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Old 05-28-2009, 02:14 PM   #1
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Misconceptions about FI on an M54..

There are tons of 330 owners out there who want to boost their cars, but don't want to pay $7,000-8,000 for a kit that puts out moderate power. It's a good increase, sure, but most stock performance cars will still beat a boosted 330.

There are two problems, one of which is that nobody wants to invest into a kit for the 330, and the second is nobody really knows much about the M54 block. "Experts" out there claim that the M54 can't take more than 400hp because of the aluminum block, however this has never been proven to be true.

Let's look at the facts; the M54B30 is composed of an aluminim alloy block, forged steel connecting rods, and a one-piece forged crank. To me, this motor seems overbuilt. The only weak point I can see is the 10.5:1 compression, which can be compensated for in a couple of different ways. Some claim that the aluminum isn't able to hold the heat of more power and will crack, however with today's technology IAT's can be as low as 70 degrees. I've been looking around for the heat capacity of the al-sil block, but I haven't found a definite answer.

The evidence to prove that 400hp is not the limit can be found in KromeX's car, a 330i with over 430whp, that has been running for a couple of years. He has a well-built, but simple setup, including head studs, new pistons and rods, and a new HG.

I understand that there is limited availability for the 330, but turbo manifolds can be found, and that's really the only model-specific turbo part you need. IC pipes, lines, turbos, are all universal. The only hinging point is the tuning, which would need to be sourced.


I wanted to bring this topic to the table and have a good technical discussion about why or why not the 330 can make more than 400hp because the answer still seems to be up in the air. What do you think?
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Old 05-28-2009, 02:18 PM   #2
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waiting to hear from www.techniquetuning.com on this one.
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Old 05-28-2009, 02:37 PM   #3
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Kit manufacturers offer an interesting perspective, but they approach this from a completely different angle. They see it as what can be done at low risk and yet still make money.

By no means do I think the M54 can match the output of the cast-iron blocked S54, but limiting capability to 400-450hp seems ridiculous.
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Old 05-28-2009, 03:41 PM   #4
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Very good thread I enjoy seeing these topics are more prevelant these days.

400 hp is great and I would be fine with just 350 coming from a well balenced turbo setup. Another issue with this increase is the lack of driveline reinforcement found on a stock 330 (subframe). However I do agree that the m54b30 is a very well built engine.

My main problem with fi on e46's is the exploitation seen in tuning. The chasis is now 10 years old and still there is no means of legitimate tuning offered to the knowledgeable masses for our cars na or fi. Some may claim the responsibility aspect but this hasn't been a issue with... Let's name them honda, mazda, nissan, gm, ford, toyota, vw and many more. I believe it is the dollar and the tolerant nature I see in the "tuning" circle that we have had in the past. However I have been noticing that recently there is an increasing amount of people on a quest to find a economical and realistic solution for custom tuning and fi for our cars. I only wish I had more time to give to those who are putting forth effort to make this possible and explore the custom fi possibilities of the 330.
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Old 05-28-2009, 03:52 PM   #5
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ESS Stage 3 makes around 470HP @ 15psi (with built internals), so somebody did take the time to do some research if the block can handle it. so I believe that the M54B30 can make more than 400HP
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Old 05-28-2009, 04:13 PM   #6
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Ok, so let's take that a step further. How much can the stock block handle with 11.5:1 A/F, methanol injection, and an intercooler?

How much do you think it could reasonably make on built internals? (loaded question.. the crank and rods don't really need to be replaced, and the pistons only need to be replaced to lower compression)
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Old 05-28-2009, 04:26 PM   #7
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Hopefully someone will push the limits. I, too, think it's odd that in 10 years, you never hear of anyone hitting a wall with this engine. There are just conservative SC kits. Hopefully with TT finally putting out a turbo kit, we'll have a good basis to see people use some beefy internals and see what it takes to kill the M54.


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Ok, so let's take that a step further. How much can the stock block handle with 11.5:1 A/F, methanol injection, and an intercooler?

How much do you think it could reasonably make on built internals? (loaded question.. the crank and rods don't really need to be replaced, and the pistons only need to be replaced to lower compression)
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Old 05-28-2009, 04:28 PM   #8
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Just brain storming but I think the limiting factor that the ally block has is how much internal pressure can the head studs hold until the threds give way and the head lifts.
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Old 05-28-2009, 04:31 PM   #9
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I think you mean the wallet.

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Just brain storming but I think the limiting factor that the ally block has is how much internal pressure can the head studs hold until the threds give way and the head lifts.
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Old 05-28-2009, 04:49 PM   #10
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Kritikal- ARP sells a head stud kit for the M54.

So.. that leaves us with the drivetrain. I know that Clutch Masters has a stage 4 clutch, but I'm not sure what the holding capacity is. I also don't know what the capability of the axles is. Are they the same as the M3?
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Old 05-28-2009, 05:33 PM   #11
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Kritikal- ARP sells a head stud kit for the M54.

So.. that leaves us with the drivetrain. I know that Clutch Masters has a stage 4 clutch, but I'm not sure what the holding capacity is. I also don't know what the capability of the axles is. Are they the same as the M3?
The studs don't stretch, they actually stretch the threads in the block, making it un-usable.

Benvo lifted the threads out of the block at ~450whp.

You guys want to get 400+rwhp, it's not going to happen with a custom kit for anywhere near the price of a bolt on SC/turbo kit. A lot of these threads have been popping up, but people need to realize that this motor is not the best starting point for high HP. It's much more cost effective to sell the e46 and either get an e46 M3, or an e36 where the power levels you're looking for are easily achieved. As of now, for $7k you can get 300-340rwhp... which is noticeably more than "most stock performance cars" in the same market. Add FI cams and, meth, and maybe up boost a bit, and a solid 360rwhp is there to play with. Rocky just dyno'd 388whp with an SC kit, really not bad at all.
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Old 05-28-2009, 09:58 PM   #12
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hey guys

Well at 388rwhp and 325tq to the wheels I think also is pritty good myself. Next week I will have the 12psi pulley on and I hope the motor stays together lol
I have tryed to take care of the motor by having the oil cooler, larger front mount IC and also the lower temp spark plugs. Good gas (94) and oil changes.

what do you guys thing will happen when i push the extra 1.5lbs of boost ?

I think I should be able to hit the 400rwhp mark but i hope that is holds together.
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Old 05-28-2009, 10:08 PM   #13
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Old 05-28-2009, 10:13 PM   #14
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^i think the block should be fine, but the aluminum blots for the heads are weak and other such areas are weak hope you haven't over torqued anything.....

side note: my summer job is at bmw and i was standin around in the shop today. there was a stock 2005 325i that had aluminum bolt on the head that broke off and had been shot out the side of the engine! I was taking to the Tech, they were going to pull the motor and rebuild the motor with a new lower block.....
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Old 05-28-2009, 10:53 PM   #15
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I'm sure the 330 can make 400 whp. But why boost a 330 when you can get an E46 M3 and get to 400whp probably for less money than it would to get a 330 to 400whp?

Not to mention that an M comes with an LSD and upgraded suspension components from the factory.

Honestly, I should have just gotten an M3 from the beginning...I would have saved a LOT of money.
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Old 05-28-2009, 11:49 PM   #16
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Activ3- If it was about sheer power, I wouldn't drive a BMW. Hell, for the amount I spent upgrade from my LT1 Z28 to the 330Ci I could've had 800whp in the Camaro..but it had 160k miles, no AC, and only 2 working speakers. The BMW is a huge upgrade to say the least. And while the Z28 could actually put down that 800whp, it couldn't really handle. It wasn't bad, but the steering rack alone on the 3'er is 1000x better.

A lot of you seem to be thinking that a turbo kit will cost much more than what you've seen on TT or anywhere else. The fact is.. the whole point of a custom kit is that it is less expensive to make. You don't spend all of that effort building to pay more money. Tuning shops scare you with up front costs because they need to build these kits on a massive scale and test them endlessly. If they told you custom tuning a kit was a better solution, they wouldn't be very good at what they do, would they? That isn't to say it's always a better solution, but if you can do it, it will certainly be more cost effective.. and will probably put out more power.

Now that I think about it, 400whp would probably be more than enough power. The nice thing about getting a turbo to make that much is that you don't risk daily driveability like with a supercharger. Near-stock power is a turn of a knob away. Obviously the supercharger has its advantages as well, but getting stock mileage, and still being able to whoop up on a 350Z at a moments notice is always nice.


I'm going to do some research and keep you guys posted on whether or not the stud problem can be fixed.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:15 AM   #17
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Activ3- If it was about sheer power, I wouldn't drive a BMW. Hell, for the amount I spent upgrade from my LT1 Z28 to the 330Ci I could've had 800whp in the Camaro..but it had 160k miles, no AC, and only 2 working speakers. The BMW is a huge upgrade to say the least. And while the Z28 could actually put down that 800whp, it couldn't really handle. It wasn't bad, but the steering rack alone on the 3'er is 1000x better.

A lot of you seem to be thinking that a turbo kit will cost much more than what you've seen on TT or anywhere else. The fact is.. the whole point of a custom kit is that it is less expensive to make. You don't spend all of that effort building to pay more money. Tuning shops scare you with up front costs because they need to build these kits on a massive scale and test them endlessly. If they told you custom tuning a kit was a better solution, they wouldn't be very good at what they do, would they? That isn't to say it's always a better solution, but if you can do it, it will certainly be more cost effective.. and will probably put out more power.

Now that I think about it, 400whp would probably be more than enough power. The nice thing about getting a turbo to make that much is that you don't risk daily driveability like with a supercharger. Near-stock power is a turn of a knob away. Obviously the supercharger has its advantages as well, but getting stock mileage, and still being able to whoop up on a 350Z at a moments notice is always nice.


I'm going to do some research and keep you guys posted on whether or not the stud problem can be fixed.




You missed the point. The power limitation is holding the head down. There are solutions, and hopefully within 3 months we'll have a well documented example.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:29 AM   #18
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You missed the point. The power limitation is holding the head down. There are solutions, and hopefully within 3 months we'll have a well documented example.
Maybe from what you've heard, but I have heard everything from the head lifting to the block cracking.

I understand that the head lifting is the more immediate problem, and I said "stud" situation because I didn't want to spell out the threads on the inside of the block situation.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:05 PM   #19
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Maybe from what you've heard, but I have heard everything from the head lifting to the block cracking.
I'm just curious who you heard of the head lifting from, because the data I have says we aren't producing enough cylinder pressure to achieve this. (Yet)

I suspect I may be the only person to see over 400rwtq on an M54...and my head hasn't lifted.

The only cracked blocks I know of are from over-reving an engine.

It is true that the M54 aluminum block has a potentially weaker structure than that of an iron block of similar design. But, this is only from a metalurgical point of view, and may not apply to this application. The only way to find out is to start stepping up the power ladder and taking carefull measurements along the way.

BTW, do you have deep pockets? This "ladder" isn't cheap.
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Old 05-29-2009, 11:22 AM   #20
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Activ3- If it was about sheer power, I wouldn't drive a BMW. Hell, for the amount I spent upgrade from my LT1 Z28 to the 330Ci I could've had 800whp in the Camaro..but it had 160k miles, no AC, and only 2 working speakers. The BMW is a huge upgrade to say the least. And while the Z28 could actually put down that 800whp, it couldn't really handle. It wasn't bad, but the steering rack alone on the 3'er is 1000x better.

A lot of you seem to be thinking that a turbo kit will cost much more than what you've seen on TT or anywhere else. The fact is.. the whole point of a custom kit is that it is less expensive to make. You don't spend all of that effort building to pay more money. Tuning shops scare you with up front costs because they need to build these kits on a massive scale and test them endlessly. If they told you custom tuning a kit was a better solution, they wouldn't be very good at what they do, would they? That isn't to say it's always a better solution, but if you can do it, it will certainly be more cost effective.. and will probably put out more power.

Now that I think about it, 400whp would probably be more than enough power. The nice thing about getting a turbo to make that much is that you don't risk daily driveability like with a supercharger. Near-stock power is a turn of a knob away. Obviously the supercharger has its advantages as well, but getting stock mileage, and still being able to whoop up on a 350Z at a moments notice is always nice.


I'm going to do some research and keep you guys posted on whether or not the stud problem can be fixed.
Trust me, you will get use to the 400rwhp on a 330 very quickly. Since you are after the HP race, how can you say that 400rwhp is enough power when you are comparing the 800rwhp Camaro you could have built in your garage?

The stud problem is that if you use the ARP studs, they are simply too hard and will pull the threads in the head out. The OEM head bolts allow it to stretch with the soft Al block.

If you want, you can buy the extra M54 block I have that is already time-serted and you can R&D a kit to sell. It even comes with brand new OEM pistons.

I was able to whoop on stock 350Z in my older setup.
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