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American Racing Headers Brings New Life To The Iconic E46 M3

Posted on May 22 2017

At first glance, you may be thinking, “wait a minute, ARH is making Euro car headers now?” Our answer is pretty simple, YES. In fact ARH already offers header systems E90/92 M3’s and Mercedes’ coupe’s and sedan’s powered by their 6.3L V8.

What happens when American Racing Headers creates the first rotational firing, 6 into 1 long tube header system for the E46 S54 powered M3? Well, it’s definitely going to ruffle some feathers to say the least. Obviously we showed up a bit late to the game and that’s no secret. But does that stop us from showing up fashionably late? Not a chance. Seventeen years after the car’s initial release, and every top shelf exhaust system manufacturer having had a stab at designing, re-designing, and improving upon BMW’s initial design, we took our collective expertise and from a clean sheet of paper changed the game in one swift move.

Never before has a system been designed like this one, and we’re not just saying that because we’re ARH. We engineered and produced a system that takes S54 performance to another level. Using the highest quality materials, from the flange, tubing, merge collector, and optional catalytic converter, these are not your run of the mill - mass produced pieces. Through our immense efforts we’re reshaping the expectations of our customers and showing the market how headers are supposed to be done. Let’s elaborate a bit more on what makes this system stand out.

What Makes This Header So Special?

First off, the only thing at ARH from China is the occasional take-out food. This system is entirely 100% American made using 304 Stainless Steel. No outsourcing, unlike nearly all of our competition.

Let’s start at the most important part, our 6 into 1 merge collector where all the magic happens. The collector features our merge spike welded inside for a smooth transition and excellent scavenging capability. It chokes down to 3” to increase velocity, and expands gradually to the 3.5” transition but it’s imperative to take a hard look at the engines parameters (engine size, usable rpm range, cylinder head design, vehicle weight to name a few) and choose a tube size and length that provides the least amount of compromise on a wider range of applications. At the end of the day, all engines are air pumps. Their main purpose is to draw as much air into the cylinder head as possible, make the biggest bang, and get it out and down the exhaust efficiently so that it can move the car down the road. When we approached this system, we wanted to use a rotational firing merge collector concept. We optimized the airflow by taking the naturally occurring exhaust pulses and arranging the primaries entering the collector so that these pulses create a spinning effect as they enter. This scavenges the air from the primaries and keeps the exhaust pulses traveling at optimum velocity. What does all that mean? The car is going to move down the road, with more power under the curve, in every gear, all the way to redline.

 

Moving on to the flange

This head flange is 1/2” thick. No warping, no drama. Since the S54 uses studs and nuts, and we wanted to utilize them for a hassle free install, we counterbored the flange stud holes so that everything lines up like OEM and plays nice.

Initial Impressions

Frank Smith, a highly respected tuner and owner of Tuning Tech FS just wrapped up the initial testing of our brand new long system on Austin’s beautiful M3. The gains over the competition were eye opening to say the least. We knew it was going to make heaps of power over a factory M3 exhaust but to gain the power we did over the competition was a great feeling. We’re going to cover the initial impressions after the install next, and we know you’re going to love it.

Let’s Get It On!

Austin, the owner of the M3 that the system was tested on, didn’t waste any time getting his old header and cat-less secondary section off the car and on the ground to snap a few comparison photo’s.

Here’s the ARH system on top, and the competitor’s system pictured below

With Austin’s M3 up on the lift, they said the install went well and it was no harder to install than any other system they had tested in the past. That’s saying a lot since the 6 into 1 design is one piece.

The system fits like a glove, and the primary tube layout has nice gradual bends with plenty of room to get your hands in there to fasten it down.

The 3.5” ARH secondary section is all bolted up in the next picture, paired with a Super Sprint Race muffler which has an H-pipe leading into the back section.

After everything was installed, the car made its way on to the Dyno. Here’s where things get fun.

 

On To The Numbers!

The previous setup consisted of a competitor’s headers consistent in design with what’s currently available. They connected to catless connection pipes that routed back to section two and onto the Supersprint race muffler. After extensive tweaking by Frank Smith to the previously catless tune, the ARH system made an additional 15WHP over the previous exhaust!

This would equate to huge performance gains over a factory E46 system, which typically puts down around 270whp. The ARH system, with an Intake, and Supersprint race muffler put down 335 WHP after Frank’s tune. From 6200 RPM on up, it picks up across the board. (See Graph)

That’s 65 wheel horsepower gain from a factory M3 paired with an intake and tune!

Austin’s impressions of his M3’s new sound were described as the system having a much smoother and more refined exhaust note, with the typical S54 rasp practically eliminated! Another description was that of a Supra engine just rolling into boost but before the turbo(s) are fully spooled. A sound slightly higher in pitch and significantly more refined but with no rasp. The 6-1 merge with primaries sequenced for rotational firing and the single outlet 3-1/2”downpipe leading to the secondary section are responsible for this new sound. The collector allows the air to merge smoothly instead of turbulently in traditional collectors. For a system designed to make the most power humanly possible from this motor, the sound is very pleasant and the drone is minimal, but drone is ultimately controlled by the muffler you choose (so choose wisely).

Stay tuned as the testing progresses. We will be sharing additional photo's, sound clips, video, and more!

This system is available for purchase HERE. If you’re interested in ordering by phone, please give us a call and we will get you taken care of. Thank you for reading, please follow along on our web blog for more updates!