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    TURNING JAPANESE

    If you want big power, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Japan’s finest, as this 2JZ-powered E46 #BMW-M3-E46 demonstrates. It looks and feels like a beautifully set up E46 M3 but this Irish racer conceals a host of Oriental charms. Words: Iain Curry / Photos: Paddy McGrath

    “I know every nut and bolt on this car,” said Colm Murray from Cork in Ireland. Now how many of us can honestly say that about the modified cars we own? A few, certainly, but those who build or rebuild modern cars with all their electric complexities are a rare breed today. Trouble is, we’re not quite sure if he’s a BMW modifier or not…

    On the outside, of course he is. Pictured is his #2003 E46 M3. Great stance, nice rims with big brakes and a roll-cage spied through the glass. Underneath, it’s all a bit less German. In fact, it’s practically all Japanese – cue grumbles from the ‘foreign invader’ brigade – but here lies Colm’s expertise and the result is around 600hp and a drift machine of engineering quality rarely seen.

    Key to this build was the Irish VW mechanic doing all the work himself. “It was not a big budget build and, like a lot of the guys who drift here in Ireland, I built and maintain the car myself,” the 32-year-old said. “Drifting is a rough and tumble sport and if I couldn’t fix and maintain the car myself I simply couldn’t afford it. I like to try and use parts that are relatively cheap and available to me, this is why I used the 2JZ engine as it was familiar to me and I knew there are big horsepower gains to be had for small money.”

    Yep, it’s our old friend the 3.0-litre 2JZ Toyota Supra lump that we see cropping up in many BMWs. And whether you agree with a Japanese heart for your BMW or not, it’s a brilliant engine, highly tuneable and extremely tough, allowing for the sort of power gains that can cost frightening sums if you start boosting your Munich motors.

    Would it not have been easier for Colm to just go to work on a Supra or a Skyline, some will be asking? Thing is, Colm’s a true BMW fan, has history with the marque and likes the fact he’s got something different. “I loved the look of an E46 M3, and my goal was to keep it looking stock,” he said. In his younger days he had plenty of E30 BMWs, from 318s to a 325i Sport – an ideal training tool for any budding drifter. “My 325i Sport was the first car I drifted in but the scene got a bit more serious in Ireland so I bought my first Nissan Silvia which is where I learned all my suspension knowledge and fabrication skills,” he said.

    “I was building and drifting numerous Nissans for about ten years so I knew what worked and what parts were reliable.” During this time Colm sampled an E46 M3 and said he liked the feel of it and that if it had more power and less weight it’d be an interesting thing to drive and drift. “I heard about a guy in Dublin racing an E46 M3 and that he had a spare bodyshell,” he explained. “After many phone calls I purchased it, but it wasn’t rolling and was completely stripped. I mean it was just bare metal.”

    Already with a 2JZ Supra engine and transmission in his garage the measuring began. “The install was actually very easy,” he said. “I think I had it fitted in about two hours after making up two engine mounts and a gearbox mount. I didn’t have to modify any part of the bodyshell to fit it.” But before you start thinking these 2JZ engine swaps are fine for everyone, even with Colm’s expertise to get the car as it is today has taken the best part of two years. Only able to work on it during evenings or weekends, and when funds allowed, it has been a real labour of love.

    The all-important suspension followed the engine transplant. “Of course I stuck to what I knew, which was Nissan parts, so I set about mixing bits of #BMW and Nissan parts together and somehow it all works,” Colm explained with a laugh.

    Nissan Silvia suspension has been used up front, including modified coilovers, while out back Nissan 180SX rear coilovers feature with custom top mounts. Rims are Japanese tuning scene Rota Grids in 10x18” dimensions, shod in track rubber. Key to fitting these rims has been converting the E46’s hubs to the full brake and hub assemblies from an R33 Skyline GTR, allowing for a far greater range of relevant wheels. It also means Nissan Skyline brakes are used, featuring four-pot and two-pot calipers behind the rims.

    The underbody work was necessarily substantial, not least to allow fitment of a Nissan R33 Skyline GTR V-Spec differential and driveshafts: ideal hardware to endure the forces at work from top level drift competitions. The Toyota Supra’s six-speed Getrag gearbox also made the leap into the M3’s shell during the build, while an Exedy twin-plate clutch has been fitted for durability. Despite Colm’s M3 being a pure track car without road registration, it could easily pass as a street car with its near-standard looks. A carbon bonnet and bootlid came up for sale from a friend so they were added, and although previously it was wrapped in camouflage style, the Irish drifter is happier with its more stock look of today.

    The stripped cabin gives far more racing hints away. Colm custom-made and fitted the roll-cage himself (“what a pain in the ass that was!”), while a pair of BiMarco Grip race seats with Sparco harnesses hold driver and passenger in place, the pilot getting to grab the all-important hydraulic handbrake. The dash is a delight. It’s been stripped and flocked to prevent sun glare on the windscreen, while behind the gorgeous dished steering wheel is a Haltech Racepak digital display dash. “This was simple to fit because the Haltech is so easy to work with,” Colm said. “I couldn’t run the BMW clocks with the Toyota engine but with the Haltech it’s a dash which could just plug into the ECU.”


    Serious racing machine? Without question. Colm said the car is good for 600hp at present, and hopes to see 700hp with a little more work. Key is his choice of turbo. “I had seen the #Garrett-GTX turbos on other cars and the response and power they create is awesome; it was an easy choice,” Colm said. The work around it is substantial, too, with more custom fabrication needed for the exhaust manifold and full four-inch system, while helping things keep cool (no easy task in a drift car of this magnitude) are an alloy radiator, four-inch front-mount intercooler and 12- row oil cooler. High octane juice comes from the boot-mounted fuel cell using a pair of #Bosch 044 pumps and is fed into the engine via mighty 1000cc injectors.

    All this work has allowed Colm to compete in the #Irish-Drift-Championship , certainly the place a machine like this deserves to be seen, appreciated and enjoyed. It is something of a subtle masterpiece from the outside, hiding one of the most competent and complete Japanese builds underneath. It may not have much #BMW-DNA remaining but it is an incredible modified offering with that hard-to-beat E46 #BMW-M3 body. It’s an engineering marvel carried out by a very talented modifier.

    DATA FILE #BMW-E46 #Toyota-2JZ-GTE / #Toyota / #BMW-M3-CSL

    ENGINE: 3.0-litre straight-six #2JZ-GTE from #Toyota-Supra , #Garrett-GT35-GTX turbo / #Garrett , custom exhaust manifold, custom full four-inch exhaust system, #Tial wastegates, alloy radiator, four-inch front-mount intercooler, 12-row oil cooler, 1000cc fuel injectors, #GReddy intake plenum, custom 90mm throttle body, #Haltech ignition module, #Haltech-Pro2000 ECU.

    TRANSMISSION: Toyota six-speed #Getrag gearbox, Exedy twin-plate clutch, Nissan R33 Skyline GTR V-Spec R200 differential and driveshafts.

    CHASSIS: 10x18” (front and rear) #Rota-Grid alloys with 235/40 Toyo R1R track tyres (front) and 265/35 #Achilles-ATR Sport Drift tyres (rear), #Nissan-Silvia front suspension swap including modified Kei Office coilovers, hubs with custom top mounts and modified steering knuckles for more steering lock, custom lower control arms extended 40mm, Nissan 180SX rear coilovers with custom top mounts, rear subframe modified to take #Nissan differential and driveshafts, custom strengthening of rear subframe mounting points and tied into the rollcage, #Nissan-Skyline front and rear brakes with fourpiston and two-piston calipers respectively.

    EXTERIOR: #Vorsteiner-VRS -style carbon fibre vented bonnet, E46 #BMW-M3-CSL-E46 -style carbon fibre bootlid, rear diffuser.

    INTERIOR: #Haltech-Racepak dash, full custom T45 welded in roll-cage, original dash stripped and flocked, #BiMarco Grip racing seats, Sparco harnesses, hydraulic handbrake, 30-litre Jazz foam-filled fuel cell, twin #Bosch-044 fuel pumps with 2.0-litre swirl pot.

    Just the essentials in here with #BiMarco-Grip seats, #Sparco harnesses, a hydraulic handbrake and a #Haltech-Racepak dash.

    While it’s clearly not standard, exterior is surprisingly subtle for a drift car with #Vorsteiner VRS-style carbon bonnet, CSL-style carbon bootlid and rear diffuser.
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