The ‘T’ Stands For Touring: Pit+Paddock’s E91 GTS

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What’s your idea of ‘the only car you’ll ever need’? It’s an old phrase that’s been used by many an automotive forum member over the years to describe fast and practical cars which ‘do it all’ – whatever that means.

Every time someone suggests that a BMW 340i Touring or an Audi S4 Avant is all the car you could ever need, I get disheartened. Yes, they’re excellent cars, but where’s the drama? What makes them special?

Special is certainly the word I’d use to describe Pit+Paddock’s Fire Orange BMW E91 ‘M3′ GTS. For BMW enthusiasts, this build has to be up there with the greats. For the uninitiated, let me break it down…

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This is an automotive unicorn, combining the practicality of BMW’s sensible 3 Series Touring with the performance characteristics of the ultimate expression of BMW M’s V8 brute: the E92 M3 GTS.

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With only 138 built from a planned run of 150, the M3 GTS has become one of the elite ‘collector’ BMWs. Its S65 engine was stroked from 4.0 liters to 4.4L, producing a hugely satisfying 444hp and a 4.4-second 0-60mph time. Combined with adjustable coilovers, upgraded brakes, an FIA-spec half cage and more, the E92 GTS was BMW’s rival to Porsche’s 997 GT3. All 138 cars came as coupés in Fire Orange with black ‘359M’ wheels and BMW’s venerable DCT gearbox.

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Back in 2010, the regular M3 only came as a saloon, coupé and convertible. If you wanted a BMW M3 wagon you were out of luck; your only choice was the V10-powered E61 M5 Touring – hardly the smallest or sportiest chassis going.

That left buyers looking in the direction of the Audi RS4 Avant and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, but for true enthusiasts of the blue-and-white roundel – like Daryl Sampson, VP of Marketing at Turn 14 Distribution – neither of those would do.

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A year ago, I bought an E91 for my personal use. I also own an E92 M3 and thought it would be a good combination.” Daryl recalls, and thus the idea was born. “As a fan of the wagons, knowing that BMW never sold an M version of that chassis was part of the inspiration for the build.”

Combining the creative minds of the Pit+Paddock team with the high performance brand partners under Turn 14 Distribution’s banner, the ball started to roll on what would become the custom creation you see here.

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The build itself would be trusted to Sean Myers and his team of BMW nuts at Precision Sports Industries (PSI) in Oviedo, Florida. The goal? A grand unveiling at the 2023 SEMA Show in Turn 14’s own booth.

“The original plan was to use the S85 V10 engine that came in the M5/M6 of the same era,” says Daryl. Yet the plan soon changed. “After speaking with Sean at PSI, we determined that the swap would compromise some of the OE-type functionality and balance we wanted to retain to make the car usable for everyday driving.

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It was decided that an S65 V8 would be the way to go, but any old S65 wouldn’t do. Powering the GTS is a naturally aspirated 516hp, 400ft-lb 4.6L engine built by CarBahn Autoworks. Bored and stroked to 94mm and 83mm respectively, this engine surpasses the power figures of a 4.4L GTS S65 whilst lead-copper Clevite rod bearings and upgraded valve springs ensure long-term performance.

“The decision to use the CarBahn 4.6 stroker over the 4.4-liter that BMW equipped the GTS with wasn’t as much about power but adding torque, which is not something that the S65 engine is not known for despite being a V8,” Daryl adds.

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With power and reliability sorted, efficiency was next on the list. Not MPG, but cooling and breathing. A full suite of CSF cooling upgrades keep temperatures low, no matter how hard the engine is pushed. A tried and tested upgrade package, the E91 GTS is now home to a CSF triple-pass radiator, oil cooler, power steering cooler, and DCT cooler.

A full Eventuri carbon fiber intake kit and plenum not only elevates the engine bay’s appearance but also adds an audible thrill to the front end of the GTS. This is paired with a titanium Akrapovič exhaust, further saving weight and adding power, and running the length of the car alongside a custom carbon propshaft from The Driveshaft Shop.

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Don’t think for a second that this E91 is just a straight line demon. Having Bilstein on board as a brand partner ensured the E91 would end up on a trick set of coilovers, and the 2-way adjustable Clubsports definitely fit the bill.

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Paired with literally every adjustable, rose-jointed or upgraded suspension component SPL Parts offers for the E9X platform, the GTS has had its sharpness and driver feedback dialled up to 11. After some seat time, Daryl is still suitably impressed. “The Clubsport suspension combined with SPL components provides crisp turn and precision without sacrificing any daily driver comfort.”

Not content there, anything that couldn’t be upgraded was replaced with new OEM parts, and any rubber components left over were swapped out with Powerflex polyurethane bushes.

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A car that can carry so much speed not only in a straight line but through the corners as well needs to stop even faster, and StopTech were on hand to provide a Trophy big brake kit for the build with 6-piston front calipers and 4-piston rears. A combination of 380mm and 355mm discs fill the 18-inch wheels front and rear, and what a set of wheels they are.

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Gorgeous 18-inch BBS E88s, the gold standard (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) in European performance wheels are a more than worthy substitution for the OEM GTS M359s, and have been wrapped in 265/35R18 and 295/30R18  Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tires. The OEM bolts have been replaced with a chromoly Future Classic stud conversion kit.

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Yet for all of the modifications, the real show-stopping feature of this BMW isn’t the performance but the thoughtful way in which everything has been put together.

“The goal was to use the GTS as inspiration but evolve the car in a way that retained the practicality inherent to a station wagon,” says Daryl. “We wanted a car that was as functional as a daily driver but had a solid foundation of parts that could be used for spirited driving, the occasional track day, or autocross.”

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That’s why for all of the GTS-inspired aspects of this car, you’ll find some choice differences too. Instead of using a pair of Recaro SPG fixed bucket seats, there are adjustable Recaro CS recliners for more comfort in day-to-day living. And not only that, but they’re a pair of genuine BMW Performance seats which have been discontinued for years. Lashings of Alcantara around the cabin tie them in perfectly.

In fact, they’re one of Daryl’s favourite aspects of the car, as well as “the not-so-obvious details, like the stitch on the rear bench seats that match the front BMW Performance seats, the laser-etched E91 GTS logo on the inside of the rear cargo hatch and the OE stickers under the hood that Precision Sport Industries had made to match the way BMW would have done them.”

Again, where an OEM GTS has a carbon fiber roof, the E91 has a panoramic sunroof in its place, making for a more pleasant and airy cabin. The dashboard retains the screen and iDrive software where the OEM GTS gets rid of all audio with a base model dash.

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This build is faithful to BMW details which most people wouldn’t even notice without being made aware of them, such as the bare-metal respray with the car’s ‘inner’ sections having a satin finish, not gloss, just how a BMW leaves the factory. This alongside the OEM rear wide arches from a saloon being grafted onto the Touring’s body, of course.

Pardon my BMW nerdiness here, but having a one-of-five Fire Orange E90 M3 as a paint reference is pretty damn cool. As is painting every panel in a day for maximum uniformity in the finish, as per BMW. Oh, and how could I not mention the OEM GTS front lip and matching tailgate spoiler?

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Pit+Paddock, Turn 14 and the team at PSI undertook a monumental task here and still managed to get it built in time for SEMA 2023 where it was proudly unveiled to the public in its completed guise. Sean and the team went above our expectations to execute every detail in a way that made us proud of the collective effort,” says Daryl. “The fact that it’s been well-received is an added bonus for us all.”

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“If you were blindfolded and placed in the driver’s seat, had the blindfold removed, started the car and never looked behind you, you’d never know it didn’t ever exist as anything else other than an E91 M3. The car is not just a conversion but a complete restoration down to bare metal.”

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Some could argue that as a demonstration piece, this level of fastidiousness is unnecessary. Sure, it would be easy to bolt on entire catalogs of parts with some flashy details and draw in a general crowd, but it’s clear that this E91 is so much more than that.

“The plan was always to have this car appreciated and experienced by enthusiasts. The car’s been on a tour of the US that started at SEMA, PRI, and our HQ in PA. The car returned home to Florida for Bimmer Invasion Orlando, and will now head over to the West Coast for our own event in Long Beach, which is a celebration of BMW M, normally aspirated cars, called Grid Icons.”

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It’s clear that the GTS was built as a passion project by enthusiasts as much as it was a product demonstrator, and it’s certainly caught the eye of the BMW enthusiast typing this article for you all.

And that’s not all. “The car will go on a European Tour with CSF this summer, with appearances highlighted by its Festival of Speed debut,” Daryl explains. “At the end of the year, one lucky Turn 14 Distribution customer will win the car as part of a sales promotion featuring the build partners.”

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I really can’t wait to see the car once it makes its European debut and really cast my eye and lens over the intricate details.

OEM fit and finish, sonorous V8 power, a chassis to die for and some rare and trick parts – forget ‘all the car you’d ever need’, Pit+Paddock’s E91 GTS may well be all the car you’d ever want.

Mario Christou
Instagram: mcwpn

Photography by Darrien Craven
Instagram: _crvn_