- Profession: Swimmer
- Age: 29
- Hometown: Mission, B.C.
- The car: 1999 BMW M3
- The first Canadian in 21 years to win a gold medal in the 100m at the World Aquatics Championships
- The first Canadian to appear in the 100m final at the Olympics since Dick Pound at the 1960 Summer Olympics and the first Canadian to win an Olympic medal in the 100m.
- Also has three silver and one bronze medal from the World Championships
- Works as a freelance photographer and motivational speaker
- Starting up a Brent Hayden Swim Camp in B.C. this year
Brent Hayden captured Canadian hearts after winning a bronze medal in the 100-metre freestyle swimming at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
While the 2007 World Champion and three-time Olympian has retired from the sport, he’s still making headlines. He was inducted into the 2013 B.C. Sports Hall of Fame and received the 2012 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
He’s the reigning Commonwealth Games champion in the 50 and 100-metre freestyle events and is the Canadian record holder in the 200, 100 and 50-metre freestyle in both short- and long-courses.
In the pool and on the road, Hayden loves a well-tuned machine. That’s why he drives a 1999 BMW M3 (E36) coupe.
Why did you buy a M3?
I always envision myself as a high-performance athlete and I needed a car that reflected that.
I just love high-performance and the M3, especially the E36 model, delivers it. It’s one of my favourite cars out there.
The styling of the car is beautiful. It’s estoril blue on grey. That was exactly the colour combo I was looking for. It handles amazingly. I’ve never driven a car that felt so in one with the driver and the road.
Did you cross-shop it against other high-performance lines – a Mercedes AMG or an Audi S vehicle?
No. I love the BMW brand. My car before that, which I sold to buy this car, was also a BMW.
My coach had a big part in converting me into a BMW guy because he owned nothing but BMWs since the late ’70s. At the pool he’d always be coming in with his BMW cars – a new one every couple of years and he eventually got an E46 M3 and I fell in love with it.
And then I fell in love with the E36 M3 – luckily, it was within my price range. It was affordable because it was eight or nine years old when I bought it.
What was your last BMW?
It was an E46 323 convertible. It wasn’t a very powerful car, but it was a very nice ride. Being able to put the top down in the summer time was great. I never had a convertible before. It was just lacking the high performance that I really wanted.
What does a BMW M3 say about you?
I like high performance and the high quality and craftsmanship that BMW is known for. Those cars are going to last forever, if you take care of them.
Do you know what’s under the hood?
I know a little bit. I’m not all that mechanically inclined.
It’s got an S52 motor and I’ve done a few minor upgrades to it. It’s got a custom cold air intake built by CG Motorsports that actually came with the car when I bought it.
I did an M50 manifold conversion on it and I’ve got a Supersprint exhaust running on it as well. I just had a new built-in sport exhaust installed as well.
Has your love of high performance landed you in trouble with the cops?
No. I’m a very respectable driver. I obey the rules of the road. If people are going to speed I think they should do it legally and take their car to a track where they can do it in a safe environment.
Have you ever taken your M3 to the track?
No. I haven’t. If I’m ever going to do that, I’ll probably take some high-performance driving courses. I don’t want to just show up and go as fast as I can. I want to learn more about driving on a race course, first.
What was your first car?
My first car was a Honda Civic. It was actually a slightly bigger car than my M3, but those Germans know how to make big spaces in a little car. I sit in that car and I have tons of room above my head. I can’t even put the seat all the way back because it goes too far for me to reach the pedal. It’s made for big people.
Do you prefer driving a stick over an automatic?
I definitely do [prefer the stick]. I don’t like not being in full control of my car.
When I bought my Civic ,that was a stick, but I actually didn’t know how to drive stick yet. I learned from the guy at the dealer. He gave me a 10-minute crash course in a parking lot across the street and then I drove it home.
I definitely stalled it a few times, especially on the drive home. I stalled at a red light and did the whole freak-out thing where you push the gas all the way down to totally ride the clutch.
I took the next couple of days driving on the back streets of Mission teaching myself how to drive a stick.
I can’t stand driving an automatic – it just feels weird.
What’s your best driving story?
Recently, I flew down to Phoenix with my brother-in-law. He was purchasing a new car down there; he bought an Audi A4, 2.0 Quattro. We drove it all the way back from Phoenix and we only stopped to sleep for about two hours in a rest stop just past Boise, Idaho. We left at 5 in the morning and made it to the border by 2 p.m. the next day. It was an experience. I got a lot of iPhone pictures out the window as we were driving.
Your brother-in-law must have saved a lot of cash buying his A4 in the United States?
Yup. He just couldn’t justify spending the money in Canada because he got that car for so much cheaper at auction.
Even with all the tariffs and duty, it was still cheaper if he had bought the same car in Canada.
What did you listen to on that road trip?
He had Bluetooth in the car, but for some reason it wasn’t working so we couldn’t get our iPods hooked up to it. So, we pulled into a Best Buy and rummaged through the $5.99 bin and picked up Best of Johnny Cash and Best of Journey CDs and we threw those into the CD player.
I always sing when I’m driving, except when I’m at a red light because I figure people are going to look into the vehicle and see me.
Is it time for a new M3?
No. Honestly I love that car. It’s treated me very well. Me and that car still have some time left together.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Correction: In a My Car story that ran in Globe Drive on May 2, we incorrectly identified the company that modified Brent Hayden’s car. It was CG Motorsports, not VAC Motorsports. Also, an upgrade to the car was a “M50 manifold conversion,” not M15.