Built for serious sideways action, this hardcore BMW E36 drift car is packing some hefty turbocharged V8 power under its bonnet, and it’s given this 3 Series a distinctly Asian flavour…

This might well be the most unconventional E36 we’ve featured in a while. And that’s not because it’s a liveried-up drift car, because that almost feels like the default setting for most modified E36s these days. No, rather it’s to do with Scott Robinson’s choice of propulsion for his E36, because this 3 Series is serving up a bit of Asian fusion, with some Japanese muscle nestling in its engine bay, and it makes for a seriously spicy sideways machine.

bmw e36 drift car doing a burnout

Scott’s car history

Scott is no stranger to serious performance machinery, working as he does for XCS Designs. “It stands for Extreme Custom Sportscars, building 427 Cobra kit cars, track cars and drift cars,” he says, so it’s not surprising that he appears to have developed a bit of a taste for V8s. But what about his taste for BMWs? “I have had E36s for around 12 years now, but I have always been interested in them since my older brother bought home a 328i Sport,” Scott tells us. “My first BMW was an E36 saloon, 318i base spec. It just happened to be a local car and within budget. So I thought, why not give it a shot and see what they’re like to live with? From then, BMWs have stuck with me,” he grins.

So he’s no stranger to BMWs, and he’s no stranger to modding them, either. “The longest I owned a BMW was an E36 Touring – that was completely modified over the eight years I had it. It was still a daily driver right up until it was scrapped. It started life as a 328 with beige leather, and I started with just a few mods – coilovers, wheels etc., just to make it look good for shows and car meets. Then I got into drifting, and it became my full competition drift car with an M3 swap, full cage, bucket seats etc.

rear shot of bmw e36 drift car

Buying the BMW E36 Saloon

“This E36 Saloon was bought as the Touring had seen better days, and it was time for an upgrade to something a little less rusty,” explains Scott. “The car was a friend’s who decided to strip it and break it for parts. It was a completely stripped shell, non-rolling, with just overfenders on. My plan was just to swap all the parts from the Touring over and do the 1UZ V8 swap, but that got out of hand real quick,” he laughs, and he’s not kidding because this E36 is not messing around.

German Car Festival turbocharged 1UZ V8

1UZ V8 swap for the BMW E36 drift car

It would feel rude to start anywhere other than under the bonnet when looking at Scott’s build, because of course we’re going to be excited about a turbocharged V8, regardless of whether it comes from Bavaria or not. “The engine is basically a stock 1UZ out of a Toyota Soarer, upgraded with MLS head gaskets, ARP head studs, re-gapped rings and ARP Rod bolts,” Scott tells us. “It took a few months to refresh as was awaiting parts from the States, but the engine had already been in and turbo-converted for around a year or so. I just wanted to up the boost and make it reliable at that power level,” he reasons, and he’s certainly got that. What you’re looking at is a 4.0-litre V8 that’s been bolstered by the addition of a Holset HE400 turbo, which has taken power to a very healthy 470hp.

Alongside the turbo, Scott has added a selection of upgrades to ensure the V8 makes all that power without breaking a sweat, which includes Bosch 550cc injectors fed by a Walbro 450lph pump, a front-mount intercooler, an uprated cooling system, and there’s a custom 3” exhaust system that exits from the front bumper. The transmission, meanwhile, consists of a six-speed gearbox conversion using an E36 M3 Evo Getrag unit with an adapter to connect it up to the engine, a lightened M3 flywheel and a Stage 4 Competition Clutch, with a welded medium-case diff sending power to the wheels.

coilover topmount

E36 drift car chassis setup

With power to spare, that aspect of the E36 was sorted, but if you’re going drifting, you need a proper chassis setup, and Scott has taken things very seriously where suspension is concerned. “I chose to go for custom BC coilovers with the Ultra Low setup in the rear as I just wasn’t happy with the fitment on the last setup,” Scott explains. “The fronts have fully adjustable M3 top mounts to dial in my preferred setup for drifting.

Everything on the chassis has been reinforced that can be, again, to make sure that with the power it’s got nothing breaks, as the car was only a little 316 before,” he adds, and that just makes sense. Of course, those BC coilovers are just the tip of the handling iceberg and beneath the bodywork, you will find adjustable upper and lower arms, Icefab toe correction brackets, MACS Engineering tubular lower arms, reinforced front and rear subframes and a tubed front end. An E46 purple tag steering rack makes for quicker direction changes, while the brakes comprise an uprated M3 front setup, E46 320d rears, and braided hoses all-round.

burnout in bmw e36 drift car

Exterior modifications for the BMW E36 drift car

Now that we’ve dealt with the stuff you can’t see, let’s get on to what you can see. Obviously, what gets your attention first is that XCS livery over the bright red bodywork, a combo that ensures you can’t miss Scott’s car in action, but there are plenty of additional details to take in. First of all, that red is not a BMW colour, but is, in fact, a full respray that the E36 has been treated to in Porsche Guards Red, and it looks fantastic.

As for the rest of the styling, Scott breaks it down for us: “I wanted to do something different to the E36 that wasn’t really seen, so I’ve bonded an E46 lower rear bumper to an E36 top half. I also added E46 side skirts and a big splitter on a Sport bumper up front. I wanted the GTR-style vents on this build for the bonnet, as the Touring had a Nismo-style vent. Also, the big custom drag wing for style,” he smiles, and we also love the addition of the 340i badge on the rear.

Look closely, and you’ll notice that this E36 is wearing overfenders, and that increase in body width dictated Scott’s choice of wheels. “These Rota Torques have been the final choice for a while as you can get some good specs to fill the overfenders, also allowing 9.5” rears to have a good-sized tyre on for grip,” he explains, and the twin five-spoke 17s really work well on the E36s and suit the look of the whole build perfectly.

bmw e36 drift car interior roll cage in bmw e36 drift car

Interior modifications on the BMW E36 drift car

Finally, we come to the interior, and while Scott has added the usual track car equipment, it’s a little less barren than you might expect. “I fancied something a bit more comfortable than a fully stripped-out car,” he reasons. “This still has a full interior, with Corbeau bucket seats and a half-cage for the harnesses to attach to,” and those Corbeau Clubsport XLs have been paired with Takata harnesses. Ahead of Scott sits a Nardi steering wheel on a quick-release boss, and the stock gauges have been replaced with a tablet dash. Scott’s also got a short-shifter and a hydro handbrake in here, while the aforementioned cage takes up the rear of the cabin, and it’s been finished in a rather lovely rainbow flake.

We know a lot of you reading this will be a little sensitive to the idea of a non-BMW engine in a BMW, but we’d like to think that when it’s a hardcore drift machine, the ‘rules’ go out the window. And besides, we defy anyone not to get excited by the prospect of a 470hp turbocharged V8, and it’s the boost that Scott loves best: “My favourite mod has to be the big turbo conversion,” he grins, and that’s all you need to know.


Getting his E36 to this stage has taken Scott three years so far, but there’s definitely more to come, and while being around LS V8s at work has made him consider another engine swap, that’s something of a money-no-object mod, so the Toyota engine is here to stay – for now, at least. “I’m hoping to get a full cage fitted and make this up to full competition spec so I can do some more drift demos in it,” Scott tells us. With some serious Japanese muscle wrapped up in a classic Bavarian body finished in a hue straight out of Stuttgart, this fast and furious fusion of east and west is like dipping your bratwurst in wasabi, and the end result is an awesome drift missile that’s a real crowd pleaser.

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