Looking back, I've made my share of friendships through outside interests that have nothing to do with cars. Case in point: After getting back into sneaker collecting a couple of years back, I met Johnny Feng through a mutual friend on Facebook. I was told he knew a few tricks, as the game had changed quite a bit since the last time I was into it. We started off going back and forth about nothing but shoes, realized we had a few more mutual car friends, and began talking about my favorite thing besides shoes (which, if we're being honest, becomes boring and repetitive).
I discovered Johnny owned several Japanese cars early on, switched to the BMW camp in recent years, and found himself enjoying Euros more as his tastes changed. "I was hooked on BMWs from the minute I owned my first E30," he says. "When my wife was pregnant with my first daughter, I sold my E46 M3 because racing seats and a rear seat delete were no longer going to be practical." That's when Johnny decided the best compromise would be a wagon. "I couldn't even consider an E90 M3 because I would've eventually needed more room, especially now that I have two daughters." The wagon became his new "fun" car, something he could drive the family around in on long trips thanks to the fuel economy the diesel model provides, and he could modify it in such a way that he wouldn't need to slow down for every dip in the road.
Some key things to know about this wagon in general: This exact model in wagon form, as a diesel with the M Sport package and painted Estoril blue, is incredibly hard to find. Being that it is a diesel, he's limited on engine mods, so it's largely stock except for an intake and JR Autotuning ECU tune. However, that didn't stop him from going to town on BMW's M Sport accessories, which, if you're not properly schooled on, could be missed altogether.
As Johnny began to educate me about his particular method of building cars, I learned he's obsessive about finding the little things, like looking for rare parts that would piss off most BMW purists or things that only Japanese enthusiasts would do. JDM parts on a Euro build are very unique, so if you want to avoid looking like everyone else at Bimmerfest (the nation's largest BMW event), you go for something that isn't just mesh wheels and an eBay front lip. For example, while most BMW enthusiasts go with a raw black or carbon M Performance lip, Johnny opted for a Japan-made 3D Design paint-matched lip instead, which he claims is the only 3-Series in the country to sport one. There's also an Ikon Motorsports lip that acts as a front splitter to protect the expensive 3D piece from serious damage. The roof spoiler, also from 3D Design, extends the design of the OEM piece and adds extra curves. One standout mod is the M Performance rear diffuser, which matches his side skirts and rear bumper extensions perfectly. The 3D rear diffuser would've made more sense to most guys, but he explains, "It's the only thing missing, and if you're a true JDM parts fan, you know that mixing and matching body kits is sacrilegious." A subtle difference to ensure Johnny wasn't just following the norm.
The wheels could also be considered anti-establishment. If the limited-edition, Mag Blue TE37s don't scream "different" in the BMW community, we don't know what does. But he didn't add them simply to be different; they just happen to be his favorite wheel of all time. "I've put them on all of my cars since 2008," he says. "Every color combination, even though I have a couple other different sets of wheels—Advan, BBS, and forged OEM BMW—in case I want to switch it up every now and again."
You learn a lot about a person not just by the cars they drive, but by their mannerisms. When it's time to leave the office, Johnny rarely answers a text. He prefers to spend his off time with his two kids or helping his wife Diana around the house. Between 6 p.m. and the time most people log into their computers at work, he's 100-percent family focused. In return, they support his car hobby, which is a large reason he built his BMW this way, and it's something he hopes will keep them bonding together in the years to come.
By the way, his next goal? It's a lofty one, but he plans to convert the powertrain and body to M3-spec. Pretty soon, Johnny's wagon will be less about getting good gas mileage than customizing it to total perfection. It's something you can't put a price tag on, but we can appreciate it'll still be something the whole family can enjoy.