- CONTINENTAL DRIFT
It’s become an international sensation but the heart of drifting is in Japan. That’s not to say you have to use a Japanese car, however; you just have to get a little creative… 400HP E34 M5 V8-powered drift 5 Series S62 V8-swapped E34 drift machine. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Ade Brannan.
Drifting has come a long way from being the sole preserve of mischievous Japanese outlaws sneaking out for touge battles after dark. The sport has spread like wildfire across the globe, consuming everything in its path in a fug of dense tyre smoke. Of course, there are drifters and there are good drifters; any fool can kick a clutch and light up the rears but the true connoisseur has an ingrained knowledge of entry angles, balletic transitions, and all those technical tricks that are earned and learned rather than simply assumed.
Interestingly, the rise of the modern obsession with drifting neatly overlaps the demise of what archaeologists of the future will probably call ‘the fibreglass body kit era’. The modding fraternity’s enthusiasm for bolting massive, extravagant plastic addenda to humdrum shopping hatchbacks rapidly tailed off when they started seeing footage of big-power RWD cars atomising their tyres at high speed. And the timing of the fall of one phenomenon and the rise of the other is no coincidence. And Jeek Federico, owner of this slightly scary E34, straddles the two scenes rather effectively.
Now, it’s all very well teaching yourself to drift and honing a few cheeky skills, but it’s not like you can just do it out there on the Queen’s highway. You’ll be tugged by the fuzz in short order. And if you try to hang the tail out at Brands or Silverstone, you’ll be black-flagged straightaway, and probably blacklisted, too. But thankfully there’s a place on these innocent isles where such smoky shenanigans are actively encouraged: Driftland. It’s up there in Lochgelly in Scotland. Oh, and by chance, Jeek just happens to be the owner of the place. Handy, eh?
Driftland is the UK’s only dedicated drift venue, and it caters to all levels of enthusiasts who prefer to do their driving while looking through the side windows; seasoned veterans are welcome, but Jeek also runs a fleet of 15 or so E36 Drift School cars. Naturally he needs something pretty boisterous for his own car as well, to act as a showcase for all the place offers. And that’s where this E34 comes in. “I was looking for something to replace my E39 540i drift car that I’d owned for years,” he recalls. “I tried a few different Japanese models but hated them all. I’d known of this particular car for quite a few years and it came up for sale at just the right time; it had all the best bits of a big V8 German beauty that I loved, mixed with the agility and weight of a nimble Japanese car.”
Aha, you’re intrigued now, aren’t you? Because, you see, this isn’t just a strippedout travelling salesman special – it’s a custom-engineered lightweight with a German heart and a Japanese soul. The front end of the car is pretty much all Nissan S14 200SX, converted to run a JDM steering rack rather than the heavy old steering box. And the commitment to weight saving throughout the car is extensive and farreaching; even the single-wiper conversion runs an E46 Compact motor to shave off a few grams.
But don’t go wringing your hands just yet. It’s not all Japanese. Take a look at what’s going on under the bonnet, for example: the eagle-eyed and nerdy of engine code will have recognised this as an S62B50 – the hyperactively enhanced variant of the solid-as- a-rock M62 that you’d usually find under the bonnet of an E39 M5 (or, for those of a more exotic persuasion, the retro-futurist Z8 – y’know, the car James Bond sawed in half in that questionable 007 movie). This is a mighty motor, offering 400hp in factory tune; it’s got eight individual throttle bodies, hollow camshafts, and it’s just peachy.
“These engines don’t need a lot of modification,” Jeek assures us. “I’m running Huxley Motorsport exhaust manifolds and an Alpha N map with MAF delete but, aside from that, it hasn’t been messed with and it makes a solid 401hp.” He’s got it running through a five-speed manual ’box with a super-lightweight flywheel (this isn’t like a lazy, rumbling American V8, it’s an eager revver), while a Helix paddle-clutch makes short work of those fourth gear clutch kicks.
As you might imagine, the chassis that underpins all of this culture-clash fury is a bit of a mixed bag – part German, part Japanese, but all awesome. “The brakes are from an R33 Nissan Skyline at the front,” Jeek explains, “along with an E36 M3 Evo pedalbox and cylinder. The rear end is all E34 540i – it’s running zero camber to give perfect tyre wear and maximum grip from those 265/35s at 15psi.” Custom Apex coilovers suspend the thing, and you’ll find a variety of oriental flavours in the mix, too, from the likes of Tein and Doritech among others. The overriding theory behind the build is to ensure that every element of the car is focused on doing its job correctly; there’s nothing superfluous here, it’s all just hell-bent on destroying tyres in the most aesthetically alluring way possible. “The plan with it was always just to have fun, wreck tyres, and do huge top-of-fourth-gear smoky skids, all while advertising my business,” laughs Jeek. And his sense of fun is palpable throughout the E34. Sure, it’s aggressive and mean, but it’s also a little bit mischievous.
The choice of wheels presented a bit of head-scratching, not least because the car’s running different PCDs on either axle: 5x114 front and 5x120 rear. “I have always been a fan of dish and width,” he says. “My old E39 ran 10”-wide Rondels all-round, so the new car’s wheels had to be beefy specs, as well as being easily replaceable in the event of one getting damaged. I opted for the STYLE49 wheels from 7Twenty, in 10x17” on the front and 10.5x18” on the rear.”
They certainly complement the gorgeous paintwork very well. If the colour’s left you scrabbling through your memory banks of all the paint codes, it’s actually a Citroën shade named Whisper Purple. “I originally bought the car from my mate at Jankes BMW Spares,” says Jeek. “It was high off the ground, had crap wheels, and a terrible paint and sticker scheme. I had the body and paint all sorted out by the good guys at Toole Design. Along with the paintwork, the car was lowered and received a set of side skirts and a 1980s Zender splitter. The paint’s definitely my favourite thing that’s been done, as it looked rubbish before.”
While the look may be pin-sharp and ready to mingle with the heavies, it’s important to remember that this E34’s real party piece is its extraordinarily light weight. “It weighs just 1150kg wet,” Jeek explains. “To put that in context, that’s about the same as a new Fiesta.” Just absorb that fact for a moment: imagine a new Fiesta with 400hp, then consider the fact that they’re not even rear-wheel drive… the dedication to weight saving has been relentless and ruthless here.
“The theme for the interior was, quite simply, race car,” he grins. “There’s nothing in there that the car doesn’t need. That steering wheel is actually a genuine carbonfibre item from one of Ken Block’s M-Sport Focus rally cars. There’s also a pair of Motordrive seats with Driftland-branded harnesses (because sometimes you need to scare a passenger), a hydraulic handbrake, extinguishers, and that’s pretty much it.”
Which, of course, is just as it should be. The base car was a non-sunroof 530i but there’s not a whole lot of that left here now, aside from the essential silhouette. The attention to detail stretches way into the recesses that you wouldn’t spot, too. All the underseal has been scraped from the underneath, which has been painted grey, while the insides are a complementary grey and blue. Everything about the car screams purpose, but at the same time it’s a very considered build. The perfect tool, in fact, for advertising Driftland.
Is it the ultimate BMW drift car, then? Has Jeek nailed it this time? “Ah, I don’t know,” he considers, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “I often think about what the next car might be, but I’m not sure what could be better – this engine in a 1M shell maybe? Or maybe some V10 M60 goodness?”
It’s a moot point for now, however, as this shouty workhouse is a harsh taskmaster. “It got quite crashed up this year, so it’ll be getting some fibreglass rear quarters made up, and at the same time the car might end up a different colour, as well as going a little lower,” he confirms. “And, hey, if money were no object, a flat-shift sequential and a supercharger would be nice.” Well, if this E34 is as effective an advert as it is a drift car, those dreams may well be coming true before long.
The plan was always to have fun, wreck tyres and do huge skids, all while advertising my business.
Interior has been stripped-out and fitted with a Huxley Motorsport roll-cage plus a pair of Motordrive seats
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-S62 / #BMW-V8 Drift / #BMW-E34 / #BMW / #7Twenty / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-5-Series-Drift / #BMW-E34-V8 / #BMW-E34-S62 / #BMW-E34-V8 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW-E34-Drift
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.9-litre #V8 #S62B50 / #S62 , #Alpha-N map, new shells, Huxley Motorsport exhaust manifolds, #Doritech exhaust system (with V-bands for quick removal), #TTV-Racing lightweight single-mass flywheel with custom paddle and #Motorsport-Helix cover plate, 35-litre alloy tank underneath rear floorpan with #Bosch-044 pump and pressure gauge in bay, five-speed #ZF gearbox, 3.23 welded diff
CHASSIS 10x17” 5x114 (front) and 10.5x18” 5x120 (rear) #7Twenty-STYLE49 wheels, #Nissan-GTS 320mm fourpot front calipers with ventilated discs, 540i rear calipers with ventilated discs, rear subframe reinforced with adjustable camber and toe, #Powerflex bushes, front subframe modified to use Nissan steering rack, bottom #Nissan arms, front Nissan knuckles with adaptors to use #BMW wheels, #Doritech knuckles for extra lock, #Tein tie rods, #GKT-Tech castor arms and GKT Tech lower arms, hydraulic handbrake with 0.650 Wilwood pump, #Apex custom coilovers – 10/8kg damping adjustable
EXTERIOR E34 530i non-sunroof shell, Citroën Whisper Purple paint, underside painted grey, inside painted grey/blue, side skirts, #Zender splitter from the 1980s
INTERIOR #Huxley-Motorsport roll-cage with extension to front turrets, #M-Sport/Ken Block carbon fibre steering wheel, E34 #BMW-M5-E34 instrument cluster and kick plates, #Motordrive seats, #Driftland harnesses, Coolerworks gearshifter, power steering cooler, #Lexan windows, flocked dash, M3 Evo servo and pedalbox, extra gauges for oil/water temperature/oil pressure/fuel, flick switches, custom wiring with fuse/relay panel, single wiper conversion running E46 Compact motor, #Zero-2000 plumbed-in extinguisher, 1kg hand-held fire extinguisher, small battery with fibreglass box and cut-off switch