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2JZ BMW E92 DRIFT CAR: TURNING JAPANESE

Posted by Matt Bell on 18th October 2021

Purists be damned – this hardcore 2JZ BMW E92 drift car is bubbling over with Eastern promise…

From Fast Car. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Ade Brannan.

Engine swaps can often be polarising things. Some folks prefer to keep this stuff model-correct; swapping a brawny 2.5-litre M20 into an E30 316i is a good way of throwing a few welcome gee-gees into the mix, but what happens if you choose to go with an M50 from an E36? Or if you’re feeling saucy, an M70 V12? Some people will love the idea of updating and refreshing the car with a newer or more laterally peculiar engine, while others may feel that it’s anathema to swap engines in this manner, like names in a Secret Santa box. And if you’re in the latter category, you’re going to hate this one. See, there’s nothing remotely Bavarian about the beating heart of this E92. It’s one thing to swap engines around in-house, but taking powerplants from entirely different manufacturers – indeed, different continents – is sure to rub some people up the wrong way.

Engineered to go sideways and make inroads into diminishing the vast surplus tyre mountain that may or may not exist in Western Europe, every single one of the rampaging horses under this car’s hood comes complete with a banzai attitude and a Mr Miyagi headscarf. What you’re seeing there, nestling malevolently between the inner wings, is a 2JZ. And those of you who know your JDM engines will be aware that this is a revered Toyota straight-six.

So why do such a thing, when there are so many proven BMW sixes to choose from? Well, part of it is to thumb a nose at the drift scene. Dominated by S-body Nissans and GT86s, the ingrained public perception of drifting as a sport is still of something with an inherently Eastern flavour. This makes sense, of course – it was something that grew from the winding mountain roads of Japan, a way for enthusiasts, racers and independent tuners to prove that motorsport could be balletic and stylistic as well as ballistic. The aim is not to get from start to finish as quickly as possible, but with as much style, finesse, accuracy and technical competence. And Chrissy Nailen’s E92 3 Series turns all of that Eastern dominance on its head: ‘I’m using one of your engines,’ he seems to be saying, ‘and I’m doing it better than you. In a German car.’

Yes, the cheekiness is deliberate, and the logic impeccable. The pieces of the puzzle all slotted themselves into place surprisingly neatly too; Chrissy had previously been campaigning an E36 four-door, and the BMW E92 coupe presented itself at just the right time. “I wanted a new chassis for the 2021 drift season, and I really liked the shape of the E92,” he says. “This one was the perfect donor, it was in great condition when I got it, and the fact that it had a blown engine meant that I got the car for free!”

The expired powerplant was no great hardship, as this BMW originally left the factory as a 330d. And while the M57 3.0-litre turbo-diesel straight-six is a great engine in its own right, for the purposes of drifting you really want something that’s a bit more revvy and a bit less, well, diesel. And Chrissy had a clear idea for replacement right from the start.

“The engine I fitted was a nat-asp 2JZ-GE, which came from a 33,000-mile Lexus GS300,” he explains. “It’s totally stock inside, I just gave it a strip check and rebuild with a turbo head gasket.” The internals of the JZ-series are notoriously strong and capable of coping with substantial power increases, so Chrissy’s decision to remain OEM inside the motor makes good sense, while massively upgrading everything outside. The straight-six is now running a Garrett GT35RS turbo on an eBay manifold with external wastegate, and the fuelling has been substantially beefed up with 1,000cc Bosch injectors and twin 044 pumps. Obviously some custom fabrication was required, including the engine mounts and the exhaust system, as you’d expect when you’re shoehorning totally the wrong engine into an unsuspecting car from a foreign land. And there was a lot of further customisation needed to make it all drift-appropriate; for example, since drifting involves going sideways most of the time, it’s not the most efficient method to keep the radiator in its stock front-mounted position, given that it doesn’t have a lot of air flowing over it in that spot, so the rad (an upgraded Supra unit from Japspeed) has been mounted in the rear of the car.

The engine’s lubrication system now runs full-race specs, the wiring is pared right down to the bare minimum of what’s required, and Chrissy’s ingenuity has seen him stirring a whole load of unexpected Vauxhall into the freaky BMW/Toyota mashup – griffin branding can be found on the coil packs and various sensors, further underlining the point that this is a true one-off created for purity of function. As owner of NHP Motorsport, Chrissy’s skills and this keen sense of lateral thinking are hard-won in the smoky everyday of on-track competition, and the results are as reliable as they are surprising. The upshot of all of these engine mods, which are knocked into shape by an Ecumaster EMU Classic ECU with data-logger? At 1.4 bar of boost, we can call it 550bhp and 500lb ft. Impressive stuff.

Naturally the transmission has been comprehensively reimagined to suit. The E92 still runs its native BMW/ZF gearbox, using a PMC adaptor plate to mate it to the 2JZ motor, a CG Motorsport twin-plate clutch sandwiched in between. The howling fury of it all runs through a custom prop to an LSD pinched from a manual E92 M3; the car was already running its factory 330d M-Sport brakes, and this setup has been augmented with an OBP bias valve and LRP hydraulic handbrake.

Drift cars are, by their very nature, quite harsh and uncompromising things; there doesn’t need to be any concession to comfort, and Chrissy has tightened it all up by rose-jointing everything he possibly could throughout the suspension rather than mucking about with bushes. The chassis packs BC Racing coilovers and Wisefab front arms and hubs, all serious gear for serious sideways angles.

Speaking of ‘serious’, that’s a state of mind which has informed this project from the start. As soon as Chrissy took delivery of the BMW E92, job one was to totally strip it down to a bare shell, weld in a custom rollcage, and set about scything out absolutely every bit of steel from the frame that wasn’t specifically required to make the car function. The whole back end was chopped away, replaced by a bespoke tube frame upon which to hang the exterior panels (so that it still, y’know, looks like a car) while also cradling the rear radiator setup and fuel cell. The BMW was then built back up with a fibreglass Liberty Walk widebody kit – no point going for full carbon-fibre when there’s a decent chance of bouncing it off a wall – and then painted in a Fiat shade of blue and slathered in custom graphics by Cube Wraps.

“The Lexan windows went in, then I started on the fuel system and body wiring,” he says, making it all sound far easier than it actually is. “I carried on to completely build up the inside and the running gear, and once all that was done the 2JZ-GE engine went in, followed by the custom wiring harness and exhaust system. We got it on the dyno, then sent the car away for graphics!”

Simple as that, eh? And the interior that he’s breezed over there is particularly worthy of note, as it hasn’t simply been stripped but properly prepped and painted too, with the minimalist additions making it a place of focused racer purpose: a wraparound Cobra seat (along with a Sparco bucket for scaring passengers), hardcore harnesses, that all-important hydro handbrake, plus a custom switch panel, proper FIA plumbed-in fire suppression system, and a tablet dash display to relay everything the Ecumaster brains are overseeing. It’s a perfect fusion of form and function, with absolutely zero compromise. And that’s all very fitting, as a no-nonsense approach is very much what characterises this unusual and surprising E92. “As far as I’m aware, it’s the first Pro-spec 2JZ BMW E92 drift car in Scotland, and only the second in the UK,” says Chrissy. And his plans? They’re clearly mapped out: “I’m going to compete in the UK Drift Championship as a Pro driver, and also run a full season of the British Drift Championship as Pro 2.” So you can expect to see a lot more of this hedonistic coupe in the coming months, particularly if you find yourself standing in the sort of venues that tend to be enveloped in atomised rubber. Polarising it may be, but this JZ BMW E92 drift car won’t be compromising for anybody.

Tech Spec: 2JZ BMW E92 Drift Car

Engine:

Toyota 2JZ-GE (non-VVTi) 3.0-litre straight-six, Garrett GT35RS turbo on eBay manifold and external wastegate, Bosch 1,000cc injectors on custom inlet manifold, 90mm throttle body, Vauxhall C20XE throttle position sensor, Vauxhall Calibra C25XE coil packs with custom plug leads, Vauxhall C20LET intake air temperature sensor, Vauxhall C20XE crank trigger wheel – custom-mounted to crank pulley with Ford Transit crankshaft sensor, oil filter relocation and cooler setup, custom downpipe and exhaust system, custom oil catch tank with braided hoses, AN fittings throughout, Turbosmart fuel pressure regulator with AN10 feed and AN8 return lines, Group D fuel cell, twin Bosch 044 fuel pumps, Ecumaster EMU Classic ECU with data-logger, custom wiring harness, BMW 320d 180amp alternator, rear-mounted Japspeed Supra radiator with stock JZ water pump, GReddy front-mount intercooler with blue silicone hoses, silicone water hoses, custom engine mounts

Power:

550bhp / 500lb ft (at 1.4 bar)

Transmission:

BMW ZF gearbox, PMC 2JZ-to-BMW adaptor plate, CG Motorsport twin-plate clutch, custom propshaft, LRP V3 shifter, E92 M3 (manual) LSD

Suspension:

BC Racing coilovers, Wisefab front arms and hubs, rose-jointed throughout, modified strut tops

Brakes:

E92 330d M-Sport front and rear brakes, OBP bias valve, LRP hydraulic handbrake

Wheels:

9.5x18in 59° North D-004 wheels with 225/45/18 Maxxsport RB6 (front) and 265/35/18 Zestino Acrova 07A (rear) tyres

Exterior:

Liberty Walk fibreglass widebody kit, all unnecessary steel removed (including full rear end and quarters), fibreglass M3 bonnet and bootlid, ducktail spoiler, cut-down M-Sport rear bumper, Lexan windows – with rear cut for radiator vent, removable rear quarter windows for access, tube-framed rear end holding fuel cell and radiator, shell painted Fiat blue with custom graphics by Cube Wraps, front and rear brake lights

Interior:

Fully stripped and painted, custom rollcage, rear end fitted with custom firewall, custom throttle pedal for cable throttle, LRP shifter and hydro handle, custom switch panel, FIA plumbed-in fire suppression system, tablet dash display through Ecumaster EMU ECU, AEM wideband gauge and boost gauge, T7 Design heater box, Cobra wraparound driver’s seat, Sparco passenger seat, STR 6-point HANS-compatible FIA driver harness, STR 5-point passenger harness