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V8 BMW E46 TURBO: WILD DRIFT CAR

Posted by Matt Bell on 2nd June 2021

Sometimes you need to let loose and go a little crazy, and this insane V8 BMW E46 turbo drift beast is an unhinged creation that’s been built with no compromise and no caution.

Feature from Performance BMW. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Patrik Karlsson

It’s time to get a bit crazy. We have a love for all the BMW builds out there but sometimes we need something a little wild to really get our blood pumping, and we’re certain that even those of you who prefer your BMs a little more sedate can appreciate the work that goes into something truly insane. So, just how insane are we talking? We’re talking turbo LQ V8-swapped drift BMW E46 levels of crazy, so if there was a crazy scale we’d be off the end of it…

You have Fredrik Persson and his brother Niklas to thank for this creation – or curse if the thought of a Yank V8 swap is just that little bit too much for you to deal with – but regardless of which way this car is currently rubbing you up, it’s so ridiculous that you can’t help but love it just a little bit because this is not the sort of build you come across every day. It comes as no surprise to learn that Fredrik loves his BMs, because you don’t build a car like this unless you’re fully committed, and this isn’t his first rodeo when it comes to building a full-on machine like this, either. “I have always been interested in BMWs. I love the comfort and they look lovely! And in the competition car, I really love how fast the chassis is!” he says with a smile. “The first BMW I owned myself was an E36 325i, a car I bought to repair and sell to make some money, but before I sold it I had some fun in the Swedish winter weather,” he grins. The BMW E36 was followed by numerous other Bavarian acquisitions and Fredrik currently owns an E91 318d as his daily alongside an E90 325d, which makes this V8 BMW E46 turbo all the more insane when seen with that oh-so-sensible pairing.

Fredrik has modded a few cars over the years and has previously built himself a drift car in the shape of a fourth-gen Chevrolet Camaro which, bizarrely enough, was powered by a turbo M50 of all things, which we can imagine raised as many eyebrows among American muscle fans as this E46 does among BMW enthusiasts. So what made him decide to move from a German-swapped American drift car to an American-swapped German one? “Me and my brother decided to sell our Camaro drift cars (he also had one) and build a more competitive race car together,” explains Fredrik and with their powers combined the performance-hungry drift-loving BM brothers have built an absolute beast.

While the Persson brothers may have had experience with drift cars, the E46 is a project on a completely different scale, built to a completely different standard, and so they needed the right car to start with and this 3 Series was it. “We bought the car from an ad online as a project that someone had already started,” explains Fredrik, “the roll-cage was almost completed and some modifications were already done. So it was the perfect project for us!” he grins. “Our plan was to get a car that was able to really perform in the pro drift class both nationally and internationally,” which tells you that this had to be a serious build and there could be no compromises made or corners cut, and the result delivers and then some.

“The V8 BMW E46 turbo made a thumping 600whp with an even more intimidating 664lb ft wtq”

We really should start by talking about the engine because regardless of how you may feel about it, it’s an absolute monster and you have to respect it. It’s an LQ4 engine, and while most of us on the BM scene, even here in Europe, will be relatively familiar with GM’s LS offerings as seen in Chevrolet Corvettes and Camaros, the LQ is a rather different beast. Where the LS is a lightweight all-alloy engine, the LQ is an iron block heavyweight, and that iron block makes it perfect for big boost, which is something it handles with consummate ease. It’s an engine that could be found in numerous pickups and SUVs through the 2000s and while it displaces a hefty 6.0-litres, it produced a relaxed 300hp or so depending on application, with a meaty 360lb ft of torque, but for their pro drift build the Persson boys needed a hell of a lot more power. The key to the engine’s massive current power output is that equally massive BorgWarner S475SX turbo that’s mounted at the front of the engine on a custom manifold and this big boy is capable of producing up to 1050hp, making it perfect for this build. Of course even an engine as tough as the LQ4 needs some upgrades before you can go and push a boatload of boost through it and so this iron giant has been fitted with LS9 head gaskets, BTR valve springs and retainers, it runs a stock bottom end with larger piston ring gaps, there’s a custom sump and high-flow oil pump, Bosch Motorsport injectors and adjustable cam gear. The end result? A thumping 600whp with an even more intimidating 664lb ft wtq, exactly the sort of numbers the boys needed to make for getting their E46 sideways and keeping it that way for as long as possible, as easily as possible.

Of course, building yourself a monster turbo V8 is one thing, but squeezing it into the relatively modest engine bay of a BMW E46 3 Series is another matter entirely… “First we test-fitted our LQ4 V8 in the engine bay to see what we had to work with, then made our own engine mounts and brackets to make it fit; we made a new wider gearbox tunnel to fit the transmission and we did a lot of cutting and welding to put the radiator in the back,” explains Fredrik and that gives you a glimpse into the amount of work that was required to get all this to fit and work together. The gearbox itself is a GS6-53DZ unit from an E61 530d, and the radiator has been mounted in the boot for two very good reasons: first of all, there’s just no space under the bonnet at all – the whole engine bay is fully occupied by V8 and the turbo is so big that it juts up against the front bumper support, so that was never going to work. And secondly, drift cars spend most of their lives travelling sideways, so there’s no way to get enough air to pass through the small inlets on the car’s frontal area to keep an engine cool, especially one of this scale.

“With the rad in the back, there’s a huge cutout to allow air to flow into the boot down the rear window and a pair of huge fans helping to pull as much air through it as possible, and that works a whole lot better on a drift machine.”

With their drivetrain sorted, the brothers could now turn their attention to the rest of their monster build, starting with finishing off the interior and completing that roll-cage that the previous owner had kindly started, before adding the rest of their chosen interior components. There are a pair of Sparco buckets so that the boys can enjoy their drift machine together, both equipped with QSP six-point harnesses, a Suvi Performance hydraulic handbrake, Coolerworx shifter, a QSP suede-rimmed steering wheel, an oil pressure gauge mounted directly in front of the driver, and additional bits like the overhead switch panel. With this being a pro drift build the interior has been stripped of all unnecessary items, with only the essentials retained and mandatory equipment fitted, and it’s exactly as hardcore and stripped-out as you’d expect, but there’s still a lot of work that has gone into the cabin and it’s been finished to a high standard.

Any track build, regardless whether it’s been designed to be as fast as possible around a circuit or to travel around it at the most obscene angles imaginable, is wholly reliant on its chassis to deliver what its driver needs, so it’s a core area that you can’t scrimp on and the Persson bros. have put in plenty of work to ensure that the setup on their E46 can deal with all that power and deliver drift perfection. “We chose BC Racing HR coilovers with Wisefab adjustable control arms and steering angle kit,” explains Fredrik, “and we chose this setup because it helped us get the grip levels we want when drifting,” making it the perfect choice for this build. While huge power and a hardcore chassis are essential components of any drift build, you also need some serious brakes because of the massive power levels involved, and this E46 certainly delivers when it comes to stopping power, packing massive eight-pot K-Sport calipers up front with M3 calipers at the rear and Endless pads at both ends. On any street BM we feature we would always say that wheels make the car, but when it comes to a track machine style definitely plays second fiddle to a wheel that’s fit for purpose. “We wanted something that could take a beating but without costing a fortune, so we ended up with 59North Wheels D004 9.5x18s,” says Fredrik and this Swedish offering has that classic JDM-inspired drift and track look that suits the car perfectly, but most importantly they are tough enough to deal with the huge stresses and strains that drifting places upon them.

Much as with the wheels and the rest of the build, the aesthetics of any drift car are largely dictated by the practical requirements but that’s not to say that appearance isn’t an important part of even the most serious track build. In the case of any motorsport machine, it’s all about ensuring that your car stands out on track and really gets noticed, and that’s something this E46 does with ease. “Even though this is a drift car we really like to keep it nice and shiny,” grins Fredrik, “and we decided to go with a Rebew Design body kit painted in Hyundai WR3 red,” and that kit makes a big statement. The bolt-on arch extensions are massive and absolutely outrageous and give this BMW E46 ridiculous presence, and the red and gold colour scheme applied across the exterior works really well. The bonnet is a custom item designed through necessity because, as you can see from the photos, the engine barely fits in the E46’s bay so a massive central hump had to be added to clear the intake manifold, and there’s obviously a hell of a lot of vents cut into the bonnet to aid with cooling because a massive engine like this V8 along with that huge turbo is going to chuck out a load of heat. There are carbon grilles, the driver’s side headlight innards have been removed to accommodate the intake for the turbo, leaving just the lens cover intact on the outside, there are lightweight windows and, speaking of lightweight, the entire rear end is made of plastic.

As far as wild, hardcore builds go, this E46 really takes the cake and we wouldn’t even try to stop it. Fredrik and Niklas have built themselves a beast and while it certainly won’t appeal to everyone, you can’t argue with an outrageous E46 powered by a 600whp turbo V8, can you? The car was built over a long winter – because they always are up in Scandinavia – and while the brothers have been enjoying getting their V8 beast as sideways as possible out on the track, there’s always more to come, especially on a track build; “A gearbox change is in the plans. But not sure which one yet,” muses Fredrik, and while their money-no-object dream mods of a sequential ’box and “an even more angry V8” might not be on the cards just now, you never know what the future might bring… One thing we do know, however, is that this V8 BMW E46 turbo is going to continue being an absolute animal of a machine and bring drifting joy to the Persson bros. and anyone who happens to see – and hear – it tearing up the tarmac like it was born to do.

Tech Spec: V8 BMW E46 Turbo Drift Car

Engine & Transmission:

GM 6.0-litre V8 LQ4, BorgWarner S475SX turbo, custom manifold and exhaust, LS9 head gaskets, BTR valve springs and retainers, stock bottom end with larger piston ring gaps, custom sump, high-flow oil pump, Bosch Motorsport injectors, adjustable cam gear. GS6-53DZ six-speed manual gearbox from E61 530d

Power & Torque:

600whp and 664lb ft wtq

Chassis:

9.5×18” (front and rear) 59North Wheels D004 with 235/35 (front) and 265/35 (rear) tyres, BC HR coilovers, Wisefab adjustable control arms and steering angle kit, K-Sport eight-piston calipers (front), E46 M3 calipers (rear), Endless brake pads

Exterior:

Rebew Design body kit, full respray in Hyundai WR3 red, custom bonnet, lightweight windows, complete plastic rear end

Interior:

Sparco racing seats, QSP six-point harness and suede steering wheel, oil pressure gauge, Coolerworx shifter, Suvi Performance hydraulic handbrake, full roll-cage