The E46 BMW 3-series is one of the most affordable options for the iconic 3-series lineup there is right now. However, that may not be the case for much longer, considering how rapidly the price of the previous generation E36 models has been steadily increasing. That being said, they were a hot commodity when they first came out. So much so that the folks at Hartge, who first started making extreme performance BMW variants in the 1970s, couldn’t even get an M3 when they were new. So, the company built its own.
This faux M3 is a V8 swapped E46 330ci with the heart of an M5
According to Autoevolution, the story goes that Hartge couldn’t get its hands on an E46 M3 because the demand was so high. So, in response, the company purchased a 330ci and decided to build their own take on the M3. In reality, the Hartge H50 became a V8 swapped E46 warrior that likely demolishes an actual E46 M3.
Hartge removed the inline-six that came with the 330ci. In its place went a V8 engine. However, BMW enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the legendary German tuning company kept it authentic to BMW. No LS swap here, folks!
Instead, Harge plopped the S62 4.9-liter V8 engine from the E39 BMW M5 into its engine bay. This fearsome V8 makes 394 horsepower in stock format and utilizes BMW’s VANOS variable valve timing system. However, that wasn’t quite good enough for Hartge. Some revisions to speed limiting, refinement of ECU’s maps, and a freer-flowing exhaust system turned up the heat. Some of these Hartge H50 examples came with up to 444 horsepower on tap. That’s absolute insanity for 2001. That’s more power than a 2001 Ferrari 360.
Additionally, the Hartge H50 V8 swapped E46 got some aesthetic love, too. Upfront, the front bumper and specially molded and bulging hood are exclusive to this car. It also has a bespoke rear spoiler and a pair of side skirts that look very similar to the ones found on a standard E46 BMW M3.
Inside, it has an M5 steering wheel and carbon bucket seats from the Porsche 911 GT3.
Hartge brought the heat
With all that power under the hood, the E46 Hartge H50 is good for a sprint from zero to 60 miles per hour in just a hair over four seconds. Flat out, it’ll go on to a top speed of over 180 miles per hour. It isn’t just a straight-line hero, either.
Hartge modified the chassis’s suspension and installed brakes from the M5 to keep all the extra power under control.
If all this sounds exciting, though, there’s bad news. You’re not likely going to stumble upon one. Hartge never made any official production number announcements, but sources suggest that only around 20 of them ever made their way into public hands.
Hartge produced these cars from 2001 to 2006. According to Autoevolution, they cost about $150,000 in today’s money. So, even if you manage to find one for sale, you’re looking at a really expensive piece of BMW history!