When BMW CCA member Lenny Karenski retired his 2011 BMW 550i GT from track duty in favor of a 2002 Carbon Schwarz Metallic M3 (E46), he soon realized that while the M3 was a much better track car, it fell short in one category: space. There simply wasn’t enough room to fit his track wheels and tires, tools, and other gear required for a weekend of High-Performance Driving Education (HPDE). While some might consider options like a truck and trailer or smaller store-bought trailer, Karenski went a much more unique route. He built his own using the back half of another E46 M3, creating what might possibly be the perfect one-and-a-half car solution.
Naturally, this trailer-creation journey started with being bitten by the “track bug.” Karenski recalls, “[In 2021,] I was excited to try something new and decided to try racing and car control clinics [with Boston Chapter BMW CCA] in my heavy 550i GT. It was quite an experience! Shout out to all my instructors who didn’t quit on me.” After a year of track events with the 550i GT, Karenski began looking for something a bit more nimble and track focused. He found his 2002 M3 in Atlanta, Georgia. One fly-and-drive adventure later, it was back home with Karenski in Ashland, Massachusetts.
Karenski remembers finding his inspiration for his one-off M3 trailer on the internet. “One day I saw someone with a matching trailer online. This was the ‘this is it’ moment. I needed it no matter what!” he says. As Karenski planned to build the trailer himself, he knew that there would be a lot of welding and fabrication involved. So, before even acquiring a donor M3, he upped his fabrication game. He says, “Luckily, there is a tech school in a neighboring town and they had evening classes on metal fabrication and welding. 90% of that class was hands-on experience, and that definitely helped a lot. I also learned during the process by talking to a local shop that sells welding supplies.”
Around the time the fabrication classes finished, Karenski found the donor M3. He recalls, “I was searching locally, but prices were around $3,500, which was above my ‘shell’ budget. Then in October 2022 I found a post on Facebook Marketplace—an M3 convertible shell for $800.” The only catch was its location—the M3 shell was in New Bern, North Carolina, which was fourteen hours away.
Despite the distance, Karenski called the seller and worked out a deal for $500. “The next day I was renting a truck and trailer to make the trip to North Carolina,” he says. Thankfully, the M3 shell was in a great condition, with no rust or damage. As a bonus, Karenski was able to sell the front end, pedal assembly, and other parts to recuperate costs, making his M3 shell essentially free (aside from rental costs).
With the shell home, Karenski began work. The M3 convertible was cut in half. The underside was cleaned and prepped for a new subframe and suspension components. One of the biggest challenges was finishing the front of the trailer. For this, Karenski leveraged a tailgate from a pickup truck. He says, “There is a train station five minutes away from my house with hundreds of cars parked there—some of them are pickups. I took my tape measure and started measuring which one would fit best. It turned out that a Nissan Frontier’s tailgate fit almost perfectly. I bought one at the scrap yard, ordered original mounting brackets from Nissan, and after a few nights in the garage I had a beautiful opening tailgate.” He had to buy two more tailgates to finish the trailer’s front end, but says, “I’m totally happy with the result.”
Another challenge was finding a tow hitch for the E46 M3. Some research showed that the best option was made by Westfalia in Germany. Karenski says, “They are impossible to find in the U.S. (for E46 coupes in particular).” After a couple of false starts attempting to buy new, he looked to source a used hitch from Europe. He recalls, “The problem is that they are heavy and nobody wants to ship them to the U.S. Luckily, my wife has a college friend who lives in Germany, so I bought a used hitch from the Netherlands with shipping to Germany and then asked our friend to ship it to the U.S.” Shipping ended up costing more than the hitch itself, but this was an instrumental piece of the puzzle.
After months of fabrication, mechanical work, electrical work, and body work in his garage, Karenski handed it off to a professional painter to have the trailer painted to match his M3. The results of this M3-and-a-half speak for themselves. The trailer features working tail lights, a trunk large enough to fit plenty of track-day supplies, and a pair of rear seats with a functioning convertible top. A matching set of wheels to his E46 M3 are a nice touch. “Although it’s pretty handy, I think my favorite thing is how it looks. I really like how it came out,” Karenski says.
Since completion earlier this year, Karenski has taken it to a track event and a show at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum near Boston. He says, “I’m definitely satisfied with the trailer. I have a place to pack all my ‘track stuff’ and I can take a rest in the rear seat between track sessions. I really enjoy taking a break there on a track. Before I was taking a seat on a rock or on someone’s cooler.”
This M3 trailer’s owner isn’t the only one enjoying it, though. Karenski laughs, “It is definitely catching a lot of attention when I’m on the road, with a lot of people pulling next to me and taking pictures, waving, giving a thumbs up, or just smiling.” While there may have been cheaper options for an E46 M3 track trailer, I challenge you to find a cooler one. —Mike Bevels
[Photos courtesy of Lenny Karenski.]