RX261, offered as an optional extra wheel from BMW under the code Style 94. Square set, 18 x 8 ET32 with 215/35/18 tyres.
- Bilstein all round with upper adjuster rings removed up front and adjuster cups removed out the rear
- Front Mtech 1 bumper
- BMW roof bike rack
- Xenon projector headlights
- Full Topaz Blue respray w/ colour coded trims
- Retro fitted Heated M sport leathers
- Retro fitted BMW non-screen navigation
- Custom Grey and Black contrasting door cards
- Individual Birch Wood trim
- Bespoke Birch gearknob
- M3 Steering Wheel
- Retro fitted under arm-rest cassette holder
- Retro fitted Reverse tilt mirrors
To see more of Cal’s E46 and his many adventures, head over to his Instagram by clicking here
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