The New 240Drift Project Car: 2001 BMW 330ci

We know, we only just got the KA-T 240sx! However, being the completely responsible people we are, 240Drift has purchased another car to work on while the KA-T is in storage: a 2001 BMW 330ci. Despite having 150k miles, we are the third owners of the car, with the first and second both being elderly gentlemen. The car runs incredibly smoothly and strongly, effortlessly slides in and out of all gears, and is bone stock. The best part is, we got this car for $1,800, a steal! Frankly, the exterior has some damage (paint scuffs, trim under the headlight missing, broken reflector), but for the money, this was an incredible buy!


Want The Short Version? Watch This!

What Repairs Does She Need?


While she was in excellent shape for her age and mileage, there’s certainly repairs to be done. First, someone had improperly done a coolant flush before sale, so we burped the air from the system and topped it off. Thankfully the bleeder screw is right up top for easy access, and it took but a few minutes to complete.


A little less pressing, but much more silly issue was the wheels. When I test-drove the car, it had the 16″rims you see in the picture above on.. 3 of the wheels! The fourth had a 17″ rim of a different style for some reason. When I checked the trunk for the spare, lowe and behold, the fourth 16″ rim was sitting in its place. The day after making the four hour drive to buy this, I ran it up to my good friend’s tire shop, and had them put more snow-oriented tires on the rear, swapping the 17″ for the matching 16″.


The only other problem I noticed with it was while braking, the steering wheel shuddered a slight amount. After putting the car in the air, and rotating each wheel individually, I found the driver’s side front wheel had a warped brake rotor. When I spun the wheel in the air, it would spin with little resistance for half a revolution, and then be difficult to turn for the other half, indicating an imperfection. One (surprisingly expensive!) new brake rotor later, the shudder in the wheel was gone, and the wheel spins freely now!


What Modifications Will Be Done To This Drift Car?


Tall Shift Knob

With this BMW being completely stock, we’ve got the best palette anyone could ask for! Now, from my experience sitting in the driver’s seat, the area isn’t very large. Between that and the contoured seat, I think I can put off getting a bucket seat/harness setup. Theses are mods I’ll need to do before hitting most tracks, but for the local skid pad, they aren’t necessary.

One thing that irked me immensely, however, was the shift knob. BMW does shift knob mounting different than other brands, their knobs aren’t threaded. They are sort of clipped in from the top, relying on a small tab to stop the knob from rotating/coming off. When that tab breaks, the knob is free to rotate around and pop off. Since the knob in the car was twisting/broken when I got the car, I figured I may as well get a shift knob adapter and a tall shift knob. The adapter is a piece that goes over the shaft the old knob mounted to, and has pointed screws that stick into said shaft. This holds the threaded end on, so the knob screws onto the end of the adapter.


That setup works really well, given you tighten the screws as equally as possible. If you’re uneven in tightening, you may end up with one side’s screws affixing very tightly, but the others not having nearly the grip. One of the last things you want while drifting is to have your shift knob come off!


Quick Release Hub/Aftermarket Wheel

While I don’t have a bucket seat/harness setup in the car yet, I’m still on the tall side, so it’s inconvenient to get into small cars. Being able to remove the steering wheel is certainly on my list of conveniences I wish I had. Banging my knees on the wheel sitting down and getting up would be a worry of the past! Getting quality parts is vital, though, as there are many cases of quick-release hubs failing, with disastrous results.

With name-brand items, this is a lot less likely to happen, thank goodness. Brands such as NRG offer high-quality items in a variety of patterns, forms, and functions. However, with name brand quality comes name brand prices, so don’t expect to get these for very cheap!


Having just a quick release is only one third of the setup, though. Our stock steering wheel won’t be able to mount cleanly to the quick release, so we’ll need a new steering wheel. A likely candidate for my car is this NRG wheel, partly because of the reinforced structure, and partly because of the stereotypical “drifter wheel” look. The last piece of this puzzle is the hub adapter, a piece specific to each car that mounts the quick release to your car’s steering column. For my E46, this adapter is compatible. Despite looking like just a disk, this part is just as essential as any other, still being a component that connects your inputs to the car’s steering.


Welded Differential

Well, duh! The open differential that came stock in the 330ci doesn’t lend itself to drifting very well, and welding is my personal favorite solution to this issue. However, I don’t think I’ll be welding the differential currently in the car, instead purchasing another 330ci differential and having it welded. That way, come next winter or time to sell, I’ll have the open differential I can put back in the car. Welded diffs are fun and all, but having one in the winter isn’t as safe as we all pretend it is!


Hydraulic Hand Brake

As was the case with the welded differential, this won’t be done until close to springtime, but having a hydro is fairly essential for good drifting. In the winter, the car has more than enough power to just power over into a skid. Come proper drifting season, however, having a hydro can make initiations and mid-skid control much easier.


While I recommend using this handbrake, their instructions for installing it are.. questionable. The most simple and best functioning way to install a hydro is to get dual caliper mounts. This allows for a second set of brake calipers to be installed on the rear wheels. The stock calipers are still connected to the main braking system, untouched by our new handbrake. The second caliper is solely connected to your handbrake, no auxiliary electronics needed. With this setup, you can just clutch in and grab the wand, and you’ll lock the rears right up.


Everything Included, How Much Will This Drift Car Cost Me?


There’s no denying this car was incredibly cheap by E46 standards, especially to get the 330ci model. The shifter didn’t cost but $30, adapter included. Getting a quick release and wheel isn’t going to be cheap, but they’re necessary. On average, a nice NRG quick release will run between $90 and $130, but could cost much more. The steering wheel I would personally use is another NRG product, and costs roughly $110 dollars. With a yellow on-center line, sturdy construction, and bolt-up compatibility with the NRG quick release, this is the easiest choice, and has a low cost of roughly $110. The actual handbrake and the brake lines are about $130, which doesn’t sound bad. However, the dual caliper bracket plus the extra brake calipers cost about $350. That’s rather pricy, but the dual caliper brackets aren’t exactly mass-produced, custom parts aren’t ever cheap!


In the grand scheme of things, however, the build as a whole is quite cheap! With about $2200 in the car (title, base repairs, purchase price), then another $800 in mods, we’re looking at a track-ready car for $3,000! Some of these mods aren’t necessary for drifting, such as the quick release/steering wheel, and the shift knob. If we were really pinching pennies, we could get the cost down to near $2,500 or so, but the extra $500 is worth the personalization, in my opinion.


I hope you’ll stick around to see how the car turns out! Be sure to check out our YouTube channel, where we post fun and informative drifting content!


As a drift enthusiast, if I've owned the car, you can bet it's been sideways! Honda S2000, Chrysler Crossfire, 1987 Porsche (only once, *never again*), and my babies, my 1995 Notch-top SR 240SX and 1991 Red-top SR 240SX. I've had a ton of fun, and I'm looking forward to sharing my experiences, tips, and recommendations with you all!

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