It’s not easy being green Die-hard purists better run for cover because this genetically modified Java green drift mutant is powered by a rabblerousing Japanese straight-six. Prepare to wrap your head around a BMW that Frankenstein would be proud of… Words: Aron Norris. Photos: Matthew Moscone.
IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN 657hp 2JZ E46 M3 drift monster
MW fans, strap yourselves in because underneath the bonnet of this wide-body E46 M3 lives and breathes a very different beast indeed. “Wait, what? But this is Performance BMW, we don’t do JDM here!” we hear you cry… Well, do not adjust your set, you are still very much tuned into a BMW publication and this is about as performance as it gets. This E46 M3 has been modified to within an inch of its life and is as aesthetically hardcore as it is brutishly quick. BMWs don’t get much more extreme than this, ladies and gentlemen.
This mutant E46 is a no-holds-barred drift machine built from the ground up by Duarte Viana, a true BMW enthusiast and the owner of Drift HQ, a company based in Florida which specialises in building competition drift cars. Drifting has grown in popularity in recent years because it’s a community where it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a battered Mazda MX-5 or a fully competition-spec RX-7, there is an event to suit every budget. Manual BMWs with LSDs make good drift cars and plenty of E36s have become budget drifters, but this beauty is at the opposite end of that spectrum. Duarte’s crowd-pleasing E46 M3 is a highly-fettled, purpose-built competition car which took over a year to construct and a further year to refine for handling and performance.
Duarte’s story with cars started when he was just 15 years old, working at his local Domino’s, putting in 40 hour shifts to save up for a car. “I have been into BMWs since as far back as I can remember,” he explains, “I have always been drawn to the M3 since seeing a Laguna Seca blue E46 at the Boston Auto Show in 1999 before it was released and it was love at first sight for me.” At 16 and with his license firmly under his belt he was contemplating his first car; “I purchased my first BMW, a 1997 E36 M3 saloon in Dakar Yellow that I persuaded my cousin to co-sign for me because my parents wouldn’t,” recalls Duarte with a smile, adding: “It was a pretty cool first car,” and that’s putting it mildly.
Sadly, his love affair with the M3 was short-lived, ending prematurely within six months of taking ownership when another driver crashed into him and wrote it off. Undeterred, he dived straight back into BM ownership and with his next E36 he worked back-to-back pizza shifts to make ends meet and pay for modifications which included rare retrofit items from the likes of Hamann, AC Schnitzer, Dinan and Remus. “It was safe to say I had been bitten by the modifying bug,” remembers Duarte, “I couldn’t keep anything stock from then onwards.” In the years that followed, Duarte’s affinity with BMWs continued to grow and saw him owning a plethora of modified examples including E30s, E36s, E46s and E92s but his first foray into the drift scene was with a modified E46 M3. “I love everything that the drift scene represents and my company has been built to support this, we just love helping car enthusiasts build their dream street and competition cars,” he ruminates. “The drift scene is like one big family with a shared interest, it’s a great feeling to be part of it with Drift HQ.”
With a nicely set-up M3 drifter in his garage, Duarte was starting to get the itch for something even more extreme, so when he received an offer he couldn’t refuse it was sold, knowing it could pave the way for something even more outrageous. With the cash burning a hole in his pocket, Duarte was on the hunt for another E46 M3 but this time nothing would remain stock and, with this in mind, he hit the car auctions knowing his odds of finding a car with light damage would be stacked in his favour. As if by magic, the auction gods answered by providing the perfect donor E46 M3; “I wanted a car I could totally dismantle and rebuild into my dream wide-arch drift M3,” he explains and this example ticked all the boxes. A 2004 E46 M3, it had suffered accident damage and had a salvage title but it was the right M3 with all of the fundamentals to build into a wild competition drift machine so Duarte won the auction and took the car home to begin work on his project.
The accident damaged M3 was always going to receive a heart transplant because Duarte had experienced an S54 in his previous drift car and this time he wanted more so, once it was at the shop, the Drift HQ guys set about stripping the car back to the bare bones to create an entirely blank canvas for all that was to follow. “We started stripping out every part of the car, selling anything that wasn’t going to be used in order to recoup some money for the rest of the build,” he explains, which included liberation of the original engine and Getrag transmission, never to return to the M3 shell.
Duarte had tunnel vision when it came to building a powerful competition car and to him that meant there was only one route he wanted to take. With the proceeds from his previous projects and parts providing the budget for this build, Duarte’s list of engine conversions was a shortlist of just one, that being the legendary twin-turbo straight-six 2JZ-GTE, star of countless crazy horsepower Supras, and perfect for this outrageous build. He put plenty of research into the 2JZ engine and E46 swap requirements before getting his hands on a late 1997 VVT-i engine from a Toyota Aristo, which had been imported from Japan. “I knew the 2JZ was a seriously tunable motor and I couldn’t wait to build a ridiculous E46 using one,” he explains, “I knew it would divide opinion but building this car was about having fun on the track.”
With a shopping list as long as his arm and a target of 600hp+, Duarte was like a kid in a sweet shop, collecting performance parts left, right and centre. “The engine build work was handled by the guys at TEC because I wanted my engine built by the best machine shop in Florida so I could enjoy the car and confidently use the power at drift events,” he says. With a stack of hardcore aftermarket parts and a stripped-down 2JZ-GTE engine ready for the build, the fun stuff could begin.
ARP head and main studs were added, along with some choice Brian Crower catalogue parts including con rods, 264° cams, valve springs and retainers. In addition, ACL big end/main thrust washers, Titan Motorsport billet caps and CP forged pistons and ring set were added along with a ported and polished cylinder head. With the engine build taking shape the next step was reintroduce the 2JZ to its boosted roots, but this time the OE Toyota sequential twin-turbo setup was ditched in favour of suitably huge BorgWarner S366 turbo. With the massive turbo strapped to the side of the engine and custom everything including pipework, intercooler, exhaust, manifold and a bucket-load of tuning parts all overseen by an AEM Infinity 8 ECU this angry 2JZ makes a mighty 657hp at 20psi. Power is put down via an RTS GSR four-speed dog box, which is mated to an ACT triple-plate clutch while a Winters Quick Change Differential and custom driveshafts ensures Duarte has a full competition setup on track.
“The thing about drift cars is that they tend to crash a lot, so a lot of work was carried out to allow for simpler rebuilds in the event of a knock out on track, and so we cut a lot of the front and rear chassis/ body to be stronger and removable in case of a crash,” explains Duarte, resulting in a full roll-cage and subframe reinforcements designed to stiffen up the car. While the chassis was undergoing some heavy structural changes it made sense to fit the DTM FiberWerkz GTR body kit at the same time, which in the end took six months of fettling at WG Auto Body to meet Duarte’s exacting standards. “The car was always going to be green because it’s our Drift HQ team colour, but I couldn’t make the final call on the exact colour. Thankfully my wife came up with Java green from BMW’s Individual range and we’re really pleased with the final result on the E46,” he grins and rightly so as the GTR wide-arch kit is a hard-hitting visual perfectly exaggerated in that striking shade.
Given the fine tolerances involved in driving a drift car hard, suspension and handling are important characteristics, which is why Duarte is now on his second set of coilovers since building the car. “I’m running Silver’s Neomax two-way coilovers which are a true rear coilover and which, along with the SLRspeed and PMC control arms, give the adjustability to run the M3 low but with 0° of camber at the rear, which is perfect out on track,” he says. In the wheel department, Duarte always loved the look of the five-spoke Cosmis Racing S1s but there was a hitch in purchasing a set for his E46 since they only came in 5x114 PCD. “I wanted a set of S1s so badly that we decided to have the 5x120 hubs sent to California for a re-drill,” he smiles, “I was determined to make them work.” These staggered five-spokes are an aggressive 9.5x18” ET15 at the front and 10.5x18” ET5 at the rear, shod in 245/40 and 265/45 rubber and look great tucked under the bulbous GTR wide arches.
Since this is a drift car, stopping power is naturally focused to the rear of the car and is provided by a set of Wilwood Dynapro four-pot calipers, which are controlled by a huge hydraulic handbrake for perfect sideways action.
With Formula Drift safety requirements at the forefront of Duarte’s mind, it was important to build the interior up to satisfy the compulsory safety regulations and allow for track use. He decided on a pair of regulation Sparco seats, ADV and EVO II, in red; “I love their fitment and the colour was a great accent against the Java green bodywork,” he explains and the rest of the interior is brimming with impressive features throughout. From the cut-down, flocked OE dashboard with AEM 7” GPS-equipped dash display to the BridgeMoto five-point harnesses, this might be a race car but the fit and finish is that of a top-end show car. This is credit to Duarte’s approach of nothing but the best across the entire car, with the added bonus of being on the right side of those all-important Formula Drift regulations.
With over 650hp on tap wrapped up in a hardcore competition setup, he has achieved his original aims with this car and then some. “I love every minute of driving this thing and while some might not agree with the 2JZ setup in a BMW it’s a really fun car to compete in and, thankfully, I’ve been able to keep it in onepiece,” he smiles. “This car is the result of blood, sweat and tears over the course of two years, it hasn’t been easy,” he adds but it was most definitely worth it. Duarte’s mutant E46 M3 proves that nothing can stand between one man and his dream. Building a company which supports those passionate about the drift motorsport is one thing but being able to enjoy events with his 2JZ E46 continues to be entirely another. “I feel so proud to be creating memories with this car and meeting great people along the way; for me, this is what car culture is about,” he smiles and we couldn’t agree more.
DATA FILE 2JZ E46 M3
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six 2JZ-GTE, ARP head and main studs, Brian Crower con rods, 264° cams, valve springs and retainers, ACL main thrust washers, Titan billet main caps, CP pistons and ring set 0.5 + CR 9.0, head polished and ported, AEM Infinity 8 ECU, LS1 coil packs, DeatschWerks 1300cc injectors, twin-scroll turbo V-band manifold, custom intake manifold, two Turbosmart 44mm wastegates, Turbosmart BOV, BorgWarner S366 turbo, Vibrant 4” stainless exhaust with V-clamps, Mishimoto Racing intercooler, Vibrant HD intercooler clamps, Tweaked engine harness, Mini Cooper electric power steering setup, Meziere high-flow electric water pump, ATI damper pulley, custom oil catch can, Mishimoto Racing radiator, Mishimoto oil and power steering coolers, Derale 4” fan, DEI turbo heat blanket. RTS GSR fourspeed dog box, ACT triple-plate clutch, Winters Quick Change Spool Differential, custom onepiece propshaft, Driveshaft Shop axles
POWER 657hp @ 20psi
CHASSIS 9.5x18” ET15 (front) and 10.5x18” ET5 (rear) Cosmis Racing S1 wheels in gloss black with 245/40 (front) and 265/35 (rear) Federal 595 RS-R tyres, stud kit, Silver’s Neomax two-way coilovers, SLRspeed and PMC control arms, RTS solid aluminium bushes, Revshift trailing arm poly bushes, Massive Brakes dual caliper brackets, stock brakes (front), Wilwood Dynapro four-piston calipers (rear), DBA discs (front and rear), EBC Yellowstuff pads (front and rear)
EXTERIOR Full respray in BMW Individual Java green, custom headlight turbo intake, DTM FiberWerkz GTR wide-body kit and carbon fibre sunroof panel, E36 M3 mirrors, dual wastegate screamer pipes in front wing, Lexan windows, NACA rearmount radiator ducts, smoked Depo rear lights
INTERIOR VAC Motorsports seat mounts, BridgeMoto fivepoint seat harnesses, Sparco seat brackets, ADV and EVO II seats, fire suppression system, battery switch and steering wheel, NRG short hub, Rogue Engineering quick release, AEM CD-7 digital dash display with GPS, ARC 8 switch panel, Wilwood front-swing pedal set, Massive Brakes aluminium accelerator pedal, Nameless Performance hydro handbrake, Fuel Safe fuel cell, Radium Engineering Fuel Cell Surge Tank, 3x AEM 50-1200 fuel pumps
THANKS The team at Drift HQ, my wife, Chris Steyer (master tech on the car), Serg Fedosov (interior metal fab), Kyle Bonnell (IC and exhaust fab), Cosmis Racing Wheels, Silver’s NA Suspension, WG Auto, DTM FiberWerkz, 1K Motorsports, SLR Speed, RTS, Fuel Safe, West Coast Powder Coating
“ With the massive turbo strapped to the side of the engine and custom everything including pipework, intercooler, exhaust, manifold and a bucket-load of tuning parts… this angry 2JZ makes a mighty 657hp at 20psi”
This E46 M3 sits on SIlver’s Neomax Coilovers. Dual wastegate screamer pipes. Sparco ADV and EVO II seats with BridgeMoto harnesses. AEM CD-7 digital dash display and massive hydro handbrake. DTM FiberWerkz kit adds massive arches. Original hubs were re-drilled to accommodate the 5x114 Cosmis. Racing S1 18s Headlight intake feeds air to the turbo.
“ From the cut-down, flocked OE dashboard with AEM 7” GPS-equipped dash display to the BridgeMoto five-point harnesses, this might be a race car but the fit and finish is that of a top-end show car”