M54-engined 400bhp Turbo drift BMW 330i Touring E36/3
With its wild wide-arch stance, lurid bodywork and turbocharged M54, this outrageous E36 Touring is a proper drift weapon.
Words: Elizabeth de Latour
Photos: Rich Pearce
With bright pink bodyworkand turbo M54 power, thisfull-on drift E36 Touring isa seriously wild machine.
When it comes to sheer entertainment, few forms of motorsport offer as much, in terms of absolute thrills, as drifting does — the sight and sound of outrageous machines sliding through corners at obscene angles, walls of smoke in their wake, is simply awesome. It’s spectacle of the highest order, and if watching it is exciting, getting behind the wheel of a full- on drift build gets the adrenaline pumping like little else, as Damon Murphy (@damon_murphy_ drifting) will eagerly attest.
On a day-to-day basis, you will find Damon driving something a little more sedate, with him working in the transport industry and currently working up to his Class 1 license, but his personal forms of transport over the years have always included something spicy. His first car was a Peugeot 107 bass build, and then there was the VW Polo 6N2, which gave him the bug for drifting in the first place, but BMWs have always been in the background. «I've been into BMWs since I was a kid, before I could even drive.» he smiles. «I was always down the Ace Cafe in London for the BMW nights — they are such goodlooking cars, especially the older ones,” Damon enthuses. „My dad used to own a supercharged E30 Coupé when I was about 10, and we spent a good few years travelling the country to meets and shows, so I think it’s fair to say I got the bug from him,” he adds with a grin, and that led him to buy his first BMW, an E36 323i Coupé. “I managed to get it really cheap with the intention of turning it into a drift car,” he explains, and both his BMW and drift journeys have come a long way since those early days.
Damon’s current fleet consists of two Fives in the form of an E60 525d and an E61 530d, and this outrageous E36 drift Touring, and the circumstances that led to its purchase were definitely a little unusual, it’s fair to say. “I had just put my coupé into a wall at a drift day, and the owner of the estate at the time was having a really bad day too,” Damon tells us. “It was a Drift What Ya Brung day, and this 323i Touring was rough and multicoloured, and the owner spent most of the day underneath it trying to fix it, which is when I offered him money for it,” he smiles. “As soon as we made an agreement, I knew I wanted to build it into a competitive drift car and get myself into competition drifting, then the work started shortly after,” Damon adds, and he’s built himself one hell of a drift missile.
Naturally, with the E36 Touring looking a little rough around the edges, it was going to be no small undertaking to get it from rough and ready to drift-ready. “It started as a full strip-down and repairing the shell where it needed it, then we sorted the roll-cage. After that, we had it off to the paint lab to get them to paint the car Frozen white inside and out, we then got it back and got the engine in, followed by the drivetrain, and it all pretty much went like clockwork from there,” explains Damon. But what you don’t get from that is how much work has actually gone into this build. “I’ve owned the car coming up to six years, it’s been built about six different times because, as most car enthusiasts know, nothing is ever enough!” he laughs. “But this particular build has taken around two years to get right,” says Damon. It is clear that this has been an ongoing project, and of course, there’s going to be more to come, but its current form is its most impressive to date.
While it’s the looks that immediately grab your attention, what’s got our attention is what’s under the bonnet. As you well know, every drift build needs some serious power to get it sideways with minimal effort and to keep it sliding forever. While the 323i’s M52 is a fine engine, it’s not exactly overflowing with power, so something a little more substantial was required under the bonnet. “The engine is an M54B30 from a 2003 E46 330i,” Damon tells us. “It’s had an 8:5:1 compression plate with an MLS gasket tightened down with ARP M10 head studs to stop the head lifting. These engines are notorious for the oil pump failing, so it has an uprated seven-bolt Hopwood Motorsport oil pump, as well as a VAG coil conversion, Bosch 630 injectors, a Nuke Performance twin-feed billet fuel rail, AEM adjustable fuel pressure regulator, a custom turbo manifold and a GT3582 0.63 turbo,” he says. “We’ve kept the bottom half of the engine unopened as it was a healthy engine, and on the sidelines, we are building a fully forged M54 to replace this one. The build itself took about three months but probably another year getting everything to work perfectly,” he says, but it was worth all that effort. The end result of all that work is 400hp and 479lb ft of torque, and that’s more than enough to get this Touring shifting sideways at the drop of a hat, and all that power and torque heads to the track tarmac via a Hopwood Motorsport twin-plate clutch and a 2.93 final drive-equipped welded diff.
Power is nothing without control, as the old adage goes, and that is especially true when it comes to drifting, so the chassis has received some serious enhancements to ensure that Damon’s drifting can be executed with perfect precision. “It’s using an IRP V1 steering angle kit, which gives an 80mm wider track on each side and allows around 65° of angle, which means you have a better turning circle than a London taxi,” grins Damon, and that means there’s no danger of running out of luck mid-massive drift. “The car’s running HSD coilovers with a true rear coilover conversion, with 10k front springs and 4k rear springs – the car needs to be fairly stiff at the front to stop any body roll, and it needs the rear to be soft to allow travel and to help increase grip,” he explains, and all the chassis mounting points have been reinforced to help handle the power as well. In terms of brakes, Damon’s running 330d calipers with MTEC drilled and grooved discs, while the 17” wheels are wrapped in semi-slicks all-round. “I’m always open to wheel ideas, I change my mind like there’s no tomorrow, but I got the Rota Kyusha wheels off a good friend, Danny Johnson who’s recently passed, so they’ll never be going anywhere,” he says.
You’ll never see a subtle drift car, and Damon’s Touring definitely isn’t shy, with its massive wide-arch stance, and you’ll have noticed that the Frozen white has made for a candy pink paint job that makes this E36 stand out even more. “Styling has been a bit of a struggle as there aren’t many places that sell parts that’ll fit the car,” laments Damon. “It sits just under 7’-wide, so trying to find arches to accommodate was more than stressful, but I’ve since found Lowes Fibreglass, which has practically built my whole car out of fibreglass and carbon fibre,” he grins, and it’s serving up some serious visual punch. The front overfenders add 120mm per side to the car’s overall width, while the rears add 50mm on each side. Then you’ve got the custom side skirts, the vented carbon bonnet with cutouts for the turbo and intake, the fibreglass tailgate and ACW polycarbonate windows all-round, all of which help keep weight down.
Keeping the weight down was also essential when it came to the interior, so the cabin has been completely stripped out. “I wanted to keep the interior as simple as possible, it’s not the kind of car you want to take on a road trip, so everything has been ripped out,” Damon explains. “I dropped the car off to XDR Motors, and he built a custom loom to give me the very minimal things I needed to power up. I’m running a billet hydro handbrake and short-shifter from IRP, as their parts are some of the best worldwide. I’ve also got a very rare Vertex X Nardi steering wheel, Corbeau bucket seat, and Sparco six-point harnesses, and that’s about all the luxuries in the car,” he grins. The interior is also home to the Odyssey lightweight race battery and custom cage, there’s a Samsung tablet that functions as the car’s gauge cluster, and there are also boost, oil pressure, AFR and EGT gauges. In the boot, meanwhile, you’ll find the 50-litre Forge fuel cell accompanied by a two-litre swirl pot and a combination of Bosch 044 and Red Top fuel pumps.
Even if a bright pink, strippedout, wide-arch E36 Touring isn’t exactly your thing, you have to be able to respect the work that’s gone into this build because there’s been so much of it over the past six years. Damon has so many fruits to show for all those labours, which includes his favourite modification on the car. “It has to be the tune from HP Works, as it brought all the blood sweat and tears together, and the car has come to life,” he smiles. And, as we already mentioned earlier, this build is far from finished. “We’re in the process of getting a fibreglass roof, and rear clamshell made up, and obviously the fully forged engine so I can up the power figures from safe to silly,” Damon laughs, and those enhancements are going to take this Touring to the next level. As for what the future holds, well, it’s safe to say that this E36 will be a part of it: “I’m very tempted to build an E92 or E93, but, realistically, this E36 will stay for a lifetime, it’s become part of the family now,” Damon says with a broad grin. With so much work invested in it, such an impressive build as a result of that, and some awesome upcoming mods planned, it’s not surprising he’s grown attached, and this drift machine is very much the main event in Damon’s life.
It sits just under 7’-wide, so trying to find arches to accommodate was more than stressful, but I’ve since found Lowes Fibreglass, which has practically built my whole car out of fibreglass and carbon fibre
17” Rota wheels wrapped in semi-slick tyres. The interior has been completely stripped out.
I’ve owned the car coming up to six years, it’s been built about six different times because, as most car enthusiasts know, nothing is ever enough! But this particular build has taken around two years to get right
Turbocharged 3.0-litre M54 makes 400hp
TECHNICAL DATA 400bhp Turbo drift BMW 330i Touring E36/3
- ENGINE: 3.0-litre straight-six M54B30, IRP engine mounts, custom turbo manifold, GT3582 .63 turbo, Nuke Performance billet fuel rail, AEM adjustable fuel regulator, 8:5:1 decompression plate, Bosch 630 injectors, Hopwood Motorsport oil pump, 60mm wastegate, Cool-Tec intercooler, ProRam air filter, ARP head studs, carbon fibre engine covers, oil catch can, E36 M3 alloy radiator, custom expansion bottle, Ecumaster standalone ECU, Mac boost sensor, Hopwood Motorsport DISA blank, Spal fan, billet oil filter housing, Levels Racing oil cooler
- POWER AND TORQUE: 400bhp and 479lb ft
- TRANSMISSION: BMW ZF five-speed manual gearbox, Hopwood Motorsport twinplate clutch, 2.93 welded diff
- CHASSIS: 9.5x17” (front and rear) Rota Kyusha wheels with 225/45 semi-slick tyres (front and rear), HSD coilovers with 10k (front) and 4k (rear) springs, 330d brakes with MTEC drilled and grooved discs
- EXTERIOR: Carbon bonnet, +120mm front overfenders, +50mm rear overfenders, custom side skirts, fibreglass boot, ACW polycarbonate windows allround, heated windscreen
- INTERIOR: Completely stripped out, Corbeau bucket seats, custom seat mounts, Sparco six-point harnesses, IRP V3 gear shifter, IRP hydraulic handbrake, XDR custom wiring loom, hand-held fire extinguisher, 4.25-litre plumbed-in fire extinguisher, Odyssey race battery and custom cage, Vertex X Nardi steering wheel, BG Racing quick-release boss, custom-machined steering wheel hub, Samsung tablet dash clocks, boost gauge, oil pressure gauge, AFR gauge, EGT gauge, six-point roll-cage with double X bars and door bars, switch panel, footplates, ECU data logger, race heater, electrical cutout, 50-litre Forge fuel cell, two-litre fuel swirl pot, Bosch 044 fuel pumps, Red Top fuel pump
- THANKS Thanks to Hopwood Motorsport, HP Worx, JapMadDan and AllRoutesFabrication