Welcome to Throwback Monday where we take a look at how things once were, or at least how certain famous cars were once built. This week we get to see how BMW’s M Factory assembled the legendary S54B32.
Considered at the time to be one of the best engines in the world, BMW’s 343-bhp S54B32 helped establish the E46 M3 as the model for which all other sporting coupes would be judged. The engine itself won Ward’s Engine of the Year Straight Six class for three years running in 2002, 2003, and 2004. What allowed an engine to make such power and still meet the standards of composure and durability so as to be so feted? Well, it’s possibly the care that went into its creation.
The S54B32 engine was derived from the E36 M3’s S52B32 engine. Along with the 343 ponies it made 269 lb-ft of almost effortless torque, and found its way under the hoods of not just the E46 M3, but the ’01-’02 Z3 M Roadster and Clownshoe, and the Z4 M Roadster and Coupe as well.
The changes from the S52 included a non-return fuel system, electronically-controlled thermostat and a drive by wire throttle. U.S. editions also came as full-alloy, discarding the S52’s iron blocks previously sent our way. Dual-length intakes fed a VANOS variable valve system while the same sort of adjustable cam was offered on the exhaust side as well.
BMW built the S54 in the M factory by hand. Instead of an assembly line, each engine received its own automated dolly to move from station to station where components were carefully installed, checked and rechecked by the assembly technicians. This short film lacks any voice over, but it’s pretty self explanatory as to what’s going on, and it’s pretty fascinating to see the mighty motor come together from a stockpile of individual parts. Let’s take a moment to toast the S54 memory by having a look at how it came to be.