If BMWs weren’t the first thing you thought of when you heard “drift car,” we wouldn’t blame you. However, we have a whole lot to show you to change your mind. Drifters are constantly on the edge of control and chaos while sliding around at considerable speeds in competition. Professional drivers need pro-spec cars with balanced chassis and immense horsepower to compete in Formula Drift, the main professional drift-racing series in the US. Competition is fierce as they go head to head along a predetermined route while being judged in several categories. Think of a fast, loud, and smoky choreographed dance battle between two cars, head to head. And what’s more important to a dancer than their shoes… or car in this case.
Our man Michael Essa leads the charge for FCP Euro in FD with his shrieking European shoes, a 1000 horsepower, S54-powered, BMW E46 M3. It’s an absolutely savage car that retains the signature S54 sound while using a humongous Borg Warner 9280 EFR turbocharger to bring its power output to the levels that a competitive FD car demands. Essa built this engine to last, just like the rest of the car, and its resilience and reliability have proven themselves; they’re the same engine and chassis he’s been using since 2016. While you aren’t supposed to fix something until it breaks, Essa had an idea for another car, and FCP Euro wanted to help.
9/3/2021 - Episode 1 - Intro & Teardown
Enter: The Drift Taxi; Essa’s F30 340i. The F30 340i, BMW’s previous-generation 3-series, uses the B58B30 engine, a turbocharged 3.0L inline-6 cylinder engine that it shares with the new Supra. Tuners have already proven that the B58, with a bit of work, is capable of that magical 1000 horsepower number reliably with a broad torque band to boot. If you combine that overbuilt and under-stressed engine with the balanced chassis of the F30, you have the perfect basis for any drift machine. Now, Essa and FCP Euro want to truly see how far that chassis can go with the B58, so it’s time to build a beast.
Building that beast means more than just the horsepower, though there will be plenty of that. The entire suspension system needs to be removed and replaced with re-engineered parts capable of delivering the steering angle required to hold the car sideways. The chassis needs to be reinforced everywhere with lattice works of diagonal bars forming an all-encompassing roll cage, and a hydraulic handbrake setup needs to be fitted to the rear brakes to give Essa the ability to snap the car sideways at will. Throw the radiator in the trunk to achieve the optimal weight balance, and there you have it. Follow along with us as he strips, fabricates, and tunes his way from a relatively unproven chassis into one of the nastiest BMW drift cars you’ll ever see. - whether it’s in competition or just at events giving ride alongs to ecstatic passengers.
9/10/2021 - Episode 2 - Rollcage Design & Fabrication
This week on the BMW F30 340i Drift Taxi build, watch Essa and friends prep, scan, and design their way to the perfect roll cage. Formula Drift-spec machines can have around 1000 horsepower and are thrown around by their drivers within inches of their competitors and the walls surrounding them. The right roll cage is critical for driver safety and chassis longevity, so its construction must be faultless. For years, cage builders used angle finders and tape measures to map out all the bars and angles required to build an effective cage; however, Essa decided to bring in Rob Parsons and his technology to create the perfect cage.
Rob Parsons is a name you’ll be familiar with if you’re into the drift scene. As a co-star of the Hoonigans’ “Unprofessionals” series, he slides around his LS-swapped Nissan 240SX with the hand controls he created for himself. When he isn’t filming or sliding around, he is building roll cages with his company, Cage Kits. They use 3D scanning to map out the inside of a vehicle and then use that data to create a cage that is so well-fitting and tight to the original chassis that you’d think it was factory. All of the tubes are CNC-laser cut and then marked where they should all meet inside the car. From there, they just need to be put in position and welded in. Sure, gussets from the cage to the chassis can look cool, but having the outer structure of the cage fit so snugly against the chassis that they can be welded together makes for a much safer and stiffer cage.
Essa knows the importance of the right cage and has seen plenty of Parsons in action, which is exactly why he was called in. Check out episode 2 of the Drift Taxi build series to see just what it takes to create the perfect FD-spec cage for the 340i.
9/17/2021 - Episode 3 - Getting A Grip
This week on the BMW F30 340i Drift Taxi build, Michael Essa assembles the suspension and preps the shell for wheel clearance. After completing the roll cage last week, it was time for Essa and company to move toward the suspension. Like every other part of a formula Drift car, the suspension setup is wildly different from a streetcar. To achieve the desired specifications, the BMW gets fitted with the whole Wisefab catalog; knuckles, control arms, tie rods, and toe arms, everything it needs. Controlling all of those drift-specific parts are a set of Bilstein Evo R coilovers, the latest in Bilstein’s range of motorsport coilovers. The compression and rebound adjustable dampers will give Essa plenty of adjustment when he dials in the suspension.
That suspension setup will be critical when it comes time to slide around in the Drift Taxi 340i. Done correctly, it’ll keep the tires glued to the tarmac for maximum grip, exactly what every drift car needs. Contrary to what you might believe, drift cars need grip to slide accurately, and what better to maximize grip than wide tires. The 295-section rear tires Essa will use are 40mm bigger than the stock rubber, and the bigger wheels will have a larger offset to help widen the rear track for better grip. To get that big wheel and tire package to fit under the Streetfighter body kit, Essa has to nip and tuck the rear bodywork like a surgeon with an angle grinder. Find out how that all goes down right here in episode 3!
10/01/2021 - Episode 4 - Fabbing The Exhuast
This week on the BMW F30 340i Drift Taxi build, Michael Essa continues to dive into the fabrication of the fuel, cooling, and exhaust systems. With the cage installed, the suspension bolted in, and the drivetrain in place, the BMW can begin to have its supporting systems assembled. Essa begins his fabrication at the rear of the taxi, where he measures and builds the cradle for the Radium Engineering fuel cell and surge tank. Its three fuel-pump setup is straight out of Radium’s catalog and uses a single lift pump from the FIA-spec fuel cell to a small surge tank. From there, two pumps send the E85 forward to the fire-breathing B58. Then, finishing off the fabrication in the rear, Essa fits the humongous CSF radiator, making brackets and locating the swirl pot for the ultimate cooling setup.
The freshly fitted B58 upfront with its massive Borg Warner turbocharger produces all of the work for that cooling and fuel system. With the engine in its final resting place, Essa works his magic as he builds the titanium exhaust. The extreme size and modified location of the turbocharger present some challenges when it comes to packaging. On one hand, the strut tower bracing prevents it from getting too far away from the engine. On the other hand, the chance of melting the plastic valve cover prevents it from being too close to the engine. How does he make it all work? Check out the fourth episode below to find out!
10/08/2021 - Episode 5 - Building A Beast With Papadakis Racing
This week on the BMW F30 340i Drift Taxi build, Michael Essa gets the drivetrain into the car. When we last left off, the 340i received its titanium exhaust, cooling system, and fuel system. Up next was getting the engine stripped, built, and bolted into the car. Before any of that could happen, though, Essa finishes up the chassis fabrication and sends the completed shell to the paint shop. While it’s being painted, they take the turbocharged B58 down to Papadakis Racing to get it fitted with everything it’ll need to perform as an FD car should.
Stephan Papadakis, the owner of Papadakis Racing, is an incredibly accomplished team owner in FormulaDRIFT and an innovator in the front-wheel-drive drag car scene. His love affair with drifting began in 2005, winning the Rookie of the Year award that season. Since then, he’s turned his attention to turning his team into a perennial contender for the FD championship. When not drifting, his shop builds and modifies the B58 engines for high horsepower applications.
Two weeks after dropping the engine off, the chassis is back from paintwork, and the engine modifications are completed. Watch along as Essa gets the driveline in place, ensuring that the Samsonas sequential gearbox mates perfectly with the fire-breathing B58.
10/15/2021 - Episode 6 - Diagnosing, Dynoing, and Dialing in our 600 HP B58
This week on the BMW F30 340i Drift Taxi build, Michael Essa and the team get the Drift Taxi buttoned up and tuned on the dyno. There are only a few days left to get the car ready for Gridlife Midwest, so it’s all hands on deck. With everything fabbed and fitted to the chassis, the boys over at Essa Autosport get to work filling the car with its fluids and completing every last electrical connection. When it comes time to fire up the B58, a MoTec engineer is called in to remotely set up the ECU for the last time. It should be all smiles once she fires to life, but nothing in racing is ever that easy.
As they let the car warm up, blue smoke billows out of the titanium exhaust dump. Upon closer inspection, the B58 is pulling a significant amount of vacuum through the crankcase and is causing oil to pour into the cylinders. The spark plugs are covered in oil but a compression test shows perfect numbers across the board. The original dyno time is scrapped for a valve cover removal to find out exactly what is going wrong. With two days to go, things aren’t looking good. Could it be a valve train issue or was it a junk engine to begin with? Are they going to make it to the dyno in time to get on the truck for Gridlife Midwest? Find out right here in Episode 6!
10/22/2021 - Episode 7: FINALE - 700hp F30 BMW Shreds Tires at Gridlife
This week on the BMW F30 340i Drift Taxi build, Michael Essa and team are all finished and it’s time to shred. After crushing out a complete build in just a few weeks, Essa was able to get the car to Gridlife Midwest for its public debut. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. After all of the headaches getting the car to run right and missing the original dyno tuning session, the transporter scheduled to bring the car from California to Michigan, bailed on the job. With no other choice, Essa loaded up his own truck and trailer and set out on the thirty hour journey to Gingerman Raceway.
With no time to spare, he arrived on the morning of the first day of Gridlife. He joined up with the FCP Euro squad and set up both of his drift BMWs for some slideways action. Over the course of the weekend, the 340i was put through its first real testing and proved to be a capable, friendly, and ferocious car to drive. Once Essa completed all of his shakedowns, the Drift Taxi fulfilled its duty, shuttling spectators around the track while turning its rear tires into smoke and noise. A torn axle boot ended the weekend a few hours earlier than expected but, it’s difficult to call it anything other than a success. Through FCP Euro, the fabrication expertise of Essa Autosport, and sponsors like Corteco, Bilstein, and LIQUI MOLY, the 340i has become the nastiest F30 drift car out there. Check out the final episode of the Drift Taxi build series to see just how well it all turned out!
Car and motorsports-obsessed writer/editor for FCP Euro's DIY Blog. Constantly dreaming of competing behind the wheel or searching for another project. Owner of a turbo Subaru Forester and a ratty Porsche 914, neither of which are running.