Adam Hessel’s E46 M3 is the kind of car that attracts a photographer’s eye right away. It begs you to take pictures of it, but there is more to this car than just splashes of bright colors and first-rate graphics.

A creative director in the advertising business, Hessel knew exactly how he wanted his car to look and he designed the wrap himself. He used similar colors when he raced nitromethane-fueled radio-controlled cars and when was a racing cyclist.

“When I think about it, I always ran that color scheme, even when I was racing remote control cars. My bodies were always bright neon green and pink and white and black.” Hessel said. “I grew up in 80s, so it kind of reminds me of that even though everyone calls it the rolling watermelon.”


When he decided to build the car for track use, Hessel also knew he didn’t want to make the same kinds of mistakes he made on past cars he modified.

“One day, I’m like, you know what? I want to develop this car. In the past, I’ve built cars and I’ve started from the back when I should have started from the front. I did this when I should have done that,” he said. “This one, I wanted to build it up right, so I reached out to a handful of shops that specialize in BMWs. I ended up going with Bimmerworld. I said ‘Tell James (Clay) if he’s interested in doing a full build to give me a holler back. I think I emailed him, too, and he got in touch with me the next day or two days later and it was on. I placed the first order and said, ‘All right. Let’s go from here.’”

Hessel had a budget, but he didn’t have a lump sum. Clay explained to Hessel how to develop the car in such a way that he could make a series of complimentary modifications that would allow him to take the car to the track, where he could simultaneously develop himself as a driver.

“He sent me an email that basically had every stage broken down, because I was running on a budget and I couldn’t do everything at once,” Hessel said. “It’s been about a three-year build now and it’s finally done, but he told me how to build the car in a way that was affordable, and I could still go out and run the car and have fun with it, and continue to develop it between events and during the winter.

“That’s what I enjoyed about the build,” Hessel said. “Even though the car was totally different each time, from one event to the next event, something was different in it, and in that first session, I’d be like, ‘This doesn’t feel right.’ Every event was kind of a different learning curve, a little bit, because it kept changing so much between events here and there.”

If you look deeper than the wrap, the car gets even more interesting. For example, Hessel swapped out the six-speed manual transmission for a five-speed from an E36. The new transmission is some 60 pounds lighter and much less expensive to replace. Hessel sold the six-speed, which netted him enough money to buy a five speed, pay to have it installed with a new clutch and other bits necessary to do the swap — and still have money left over.

Built for competition in TT3, the car also is set up to compete in GTS3. The engine is detuned a bit to comply with GTS3’s 11:1 power-to-weight ratio. Hessel, who is in the running for third place in the 2015 TT3 points Championship in NASA Northeast, hopes to make the jump into wheel-wheel-racing after he has developed further as a driver.


“It’s a humbling sport, that’s for sure,” Hessel said with a chuckle. “It’s similar to cycling. There’s always somebody slower, but there’s always somebody faster, if that make sense.”

As he accumulated more budget to allocate to the car, Hessel just followed the development plan Clay laid out for him. For aero modifications, Hessel used a carbon fiber air dam, splitter, canards and rear wing from Bimmerworld. The brakes are stock, but the rotors and pads uprated parts from Performance Friction. He went with 18-inch by 10-inch Apex wheels all the way around for a square setup, and a differential built by Hugh Stewart of Hi Speed Motorsports.

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Inside, Hessel wanted to keep things clean and simple. He figured the outside was bright enough, so he went with the car’s original color inside: black. He did bring a splash of color inside with a custom shift knob he had made in colors that matched the exterior. It’s a very cool piece to top off the Bimmerworld shifter, which offers shorter throws and a shorter reach from the steering wheel.


He took the car to NRG Tech to install the cage, which is all TIG welded and tied in with the shock towers and floor pan above the rear subframe. The subframe also has Bimmerworld’s reinforcement kit welded in place to keep it from tearing under track use.


Hessel added Sparco seats and some auxiliary programmable Stack gauges. The oil temperature, oil pressure and water temperature gauges are set up to glow blue when things are not yet up to operating parameters, green when they are, and to flash red when something is amiss.


“I used to track a Z06 when we lived in the suburbs, but I thought I’d get something more practical, something with back seats for the kids,” Hessel said. “That’s why I got the E46, but it’s my track car now. So much for being practical.”


Adam Hessel






E46 M3


3,004 lbs. w/driver


S54 inline six-cylinder


five-speed manual from an E36


Front: MCS triple-adjustable coil-overs with remote reservoirs

Rear: MCS triple-adjustable coil-overs with remote reservoirs


Front: Hoosier R6 275-35-18

Rear: Hoosier R6 275-35-18


Front: Stock calipers, Performance Friction Direct Drive rotors, with PF08 compound

Rear: Stock calipers, Performance Friction Direct Drive rotors, with PF08 compound

Data system:

AiM Solo DL, Stack gauges


TKX Performance, Chief Signs, NRG Tech, High Speed Motorsports
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Image courtesy of Brett Becker

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