WRITTEN BY SAM DU || PHOTOS BY SEAN KLINGELHOEFER
Not many people can claim this... "I was one of the founding members of Dell Asia," Calvin Eng told us. After working his way up the corporate ladder, Calvin landed an opportunity to live in Hong Kong and Singapore, traveling to Japan, China and Australia, building the Dell empire. "It was an amazing experience but family health issues meant I had to transfer back to the US and take some time off," he continued.
Working 24-7 and jet-lagging every week wasn't healthy for Calvin's lifestyle either, so he took a new direction in life. "I decided to start a company, doing something I had a passion for, which was cars. That's how Auto-Tech Interiors (ATI) began. It started when I wanted to find a place to install gauges in my '93 Mazda RX-7. After coming up with a design, I partnered with family to start injection molding my own product line."
Manufacturing gauge pods became Calvin's dream job since he could play with cars all day. It also became a lucrative business but he needed to supply more than just pods. So he partnered with STRI in Japan to become their US distributor and offer gauge packages.
Of course, we rolled our eyes at Calvin's Mazda affliction. But after building two RX-7 show cars and a product line for Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota, he finally entered the Euro scene. And his first Euro was a twin-charged Mini Cooper until he added this gorgeous '08 BMW M3 last year.
The Coupe grabbed our attention at SEMA '09 (et 2/10) with its quality parts from companies like Brembo, Ericsson, Recaro and Focal. "My goal was to build something quicker than stock, have a unique look, maintain the flowing lines and still drive it daily," he revealed.
Like most SEMA cars, it was a last-minute rush to acquire and install the parts. Calvin credited European Auto Source in Santa Ana, CA for finishing the E92 hours before roll-in.
The project kicked off with the basics, outfitting the 4.0 V8 with bolt-on parts from Active Autowerke. An exhaust deleted the secondary cats, reduced weight and improved the M3's grunt, while a X-pipe bumped top-end power.
Active's performance software adjusted ignition, fuel delivery and throttle to provide more power across the rev range.
Moving over to the chassis, the stock suspension was ditched for KW Clubsport coilovers, which were shipped from Germany days before SEMA. Powerflex bushings from Bimmerworld also ensured tight steering and better suspension control.
Brakes were an integral part of the package, and what's better than Brembo? Massive 15'' slotted rotors were installed front and back, along with six- and four-piston calipers respectively for impeccable stopping power.
With the foundations complete, Calvin needed to work on the creative elements - wheels and bodywork. Finding the right set of wheels was one of the hardest tasks. "Wheels are an intimate part of a build and provide the most character for the car," he said. "Therefore, I spent a great deal of time selecting the perfect look. I must have looked at over 100 different wheels to find the perfect set."
While it would've been easy to go with predictable BBS or HREs, Calvin elected to use Advan RS-Ds, a wheel released in the US in the summer of '09. Imported from Japan by Mackin Industries, the staggered 20x8'' fronts and 20x9'' rears were matched to wider Pirelli P Zero tires.
And in preparation for future track days, Calvin has a set of 19'' RS-Ds sitting in his garage, which will be mounted with, stickier Pirelli Trofeo tires.
The focus of the M3 was the body kit, though. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you're looking at an authentic Powerhouse Amuse Ericsson kit. First introduced on the M480 concept at the '08 Tokyo Auto Salon (et 2/09)the stunning aerodynamics stole the hearts of enthusiasts around the world - even non-BMW owners loved it.
With such a breathtaking design, you'd think every M3 owner would want it. But retail on the carbon kit, consisting of front and rear bumpers, side skirts and trunk, was in excess of $30,000!
Fortunately, the fiberglass (FRP) option was just shy of $10k, so this is what Calvin opted for. "It was a long process that tested my patience," he disclosed. "We tried going direct to Powerhouse Amuse in Japan but it proved very difficult. So in the end, Bulletproof Automotive in Los Angeles was able to get it about eight days before SEMA. And it was well worth the effort!"
With the M3 looking like a show stunner, Calvin shifted his attention to the interior, where leather Recaro Pole Position seats were installed on Macht Schnell brackets.
As you'd expect, the interior also featured STRI gauges in Calvin's ATI steering column pod and an additional three-gauge panel from Macht Schnell.
The audio system was nothing short of perfection as well. Engineers from Focal installed and tuned the system to sound like a recording studio. Component speakers were fitted front and rear, while two 8'' subs were hidden under the Recaros. For more bass, a single 13'' sub blows sound waves through the center armrest, while three Masconi amps power the system.
After displaying the car at SEMA, Calvin has kept it out of the spotlight. With so much time and money invested, he admitted it had been stressful driving the M3 around town. Imagine scraping the front bumper... It would cost thousands to replace, not to mention the time waiting for a new one to arrive from Japan...
But after months went by with the car sitting in the garage, Calvin finally came to his senses. In fact, he's making plans to take the M3 to the track sometime this summer. And although he was very successful at Dell Computers, he's now his own boss and is able to ensure he has the time to do what he loves most; playing with cars.
2008 BMW M3
Owner: Calvin Eng
Location: Irvine, CA
Occupation: owner of ATI
Engine: 4.0 liter V8 32v with Active Autowerke Signature software, X-pipe and exhaust, carbon intake, Macht Schnell carbon engine cover, K&N filter
Drivetrain: six-speed manual with Rogue Engineering short shift kit
Brakes: 15'' Brembo slotted rotors front and rear with six-piston front, four-piston rear calipers, stainless lines
Suspension: KW Clubsport coilovers, Powerflex bushings
Wheels & Tires: 20x8'' front, 20x9'' rear Advan RS-D wheels with 245/35 R20 front, 285/30 R20 rear Pirelli P Zero tires
Exterior: Powerhouse Amuse Ericsson front and rear bumpers, side skirts and trunk lid
Interior: Recaro Pole Position seats, Macht Schnell brackets, ATI steering column gauge pod, Macht Schnell gauge panel with STRI oil pressure, volt and water temp gauges
Audio/Visual: Focal K2 KRS component speakers front and rear, two 8'' subs under front seats, 13'' sub in trunk, three Mosconi amps, AGW+ MOST Interface with eight-channel DSP fiber-optic integration system
Thanks: Eddie at Mackin Industries, Joe and Raf at Pirelli, George at KW Suspension, Omar at Active Autowerke, Kate at Brembo, Ben at Rogue Engineering, Duane at Focal, European Auto Source, Hunter at Bulletproof Automotive, Bimmerworld, K&N, STRI Racing USA, Auto-Tech Interiors