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Text by Aaron Bonk
Photos by Collin Schlesinger

“Owning an M3 was bound to happen.” At least that’s what Eibach Springs account manager Tony Jackson says about his transitioning from tracking smaller, Japanese-based sub-compacts like Honda’s Civic to the performance-minded BMW.
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Jackson’s been honing his skills on racetracks across California for nearly 10 years, mastering the art of maneuvering a highly modified front-wheel-drive car yet with sights always set on something with its drive wheels posted at the other end. “The Civic was fast,” he says, “but it wasn’t gonna get a whole lot faster. Besides, I’ve always wanted to master something that was rear-wheel-drive.”
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Which led Jackson, who hails from Southern California’s Inland Empire, to Michigan, where he scooped up a rare find: a Florida-bred E46 M3 with the red-and-black interior he wanted, the manual gearbox he needed, and the missing sunroof his taller frame appreciated. “Within six hours of seeing it online I had a plane ticket,” he says about the sort of haste that had to be taken to make sure the car would be his.
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Soon after that and the M3 was driven cross-country and onto the track, in stock form, and, according to Jackson, “is just amazing when compared to the Civic.”
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A good-running street car will almost always make a good track car. At least that’s what Jackson says and has set out to prove with the sort of minimalistic modifications he’s made to the coupe. For the most part, he’s left his mitts off of the 3.2L engine with its six individual throttle bodies and instead focused on improving how well it’ll expel its exhaust gases with a single-exit system from MagnaFlow. “It’s lighter and follows a straighter path,” he says about the stainless-steel design that shaves a good 50 lbs off of the M3’s curb weight.
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There’s no doubt that the people at BMW designed the M3 for the track, but anything can be made better. Especially when you work for one of the largest aftermarket suspension makers on the planet. To do that, Jackson walked across the hall where Eibach’s engineers laid out the pieces he’d need for custom rear shocks that he’d assemble himself and use alongside Eibach springs and anti-roll bars at each end.
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“The OEM parts are so good with this car that it’s hard to know what to modify first,” Jackson says before talking about the AP Racing brake system he bolted on all around. “I didn’t really notice a problem with the brakes at first,” he says, “but after tracking it I noticed that the pistons were seizing up from too much heat.” The larger brakes allow Jackson to dive into corners harder now, something he grew accustomed to with the lighter-weight Honda he’d cut his teeth with.
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“I’ve always loved BMWs,” he says about his transition from front-wheel-drive to rear-wheel-drive, “and the Civic’s already been sold. I’m glad I did that.” Now all that’s left according to Jackson is more power and finishing up both Super Lap Battle and Global Time Attack series where he says he’s first in points in his class. “There’s so much more to be had with this car,” he says, “and I’ve barely started, still learning as I go.”
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Video footage of Tony’s Jackson’s E46: