On this page you’ll see the term “CSL Style” referenced quite a few times. For those unfamiliar with the M3 CSL, it was a special edition of the E46 M3 that was made to improve upon the already exquisite design. The CSL was lighter, faster, and had several unique styling touches that made the car look even more aggressive than it already did. Things like the single air inlet front bumper, carbon fiber roof, duckbill trunk lid, and its trademark wheels are all parts that are unique to the CSL M3. This is why you will so often see parts advertised as “CSL Style” because everyone wants their car to look more like the limited edition model.
In this first subsection you’ll see quite a few parts that seem performance oriented, but if you actually care about performance you should probably be reading our “Track” section and not the show section. What you’ll find here is a lot of parts that will look really cool in your engine bay but their real impact on your car’s performance will depend greatly on your abilities and needs as a driver.
This should be common sense, but if you’re going to be showing off your engine bay, clean it up first. Over the years a lot of dust and grease will have settled inside and the most cost effective way to make it look better is to give it a good cleaning. Degreaser may be necessary if the car has had a leaky gasket in the past.
We already kind of covered this earlier on page 5 but an intake is great for dressing up your engine bay, and you get the added benefit of your engine sounding cooler. A stock airbox doesn’t necessary look bad, but it’s definitely boring to look at in an otherwise beautiful car.
Power pulleys are pretty inexpensive, and they look very cool in your engine bay. The performance benefit of the pulleys is a reduction in drag produced by the accessories on your car (AC, Power Steering, etc.), essentially freeing up horsepower. The visual benefit of the pulleys is that they look dope as hell. They come in both Street and Race versions depending on how much power you want to free up, just be aware race versions are not usually well adapted to street driving so unless you plan to track with them we suggest sticking with the street version.
You know what else looks cool? A big ol’ strut brace! Strut braces are designed to keep the chassis from flexing under heavy cornering and are very common for a wide variety of enthusiast vehicles. Track enthusiasts use them for their cornering and chassis reinforcement benefits. Show cars use them because they look cool and they help give you that three-wheeling look when you’re going up driveways. Ok yes, enthusiasts are little weird sometimes, but it’s all in good fun. This large “Racebrace” by Rogue Engineering will probably look the most impressive in your engine bay, but if you don’t like the tubular design we have other braces available in the suspension section of our website if you want to check them out. We recommend running some kind of strut brace even if it’s a simple one because the large mounting plates act as an additional strut tower reinforcement and pressure distribution system.
As for body mods (kits, bumpers, wings, etc.), go nuts. If you’re building for looks then just throw on whatever makes you happy. Some people might not like it but that’s just because they have different tastes than you do. It’s impossible to build a car that every single person will love, someone will always have a problem with the way you’ve done something and that’s ok, just build your car the way you want to. Life is too short to care what some stranger hates about your car.
Below we will list some suggestions of things we like to see on these cars but if you hate them all that’s cool too, cars are an expression of yourself so make it look how you want. Friendly suggestion though, lower your car and get some nice wheels before worrying about carbon fiber trim or spoilers. A car that is lowered on wheels will be more visually appealing than one with stock wheels/suspension, even if the latter has thousands of dollars of exterior parts installed.
Lighting is a big eye catcher at a show, but your lights can also be a big eyesore on an otherwise clean car if you haven’t taken the time to clean and restore all the lights on your car. To start, the plastic on your headlights have probably been exposed to years of various weather conditions and will be scratched or hazy. Some replacement headlight lenses are one of the easiest ways to bring them back to looking good as new. If your car came with halogen lights instead of HIDs we have an easy conversion kit that replaces the whole housing if you want to upgrade to HIDs, upgrade your angel eyes, and replace your lenses all at the same time. If your fog lights are broken or fading as well we do have LED replacement fog lights available which match the tone of HID lights better than halogen bulbs, just something to think about.
If you look at most of the E46 M3s pictured in this article you might’ve noticed that the amber corner lights on most have been replaced. It is very common for E46 owners (not just M3) to replace their amber corners with clear or smoked corner lights. This is a personal preference thing but we feel getting rid of the amber lights makes the car look a little bit more impressive. Finally, since your tail lights are probably in a similar condition to your headlights, it wouldn’t hurt to replace the factory piece with some clear or smoked LED taillights, whichever matches your corner lights better.
If you’re going to a show, you’re backing into your spot, meaning the front of your car is the first thing anyone is gonna see. You need to draw them in to see the rest of the car with a bold introduction. A front lip and/or splitter will help give your front bumper a bit more personality and make it look extra low. There are all different styles to choose from so if you look around you’re sure to find something that you like. For example a Hamann Style front lip is going to look a little more traditional and give a wider profile to your bumper. For a more OEM look some CSL Style Splitters might be more to your liking. For something sort of in the middle, DTM Fiber Werks makes a great front lip that draws styling cues from the CSL Splitters but merges in the middle for a more full look.
The E46 M3 CSL came with a different front bumper than the standard M3, doing away with the symmetrical fog lights for a single asymmetrical air inlet. If you’re a fan of this look you can equip your M3 with an aftermarket CSL style front bumper. This bumper comes with the signature carbon fiber side splitters (pictured above). If that’s not really your style we do have a carbon fiber full front lip available for this bumper, very similar to the DTM Fiber Werkz lip mentioned previously.
The CSL Style Trunk Lid is one of the more common exterior modifications you’ll see on E46 M3s (and later generation M3s as well). Why? It looks freakin amazing. Don’t really need any better reason than that. The ducktail gives the rear of the M3 a more aggressive angle than you see with the stock trunk. It’s subtle, but other enthusiasts will give you “the nod” cause they’ll know. We have versions in both carbon fiber or fiber reinforced plastic. Carbon fiber gets you a little more of the “oooh” factor but if you’re painting it to match your car’s color it doesn’t really matter which you get. Also note, it looks pretty amazing with a GT Wing as well.
You’re probably sensing a theme here. A CSL Style Diffuser is a fantastic addition to the rear of the E46 M3 thanks to its OEM look and the subtle accentuation of the exhaust. This piece looks especially good if you have an aftermarket exhaust because it hugs larger exhaust tips nicely. Honestly just look at the stock rear bumper and you’ll see why it’s so appealing to give it a little more character.
Other than the bigger pieces, there are some nice small trim pieces that you can change out to make your M3 look a little more aggressive. Some matte black kidney grilles are a good way of giving your front end a little more class. The chrome kidney grilles looks really ugly and out of place on the car so replacing them with black versions makes the car look much cleaner. Additionally, some matte black fender grilles will have a similar effect on the side of the car and will look better when paired with the kidney grilles. We also offer gloss versions of both the kidney grilles and the fender grilles if matte isn’t your style. If you want to completely eliminate all chrome on the car but don’t want to debadge it completely, a black M3 emblem will help finish off the look nicely (options for matte, gloss, and black chrome finishes).
People will always take a peek inside of your car at a show or meet. Interior mods are a good indication of how thorough someone is with their modding so you don’t want to neglect it. And hey, as an added bonus you get to enjoy it more when you’re driving! Some simple modifications you can make that will elevate the look of your interior are things like a carbon fiber steering wheel trim or a new shift knob to replace your worn OEM knob. Colored seat belts can make your car stand out even more because they are easily visible through the windows. If you’re after something that looks good and can make driving a little more fun, Pedal Haus makes some Aluminum pedals for the E46 M3, and bigger paddle shifters if you have the SMG transmission.
-Where do I start?
As we stated at the beginning, always start with maintenance. After that, well that’s kind of up to you. We’ve stated already that we prioritize wheels/tires and suspension first but everyone is different. Would you rather focus on performance? Be sure to check out then next few pages where we go over extracting the most performance out of your M3. If you know where you want to start but are unclear on what your options are, or are interested in options not covered in this article, definitely consider contacting our team of Mod Experts. They can be reached at (714) 582-3330 or by email at [email protected]. We also have live chat available at Modbargains.com during normal business hours.
Visual Mods…(page 6) – Current
- Engine Bay