Andrew Attalla’s LS-Powered BMW E46 3-Series Drifter
That feeling when the LS1 fits inside the engine bay better than the original straight-six did.
The BMW E46 M3 was praised for its handling and road manners when it debuted in October of 2000. It originally came with the S54B32, a 3.2L straight-six engine, making 333 horsepower and knocking out a zero-to-sixty time of 4.8-seconds. However, in the world of drifting power and reliability are your main concerns, after getting a chassis sideways, and that’s why Andrew Attalla choose the LS1 to replace the straight-six. However, even before that, the BMW wasn’t exactly his first choice.
How the E46 came to be.
Andrew started off in a S13 240SX hatchback with a 2.0-liter turbo charged four-cylinder known as the SR20DET. He loved it, but told us that the chassis wasn’t the greatest at handling. It was far from what the BMW was capable of stock, even when modified. However, an engine fire caused Andrew to look for another car and a friend had this one for sale. Even as a college student, he saved up the money and made most of it back by parting out the car for the stuff he didn’t need, which he then used that money to purchase the 2001 LS1 and drivetrain.
What’s under the hood?
The engine is a simple build, but it is a build that improves its life expectancy in the world of drifting. A harsh world that sees high-G loads, bouncing rev-limiters, and bad airflow for a front-mounted radiator. Inside is all stock until you reach the heads and valvetrain. A set of LS7 lifters ride on an Isky Racing Cams custom grind camshaft with .610-lift and 233-duration. That motion is transferred to the Brian Tooley chromoly push rods and 660 Titanium Dual Valve Springs. To take that new valvetrain load, the rocker trunnion bearings were upgraded to a Comp Cams set.
Outside, the engine received a LS6 intake manifold with a set of CX Racing headers that lead to their Y-Pipe and a custom three-inch dual exhaust. To keep the engine oil in control, and fit into the Garagistic front subframe with the DR Concepts Motor Mounts, a Holley retrofit oil pan retains the oil while a Canton Racing Accusump prevents engine killing oil starvation under loads or whenever the oil pressure drops too low. The CSF oil cooler and radiator keep engine temperatures cool even as the car is going forward at a forty-five-degree angle. A Wiring Specialties wiring harness sends the commands and inputs of the New Era-tuned ECU.
With over 600 horsepower turned out of the crankshaft, you need a drivetrain that can take the abuse. The factory T56 transmission does a great job of this but the clutch is another story. Andrew went with the OS Giken TR2CD twin-disc clutch for its light weight but stronger performance of its billet aluminum pressure plate cover. Even being a twin-disc racing clutch, the pedal feel and engagement is near stock levels and makes it a great choice when you need to clutch kick to shock the rear wheels into a drift. This transfers from the transmission to an APS Racing Driveshaft and on to the M3 rear differential.
An unconventionally conventional suspension setup.
While getting sideways is the goal, you are still trying to keep grip in the car for precise control. That means a very road-racing-like suspension setup with some slight tweaks. It’s this very nature that makes the BMW 3-Series a good choice to start with. The Feal Suspension 441 coilovers provide proven performance with the 9 kgf/mm front (503 lb/in) and 4 kgf/mm rear (224 lb/in) springs from Swift. The rear is also changed from the spring sitting inside a bucket in the lower control arms to a true coil-over system, hence the unusual front-to-rear spring rate bias for a BMW chassis.
The biggest change from road racing to drifting is the need for lots of steering angle. SLR’s Super Angle Kit for the E46 was chosen thanks to its legality in Top Drift and other Formula Drift Pro-Am circuits, and its sixty-degrees of steering angle. Despite that large amount of angle, the steering lock is improved by forty-percent with this kit and allows for only 3.1-turns lock-to-lock. Brakes are also very vital to a drift car as they are capable of speeds over 100-MPH while in drift, so Andrew uses a Brembo Big Brake Kit up front but the rear uses a set of M3 rear calipers and a Wilwood dual caliper kit to lock the rear wheels on demand, which is done by a S1 Motorsports hydraulic handbrake and is a circuit that is separate from the service brake circuit.
Where the action happens
Inside the office, Andrew is surrounded by a GS Werks custom built roll cage while he is held in by a Bride Zeta 3XL seat. The passenger sits in the Bride Eurostar seat but both a secure with a pair of HPI five-point cam-lock harnesses. A Racepack dash sits infront of a S2R Tuning carbon fiber cluster delete. The Sparco Racing steering wheel is attached by a NRG quick release and hub adapter. The custom rear firewall separates the battery and six-gallon Aeromotive A1000 fuel cell from the passenger cabin. The electrics are controlled by a S1 Motorsports switch and fuse panel wired to the chassis by a custom loom from SWR Motorsports.
This car, no matter where we went to shoot it, attracted the attention of everyone who happened to come by. It’s hard not to stare at the DTM Fiber Werkz Version Two body kit with M3 rear fenders. Their chassis-mounted wing is also eye catching when you consider it doesn’t attach to the trunk like most aftermarket wings do. The front bumper is a M3 CSL version with a one-piece carbon fiber splitter that matches the M3 Hood. Thanks to the wrap, it’s hard to see the S2R Tuning carbon fiber sunroof delete.
The BMW E46 3-series is an excellent example of an amazing driver’s car. However, the engine could use some improvement, fortunately the LS1 fits better and has a better availability of parts – both performance and OE replacement. Andrew Attalla’s example shows that, with a lot of hard work and dedication, you can create the ultimate driver’s machine even as a drift car. The E46 is quickly becoming the go-to chassis in drifting thanks to the Formula Drift Pro ranks and prices for good used examples coming down. How long that will last, we’ll have to see, but if you’re building one yourself, don’t be afraid to reach outside of the typical BMW pool.