Whether on the drag strip, road course or autocross, we all strive for the fastest time. We build cars for grip, usable horsepower and overall balance. But step into the world of drifting and it's a very different battlefield. Instead of time deciding a race, competitors are scored on how sideways they get, how long they can hold a drift and the line they take. Speed is important but you don't have to be the fastest car on the track to win. Drifting is the motorsport equivalent of Olympic ice-skating.
In the Euro community, the sport hasn't gained much traction, especially in North America. But in order to drift, a car must be rear-wheel drive, which weeds out several makes and models. So cars from BMW and Porsche seem ideal for the transformation into drift kings. And while some might think it's sacrilege to use these cars, their relatively high purchase price added to the cost of fuel, tires and constant bodywork means drifting a Euro can be punishing on the checkbooks. So it requires a dedicated enthusiast to surrender all his time, effort and money in order to drift a Euro - a man like Dave Blunt.
Humble Beginnings Unlike drift celebrities such as Tanner Foust or Rhys Millen, Dave is your average Joe from San Diego, CA. He's a construction worker Monday-thru-Friday and doesn't have any professional driving experience. But his passion has always been for anything with wheels. Initially, he picked up a dirt bike, racing motorcycles in the desert before he shifted to off-road trucks.
"It wasn't until '04 that I was introduced to street/tuner cars," he explained. "A couple of buddies had BMW E30s and I fell in love with the cars right away."
Dave sealed a sweet deal on a '89 325is for a grand. "It was pretty much stock but was real shady," he confessed. "The interior was ripped and the exterior had three different shades of grey."
The happy new owner spent the next months reviving the E30. He cleaned up the exterior and updated engine and suspension components so he could play on weekends. Shortly after, he discovered BMW CCA autocrossing. He also dabbled in road-racing, attending track days at Buttonwillow and Willow Springs.
"But then I heard about drifting," he remembered. "Through a local drift forum, I heard out about open practice days and drove the BMW up there. I didn't have a clue what I was doing, but went out and started sliding around. There were instructors on hand but I was too embarrassed to ask for help. I started to get a feel for it by the end of the day but was still making tons of mistakes. It was the most fun I'd ever had and wanted to keep going back."
Dave practiced every free weekend and day-off. He frequented clinics and competitions to improve his skills. "Through all those events I met a bunch of guys in the local drift scene. I watched their driving style and started copying it," he explained.
Dave credited Chris Mendoza, an instructor from Just Drift, who showed him the basics of drifting. "He jumped in the car with me and taught me more about car control than anybody ever had," he told us.
After becoming a regular at amateur competitions, Dave moved up to the more prestigious D1 Grand Prix and Formula D Pro-Am Series last year.
Built For Battle To drift, you need to forget some basic principles. Instead of finding the most grip, a drift car is setup so the front tires get more steering angle and grip, while the rears need to slide easily. The three most important elements involve the suspension, differential and wheel/tire package.
For Dave, his build-up started slowly. Originally a beater, he fixed up the E30 for weekend autocross but made critical changes to the suspension. The 325is already had springs and Bilstein shocks, but the chassis needed to be stiffer. "I was getting lots of body roll - it wasn't solid enough to be driving it as aggressively as I was," he noted.
Dave opted for Ground Control coilovers with Koni dampers and some Suspension Techniques sway bars. These simple mods improved everything. "Overnight the roll was eliminated and the car was flat," he explained.
Ground Control camber and caster plates adjusted the geometry because in drifting it's advantageous to increase negative camber in the front to maximize grip and control.
The factory steering rack was too slow, so he sourced a quicker E36 M3 rack. Spacers were installed on the inner tie-rod ends to increase the steering angle. By doing this, the turning radius became tighter, allowing Dave to get more angle in a drift without spinning-out.
Next, the factory differential was locked. In a road car, the diff sends power to the wheel that needs more traction, providing more grip and faster cornering. In drifting, a locked diff forces both wheels to rotate at the same speed, encouraging the rear-end to slide, prolonging the drift. The down-side is understeer when there's too much traction from the rear wheels and not enough torque to spin the tires. And this is where power comes into the equation...
Over 20 years old, the 325is had the 2.5 liter inline-six M20 motor rated around 170hp. It needed some help, so Dave opted for a turbo build. "I didn't like any of the kits available or how expensive they were. So I assembled the turbo kit piece-by-piece, starting with the manifold," he revealed.
The new manifold from CX Racing was mated to a Garrett T3/T4 turbo. Dave mocked up the parts in the engine bay and plumbed in a front-mount intercooler. Once the turbo was done, a 3'' downpipe and straight exhaust was fab'd. The ignition was also changed from the single factory coil to individual coil packs.
As a safety net, Dave rebuilt the motor using factory parts. He finished the M20 with a Schrick cam and adjustable gear so he could tailor both the power and torque to suit his driving style.
The E30 was delivered to DynoTech Motorsports where they built a standalone engine management system using Megasquirt components. Pushing the turbo to 12psi, the tuners achieved a satisfactory 255whp and 280 lb-ft of torque.
The factory five-speed also received attention, with Dave switching to a newer, stronger manual from the S50 M3 motor.
By today's standards, this 2.5L turbo doesn't match up to the latest M3, but it was good enough for drifting. "I've seen outrageous engine builds or swaps in E30s but this is super-basic and the power isn't anything to brag about. But it's got plenty to be lots of fun and for what I want the car to do," he smiled.
While not essential for the 325is to drift competitively, DTMFiberWerkz supplied a widebody kit. "It allowed me to fit whatever wheels I wanted and that definitely helped," Dave mentioned.
This particular widebody was designed to be lightweight thanks to its fiberglass construction. What's more the rear fenders were simply riveted in place so they can be easily replaced, since crashes are common. The same goes for the front and rear bumpers, which were ziptied on!
The widebody allowed 16x9" ESM wheels all-around, matched to 215/45 front and 225/45 rear Falken RT-615 tires.
We enjoyed a private demonstration of Dave's E30 at Adam's Motorsport Park in Riverside, CA - a regular stomping ground for aspiring drifters to practice. On the short course, the 325is easily drifted the turns with incredible accuracy and explosiveness. This year, Dave goes into his third year of competing, but only his second year at the top level.
"I aspire to be as competitive as possible," he concluded. "I'll do what I can with the E30 but it's significantly underpowered. Some of the Formula D cars have 800hp and full support teams. But I'm just me; no big sponsors or financial backing."
Dave has made headway despite limited resources. He's been able to attract the support of EuroStopUSA and DynoTech. And we support him, even if this isn't what a BMW was meant to do!
Engine: 2.5 liter M20 12v six-cylinder with Garrett T3/T4 hybrid turbo, CX Racing manifold, DynoTech/Megasquirt engine management, Schrick cam, Ireland Engineering cam gear, Cometic head gasket, ARP head studs, 3'' downpipe and straight-through exhaust, individual ignition coil conversion
Drivetrain: OE S50 M3 five-speed manual with lightweight flywheel, 4.1:1 locked differential, OE Z4 shifter, S50 steering rack with 3/8'' tie-rod spacers
Brakes: Hawk ceramic pads, stainless braided lines
Suspension: Ground Control Race Coilovers and Adjustable Camber/Casterplates, Koni adjustable dampers, urethane bushings, Suspension Technique sway bars
Wheels & Tires: 16x9'' ESM 002 wheels on 25mm spacers with 215/45 R16 front, 225/45 R16 rear Falken RT-615 tires
Exterior: DTMFiberWerkz GTS front bumper, side skirts, vented hood, trunk and Evo R fenders, M3 Evo rear bumper with RG-style rear valance
Interior: Momo seats and steering wheel, Crow Industries five-point harnesses, six-point rollcage, boost and water temp gauges, Powered by Max hydraulic e-brake kit