If you’re a fan of hip-hop, then you’ve already started reciting the next words of NYC-native Rakim’s verse from the popular title lyrics. If not, I’ll explain. He goes on to describe how he’s undecided between the idea of using illegal methods to earn money or, instead, using his talents as an MC to earn his income and get Paid In Full, as the name of the song suggests. Well, with a career in music and residence in the heart of New York City similar to Rakim, the owner of this gorgeous BMW—Mitch Lebron—is after the same plan.
Bear with me because the precursor for this feature began almost 12 years ago, when a hopeful Philadelphia-suburb-based automotive enthusiast—me—started dipping his feet into the world of photography and befriended tons of people in the process. I was attending car meets, car shows, and races all over the country and on my own dime. Anything automotive I could capture in front of my camera, I was there. One particular meeting, at Orchard Beach in New York, is important for today’s story.
It was a sweltering day in August of 2008; I had been talking for months with several individuals from New York City on the Honda-Tech.com forum, and planned on meeting many of them at a car meet. The day began with a drive up from Philadelphia to the Bronx and continued by joining a caravan to the actual meet destination of Orchard Beach nearby. This meet was my first encounter with Mitch, except he didn’t own the BMW yet. Back in 2008, Mitch owned an imported right-hand-drive EG6 Civic with spectacular Captiva Blue Pearl paint and JLine wheels. I still remember rounding the corner in the Bronx, NY—where Mitch still lives, works, and drives his cars to this day—and seeing the Civic lowered to the ground, and drying on the sidewalk outside of Mitch’s favorite local detail shop. From there, several of us, including Mitch, continued through the city in a caravan of modified Hondas, which ended at a desolate Orchard Beach parking lot.
After more and more cars began to show up, the meet became a fun day of looking around at builds and snapping some photos while I walked the aisles of the lot. However, as the sun went down, a few of us clung to the only green vegetation visible in the vast asphalt lot for some unique photos. I had packed my new flashes to experiment with some external lighting on my camera, except I didn’t have any stands to hold the flashes. So I laid them on the ground in front of a few cars—to offset each car’s shadow—and took some pictures. One of my most notable from that day was of a particular EG6 Civic, which belonged to Mitch.
Fast forward almost 12 years later, and we still keep in touch. In the time since, Mitch has owned a few different automotive treasures, but none of them strike me quite like his current E90 M3. So when I had the opportunity to celebrate our photographic anniversary with an updated photoshoot of his new car, I jumped at the chance.
Why move from small econoboxes into a beefy, powerful German sedan? It was Mitch’s admiration of the Honda marque that catalyzed the jump to BMW muscle.
“Knowing that the E9X M3 chassis came with a high-revving V8 made me want one since its debut back in 2008. After owning countless Hondas, the high-revving VTEC lifestyle drew me into wanting an E9X M3,” says Mitch.
Mark that down, because I don’t think he’s alone in that regard. For a generation of automotive enthusiasts who grew up idolizing legendary Japanese automobiles living their best life in the highest rev reaches of the tachometer, the S65-engine-equipped BMW is a natural and luxurious progression.
So how does one make such a leap in automobile ownership? Well, stuffed with knowledge about the vehicle he was looking for, Mitch took to the internet to find the E9X M car he so desired.
“I found this car, thanks to Craigslist. I found it when the second owner was selling it. I offered him a nice deal and was declined. The car ended up being sold to a young man in Philadelphia, so I lost all hope, and I kept on with my search for the perfect E9X M3,” says Mitch.
So excuse me while I take a brief detour. While I was photographing the car for this feature, I shared a picture of it on my Instagram and received an intriguing message. As it turns out, a friend of mine was the one who physically brought the car from Ohio into the Philadelphia area. What a small world. Anyway, back to Mitch’s recount of the story.
“Four months later, I see the car back on Craigslist again, and I immediately contacted the new owner. Did a PPI (pre-purchase inspection) at AUTOcouture [Motoring] and purchased the car on the spot.”
Out of all the E90 M3 sedans produced, how can I be sure it was this exact car? Well, because this car was initially ordered through the BMW Individual program, which grants the original purchaser of the vehicle the opportunity to pick any exterior paint and interior color combination. While there is no question that the German manufacturer produced many iterations of this chassis in the BMW Individual program, there is only one 2009 Neptune Blue Metallic E90 M3 with Fox Red Novillo Extended Leather interior in the world. The rarity is an attribute of the car that Mitch still enjoys to this day, and he still remembers the feeling of driving it home for the first time as a standout highlight.
“The first drive back home is a day I could never forget. I’ve always been a fan of rare things but didn’t think I would own a one-of-one M3,” says Mitch.
This particular M3 comes with some more positives than a luscious redline and unique paint, though. One of those positives is its delivered torque, the figure that represents how much a vehicle can pin you to the seat and elongate the smile protruding into your cheeks. In stock form, the S65 engine develops 300 lb-ft of twist, which should be plenty for most. Mitch is not like most.
“My first initial vision when I bought the car was to drive it stock. I enjoyed it stock for a year until I got the itch to start modding the car more to my liking—a bit of JDM and Euro.”
Once he began building the car into his vision, he realized that more power would be needed to deliver peak performance. Because Mitch had the commonly faulted rod bearings and throttle actuators of the S65 replaced with proper variants at 70,000 miles, he called on the horsepower authority of ESS Tuning to render extra juice to the engine. The company’s VT2-625 Supercharger Kit fastens a Vortech V3 Si-trim supercharger to the powerplant and unleashes an additional 211 horsepower from the already-beastly S65 V8! With Mitch’s addition of bigger injectors and a tune, you should hear the immense growl that emanates from the glorious Meisterschaft GT2 exhaust system now. Aggressive is an understatement! While the enhanced power output is certainly a highlight of the build, Mitch labels a different modification as his favorite.
“I would say the Öhlins suspension is my favorite part. Stock, these cars are near perfect. It’s not a necessary mod, but it definitely awakens the beast, and its handling feel,” says Mitch.
Finding the parts to modify the car wasn’t always cut-and-dry. As most of us know, if you’re after any rare pieces, then time, money, and patience are all valued currencies. Mitch knew this from his time searching for the perfect additions in his Honda years, so he was more prepared when it came time to alter the BMW.
“The most difficult part was finding the right quality of parts and staying away from knockoff eBay spoiler kits. I had to reach out to a few vendors to help me locate parts, such as my front spoiler made by Kohlenstoff, based out of Japan. But rare parts for a rare car go hand in hand.”
It doesn’t stop with the supercharger, or the rare front lip—of which there are only three in the world. The quality modifications continue with the Mode Carbon GTS wing on the trunk, then flow through the StopTech 380mm and 355mm Big Brake Kits and into the Turner Motorsport titanium stud kit.
There’s also the matter of the competitive appearance of the car, thanks in part to the rigid Studio RSR five-point half-roll-cage seen throughout the backseat wearing matching Neptune Blue Metallic paint.
However, the crown jewel for me is the set of distinguished BBS Motorsport E05 wheels finished in black with astounding specifications. Measuring 19×9.5-inch in the front with a +19 offset, and 19×11-inch +25 in the rear, the stock-bodied M3 unbelievably swallows its 265/30 and 295/30 respective Toyo Tires R888s with ease.
From the looks, to the sound, to its power numbers, this car is an outright beast that seems fit for a trip around the Nürburgring in Germany. Those factors combine with the elegant color combination to complete the stunning vehicle. It’s easy to see why Mitch wants to take it easy on the car in the future.
“Well, I bought another E9X M3—a coupe in Jet Black—and I plan to build that into a track build. The Neptune will go back to a semi-stock build so I can preserve its mileage and usage. I can’t get enough of the E9X chassis, though. I could definitely say it’s one of the best M3s in BMW’s lineup,” he says.
“I would like to thank my family and friends! Big shout out to my boy Enrique, and also the guys at AUTOcouture [Motoring] and Petrolwerks.”
It’s been a long journey since Mitch and I met. While his master plan that I spoke of earlier in the article might be based on earning a living, he has executed a different kind of plan to perfection with this E90 M3 sedan.
His ideal selection of car might have changed from lightweight Japanese hatchbacks to high-powered German muscle, but his exquisite taste for sharp modifications hasn’t faltered. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the black E92. Who knows—hopefully, I can write an article about another one of his cars 12 years from now.
Mitch Lebron's 1-of-1 Neptune Blue Metallic 2009 BMW M3
|Kohlenstoff carbon fiber front spoiler in satin finish, Forcewerkz carbon fiber side skirts in satin finish, 3DDesign rear diffuser, OEM BMW Performance spoiler, Mode Carbon GTS wing, BMW Individual Neptune Blue Metallic paint (from E60-chassis 5 Series)
|OEM BMW Performance steering wheel, Studio RSR five-point half-roll-cage, P2 boost gauge, BMW Individual Fox Red Novillo Extended Leather interior material
|ESS Tuning VT2-625 supercharger system, 42lb/hr injectors, 7psi pulley, Macht Schnell Race X-pipe, Meisterschaft GT2 exhaust system with optional carbon fiber cooling plate, Felix Tuned engine, OEM GTS DCT transmission tune, 575 wheel horsepower and 410 lb-ft wheel torque
|Öhlins Road and Track suspension system with new OEM top hats
|BBS Motorsport E05 wheels (19x9.5-inch +19 front, 19x11-inch +25 rear), Toyo Tires R888 tires (265/30-19 front, 295/30-19 rear)
|StopTech Big Brake Kit (380mm front, 355mm rear), Turner Motorsport titanium stud kit