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1997 BMW M3 - After-School Special

Luke Benner became addicted to BMWs at a young age with his 448hp supercharged M3.

“I was extremely lucky as a high school student,” Luke Benner humbly told us. “My parents

purchased a used, stock ’97 M3 for me when I was only 16.” Of course, we’re all extremely jealous and offered ourselves for adoption on the spot!

Having scored big and got himself onto the performance ladder, Luke got an after-school job, like many of us, and saved his pennies. Unlike our fast food jobs, Luke worked at Bimmerworks in West Chester, PA for parts he could install on the weekends.

The teenager’s goal was to tune his M3 to the highest possible naturally aspirated horsepower. Over the years, early upgrades were swapped for better parts, getting a Schrick 256/264˚ cam kit and Supersprint header, mid-pipe and Active Autowerke cat-back. But in the end, he decided to go for forced induction to maximize his spending power.

New friends in the BMW community,

guided Luke to a RMS stage 3 supercharger kit that used a polished Vortech V-2 Si-trim blower. The owner of Bimmerworks, Steve Snow, and techs Chris Bishop and Dana Wolf, lent a hand with the install. And after a couple of dyno pulls, Luke swapped the exhaust for a 3" Euro Supersprint setup with RMS headers that netted his M3 448hp at the wheels and 364 lb-ft.

The E36 five-speed was later swapped for an E46 six-speed M3 transmission with a shortened driveshaft. After a stage 2 UUC flywheel and kevlar clutch were added, Luke was rowing through all six gears with a UUC Evo 3 short shifter, while a 3.46:1 LSD made spirited driving a lot more fun.

Carbon Addiction
In his younger years, Luke developed a liking for carbon fiber. So the engine bay was dressed in Dinan engine and radiator covers, while the Orion V2 angel-eye-equipped headlights were topped with carbon vinyl to match the carbon eyebrows.

Carbon flowed throughout the interior, with everything from the dash trim to gauge holders on the A-pillar covered.

He also replaced the seats with leather Sparco Milanos and installed some stereo equipment to win silverware. “The stereo went through a couple of iterations, starting with a single JL sub but eventually going to a suede-trimmed enclosure for Kicker L7 subs with a screen in the trunk,” Luke said.

In the cabin, the center console houses a 7" screen wrapped in CF, accompanied by two 5" monitors in the sunvisors displaying movie magic from a Pioneer DVD deck.

“After seeing Eurowerkz member Adam Khan featured in eurotuner (et 8/05), I knew I wanted an Esquiss’Auto widebody kit like his,” Luke told us. So he bought the fender flares but paired them with a Rieger rear bumper and side skirts. He retained the stock front bumper but had it flared to meet the Esquiss fenders and molded a Vorsteiner GTS3 spoiler in place.

“I entrusted all the widebody work to Nu-Castleton Collision in Long Island; the same shop that did Adam’s E36 years before,” Luke explained. “The owner, Rosario and his team, transformed my car into what it is today. We went with Aston Martin Lightning silver paint which has a blue pearl in it and changes in different light.”

Luke also designed the front bumper to accept Turner Motorsport carbon brake ducts to cool the six-piston Rotora front brakes. And to fill the arches, Luke wanted the widest possible wheel and tire combination: contacting Manu at DPE, he purchased a staggered set of 19x9 front and 19x11" rear SP10 wheels wrapped in Toyo T1R tires.

“You’d be hard pressed to find one part on the car that’s not been modified!” Luke grinned. “It’s a car I’ve always enjoyed and will never sell.”

And while most of us are glad to think of our first car as a distant memory, Luke’s has been his only car, and its brought him some close friends along the way.

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