Project GMW E46 Turbo: Part 1 – Introduction

Project GMW E46 Turbo: Part 1 – Introduction

by Mark Hutchison


When you think of a high-performance E46 3 Series BMW, you may automatically think of the ever popular M3.  It’s true that the E46 M3 produces great power with its fabled S54 inline six. It also looks amazing with its distinct fender vents and aggressive front fascia. While this 2001 325ci BMW may not be an M3, it will decimate all other cars with an affordable and reliable power plant from an American classic – the GM LS series engine.

The goal of this build is not to break records or make the most outrageous racecar possible. Our aim is to build a car with affordable parts and create something that is unique and will turn heads and ears at every turn. This build will not be 100% plug-and-play, but it will incorporate many off the shelf parts that work with the goal of the build.

The all-mighty LS series engine manufactured by GM has been placed in many different vehicles since 1999, including the sporty Corvette and the hefty Silverado truck. Many people are familiar with the popular LS1, but don't know that the LS comes in many different forms. There’s the 4.8L LR4, 5.3L LM7 and 6.0L LQ9 that has been included in most GM trucks as well as many other adaptations and variations with different intake manifolds, cylinder head designs, block materials, and engine technology. Additionally, GM has the style of LS that goes in the Corvette and Camaro. They started with the LS1 and it slowly evolved into many different versions throughout the 15 years of its passenger car production with the LS2, LS3, LS6, LS7, LS9 and LSA.


When it came to finding an engine for my build, I wanted to be a tad different and not just go get a full LS1 swap- with an engine harness, PCM, Transmission and accessories included. That would have been WAY too easy and I’m a fan of pain and frustration…  My engine was sourced from a salvage yard in Oklahoma City, OK. It’s a 5.3L LM7 with 100,000 miles. It ran great when it was in its donor Chevy Silverado. An unlucky accident ended its life with its original chassis and will be reborn like a phoenix in the E46.


This 2001 325ci came with 96k miles and was listed on the popular website,, not running and possibly needing a fuel pump.

This was no big deal to me since I just needed a straight chassis to swap a V8 in and with the local Fuel Systems Company, DeatschWerks, right down the street, we could throw a universal fuel pump in the tank to get it running, if needed, and the price was hard to pass up. Obviously, for a car that had been sitting, it wasn't in the best shape – which included a few dents and dings, a busted headlight, a busted taillight, paint a little faded, and a clear coat that was coming off in some spots. But not to worry, she will get the executive treatment throughout the series with new exterior, including a new front fascia and vinyl wrap.

The day after I got it home, we cleaned out all the animal nests from the engine bay and installed a DeatschWerks inline DW250iL, 255lph fuel pump (PN# 9-250) in the OEM fuel pump module. With slight modification and soldering the connectors provided, the E46 started up. For the final build, the plan is to use two OEM pump assemblies mounted on both sides of the saddle style fuel tank to take advantage of a more OEM fit fuel system. It didn’t leak a drop of oil and idled great.  I drove the car for about a month to really flush out any issues it may have had in the chassis or in the electronics of the car. Other than an old battery, everything worked well, even doing a couple autox events with the local BMWCCA.


The DW250iL Inline fuel pump uses rotary vane technology that allows for higher flow at higher pressures, which are essential for boosted applications.



  1. I have a question about what headers and what size turbo used in this build? I would also like to know where was the placement of the turbo. I am building a similar project but more for a drift car and could use the advise.
    Thanks in advance

  2. Hey guys! Nice project! Wondering what are you going to run for headers? I know CX Racing makes a E90 kit which looks not too far from fitting. I am in the process of re-doing my GMW 5.3l Turbo but I really dont want to re-make the exhaust and headers, it is a long job, need to re-do them since the car was smashed….

    So let us know what you are running for headers and exhaust! Thanks

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