When we first came across, Darren Yoo’s BMW in the HRE booth at MFest 5, we thought he’d built a modified E90 M3 with a Porsche grey repaint. But as we pored over its details, we discovered it was actually a converted 335i – and somehow that made it even cooler.
Strangely, the 31 year-old owner from Oxnard, CA, couldn’t understand why we wanted to photograph it. Despite all the work he’d done, it had never occurred to him that a magazine might be interested.
It wasn’t until we met Darren that everything made sense. He’s a hardworking restaurant owner who started out as a waiter, grafting merely to eat rather than build cars.
Having left Korea at 15 to study in San Jose, CA, an economic crisis at home meant his family was unable to support him. He had to drop out of school, move to Philly and take a series of fast food and factory jobs simply to survive.
Returning to Santa Barbara, CA, his parents were finally able to help him again but he took a job as waiter in a Japanese restaurant while he returned to college.
After transferring to California State University, he again returned to Santa Barbara and became the manager of the same Japanese restaurant, eventually becoming a co-owner before deciding to open his own, called Hashi, in Oxnard, CA.
“It’s an amazing feeling when you start from the scratch and make it this far,” Darren explained. “It was my dream to own a Japanese restaurant ever since I started as a waiter. I love meeting people and always dreamed of inviting good friends to dinner at my own restaurant. It isn’t all about making money.”
Throughout this time, Darren never lost sight of his goals, nor did he give up in the face of adversity. It taught him some hard lessons and he’s come to appreciate the good things that come his way.
One of those was his wife, Jaewon, a former schoolmate from Korea. Another is his opportunity to create his own Japanese restaurant. And he’s clearly excited to own such an amazing car, but its path to the front cover of eurotuner also required perseverance against adversity.
When he was waiting tables, Darren’s dream car was the E46 M3 but couldn’t afford one at the time. So when he was appointed restaurant manager, he had the chance to realize his dream and attended the annual Bimmerfest show that was then on his doorstep in Santa Barbara. That’s where he discovered the BMW 335i. “I liked its twin-turbos and BMW’s maintenance program,” he said. “The 335i also had similar performance to the E46 M3, so it seemed like an interesting alternative.”
As somebody who’s used to stretching every penny, tuning wasn’t a priority. “I was thinking about maybe some springs, wheels, an intake and exhaust,” he laughed, looking back on his first few months with the car. “Oh man, was I wrong!”
It was around this time he met Long Tran online, a guy who was working out of his home garage. Two years later, he owns LTBMW in El Monte, CA with partner Ivan Madrigal and tech Rene Lopez. Having also risen from humble beginnings and built his car, Darren regards them as friends more than shop owners.
Over the past two years, the car has been through several stages, wearing wheels such as BBS LM, VMR V710 and Volk CE28. It’s sat on suspension from H&R, Koni and Bilstein, and was even wrapped in matte black vinyl.
It was this last mod that proved a turning point in the car’s development. The day after the wrap was finished, Darren and Jaewon left their home to discover some lowlife had keyed every panel on the car.
In need of extensive repairs, Darren had already been contemplating an M3 overhaul after his wife mistook his 335i for an M3 she saw. After a discussion with Long Tran, the concept became a reality as the E90 M3’s bodywork and suspension components were transferred to the sedan.
The hood, headlights, side skirts and rear quarter panels crossed over unmolested. However, the team decided to delete the side markers from the front bumper and the characteristic gill vents from the M3’s front fenders.
The 335i’s exhaust sit wider than M3’s so the rear bumper is the original piece with M3 side pieces grafted-in to match the front bumper and skirts. It also wears a Duke Dynamics diffuser that was finished in matte black to match the fiberglass front lip and kidney grilles.
Final additions included a Karbonwerke CSL-style trunk lid as well as a carbon fiber roof spoiler that was painted gloss black to match the roof.
The car itself was painted Porsche GT3 RS Grey Black following a trip to a local Porsche dealer, and the carbon mirrors housings are in a contrasting Porsche Guards red, just like the GT3 RS.
The same red also appears under the hood on the carbon Evolution Racewerks engine cover as well as the Brembo GT brakes.
The latter were an earlier addition that pre-dates the M3 makeover. The shiny calipers have six-pistons up front and four in the rear, clamping 380 and 345mm drilled rotors respectively.
He needed the extra stopping power because the twin-turbo 3.0 motor was extensively modified. The highlights included a Vishnu piggyback ECU upgrade in combination with an Active front-mount and meth injection. He also added a GruppeM carbon intake and iCarbon catless downpipes mated to a custom exhaust from Vanguard Performance with four black tips.pre-dates the M3 makeover. The shiny calipers have six-pistons up front and four in the rear, clamping 380 and 345mm drilled rotors respectively.
More recently, he replaced the turbos with billet snails from AWD Motorsports but he hasn’t recalibrated the software to account for them yet. On a recent dyno run, the car made 427hp and 427 lb-ft at the wheels with 100-octane fuel at 16psi boost pressure. However, he’s confident that a new Vishnu map will allow him to run more boost to approach the 450whp other users are finding at 20psi with meth injection.
With all that power to the wheels, Darren needed something special to sit under the car. He was a big fan for the HRE P40 design but couldn’t afford them, so bought the similar VMR V710 wheels instead. However, he had the audacity to ask HRE for some center caps so he felt like he had P40s. Naturally, HRE declined but Darren was so tenacious, they eventually sold him a set.pre-dates the M3 makeover. The shiny calipers have six-pistons up front and four in the rear, clamping 380 and 345mm drilled rotors respectively.
At the time, Yoo vowed he’d one day own some HREs, only to be blown away when the company offered to sponsor his new creation with a set of staggered 19" C93 wheels with matte black centers and gloss black lips. They even displayed it in the MFest booth, which is where we entered the picture. The rest, as they say, is history…
He also landed a sponsorship from KW for its Clubsport coilovers, which allowed Darren to get the car extra-low for our photos. The only problem was it meant he cracked his splitter on our photo shoot and Jaewon was extremely uncomfortable. That race suspension can be unforgiving!
Finally, the interior was upgraded with a string of BMW Performance parts, including the Europe-only sports seats – another enthusiast imported them but subsequently crashed his car, so sold them online.
As we stood looking at the 335i, Darren told us: “This car means so much to me because I worked so hard for it. I plan to keep it forever, so I can remind myself how I got here.” If you’re not an enthusiast, that statement won’t mean anything, but for the rest of us, it definitely strikes a chord.
et Tech Spec
2009 BMW 335i
Owner: Darren Yoo
Location: Oxnard, CA
Occupation: Hashi Restaurant owner
Engine: 3.0-liter, six-cylinder 24v twin-turbo N54 with AWD Motorsports billet turbos, Vishnu PROceed V5 Autotune, Active Autowerkes front-mount intercooler and methanol injection kit, GruppeM carbon fiber intake, Stett charge pipe, Forge Motorsport twin diverter valve kit, iCarbon catless downpipes, Vanguard Performance custom quad exhaust, AR Design stage 1 oil cooler, BSH N54 catch can, Evolution Racewerks carbon fiber engine cover painted Porsche Guards red
Drivetrain: stock Steptronic auto with paddle-shift, Quaife LSD
Brakes: Guards red Brembo GT six-piston front, four-piston rear calipers with 380mm front, 345mm rear drilled rotors
Suspension: KW Clubsport coilovers, BMW E90 M3 front and rear wishbones, front strut brace, bushings, E93 M3 sways bars with HP Autowerks adjustable end-links, front camber plates
Wheels & Tires: 19x9.5" front, 19x11" rear HRE C93 wheels with matte black centers and gloss black rims, Macht Schnell 75mm stud kit, 245/35 R19 front, 285/30- R19 rear Hankook Ventus V12 Evo tires
Exterior: BMW E90 M3 hood, headlights, side skirts, rear quarter panels, front bumper with deleted side markers, front fenders with deleted vents, mirrors with Guards red carbon housings, BMW 335i rear bumper with M3 side sections, Karbonwerke carbon trunk lid, matte black Duke Dynamics diffuser, fiberglass front lip and kidney grilles, gloss black roof and carbon fiber roof spoiler, car painted Porsche GT3 RS Grey Black, window tint, European tail lights, Phillips HID bulbs, Lux 3.0 LED angel eyes
Interior: BMW Performance alcantra seats and steering wheel plus shift knob and E-brake handle with alcantra boots, P3Car Rixster vent boost gauge, wrapped carbon interior trim, LED lighting, Alekshop rearview camera
Thanks: Jaewon, Joon, Mom, Dad and Grandma, Long, Ivan and Rene at LTBMW (ltbmw.com), NorCal LTBMW crews, John at 1013MM, Lon, Vincent and Mickey at HRE, George at KW, Harold at HP Autowerks, Moses at Vanguard Performance, Vishnu Performance, SB OG, Hashi crew, Madison Amelia